The Obelisk Presents: The Top 15 of 2015 So Far

Posted in Features on July 6th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

top 15 of 2015 so far the-rhinoceros-albrecht-durer

If 2015 ended tomorrow, I think you’d still have to say it was a pretty good year for heavy rock. Doom veered into a swath extremes — its own subgenres emerging almost one by one in a growing splinter that nonetheless continues to draw water from its roots — while the neo-stoner ignition of the West Coast continued its boom of new acts proffering classic groove. The East reveled in a progressive vision just waiting to be picked up by others, and in Europe, the ’70s traditionalist movement spread ever wider, essentially defining a modern sound in organic sounding, sometimes-vintage elements. Whether you’re going for crushing, oppressive barbarism or cosmos-bound blissouts, it is, in short, a good time to be alive.

Of course, 2015 doesn’t end tomorrow, and there’s still a whole lot of year to come. About half, as it happens. So, as has been the tradition around here for the last half-decade — and seems to be the tradition in a growing number of outlets; not taking credit or claiming to have invented anything, just noting a proliferation — it’s time to count down the best records of the year so far. There have been more than a handful of gems, and since in December I’m planning on doing a top 30, we’ll mark half the year with a top 15. Seems only fair.

Please note that this isn’t purely a critical evaluation, but a personal list, and that what I’ve put on most is as crucial a factor in my ranking as how important I think a given record is. You know the drill by now. Let’s go:

15. Stoned Jesus, The Harvest

stoned jesus the harvest

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 20.

Kiev three-piece Stoned Jesus have a varied stylistic history, and their third outing, The Harvest was ultimately a success in large part because of its complete refusal to be defined. Atop a foundation of quality songcraft, the trio proffered a sound that was not necessarily experimental in terms of anti-structure noise or effects onslaughts, but bold in each of its forays outward from its heavy rock underpinnings.

 

14. Freedom Hawk, Into Your Mind

freedom hawk into your mind

Released by Small Stone. Reviewed June 26.

It has consistently taken me a while to get a hold on what Freedom Hawk are up to. The steady elements in their sound are held to so firmly that on the first couple listens, it seems to just be more of the same. But the more one digs in, the more there is to be found, and with Into Your Mind, the Virginia Beach trio overcome losing a member to create their most progressive outing to date, flourishes of psychedelia melding easily with their signature style of sunshiny riffing.

 

13. My Sleeping Karma, Moksha

my sleeping karma moksha

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed May 12.

Five albums deep, Germany’s My Sleeping Karma are an act unto themselves. Their progress has been natural, fueled by a clear, varied sense of exploratory will, and the results on this year’s Moksha were nothing short of stunning. Branching out their arrangements might not be new to them, but the inclusion of horns, drones, percussion, etc., amid the central guitar, bass, keys and drums lent an almost orchestral feel to the flow between the tracks, and one can only hope they continue on their current path, because it is unquestionably the right one.

 

12. Death Alley, Black Magick Boogieland

death alley black magick boogieland

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed June 8.

So much potential, so much vitality at the heart of this debut from Death Alley. The Amsterdam-based four-piece (interview here) stormed out of the gate with a ripper of a debut, and just when you seemed to have it all figured out, they hit the ignition on a 12-minute full-impulse space rock thrust, a guest vocal appearance from Farida Lemouchi (a former bandmate of Death Alley guitarist Oeds Beydals in The Devil’s Blood) adding both mystique and emotional resonance to what was already a stunning track. With all the riotousness preceding, Black Magick Boogieland readily lived up to its righteous title.

 

11. Mondo Drag, Mondo Drag

mondo drag self titled

Released on RidingEasy Records and Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed Jan. 8.

Midwestern-turned-West-Coast heavy psych rockers Mondo Drag may have taken their time in releasing their self-titled sophomore outing, which followed their 2010 debut, New Rituals (review here), and was recorded in 2012, but it’s easy to imagine that’s because they wanted the circumstances to be as special as the album itself, recorded with a fleeting five-piece lineup that included the one-time rhythm section of Radio Moscow who wound up leaving to further their then-nascent project, Blues Pills. Even without that lineup shift as a factor, the late ’60s vibe Mondo Drag brought out across the release proved eminently listenable and has held up on repeat visits.

 

10. Cigale, Cigale

cigale self-titled

Self-released. Reviewed May 4.

A gorgeous, shimmering and melodically resonant debut from the Dutch four-piece Cigale, their self-titled gracefully maintained tonal presence and warmth while also enacting a psychedelic sprawl and grooving serenity that acted like the landscape in which the songs took place. It was a rich, bright vibe, and an utter joy to behold, tracks like “Harvest Begun,” “Feel the Heat” and “Eyes Wide Shut” proving as memorable as they were inviting. Having two former members of the much-missed fuzz rock outfit Sungrazer may have initially turned some heads in their direction, but Cigale‘s first album proved they’re an outfit with their own personality, their own development to undertake, and already much to offer.

 

9. The Machine, Offblast!

the machine offblast

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed May 28.

The awaited return of The Machine brought the band’s fifth album and a further-refined sense of maturity in their processes, as well as intrigue as to where they might be headed, two dual modes of open-ended jamming and more structured songwriting playing off each other in the extended “Chrysalis (J.A.M.)” and “Come to Light” and the more verse/chorus stylizations of “Dry End” and “Off Course.” To be perfectly honest, I doubt The Machine will ultimately pick one side over another, since if Offblast! proved anything it’s that they can easily handle either or both, but as they continue to grow, it’s encouraging to have their style establish itself as so multi-faceted.

 

8. The Atomic Bitchwax, Gravitron

the atomic bitchwax gravitron

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed April 20.

First time I pressed play on Gravitron was a real “oh shit!” moment. The last release from NJ stalwarts The Atomic Bitchwax was 2011’s The Local Fuzz (review here), a single-song full-length instrumental riff onslaught that had its charm but was inherently divorced from the appeal of the band’s songwriting. Not only does Gravitron re-factor that in with songs like “Roseland,” “It’s Alright,” “Coming in Hot” and “Ice Age Hey Baby,” among others, but it hits with kick-in-the-ass production force and an all-out heaviness that 2008’s TAB4 showed the three-piece steering directly away from. Just a killer record. Utterly void of pretense. No bullshit. No need to rely on anything more than chemistry, and with the Bitchwax, that’s plenty.

 

7. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth

brothers of the sonic cloth self titled

Released by Neurot Recordings. Reviewed March 3.

Right now, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth are my band to beat for Debut of the Year, and I’m quite frankly not sure how anyone is going to be able to do it, so if list time comes in Dec. and you see Tad Doyle‘s trio marked out as such, know that it’s been that way in my head for some time. The three-piece of Doyle, bassist Peggy “Pegadeth” Tully and drummer Dave French arrived with a roar, and even when their self-titled let up sonically, the atmosphere remained viscerally heavy. Six years having passed since the release of their first demo (review here), I wasn’t sure there was ever going to be an album, but then to have Brothers of the Sonic Cloth show up and enact such thorough demolition only made it more impressive.

 

6. High on Fire, Luminiferous

high on fire luminiferous

Released by eOne Heavy. Reviewed June 15.

It can’t possibly be a surprise to have Luminiferous show up somewhere on this list. The seventh long-player by High on Fire had all the rage and bombast in “Slave the Hive” and “The Black Plot” that have become the band’s hallmarks over their 17 years together, but branched out progressively as well in songs like “The Cave” and “The Falconist,” the latter of which was brazenly catchy and about as emotionally direct as the band has ever gotten, their general modus being — and in that song too, just to a lesser extent — a metaphor-laced lyrical approach. That song was a triumph and so was the album as a whole; the second collaboration with producer Kurt Ballou building on the rampaging victories of 2012’s De Vermis Mysteriis (review here) while also showing growth on the part of one of modern metal’s most pivotal bands.

 

5. Kings Destroy, Kings Destroy

kings destroy self titled

Released by War Crime Recordings. Reviewed April 15.

Hitting more or less concurrent with a vinyl release of their prior album, 2013’s A Time of Hunting (review here), Kings Destroy‘s Kings Destroy is not at all coincidentally titled. Over the course of now three full-lengths, the New York five-piece — about whom I feign no impartiality, let it be noted — have distinguished themselves with a sound neither noise, nor doom, nor heavy rock, but drawing on elements of all three when it suits their purposes with chemistry built from years of being in bands together of various stripes and in various genres. What stands the self-titled out from their past work, in part, is that it is the closest they’ve yet come to capturing their live sound in the studio, and accordingly, it’s a volatile kind of heavy that bends aesthetic to its will rather than capitulating to expectations of any sort. I don’t think they’re done growing by any stretch, but Kings Destroy feels like an arrival front-to-back.

 

4. Colour Haze, To the Highest Gods We Know

colour haze to the highest gods we know

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed Jan. 6.

This one was almost a sneak-attack. German heavy psych forerunners Colour Haze released To the Highest Gods We Know, their 11th full-length, in Dec. 2014 on CD (the vinyl was in 2015, which is what we’re counting in this instance), with very, very little fanfare of any sort. There was a track premiere here that came shortly after the album was announced, but I think it was officially out less than a month after its existence was made public, which for a band of Colour Haze‘s stature and influence was surprising. Less devoted to grandeur than 2012’s 2CD She Said (review here), it nonetheless pushed the band’s sound forward and found them experimenting in their studio, particularly on the string-quartet-inclusive finale title-track, which offset jams like “Überall” and the laid back highlight “Call” with a rhythmic oddness that was somehow still Colour Haze‘s own. I couldn’t help but wonder where it was leading, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t masterful in its own right.

 

3. Goatsnake, Black Age Blues

goatsnake black age blues

Released by Southern Lord Recordings. Reviewed May 19.

Goatsnake didn’t have it easy going into their third album. It had been 15 years since their sophomore outing, Flower of Disease, 11 since their last EP, and five since they first started playing shows again. Expectations? Through the roof. Among heavy rock heads, a new Goatsnake was like seeing the mountaintop. I mean, a big fucking deal and then some. Then the record hits, and there’s just about no way it can live up to the anticipation, but god damn if Goatsnake not only finally put out a third album, but one that was better than I think anyone could’ve hoped for. Hearing Pete Stahl with however many backup singers he had on “Another River to Cross” et. al. was like finding an animal in its native habitat, and between his soul, Greg Anderson‘s riffs, bassist Scott Renner‘s low end rumble and drummer Greg Rogers‘ roll, Black Age Blues won almost immediately and then spent the rest of its 47 minutes throwing itself a victory party. “Elevated Man,” “House of the Moon,” “Jimi’s Gone,” “Grandpa Jones,” almost on a per-track basis, Goatsnake added to the reasons they’ve been so heralded despite a decade-plus’ absence from the studio.

