Posted in Features on January 1st, 2017 by JJ Koczan
The poll is closed, the results are counted and the top 20 albums of 2016 have been chosen. Hard to argue with the list as it’s shown up over the course of the past month, so I won’t try. Instead, let me just say thanks to incredible amount of participants who contributed this year.
All told, between Dec. 1 and Dec. 31, 612 people added their picks to the proceedings, compared to 388 in last year’s poll. Considering how much that number blew my mind on Jan. 1, 2016, I’m sure you can imagine how I feel about adding another 200-plus lists to the pot. In short, I’m astounded, deeply humbled and so, so, so grateful. I feel like we got enough of a sampling this year to give a genuinely representative showing for where people’s heads have been at, so thank you if you were a part of it.
Thank you as well as always to Slevin for running the poll’s back end and tabulating the results. As ever, the weighting system is one in which a 1-4 ranking is worth five points, 5-8 worth four, 9-12 worth three, 13-16 worth two and 17-20 worth one. You’ll find that list (plus some honorable mentions) below, followed by the raw-vote tally.
And after the jump, as has become the tradition, are the full lists of everyone who submitted, alphabetized by name. I’m in there too. It’s a huge amount to wade through, and even if you thought you heard everything in 2016, it should be more than enough to keep you busy for the next year.
One last note: I’m no statistician. Please allow for these numbers to change over the next couple days on some small level.
Top 20 of 2016 — Weighted Results
1. Wo Fat, Midnight Cometh (375 points)
2. Greenleaf, Rise Above the Meadow (368)
3. Elephant Tree, Elephant Tree (324)
4. Asteroid, III (302)
5. Brant Bjork, Tao of the Devil (295)
6. Gozu, Revival (274)
7. Neurosis, Fires Within Fires (253)
8. King Buffalo, Orion (244)
9. Mars Red Sky, Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul) (238)
10. Conan, Revengeance (232)
11. Cough, Still They Pray (228)
12. Holy Grove, Holy Grove (218)
13. SubRosa, For this We Fought the Battle of Ages (213)
14. Truckfighters, V (206)
15. Blood Ceremony, Lord of Misrule (200)
16. Khemmis, Hunted (192)
16. Red Fang, Only Ghosts (192)
17. Inter Arma, Paradise Gallows (181)
18. Witchcraft, Nucleus (174)
19. Opeth, Sorceress (173)
20. Church of Misery, And then there Were None (159)
Honorable mention to:
Causa Sui, Return to Sky (157)
Goatess, II: Purgatory Under New Management (157)
Black Mountain, IV (148)
Mos Generator, Abyssinia (144)
Wretch, Wretch (140)
Look at those tallies for number one and two. That race was close all month. Wo Fat kept out front for the most part, but Greenleaf kept it interesting and Elephant Tree’s debut snuck in there at third, which I love to see, both because it’s their first album and because that record was indeed so great. King Buffalo, another debut, also made the top 10, underscoring those two as bands to watch, and though Brant Bjork, Conan, Asteroid, Neurosis, Gozu and Mars Red Sky might be more expected names, they still certainly delivered excellent records, so again, nothing to fight with here. Things flesh out a bit in the 10-20 range, but I don’t think there’s one album on this list you could call is “miss.”
