Desertfest Belgium 2016: Colour Haze Replaces Graveyard

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 30th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


Turning into a pretty busy fall for Colour Haze. Though the German heavy psych godfathers didn’t wind up making it over for Psycho Las Vegas, they did release a new live album, Live Vol. 1 – Europa Tournee 2015 (review here), and they’ll continue into autumn with appearances at Desertfest Athens 2016, Keep it Low, and now, a headlining slot at Desertfest Belgium 2016 as well.

They come to the Antwerp-based festival as a replacement for Graveyard, who recently announced their disbanding and canceled all future appearances. Of course, one could hardly find a better fill-in, and I doubt if there are many if any rock-fest stages in Europe that Colour Haze couldn’t take and find welcome, so yeah, to say it makes sense seems like understatement enough to roll with. Kudos to Desertfest Belgium 2016 for making the most of a bummer situation via-a-vis Graveyard, and to Colour Haze for stepping up to fill that spot.

Timetable and announcement from the fest follow:

We’ve hunted high and low for a suitable replacement for Graveyard after their unfortunate and most unexpected split last week, which caused them to cancel their show at our festival. With only a few weeks to go, you can imagine it wasn’t an easy task to find a band that was available, in the neighbourhood, and willing to adapt their schedule in order to fit in a last-minute gig.

The good news is: we’ve found them, and their name is Colour Haze!
The German powerhouse will appear at the festival on Saturday, so there will only be a minor shift in the schedule.

Following this news, we will grant our fans some more time to reclaim their Saturday day ticket. Send us a mail at with your payment details and ticket number, and we’ll take care of it.
We extend this offer until after the weekend, so it expires on Monday Oct 3 at 12pm.

After that, we put this regrettable episode behind us for good, and we set our phasers on full-on ROCK! See y’all at the festival!

And then there’s this little thing called the time schedule.

You’ve been asking for it, and then you’ve been begging for it, and soon you’d be cutting throats for it… but no more!

Because here it is – the final, unmoveable (fingers crossed) and inimitable timetable for Desertfest Antwerp 2016!

Colour Haze, “Circles”

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Desertfest Athens 2016 Lineup Complete

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 12th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


With the final addition of Cough, the lineup for Desertfest Athens 2016 is complete. The fest is set for Oct. 7 and 8 — less than a month from now — and Cough join the bill as they’ll be on tour at the time with Elder (dates here) supporting their new album, Still They Pray (review here), which was released by Relapse.

The roster of bands they join, including Red Fang and Greek forerunners 1000mods, whose new song “The Son” you can hear below (more to come on that album), is ridiculously strong, and seems to draw from the history of Desertfest itself in various ways, Steak representing London’s incarnation, Colour Haze that of Berlin (though they’re from Munich), and really any number of these acts the Belgian edition. It’s a great mix that does well to represent its home country as well in Automaton (who’ll be joined by Dr. Space himself), Sadhus, and the aforementioned 1000mods.

Looks like a great show, and particularly as it’s the first one, I wish them all the best of luck with it.

Final announcement and lineup follow:


Doom/Sludge masters COUGH joining the bill for Desertfest Athens 2016 1st edition!

This is the full line up for the 1st ever Desertfest Athens!

Red Fang
Colour Haze
My Sleeping Karma
Karma to Burn
Black Rainbows
House of Broken Promises
Black Hat Bones
Automaton with Dr. Space
We Own the Sky

Enjoy desert army!

After London, Berlin and Antwerp, the Desertfest franchise is keeping up its conquest of Europe by launching the very first Greek edition of the famous stoner, doom and psych festival. DESERTFEST ATHENS will take place over the second weekend of October, as a sister event of the autumnal Belgium edition.

Over the years, DESERTFEST has become one of the most popular events in Europe for everything heavy, stoner, doom and psyche. “Made by fans for the fans”, the festival gathers thousands of people from across the globe each year by hosting the finest headliners, while also constantly stretching the limits of its own niche with dozens of quality live acts throughout a weekend. Nurturing a friendly atmosphere since the very beginning, DESERTFEST is a urban festival that has won the loyalty of heavy music lovers, so expect your Greek holiday to be a unique and memorable music and human experience!

1000mods, “The Son”

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Colour Haze, Live Vol. 1 – Europa Tournee 2015: Praising High Gods

Posted in Reviews on August 3rd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


Technically speaking, this isn’t the first Colour Haze live record, but it most definitely is the first they’ve put out through Elektrohasch, and it’s their most complete-feeling to date. A set from the Berg Herzberg festival aptly-titled Berg Herzberg Festival 18 Juli 2008 was issued in 2009, but in comparison, Live Vol. 1 – Europa Tournee 2015 attempts to capture the best performances of a whole tour and winds up with two discs and over two hours and 11 minutes of music as a result. Spend an afternoon with Colour Haze. There are few better ways I can think of to dedicate that time, honestly, though I’m hardly impartial as a fan of the band. Comprised of 13 tracks, Live Vol. 1 – Europa Tournee 2015 culls material recorded in Paris, Frankfurt, Wurzberg, Berlin, Köln and puts it together fluidly — presumably in an effort to give an idea of what any given night’s setlist might’ve been — while spanning a decent portion of the Munich trio’s widely influential career.

As ever, Colour Haze are guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek, bassist Philipp Rasthofer and drummer Manfred Merwald, and this live outing was taped early last year as they were out with Radio Moscow, Cherry Choke and The Sun and the Wolf to support the late-2014 release of To the Highest Gods We Know (review here), their 11th studio album. Though they continue to be regular denizens of Duna Jam — and why not? — they’ve done less overall touring the last several years, having nestled themselves into a kind of statesman-like status in Europe’s heavy rock scene and provided a formative blueprint for an entire swath of jam-based heavy psychedelia with their unmatched instrumental chemistry, depth of tone and memorable songcraft.

Fortunately for anyone who might pick it up, all of those are on display throughout Live Vol. 1 – Europa Tournee 2015, and Colour Haze show just how successful they’ve been in bringing an on-stage feel to their recordings all along as they dig into the still-exploratory-feeling title-track from 2012’s double-LP She Said (review here), from which “Transformation” and “Grace” are also featured, in succession, both with different arrangements than appear on the album. To the Highest Gods We Know gets its due as well, with a medley of “Überall” and “Call” joined together, a shortened, string-less take on its “To the Highest Gods We Know” and the righteously-riffed album opener “Circles,” on which Koglek‘s and Rasthofer‘s tones come through no less brilliantly than on the record itself. They go as far back as 1999’s Periscope, opening with that album’s title-track, feature “Love” and a 26-minute version of “Peace, Brothers and Sisters!” from their 2004 self-titled, “Aquamaria” and “Tempel” from 2006’s Tempel, and “Moon” from 2008’s All.