 

2. Elder, Lore

elder lore

Released by Armageddon Shop and Stickman Records. Reviewed Feb. 19.

On the level of achievement alone, Elder‘s Lore will be the album of the year for many, and there are times (such as right now) when I listen to it and question whether or not it isn’t also my pick for that honor, but wherever it falls on whatever list, far more important is what the Massachusetts/Rhode Island/New York trio manage to accomplish across their third LP’s formidable five-track/59-minute span, songs like “Compendium” and “Deadweight” bridging a rarely approached gap between heavy and progressive rocks while maintaining a flow consistent with the psychedelic vibing of 2011’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here) but grown outward in another aesthetic direction and no sooner setting foot on the ground than seeming to master it in a flurry of blinding turns, sprawling soundscapes and clarity of mind that found perhaps its greatest expression in the centerpiece title-track, the 15-minute “Lore” itself, which I’ve no doubt will stand among if not atop the best songs of 2015 when the year is over and encapsulates the ambition and the corresponding breadth of Elder‘s songwriting, the trio of guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan, and drummer Matt Couto rising as one of the East Coast’s most pivotal acts, with a sound completely their own.

 

1. Acid King, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere

acid king middle of nowhere center of everywhere

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 19.

I use the word “molten” pretty regularly to describe an album or song that seems to just ooze its way out of the speakers or shift seamlessly between its songs, but Acid King set an entirely new standard for the term with Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere. Their first outing for Svart and their first release in a decade, its 55 minutes were a riff-rolling nirvana of lurching fuzz and tonal excellence, the guitar of Lori S. at the fore accompanied by Mark Lamb‘s bass and Joey Osbourne‘s drums, the swing of which propelled a highlight track like “Coming down from Outer Space” right back into it, while elsewhere on the record, “Silent Pictures,” “Red River” and “Infinite Skies” torched stoner conventions into a new space-biker rock, culminating in the heavy psych of “Center of Everywhere,” which seemed to emanate from the place it was describing, at once empty and full. More than just a welcome return after a long dearth of releases, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere found Acid King progressed even beyond where they were with 2005’s III, though more than anything else, what makes it my top pick for the year so far is the fact that I can’t seem to walk away from it for too long before going back, and ultimately, that’s what it all comes down to with his kind of thing. I’ve yet to find a standard to which these songs don’t live up.

Honorable Mention:

A few others worth noting. The Sun Blood Stories album (streamed here) continues to resonate. Also MonolordValkyrie, Lamp of the UniverseGarden of WormWo Fat‘s live record, The Midnight Ghost Train‘s Cold was the Ground and Ufomammut‘s Ecate. The Black Rainbows was a joy, as was Spidergawd‘s second LP, and while I still feel like I haven’t given it its due, the Sumac won many over and should get a mention. Steve Von Till‘s solo outing and the latest from Enslaved are worth seeking out as well for anyone who hasn’t heard them yet.

More to Come:

The year’s only half over, which is kind of a scary thought but true nonetheless. Watch out in the coming months for new stuff from BloodcowAll Them WitchesClutchGraveyardZunSacri Monti (if that one’s not already out), SnailUncle Acid, and Kind. The new Kadavar is a sure-fire top tenner, and between that, the potential for a new Neurosis album and stuff like Magnetic Eye Records‘ Electric Ladyland [Redux], there’s no way the book is written on the best of 2015.

So stay tuned.

And if I’ve still got your attention, thanks for reading.
 

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Buried Treasure and the Great White Whale: Colour Haze, Seven

Posted in Buried Treasure on June 1st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

colour-haze-seven-cd-cover

The word seems to have fallen out of use as quickly as it came into it, but I remain something of a completist, and Colour Haze‘s 1998 second full-length, Seven, has haunted the back of my mind for years. Perhaps even more since March 2012, when I shelled out for a copy of the German outfit’s moody 1995 debut, Chopping Machine (discussed here), since that made Seven the last of their full-lengths I didn’t own. The only one. To date, Colour Haze have 11 records, and just the one I didn’t have. If you listened hard enough, you could hear the teeth gnawing at me. Squint, and you could see the hole on my CD rack.

Early in 2014, I put up a review of their 2001 fifth outing, Ewige Blumenkraft, which boasts the track “House of Rushammon.” That song originally appeared on Seven, and I referred to the album in a parenthetical aside as, “the Great White Whale of my CD collection; someday I’ll own a copy and gaze upon it with pride for the remainder of my days.” Extreme, maybe, but not untrue. You might think I’m kidding around when I title these posts “Buried Treasure,” but I’m not. I place real value on owning albums, CD, LP or tape, whatever format it might be, and being the last of Colour Haze‘s work I hadn’t heard — having refused to chase down an illicit download or listen on YouTube — Seven was a genuine prize in my head.

I knew from hearing Chopping Machine and the fact that the band hadn’t reissued it that it probably wouldn’t be a landmark in terms of the actual material itself, but still. Still several years off from guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek starting his Elektrohasch Schallplaten imprint, Seven was released on CDR with inkjet-printed labels on the jokingly dubbed Self Burn Records. I don’t even know if they made 100 copies, let alone any more than that. It’s never been re-pressed, was never widely distributed, and in the wake of the brilliant offerings they’ve had since, has been largely forgotten, much, I think, by design.

A package arrived a short while ago from Munich. After that Ewige Blumenkraft review, Koglek teased that he’d have to see if he could find a “great white whale” for me, but honestly, I wasn’t holding onto much hope. Then there it was. Having just been through a move, Koglek not only found a copy of Seven, in its original jewel case with the printed liners and all, but took the time to send it over with a few other choice keepsakes to be detailed at another time, knowing that, indeed, I’d spend the rest of my days gazing on it with pride. The included note read, colour-haze-notes“Hi JJ, As it happens… it took a while but I stumbled over the ‘white whale’ for you during the preparation for our move. Hope you enjoy all the goodies a lot. :) All the best, Stefan.”

This, my friends, is the stuff of life.

I’m almost hesitant to talk too much about the album itself, since the band obviously doesn’t really want it out there or else it would be; they have their own label and haven’t been shy in the past about putting stuff out again when they feel the time and circumstances warrant. Like Chopping Machine, the audio of seven is a long way from what Colour Haze would become in years subsequent — for one thing, they’re a four-piece, with standalone vocalist Felix Neuenhoff singing and Koglek handling backing vocals and guitar while Philip Rasthofer plays bass and Manfred Merwald (listed in the liner as “Mani,” as I’ve heard others refer to him) plays drums — the trio as they are today otherwise intact.

And while one can hear where Koglek, who was at the time engaged in the work of finding his own voice, may have later taken some influence from Neuenhoff, Seven is a different vibe throughout that I think would surprise a lot of people who follow Colour Haze today, from the post-grunge grit of “Planet” to the Christian lyrical themes in “Under Water,” “Superstar” and “House of Rushammon” — those would remain intact on the re-recorded version, but the context is different — to the early-Tool-style rhythmic push of “Second Man” or “Pulse,” which also appears as an instrumental as the finale of Seven‘s 71-minute run.

Yet, particularly in light of the work they’ve done in the 17 years since, from the exploratory first steps toward their groundbreaking heavy psychedelia in the next year’s Periscope to 2015’s To the Highest Gods We Know (review here), one can hear flashes of what’s to come, in the deft turns Merwald makes sound so fluid, or in the rumble of Rasthofer‘s bass and the standalone moments of Koglek‘s guitar. They’d make that shift quickly, losing Neuenhoff within a year’s time and beginning to form the classic power trio dynamic they continue to refine, but one can hear listening to Seven the shift taking place between what they were on Chopping Machine and what they’d be on Periscope, and I consider myself unbelievably lucky to have had the chance to hear that for myself on an actual copy of the record.

Copious and heartfelt thanks to Koglek for that opportunity. Rest assured, I’ll be storing Seven somewhere with an easy line of sight.

Colour Haze, “House of Rushammon” from Seven (1998)

Colour Haze’s website

Elektrohasch Schallplatten

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Colour Haze and Radio Moscow Kickoff Up in Smoke V Tour on Feb. 27

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 26th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

colour haze

Colour Haze and Radio Moscow on the bill. Given enough time, I’m quite sure I could come up 100,000 things I’d want to see less than that. Start with “anything” and work your way back from there. It might take a few minutes, but given how high that show would be in this hypothetical hierarchy of stuff-I’d-like-to-see, there’s plenty of room for monuments, mountaintops, oceans, and so on. We’d hit the 100,000 mark no problem. I’m sure of it.

The two acts will begin headlining the Up in Smoke Volume 5 tour — actually they call it a “psychedelic roadfestival,” which I like — on Feb. 27, joined for a stretch by Cherry Choke, whose new album, Raising the Waters, is due out next month on Elektrohasch, and meeting up along the way with The Sun and the WolfMars Red SkyThe Midnight Ghost Train and others. Watching Colour Haze play a hometown show in Munich with Radio Moscow and Mars Red Sky? Yeah, I’d catch that if the opportunity were to present itself.

PR wire info comes courtesy of Sound of Liberation, who put the whole thing together:

colour haze radio moscow up in smoke v tour

COLOUR HAZE – Up In Smoke Tour (with RADIO MOSCOW and guests) kicks off in 1 month – Check Videotrailer, Dates and News

2011 seems like yesterday when we decided to pack up 3 to 4 awesome bands in a bus to tour Europe and rock your ears! 4 editions have gone by, 2 packed indoor festivals have witnessed your love for the music and the concept, so ladies and gentelmen, get ready!

In a month, we will write a new volume in the UP IN SMOKE history, and it will be a blast!! The fifth edition of your favorite roadfestival will feature 3 awesome bands for your pleasure:

Europes most well known psychedelic institution COLOUR HAZE which have their brand new album “To the Highest Gods we Know” in their suitcase!

America’s most heavy blues machine RADIO MOSCOW whose last album “Magical Dirt” (released in June 2014) sent all of us on another trip into heavy psychedelic headphone heaven.

UK’s fuzz driven psych rockers CHERRY CHOKE (from March 1st to 7th only) whose new album “Raising The Waters” will be released in the next weeks! Stay tuned for updates, you don’t wanna miss it!

On the other shows, Colour Haze and Radio Moscow will go with other outstanding special guests. Watch the amazing TRAILER made by Stonnerrock.eu, and check-out the listing below for details and tickets’ links. We invite you to join the trip! Come on and blow up your mind at the UP IN SMOKE ROADFESTIVAL!