Top 20 of 2016 — Raw Votes
1. Wo Fat, Midnight Cometh (109)
2. Greenleaf, Rise Above the Meadow (92)
3. Brant Bjork, Tao of the Devil (87)
4. Elephant Tree, Elephant Tree (82)
5. Asteroid, III (80)
6. Gozu, Revival (76)
7. Conan, Revengeance (73)
8. Cough, Still They Pray (70)
9. Mars Red Sky, Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul) (68)
10. King Buffalo, Orion (67)
11. Truckfighters, V (62)
12. Red Fang, Only Ghosts (61)
13. Khemmis, Hunted (60)
14. Blood Ceremony, Lord of Misrule (59)
14. SubRosa, For this We Fought the Battle of Ages (59)
15. Holy Grove, Holy Grove (58)
16. Church of Misery, And then there Were None (53)
17. Inter Arma, Paradise Gallows (49)
17. Witchcraft, Nucleus (49)
18. Opeth, Sorceress (47)
19. Mos Generator, Abyssinia (45)
20. Black Mountain, IV (44)
20. Causa Sui, Return to Sky (44)
20. Wretch, Wretch (44)
Honorable mention to:
Goatess, II: Purgatory Under New Management (43)
Mondo Drag, The Occultation of Light (43)
Geezer, Geezer (41)
Crowbar, The Serpent Only Lies (41)
Gojira, Magma (37)
Slomatics, Future Echo Returns (36)
Graves at Sea, The Curse that Is… (35)
Black Rainbows, Stellar Prophecy (33)
Beastmaker, Lusus Naturae (32)
Vokonis, Olde One Ascending (31)
Left a few more honorable mentions in the raw-vote count, just for fun and so you could get more of a feel beyond the top 20 itself, which you’ll notice has a couple ties in it as the raw votes usually do and reorganizes a bit from the weighted results. One and two remain the same, however, and in the same order, and you’ll see Wo Fat was the only album that scored more than 100 votes on its own. As a whole, there were over 2,400 separate entries for albums this year, which is by far the most spread out that the voting has ever been. Frankly, with so many people involved and such a variety of stuff being voted on, I’m amazed anyone managed to agree on anything at all, but of course they did and once again a stellar list is the result.
Well, Happy New Year.
Before I go, thanks again to Slevin for the work put into running the back end of this site and this poll particularly. I show up with the finish lists, but it’s his code that makes it happen, and his efforts are appreciated more than I can say. Dude has never asked me for anything in the nearly eight years I’ve been a constant pain in his ass.
After the jump, you’ll find everybody’s list, alphabetized by name. Please enjoy browsing. I hope you find something awesome, because there’s certainly plenty in there that qualifies, and if you see something that looks like it appears often enough that it should be included in one or both of the counts above, let me know in the comments.
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 21st, 2016 by JJ Koczan
Well, I mean, yeah. Clearly. Labelmates, both from Richmond, both with three records out, sharing a bassist, etc. — it seems only reasonable that if either Windhand or Cough were going to undertake the rather significant voyage from the US East Coast to tour Australia and New Zealand that the other would go along as well. Though they’re certainly distinguishable in sound, they could hardly have more circumstantially in common if they were the same band. Logic wins the day. Spock would be pleased.
Windhand go supporting 2015’s Grief’s Infernal Flower (review here), while Cough head abroad to herald 2016’s Still They Pray (review here). It’s hardly the first international trip for either band — both of whom were also recently confirmed to play Psycho Las Vegas 2017 — but should be a good time nonetheless. Who doesn’t like to travel with friends?
Shows are presented by Life is Noise, who sent the following down the PR wire:
LIFE IS NOISE PRESENTS: WINDHAND (USA) & COUGH (USA) AUSTRALIAN / NEW ZEALAND TOUR MARCH/APRIL 2017
LIFE IS NOISE is excited to announce that two powerhouses of American doom metal—Windhand and their spiritual kin Cough—will be heading to our shores in 2017.
These label-mates from Virginia will be melting minds at select venues throughout Australia and New Zealand as part of a massive doom double-header in March and April next year.
The rise of Windhand has been meteoric. Since first surfacing in 2009, this Virginia five-piece quickly outgrew their local underground ties to tour the globe with acts like Sleep, High On Fire, Dead Meadow and Kvelertak. And their third full length, Grief’s Infernal Flower, cemented the band as one of the doom masters of our time.
Grief’s Infernal Flower is the epitome of fuzzed-out bliss. Simultaneously massive, heavy and deeply personal, the haunting and hypnotic vocals of Dorthia Cottrell serve to guide the listener through the dual riff attack of guitarists Garrett Morris and Asechiah Bogdan.
Windhand live are a lesson in rhythmic mastery. Propelling through the slowest of songs, with the subtle expertise of bassist Parker Chandler and drummer Ryan Wolfe as their backbone, no one will be able to defy the pure need to headbang in their presence.