Transitions across this swath of time — 16 years’ worth of material — are of course as seamless as anyone familiar with their work would expect, the three-piece having set their course with Periscope and continued to refine their processes ever since. Granted, for a live offering like this, there wouldn’t necessarily be the warts-and-all missteps one might find in, say, a single recorded set from any group — a flubbed note here, a flat line there — but at no point does Live Vol. 1 – Europa Tournee 2015 sound anything other than blissfully natural in its execution, and as the band hop from town to town, “Überall and Call” in Frankfurt, “Circles” in Paris, and so on, they give the genuine impression that the circumstances are the same, every night, every city, and so succeed in making Live Vol. 1 – Europa Tournee 2015 a representation of the tour and their live show in general. Whether it’s getting lost in the 13-minute “Transformation” or the far-ranging jam they embark on as part of “Peace, Brothers and Sisters!,” Colour Haze bring their legend to life in welcoming fashion.

And yeah, maybe the two-plus-hour live record is a fan piece. We’re coming up on being two years removed from the release of To the Highest Gods We Know and Live Vol. 1 – Europa Tournee coincides with Colour Haze‘s return to the US to take part in Psycho Las Vegas after a decade since their last US show, at Emissions from the Monolith in Ohio, so that they’d want to get something out makes sense from a practical standpoint as well, but it says something about the band that clearly this material has been carefully compiled, edited together so smoothly, and done in a manner worthy of the quality of the performances contained within. It is in no way half-assed, up to the point of including “Get it On” from 2000’s CO2 as a bonus track after the show-unto-itself “Peace, Brothers and Sisters!” caps what would be the regular set. An encore! After a 26-minute song!

There are few acts who could get away with such a thing, let alone as gloriously as KoglekRasthofer and Merwald do here — the latter’s snare subtlety even coming through on the live recording — but Colour Haze aren’t just any band. As they’ve demonstrated time and again, their strange brew is endlessly potent, and while they’ve marched past 20 years since the release of their first album in 1995’s Chopping Machine (discussed here), this collection proves their luster has only shone brighter over time and that their vision of a new classic rock finds no conflict in being as loyal to its roots as it is forward-thinking. Live Vol. 1 – Europa Tournee will be essential for any Colour Haze fan regardless of geography or how often they might tour in a given place, but for newcomers as well, it gives not only a sense of the spectrum of (much of) their catalog, but also provides a wholly immersive listening experience, and so pushes forward an essential aspect of the band’s sonic personality. Go with it.

Colour Haze website

Elektrohasch Schallplatten website

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Colour Haze Announce Live Vol. 1 – Europa Tournee 2015 Due this Month; Premiere “Circles (Paris)”

Posted in audiObelisk, Whathaveyou on June 10th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

colour haze

Heavy psych masters Colour Haze announce Live Vol. 1 – Europa Tournee 2015, a new live release through Elektrohasch Schallplatten, due this month on CD with vinyl to follow in July. Comprising two discs with more than two hours’ runtime, Live Vol. 1 – Europa Tournee 2015 chronicles the Munich trio’s early 2015 run alongside The Sun and The WolfRadio Moscow and Cherry Choke on the Up in Smoke Vol. 5 tour to support their latest studio full-length, To the Highest Gods We Know (review here).

That record, which was a return to normalcy after a tumultuous release process for 2012’s double-LP, She Said (review here), and both albums feature heavily in the setlist for Live Vol. 1 – Europa Tournee 2015. With recordings from shows in Frankfurt, Paris, Köln, Würzburg and Berlin, tracks like “She Said,” “Transformation” and “To the Highest Gods We Know” shine with different interpretations and varied arrangements for the stage that make it plain why the band wanted to document the tour to give their worldwide audience a look at what’s rarely seen or heard outside Europe.

For more than 20 years, Colour Haze have worked to craft an unmatched legacy in heavy psychedelia. Across their 11 studio albums, they’ve cast an influence that knows no borders and emphasizes the timeless nature of instrumental chemistry at its best. Comprised of guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek (also the head of Elektrohasch), bassist Philipp Rasthofer and drummer Manfred MerwaldColour Haze previously released the limited live outing, Burg Herzberg Festival 18. Juli 2008, in 2009, but Live Vol. 1 – Europa Tournee 2015 will be the first official Colour Haze live offering through Elektrohasch, and if the title is anything to go by, it might not be the last.

Colour Haze play their first US show in a decade in August at Psycho Las Vegas. Below, you can stream the premiere of “Circles (Paris)” from Live Vol. 1 – Europa Tournee 2015. More info on exact release dates — it’ll probably be an “out now” situation — when it comes in.

Cover art and tracklisting follow:


Colour Haze, Live Vol. 1 – Europa Tournee 2015:
CD 1
1. Periscope (Frankfurt)
2. Moon (Frankfurt)
3. Uberall & Call (Frankfurt)
4. She Said (Paris)
5. Aquamaria (Würzburg)
6. To the Highest Gods We Know (Köln)
7. Circles (Paris)

CD 2
1. Transformation (Berlin)
2. Grace (Berlin)
3. Tempel (Köln)
4. Love (Paris)
5. Peace Brothers and Sisters! (Frankfurt)
6. Get it On (Köln) (Bonus Track)

Colour Haze, “Circles (Paris)” Premiere

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Desertfest Athens 2016: Colour Haze, Pentagram, John Garcia, Karma to Burn, Beggars, Automaton, Black Hat Bones and Sadhus Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 5th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

desertfest athens 2016 header

If you were hoping to get early-bird tickets for Desertfest Athens 2016, tough turkey — they’re gone. It didn’t take more than an initial lineup announcement to move them all out the door, so I guess if there was any question there was enough interest in Athens to warrant holding a fest under the Desertfest banner, that’s gone too. As for the first acts joining the bill, it’s an impressive assemblage, with Colour HazePentagramKarma to BurnBeggars and Sadhus, the latter two local to Athens and supporting an international cast that’s only going to increase in scope as we get closer to October.

As noted yesterday, Desertfest Athens 2016 is part of a string of European festivals happening on successive weekends, preceded by Up in Smoke and followed by Desertfest Belgium and Keep it Low. I don’t know about you, but if ever there was a time to drop out of life and go bum around Europe for a month, this would seem to be it. If you need me, I’ll be daydreaming about same.

Just before this post went up, I noticed Greek outfits Automaton and Black Hat Bones have also newly joined the bill. Seems like it’s fair to expect Desertfest Athens will be highlighting the booming Greek heavy rock scene in its lineup, and I won’t argue with the mission. Feels like a long time coming.

Info courtesy of the fest:

desertfest athens 2016 poster

First line up announcement for Desertfest Athens 2016!!!

Colour Haze
John Garcia
Karma to Burn
Sadhus “The Smoking Community”

Automaton are the next band to be announced for Desertfest Athens!!!

Black Hat Bones join Desertfest Athens too!!!

Get your tickets now!!!

Desertfest’s early bird tickets are sold out!!!