Colour Haze & Radio Moscow
Plus Special Guests

27.02 (D) Stuttgart, Universum (w/ The Sun & The Wolf)
28.02 (D) Cologne, Live Music Hall (w/ The Sun & The Wolf)
01.03 (UK) London, The Garage (w/ Cherry Choke)
02.03 (FR) Paris, Le Divan du Monde (w/ Cherry Choke)
03.03 (BEL) Brussels, Magasin 4 (w/ Cherry Choke)
04.03 (D) Hamburg, Markthalle (w/ Cherry Choke)
05.03 (D) Berlin, SO36 (w/ Cherry Choke)
06.03 (A) Vienna, Arena (w/ Cherry Choke)
07.03 (A) Salzburg, Rockhouse (w/ Cherry Choke)
08.03 (D) Leipzig, Taubchenthal (w/ Kalamahara)
09.03 (D) Munich, Feierwerk (w/ Mars Red Sky)
10.03 (IT) Milano, Lofi (support band tba)
11.03 (D) Frankfurt, Das Bett (w/ The Midnight Ghost Train)
12.03 (NL) Tilburg, 013 (support band tba)
13.03 (D) Würzburg, Posthalle (w/ The Grounding)
14.03 (D) Hannover, Faust (support band tba)

http://www.soundofliberation.com/
http://www.colourhaze.de/
http://radiomoscow.net/
https://www.facebook.com/cherrychoke

Up in Smoke V tour trailer

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Tomorrow’s Dream 2015: 90 of the Year’s Most Anticipated Releases

Posted in Features on January 21st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

This is the longest list of anything I’ve ever done, and it might be the longest I ever do. The truth is, when I started keeping track of things coming out in 2015, back around October/November, I had no idea what I was getting into. More and more names just kept getting added to the list, and between solid release dates, bands entering the studio, writing sessions underway and the usual round of vague “they’re due”-type speculation, it kept growing. Even now, I’m quite sure that by the time I’m finished with this, I’ll add something else, and 90 will become 91, and then someone will point out something glaring I forgot and 91 will become 92, and so on.

I don’t think I could reasonably expect anyone to read 90 complete entries, so I’ve broken it down somewhat. There are 52 weeks in a year, so my thinking is that if you buy one record per week, I’ve got recommendations to carry through till December (with the acknowledgement that we’re already a couple weeks into 2015) and then more beyond that. Even asking you to skim 52 entries is a lot, but hell, we’ve got 12 months until 2016, so there’s plenty of time. We’ll do 52 entries and then list the others, both alphabetically.

Thank you in advance for reading.

1. Acid King, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere

Acid King Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere

If this was my year-end list instead of my year-start list, Acid King‘s Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere would be my album of the year. Best album of 2015 about 20 days into it? Maybe. The Oakland trio’s first outing in nearly a decade is a joy of languid riffing and heavy spaceout, songs like “Coming down from Outer Space” and “Center of Everywhere” reminding of just what it is we’ve been missing about Acid King all these years. They’ve continued to play live all that time, of course, and Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere, which is due April 14 on Svart, plainly demonstrates that they’ve lost none of the potency for years absent from studio work. More to come. Acid King on Thee Facebooks, Svart Records.

2. All Them Witches, TBA

all them witches tba

The Nashville four-piece blew up following the 2013 digital release of their second album, Lightning at the Door, which saw a physical pressing last year (review here), and with a growing public at their heels and a salivating underground press anxious to hear what they come up with next, All Them Witches hit the studio this month to put together their third full-length. They’re on tour in Feb., and it seems reasonable to expect they’ll be trying out new material on the road, but as free-flowing as Lightning at the Door was, it’s hard not to consider the follow-up one of 2015’s most anticipated records, whenever it arrives and whatever shape(s) it takes. All Them Witches on Thee Facebooks, official website.

3. Anthroprophh, U.F.O.

UFO Vinyl Sleeve.qxp

Guitarist/vocalist Paul Allen, formerly of The Heads, teamed up with Jesse Webb and Gareth Turner of the duo Big Naturals as his rhythm section for 2014’s Outside the Circle (review here), and for his new release under the Anthroprophh moniker for Cardinal FuzzAllen centers around different U.F.O. abduction reports from the UK between 1954 and 1978, each of the eight tracks taking its name from the date and location of a reported incident. Sound fucking awesome? Yeah, I agree. Expect raw psychedelic experimentation, heavy swing and interpretive instrumentalism galore on the two-sided release when it gets declassified on Feb. 2, pressed in an edition of 500 copies. Anthroprophh on Thee Facebooks, Cardinal Fuzz.

4. Arenna, TBA

arenna cover

Spanish heavy psych outfit Arenna will release the follow-up to their 2011 Nasoni Records debut, Beats of Olarizu (review here), and they just this week posted the 10-minute opener “Butes” from their sophomore outing (listen here). The first album earned them a hearty following, and it’s been four years since it came out, but somehow I doubt Arenna will have much trouble picking up where they left off in their wide-open, jam-heavy sound. They mark a decade together in 2015, and they seem to just be getting started, so I’m particularly interested to learn how the European heavy underground takes to their second LP, which is due to be mastered next month and released sometime thereafter. Arenna on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

5. The Atomic Bitchwax, Gravitron

the atomic bitchwax

New Bitchwax? Sold. The stalwart New Jersey three-piece — now featuring two members of Monster Magnet — will release Gravitron on April 21 via Tee Pee Records, just in time to make a stop a few days later at Desertfest London 2015. They toured Europe last summer as well, and I think the fact that they’ll be over that way when they put Gravitron out speaks volumes to their priorities at this point, but who can blame them? Perpetually underappreciated in the US, they’ll follow-up 2011’s The Local Fuzz (review here) in grand form at Desertfest (they play Berlin as well), finally getting their due even if they have to get on a plane to get it. The Atomic Bitchwax on Thee Facebooks, Tee Pee Records.

6. Black Cobra, TBA

black-cobra

Hints were dropped back in November that raging two-piece Black Cobra were working on material for a new album. Whenever it arrives, this year or next, it will be their sixth and first since 2011’s Invernal (review here), which I don’t think I’m alone in counting as their finest moment to-date. They’ll also be at Desertfest for a return appearance, and wherever they go, devastation follows. They posted this week that their tour van has passed the 300,000-mile mark, which is emblematic of the workout they’ve given it over the last decade-plus, and I’d expect no slowdown, tempo or itinerary-wise, from them in 2015, regular oil changes notwithstanding. Black Cobra on Thee Facebooks, Southern Lord Recordings.

7. Black Rainbows, Hawkdope

black rainbows hawkdope

There are 90-someodd bands included in this feature, all told. Might be over 100. I’m not sure anybody beats Italian trio Black Rainbows in the album-title department, however. Hawkdope, man. Hard to mess with that. Guitarist/vocalist Gabriele Fiori continues to keep his finger on the pulse of European heavy rock with his Heavy Psych Sounds imprint, and while I haven’t heard Hawkdope yet, it seems likely they’ll continue the push toward heavy psychedelia that 2013’s Holy Moon EP (discussed here) and their inclusions in last year’s four-way split (review here) spoke of, but of course, they can always throw down some top notch fuzz riffing as well. Black Rainbows on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

8. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth

brothers of the sonic cloth brothers of the sonic cloth

Six years after the arrival of their demo (review here), Brothers of the Sonic Cloth will make their self-titled debut through Neurot Recordings on Feb. 17. Immediately notable for being the brainchild of guitarist/vocalist Tad Doyle (ex-TAD), bassist Peggy “Pegadeth” Doyle and drummer Dave FrenchBrothers of the Sonic Cloth pushes plodding heavy into seething aggression with a lumber only made more potent by Billy Anderson‘s production. It’s been a while in the making, true, but the album’s execution leaves no room for argument in its lung-deflating tonal density. Justifies the wait and then some. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth on Thee Facebooks, Neurot Recordings.

9. Chiefs, Tomorrow’s Over

chiefs tomorrow's over

With vinyl to follow in May on Battleground Records, Arizona/SoCal heavy rockers Chiefs will release their debut LP, Tomorrow’s Over, via Roosevelt Row on Feb. 24. Its striking cover art by David Paul Seymour offers immediate intrigue, as did Chiefs‘ inclusion on their 2014 split 7″ with Fuzz Evil (streamed here). The song from that, “Stone Bull,” won’t be featured on the album, but all four cuts from Chiefs‘ 2013 Buffalo Roam demo will, which should give you some indication as to how much the trio got it right the first time around. The title-track of the demo opens, and the album takes its name from one of the demo tracks as well, so it all ties together. Chiefs on Thee Facebooks, Battleground Records, Roosevelt Row Records.

10. Clutch, TBA

clutch

Clutch‘s Earth Rocker (review here) was the undisputed high point of 2013, and the long-running Maryland four-piece have returned to the Machine Shop studio (now located in Texas) to record the follow-up to it. They’ve been playing new material live for a while now, as they’ll do, and while they always manage to change things up from album to album, the fact that they’ve going back to work with Machine again makes in plain that they’re where they want to be at this point sound-wise. As if there was ever any doubt. Their forever-tour will continue, but it’s good to know they’re taking a little break from the road to put together another slab for their always-expanding, always-frothing fanbase. Clutch on Thee Facebooks, Weathermaker Music.

11. Conan, TBA

conan

I’m not sure if it will be out before the end of 2015, but whenever it arrives, the next Conan should be a much different affair than we’ve yet heard from the UK thunderplodders, whose 2014 Napalm Records debut, Blood Eagle (review here), further established their dominance among the heaviest bands in doom. Since that album hit, guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis has traded out two-thirds of the trio, bringing in producer Chris Fielding on bass/vocals and new drummer Rich LewisDavis‘ riffs have always been at the core of what makes Conan the beast they are, so I wouldn’t expect much fixing of what isn’t broken, but don’t be surprised if some different personalities emerge in Fielding and Lewis as well. Conan on Thee Facebooks, Conan’s webstore.

12. Colour Haze, To the Highest Gods We Know

CH_TTHGWK_BOOKLET 4&1

Yeah, I’m sneaking this one in here. Sorry, but frankly, I think Colour Haze deserve more than a toss-it-out-there mid-December album release date, so instead of the CD release, which was last month, I’m choosing to think of the impending Feb./March vinyl issue as the official one for To the Highest Gods We Know (review here), which is both a fascinating and fitting answer to Colour Haze‘s 2012 outing, She Said (review here). Feels strange so early in the year to start calling out end-of-year highlights, but between this and Acid King, I feel like two of my top five are already set in stone, and that’s a pretty good start to any year. Colour Haze are one of the most important heavy rock bands of their generation, and they continue to expand their form and the genre as a whole. Colour Haze’s website, Elektrohasch Schallplatten.