Cough rose from the fertile metal swamps of Richmond, Virginia to produce some of the most intense, tortured and misanthropic doom out. Drawing from savage elements of extreme music, the past decade has seen the band inspired by everything from early black metal and sludge tones to psychedelia, doom’s early genre forefathers, blues and more—all in their search for beauty in the darkest of places.
Now they have returned after a five-year hiatus with the monolithic beast that is Still They Pray.
Produced by Electric Wizard’s Jus Oborn, Still They Pray is a recording that takes the listener to the depths of despair and longing. With comparisons to seminal acts like Candlemass, Cathedral, Sleep and Saint Vitus, their third full length is 70-minutes of crushing defeat and euphoric redemption.
Catch Windhand and Cough at any of the following dates:
Wellington – San Fran – March 31 Auckland – Kings Arms – April 1 Brisbane – Crowbar – April 2 Sydney – Newtown – April 5 Adelaide – Fowlers Live – April 6 Melbourne – Corner Hotel – April 7 Perth – Badlands – April 8
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 17th, 2016 by JJ Koczan
Take a deep breath before you dive into the new lineup announcement from Psycho Las Vegas 2017. With 35-plus bands added, it officially qualifies as huge, and considering who those bands are — Slo Burn for a US-exclusive, plus bringing over the likes of Elephant Tree to play alongside Summoner, Hollow Leg, Gatecreeper and others — it can be a lot to take in. If you haven’t had a meal yet today, you might want to eat something. Make sure you’re hydrated. Basically I want to avoid anyone fainting as a result of reading the list of bands. If you’re sensitive to flashing lights… you’re probably okay. But otherwise, check to see you have something soft to land on nearby, should you need it.
I missed Psycho this year owing to a new job and a general lack of funds. I’m not sure I can do the same in 2017. This one might just be a gotta-go kind of scenario. Fuckin’ Slomatics are gonna be there.
There are still more than 40 bands to announce, including headliners, whose names will be out at random points over the next 30 days.
To the PR wire:
Psycho Las Vegas 2017
August 18, 2017 – August 20, 2017 Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Las Vegas
Psycho Las Vegas today announces over 35 new additions to its massive 2017 lineup. The festival has quickly become the premier event in the US for underground heavy rock, psych, doom, alternative and beyond, and as the roster grows for this year’s edition, they’re clearly looking to push their boundaries even further.
Headliners remain TBA, but joining previously-announced generation-defining acts like Neurosis, Swans and French prog lords Magma, come UK grind legends Carcass, whose reunion continues to bring gruesome tales of dissections and unparalleled.
They’ll be in good company with Norwegian black metal legend Abbath, formerly of Immortal, who released a raging self-titled debut album under his own name this year, New York’s Myrkur, whose own debut, M, disrupted black metal genre convention on nearly every level, and USBM innovators Wolves in the Throne Room, who continue to refine a style they helped establish more than a decade ago.
Look for the Melvins to boggle brains with their brand of heavy rock – still unique unto itself after more than three decades – as well as for the new project Crystal Fairy with Buzzo and Dale from the Melvins, Omar Rodriguez-Lopez (Mars Volta) and Teri Gender Bender (Le Butcherettes) to bring to life their debut album, which releases in February on Ipecac Recordings.
This latest announcement also brings sludge-laden chaos from the pair of Weedeater and Buzzov*en, and Chelsea Wolfe to emit a darkness that even Las Vegas in the summer won’t be able to hold at bay.
The reunited Slo Burn (vocalist John Garcia’s first project post-Kyuss) will play an exclusive US show at Psycho, and a special highlight performance from psych-jazz legend Mulatu Astatke is open eyes, ears and minds alike as he celebrates a career spanning more than 50 years.
Also added have been long-running mischief-makers Murder City Devils, alt-rock legends Echo and the Bunnymen, progressive thrashers Vhöl (members of YOB and Agalloch), Pelican, Cult of Luna, Psychic TV, and as it did with the landmark 2016 edition, the fest digs deep into the heavy rock underground once again to unearth the best of up-and-coming bands from the States and beyond. Along with the already confirmed riff-crushers Windhand, Blood Ceremony, Slomatics and Domkraft, Elephant Tree (UK) have signed on alongside fellow fest-newcomers Khemmis, Sumac, Gatecreeper, Snail, North, Cult Leader, Hollow Leg, Summoner, Floorian, Wizard Rifle, Merlin and Morne.