After London, Berlin and Antwerp, the Desertfest franchise is keeping up its conquest of Europe by launching the very first Greek edition of the famous stoner, doom and psych festival. DESERTFEST ATHENS will take place over the second weekend of October, as a sister event of the autumnal Belgium edition.

Colour Haze, To the Highest Gods We Know (2014)

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Keep it Low 2016 Announces First Bands; Colour Haze, Monkey3 and Toner Low to Play

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 1st, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

keep it low 2016 header

I was dying to get to Keep it Low this past Fall and didn’t make it, and here we are again and Sound of Liberation has begun announcing bands for Keep it Low 2016. This is the fourth edition of the laid-back, Munich-based fest, the vibe of which I feel like bleeds through even the press releases, and I’ll keep my fingers crossed that this is the year I can actually make the trip happen. What was the problem last year? Oh yeah, that’s right. No money. Ever. Ugh.

The first three bands have been announced as being Colour HazeMonkey3 and Toner Low, which are enough to pique interest on their own, never mind however many others are going to be added over the next half a year. Well, you know me. I’ll be here, daydreaming about booking a flight all the while. Something tells me this is gonna be one to see.

From the PR wire:

keep it low 2016 poster

KEEP IT LOW 2016! Oct. 21st & 22nd… Colour Haze, Monkey3, Toner Low confirmed!

It’s time to unveil our first bands for KEEP IT LOW FESTIVAL 2016, that will happen on October 21st and 22nd in FEIERWERK (Munich)! We are thrilled to tell you that Psychedelic Rock purveyors Colour Haze will perform one of their rare 2016 shows on October, Friday 21st. We love them here, Munich is their home town, and it has become sort of a ritual to let them play on the first night of Keep It Low.

Then, on Saturday 22nd, we’ll have the great pleasure to welcome the Swiss Heavy Psych outfit Monkey3, presenting their trippy upcoming 6th album, and The Netherland’s Stoner Doom trio Toner Low, who hadn’t played in Germany for a while… we wanted that fixed!

KEEP IT LOW 2016 greets with 3 stages and around 20 bands, outside beergarden & skatepark. For the ones keeping it really low, we decided to end the festival with an aftershow party (+DJ) on the 22nd in one of the concert rooms.

Our Early Bird – Hard Tickets (2-day passes) are available on Woolheads for 56 €! Online tickets are also available on Eventim!
Grab yours quick :)

More bands will be announced in April, but meanwhile… Keep It Low!

Colour Haze, Live at Poolbar Festival 2015

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Psycho Las Vegas Announces Initial Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 20th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

psycho las vegas banner

In the fine tradition of, well, last year’s Psycho fest, 2016’s Psycho Las Vegas has announced an overwhelmingly impressive initial group of acts for its lineup, including some of the finest North America has to offer and choice imports. Notable in that category are Candlemass, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Colour Haze, Mars Red Sky, Belzebong, Øresund Space Collective and The Cosmic Dead, and they’re joined by returning figureheads Sleep and Pentagram, who headlined the 2015 Psycho California fest, along with YOB, Down, Mudhoney, Acid King, Fu Manchu and a whole host of others listed below.

The truly insane part about Psycho Las Vegas is that, like last year with Psycho California, the lineup is staggered, so this isn’t it. On Valentines Day, the festival will announce its full lineup of acts, which I’m just going to go out on a limb and assume includes everyone else on earth, and then after that, in March, they’ll follow up again with the headliners. So what we learn today is that 2015’s headliners will have someone playing over them. I don’t know who, or how that could be possible, but you can bet your ass I’m anxious to find out.

All the details so far unveiled about Psycho Las Vegas, as well as the link to purchase tickets, appear below:

psycho las vegas poster


Neon Knights arrive and ignite the the city of light in a sleepless celebration of heavy culture. High rollin’ low lifes will low roll the high life at the world famous Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in “Sin City”, Las Vegas. For three straight days, from August 26th through the 28th, born losers win as Psycho Las Vegas holds a rock steady hand of bands, performance artists, tattoo artists, art exhibits, a black light chamber, custom van and chopper show, pinball arcade, and much more.

Psycho Las Vegas sins and grins two blocks south of the strip at the expansive Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. The high-octane Rock ‘n’ Roll-themed casino resort hosts three stages; The Joint, which is a main stage, Vinyl, the rock club and out under the desert night sky is the second main stage, The Pool Stage. Experience live music, 24 hours a day.

In between bands and bets, ride outside to the venue’s open lot and witness the most bitchin’ rides this side of Death Valley at Psycho’s first ever custom van and chopper show!

Psycho Las Vegas features some of the most revered screen printed poster artwork with an exclusive exhibition from commissioned Psycho Las Vegas artist David D’Andrea. D’andrea, who returns to Psycho for a second year, created all the official festival artwork. Attendees will be able to eternally commemorate the event on their own walls with signed, limited edition works from D’Andrea.

Psycho Las Vegas acts and events were co-curated with music scene stalwart Sean “Pellet” Pelletier. (“Last Days Here” documentary) “Thief Present’s ‘Psycho’ festivals are visionary and have consecutively been the number one music event I’ve want to attend since they’ve started”, said Pellet. “I’ve been dreaming about putting on a cool culture and music festival for quite some time and I jumped at the chance to help us all go psycho in Las Vegas! The event is a celebration of subculture and a spiritual gateway for all of us into sonically connected sub-genres of heavy rock that hopefully, some of which, may be new to our senses. I’m booking bands that I’ve always personally wanted to see and have requested setlists that we’ve all wanted to hear.”

Among the first string of live acts announced will be hard rock legends, BLUE OYSTER CULT with a set heavy on their early songs that have inspired so many great bands over the years. Mark Arm and Steve Turner, also both of Green RIver-fame, will remind us why MUDHONEY are heralded as essential grandfathers of grunge. English psych rock pioneer, THE CRAZY WORLD OF ARTHUR BROWN returns to America with a performance sure to highlight where groundbreaking artists such as Kiss, Alice Cooper, and Ghost may have gotten some of their ideas. We’ve reunited proto-metal masters TRUTH AND JANEY who will appear for an exclusive live set to celebrate the 40th anniversary of their underground classic debut, “No Rest For The Wicked”! “A Band Called Death” documentary film stars DEATH, pulsate the pool stage and will show us why they are finally considered one of the first Detroit punk bands. Germany’s top psychedelic stoners COLOUR HAZE have chosen the festival for a rare US manifestation that’s sure rise us all high above the neon. Swedish doom metal ministers CANDLEMASS come crushing in yet another one of Psycho Las Vegas’s special performances. Stay tuned for the announcement of even more acts, over 60 in total, over the next few months.

Thief presents
Friday, August 26, 2016 at 12:00 PM – Sunday, August 28, 2016 at 12:00 AM (PDT)
Las Vegas, NV

DEATH (Detroit)

Join the bands and crew at the Hard Rock Hotel & use the code: Psych16 at checkout to recieve 30% off your rooms.

