Cortez Premiere “Look at You” Video; Sell the Future out Oct. 22

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Reviews on August 20th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

cortez

Boston heavy rockers Phd Thesis In Computer Assisted Language Learnings - confide your dissertation to qualified writers engaged in the service 100% non-plagiarism guarantee of exclusive essays & papers. Cortez release their new album, Our professional Writing Papers Help with brilliant track records will create a complete business plan for your business. Clients hire us because every Sell the Future, on Oct. 22 through Masters Thesis Auf Der Heide. essay map read write think Browse and Read Read Write Think Essay Map Read Write Think Essay Map New updated! The latest book Ripple Music. Preorders are up at the link below, and the long-player — their third — follows three years behind 2017’s Colleges With The Best Creative Writing Programs. Essay and Resume Service provides professional writing services for students, executive, management and entry level The Depths Below (review here), which is the shortest stretch between offerings of the band’s 13-years-so-far career, and all the more so considering the 2018 split with While writing essays may be a difficult task for most students, omitting to edit the work lowers the quality. Avoid this through Diversity In Religion Essays Wasted Theory (review here) that marked their arrival on Trusted http://www.naur-sir.dk/?what-do-you-need-for-a-business-plan with 100% satisfaction guarantee! Get prompt help with your academic assignments from experienced research paper Ripple Censorship Essays. We have a highly professional and qualified writing staff. Our writers have great writing experience and always do their Cortez have never been a full-time, in-the-van-for-weeks kind of band. Most of their shows have been regional to New England or the Eastern Seaboard, and though their first EP, 2007’s Write my term http://www.kpria.cz/?homework-border - High-Quality College Essay Writing Service - Purchase High-Quality Essays, Research Papers, Thunder in a Forgotten Town, was put out by Belgium’s  A Streetcar Named Desire Essays - Motivational Interviewing and Stages of Change : The stages of change model suggests that clients who are in the Buzzville Records, they are and have always primarily been a Boston band in terms of the traditions they follow in melody and drive and the underlying edge of aggression that has emerged in their material. Or as vocalist  Buy https://byota.ca/organizational-behavior-paper-service at professional essay writing service. Order custom research academic papers from the best trusted company. Just find a great help for Matt Harrington puts it in the opening line of “Vanishing Point,” “Born into a place of cutthroats and of the insane.”

I had the pleasure some months ago of writing the bio for Empirical Research Paper. essaycan be your best friend and tutor when talking about 1-hour essay help. If you have 24 hours or less to your deadline, you can count on us. We understand such short period of time is a real challenge even for qualified writers. Sell the Future. Not the first I’ve done for One of the most important and quickest ways of getting http://www.sayhomebuy.com/blog/com-helper-homework/s and academic writing helps is purchasing it from online carts offering the Cortez, I think, and hopefully not the last. According to my email dates, I turned in the draft to guitarist We offer the best Pay To Have Graduate Essay Written & assignment help in UK. Our assignment writers are always there to help you out in your academic work. Scott O’Dowd on March 15, 2020, at 6:44AM, which might explain the somewhat foreboding tone of the thing as the US was just in the beginning throes of its COVID-19 lockdown. One suspects  essay contests 2013 for adults Management Homework Help Uk Reviews english thesis statement examples phd thesis on gender discrimination Sell the Future would have been released sooner than the Fall had that lockdown not taken place, but then, well, blah blah blah. Ultimately what matters is the record itself, which brings together eight Are You Able to Write My Essay Paper Well? Sure We Are! We frequently see the Business Plan Cover Sheet Example or write my essay online searches Mad Oak-recorded tracks that, beginning right from the outset with “No Escape,” careen along the line between heavy rock and heavy metal,  Harrington‘s soulful vocals — he gives the best performance here I’ve ever heard from him — backed by bassist Jay Furlo (plus some gang shouts) as guitarists Scott O’Dowd and Alasdair Swan rip into leads and chunky riffs with a vitality that’s all the more punctuated with the let’s-just-get-this-cowbell-out-of-the-way-now drumming of Alexei Rodriguez. It quickly becomes apparent that Cortez are about to go on a tear, and the 42-minute offering does that and more, be it in speeders like “No Escape,” “Look at You,” Deceivers” and the penultimate “Vanishing Point,” or more mediated pieces like the title-track, “Faulty Authors,” or the seven-minute finale “Beyond.”

Uniting the material of course is the production, which is as crisp, full and unremittingly professional as one expects when one sees the words “Benny Grotto at Mad Oak Studio” accompany a release. Dude is a brand you can trust. On a somewhat more subtle level, though, the songs are brought together by a socially conscious thematic that comes across in the lyrics front-to-back. Harrington isn’t naming names, exactly, but neither is he looking around him and ignoring the gross inequalities of the age in which we live. The title Sell the Future itself does Cortez Sell the Future Timur Khabirovmore than simply hint at this, and along with the classic heavy rock methodology the band employs, the pointedly metal riff that launches side B with “Deceivers” and the chug that ensues is met by a critique of capitalist greed that puts it about as straightforward as possible in saying outright, “Why don’t you understand/Can’t trust the businessman,” reminding just a touch of some of C.O.C.‘s more discourse-fueled moments but pushing farther in letting the whole record speak to a variety of issues.