Further lineup announcements will follow in the New Year — including headliners — so stay tuned for more from the best and biggest heavy festival the US has ever seen.
Psycho Las Vegas 2017 Confirmed lineup: MURDER CITY DEVILS NEUROSIS MULATU ASTATKE SWANS CARCASS WOLVES IN THE THRONEROOM CRYSTAL FAIRY MAGMA CHELSEA WOLFE SLO BURN CULT OF LUNA ABBATH SUMAC MYRKUR PELICAN WEEDEATER ZEAL & ARDOR SLOMATICS OATHBREAKER VHOL COUGH BLOOD CEREMONY INTER ARMA THE SKULL WINDHAND BUZZOVEN MINSK CODE ORANGE KHEMMIS GATECREEPER NORTH CULT LEADER SNAIL WIZARD RIFLE MERLIN FLOORIAN DOMKRAFT ELEPHANT TREE MORNE HOLLOW LEG SUMMONER
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 28th, 2016 by JJ Koczan
The final addition to the lineup for Up in Smoke 2016, which starts this Friday at Z7 in Pratteln, Switzerland? Camping space. Namely the floor of the venue, which will be cleaned after the last band finishes each night so that fest goers can grab their sleeping bags and bed down for the night, only to find breakfast waiting when they roll back to consciousness the next morning. I’ve never slept on a venue floor before. That would be a new one. But provided they get the beer/other fluids up, which I’ve no doubt they’ll be able to do because it’s Switzerland and things like that increase the likelihood that anyone gives a shit about what they’re doing, it seems like a cool way to achieve total immersion in a festival atmosphere. I’ve never gone camping either, though, so don’t necessarily take my word as an expert or anything.
With the festival’s most massive lineup yet, Up in Smoke 2016 kicks off this Friday. A new trailer for the fest with some 1000mods in it has been posted and you can find that under the camping info and complete billing below:
SOUND OF LIBERATION and Z7 KONZERTFABRIK PRATTELN proudly present the 4th edition of UP IN SMOKE INDOOR FESTIVAL on September 30th and October 1st 2016! Musical Highlights include Electric Wizard, Yob, Truckfighters, Pentagram and many many more.
Many of you asked for the chance to sleep over in the venue, like we offered in the last editions. Here´s the procedure:
After the last band is done playing, we will go on partying with Dj music for another hour. Then afterwards, we will ask everybody to step out of the main hall for a few minutes. The floor will be cleaned and covered with a sheet so that the place gets clean for all our “in site – campers”. If you want to sleep over in the venue, you should bring your sleeping bag and camping mat. Upon your arrival on the festival site you can store your belongings in the wardrobe and get it back for the night.
In the morning, we will offer you a nice breakfast with coffee/tea, bread and breadrolls, meat and cheese and sweet stuff to get you in shape for the next festival day! The price for sleep over and breakfast is 15.- CHF per person/night. There´s no option of separate bookings like ” only sleep over and no breakfast” or “only breakfast”.
Up in Smoke 2016 Final Line Up Electric Wizard Pentagram Truckfighters YOB Elder Greenleaf Monkey 3 Cough Black Cobra 1000mods Yawning Man Fatso Jetson Dyse Wucan Desert Mountain Tribe Giobia High Fighter Mother’s Cake Ephedra
Also not to forget: No overlapping set times, sleep over/breakfast possibiity in the venue + some more specials to be announced soon to sweeten you the “TWO NOT TO BE MISSED DAYS OF VOLUME WORSHIP” !!! Grab your ticket (2-day passes) right now on our website, on www.z-7.ch and on our Facebook (tab ‘Buy Tickets’). If you prefer to buy an original, real hard-ticket, our partner Woolheads is selling them!
Posted in Whathaveyou on September 12th, 2016 by JJ Koczan
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 1000mods Pentagram Torche Colour Haze Truckfighters My Sleeping Karma Karma to Burn Elder Cough Black Rainbows House of Broken Promises Steak Beggars Sadhus 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!