1/20 – “Warm up” Tickets Onsale 8am pst
2/14 – Full Lineup (60+ acts)
3/15 – Headliners Revealed
5/4 – Van/Chopper & Alt Exhibitions

Sleep, Live at Psycho California

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2015

Posted in Features on December 22nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

top 30 albums of 2015 1

Please note: This list is not culled in any way from the Readers Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2015 to that, please do.

It’s damn near impossible to start one of these posts without some derivation of, “Whew! What a year it’s been!” The truth is that, since 2014, I’ve been keeping a list of the best releases of 2015, and the list has just grown and grown and grown over the last 12 months. Could have been a top 40, easy. Could have been a top 50, 60, whatever. It was complete inundation.

If you’ve been checking in on any of the lists that have gone up so far, you might notice that some of these records have appeared elsewhere, and possibly in a different order. How does an album end up ahead of another on one list and not on another? Different criteria. Different basis of judgment. As always, the big year-end list (this one) is derived both from what I think are the most important offerings of the year plus what I listened to the most, because while I believe deeply in the critical value of a given work, I also believe there’s value in the kind of record you just can’t put down.

Basically, I believe records have value. Stay tuned for more daring adventures in understatement.

A few emergent factors for 2015 to note: The increasing expansion of subgenres. Psychedelia and what I’ve come to call the heavy ’10s sound finding further root as prominent styles of the day, as well as a budding of emotive doom in the post-Pallbearer vein. At the same time, a more straightforward heavy rock is also making a return, and look for that to continue as new listeners discover past landmarks and modern plays thereupon. Everything is cyclical, and I’m interested to see what the next two or three years bring, both as Millennials hit 30 (and beyond) and as younger kids come up and fuzz out.

But that’s a conversation for a different time, and before we get there, it’s time to take a look back at the best full-lengths of 2015. I hope if I’ve left something out, you’ll let me know about it in the comments, but until then, here we go:

30. High on Fire, Luminiferous

high on fire luminiferous

Released by eOne Heavy. Reviewed June 15.

Going by some of the results I’ve seen from the Readers Poll, I’m guessing there will be some disagreement on the placement of High on Fire‘s seventh full-length, third for eOne and second to be produced by Kurt Ballou behind 2012’s De Vermiis Mysteriis (review here), but for me it came down to what I went back to more. The brilliant “The Falconist” would be enough on its own for Luminiferous to be included on this list, and taken as a whole, the record affirmed the trio as pivotal heavy metal marauders, an act whose devastation is undulled by the wear they’ve put on it touring the world over and again.

29. CHRCH, Unanswered Hymns

chrch unanswered hymns

Released by Battleground Records. Reviewed June 30.

Undaunted by a name change from Church to CHRCH, the Sacramento five-piece unleashed rare doom extremity on their debut album, but peppered that with a stylistic nuance that many in the pummel-pummel-pummel game cast off, whether it was psychedelic flourish in the guitar or some eerie atmospheric. Among the post potential-filled debut offerings of the year, that’s not a guarantee they’ll find future success on the same level, but it does mean that if you didn’t hear the 19-minute “Dawning,” you missed out.

28. Golden Void, Berkana

golden void berkana

Released by Thrill Jockey Records. Reviewed Sept. 22.

Coherent bliss. The second full-length from the four-piece Golden Void was a logical step forward from the band’s 2012 self-titled debut (review here), but that was precisely what it needed to be. With an emerging dynamic of dual vocals between guitarist Isaiah Mitchell (also Earthless) and keyboardist Camilla Saufley-Mitchell on cuts like “Astral Plane” and “Silent Season,” Berkana was less adherent to space rock overall than its predecessor, but gave a more individualized take and was all the richer for it.

27. Stoned Jesus, The Harvest

stoned jesus the harvest

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 20.

Probably should have a higher number. Part of the enduring appeal for The Harvest for me is not only how Ukrainian three-piece Stoned Jesus so absolutely pushed back from the album before it, 2012’s sophomore outing, Seven Thunders Roar (review here), but how much reasoning they put behind the moves they made on the six included tracks. Each song had its purpose and place in the overarching flow, and The Harvest continues to deliver something new on thoroughly-earned repeat listens. Perhaps most encouraging of all, I have no idea what they’ll do next.

26. Graveyard, Innocence and Decadence

graveyard innocence and decadence

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Oct. 7.

Swedish retro forerunners are hands-down one of the most influential European heavy rock acts of their generation. The ’70s revivalism they helped spearhead on their first, second and third LPs has given them rich ground to develop, and they still managed to bring something new to their sound with the soulfulness of Innocence and Decadence, as well as increasing command and diversity in the vocals. Drummer Axel Sjöberg turned in a career performance, and although there are heaps upon heaps of bands out there indulging in post-Graveyard boogie, they showed once again that they’re able to stand both out from the crowd and well above it. Plus, any swing-rocking album that dares to break out soul-singer backing vocals and blastbeats, and pull both off without blinking deserves respect, no matter what else it might have going on.

25. Death Hawks, Sun Future Moon

death hawks sun future moon

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed Nov. 3

It felt so good to put on Death HawksSun Future Moon for the first time and be completely blindsided by its serene psychedelic ritualizing. The Finnish four-piece reveled in classic progressive methods, and where it would’ve been so easy for songs like “Hey Ya Sun Ra” or “Dream Life, Waking Life” to come across as pretentious, the naturalism in the recording gave the band’s third album such a liquefied flow that it was impossible not to be swept up by it until, at last, “Friend of Joy” launched into and beyond a peaceful stratosphere in spaced-out ambience. My first exposure to the group and their first outing for Svart, it’s a record so textural and so graceful that it seems to unfurl itself more each time through.

24. Spidergawd, II

spidergawd ii

Released by Stickman Records and Crispin Glover Records. Reviewed Jan. 5.

A quick and strong turnaround from this Norwegian sax-inclusive foursome, who might seem to come out of nowhere were it not for the pedigree of Kenneth Kapstad and Bent Sæther in long-running progressives Motorpsycho. Together with Per Borten and Rolf Martin Snustad, Spidergawd spoke to more primal rock instincts — their two LPs to-date and soon to be three are testaments to the ability of music to move, to shove, and to shake; or as they put it, “Get Physical” — but as there is breadth as well, as the psychedelic “Caereulean Caribou” demonstrated. Anchored by the hook of “Fixing to Die Blues,” Spidergawd‘s second wandered far and wide, but welcomed listeners along for each step of the journey.

23. The Midnight Ghost Train, Cold was the Ground

the midnight ghost train cold was the ground

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Feb. 26.

