Desertfest Berlin 2019 First Announcement: Witch, Earthless, All Them Witches, Colour Haze, 24/7 Diva Heaven and Hällas Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 24th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

desertfest berlin 2019 banner

Not to be outdone by its London counterpart, Desertfest Berlin 2019 makes its own first lineup announcement, and once again it finds the two fests working under the same banner sharing a goodly portion of their bill. A big four names are showcased in All Them Witches, Witch, Earthless and Colour Haze, and as ever, each Desertfest brings a bit of its own personality to the proceedings, in the case of Berlin 2019 thus far with Hällas from Sweden bringing their traditionalist heavy rock and 24/7 Diva Heaven delving into ’90s-era riot grrrl noise. Between those and the bigger acts shared with London, it will once again be interesting to see how the two festivals develop their coinciding rosters. I can’t imagine trying to coordinate one fest schedule, let alone two, and oh hey because why not, Desertfest Berlin 2019 has a boat involved. And I defy you to find someone who doesn’t enjoy riffs on a boat. That’s a distinguishing factor right there.

Kickass poster art and the PR wire announcement follow, of course with more to come:

desertfest berlin 2019 poster

DESERTFEST BERLIN ANNOUNCES FIRST BANDS FOR 2019!

Legendary WITCH, ALL THEM WITCHES, COLOUR HAZE, EARTHLESS, HÄLLAS & 24/7 DIVA HEAVEN added to the first round of acts!

Desert rockers, it’s finally time to unveil the first bands for 2019, and WHAT a first start of acts this is! DESERTFEST BERLIN is more than proud to welcome the one & only, legendary J Mascis who will crash the ARENA BERLIN with his band mates in stoner metal icons WITCH!

Formed in 2005 by Dinosaur Jr. guitarist Mascis, in WITCH the distinctive pioneer of rock music goes back to his roots and takes over the drums. The band’s eponymous self-titled debut has been released in 2006, followed by the highly accclaimed ‘Paralyzed’ album back in 2008. We could not be prouder to welcome this unique cult band to our 2019-edition!

Rumors have been going on for a while, and yes they became true: ALL THEM WITCHES will be playing DESERTFEST BERLIN 2019! This rare gig the legendary rockers from Nashville will play in Berlin, will truly belong to one of THE live highlights in the history of DESERTFEST BERLIN and yours, too. With their heavy blues and psychedelic desert rock, ALL THEM WITCHES will literally put the ARENA on FIRE, don’t miss one of their only shows in Europe live at DESERTFEST BERLIN 2019!

But we got way more sweet acts to be unveiled today and in this first band announcement every stoner rocker’s heart will beat faster for: Please welcome psychedelic rockers EARTHLESS to the 8th edition of DESERTFEST BERLIN! With their extensive jams, the Californian multi-instrumentalists will turn the ARENA into a psychedelic wonderland, join them for a long ride on their unique classic rock and jazzy Krautrock trips!

Another exciting band we like to unveil today: COLOUR HAZE will celebrate their 25th band anniversary live at DESERTFEST BERLIN! They belong to the oldest psychedelic institution and became the flagship of the German heavy stoner scene, the more we are stoked to welcome them to our next year’s line-up. With an additional keyboarder live at DESERTFEST BERLIN, COLOUR HAZE will take us on a magic sound landscape drown in the haze and true rock spirit. Let’s celebrate 25 years of the legendary COLOUR HAZE together with the band, live at DESERTFEST BERLIN 2019!

To close this first round of already stunning bands, we have added Swedish hardrockers HÄLLAS to our 2019-bill! Describing themselves as Adventure Rock, we cannot wait to join them on a live adventure noone of us will forget. Last but not least, ladies and gentlemen let’s start a Riot: With a delicate and true LO-FI sound, inspired by bands such as L7, Bikini Kill, The Melvins, Nirvana, Dinosaur Jr. or Sonic Youth, the ladies in 24/7 DIVA HEAVEN will bring their pure blend of Hard Rock, Grunge and Punk Rock which is all bounded by the legendary Riot Grrrl sound to our stage in 2019, be prepared!

DESERTFEST BERLIN 2019 will take place between May 3th – 5th 2019 at the ARENA BERLIN.

In 2018, Desertheads from over 40 different countries came to witness the premiere at the Arena in the heart of Berlin, rocked out and celebrated the almighty riffs of the Stoner, Doom & Psychedelic Rock. In the last weeks the DESERTFEST BERLIN crew put their heads together to discuss and improve the 2019 edition. As the festival organizers just recently commented:

“We listened to the critics, cause we love you and we worked on all topics: Besides a totally new banging soundconcept and much simplified paying methods (token anyone?), we will come along with more space for you to hang and chill. And that is just the beginning of a whole candyjar of more sweet and trippy extras! So now that we took the Desertfest to the water and we saw how much you enjoyed our boatride… remember that white ship, the “Hoppetosse” docking on the outside area ? For DF 2019 we inked a deal with the owner and are now able to use the “Hoppetosse” as an additional chillzone as well as a rock and party stage. We will have bands playing there during the day, but also we will also host the aftershow parties on board. Hope you like this great news. More news are to come in the next days , so stay tuned!”