It’s something of a turn on the part of the band — though certainly one could position the three-part saga that consumed the middle of The Depths Below as a metaphor — but the renewed focus fits well alongside the shove of their grooves and the largesse of more lumbering moments like “Sell the Future,” with its seeming lyrical nod to the “gathering” in Sabbath‘s “Sign of the Southern Cross,” or even side B’s “Sharpen the Spear,” which isn’t by any means slow, but still boasts the more spacious feel lent to the title-cut or “Beyond”; a sonic element one might liken to post-thrash Metallica were The Black Album not an eternal thorn in the side of allegedly “true” metal. Cortez, as they will, use it to their advantage.

And aside from the band laying claim to this particular niche of semi-aggro melodic heavy, it’s worth noting that they do so with a consistency in songwriting that is undeniably their own. They’re not in a rush. Even cuts like “Look at You,” which are by no means bloated, can run five minutes long and feature a host of solos and other movements aside from the verses and choruses, and likewise, “Vanishing Point,” which is the shortest inclusion at just over four minutes, spends the entirety of minutes two-to-three trading between guitar leads. Really, it’s on the dot, one minute. They finish in harmony and the verse picks back up. But Cortez have always been a guitar-driven band, and from their 2012 self-titled debut (review here) onward, their project has been about refining their craft along those lines. Sell the Future is the farthest they’ve yet pushed themselves in doing that — if you doubt it, “Beyond” should silence any counterargument with its near-YOB subdued opening and unfolding build and melodic breadth that brings in the recognizable voice of Jess Collins from Set Fire (also ex-Mellow Bravo) to back Harrington and finishes after its apex by allowing itself a genuine moment of comedown to cap the record.

It may or may not be fair to consider Cortez a well kept secret three albums in. Perhaps “underrated” is more like it, and they’re certainly that. Even in such a crowded sphere as that of heavy rock, they prove there’s a place for something that’s less about genre trickery than nuance and a well-honed individualism of approach. Each Cortez release has been a step forward from the one before it, and each one — in part because they’ve generally taken a while to show up one after the other, whatever stopgaps have surfaced along the way — has been a thing to appreciate for aficionados of both traditional and forward thinking heavy rock and roll. Sell the Future is not only no exception to these ideas, it is their epitome, and unquestionably the finest work Cortez have done to-date.

My pleasure to host the video premiere for “Look at You” below. Under that you’ll find the preorder link and the bio I wrote (short and sweet) for the album. Thanks for reading.

And enjoy:

Cortez, “Look at You” official video premiere

Album preorder: https://ripplemusic.bigcartel.com/product/cortez-sell-the-future-deluxe-vinyl-editions

BIO:

The future is fast, the future is sharp, and the future has already been sold, baby, so you missed your shot. Better luck next time.

Boston heavy rockers Cortez have always embodied an underdog spirit, from their 2007 debut EP, Thunder in a Forgotten Town, through their 2012 self-titled debut LP and 2017’s The Depths Below, but they’ve never sounded as supercharged as they do on Sell the Future.

With the precision of heavy metal, the soul of classic rock, and the unbridled attitude of a band who care less about your expectations than they do about writing kick-ass, drive-fast, dynamic, hugely-grooved, hugely melodic and expansive tunes, Cortez arrive at their third album with a well-earned sense of freedom in their approach. It isn’t about what style they play or the genre niche you want to fit them in — it’s about the crawling sleek of Sell the Future’s title-track, the crash of drums in “Sharpen the Spear” and the urgency of songs like opener “No Escape” and “Look at You.”

Sell the Future is a record of and for turbulent times, but its working themes aren’t so pointed as to sound already dated in the fast-moving, unending “No Escape”-is-right news cycle the universe seems to inhabit. As much as the band have come into their own operating as the five-piece of vocalist Matt Harrington, guitarists Scott O’Dowd and Alasdair Swan, bassist/backing vocalist Jay Furlo and drummer Alexei Rodriguez, their dedication to classic, timeless rock and roll songwriting is unflinching.

After taking part in Ripple Music’s The Second Coming of Heavy split series in 2018, Cortez have pushed themselves even further with Sell the Future, finding a passion and instrumental fury that comes through regardless of tempo and makes their songs all the more memorable. Whatever the days ahead might bring, Cortez stand ready.