As the title promised, The Midnight Ghost Train‘s third offering and Napalm Records debut delivered harsh truths. They came at breakneck speed and delivered with stage-hewn chemistry by the Midwestern power trio, whose years of road-dogging were brought to bear in the gruff, gravel-throated voice of guitarist Steve Moss, who led drummer Brandon Burghart and newcomer bassist Mike Boyne across nigh-unparalled riff torrents, with all the boogie of any number of ’70s-style sidewinders, but also with a tonal thickness that seemed a miracle it could move at all. Not without its adventurous side in the quieter “The Little Sparrow,” Cold was the Ground brimmed with intensity that brought the band to new levels in every conceivable fashion.

22. Leeches of Lore, Motel of Infinity

leeches of lore motel of infinity

Released by Lorchestral Recording Company. Reviewed Sept. 15.

Blessed art the weirdos, whose records might be few and far between, who might not tour, but whose bold fits and starts span genres easily and whose work truly stands alone. Leeches of Lore‘s Toshi Kasai-produced Motel of Infinity was a godsend in the enduring battle against normality. It was a grinding, grooving anti-punk stampede, at times frenetic and at other times whatever the opposite of frenetic is, and to-date, it’s the Albuquirky outit’s masterpiece, from the low-end buzzsaw, gang-shout and falsetto of “Don’t Open Till Doomsday” through the bass and organ bounce of “Noah’s Soul (is Burning).” They have been and still are a band unto themselves, and the we-do-this-every-day confidence of their execution across Motel of Infinity‘s run only emphasizes how utterly necessary they are.

21. With the Dead, With the Dead

with the dead self titled

Released by Rise Above Records. Reviewed Nov. 11.

With the Dead vocalist Lee Dorrian (also head of Rise Above Records, also ex-Cathedral) basically laid it all out there in the interview here when he said, “We wanted to make the most skull-crushing record we possibly could.” That’s precisely what With the Dead‘s self-titled debut is. It’s as heavy as possible, as filthy as possible, all the way through. In some ways very much the sum of its elements with Dorrian on vocals, Tim Bagshaw on guitar/bass and Mark Greening on drums (both ex-Ramesses), it was also of course more than just that, and while so much of their story has yet to be told as they move into their initial live appearances in 2016, their opening salvo was nothing if not as destructive as its intent.

20. Clutch, Psychic Warfare

clutch psychic warfare

Released by Weathermaker Music. Reviewed Oct. 6.

How could anyone possibly have even remotely reasonable expectations for a Clutch record after 2013’s Earth Rocker (review here). I won’t say the Maryland stalwarts didn’t deliver with Psychic Warfare, and I doubt any fan of the band who’s dug into “X-Ray Visions,” “A Quick Death in Texas” or “Noble Savage” would, but their returning to producer Machine for the second time in a row made it almost too easy to compare Clutch‘s 10th and 11th long-players. Four years between albums was shortened to just two, and that may have had something to do with it as well, but while the songs were there and I’ve no doubt that Psychic Warfare will endure over the long term — ask me sometime how long it took me to get into Pure Rock Fury — in the moment of its release, Psychic Warfare seemed to stand in the shadow of its predecessor rather than in its own light.

19. Mondo Drag, Mondo Drag

mondo drag self-titled

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

An awaited return for Midwestern-turned-West-Coast psychedelic rockers Mondo Drag, their self-titled sophomore outing had three years between its recording and release, and was made in 2012 with a shortlived incarnation of the band with bassist Zack Anderson and drummer Cory Berry, both formerly of Radio Moscow and then-soon to be of Blues Pills. Unsurprisingly, the grooves were tight, but even better, Mondo Drag blew past the peaceful headtrippery of their 2010 debut, New Rituals (review here), toward more expansive and proggy fare. They’ll look to continue that thread on their third outing, The Occultation of Light, in 2016, but the self-titled captured a special moment worthy of celebration, still rife with the classic-minded ethereal spirit of the first outing, but clearly bent on defining its own sonic dogma in hooks and synthy vibes.

18. Lamp of the Universe, The Inner Light of Revelation

lamp of the universe the inner light of revelation

Released by Clostridium Records and Astral Projection. Reviewed April 27.

At the risk of sounding biased, just about any new release from New Zealand tantric psych outfit Lamp of the Universe is going to be welcome by me. Comprised solely of Craig Williamson (also Arc of Ascent), the long-running project nonetheless casts out gorgeously textured meditative psychedelia, at times delving into drone or Eastern folk, but always marking out its own sonic space, whether in the more rock-minded groove of “God of One” or the drumless acoustic swirl of “Ancient Path.” Lamp of the Universe is a rare band — as much as it is a band — that covers a swath of ground stylistically and manages to sound like nothing but itself as it does so, and Williamson‘s commitment to his cosmic mantras remains firm and creatively fertile as the seeds he planted early on continue to bear fruit in complex arrangements that never distract from the central, spiritual purpose of the music.

17. Mammatus, Sparkling Waters

mammatus sparkling waters

Released by Spiritual Pajamas. Reviewed Nov. 9.

Even with its title-track broken into two 20-plus-minute side-consuming halves, it was abundantly plain to hear that Sparkling Waters was the most realized Mammatus outing yet. The four-song, 75-minute offering brimmed with a clarity that even their late-2013 third album, Heady Mental (review here), could only partially claim, leaving behind the fuzz and fog of their earlier work almost entirely while remaining open to employing sonic heft when suitable to their more complex motives. Most effective about Mammatus at this stage was the way they eased into and through varied parts while tying together a coherent whole piece, the builds and cascades of “Sparkling Waters Part One” setting up an expectation of fluidity that held firm even through the more jagged buzz in the early going of closer “Ornia,” the grand finale of which resonates as a cacophony without letting itself actually lose control.

16. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, The Night Creeper

uncle acid the night creeper

Released by Rise Above Records. Reviewed Sept. 3.

UK ladykillers Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats have emerged as one of the most essential bands of the ’10s. The Night Creeper is their fourth album and it takes the defining eeriness of their melodies and roughs it up with a mostly-live recording job — something which, now that they’re a touring act, they can do — for their grittiest, dirtiest-sounding offering yet. Songs like “Melody Lane,” “Pusher Man” and opener “Waiting for Blood” speak to what’s let their methodology spread so widely in the first place, the VHS grain of their guitars and vocals resting over classic swing and proliferating maddening hooks with lethal intent. Between the nine-minute gruel of “Slow Death” and the hidden acoustic track “Black Motorcade,” The Night Creeper wasn’t without its element of sonic progress, but with Uncle Acid, it’s still the combination of threat, swing and memorable songwriting that brings listeners back to their dark alleyways for another taste.

15. Death Alley, Black Magick Boogieland

death alley black magick boogieland

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed June 8.