I like a tour with an element of contrast, and to pair Virginia’s Cough with Massachusetts trio Elder strikes me as particularly brilliant. It’s a classic light and dark. Cough head overseas behind their new album, Still They Pray (review here), a massive slab of full-on bum-you-the-fuck-out doom that rolls its grooves like boulders. Elder? Still supporting 2015’s album of the year Lore (review here), they lead the charge with fleet-footed progressive heavy rock that even as it maintains its tonal crunch only seems to be becoming brighter in its tone.
So yeah, like I say: Some contrast. Awesome.
From the PR wire:
COUGH Announce EU Tour Dates With Elder
Fresh off the release of their highly-acclaimed new record Still They Pray, Richmond stoner/doom veterans COUGH have announced a European tour with contemporaries Elder set to begin this coming October. The band will be performing throughout Western Europe and the UK, including appearances at Up In Smoke Festival in Switzerland and Desertfest in Belgium. The band will also be performing select US dates before their departure – see a full list of dates below.
COUGH Live: Aug 12 Philadelphia, PA Kung Fu Necktie Aug 13 Brooklyn, NY Union Pool
***European Tour*** Oct 01 Pratteln, CH Up In Smoke Festival @ Z7 Oct 02 Nürnberg, DE Kunstverein / Z – Bau Oct 03 Budapest, HU Dürer Kert Oct 04 Berlin, DE SO 36 Oct 06 Nantes, FR TBD Oct 07 Lyon, FR TBD Oct 10 London, UK Underworld Oct 11 Edinburgh, UK Bannermans Oct 12 Manchester, UK Rebellion Oct 13 Coventry, UK The Phönix Oct 14 Bristol, UK Exchange Oct 15 Antwerp, BE Desertfest Belgium @ Trix
Nov 12 Long Beach, CA Di Piazza’s – Midnite Communion Festival Nov 18 Indianapolis, IN 5th Quarter – Doomed and Stoned Festival
COUGH’s new album Still They Pray is out now via Relapse Records on CD/2xLP/Digital. Physical orders and bundle deals are available via Relapse.com here, and digital copies can be ordered through COUGH’s Bandcamp page at this location.
Day Two of The Obelisk’s Summer 2016 Quarterly Review — that’s an awful lot of capital letters. I’m not sure if it’s quite such a formal occasion, but perhaps that’s just an effect of staring at some of the names in this particular batch, who from classic heavy rock to post-black metal to stoner riffs, drone, doom and beyond offer a pretty vast range and more than a small measure of profile throughout. It’s a substantial swath, is what I’m saying. If you can’t find something here to dig on, well, I’d say look again, but of course there’ll also be another 10 reviews tomorrow, Thursday and Friday, and there were 10 yesterday as well, so I’m sure something will turn up if it hasn’t yet. Here we go.
Quarterly Review #11-20:
Spiritual Beggars, Sunrise to Sundown
More than 20 years on from their self-titled debut, Sweden’s Spiritual Beggars release their ninth LP, Sunrise to Sundown (on Inside Out Music). They seem to have set themselves to the sole task of making the records that one wishes Deep Purple were making, full of righteous organ-laced classic heavy thrust, driven by top tier songwriting and performance on every level. Founding guitarist Michael Amott (also Carcass) has assembled a lineup of masters, and since 2010’s Return to Zero (review here), frontman Apollo Papathanasio (also Firewind) has provided the soaring voice to add to the keyboard majesty of Per Wiberg (ex-Opeth, Candlemass) on songs like “I Turn to Stone.” The album’s 11 cuts are catchy, universally structured, and varied in their feel enough to carry the listener through fluidly, bassist Sharlee D’Angelo (Mercyful Fate) and drummer Ludwig Witt (ex-Firebird) locking in weighted grooves and underscoring the flow of what comes across like an increasingly collaborative songwriting process. Sunrise to Sundown is the sound of a band knowing what they want to do and how they want to do it and then doing precisely that.