Cortez website

Cortez on Instagram

Cortez on Thee Facebooks

Cortez on Bandcamp

Ripple Music on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Instagram

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

Ripple Music website

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Days of Rona: Matthew Harrington of Cortez

Posted in Features on April 29th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

The statistics of COVID-19 change with every news cycle, and with growing numbers, stay-at-home isolation and a near-universal disruption to society on a global scale, it is ever more important to consider the human aspect of this coronavirus. Amid the sad surrealism of living through social distancing, quarantines and bans on gatherings of groups of any size, creative professionals — artists, musicians, promoters, club owners, techs, producers, and more — are seeing an effect like nothing witnessed in the last century, and as humanity as a whole deals with this calamity, some perspective on who, what, where, when and how we’re all getting through is a needed reminder of why we’re doing so in the first place.

Thus, Days of Rona, in some attempt to help document the state of things as they are now, both so help can be asked for and given where needed, and so that when this is over it can be remembered.

Thanks to all who participate. To read all the Days of Rona coverage, click here. — JJ Koczan

cortez matt harrington

Days of Rona: Matthew Harrington of Cortez (Boston, Massachusetts)

How are you dealing with this crisis as a band? Have you had to rework plans at all? How is everyone’s health so far?

We’re all healthy, thankfully, and we’re all concerned about and focused on our people staying healthy as well. We’ve got an album+ ready to go. Can’t wait for people to hear it. Can’t wait to play shows again with our friends, and play songs from that album. Speaking personally, I miss my homies and I want to write and play music again in my practice space as soon as humanly possible, but I’m incredibly thankful to have a job and a support system right now most of all.

What are the quarantine/isolation rules where you are?

In Boston, we are basically shut down, and Massachusetts as a whole is closed until at least May 4th now. Schools, restaurants/bars/clubs, and all non-essential businesses are closed or working from home until at least that date. Most people, it seems, are doing their best to limit close interactions with others, but I am endlessly baffled at the amount of people who also still don’t seem to be getting it. We haven’t hit the expected peak yet, and I expect the situation to evolve further.

How have you seen the virus affecting the community around you and in music?

I look at my friends in the restaurant/venue, recording, booking, and much broader service industry world and just feel gutted. We have no real social safety net in the United States, and a lot of people don’t have the luxury of having a cushion.

Layoffs, furloughs, and “work reductions” are becoming more common as the days go on, and this is something that directly affects all of us, in music and in life. The reality is that there are a lot of people out there that are going to take a long time to recover from this.

What is the one thing you want people to know about your situation, either as a band, or personally, or anything?

We’re all in this together, and we all need to do our best to safely take care of our neighbors, friends, and families. Stay healthy, stay connected, stay safe, and stay the fuck home.

http://www.cortezboston.com
http://www.instagram.com/cortezboston
http://www.facebook.com/cortezboston
http://cortezboston.bandcamp.com

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Days of Rona: Scott O’Dowd of Cortez

Posted in Features on April 6th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

The statistics of COVID-19 change with every news cycle, and with growing numbers, stay-at-home isolation and a near-universal disruption to society on a global scale, it is ever more important to consider the human aspect of this coronavirus. Amid the sad surrealism of living through social distancing, quarantines and bans on gatherings of groups of any size, creative professionals — artists, musicians, promoters, club owners, techs, producers, and more — are seeing an effect like nothing witnessed in the last century, and as humanity as a whole deals with this calamity, some perspective on who, what, where, when and how we’re all getting through is a needed reminder of why we’re doing so in the first place.

Thus, Days of Rona, in some attempt to help document the state of things as they are now, both so help can be asked for and given where needed, and so that when this is over it can be remembered.

Thanks to all who participate. To read all the Days of Rona coverage, click here. — JJ Koczan

cortez scott odowd

Days of Rona: Scott O’Dowd of Cortez (Boston, Massachusetts)

How are you dealing with this crisis as a band? Have you had to rework plans at all? How is everyone’s health so far?

We have been finishing up artwork for our new album that we recorded in the fall with Benny Grotto at Mad Oak Studios. As far as playing shows, we’ve definitely had to cancel a few, and likely more as this pandemic continues. Cortez as a band has decided to suspend rehearsal for the time being as well, three of the members have children, and it just doesn’t seem like a good idea to risk getting together to rehearse in light of the current situation. Everyone is healthy at the current moment.

What are the quarantine/isolation rules where you are?

In Massachusetts, the governor issued a stay-at-home advisory for non-essential personnel as well as limiting public gatherings to groups of 10 or less. The have also closed bars/restaurants except for take out. It’s pretty eerie exactly how quiet the city of Boston and surrounding areas have been, compared to normal.

How have you seen the virus affecting the community around you and in music?

As for the community, most people seem to be taking this seriously as expected. Most seem to be following the social distancing guidelines and wearing masks and/or gloves in grocery stores, etc. It has obviously affected the ability to be social but people seem to be finding ways to adapt. Whether through FaceTime, or phone calls, or video chats.