Easily one of 2015’s most encouraging debuts. Making its opening salvo with the propulsion of Motörhead-derived heavy rock in songs like “Over Under” and “Black Magick Boogieland,” the first outing from Amsterdam-based foursome Death Alley touched on classic ideals without going retro on “Bewildered Eyes,” nodded toward psychedelic melodicism and more patient intentions in “Golden Fields of Love,” and portrayed its punker roots in “Dead Man’s Bones” — all before the 12:40 space rock extravaganza that took hold with closer “Supernatural Predator.” It was a lot of territory to cover, but Death Alley not only made it sound cohesive, they made it rock and they made it a good time. In just about 41 minutes, Black Magick Boogieland was not only a voyage well worth taking, it was a potential-filled, headbang-worthy ripper of an album from an outfit who deserves every bit of attention they seem to be shouting for. Hope they don’t wait long for a follow-up.

14. The Machine, Offblast!

the machine offblast

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed May 28.

Five records in, Dutch trio The Machine have found a niche for themselves between heavy psych rock, desert fuzz and exploratory jamming. Offblast!, with a title that seemed more reminiscent of Europunker speed rock, was as spacious as it was driving, and whether it was the more structured material like “Dry End” or “Coda Sun” or the two extended cuts, 16-minute opener ““Chrysalis (J.A.M.)” and 12-minute closer “Come to Light,” their dynamic remained natural and held firm to a spontaneous sensibility, like at any turn, any part might take off for an eight-minute ride to who knows where. That that didn’t always happen only made Offblast! a richer listening experience, its varied ideas coming through consistent tonality to affect a more than satisfying front-to-back flow that toyed with momentum even as it built more and more of it. Was a while in the making, coming three years after 2012’s Calmer than You Are (review here), but easily worth the wait.

13. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth

brothers of the sonic cloth self titled

Released by Neurot Recordings. Reviewed March 3.

There were moments where the self-titled debut from Brothers of the Sonic Cloth was almost too much to take in one sitting. By the time the Tad Doyle-led trio got around to the 11-minute “La Mano Poderosa,” sometimes I felt like I needed a second to catch my breath before diving further, always further, into the smoldering abyss their tones, growls and lurch seemed to create. Six years after their demo (review here) served notice like a tectonic rumble in the distance, the album arrived with comet-into-planet heft, and its oppression was as much about atmosphere as it was sheer aural assault. Imagine an arm reaching down your throat, grabbing your lungs, and forcibly deflating them one at a time. Is that hyperbole? Absolutely, and well earned. Every bit the debut of the year.

12. Kind, Rocket Science

kind rocket science

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Dec. 2.

No, Boston supergroup Kind aren’t so high on this list just because they called a song “Pastrami Blaster.” Granted, that didn’t hurt, but ultimately it was the blend of cavernous psychedelics and heavy rumble that made Rocket Science so infectious. Comprised of vocalist Craig Riggs (Roadsaw), guitarist Darryl Shepard (Milligram, The Scimitar, etc.), bassist Tom Corino (Rozamov) and drummer Matt Couto (Elder), Kind earned immediate interest for their pedigree, but it was more the breadth of jams like “Hordeolum” and “The Angry Undertaker” that defined their first outing, various impulses toward structure and open-endedness not so much pushing against each other as working in tandem to craft something that drew from the best of both mindsets. Obviously these are busy guys, but hopefully Kind doesn’t all by the wayside for other ongoing projects. Rocket Science was unmistakable in its demonstration that they have much to offer.

11. Bloodcow, Crystals and Lasers

bloodcow crystals and lasers

Self-released. Reviewed Aug. 4.

Iowa five-piece Bloodcow hadn’t put out a record since 2007’s Bloodcow III: Hail Xenu, but that didn’t stop Crystals and Lasers from being their best work yet. As much punk as metal as heavy rock, it wasn’t for everybody, but it was most definitely for me. With a constant thread of satire in songs like “Ultra Super Sexual,” “Sock,” “Dick for Days” and the oh-shit-I’m-middle-aged-how-the-fuck-did-this-happen (not saying I relate or anything, but holy shit I can relate) “After Party,” it was nonetheless a stylistically varied and universally professional-sounding 13-track collection, offering weirdo quirk in “Blood and Guts,” “Exploding Head” and “Little Chromosome” and finding room for a bit of scathing social commentary in its title-track and “HIVampyre.” If they’re working at an eight-year pace, I don’t know that we’ll get another Bloodcow record, but they very clearly put everything they had into Crystals and Lasers and the result was a defining statement.

10. Kadavar, Berlin

kadavar berlin

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed July 7.

After two wallops in the form of 2013’s Abra Kadavar (review here) and 2012’s self-titled debut (discussed here), German trio Kadavar continued to prove the effectiveness of their songwriting on Berlin, a return that front-to-back brimmed with vitality and bounce rare enough for heavy rock generally more content to be downtrodden or attempting to feign bluesy substance. Unabashedly poppy at times, Berlin was the party that brought everyone along who was up for taking the ride, and whether it was the hook of “Lord of the Sky” showing how just a tiny melodic turn could make a track infectious or cuts like “Thousand Miles Away from Home,” “Filthy Illusion,” “Stolen Dreams,” “Spanish Wild Rose,” “See the World with Your Own Eyes” — all of them, really — working their way into the consciousness, Berlin felt like it was primed to be the soundtrack of many summers to come. They moved away from the retro style of their first two outings, but in so doing took fuller command of their sound and put it to remarkable use.

9. Goatsnake, Black Age Blues

goatsnake black age blues

Released by Southern Lord. Reviewed May 19.

Picking up right where Flower of Disease closer “The River” left off with “Another River to Cross,” Goatsnake‘s third full-length arrived a full 15 years after its predecessor, and as one might expect that brought some considerable changes in the band’s sound. Oh, they still rolled the hell out of a riff, guitarist Greg Anderson (he of SunnO))) and Southern Lord Recordings) very much at the fore tonally, but a bluesy inflection from vocalist Pete Stahl (also earthlings?) and some well-placed backing vocals added personality in a daring and unexpected fashion. Songs like “Jimi’s Gone,” “Elevated Man” and “Grandpa Jones” sat comfortably in the band’s influential pantheon of heft, but it was how Black Age Blues pushed beyond what Goatsnake did in their initial run that made it so satisfying. For a record that arrived five years after they got back together, it could have easily been disaster, but Black Age Blues built on what Goatsnake was without detracting from the legacy that has influenced a generation of heavy rock.

8. Kings Destroy, Kings Destroy

kings destroy self titled

Released by War Crime Recordings. Reviewed April 15.

I’m proud to call the members of Kings Destroy friends and I won’t attempt to feign impartiality when it comes to considering their work as a band, but I felt in listening to their self-titled third LP that they had finally gotten to the point where they were bringing the onstage confrontationalism of their live show to the studio. Yeah, “Mr. O” was upbeat and catchy and gave side A some thrust, but even in chugging opener “Smokey Robinson” or the moody “Mytho” and “Embers,” Kings Destroy not only came further into their own in terms of style, building on the anti-genre defiant stance of 2013’s A Time of Hunting (review here), but did so with a clearheaded progressivism, a better sense of who they are musically and what they want the band to be. I wouldn’t trade seeing them play “Embers” or “W2” as many times as I have for anything, but even unto the gang-shout half-speed hardcore of “Time for War,” Kings Destroy‘s Kings Destroy made no bones about how it wound up with the eponymous title. It’s them through and through.