13. Corrections House, TBA

corrections-house-logo

Their totalitarian fetishizing well intact, the it’s-a-supergroup-but-don’t-call-it-a-supergroup Corrections House announced back in November that they’d have a sophomore effort out this year to follow their 2013 debut, Last City Zero. The returning lineup of guitarist Scott Kelly (Neurosis), vocalist Mike Williams (Eyehategod), saxophonist Bruce Lamont (Yakuza) and keyboardist/programmer Sanford Parker (Buried at Sea, etc.) is enough to warrant attention in itself, and while their industrial tinged output isn’t really my thing sound-wise, they’re not an assemblage easily ignored. Hopefully a recently canceled round of tour dates doesn’t derail the new release plams. Corrections House on Thee Facebooks, at Neurot Recordings.

14. Corsair, One Eyed Horse

corsair one eyed horse

Virginian dual-guitar classic heavy rock/metallers Corsair are now three years removed from their Shadow Kingdom Records self-titled debut (review here), and their new album, One Eyed Horse, arrives with a striking-almost-disturbing cover and a refined progressive edge. Their melodic sensibility has never been in question, and guitarists Marie Landragin and Paul Sebring, bassist Jordan Brunk (who, like the guitarists, contributes vocals) and drummer Michael Taylor will look to expand their reach even further with the eight new vinyl-ready tracks. One looks forward to the album and hopes for a tour in equal measure. Corsair’s website, Shadow Kingdom Records.

15. Crypt Sermon, Out of the Garden

crypt-sermon-out-of-the-garden

Classic doom bleeds through the cover of Philly five-piece Crypt Sermon‘s debut full-length, Out of the Garden. Set to release Feb. 24 on Dark Descent Records, I’d expect Out of the Garden to be an early highlight for the year in doom despite being Crypt Sermon‘s first outing. Their Demo MMXIII (review here) found them well schooled in the tenets of the downtrodden, and while the record may end up a sleeper, it’s one that no doubt will find its way to the right ears; namely those of the old school doomers tired of psychedelic idolatry, who want something dark, beaten and grueling without concern for genre-melding or novelty. So, doom on. Crypt Sermon on Thee Facebooks, Dark Descent Records.

16. Ecstatic Vision, TBA

ecstatic vision

Also based in Philadelphia, heavy psych troupe Ecstatic Vision signed to Relapse on the strength of a demo and an apparent willingness to hit the road — they’ll do so this spring alongside YOB and Enslaved — and as just about any band who’s ever sent that label a rough recording will likely tell you, that’s no small feat. I was fortunate enough to catch them in Brooklyn last month (opening for YOB, as it happened), and the appeal was easy to see in their space rock jamming, lighting effects and propensity for deceptively quick rhythmic turns. A debut offering is reportedly due this year, and as it will come after they spend a month on the road, I expect it will be something to behold. Ecstatic Vision on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.

17. Elder, Lore

elder-lore

What to say about Elder? They’re a bright spot in the hope for the next generation of heavy rock, but they were that already. What really distinguishes their third album, Lore, is the fiercely progressive bent of the tracks, songs like “Compendium” (streamed here) taking the hypnotic rhythms of 2012’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here) and refining what Elder — the trio of guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto — do with a newfound clarity of purpose and precision execution. They make well-thought-out songs sound exciting front to back, and if you’ve ever dug anything they’ve done, you’re going to shit a brick when you hear the title-track of LoreElder on Thee Facebooks, Armageddon Shop, Stickman Records.

18. Enslaved, In Times

enslaved-in-times

I make no bones or apologies about being an Enslaved fan. The Norwegian progressive black metallers strip down their presentation with In Times, the follow-up to 2012’s Riitiir (review here), solidifying some aspects of their approach while nodding at the brutality of yore in a still-somehow-forward-thinking manner. They never fail to deliver, and they’ve long since hit a stride where they can deliver album after album and come up with ways to advance their sound each time out. Recording themselves has only made them bolder over their last couple records, and In Times benefits from this in its brought-to-fruition experiments as well. It would take a lot for these guys to do wrong in my eyes. Enslaved on Thee Facebooks, Nuclear Blast Records.

19. Eye, TBA

eye

They’re the Midwest’s inadvertent answer to the West Coast’s Moog-prog vibing, and Ohio’s Eye want for nothing in comparison to any of their coastal contemporaries. The photo above was taken recently in the studio — I’ll just assume the room is actually that color when they record and that that is not, in fact, an Instagram filter — tracking their third record and follow-up to 2013’s brilliant-yes-brilliant Second Sight (review here), which rightfully garnered attention far and wide. No release date yet for the new one from what I’ve seen, but the album is reportedly done, so hopefully it won’t be too long before it sees release, most likely on vinyl since that seems to be where the band’s heart lies. Eye on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

20. Freedom Hawk, TBA

freedom hawk

After an appearance last year at Roadburn and confirmation of a return trip to Europe this spring for Freak Valley in Germany, Virginia’s Freedom Hawk would seem to have considerably expanded their reach. Last year saw them lose guitarist Matt Cave and transition from a four-piece to a trio, and they were in the studio in the fall to record their second album for Small Stone behind their 2011 label debut, Holding On (review here), and while I’m not sure if it’s finished or if it will be out in time for the band’s sojourn abroad, one assumes it will be out sooner or later. Their late-2013 Live at the Jewish Mother download makes a decent stopgap if you’ve got a hankering, but they’re due for a new one for sure. Freedom Hawk on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.

21. Glowsun, Glowsun

glowsun glowsun

In a recent discussion about finally picking up Glowsun‘s 2012 outing, Eternal Season, I said I wasn’t going to miss their next record, so I guess you could call this me holding myself to that task. The French heavy psych outfit have a new one, apparently self-titled — though of course I could be wrong; I’m just going by the album art — due out for release this Spring. I haven’t seen an official date from Napalm for when it’s due, but it’s not one I’m going to let slip by one way or another as I did for far too long with Eternal Season. Some mistakes don’t bear repeating, and Glowsun‘s output is of a quality that demands immediacy. At least now I know it. Ha. Glowsun on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.

22. Goatsnake, TBA

goatsnake

Rumors abound about a new Goatsnake. They’re in the studio, this is done, that isn’t done, they’re over here, over there. They’re headlining Freak Valley and playing Psycho California, and they headlined Southwest Terror Fest III last fall, but the last official word I saw about a new album — it would be their first since their 2004 Trampled Under Hoof EP — was last Sept., when word came down that it was happening at all and that Southern Lord would put it out. A timetable on when would be convenient, but maybe that’s asking too much and I should be grateful it’s even being discussed. They remain on my bucket list of bands to see before I die. One of these days I’ll get there. Southern Lord Recordings, Southern Lord on Thee Facebooks.

23. Gozu, TBA

gozu

Probably the biggest change for Boston’s Gozu since the 2013 release of their second album for Small StoneThe Fury of a Patient Man (review here), is the solidification of their lineup. As they enter into the process for their third Small Stone outing, they’ll do so with bassist Joe Grotto and drummer Mike HubbardGrotto played on part of Fury, but Hubbard (ex-Warhorse) is a new presence entirely in the band. They’ve also experimented with a third guitarist, so they might not be so solidified, but they’ve got a monster of a core four-piece to work with in GrottoHubbard, guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney and guitarist Doug Sherman, and they seem poised to get the most out of the chemistry they’ve busted their collective ass to develop. Gozu on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.

24. High on Fire, TBA

high on fire

I feel like a new High on Fire record isn’t even just an event for heavy rock at this point but for metal as a whole. The Matt Pike-fronted three-piece hit the studio this month (this week?) after a quick tour up the East Coast, returning to Massachusetts to work with Converge‘s Kurt Ballou at his Godcity Studios, where they also busted out 2012’s De Vermis Mysteriis (review here). For anyone who heard that record, it should be plain why they’d want to work with Ballou again — even enough to go to Massachusetts in January — and whenever their next one shows up, no doubt it will do so as one of 2015’s most anticipated offerings. I’m not sure what to expect other than “heavy,” but that’s enough to go on for now. High on Fire on Thee Facebooks, eOne Metal.

25. Hollow Leg, TBA

hollow leg god-eater

My interest was piqued early last year when Floridian sludgers Hollow Leg issued their God-Eater single and spoke of it as the beginning of a change in direction. The change? More melody, a less outright aggressive style, more of an emphasis on thickness rather than rawness. As a starting point, the song “God-Eater” seemed to bode well, and I’m hoping in 2015 that Hollow Leg follow through at least partially on its promise. Not that the viciousness of 2013’s second LP, Abysmal (review here), left me particularly wanting, just that they seemed to be following a fulfilling new-ish path, and I thought the sound was one worth pursuing. They’ve said their third will be out this year, so I’ll take it. Hollow Leg on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

26. Horsehunter, Caged in Flesh

horsehunter caged in flesh

Australian four-piece Horsehunter made an impression a few weeks back with the 16-minute “Stoned to Death,” the opening track from their Magnetic Eye Records debut LP, Caged in Flesh, and it stands to reason why. Crushing tones, brutal vibes and hints of psychedelic wash abounded on what was a gripping sample of the album, which the band had recorded, scapped because it wasn’t heavy enough and then recorded again. There are four songs on Caged in Flesh, so “Stoned to Death” is literally just the beginning for Horsehunter, whose foreboding atmospherics come across no less punishing than their most weighted of tones. Horsehunter on Thee Facebooks, Magnetic Eye Records.

27. Kind, TBA

kind (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I’ve been lucky enough to see Boston four-piece Kind play twice, the lineup of vocalist Craig Riggs (also Roadsaw), guitarist Darryl Shepard (also Black PyramidBlackwolfgoat, etc.), bassist Tom Corino (also Rozamov) and drummer Matt Couto (also Elder) taking shape visibly from one show to the next. Their debut full-length is in progress now at the Riggs-owned Mad Oak Studios in Allston, and while I don’t think I can say yet what label it’s coming out on (it’s not Small Stone), the latest word I’ve gotten is that a summer release is booked. Definitely interested to hear how the jams I’ve seen live translate to a studio recording, and how Corino‘s tone comes through Mad Oak‘s board. Kind on Thee Facebooks, on Soundcloud.

28. Kings Destroy, Kings Destroy

kings destroy

So, you’d think the pic of Kings Destroy bassist Aaron Bumpus above is from some recent studio shot while they’re tracking their third album, right? Nope. The self-titled’s been in the can for months. It’s out in April on War Crime Recordings. What Kings Destroy are doing now is working on album number four, and I bet before it comes out, they’ll be on number five. Fiercely creative. I’ve had the KD record for I don’t know how long at this point, and it’s the best thing they’ve done yet. I can’t even pretend to feign impartiality after being asked to tour with them twice last year — a fucking blessing both times — but it’s the closest they’ve come to their live sound so far and that progress suits them remarkably well. Kings Destroy on Thee Facebooks, War Crime Recordings.