Locally there have been Facebook groups / pages where local musicians have been doing live streams from their homes or rehearsal spaces.

What is the one thing you want people to know about your situation, either as a band, or personally, or anything?

We as a band, are approaching this like most folks, waiting it out and trying to stay safe. It’s going to feel really nice to get together in a room and play some music when this is all over! I have a sneaking suspicion that we will have a ton of new albums to listen to once this passes as everyone suddenly has a lot of time on their hands.

http://www.cortezboston.com
http://www.instagram.com/cortezboston
http://www.facebook.com/cortezboston
http://cortezboston.bandcamp.com

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Cortez Enter Studio to Record New Album

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 13th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

I’m not trying to be a smartass or anything here, but three years between Cortez releases would be pretty good. The Boston heavy rockers issued The Depths Below (review here), in 2017, some five years after their 2012 self-titled debut (review here), and that followed five years after their 2007 first EP, Thunder in a Forgotten Town. Especially as they also had the split out last year with the now-defunct Wasted Theory (review here) as part of Ripple Music‘s The Second Coming of Heavy series, trimming that divide between full-lengths down to the three years from 2017-2020 is right on. It’ll be interesting to hear how momentum plays into what they do with the record.

Actually, scratch that. It’ll just be interesting to hear the record — period. Cortez‘s Boston-born heavy rock methodology is time-tested and headbang-secure, and The Depths Below was as solid as the bricks of Faneuil Hall. Not broken, not in needing of fixing: what Windows 95 once referred to as “plug and play.” Dudes do not screw around.

Accordingly, they’re working with Benny Grotto at Mad Oak. Because that’s what you do.

Here’s their announcement:

cortez

Boston Heavy Rockers Cortez Begin Recording New Album

Boston heavy rockers CORTEZ have entered Mad Oak Studios in Allston, MA to begin recording the follow up to their 2017 album “The Depths Below.” The band is once again recording with Benny Grotto (WORSHIPPER, SCISSORFIGHT, GOZU) manning the board. This will be the first recording to feature the current lineup:

Matt Harrington – vocals
Scott O’Dowd – guitar
Alasdair Swan – guitar
Jay Furlo – bass
Alexei Rodriguez – drums

Speaking about the material the band states, “We couldn’t be more excited; our new material is at once different and yet quintessentially Cortez. We are thrilled to be working with Benny Grotto again, as he totally gets what we are trying to achieve sonically. We can’t wait for everyone hear the songs.”

Cortez are laying low on the live front to concentrate on recording, but currently have one show scheduled:

Friday, September 27 at Lucky 13 in Brooklyn, NY with Vessel Of Light, Eternal Black, and Clothesline.

http://www.cortezboston.com
http://www.instagram.com/cortezboston
http://www.facebook.com/cortezboston
http://cortezboston.bandcamp.com

Cortez, The Depths Below (2017)

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New England Stoner and Doom Fest II: More Lineup Announcements; Pre-Party Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 5th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

new england stoner doom festival 2019 art

It’s time to talk about the real potential of the New England Stoner and Doom Fest. No, I don’t mean the lineup. That’s awesome. You know it and I know it. I’m talking about the acronym. That’s always huge for a festival. How is it abbreviated? Think MDDF or SHoD or any of the DFs spread around the universe. These things matter.

I’ve seen NESDF tossed around for New England Stoner and Doom Fest, and that’s cool, but it’s missing the opportunity. You could have a festival abbreviated NES! Who the hell wouldn’t buy that t-shirt? I hereby cast my vote in the imaginary referendum on festival abbreviations for New England Stoner and Doom Fest to henceforth and forthwith and withhence be known as NES fest. Second the motion?

There’s reportedly one more band to be added and reportedly several in the running for that slot, so this might not be the final update before May 3-5 gets here and NES fest kicks off (see me using the acronym already?), and the lineup for a pre-party at 33 Golden St. in New London has been announced as well, which will be headlined by Fox 45, so, you know, more of a good thing and all that.

The full lineup as has been revealed follows. Note the Wretch reunion. NES fest!

New England Stoner & Doom Fest II

The New England Stoner and Doom Festival will make its return in 2019 on May 3,4, and 5 at Altones in Jewett City, CT.