How many records does Ode to a Black Hole make it for Danish improve spacelords Øresund Space Collective? I honestly don’t know. Their Bandcamp lists 52 releases. Granted, not all of them are full-length studio LPs, but they jam whether they’re live or in the studio, so after a point it’s kind of moot. However many in the ultimate tally, Ode to a Black Hole is somewhat unique among them, exploring the darker side of the cosmic reaches in a bleaker, droning psychedelia spread across two instrumental tracks put to tape at the same time as 2015’s triple-LP Different Creatures (review here). Of course, it’s Øresund Space Collective, so there is still plenty of synth and effects swirl to be had, but it’s a slower galaxial movement as “Ode to a Black Hole Part 1” feeds directly into “Ode to a Black Hole Part 2.” Whatever their method of getting there, Øresund Space Collective prove once again how apparently boundless their scope has become with nuance of guitar and key flourish beneath the surface of the mix to let the listener know there’s life out in the expanse.
Phoenix, Arizona’s Goya continue their forward march with The Enemy EP (on STB Records). Still fair to say Electric Wizard are a primary influence, but as shown on their last full-length, 2015’s charmingly-titled Obelisk (review here), the trio are increasingly able to put more of themselves into their sound. In “The Enemy,” “Last” and “Light Years,” that shows in tighter songwriting, some vocal harmonies on “Light Years,” and a harder overall tonal impact than the tenets of post-Witchcult Today doomery might lead one to expect, reminding in parts of the raw in-room feel that Egypt have come to proffer, burly but more about groove than attitude. The EP closes with a nine-minute take on “The Enemy” itself, adding more harmonies, some screams at the end, and a lengthy midsection jam to flesh out its extra four minutes. Goya have been and still are a bright spot (existentially, if not in mood) in up-and-coming US doom, and The Enemy might be a stopgap coming off of Obelisk, but it reminds listeners of their growth very much still in progress.
In a universe full of pretenders to the throne of Eyehategod, German six-piece Black Shape of Nexus prove there’s room for genuine creativity in sludge. Their fourth offering, Carrier (on Exile on Mainstream), finds them past the 10-year mark and lumbering their way through five varied originals, from the cavernous opener “I Can’t Play It” through the droning “Lift Yourself” and the utter spacecrush that ensues in “Facepunch Transport Layer” before the villainous laughter at the end of “Sachsenheim” leads to a 12-minute take on Hellhammer’s “Triumph of Death,” which closes. It feels like no coincidence that of the Black Shape of Nexus-penned inclusions “Sand Mountain” is the centerpiece; the tortured screaming, claustrophobic riff and blend of rawness and lush depth speak to the originality at the core of their approach. There’s a firm sense of fuckall here, and my understanding is making Carrier was something of a trial, but the results are perhaps only more vicious for that, and thus stronger.
Six years and the ascent of an entire movement of similarly-minded acts later, Cough ooze back to activity with Still They Pray (on Relapse), their dirt-caked third full-length. That movement, by the way, includes fellow Richmonders Windhand, with whom Cough now share bassist Parker Chandler and whose Garrett Morris recorded here along with Jus Oborn of Electric Wizard, who remain a major influence in Cough’s grueling, nodding filth, brought to bear over eight tracks and a purposefully unmanageable 67-minute runtime. Stylistically it’s not so far from where Cough were on 2010’s Ritual Abuse (review here), the bleak anarchistic lurch and tonal immersion still very much at the fore of “Possession,” “Dead Among the Roses” and the organ-inclusive “The Wounding Hours,” but though they can play slow enough to make “Masters of Torture” seem positively thrashy by comparison, they never lose their sense of atmosphere, as the acoustic-led closing title-track makes plain in fashion no less heavy than the punishment meted out before it.
It feels factually inaccurate to call something so wilfully charred “vibrant,” but Oranssi Pazuzu’s fourth long-player, Värähtelijä (on Svart and 20 Buck Spin), not only finds light in its overarching darkness, but makes it a pivotal aspect of the album’s 69-minute course. Open structures, an enviable depth of mix between far-off guitar, keys, organ, various layers of screams, etc., songs like 12-minute opener “Saturaatio” and the later 17-minute chaoswirl of “Vasemann Käden Hierarkia” offer stylistic breadth as much prog as they are psychedelia or black metal, perhaps the next phase of the latter’s cosmic wing come to fruition. Relatively speaking, the more straightforward “Havuluu” offers listeners a moment to catch their breadth, but the organ-led experimentalism of 10-minute closer “Valveavaruus” gurgles in an exploration of ambient downward plunge. One of the most adventurous black metal releases of 2016, if you can still even tag a genre to it, which I’m not sure you can. A band doing pivotal and forward-thinking work.