29. Lamprey, TBA

lamprey logo

The two-bass Portland trio Lamprey‘s recent stop-motion video for “Iron Awake” served due notice of their impending album, as yet untitled, and while it’s the shortest track on there by a considerable margin, it nonetheless represents the big-crash, big-impact severity of the outing as a whole. Not sure through what label it will surface if one at all or on what media it will be pressed — the word burning above, which I hope is the album cover, may or may not be — but the full-length seems poised to establish them as a force after 2012’s The Burden of Beasts EP (review here) brought their sometimes-plodding, sometimes-sprinting heavy rock into focus. Also, one of the songs is called “Lament of the Deathworm,” and that just rules. Lamprey on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

30. Lord Dying, Poisoned Altars

lord dying poisoned altars

The hard-touring Portlanders teamed up with Dark Castle drummer Rob Shaffer for their sophomore outing for Relapse RecordsPoisoned Altars (review here), and though he’s since out of the band, his presence bolsters the songs in Lord Dying‘s blend of High on Fire-style thrash and Crowbar-loyal sludge. A pervasive sense of simplicity helps the material achieve maximum force, but the hard-won nature of Lord Dying‘s cohesion isn’t to be understated or underappreciated — they did about 18 months of touring in support of their first effort, Summon the Faithless. At least they know their time wasn’t misspent. Seems likely they’ll continue to pound the pavement throughout 2015, so keep an eye open. Lord Dying on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.

31. Magic Circle, TBA

magic circle (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Rest assured, I’ve seen zero confirmation that a new Magic Circle album is under way. There’s been no word from the by-now-notoriously secretive Massachusetts-based band or their label, Armageddon Shop, on the subject of a follow-up to their 2013 self-titled debut (review here). This is rampant speculation. Their first 7″ was recently re-pressed, though, so there’s activity in their camp one way or another. They also made their way out to Seattle in October to open for Satan, which only emphasizes the fact that you never really know when they’re going to show up until they do. Ditto that their next album, I suppose. Hopefully this year it happens. Armageddom Shop website, on Thee Facebooks.

32. The Midnight Ghost Train, Cold was the Ground

Opmaak 1

Riotous Southern heavy rockers The Midnight Ghost Train have outdone themselves with their Napalm Records debut, Cold was the Ground, taking the rager blues of 2012’s Buffalo (review here) to new heights of manic push. After several years of steady touring, the Kansas-based trio of guitarist/vocalist Steve Moss, drummer Brandon Burghart and bassist Mike Boyne are an explosive live act, and as the recent video premiere for “Gladstone” showcased, their third album reaps the rewards of their labors. It’s due to release March 10 in North America, but I really don’t need to note the date, because you’ll hear it coming a mile away like the freight train that it is. The Midnight Ghost Train on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.

33. Minsk, TBA

minsk logo

A new Minsk full-length is an utterly fascinating thought. Sorry if that sounds cold or overly clinical, but it’s true. Consider that it’s been six years since the Chicago post-metallers last released an album. That record, 2009’s With Echoes in the Movement of Stone (review here), hit at what was arguably the pinnacle of post-metal’s stylistic movement, the waters having since receded in no small part because Minsk wasn’t around to push forward creatively. Now, with slots booked at Roadburn and Desertfest, they’ll make a return to the studio as well, and I have absolutely zero idea of what to expect from them. A partially-revamped, Sanford Parker-less lineup only adds further intrigue. Minsk on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

34. Mondo Drag, Mondo Drag

mondo-drag-mondo-drag

This is one of I think two or three releases on this list that’s already out. The self-titled Mondo Drag (review here) nonetheless warrants inclusion for its heavy psych boogie concoctions and natural-toned spirit, not full-on retro but still well-indebted to the heavy ’70s in its use of organ and guitar and the swing of its rhythm section. That rhythm section? Zack Anderson and Cory Berry, who, fresh out of Radio Moscow, stepped in to record with fellow Iowans Mondo Drag in 2012 before founding Blues Pills. A shortlived moment in Mondo Drag‘s history, perhaps, but they got a killer record out of it, and while the recordings are already three years old, they’re well worth the time to appreciate. Mondo Drag on Thee Facebooks, Bilocation Records.

35. Monolord, Vaenir

monolord vaenir

Swedish trio Monolord won over hearts and minds bigtime with their 2014 RidingEasy Records debut, Empress Rising, earning a spot on the 2014 Readers Poll right between Eyehategod and Mastodon. That’s rather significant company to keep — and all the more so for a band’s first record — and with Vaenir, we’ll get to hear how the intervening year has seen them progress. They’ve already proven a favorite among the converted, and they’ll tour in Feb./March with Salem’s Pot ahead of an appearance at Roadburn prior to Vaenir‘s April 28 arrival date, so it looks like they’ll keep their momentum moving forward through the release and most likely beyond. Monolord on Thee Facebooks, RidingEasy Records.

36. Neurosis, TBA

neurosis

Okay. I don’t know that Neurosis‘ next album will be out in 2015. It’s just not a thing I know. What I know is that the ultra-seminal five-piece are getting together to write in Feb., and that they’re a no-bullshit band when it comes to writing and recording, so the timing works that, if they make new songs happen this winter, their record would probably be ready for release sometime in the summer or early fall. That’s what I’m going on. It might be that they write half the album now and half in 2016, but from what I hear they’re planning on doing some more significant touring this year, so it would stand to reason they’d want to do it with a follow-up to 2012’s Honor Found in Decay (review here) under their collective belt. We’ll see what we get. Neurosis on Thee Facebooks, Neurot Recordings.

37. Pentagram, TBA

pentagram

I saw Pentagram play 20 shows last year. Believe me when I say the pairing of frontman Bobby Liebling and guitarist Victor Griffin has never seemed stronger musically, and with bassist Greg Turley and drummer Sean SaleyPentagram head into the making of their next album firing on all proverbial cylinders. Metal Blade, who also issued their 2011 comeback album, Last Rites (review here), seems the likely outlet for the yet-untitled offering, which the band will herald with a headlining performance at Psycho California alongside Sleep and Cult of Luna on May 15-17, and which will no doubt dig deep into Pentagram‘s long history of doom for a trove of classic-style riffs. Pentagram on Thee Facebooks, Metal Blade Records.

38. Ruby the Hatchet, Valley of the Snake

ruby the hatchet valley of the snake

A not-so-subtle Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats influence permeates Ruby the Hatchet‘s Tee Pee Records debut, Valley of the Snake, which is something the Philly-based band seems to acknowledge willfully on “Vast Acid,” frontwoman Jillian Taylor crooning “I’ll cut you down” toward the end of the song in a call-out of one of the UK outfit’s most resonant hooks. Otherwise, the organ-laced five-piece get down on more psychedelic vibes, though the heavy ’70s swing in the drums could be taken as another common factor, if you really wanted to stretch it. Either way, a laid back, less murderous atmosphere persists, and that suits me just fine. Out Feb. 24. Bonus points for the gorgeous Adam Burke cover art. Ruby the Hatchet on Thee Facebooks, Tee Pee Records.

39. Saturnalia Temple, To the Other

saturnalia-temple-to-the-other

The entire meaning of being a “cult” band has changed since Sweden’s Saturnalia Temple released their UR demo in 2007, but after their 2011 debut, Aion of Drakon, hit with such a low-end wash of psychedelic obscurity, I’m intrigued to hear what they’ve come up with on To the Other, the cover’s foreboding darkness, consuming swirl and bizarre patterning seeming a fit for their sonic methodology. To the Other is out April 7 on The Ajna Offensive, and features Tim Call of The Howling Wind and Aldebaran on drums alongside Saturnalia Temple guitarist/vocalist Tommie Ericksson and bassist PeterSaturnalia Temple on Thee Facebooks, The Ajna Offensive.

40. Six Organs of Admittance, Hexadic

six organs of admittance hexadic

I’ll make no claims toward understanding the theoretical basis driving the latest outing from the Ben Chasny-helmed project Six Organs of Admittance, which in its 17-year history has gone from bedroom folk and avant electronics to the far-ranging heavy psych jamming of 2012’s Ascent (review here). Chasny, joined by members of Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound and Deerhoof on the album — which is due out Feb. 17 on Drag City — seems to have developed a compositional method based around a system involving playing cards and varying tonal intensities. No idea what the hell any of it means, but it sounds like a freakout to me, so I’m in. Six Organs of Admittance website, Drag City Records.

41. Snail, Feral

snail

Come on, Snail. Even if Feral‘s not coming out until later in the year, you can send it to me. I won’t tell anybody if you don’t want me to. I can keep it to myself. Hell, I won’t even review it until I get word that it’s cool to do so, I just want to hear the damn thing. Alright, Snail, have it your way. I’ll just sit here and remember how awesome Terminus (review here) was when that came out in 2012, and Blood (review here) before that in 2009 back when I did snarky headlines for reviews. That’s cool. I’ve waited this long for your Small Stone debut to make its way into my ears, I guess I’ll just keep waiting until it shows up. Which it would be awfully nice if it did as soon as possible. Today works. Now works. Snail on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.

42. Sourvein, Aquatic Fanatic

sourvein-aquatic-occult

At the risk of being sincere, I’ll say it warms my cold, doomed heart to know that Sourvein‘s next album is going to be released by Metal Blade Records. After trudging the Southern sludge underground for, what, 20 years?, the Cape Fear-based outfit led by T-Roy Medlin (whose lineage goes back to Buzzov*en, lest we forget their role in establishing the sound) are finally poised to get their due, and I think it’s fucking awesome. Mike Dean‘s producing the thing, and you know Sourvein are going to tour the hell out of it because that’s what they do whether they’ve got a new record or not. I’m calling it the feelgood story of the year, which is perfect since the music will most likely be utterly scathing. Sourvein on Thee Facebooks, Metal Blade Records.

43. Spidergawd, II

spidergawd ii

Just stop reading and go fucking listen to Spidergawd. Here, I did a track premiere a little bit ago for the song “Tourniquet.” It rules. Go listen to that. For the life of me I have no idea why this band’s name isn’t on the lips of every boogie-loving heavy rocker in the universe. Stickman has the new album, Spidergawd II, sold out in the special edition preorders, but there’s a regular version still available and apparently en route from the plant, and for the love of all things riffed, it’s glorious. So get on it. I implore you. And no, I don’t have any idea what’s going on with the album cover, so don’t ask. No time for questions anyway. Get listening. Spidergawd on Thee Facebooks, Stickman Records.