7. Cigale, Cigale

cigale self titled

Self-released. Reviewed May 4.

It may never be possible to listen to the self-titled debut from Cigale outside the context of the death of guitarist/vocalist Rutger Smeets (ex-Sungrazer). That loss casts a dark shadow over a collection that otherwise radiates colorful sweetness and serenity, the peaceful depth beginning with “Grey Owl” and only broadening as it turns and weaves through “Steeplechase,” “Feel the Heat,” “Harvest Begun” and so on, but the record remains a gorgeous, engrossing wash of resonant melody and underlying presence. Not without its moments of melancholy, the more overarching impression was of beauty not tied to any notion of playing to genre or style, and while I don’t know what the future will hold for the band, if they’ll keep moving forward or not or if they’re even in a place yet to consider such things, they helped broaden the context of European heavy psychedelia with their first album, and that is no minor achievement.

6. Sun Blood Stories, Twilight Midnight Morning

sun blood stories twilight midnight morning

Self-released. Reviewed June 19.

Another one that just kind of smacked me in the face. Idahoan heavy psych explorers Sun Blood Stories‘ second album, Twilight Midnight Morning was soaked in vibe and moved fluidly between experimentalist noisemaking and patient, memorable songwriting. Tracks like “West the Sun,” “Witch Wind” and “Found Reasons Found Out” never raged, exactly, but had enough weight to their rhythm to let you know they were there and interested in groove, while later pieces “Time Like Smoke,” “Moon Song: Waxing” and “Misery is Nebulous” drew exponentially from earlier freakout impulses and shifted into a dronier and more ambient approach. The combination of the two — semi-structure up front, open expansion in the back — made the three-part Twilight Midnight Morning engaging and hypnotic in kind, and though I hope they get weirder and experiment and develop the atmospheric side of their sound, I’ve also got my fingers crossed they hold firm to their more grounded aspects, since its the range between the two that gives their sophomore outing its defining fluidity.

5a. Colour Haze, To the Highest Gods We Know

colour haze to the highest gods we know

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed Jan. 6.

I’ll cite precedent in last year’s list for including a “5a.” The intent in doing so is to convey the idea that Colour Haze‘s latest outing, To the Highest Gods We Know, is worthy of top five consideration, but its release date was split between 2014 (CD) and 2015 (LP), so it was a little unclear where to put it. As the album is basically a year old at this point, it seems fair to say it’s held up, drawing back from the grandiose vision of 2012’s She Said (review here) without losing sight of the progressive elements that have taken root in the German trio’s sound. Their work has been and remains essential to the development of heavy psychedelic rock in Europe and beyond, and even though To the Highest Gods We Know felt like something of a reset — a stripping down of arrangements in places and getting back to a trio-in-a-room feel — it still stepped forward in its title-track and in songs like “Überall” and “Call” and showed that even when it seems Colour Haze have pushed their approach as far as it can go, there’s always new ground to explore, and their pull to do so is undiminished.

5. The Atomic Bitchwax, Gravitron

the atomic bitchwax gravitron

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed April 20.

Doesn’t exactly seem like giving away state secrets to note that a record with songs like “Sexecutioner” and “Fuck Face” is aggressive, but it’s particularly interesting in light of the past work of New Jersey trio The Atomic Bitchwax, who I don’t think sounded as barn-burning as they do on Gravitron even in their earliest going. The trio of bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik, guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan and drummer Bob Pantella kept their signature winding riff style intact — demonstrated most expansively over 2011’s single-song full-length instrumental The Local Fuzz (review here) — but while their turns were as blinding as ever, their tones were more pointed and Pantella‘s snare more upfront on the beat, which gave Gravitron a newfound sense of urgency. It worked. Even poppier songs like “Roseland” or the closing “Ice Age Hey Baby” benefited from the additional thrust, and the album overall felt lean, mean and ready to be taken on the road, which of course is exactly what they did with it. Six albums in, The Atomic Bitchwax were at their most vital yet.

4. All Them Witches, Dying Surfer Meets His Maker

all them witches dying surfer meets his maker

Released by New West Records. Reviewed Oct. 20.

Nashville four-piece All Them Witches probably could’ve gone into the studio, churned out a record of crunchy riffs with a quiet part or two for flavor and positioned themselves at the forefront of American heavy rock with their New West Records debut and third full-length overall, Dying Surfer Meets His Maker. Instead, they defied expectation boldly and brought their growing audience into the room with them and producer Mikey Allred as they captured the album, which finds its most affecting moments not in tonal weight, but emotional resonance, the melody at the midpoint of “Talisman” or the string arrangement gracefully tucked into “Open Passageways.” There’s still the push of “Dirt Preachers,” and entrancing closer “Blood and Sand – Milk and Endless Waters” has its heft as well, but All Them Witches‘ success ultimately came from being the album they wanted to make, built from the dynamic that’s developed on stage between bassist/vocalist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeodAllan Van Cleave on Fender Rhodes/strings, and drummer Robby Staebler, and alive in its feeling of exploration. I won’t predict what they might do from here, but I’m willing to say outright it’ll be worth hearing one way or another.

3. Snail, Feral

snail feral

Released by Small Stone Records. Reviewed Oct. 13.

My expectations for Snail‘s third post-reunion full-length and Small Stone label debut, Feral, were pretty high. Not unreasonably so, though. Their 2012 outing, Terminus (review here), built on the blend of heavy psych riffs, laid back roll and melodicism that 2009’s Blood (review here) established as the band’s working modus, but Feral was going to be a different beast from the start because it was the West Coast outfit’s first full-length as a trio since they made their self-titled debut (reissue review here) in 1993 before splitting up the next year. Whatever my expectations were, however, Snail shattered them almost immediately. In the progression of their songwriting as shown across the strong opening salvo of “Building a Haunted House,” “Smoke the Deathless” and “A Mustard Seed” through one of the year’s best songs in the expansive and crushing “Thou Art That,” the three-piece showcased a breadth unlike anything they’d conjured before, and it only continued through “Born in Captivity,” the catchy “Derail,” “Psilocybe” and the soul-infused wah leads that peppered the pleading closer “Come Home.” Where Terminus offered intensity, Feral offered patience in its execution, and the atmosphere it created suited the band’s sound as well as the Seldon Hunt cover art seemed to summarize the alternate reality in which the music took place. Everything about how it came together worked just right, and even as a fan of the band’s work since they got together again, I was taken aback by the unflinching quality of Feral front to back.

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

acid king middle of nowhere center of everywhere

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 19.