Though they just got off a lengthy US run, the fact that Karma to Burn’s webstore offers their new Mountain Czar EP in euro instead of dollars could easily be taken as a sign of where the band’s general priorities lie. I don’t know if founding guitarist Will Mecum is actually living abroad or remains in West Virginia, but their label, Rodeostar Records, is European, they maintain a close relationship with German artist Alexander Von Wieding, and their tour schedule keeps a definite continental focus. So be it. Mountain Czar brings five new cuts, three by-the-numbers Karma to Burn instrumentals, the highlight of which is patient, jangly-guitar closer “63,” and “Uccidendo un Sogno,” an Italian-language cover of Tom Petty’s “Runnin’ down a Dream” sung by guest vocalist Stefanie Savy and featuring Manuel Bissig of Switzerland’s Sons of Morpheus on guitar. Karma to Burn very much remain Karma to Burn throughout, Mecum joined by drummer Evan Devine and bassist Eric Clutter, but they’re changing what that means in interesting ways.
Comprised solely of guitarist/vocalist Sleaze and drummer Izz, German Southern metallers Black Mood begin their seven-song sophomore outing, Squalid Garden (on Daredevil Records) with a sample of Cornelius from Planet of the Apes quoting the Lawgiver to “shun the beast man,” and so on. By the time they get around to the chugging and warbling “Ohh, save my soul” in second cut “IWNAR,” the Down/Crowbar vibe has been laid on so thick that it’s unmistakable. It’s been seven years since Black Mood made their self-titled debut in 2009 – they had an EP, Toxic Hippies, out in 2012 – but their chestbeating, dudely vibes are easily sourced, even in faster, more Pantera-style moments in “Reflected,” “100 Squalid Garden” or closer “Side,” making the album ultimately a matter of taste for anyone who’d take it on. For me, some aspects ring derivative, others show flashes of individualism, but it’s a very specific vision of Southern metal at work here, and it’s not going to be for everyone.
Newcomers Nebula Drag join the ranks of a crowded heavy psych scene in their native San Diego via their self-titled, self-released debut, but the trio distinguish themselves immediately with a solidified underpinning of punkish intent, so that the airy vocals of “Sano” float over an insistent, noisy crunch. That blend is toyed with in one direction or another throughout the release, the five-minute “So Low” finding some middle-ground in grunge push, but as the subsequent “Up and Down”’s Melvins-style roll and the hardcore-style drive of “Lost Time” play out, Nebula Drag seem far less tied to any single approach. It’s a dynamic that serves them well throughout the album’s 10-track/37-minute run, and they maintain a sense of rawness in the almost thrashy breakdown of “I Can Not Explain” that speaks to a lack of pretense to go along with their potential for development. Will be curious to hear if one side or the other wins out in their sound over the long-term, but in a town where so many bands are geared on being the most laid back, it’s refreshing to hear a group with a more forceful tack.
After a series of numbered full-lengths, Glasgow consciousness-stompers Ommadon offer their self-titled sixth album through Dry Cough Records, Burning World Records and Medusa Crush Recordings. Doubtless the three labels were needed in order simply lift the 41-minute, single-song release, which is so unspeakably and ridiculously heavy as to warrant comparison to Buried at Sea’s Migration. Its retching lumber is superlative, and in giving it their name, Ommadon signal (and say outright) that it’s the work they’ve been driving toward all along. Fair enough. There is no moment of relenting from the abysmal intentions of “Ommadon” itself, and if this is to be the piece that ultimately defines the band, it’s one worthy of consideration for the outright extremity it brings to doom, sludge and drone, as well as the methodical nature in which it unfolds. Whatever its ultimate impact, Ommadon have pushed themselves forward and crafted an excruciating contribution that feels like a monolith bent to their will.