44. Stoned Jesus, The Harvest

stoned jesus the harvest

Ukrainian heavy rockers Stoned Jesus posted the opening track from their third album, The Harvest, a while back on their Bandcamp page, and my goodness it does swing. They’ll make their way to the US for the first time in support of The Harvest, appearing at the Psycho California fest and hopefully elsewhere, and they do so having built up a steady following with their first two long-players, 2010’s First Communion (noted here) and 2012’s Seven Thunders Roar (review here), their most stonerly of names spread far and wide ahead of the latest offering’s early March arrival following 2013’s jams collection, The Seeds, Vol. 1Stoned Jesus on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

45. Torche, Restarter

torche restarter

I haven’t heard it yet, but Torche‘s awaited Relapse Records debut, Restarter, is due out Feb. 24 and the band are kicking into gear once again to mark its coming. They’ve already announced US and European tours to carry them through June, and I don’t imagine there are many markets they’ll leave un-hit  by the time they’re through. Their last album, 2012’s Harmonicraft (review here), was a solid showing of what’s come to be expected of them in terms of hooks, upbeat heaviness and melodies, but especially with the ambitious title, the new label and the energized-seeming schedule, I’m hoping that Restarter gives the band the same kind of boot to the ass they’ve been to delivering the heavy underground for the last decade. Torche on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.

46. Ufomammut, Ecate

ufomammut (Photo by Andrea Tomas Prato)

Very, very much looking forward to hearing Ecate, the newest outing from Ufomammut and their “second” album for Neurot Recordings behind the 2012 two-parter Oro (reviews here and here). Why is kind of a silly question — new Ufomammut is its own excuse for anticipation — but truth be told, they’ve always managed to get bigger-sounding and more expansive with each LP, and after having to break their last album in half and release the two pieces months apart from each other, I’m dying to know where they go with Ecate, what shifts in their sound the last couple years — including last year, which was their 15th anniversary — have brought and where in the cosmos they might be headed now. Ufomammut on Thee Facebooks, Neurot Recordings.

47. Valkyrie, TBA

valkyrie

During what I guess we’ll call Valkyrie‘s original run, the Virginia two-guitar four-piece released a pair of albums, 2006’s Valkyrie and 2008’s Man of Two Visions — both of which were reissued through MeteorCity in 2010 — before guitarist Peter Adams, who founded the band with his brother, guitarist/vocalist Jake Adams, got signed to Relapse with his other group, Baroness. Now back with Earthling‘s Alan Fary on bass and drummer Warren Hawkins, they’ve got their new LP recorded with Sanford Parker and reportedly in the can for an early 2015 release, also through Relapse. They’ll no doubt be greeted as heroes when they play the Maryland Doom Fest in June, and understandably so. Valkyrie on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.

48. VA, Electric Ladyland Redux & The Best of James Marshall Hendrix

various artists the best of james marshall hendrix

Magnetic Eye Records launched a Kickstarter campaign last fall with the ambitious aim of paying homage to Jimi Hendrix by having current heavy rock artists (ElderEarthlessWo FatGozu and more; full list here) re-record Electric Ladyland in its entirety. The project, on track to be released this year to coincide with what would’ve been Hendrix‘s 73rd birthday in November, expanded to include a tribute best-of collection as well, and has grown in repute ahead of its actually being issued to stand as a gathering of some of the finest the underground has to offer playing some of the best rock and roll ever crafted. From the idea to the impending reality of it, there’s really no arguing with this one. Magnetic Eye Records on Thee Facebooks, Magnetic Eye webstore.

49. Wino & Conny Ochs, Freedom Conspiracy

wino and conny ochs

When Scott “Wino” Weinrich entered rehab late last fall, he mentioned in a public statement several projects in the works. Spirit Caravan‘s reunion is ongoing. Saint Vitus are due for a next album, but he also noted the second release for his collaboration with German singer-songwriter Conny OchsFreedom Conspiracy, as being in early 2015. Particularly after the ultra-intimate, solo feel of Wino‘s 2010 acoustic debut, Adrift (review here), the first collaboration with Ochs, 2012’s Heavy Kingdom (review here), was an unexpected expansion of the form that paid sonic dividends in both the songwriting and performance of both players. A second installment should benefit from the chemistry they built on the road for the debut. Conny Ochs on Thee Facebooks, Exile on Mainstream.

50. Wizard Eye, TBA
wizard eye

Heard it. Slays. Actually, I’m not sure if the version of Wizard Eye‘s sophomore full-length I got was final, but the songs were killer either way, and the Philly stoner-toner three-piece will have the album out on vinyl later this year through a newcomer label that I don’t think I’m supposed to mention yet so I won’t. Either way, they’re included here because the more heads they reach the better, their blend of rolling grooves, sludged out vocals and the occasional bout of theremin is just right for the riff-loving purist in all of us. Their recent live outing, Riff Occult Live (review here) says it better than I could, so make a note to yourself to dig into that at your next convenience. It’s name-your-price on Bandcamp. Wizard Eye on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

51. Wretch, TBA

wretch

Listed as the “bastard spawn” of The Gates of SlumberWretch finds that band’s guitarist/vocalist Karl Simon teamed with bassist Bryce Clark and drummer Chris Gordon, the prior outfit having been laid to rest in 2013 after what seemed like an excellent return to form in 2011’s The Wretch (review here) and subsequent Scion-sponsored EP. I haven’t heard the new band yet, but some demos have made their way out thus far, and you’d have to figure it won’t be too long before SimonClark and Gordon make their proper debut as Wretch and start a new chapter in one of modern traditional doom’s most pivotal legacies. Wretch on Thee Facebooks, Tone Deaf Touring.

52. Zun, TBA

zun

Early in 2013, a song called “Come through the Water” (review here) appeared as the first audio from a new project helmed by guitarist Gary Arce of Yawning Man called Zun. It was to be used as Zun‘s portion of a split with Fatso Jetson and while I’m not sure that ever materialized, it drew immediate attention for the collaboration between Arce and vocalist Sera Timms of Ides of Gemini and Black Mare, also formerly of Black Math Horseman. A significant duo for sure. With Bill Stinson (also Yawning Man) on drums, they’re set to debut later this year on Small Stone with their first album, and if Timms and Arce aren’t enough to draw your attention so late in the feature — the hazards of alphabetics — the one and only John Garcia is set for a guest appearance on the record. Dig that, desert rockers. Yawning Man on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.

 

Going Into Overload…

So, okay. At this point, you could literally buy a different record each week of this year and hear something that, unless there’s some disaster between the idea of the album and the actual thing itself, is most likely worth your time. That’s not too bad. But we’re not at 88 yet, so with those 52 already set, I’ve got 36 more that you might want to keep on your radar.

Some of these are solidly lined up, some are slated to be recorded, etc., so the same rule of “things don’t always work out the way they’re supposed to” applies. With that caveat:

 

53. Abrahma, TBA — Their second album for Small Stone is due sometime this year.

 

54. Bedroom Rehab Corporation, Fortunate Some — From what I hear, the Connecticut twosome have their second record in the can.

 

55. Black Black Black, TBA — Brooklyn outfit featuring former members of Disengage should have a sophomore album out in 2015.

 

56. Black Pyramid, New 7″ — The trio will release a new single to coincide with their Euro tour that includes a stop at Desertfest.

 

57. Bright Curse, New 10″ EP — It was mentioned the new lineup would record an EP before taking on their next album.

 

58. Camel of Doom, TBA — Was announced in December there’d be a new Camel of Doom along with a vinyl of their last album.

 

59. Cherry Choke, Raising the Waters — Should be out this month on Elektrohasch.

 

60. La Chinga, TBA — Vancouver group’s Small Stone debut is reportedly being mixed.

 

61. Curse the Son, TBA — I’m hoping this one gets out by the end of the year. It will be the CT trio’s first with their new bassist.

 

62. EgyptEndless Flight — North Dakota’s favored sons will return with a new full-length this summer. Album trailer posted with a clip of the new song “Tres Madres.”

 

63. Enos, TBA — Not sure where they’re at with it, but worth keeping an eye out.

 

64. Foghound, TBA — The Maryland rockers have finished tracking their new album with Mike Dean of Corrosion of Conformity at the helm.

 

65. Funeral Horse, TBA — They’ve been full of surprises on their first two releases and they work quick, so I wouldn’t be surprised if something new showed up.

 

66. Fuzz Evil, TBA — Interested to see where they go on an LP after their split with Chiefs.

 

67. The Glasspack, Moon Patrol — A snippet clip has been posted that bodes well. Supposed to be done recording in the spring. They’re currently sorting out label whatnots.

 

68. Graves at Sea, TBA — Yeah, it’s been more than a decade since their demo, but a split and an EP into their reunion, they just signed to Relapse, so now might be the time a debut album shows up.

 

69. House of Broken Promises, TBA — Should be a change from the first album after swapping out bassist/vocalists. They killed live last I saw.

 

70. Ice Dragon, TBA — No solid word of a new release from the Boston garage doom forerunners, but they’re always up to something.

 

71. Killer Boogie, Detroit — The debut from this Black Rainbows offshoot is out this month on Heavy Psych Sounds.

 

72. Krautzone, TBA — German synth-heavy prog-jammers have hit a groove and hopefully they continue to ride it as well as they have thus far.

 

73. Leeches of Lore, TBA — Wishful thinking on my part? Maybe. Got my fingers crossed, though.

 

74. Legion of Andromeda, Iron Scorn — They’re about as extreme as extreme doom gets. Album out next month.

 

75. Lord Fowl, TBA — I think they’re writing. Might be 2016 before it gets here, but I’ll take it whenever it comes. They’re worth a mention either way.

 

76. The Machine, TBA — Been a minute since we last heard from the Dutch heavy psych jammers. They were on this list last year as well.

 

77. Mirror Queen, Scaffolds of the Sky — Should be out in April on Tee Pee, and that suits me just fine. Choice grooves for springtime.

 

78. Mountain God, Forest of the Lost — A single-song EP from the Brooklyn post-sludgers is out in Feb. with a release show booked.

 

79. Om, TBA — I’ve yet to see solid evidence that a new Om is in the pipeline, but no one knew that Sleep single was coming last year either.

 

80. Planes of Satori, Planes of Satori — Dug their single, hope the full-length follows suit.

 

81. Pombagira, Flesh Throne Press — Their sixth album and Svart debut is due on March 23 as per this week’s announcement.

 

82. Righteous Bloom, TBA — My understanding was the Beelzefuzz offshoot are writing. Would be good if they can pick up where the prior act left off.

 

83. Royal Thunder, Crooked Doors — The Atlanta outfit’s second album for Relapse is due out April 7.

 

84. Sandrider/Kinski, Split — Don’t know much about Kinski, but new Sandrider is enough to sell me on it. Out Feb. 17 on Good to Die.