A new sound-and payment-system on the ground, more space AND a chillout- and live zone on a boat, with this already stunning line-up DESERTFEST BERLIN 2019 will mark the best edition you have ever been to!

Start your trip to the heart of the capitol of the almighty riffs, we cannot wait to see you all at the ARENA BERLIN 2019!

www.desertfest-tickets.de
www.desertfest.de
www.facebook.com/DesertfestBerlin
www.instagram.com/desertfest_berlin

Desertfest Berlin 2019 first announcement teaser

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Desertfest London 2019 First Announcement: Earthless, All Them Witches, Colour Haze, Kadavar, Witch, We Hunt Buffalo & DVNE Join Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 21st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

desertfest london 2019 banner

What’s more exciting than a killer first festival announcement? Not much. So many possibilities, and with its first lineup additions, Desertfest London 2019 throws the door wide open with some massive names. Earthless, All Them Witches, Colour Haze and Kadavar? Hell, I’d take any of them as a headliner, and you can pretty much throw Witch in there too. That’s five acts right out of the gate, any of whom could sell out a show on their own in London, plus the just-reviewed We Hunt Buffalo and Edinburgh’s DVNE, whom I had the pleasure of seeing at Psycho Las Vegas for their US live debut, rounding out an initial seven that’s absolutely massive.

The key part of the announcement below, though? It’s where it says “we’re aiming for our biggest bill to date.” Desertfest London has only grown huger each year, more forward-thinking and broader in its reach. The Desertscene crew have their work cut out for them in topping 2018, but if this is a taste of the scale to come, they might just get there.

From the PR wire:

desertfest london 2019 poster

DESERTFEST LONDON 2019

Friday, May 3, 2019 – Sunday, May 5, 2019

It begins! Desertfest is returning to Camden for our eighth edition over the Bank Holiday weekend of 3rd to 5th May, and as ever we’re bringing you the finest stoner, doom, sludge and psych bands from around the world. Over the next few months, we’ll be revealing our lineup of dozens of the heaviest bands around, so without further ado, here’s the first seven names for Desertfest 2019.

Over the last half-decade, Nashville’s All Them Witches have made themselves indispensable with a sound that has never stopped evolving, with their roots in heavy blues and psychedelia flourishing over time into an approach that is undeniably their own. The Tennessee four-piece arrive at Desertfest with a reputation that precedes them for jammy explorations and a kind of heavy that, while regularly imitated, has yet to be reproduced by anyone else.

Joining them on the bill are Kadavar, who make their long awaited Desertfest return with their fur-coated, barreling riot of a set at the Jazz Cafe in 2013 as fresh in our minds as ever. There are very few who perform the retro-rockin’, ’70s proto-metal revival with the power, prestige and passion of our favourite Berlin trio. The boogie train that is Kadavar won’t be making any emergency stops as it ploughs through Camden this May.

Vermont spell-casters Witch will be enrapturing Desertfest with their stoner rock incantations in 2019. Combining psychedelic rock, Sabbath-ian doom, and Black Flag sludge-punk, stoner aficionados who were around for the noughties boom will fondly remember Witch for releasing some of the hookiest albums of the decade. After a stint lurking in the shadows, Witch are hitting up Desertfest to make magic once again.

Even after seven mammoth editions of Desertfest, there are bands we’ve been chomping at the bit to get over to Camden to grace our stages; finally, we’ve grabbed us the hardest jamming band in the universe, Earthless, are touching down to shred our corner of London to the ground. The epitome of psyched-out Hendrixian-krautrock from day one, San Diego’s ultimate power trio will melt your entire body this May.

Colour Haze make their return to the Desertfest stage in 2019 after six long years. The German trio, in whose image modern heavy psychedelia is in large part cast, have affirmed their position as unflinching masters of the form in their absence, finding a new niche between heavy riffs and expansive arrangements. The Colour Haze that return to Desertfest are, somehow, even better than the one we saw in 2013.

Vancouver trio We Hunt Buffalo‘s brand of prog-minded fuzz rock has been stampeding out of amps and trampling audiences since 2010. Professing a love of all things stoner and psych and citing influences from all genres of rock, all underpinned with driving fuzz lines, We Hunt Buffalo will be just the ticket to a sore neck at Desertfest.