It’s a considerable update from the camp of Desertfest Belgium 2016, so I won’t delay too much before letting you have at it — if anyone reads this stuff anyway — but before you jump in, take special note that the following seven bands have been added to the festival as a “build-up” to its first headliner announcement. That means that while YOB, Pentagram, Torche, Elder, My Sleeping Karma, Castle, etc., will play Desertfest Belgium 2016, none of them are actually among the three-day festival’s headlining acts. Very curious to see what that first headliner announcement will bring, but in the meantime, anywhere that brings in YOB and Elder on the same weekend is the place to be that weekend.
The build-up towards our first headliner announcement continues with a batch of no less than SEVEN new names for the 2016 Desertfest Antwerp line-up… We’re pretty certain that the Oregon Doom Institution YOB requires no further introduction, and the formidable trio of melodic doom rockers ELDER, German Nautik Doom outsiders AHAB and sludge nihilists COUGH are sure to delight any Desertfester worth their salt. Rounding off we have Hangman’s Chair from Paris and Castle for more doom/sludge badass-ness, and the shamanic grooves of Tau throws in a fresh if deeply psychedelic vibe.
We hope you like what we have on offer here, and just remember: this is still all just the beginning of much more goodness to come!
YOB – The ethereal mists of Eugene, Oregon no doubt provide the perfect catalyst for founding member and vocalist Mike Scheidt to call up the signature of surging doom that has brought YOB to their current position as one of the most respected and revered bands in all of heavy metal. Their latest outing ‘Clearing The Path To Ascend’ (2014) was hailed as the crowning achievement for a band whose journey now nears 2 decades of creating cathartic music that demands the full attention of mind, body, and soul.
Elder – Elder melds the familiar sounds of Sleep‘s colossal riffage with an ever-evolving vision of soaring melodies and sonic soundscapes. The songs on their 3rd album ‘Lore’ cross the heavy rock and doom genre boundaries into krautrock and prog territory. Powered equally by riffs and atmosphere, Elder’s penchant for progressive songwriting and melody shines more brightly than ever, but they still hold true to their original methodology: all heavy, no filler.
Ahab – With their outsider brand of Nautik Doom, AHAB have effectively thrown out all preconceived notions of what doom metal is supposed to be. As much as they can crush the listener into submission with epic arrangements, they can just easily revert to clean breaks and contemplative whispers. Drawing inspiration from books and painting as well as music, AHAB create something that gets into your mind through all levels of reception.
Cough – Cough brings together the most savage aspects of extreme music, from crushing doom metal and grimy sludge to early black metal. We’re anxiously awaiting the June release of ‘Still They Pray’, which must be one of the most anticipated metal albums of 2016 in a production by Electric Wizard’s Jus Oborn. Rest assured that it will fulfill their long-term ambition to remain the heaviest sludge band in existence.
Hangman’s Chair – Somewhere between the dirge of grunge and the grind of doom, you will find the Paris combo Hangman’s Chair. Their world is a place of darkness and cold, but you’ll inevitably be pulled in by its eerie atmosphere. Across 4 full length albums and 3 split albums they’ve toured from Hellfest to Iceland, Russia, Benelux, Germany and Switzerland with the likes of Eyehategod, High On Fire, Crowbar, and The Devil’s Blood.
Tau – The collective project by Shaun Mulrooney (Dead Skeletons) and the Venezuelan multi instrumentalist Gerald Pasqualin was inspired by Shaun’s shamanic experiences in the magical desert of Real De Catorce. This resulted in the deeply psychedelic mind-trip EP ‘Wirikuta’ (recorded with Christoph “Tiger” Bartlett from Kadavar), providing some true Desert music that will shake your senses and spirit.
Castle – Doom-tinged metal outfit Castle will release their 4th album in July 2016. Since their inception in 2009, they have steadily climbed the metal ranks with a succession of critically acclaimed releases. Their live reputation is equally solid, having played hundreds of shows worldwide alongside The Sword, Conan, Intronaut and Pentagram and festivals like Roadburn and the London and Berlin Desertfests.