 

85. SardoniS, TBA — Expect big lumbering riffs from this Belgian duo, always. A new album is en route, last I heard.

 

86. Sun Voyager, TBA — Didn’t get to hear their last tape, but a five-song EP is due out sometime soon.

 

87. Sweat Lodge, Talismana — Not much word since they signed to Ripple, but they said this year, so until I hear otherwise…

 

88. Throttlerod, TBA — A teaser clip of new riffage came out over this past weekend. New Throttlerod is never something to complain about.

 

89. Venomous Maximus, Firewalker — When they signed to Shadow Kingdom in November, they gave it the ol’ “sometime in 2015.”

 

90. Weedeater, TBA — After a whole series of reissues, their Season of Mist debut is due.

 

91. Wight, Love is Not Only What You Know — Alphabetically last but not at all last in my heart, Germany’s Wight have their third record in progress. More in the comments.

 

92. Wo Fat, Live Juju at Freak Valley — Wo Fat‘s live set from the 2014 Freak Valley fest in Germany is due to release on vinyl March 17 in an edition of 500 copies.

 

Others to Keep an Eye On…

Guitarist Ian Gerber of Indianapolis’ The Heavy Co. has a couple side-projects going, but new stuff from his main band doesn’t seem unlikely either. New York’s Geezer might also have something new before December in addition to Ripple‘s CD version of their Gage release, and labelmates King Buffalo are continuing their relationship with STB Records via a new spit next month, so hopefully a debut LP follows that. Let it Breathe should make their debut on the label too in 2015.

Recently streamed trio Wake up Lucid release their EP on March 31. Last I heard The Body had a new one coming too in collaboration with Thou. Sixty Watt Shaman have plans to record tracks for a split due out later this year, and they’ll reissue their first album, 1998’s Ultra Electric, as well. Look out for Godhunter‘s split/collaboration with Amigo the Devil, and the second offering from Black Moon Circle is on the way. Balam‘s full-length should also be out sometime this year, and I anxiously await news of a solid release date for the third Clamfight record.

Murmurings abound also for new ones from GraveyardGreenleafThe Sword, Vhöl and others.

Plus, Sleep still exist and that simple fact probably makes them worth more of a mention than this quick aside. Their 2014 single The Clarity was an offering of pure Iommic idolatry. A sign of things to come? Who the hell knows.

If you don’t have enough to go by yet, labels like Sulatron, Tee PeeEl Paraiso, Ripple, Small Stone, STB, Napalm and so on are always worth a keen watch what’s next. There’s always something.

 

Which I guess is the point of this whole thing. I’m sure, even as huge as this list is, someone is going to drop a comment immediately that will make me slap my forehead and wonder how I ever forgot whatever it is. It’s always something. It looks like it’s going to be a tremendous year, so if you’ll pardon me, I’ll cut out quick and get started making my way through it.

No doubt I’ll add to this post over the next couple days, so if the numbers change, don’t be surprised. In any case, if you made it this far, thanks again for reading. May your 2015 be filled with excellent music and even better times.

 

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Colour Haze, To the Highest Gods We Know: Born of a New Temple

Posted in Reviews on January 6th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

colour haze to the highest gods we know

In 2012, when Munich trio Colour Haze — guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek, bassist Philipp Rasthofer and drummer Manfred Merwald — released their 10th album, the two-disc She Said (review here), it felt like an event. That record was four years in the making, which was the longest split the band had known between two albums, and plagued by technical trouble setting up their own Colour Haze Studio, at which it was, finally, recorded. The challenges they faced made the output even more of a triumph — not to mention the grandiose feel of horn and string-inclusive songs like “Transformation” and “Grace,” respectively, giving the whole affair a boldly progressive feel worthy of following up 2008’s ultra-warm All. It was the best album of 2012. With a last-minute 2014 CD release and 2015 vinyl issue through Koglek‘s Elektrohasch Schallplatten imprint, the 11th Colour Haze full-length, To the Highest Gods We Know, would seem to have no small task in following it up. As a fan of the band — and very much writing this review from that perspective, should there be any doubt — I’m glad to see the three-piece return to their every-two-years-or-so rhythm of releases. The 40-minute/five-track To the Highest Gods We Know arrives without drama, recorded at Colour Haze Studio in Munich on two-inch tape with production by Koglek and Charly Bohaimid, mixed analog on quarter-inch tape, with an accordingly classic sound that for those who’ve followed the band or felt their influence in others both within European heavy psych and beyond it should be reasonably familiar, but as ever, one gets a sense of progression from Colour Haze, their lack of creative stagnation being one of the most key elements in what they do. This album is no exception, despite a somewhat deceptive stripped-down vibe in comparison to its predecessor.

Rather, it is precisely through a back-to-basics feel on the first four cuts (we’ll get to that closer) that To the Highest Gods We Know avoids the trap of being the “follow-up” to She Said. It dodges the bullet completely, and where She Said made its grandest statements in flourishes of arrangement, songs like opener “Circles” and the instrumental centerpiece “Überall” do precisely the opposite. They represent Colour Haze rediscovering their processes in this new space of their own studio. The warmth of tone from Koglek and Rasthofer, the steady roll and ever-classy style of Merwald arrive with an exploratory freshness throughout To the Highest Gods We Know because, essentially, with this record, Colour Haze are re-learning how to be Colour Haze. It’s not like they took four-plus years to build their own studio and they’re going to go record somewhere else. They’ve made themselves a home — like they did before with their own label — and these songs sound like the process by which they’re getting acclimated to it. I wouldn’t say that makes them tentative, because any band 11 albums deep into their career has enough of a sense of what they want to not really worry about it, but it definitely makes them relaxed, which of course suits their laid back heavy sound just fine. Launching the album, “Circles” (8:27) begins with a sweet hum of ambient feedback, Koglek‘s guitar swelling in before starting the first line, simple and soon joined by Rasthofer and Merwald. Relatively speaking, there is no grand intro. The first verse is underway by the two-minute mark, and it proves to be the inviting nature of the song itself that carries the listener into the flow that continues over subsequent tracks. A linear build plays out subtly past the first verse and into the second, the guitar and bass working around each other while Merwald holds together a fluid nod, and just as they pass the halfway point, “Circles” kicks into a fuller riff marked out by the inclusion of either horns or flutes — both appear on the album and there is a rush of volume surrounding — before opening to its payoff riff, a lumbering air-pusher that still keeps to the atmosphere preceding, and giving way to a proggy turn that brings back the wind instruments.

Guitar and bass work through lead lines and quiet down before, exploding once more to full breadth, the flute coming forward and following the guitar line for a few measures to close out, a quick sustained note fading and bringing in the chunky riff of the shorter, more verse/chorus-based “Paradise.” One is immediately reminded of “This” from the last album, and “Paradise” serves a similar function in backing the opener, but is a more memorable standout, and puts to welcome use one of Colour Haze‘s signature riff progressions that has been molded and repurposed as a cross-album theme since their 2004 self-titled and the title-track to 2006’s Tempel. Here, layers of harmonized vocals ride the song’s apex, which crashes to another quick finish and gives way to the soft noodling at the start of “Überall,” an 8:45 exploratory jam that provides one of To the Highest Gods We Know‘s most central moments of atmosphere. Christian Hawellek guests on Doepfer modular synth, which adds texture to the patterned but still natural movement of “Überall,” shifting from its softer opening noodling to a more rhythmically active build of tension that as they approach four minutes in, Colour Haze open to a bigger-sounding lead that establishes a tradeoff they’ll soon make again, the synth lending an extra current of melody in swelling and receding in the mix with the guitar, bass and drums. Just past seven minutes in, another riff takes hold that, if it was on anyone else’s record I’d call it “very Colour Haze,” and serves as the foundation for the closing movement of the track, which delightfully plods out its ending before a final crash gives way to humming feedback and what one assumes is the end of side A on the vinyl. To the Highest Gods We Know‘s most progressive inclusions await in “Call” and the closing title-track, but a song like “Überall” emphasizes just how much Colour Haze‘s sound is their own as they approach the 20-year mark since the release of their first album, 1995’s Chopping Machine (discussed here), and how even working in familiar terrain, the raw chemistry between RasthoferMerwald and Koglek is more than enough to carry them.

Colour-Haze (Photo by Matias Corral)

That might not be a revelation at this point. Colour Haze‘s discography is full of such examples, but perhaps what distinguishes “Überall” is its efficiency, the smoothness of its execution and how essential it makes all of its eight minutes while still keeping a laid back, unhurried mood. With “Call,” the band shifts into a somewhat different vibe, Rasthofer moving to Hammond M3 to set a foundation for Koglek‘s resonant, fuzzed-out opening guitar lines. I’ve said on many occasions that Koglek‘s guitar has the finest, richest tone since Jimi Hendrix, and I dare you to listen to the first few minutes of “Call” and tell me otherwise. With just organ and guitar as a bed, the verse begins. Drums and bass show up later, but “Call” reads like a contemplative aside, and it’s a peaceful, spiritual moment that pushes deep into psychedelic moods without actually sounding all that tripped out in terms of effects or synth, etc. Vocals are calm to the point of serenity in the three verses, which smoothly transition out of the last verse and into the riff that will, after a brief pause, introduce Merwald‘s drums and Rasthofer‘s bass along with a heavier thrust and provide the instrumental apex of “Call” and the LP as a whole, the Hammond humming out behind all the while as Koglek‘s guitar leads the build forward in measure after measure until dropping out quickly to the start of “To the Highest Gods We Know,” which is Colour Haze‘s most experimental track to date. It is the only song on the record that carries its name to pass 10 minutes in length, and in its arrangement, it brazenly moves out of the band’s stylistic wheelhouse while holding firm to their trademark rhythmic sensibilities. With strings arranged and conducted by Mathis Nitschke, an intro of Spanish-style acoustic guitar gradually comes forward to open backed by sustained string notes, setting immediately the texture that defines the progression of the song itself.