Last but not least in our first batch of bands are Edinburgh’s DVNE who play their own unique brand of night sky-gazing melodic sludge. Early-period Mastodon fans should take note, as the progressive changes and all-conquering vocals conjure up scenes of destruction, desolation and absolution in their epic soundscapes of post-metal ebb and flow.

So there you have it, our first seven bands. With dozens more names to come, including all three headliners, we’re aiming for our biggest bill to date. Weekend tickets are on sale now at the link below, so be sure to book your place at the heaviest lineup in town; Desertfest 2019!

http://www.desertfest.co.uk/
https://www.facebook.com/DesertfestLondon
https://www.instagram.com/desertfest_london/
https://twitter.com/DesertFest

All Them Witches, ATW (2018)

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Friday Full-Length: Colour Haze, All

Posted in Bootleg Theater on September 14th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Colour Haze, All (2008)


Ten years of All. A decade since this album came out, and that stretch has done nothing to dull its luster. Colour Haze didn’t invent the idea of warmth in a recording, but they might well have perfected it over their years. All swept in and was my album of the year pick in 2008, and its warmth is no small part of why, but it’s also the point at which Colour Haze — already past the 10-year mark themselves by then and on their ninth LP and fourth through Elektrohasch Schallplatten — began to show just how expansive their intentions really were. And how progressive.

It was a new level of maturity in their songwriting and a new level of patience even beyond that which they brought to 2006’s Tempel or their 2004 self-titled (discussed here), both also pivotal offerings both for the band and for European heavy psychedelia in general. Those records seemed to establish the pattern, and All, with its 65-minute 2LP run and its 10 one-word tracks that all streamed together to deliver the message, “silent moon turns lights; if stars all fall one remains,” came through as a new realization of many of the ideas Tempel and Colour Haze put forth, let alone 2003’s 2CD Los Sounds de Krauts, 2001’s Ewige Blumenkraft (reissue review here) or any of their earlier, more desert rock-influenced work preceding.

By the time they got to All, the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek — also, if it needs to be said, the head of Elektrohasch — bassist Philipp Rasthofer and drummer Manfred Merwald, had already defined what their core sound was going to be, but in the mellow strums and backwards drums of “Turns,” and in the funk of “Moon” preceding, in the incorporation of organ on “Lights” and the hyper-immersive flow of its title-track, All demonstrated that as groundbreaking as Colour Haze had been up to that point, their exploration was really just getting started.

I don’t want to say All blew everything Colour Haze had previously done out of the water, because that’s not really true. Those other records stand up to any scrutiny one might want to give them and then some, each marking a point in the ongoing forward motion of the band’s continued growth. You cannot have one without the others before it, and that’s true of their work to-date. When they got around to All, however, there was a clear shift in terms of the scope at work. Tempel was and remains defined by its chemistry between KoglekRasthofer and Merwald — the same can be said to a degree of everything the band does — but had an inward-looking feel, where true to its title, All was more expansive and outward-directed.

Given a lot of the sonic exploration underway in songs like opener “Silent,” the sitar/acoustic-based “Stars,” and the tense, churning shuffle of “If” before it, it’s fair to say Colour Haze‘s reach had never been so much a factor in their arrangements, which had always beencolour haze all creative, and an overarching sense of poise held firm throughout, no matter where an individual song seemed to meander. It would be four more years before they put out a song called “Grace,” but All had plenty to go around.

Perhaps nowhere more so than on the extended pairing of “All” and “Fall.” I’ll gladly admit to being more familiar with the CD version — though once I did get to hold the limited edition cloth-cover double vinyl in my hands and I immediately felt unworthy — and while on the LP that’s the split between sides C and D, on the, ahem, CD, it’s a linear shift from one into the next, and it’s the point at which the fluidity that so much permeates the album as a whole finds its high water mark.

The arrival of the keys behind the driving apex toward the end of “Fall” is an obvious culmination point for the entire outing, but even before that, in the patience and gorgeous unfolding of “All” itself and the manner in which it takes on what’s essentially Colour Haze‘s signature riff and with Rasthofer‘s bass as a foundation builds upon it in a new and glorious way. The solo in the second half. The quiet noodling that follows with Merwald‘s cymbal-mute stops keeping the tension going. The build back up to full volume again, and indeed, the keys that emerge late; it’s nothing if not aptly titled “All.” It’s the kind of work that reaffirms hope for the species, even 10 years after the fact.

Repetitions of “We’ve got to get together/We’ve got to be all one” and a well-timed return of sitar make “One” more than an afterthought following “Fall,” and the quiet stand-mostly-alone guitar of “Remains” that caps the album is a statement unto itself. That they would finish not in grand crescendo, but instead peacefully making their way out — it’s another subtle but key decision that makes All the masterpiece it still is.