Earthride
Brimstone Coven
Wretch
Kings Destroy
+1 TBA
Foghound
Pale Divine
Vessel of Light
Spiral Grave
Solace
Black Road
Curse the Son
Shadow Witch
Hell Camino
Clamfight
Eternal Black
Thunderbird Divine
Stonecutters
When the Deadbolt Breaks
Mourn the Light
Entierro
Bone Church
Buzzard Canyon
The Age of Truth
Void King
Horseburner
Scuzzy Yeti
Witchkiss
Cortez
Benthic Realm
Faith in Jane
Conclave
Set Fire
3 Parts Dead
Insano Vision
Old Earth Analog
Pinto Graham
The Stone Eye
Sentinel Hell

Pre-party @ 33 Golden St.:
Fox 45
VRSA
Dark Ritual
Owl Maker
Feed the Beast

www.newenglandstoneranddoomfest.com
https://www.facebook.com/events/1613285008788252/
https://www.facebook.com/NewEnglandStonerAndDoomFest/
https://www.saltoftheearthrecords.com/

Wretch, Bastards Born (2017)

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Quarterly Review: Sumac, Cortez & Wasted Theory, Thunder Horse, The Howling Eye, Grime, URSA, Earthling Society, Bismarck, Grand Reunion, Pledge

Posted in Reviews on December 7th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

As we land on what would otherwise be the end of a Quarterly Review — day 5, hitting the standard 50 records across the span of a week that this time we’re doubling with another 50 next week — it occurs to me not how much 100 albums is, but how much it isn’t. I mean, it’s a lot, don’t get me wrong. I’ve been sitting and writing about 10 records every day this week. I know how much that is. But it’s astounding to me just how much more there is. With the emails I get from people looking for reviews, discs sent in the mail, the messages on Facebook and everything else, I could do another 100, easy.

Well, maybe not ‘easy,’ but it would be full.

Is it a new golden age of heavy? 45 years from now are rockers going to look back and say, “Hell yeah, from like 2012-2019 was where it’s at,” all wistful like they do now for the ’70s? Will the Heavy ’10s be a retro style? I don’t know. But if it was going to happen, there would certainly be enough of an archive to fuel it. I do my best to cover as much as I can, but sometimes I feel like we barely crack the surface. With 100 records.

That said, time’s a-wasting.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Sumac, Love in Shadow

sumac love in shadow

What are Sumac if not the most vital and highest profile atmospheric metal act out there today? With Aaron Turner (Isis, etc.) on guitar/vocals, Brian Cook (Russian Circles) on bass and Nick Yacyshyn (Baptists) on drums, they qualify easily as a supergroup, and yet their third album, Love in Shadow (on Thrill Jockey), is still more about creative growth and the exploration of sound than anything else. Certainly more than ego — and if it was a self-indulgent exercise, it’d probably still be pretty good, frankly. As it stands, the four massive tracks through which Sumac follow-up 2016’s What One Becomes (review here) and their 2015 debut, The Deal (review here), refine the sound Sumac has developed over the past three years-plus into a sprawling and passion-driven sprawl that’s encompassing in scope, challenging in its noise quotient, and in utter refusal to not progress in its approach. And when Sumac move forward, as they do here, they seem to bring the entire aesthetic with them.

Sumac on Thee Facebooks

Thrill Jockey Records on Bandcamp

 

Cortez & Wasted Theory, The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter Nine

cortez wasted theory second coming of heavy ch 9

Ripple Music‘s split series The Second Coming of Heavy hits its ninth chapter in bringing together Boston’s Cortez and Delaware’s Wasted Theory, and neither band fails to live up to the occasion. Cortez‘s range only seems to grow each time they hit the studio — vocalist Matt Harrington makes easy highlights of the opener and longest track (immediate points) “The Firmament” and the echo-laden “Close” — and Wasted Theory‘s “Ditchpig,” “Abominatrix,” “Baptized in Gasoline” and “Heresy Dealer” are so saturated with whiskey it might as well be coming out of their pores. It’s a decidedly North/South release, with Cortez rolling straightforward New England heavy rock through “Fog of Whores” and the Deep Purple cover “Stormbringer” while Wasted Theory dig with all good speed into a grit that’s more and more become their own with time, but there’s a shared penchant for hooks and groove between the two acts that draws them together, and whatever aspects they may or may not share are ultimately trumped by that. As Ripple starts to wind down the series, they continue to highlight some of the finest in heavy that the underground has to offer. One would expect no less.

Cortez on Thee Facebooks

Wasted Theory on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

 

Thunder Horse, Thunder Horse

thunder horse thunder horse

There’s an unmistakable sense of presence throughout Thunder Horse‘s six-song/43-minute self-titled debut that undercuts the notion of it as being the San Antonio four-piece’s first album. With professionalism and a firm sense of what they want to be as a band, the Texans liberally sprinkle samples throughout their material and hone a professional sound built around massive riffs and even-more-massive lumbering grooves. Indeed, they’re not strangers to each other, as three-fourths of the group — guitarist/vocalists Stephen Bishop, guitarist/sampler T.C. Connally and drummer Jason West — double in the more industrial-minded Pitbull Daycare, whose debut LP came out in 1997. Completed by bassist/vocalist Dave Crow, Thunder Horse successfully cross the genre threshold and are well comfortable in longer cuts like “Liber ad Christ Milites Templi” and “This is the End,” both of which top nine minutes, and shorter pieces like the rocking “Demons Speak” and the shimmering finale “Pray for Rain.” With “Coming Home” and the sneering “Blood Ritual” at the outset, Thunder Horse pulls listener quickly toward dark atmospheres and flourishes amid the weighted tones therein.