Ten years is a long, long time. Especially in music. The prospect of a fourth Acid King record has been tossed around for at least the last six of those 10 years, but to finally have it realized was something else entirely. Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere was without a doubt my most-listened-to album of the year, and its combination of tonal haze, low-end heft and spacious atmosphere was perfect. There’s just no other way to say it. It was perfect. From “Silent Pictures” and “Coming down from Outer Space” through “Red River,” “Infinite Skies” and the sprawling “Center of Everywhere” itself, guitarist/vocalist Lori S., bassist Mark Lamb and drummer Joey Osbourne crafted an absolutely perfect heavy psych record. How many bands walking the earth could even get away with calling a track “Laser Headlights,” let alone make it kick ass? Yeah, Goatsnake came back this year, and that was great, but for me, the return of Acid King to their throne of nod was even more the story of the year. Together with producer Billy Anderson, they offered a depth of tone that was simply unmatched, and without an ounce of pretense, they unveiled a roll that continues to resound. I’m a big fan of getting lost in a record, and Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere eased the listener in with its “Intro,” pulled reality apart from with “Silent Pictures” and set about doing the universe a favor by remaking the cosmos as the kind of place where one might find a wizard riding a tiger past the craters of the moon, until, at last, it deposited you back where you started. Best trip of 2015, no question.

1. Elder, Lore

elder lore

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

Make no mistake, 2015 was Elder‘s year. We were all just living in it. Truth be told, I’ve been back and forth between Elder and Acid King in the top spot for the last couple months (you might recall in July they were reversed), but when it finally came to it, there was no way I could feasibly call anything other than Lore the album of the year. From the gorgeous Adrian Dexter artwork (discussed here), through the progressive clarion of “Compendium”‘s noodling guitar line and into the massive scope of the title-track (discussed here), Lore was the moment in which Elder — guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto — tore down the walls of genre, whether it was heavy rock, psychedelia or anything else, and emerged with their own approach and complex, varied modus of songwriting. They’ve been turning heads since their self-titled debut arrived in 2008, but with 2011’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here), they began to demonstrate the potential for really adding something to the patchwork of underground heavy. In moving forward by making clarity a hallmark both of their sound and of their purpose, Elder came into their own with these five tracks, and do not at all be surprised a couple years from now when bands start showing up aping DiSalvo‘s style of riffing, since such a bold and successful foray of individualism can only be influential in the longer run. At nearly an hour long, Lore was not a minor undertaking, but each song seemed to set up its own atmosphere, feeding not only its own singular focus, but that of the album overall. Its turns blinding, its impact forceful and its affect drawing from the best of the sonic personalities of all three players, Elder‘s Lore reaped wide acclaim and earned it every step of the way. Its progressive vision has only begun to be digested.

Honorable Mention

Killer Boogie, Detroit – Impressive debut from the retro-minded offshoot of Black Rainbows brought ’70s boogie to Italy. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had a quick turnaround, but either way, their first outing knew its audience and spoke directly to it.

My Sleeping Karma, Moksha – This one was on various incarnations of the list. Very interested to see where the German heavy prog outfit wind up in terms of expanding their arrangements, but Moksha was a satisfying step forward in that process.

Egypt, Endless Flight – Should probably have a number, but the fact is it’s only been out for like two weeks, so it hasn’t really been given the test of time at this point. Still, Egypt always deliver and this was no exception.

Valkyrie, Shadows – An awaited third full-length from Virginia’s Valkyrie and also their Relapse Records debut offered enough blazing guitar work to meet any quota, and was a welcome return after a long absence.

Magic Circle, Journey’s End – The second LP from this Massachusetts outfit pushed beyond doomly confines into more traditional metallurgy but held its eerie atmospherics intact, and the combination suited them remarkably well.

Monolord, Vænir – This was my go-to for 2015 when nothing else seemed quite crushing enough. The Swedish trio have very quickly stomped their way into the hearts and minds of the international underground, and rightfully so.

Freedom Hawk, Into Your Mind – After making a transition from a four-piece to a trio, this Virginian outfit proceeded to take a few stylistic risks on their second Small Stone long-player, and they paid off.

TombstonesVargariis – Fourth full-length from this Norwegian trio pushed them outside of doom’s confines into a darker and more extreme version of heaviness that pulled from death and black metals in addition to its sludgy underpinnings. The meld was punishing and lost nothing of its groove, wherever it went at any given moment.

Faces of Bayon, Ash and Dust Have no Dominion – I guess my only hesitation with including Faces of Bayon‘s second outing in any kind of year-end fare is I’m not sure if the album has actually been released yet. Even if not, they’re easily worth a mention.

Ice Dragon, A Beacon on the Barrow – Kind of a down year from Ice Dragon in terms of overall productivity, but if the quantity was down compared to some, A Beacon on the Barrow was quality enough to carry them through. In a way, I think the album actually benefited from the band giving listeners time to take it in.

Arenna, Given to Emptiness – Ah, so good. The Spanish heavy psych troupe dug in deep on Given to Emptiness and conjured sonic and emotional resonance on their second full-length. It’s one that still gets repeat listens.

Monster Magnet, Cobras and Fire – The long-running New Jersey outfit’s reworking of their 2010 album Mastermind was excellent, don’t get me wrong, but it didn’t seem fair to list it when they’re working mostly from already-released source material. But still, if you haven’t heard it, go find it.

Various Artists, Electric Ladyland [Redux] – Even if the results hadn’t been so spectacular, Electric Ladyland [Redux] would deserve a mention for the sheer scope and logistical nightmare that the project must have been. Kudos to Magnetic Eye Records all around.

There are so many others: Abrahma, GoyaSun and Sail Club, DevilleSacri MontiDirty StreetsUfomammutWo Fat‘s live album, Mirror Queen, PentagramTorcheSumacGarden of WormBlack RainbowsHoly SerpentMinskBaronWeedpeckerElectric MoonFuzzBell WitchWindhand, Niche, We Lost the SeaSeremoniaSunderDomovoyd, The Heavy EyesDemon HeadFoggStars that MoveEnslavedRuby the Hatchet, on and on and on. That’s not even to mention the stuff I didn’t hear — Baroness will be on many people’s lists, no doubt, as well as Mutoid Man, Ghost and Kylesa — so yeah, I could pretty much keep going ad infinitum.

I, however, cannot. It’s been an absolute pleasure trying to keep up with 2015’s barrage the last 12 months, and I expect 2016 will only bring more. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading or that you’re able to get some use out of this post, whatever that might mean, and I thank you deeply, from the bottom of my heart, for your time and for reading. It means more to me than I can say that you might check out even any portion of this site or be involved, whether it’s sharing a link, leaving a comment to let me know who I forgot to mention or correct my spelling, signing up for the forum, listening to the radio, whatever it might be.

Thank you for an amazing 2015. And please stay tuned, because of course, there’s much more to come.


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