Colour Haze would, of course, continue the thread. As alluded to, in 2012, after copious delays on the technical side they released She Said (review here), which dived even deeper into expanded arrangements, with horns and strings pulled in alongside the core trio on cuts like “Transformation” and the aforementioned “Grace.” Late-2014’s To the Highest Gods We Know (review here) followed and drew back to a more rooted and jammier vibe, but still had its progressive aspects readily on display, and after the 2016 live record, Live Vol. 1 – Europa Tournee 2015 (review here), 2017 brought In Her Garden (review here), which again was one of the year’s best albums and renewed their commitment to the tenets of classic progressive rock while retaining the organic melodic and rhythmic sensibilities that seem at this point to be indispensable to their sound.

I had the opportunity to see them in London back in May of this year for the first time in half a decade, and they were nothing short of incredible. An absolute treasure of a band. They’ll make an annual sojourn to Keep it Low in their native Munich next month and play Sankt Hell in Berlin to round out the year, and I would not be at all surprised if 2019 brought a new release from them of one sort or another. Whatever that might be, it’d only be welcome.

I sincerely hope you enjoy All, and thanks for reading.

My early mornings doing Obelisk stuff have kind of become overnight shifts. I got up sometime around 1:30AM to start this post, and it’s coming on 4AM now. Most of this week I’ve been up between 2 and 2:30. I slept until my alarm went off at 3:30AM the other day and felt like I was behind all day because I didn’t get enough done before the baby woke up. And the truth is I was. One attempts to find a balance.

Attempts.

Hey, looks like I might be going back to Norway. I tend to never consider these things settled until I’m through security and getting on the flight — though even that wasn’t far enough when that volcano went off on my way to Roadburn in 2010 — but things are in motion to get me back to Høstsabbat in a couple weeks and it has The Patient Mrs.’ seal of approval. Electric Moon, Asteroid, Toner Low, Elephant Tree, on and on, playing in a church in Oslo? Yeah, you can go right ahead and sign me up for that one. Keeping my fingers crossed all the confirmation comes through okay. Naturally, if it happens, I’ll be covering. More info on the fest is here. It’s sold out.

Also looks like I’m getting a show on Gimme Radio. I turned in a sample playlist and they dug it so, it’s kind of a thing I’m trying out. I did college radio at WSOU, and kind of have missed being on-air ever since, so this could be a cool way to do that. Plus there are good people involved and that’s always key. More to come. I need to send them pictures of myself. Sadly, I’m awful-looking, so this is a source of some anxiety. Like, life-long.

In the meantime, The Little Dog Dio continues a steady decline. We’ve been hand-feeding her chicken breast and Polly-O string cheese for I guess two weeks now, and she just ate a bunch and drank some water and went out to pee, so clearly the steroids we’ve been giving her are doing their job, but she’s less comfortable between doses of pain meds than she’s been. Last night she was hunched up standing with her head down, clearly uncomfortable, and it had been a while since we saw that. Just now she got up out of her bed in the kitchen and came to lay down by my feet, which she ordinarily wouldn’t do — a shar pei wants to be nearby, but likes its space — so yeah. I’ve loved this dog for a long time. Another vet appointment next week to follow-up and see where we’re at. I’ll just give scritches and belly rubs until then. How about a billion dollars to whoever cures cancer first? I’d donate to that Kickstarter.

I don’t even want to get up and get another cup of coffee for fear of disturbing her.

That’s been hard. The worst part is there are moments where she’s eating and I forget and I feel like she’s maybe getting better and I look at the GIANT FUCKING TUMOR in her shoulder and just feel like I’ve been punched in the stomach. She’s not going to get better. We’re buying time. Buying time and drawing it out. I told The Patient Mrs. a few days ago that I always imagined she wouldn’t so much die as evolve beyond her corporeal form and become a being of pure light like in that episode of The Next Generation. I was kidding, of course, but let that be indicative of my overall ability to emotionally handle what’s coming. Eating made her hurt. It happened last night too and it happened just now. Ugh.

Okay.

The Patient Mrs.’ semester has also started, so the week’s been kind of a mess on that end too. Summers “off” is nice — or would be; she has to work all the time anyway, between research, reading, writing and meetings for sundry university service projects, so while she’s not teaching, “summers off” is mostly a myth — but having your schedule upended every couple months, especially now with The Pecan running the show as he is, I’m trying to figure out when’s naptime not the least so I can sleep too. We’ll get there. We’re not there yet.

If you’re in North Carolina or anywhere in Hurricane Florence’s path, good luck and stay safe. My grandmother who passed away last year was named Florence. If she were alive and lucid, I’d like to think she’d see it as a fitting tribute. If anyone sees people after the storm selling “I survived Florence” t-shirts, I want one in every size available. Black shirts preferred. I’ll PayPal you the cash.