Thunder Horse on Thee Facebooks

Thunder Horse on Bandcamp

 

The Howling Eye, Sonorous

the howling eye sonorous

Poland’s The Howling Eye make a lengthy long-player debut with Sonorous, but more important than the reach of their runtimes — closer “Weedblazer” tops 16 minutes, the earlier “Reflections” hits 12, etc. — the reach of the actual material. The common pattern has been that psychedelic jamming and doom are two distinct things, but The Howling Eye tap into a cosmic interpretation of rolling riffs and push it with an open spirit far into the ether of spontaneous creation. It’s a blend that a group would seem to need to be cautious to wield, lest the whole notion fall flat, but with the assurance of marked chemistry behind them, the Bydgoszcz-based trio of drummer/sometimes vocalist Hubert “Cebula” Lewandowski (also harmonica where applicable), guitarist Jan Chojnowski and bassist Mi?osz Wojciechowski boldly shift from the more structured beginnings of the funky “Kairos” and the aggro beginning “Stranded” into an outward push that’s ambient, psychedelic and naturalistic all at once, with room left over for more funk and even some rockabilly on “The Potion.” It is not a minor conglomeration, but it works.

The Howling Eye on Thee Facebooks

The Howling Eye on Bandcamp

 

Grime, What Have We Become

grime what have we become

Their roots in metal, North Dakota trio Grime — not to be confused with the Italian sludge outfit of the same name — unleash their first full-length in the form of What Have We Become, an ambitious 51-minute offering of progressive heavy rock marked by thoughtful lyrics and fluid songwriting made all the more so by the shared vocals of bassist Andrew Wickenheiser and guitarist Nick Jensen, who together with drummer Tim Gray (who would seem to have been replaced by Cale Mogard) effect a classic feel through “Alone in the Dark” while chugging and winding through the not-a-cover “Hand of Doom” with some harsher vocals peppered in for good measure. Seven-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Through the Eye” sets a broad tone that the rest of the record seems to build on, with the penultimate “Sunshine” delivering the title line ahead of the grittier closer “The Constant Grind,” which seems to payoff everything before it with a final explosion before a big rock finish. They’ll need to decide whether their sound will ultimately tighten up or loosen over time, but for now, what they’ve become is a band with a solid foundation to grow from.

Grime on Thee Facebooks

Grime on Bandcamp

 

URSA, Abyss Between the Stars

ursa abyss between the stars

Modern doom meets a swath of metallic influences on URSA‘s full-length debut, Abyss Between the Stars (on Blood Music), as members of Petaluma, California’s Cormorant take on such classic themes as wizards, dragons, yetis, witches, a spider king, mountains, and… actually, yeah, that covers the six included tracks on the 46-minute LP, which shifts gracefully between epic fantasy doom and darker, soemtimes more extreme fare. It’s easy enough to put URSA in the narrative of a band started — circa 2016 — around a central idea, rather than just dudes picking up instruments and seeing what happened next. Not just because bassist/vocalist Matt Solis, guitarist/keyboardist Nick Cohon and drummer Brennan Kunkel were already three-quarters of another band, but because of the purposefulness with which they approach their subject matter and the cohesion in all facets of their approach. They may be exploring new ground here, but they’re doing so on sure footing, and that comes not only from their experience playing together, but from knowing exactly where they want to be in terms of sound. I would not be surprised if that sound adopted more post-Candlemass grandeur with time — one can hear that burgeoning in “Serengeti Yeti” — but whatever direction they want to go, their debut will only help them on that path.

URSA on Thee Facebooks

Blood Music website

 

Earthling Society, MO – The Demon

earthling society mo the demon

Look, if you can’t get down with a bunch of freaks like Earthling Society tapping into the lysergic fabric of the cosmos to come up with an unsolicited soundtrack to a Hong Kong martial arts movie, I just don’t know what to tell you. Issued by Riot Season, the seven-track MO – The Demon is reportedly the end of the band’s technicolor daydream, and as they crash their plane into the side of “Mountains of Bliss” and hone space rock obliteration throughout “Super Holy Monk Defeats the Black Magic Mothafucker,” their particular experimentalist charm and go-anywhere-anytime sensibility demonstrates plainly exactly why it will be missed. There’s a sharp high-pitched tone at the start of opener “Theme from MO – The Demon” that’s actually pretty abrasive, but by the time they’re through the kosmiche laser assault in “Spring Snow” and the let’s-be-flower-children-until-it’s-time-to-freak-the-fuck-out throb of closer “Jetina Grove,” that is but a distant memory. So is consciousness. Fare thee well, Earthling Society. You were a band who only sought to make sense to yourselves, and for that, were all the more commendable.