It feels almost out of its time. Completely instrumental, “To the Highest Gods We Know,” as it unfolds its central balance of acoustic guitar and strings, sounds almost like the sonic experiment that would’ve lead the band to later produce “Grace” from She Said by further incorporating those elements into their established pattern of songwriting. Of course, the timing is reversed, but the arrangement of “To the Highest Gods We Know” is that much bolder then, because essentially what Colour Haze have done with it is abandoned that established pattern. Guitar and strings swell between the third and fourth minute, quiet down and introduce a percussion line that’s almost a march, to which guitar plucking notes in vague time. The strings soon return to play off, and where so much of the band’s approach is about melody — and there’s a melody here, make no mistake — the primary impression of To the Highest Gods We Know‘s title-track is its rhythm. It becomes a wash of rhythm as the strings kick back in and build toward open, distinctly Colour Haze-esque crashes, a winding line of guitar following. They recede and then swell again in a similar fashion, hitting a crescendo more about intensity than volume or tonal thickness, before dropping out once more to intricate acoustic guitar, nature sounds captured by former drummer Tim Höfer and the somewhat tense, delightfully odd fadeout that closes the album, reinforcing the strange note on which Colour Haze have decided to cap To the Highest Gods We Know, their finale as much an offering as it is a statement that as much as they have established a modus for themselves, that doesn’t mean they’re not going to push beyond it every now and again.

The reminder leaves a particularly resonant impression since this is their 11th album, and with four songs before it that one could look at in comparison to She Said and consider them scaled back. But then, To the Highest Gods We Know has its stretches of flute, of strings and of organ. It has its flourishes of arrangement. It has a progressive feel and, again, as bold an experiment as I’ve ever heard from Colour Haze, so maybe it’s not “scaled back” so much as it’s tighter and a more pointed execution derived from some of the ideas that showed themselves the last time out. As Colour Haze settle into their new home — their studio — their first album since its completion feels appropriately like a beginning point, almost as though, having finally escaped from under the woes in creating the last record, they’re ready to go back and rediscover what it propelling them forward. Eleven albums in and it sounds like a debut? Not quite. The fluidity and chemistry developed over the years between KoglekRasthofer and Merwald, and the appeal of To the Highest Gods We Know‘s familiar parts aren’t to be understated, but if it proves anything, their latest outing proves that they haven’t yet said everything they have to say, and depending on where they go from here, we might look back on To the Highest Gods We Know as the beginning point for a new era of the band, similar to how their self-titled worked off 2003’s Los Sounds de Krauts 2LP at the dawning of Elektrohasch. However that works out and whatever else it might represent, To the Highest Gods We Know is distinctly Colour Haze. It confirms that definition even as it expands and refines the meaning.

Colour Haze, “Überall”

Colour Haze’s website

Elektrohasch Schallplatten

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Colour Haze Premiere “Überall” from To the Highest Gods We Know

Posted in audiObelisk on December 12th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Colour-Haze-by-Matias-Corral-

“Überall” is the centerpiece of Colour Haze‘s To the Highest Gods We Know, placed third among the five tracks on the hugely influential German trio’s 10th full-length. The album is due for CD release on Monday, Dec. 15, through guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek‘s Elektrohasch Schallplatten imprint, and vinyl is slated to follow on Feb. 23, 2015, just a couple days before the Koglek, bassist Philipp Rasthofer and drummer Mandred Merwald begin a European tour with Radio Moscow and Cherry Choke.

Two weeks ago, none of this was known. With a persistent aversion to social media, it’s not like Colour Haze were Instagramming every step of the analog recording process from their own Colour Haze Studio in München. There wasn’t an album and then there was. No complaints.

To the Highest Gods We Know follows She Said (review here), a two-disc wonder that was the high point of 2012. Where that album was plagued with technical difficulties and took four years to put together, the new one seems to have resulted from a somewhat less dramatic circumstance, and as colour haze to the highest gods we knowthey’re settled into a space that’s their own and taking yet another autonomous step beyond self-recording and self-releasing, one can hear pieces of experimental flourish beginning to shine through. A band 10 records deep that’s still progressing is a rarity, but Colour Haze readily push their boundaries, whether it’s the flute accompaniment on opener “Circles” or the proggy jumps that Koglek‘s guitar and a string quartet make on the closing title-track.

In the case of “Überall,” KoglekRasthofer and Merwald are joined by Christian Hawellek, who contributes Doepfer modular synth to the apex of the song’s satisfying instrumental linear build. The contribution is subtle — it’s not like all of a sudden Colour Haze are looking to be abrasive; even when there’s feedback, it seems gentle — but it’s in there amidst the warm guitar and bass tones and Merwald‘s swinging groove. “Überall” builds from the ground up to get there, starting quiet and exploratory, barely there at first as Koglek eases the track to life on guitar. A classic shuffle takes hold as they smoothly jam their way forward, as engrossing as one could ask and as accomplished as their well-earned reputation demands.

With thanks to the band, I have the extreme pleasure today of streaming “Überall” as the first audio to be made public from To the Highest Gods We Know. Please find it on the player below, followed by the upcoming tour dates, and enjoy.

colour-haze-tour-dates

Up in Smoke Roadfestival Volume 5

With Colour Haze, Radio Moscow and Cherry Choke
27.02.2015 (GER) Stuttgart – Universum (w/ The Sun & The Wolf)
28.02.2015 (GER) Cologne – Live Music Hall (w/ The Sun & The Wolf)
01.03.2015 (UK) London – The Garage
02.03.2015 (FR) Paris – Le Divan du Monde
03.03.2015 (BEL) Brussels – Magasin 4
04.03.2015 (GER) Hamburg – Markthalle
05.03.2015 (GER) Berlin – SO36
06.03.2015 (A) Vienna – Arena
07.03.2015 (A) Salzburg – Rockhouse
08.03.2015 (GER) Leipzig – Taubchenthal (w/ Kalamahara)
09.03.2015 (GER) Munich – Feierwerk (w/ Mars Red Sky)
10.03.2015 (IT) Milano – Lofi
11.03.2015 (GER) Frankfurt – Das Bett (w/ The Midnight Ghost Train)
12.03.2015 tba
13.03.2015 (GER) Würzburg – Posthalle
14.03.2015 (GER) Hannover – Faust
* Cherry Choke from March 1 to 7 only

Colour Haze’s website

Elektrohasch Schallplatten

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Colour Haze to Headline Up in Smoke Tour with Radio Moscow and Cherry Choke

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 8th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Straight out of the not-too-shabby department — actually it’s from Sound of Liberation, the European booking agency that put it together — comes word that Colour Haze‘s previously-alluded-to European run supporting the Feb. 23 vinyl release of their new album, To the Highest Gods We Know, will be the headlining slot on the fifth Up in Smoke tour. Joining them on the bill for the duration is Radio Moscow — which, if you’d just like to take a second and imagine the kickassery of seeing Colour Haze and Radio Moscow on the same show, I think you’ll see why it’s something to be excited about — and Cherry Choke will open seven dates as well, and Mars Red Sky will step in as special guests (anyone want to fly me to Munich?), as will others on select individual dates.

Wild stuff, and if you’re fortunate enough to be there to see it, here are the dates, courtesy of Sound of Liberation:

colour haze tour dates

We are proud to present the UP IN SMOKE ROADFESTIVAL VOLUME 5!!
This fifth edition will feature 3 awesome bands for your pleasure:

– Europe’s most well known psychedelic institution COLOUR HAZE
(with their new album “To the Highest Gods we Know” in their suitcase!)

– America’s most heavy blues machine Radio Moscow

– and UK’s fuzz driven psych rockers Cherry Choke
(from March 1st to 7th only – special guests on the other shows)

We invite you to join the trip! It’s in February/March and it will be a blast!!!

27.02.2015 (GER) Stuttgart – Universum (w/ The Sun & The Wolf)
28.02.2015 (GER) Cologne – Live Music Hall (w/ The Sun & The Wolf)

01.03.2015 (UK) London – The Garage
02.03.2015 (FR) Paris – Le Divan du Monde
03.03.2015 (BEL) Brussels – Magasin 4
04.03.2015 (GER) Hamburg – Markthalle
05.03.2015 (GER) Berlin – SO36
06.03.2015 (A) Vienna – Arena
07.03.2015 (A) Salzburg – Rockhouse

08.03.2015 (GER) Leipzig – Taubchenthal (w/ Kalamahara)
09.03.2015 (GER) Munich – Feierwerk (w/ Mars Red Sky)
10.03.2015 (IT) Milano – Lofi
11.03.2015 (GER) Frankfurt – Das Bett (w/ The Midnight Ghost Train)
12.03.2015 tba
13.03.2015 (GER) Würzburg – Posthalle
14.03.2015 (GER) Hannover – Faust

More info on www.soundofliberation.com

http://colourhaze.de/
http://elektrohasch.de/
https://www.facebook.com/radiomoscowband

Colour Haze, Live at Duna Jam 2014

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Colour Haze Announce New Album To the Highest Gods We Know Coming this Month

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 4th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Colour-Haze-by-Matias-Corral-

After slots this fall at Desertfest Belgium and ThElectriCool festivals and a summer spent at Duna JamLake on Fire festival, Burg HerzbergStoned from the Underground and more, German heavy psychedelic forerunners Colour Haze have announced a Dec. 15 CD release for their new album, To the Highest Gods We Know, through guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek‘s long-running Elektrohasch Schallplatten imprint, with vinyl to follow on Feb. 23, 2015. Koglek, bassist Philipp Rasthofer and drummer Manfred Merwald will mark the occasion with a European tour, the dates for which are forthcoming.

To the Highest Gods We Know is comprised of five tracks totaling in about 40 minutes of new music from Colour Haze, who have emerged as one of European heavy psychedelia’s most influential groups. It was recorded to 2″ tape at the band’s own Colour Haze Studio in their native München with production and engineering by Koglek and Charly Bohaimid, and mixed analog on 1/4″ tape by Koglek. It arrives just two years after 2012’s expansive She Said (review here) and following reissues of earlier albums, 2000’s CO2 and 2001’s Ewige Blumenkraft (review here), and finds the perpetually progressive trio delving further into and beyond ideas presented on the last album, incorporating arrangements of flutes, strings, horns and nature sounds amid their own tonal warmth and vibrant live performance.

The striking cover art for the album was handled by Cherry Choke guitarist/vocalist Mat Bethancourt and his The Speed of Light design company, and the vinyl for the record is being cut today, Dec. 4, at Pauler Acoustics in Northeim. With familiar refrains in “Paradise,” a gripping tonal gorgeousness in “Call” and perhaps the band’s boldest sonic experiment to date in “To the Highest Gods We Know,” the record is both in conversation with She Said and moving forward from it. Of course, that album was plagued with technical trouble and took years to get out as the band constructed Colour Haze Studio, but if the audio on To the Highest Gods We Know is anything to go by, Colour Haze are ready to leave their woes behind and continue their creative journey, wherever it may take them.

Tracklisting is as follows:

colour haze to the highest gods we know

Colour HazeTo the Highest Gods We Know
1. Circles
2. Paradise
3. Überall
4. Call
5. To the Highest Gods We Know

More to come, including preorder info.

http://colourhaze.de/
http://elektrohasch.de

Colour Haze, “Überall” live at Duna Jam 2014

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