I’m streaming a track from the new Sherpa album — so good — and I’m going to try to review the new All Them Witches next week, and I’ve got stuff slated into the middle of the week already, news and such, but yeah, I’m going to finish working it all out over the weekend, so I’ll just leave it there for now.

Like always, I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Please have fun, hug your loved ones and take care of yourself in the best way you can.

And like always, please check out the Forum and Radio stream. It is appreciated.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Live Review: Colour Haze, Trevor’s Head and The Brothers Keg in London, 05.22.18

Posted in Reviews on May 23rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

colour haze (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Colour Haze are my that band. You know that band. There’s some resonance there that goes deeper than the average listening experience. I have a couple that bands – YOB, Neurosis, etc. – but in my 15 years of following the Munich trio’s work – which makes me Johnny Comelately when set against the fact that their first album, Chopping Machine (discussed here), came out 23 years ago – I’ve only seen them three times prior. One was Roadburn 2009 (discussed here), another Desertfest London 2013 (review here), and to go way back, Emissions from the Monolith in 2006, which to-date remains the only show they’ve ever played on US soil. I’ve said so before, but that was a moment that genuinely changed my life.

So it was my last night in London before flying back to the US Eastern Seaboard and facing the reality check of bills, stacks of mail – my mail log was on my stolen laptop; whoops – laundry, grocery shopping, and so on, so you’re god damned right I was going to see Colour Haze as they happened to be in town on a tour that brought them to midsize club The Garage for what would be the first non-fest set of theirs I’d ever seen. On my way to the show, I was thinking of what it might bring, for what the room would be like, what the gig would be like, how many people would be there, all that stuff mixed into an anxiety and excitement that lasted pretty much until I walked in the door and saw The Brothers Keg on stage opening the three-band bill.

With Tom Fyfe on drums — also of StubbThe Brothers Keg made their debut with a demo (discussed here) late last year and played material from that and then some, proffering a blend of heavy, desert rock, shouty sludge and psychedelia that someday, probably years from now, some clever critic is going to dub the “London sound.”

It speaks to Kyuss and Iron Monkey alike, but definitely came of age with some grunge influence, and isn’t unaware of the UK’s massive psychedelic legacy either. At least The Brothers Keg weren’t. They had some bearings to straighten out in terms of overall direction, but as with the demo, their potential was writ large in their live set and they made an excellent opener for the night, tying in some elements that each of the next two acts would share.

Trevor’s Head also had some of that “London sound” to them, but it was more of an undercurrent to an overarching layer of prog-metal weirdness. Fronted by guitarist Roger Atkins they played material from their new album on APF Records, Soma Holiday (review here) and a few older songs from 2016’s Tricolossus. Obviously familiar to the crowd, who sang along as the band rolled through, Trevor’s Head‘s three-vocalist approach allowed them to bring the same variety to their live performance as they brought to the record, and three mics on stage meant that at any given point, any one of Atkins, bassist Aaron Strachan and drummer Matt Ainsworth might be breaking the balls of the others. Elephant Tree had a bit of that going too the other night, albeit with one fewer mic. Call it another London thing. Dudes being dudes and whatnot.

They’re an interesting band, though. All three have significant stage presence in the making, and they play with three discernible personalities, with Atkins the frontman despite being in a level line at the front of the stage with the others, Strachan lost in the world of his five-string, and Ainsworth amiably busting chops between songs while seated behind his kit. Again, they knew people in the crowd, but I think even as others started to show up ahead of Colour HazeTrevor’s Head represented the coterie of Desertscene — who booked this gig and also runs Desertfest London — with sonic purpose and a bit of the tongue-in-cheek persona that helps define who these groups are.

I was fortunate enough to talk to Colour Haze guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek for a bit before they went on, and he mentioned this was their 12th show in as many nights. The night before, they were in France. They’d already been to London once, as well as Porto, Madrid and up to Scotland, etc. That’s not an insignificant run for a band of 20 year olds, let alone a group of veterans who’ve influenced a generation of heavy psychedelic rockers and whose first album, Chopping Machine (discussed here), came out in 1995. And though this was my first time seeing them outside festival confines, I was not at all surprised to find they made a two-hour set seem far too short. They were amazing. I’m speaking literally. I stood there and was amazed.

Bassist Philipp Rasthofer and drummer Manfred Merwald might be the tightest rhythm section I’ve ever seen. It sounds like hyperbole, but I’m being honest. Their smooth shifts in meter, groove and progression were a joy to watch from the start of set-opener “She Said” through pre-encore set-closer “Transformation” — both taken from 2012’s She Said (review here) — and they played with such class both between themselves and in kind with Koglek and keyboardist/synthesist Jan Faszbender that as they made their way through the title-cut of 2006’s Tempel (discussed here), there was funk in their sound, as well as jazz and still enough rock to tie it all together. Merwald drove the linear builds forward as his kit faced sideways on the stage to put him head-on with Faszbender, and in classic fashion, as Rasthofer provided the foundation, it left Koglek‘s guitar free to wander. And it did. Gloriously.