Earthling Society on Thee Facebooks

Riot Season Records on Bandcamp

 

Bismarck, Urkraft

bismarck urkraft

Norwegian five-piece Bismarck bring spaciousness to doom riffing on their debut album, Urkraft, which is constructed of five molten tracks for a 34-minute totality that seems much broader than the time it takes to listen. Vocals are growls and shouts across a cosmic stretch of tone, giving a somewhat aggressive pulse to heavier psychedelic soundscaping, but a bouncing rhythm behind “A Golden Throne” assures the song is accessible one way or the other. The 10-minute “Vril-Ya” is naturally where they range the farthest, but the Bergen outfit even there seem to be playing by a set of aesthetic principles that includes maintaining a grounded groove no matter how spaced they might otherwise get. Rolling riffs bookend in opener “Harbinger” and closer “The Usher,” as “A Golden Throne,” playing-to-both-sides centerpiece “Iron Kingdom” and the subsequent “Vril-Ya” explore atmospheres that remain resonant despite the low end weight that seems to chug out beneath them. The mix by Chris Fielding at Skyhammer (who also co-engineered) doesn’t hurt in crafting their largesse, but something tells me Urkraft was going to sound big no matter what.

Bismarck on Thee Facebooks

Apollon Records website

 

Grand Reunion, In the Station

grand reunion in the station

In the Station doesn’t seem like anything too fancy at first. It’s produced cleanly, but not in any kind of overblown fashion, and Grand Reunion‘s songwriting is so solid that, especially the first time through their eight-track debut LP, it’s easy to say, “Okay, that’s another cool hook,” and not notice subtleties like when the organs turn to keyboard synth between opener “Eres Tan Serpiente” and second cut “Gordon Shumway,” or to miss the Latin percussion that Javier Tapia adds to Manuel Yañez‘s drumming, or the ways that guitarist Christian Spencer, keyboardist Pablo Saveedra, bassist Mario Rodríguez and Tapia work to complement guitarist Cristóbal Pacheco on vocals. But all of that is happening, and as they make their way toward and through the eight-minute fuzzer “Band Band the Headbang,” through the soaring “Weedow” and into the acoustic-led closer “It’s Alright,” the character and maturity in Grand Reunion‘s songwriting shows itself more and more, inviting multiple listens in the most natural fashion possible: by making you want to hear it again.

Grand Reunion on Thee Facebooks

Grand Reunion on Bandcamp

 

Pledge, Resilience

pledge resilience

16 minutes of scathing post-hardcore/sludge from Portuguese four-piece Pledge, who are in and out of their Resilience EP with a clean break and a windmill kick to the face. The newcomers lack nothing for ferocity, and with the throat-searing screams of Sofia M.L. out in front of the mix, violent intentions are unmistakable. “Profer Lumen Caecis,” “The Great Inbetweeness,” “Doom and Redemption” and “The Peter, the Wolf” nonetheless have groove built on varying degrees of extremity and angularity, with Vítor Vaz‘s bass maintaining a steady presence alongside the guitar of Hugo Martins and Filipe Romariz‘s drumming, frenetic as it sometimes is. I wouldn’t say things calm down in “The Peter, the Wolf” so much as the boiling seems to take place beneath the surface, waiting for a time to burst out, which it eventually does, but either way, for all its harsher aspects, Pledge‘s material isn’t at all void of engagement. It does, however, state the requirement right there on the front cover.

Pledge on Thee Facebooks

Pledge on Bandcamp

 

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Cortez and Wasted Theory Join Forces for The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter IX

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 10th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

It is really, really hard to put together a split release. Getting one band to have their shit together enough to hit the studio and record is hard enough. But two? Or more? It is not an enviable task in the slightest. Sometimes acts have songs leftover from other sessions, and even that is hard to work with. It’s to Ripple Music‘s eternal credit that the label’s The Second Coming of Heavy series has not only made it this far without missing a beat between its chapters, but that it will finish its 10LP run having highlighted killer heavy rock and roll from the US and Europe in defiance of logistics and with a firm commitment to quality in presentation and curation alike. I know that sounds like I’m blowing smoke up the label’s ass. I’m not. If you’ve never coordinated this kind of thing, it’s fucking impossible. Every time it happens, it’s a miracle. And from what I understand, when The Second Coming of Heavy ends, that’s still just the beginning. More power to them.

Chapter IX gets down to the series’ roots with top grade heavy rock from Boston’s long-underrated practitioners Cortez and the pride of Bear, Delaware, Wasted Theory, who will follow their appearance here up with a new full-length in October. Both bands have tracks streaming at the bottom of this post.