And the tones. My god. The crowd — increasingly drunk, increasingly dancing — cheered from the first note Koglek played, and rightfully so. His and Rastofer‘s tones both are a guiding principle for Colour Haze, and standing in The Garage as the sound bounced off the back of the room and came around again at max volume, it was like swimming in warm water. Running “Skydancer” and “Skydance” from last year’s righteous In Her Garden (review here) together into one ahead of “Überall” from 2015’s To the Highest Gods We Know (review here), they built momentum and brought immersion to a level that I doubt I’d have been able to resist if I’d tried. “Aquamaria” had been an early representation, and along with the encore finale “Love,” it was remarkable what Faszbender — on tour for the first time with the band — brought to the arrangements of material new and old.

colour haze 2 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

In addition to bringing another melodic presence, the keys and synth fleshed out transitions between the songs and worked as much with Koglek as with Rasthofer. “House of Rushammon,” which first appeared on their lost 1998 second album, Seven (discussed here) and later showed up on their 2004 landmark self-titled (discussed here), led off the encore with “Love” behind it, and before they kicked into the latter, Koglek noted from the stage that in these times of increasing nationalism and everything going on in politics, it was something of which the world needed more. From that start, they executed a final swirling build that consumed the crowd to the point that people were jumping up and down in excitement, and one could only pull out one’s earplugs and give in. I won’t say I jumped, but it was one of several points in the set where I just closed my eyes and let go. At one point I turned to The Patient Mrs. — who had had a prior obligation earlier but showed up for the headliner like the proverbial boss she is — and told her I hadn’t felt so good in a year. It was true.

This trip, with its lows and highs, couldn’t have had a better finish. I have packing to do so I’ll keep this short, but between getting robbed and the subsequent support I received, the killer shows I saw, the little bit of record shopping I got to do yesterday (maybe more on that later), seeing good friends and embracing the magic that is British fish pie, I feel like seeing Colour Haze was exactly the kind of summary for how special this time has been. I’m lucky to have experienced it, and incredibly grateful for having the opportunity to do so.

Thank you for reading.

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Colour Haze on Tour Now

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

colour haze

If I can be perfectly honest with you, yeah, it’s cool that Colour Haze are on tour. It’s cool they’re playing places in Croatia, Austria, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal, the UK, Belgium and of course their native Germany. All that stuff. Super cool. It’s cool they’re bringing out keyboardist Jan Faszbender, who played on 2017’s blissfully progressive In Her Garden (review here). That’s awesome. The tour starts tonight and I hope it goes really well, though I have a hard time imagining Colour Haze showing up to a town and not being greeted as liberators. Call me crazy.

So yeah, all that stuff is cool, but the real reason I’m posting about Colour Haze‘s European tour? It’s because it gives me the excuse to listen to Colour Haze, oh, all afternoon. And I don’t know about you, but where I come from, an afternoon spent listening to Colour Haze is never part of a bad day. I’m happy to spread the word on Colour Haze getting out and all that — most of the shows they’ve done in the last few years have been fest appearances — but I’m even happier to put on In Her Garden and make my day that much better for it.

Sound of Liberation is presenting the tour and posted the following:

colour haze tour poster

Colour Haze kick-off their European Tour tomorrow! They will be on the road with a fourth member, keyboards player Jan Faszbender, with who they worked on their latest album “In Her Garden”. Good times ahead for sure!

11.05.18 | AT | Vienna | Arena (+ MY SLEEPING KARMA)
12.05.18 | AT | Graz | PPC (+ MY SLEEPING KARMA)
13.05.18 | CRO | Zagreb | Kset
14.05.18 | IT | Scorze | Novak
15.05.18 | IT | Savonna | Raindogs
16.05.18 | FR | Toulouse | Rex
17.05.18 | SP | Barcelona | Razzmatazz 3
18.05.18 | SP | Madrid | Nazca
19.05.18 | PO | Porto | Hard Club
20.05.18 | SP | Bilbao | Stage Live
21.05.18 | FR | Nantes | Le Ferrailleur
22.05.18 | UK | London – The Garage
23.05.18 | UK | Glasgow | Audio
24.05.18 | UK | Manchester | Rebellion
25.05.18 | B | Hasselt | Muzikodrom
26.05.18 | D | Wiesbaden | Schlachthof (+ MY SLEEPING KARMA)

www.soundofliberation.com/colour-haze
http://colourhaze.de/
www.elektrohasch.de

Colour Haze, In Her Garden (2017)

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Keep it Low 2018: Colour Haze, Acid King, The Picturebooks, Sasquatch, Sundog & The Great Machine Confirmed

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 12th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

keep it low 2018 banner

If I can be completely honest for a moment, of all the European festivals that happen each Fall, none of them sets me to daydreaming quite like Keep it Low. Is it the fact that a headlining set from Colour Haze is pretty much guaranteed at this point? Well, that certainly doesn’t hurt. But in addition to that, it’s the vibe of the thing. Every year, fests start spewing out their lineups and try to outdo each other, and I have no doubt that 2018 won’t be any different. It’s a lot of fun, but Keep it Low tends to sidestep the hype in favor of a more laid back approach, and to me that speaks to the kind of vibe I’d like to check out on a cool October weekend in Munich. Acid King, Colour Haze and Sasquatch playing Keep it Low 2018? Pardon me while my mind wanders…

What follows here are actually the first two announcements from the festival via social medias. I put them together as one thing because, like with Up in Smoke the other day, I wasn’t getting Sound of Liberation‘s updates. Once again, that problem has hopefully been fixed at this point, so I should be able to keep up from here on out.

Emphasis on “should.”

Here’s the latest, anyhow:

keep it low 2018 poster

Keep it Low #6 – Oct. 19 & 20, 2018

The first three bands confirmed for Keep It Low – Festival 2018: Acid King, Sasquatch & The Great Machine! Regular Tickets are also now available! Grab yours quick (remember that Early Birds were gone in only 1 day!)

Acid King – Bathed in distortion and baptized in a plume of smoke, the Bay Area trio fronted by talented Lori S. is rocking the heavy scene for more than 2 decades and we are just thrilled to host them for our sixth edition of the festival.

Sasquatch – Californian Dudes are riffrockers to the core: mixing elements of 70s rock, metal and psychedelia…we’re all in for a hell of a party !

The Great Machine – Three piece heavy rock machine from Tel Aviv, Israel, known for their intense and straight forward live performances. Check them out, you won’t regret it!

Today, we’re thrilled to tell you that Colour Haze will be playing their yearly & exclusive Munich show at Keep It Low – Festival! The band has recently added a fourth bandmember (piano/organ/keys) and as usual you can expect an outstanding live set. We’re also stoked to welcome the amazing alternative-blues-rock duo The Picturebooks, and Munich-based heavy-blues outfit Sundog (who by the way will release their new EP “Where My Bones Lie” on March 17th at Feierwerk, you should check them)!

Last bunch of Keep It Low Hard Tickets: http://woolheads.com/shop-2/festivalmerchandise/keep-it-low-2-fays-festival-ticket-2018-early-bird

Keep It Low E-Tickets:
https://www.sol-tickets.com/produkte/24-tickets-keep-it-low-festival-feierwerk-area-muenchen-am-19-10-2018
http://www.eventim.de/tickets.html?affiliate=EVE&doc=artistPages%2Ftickets&fun=artist&action=tickets&erid=2131092&includeOnlybookable=true&xtmc=keep_it_low&xtnp=1&xtcr=1

https://www.facebook.com/keepitlowfestival/
https://www.facebook.com/events/300578407135232/
https://www.facebook.com/Soundofliberation/
https://www.soundofliberation.com/news

Colour Haze, Live at Keep it Low 2017

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The Top 20 of 2017 Year-End Poll — RESULTS!

Posted in Features on January 1st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

top-20-of-2017-year-end-poll-results

Happy New Year 2018! If you’re reading this, welcome to the future. Enjoy your flying car, free healthcare, universal income, matter replicators and life on that moon colony you moved to a couple years back — New Berlin, wasn’t it? Well, either way, I’m sure it’s lovely this season.

Way back in the Dark Ages, on Dec. 1, 2017, I put up The Obelisk’s annual Year-End Poll, looking for submissions from as many people as possible with their picks for what were the year’s best albums. The response was once again staggering. Over 400 lists came in — including my own, which I submitted yesterday — for a final tally of 419, and the amount of consensus that emerged from them was no less impressive.

We’ll get there in a second. First, a reminder about the point system. As ever, a 1-4 ranking is worth five points, 5-8 worth four, 9-12 worth three, 13-16 worth two and 17-20 worth one. So it doesn’t only matter that you included a record on your list — the raw votes are also tallied — but where it was included. That only seems fair in acknowledging how passionate people were about a given release.

You know the drill by now I’m sure, but it pays to be thorough. Below you’ll find both the weighted point tally and the raw votes results, followed by some quick honorable mentions, comment, etc. After the jump, you’ll find the complete list of everyone who submitted. If you’d like to check my math on anything, feel free. I’m by no means perfect when it comes to statistics or counting or any of that stuff involving those things that aren’t letters. Whatever they’re called.