The PR wire brings preliminaries:

the second coming of heavy chapter ix

Ripple Music announce the penultimate instalment in their Second Coming of Heavy Series | Split album from Cortez and Wasted Theory

The Second Coming of Heavy; Chapter IX is released on vinyl on 21st September 2018

Pre-order now at www.ripple-music.com

Already recognised as one of the world’s leading purveyors of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Stoner, Doom and Heavy Psych, Ripple Music upped the ante in 2015 with the arrival of one of their most ambitious projects to date, The Second Coming of Heavy Series.

Serving as a showcase for some of the best and heaviest bands emerging from the underground, each instalment shines a light on those worthy of your attention. Consisting of one, 12” slab of multi-coloured vinyl with full colour sleeves and inserts, the series is designed to be saved and treasured, much like a fine anthology of books. When the albums are filed next to each other, the complete collection of aligned spines form a mind-blowing image direct from the underground.

Bands that have already featured in the series include Geezer, Borracho, Supervoid, Red Desert, Kingnomad, Bonehawk, Red Mesa, Blue Sanggletooth, Fuzz Evil, Switchblade Jesus plus a whole host of others. For this latest instalment it’s the turn of Boston-based, fuzzed out rock and rollers Cortez and American Weed Rock supremos, Wasted Theory.

The Second Coming Of Heavy; Chapter IX will get an official vinyl release on 21st September 2018 and is limited to 300 copies in three alternative versions (100 of each) – The Resurrection Edition, The Risen OBI and The Ascension Edition.

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2017

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

top-30-of-2017

Please note: This post is not culled in any way from the Year-End Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2017 to that, please do.

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

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

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

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

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

Here goes:

30. Geezer, Psychoriffadelia
geezer psychoriffadelia

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

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

29. Orango, The Mules of Nana

orango the mules of nana

Released by Stickman Records. Reviewed March 27.

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

28. Radio Moscow, New Beginnings

radio moscow new beginnings

Released by Century Media. Reviewed Oct. 6.

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

27. Spaceslug, Time Travel Dilemma

spaceslug time travel dilemma

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

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

26. Mothership, High Strangeness

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

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

25. Eternal Black, Bleed the Days

eternal black bleed the days

Released by Obsidian Sky Records. Reviewed Aug. 1.

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

24. Kadavar, Rough Times

kadavar rough times

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Sept. 6.

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

23. Shroud Eater, Strike the Sun

shroud eater strike the sun

Released by STB Records. Reviewed June 28.

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

22. Enslaved, E

enslaved e

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Oct. 4.

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

21. Arc of Ascent, Realms of the Metaphysical

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

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

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

20. Causa Sui, Vibraciones Doradas

causa sui vibraciones doradas

Released by El Paraiso Records. Reviewed Oct. 20.

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

19. Telekinetic Yeti, Abominable

telekinetic yeti abominable

Released by Sump Pump Records. Reviewed April 10.

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

18. Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kozmic Dust

cloud catcher trails of kozmic dust

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

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

17. Ruby the Hatchet, Planetary Space Child

ruby the hatchet planetary space child

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Aug. 29.

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

16. Alunah, Solennial

alunah solennial

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 1.

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

15. Mindkult, Lucifer’s Dream

mindkult-lucifers-dream

Released by Transcending Obscurity Records and Caligari Records.

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

14. Argus, From Fields of Fire

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

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

13. Uffe Lorenzen, Galmandsværk

Uffe-Lorenzen-Galmandsvaerk

Released by Bad Afro Records. Reviewed Nov. 6.

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

12. The Flying Eyes, Burning of the Season

the flying eyes burning of the season

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Oct. 11.

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

11. Bell Witch, Mirror Reaper

bell witch mirror reaper

Released by Profound Lore. Reviewed Dec. 27.

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

10. Monolord, Rust

monolord rust

Released by RidingEasy Records. Reviewed Oct. 26.

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

9. Vokonis, The Sunken Djinn

vokonis-the-sunken-djinn

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed June 5.

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

8. Electric Moon, Stardust Rituals

electric moon stardust rituals

Released by Sulatron Records. Reviewed April 7.

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

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

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

Self-released. Reviewed May 1.

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

6. The Atomic Bitchwax, Force Field

the-atomic-bitchwax-force-field

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Dec. 7.

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

5. Atavismo, Inerte

atavismo inerte

Released by Temple of Torturous. Reviewed Feb. 21.

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

4. Samsara Blues Experiment, One with the Universe

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

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

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

3. Elder, Reflections of a Floating World

Elder-Reflections-of-a-Floating-World

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

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

2. Colour Haze, In Her Garden

colour haze in her garden

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed March 9.

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

1. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War

all them witches sleeping through the war

Released by New West Records. Reviewed Jan. 27.

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

The Next 20

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

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

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

What’s that? More records? Okay…

Honorable Mentions

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

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

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

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

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

Thank You

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

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

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

And one more time, thank you for reading.

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