Thanks to everyone who took part this year. Here are the lists:

Top 20 of 2017 — Weighted Results

elder reflections of a floating world adrian dexter

1. Elder, Reflections of a Floating World (888 points)
2. Monolord, Rust (397)
3. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War (346)
4. Pallbearer, Heartless (327)
5. Colour Haze, In Her Garden (284)
6. Mastodon, Emperor of Sand (256)
7. Bell Witch, Mirror Reaper (250)
8. The Obsessed, Sacred (248)
9. Sasquatch, Maneuvers (242)
10. Electric Wizard, Wizard Bloody Wizard (237)
11. Kadavar, Rough Times (236)
12. Samsara Blues Experiment, One with the Universe (225)
13. Ufomammut, 8 (205)
14. DVNE, Asheran (198)
15. Ruby the Hatchet, Planetary Space Child (189)
16. Woodhawk, Beyond the Sun (163)
17. Spaceslug, Time Travel Dilemma (158)
18. Causa Sui, Vibraciones Doradas (155)
19. Telekinetic Yeti, Abominable (150)
20. Motorpsycho, The Tower (149)

Honorable Mention:
Youngblood Supercult, The Great American Death Rattle (144)
Radio Moscow, New Beginnings (134)
Dopelord, Children of the Haze (132)
Chelsea Wolfe, Hiss Spun (129)
Mutoid Man, War Moans (123)

No real surprise here, but with the fact that Elder’s Reflections of a Floating World topped 880 points and got more than twice as much as the next closest record, it’s hard to begrudge 2017 some measure of predictability. For what it’s worth, that’s an even stronger showing than their Lore LP got in 2015, and they took the lead on day one and did not relinquish it for the duration. Outside of them and Monolord, who held command of the number two spot for the entire month, there was some measure of parity, but it was clear where hearts and minds were situated in 2017, and certainly difficult to argue with the picks on the whole, regardless of where a given individual ranked one album or the other. Looking at that list of 20-plus, especially with the honorable mentions, I’d sign up for that year every time. It was a good one. Now then…

Top 20 of 2017 — Raw Votes

elder reflections of a floating world adrian dexter

1. Elder, Reflections of a Floating World (207 votes)
2. Monolord, Rust (110)
3. Pallbearer, Heartless (94)
4. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War (88)
5. Kadavar, Rough Times (77)
6. Electric Wizard, Wizard Bloody Wizard (75)
7. Colour Haze, In Her Garden (74)
8. Mastodon, Emperor of Sand (72)
9. The Obsessed, Sacred (71)
10 Sasquatch, Maneuvers (70)
11. Ufomammut, 8 (67)
12. Bell Witch, Mirror Reaper (64)
13. Ruby the Hatchet, Planetary Space Child (60)
14. Samsara Blues Experiment, One with the Universe (59)
15. Woodhawk, Beyond the Sun (54)
16. DVNE, Asheran (53)
17. Telekinetic Yeti, Abominable (48)
18. Causa Sui, Vibraciones Doradas (47)
19. Radio Moscow, New Beginnings (45)
19. Spaceslug, Time Travel Dilemma (45)
20. Dopelord, Children of the Haze (43)
20. Mothership, High Strangeness (43)

Honorable Mention:
Youngblood Supercult, The Great American Death Rattle (40)
Chelsea Wolfe, Hiss Spun (37)
The Atomic Bitchwax, Force Field (34)
Beastmaker, Inside the Skull (34)
Motorpsycho, The Tower (33)
Mutoid Man, War Moans (32)

Even less surprising given the above. 207 people of the 419 who submitted lists included Elder somewhere on theirs. It’s pretty hard to get about 50 percent of anyone to agree on anything these days, so I consider that no minor feat. Again, Reflections of a Floating World earned its place, and it was a pretty astounding achievement for the band and the genre they’re working to remake in their own image. A couple minor shifts between the raw tallies and the weighted results as there always are, but again, the underlying point here is that 2017 was a pretty killer year all the way around and across a deep variety of styles, the quality of work being put forth by veterans and newcomers alike was nothing short of excellent.

Before I turn you over to the massive swath of everybody’s lists, I just want to say thanks again to Slevin for being so instrumental in setting up the technical end of this poll. It’s amazing year after year to be able to basically at this point flip a switch and have it all set to go and there’s no way that would happen without Slevin working so hard behind the scenes to put the structure in place that holds this project, the entire site, together. Thanks dude.

And thank you for reading and contributing your favorites of 2017! This is the last of the 2017 Year-End coverage for The Obelisk. If you missed any of it, go here:

The Top 30 Albums of 2017

The Top 20 Short Releases of 2017

The Top 20 Debut Albums of 2017

2017 Song of the Year

12 of 2017’s Best Album Covers

One more time, thank you for reading. After the jump, please find the raw lists of everyone who took the time to turn one in. Enjoy:

Read more »

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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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