Orodruin Sign to Cruz Del Sur Music; Ruins of Eternity Due in October

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 16th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

orodruin

Technically speaking, Ruins of Eternity is the follow-up to Orodruin‘s debut long-player, Epicurean Mass (discussed here). Only kicker there is that Epicurean Mass came out in 2003, so the sophomore effort is arriving some 16 years after the fact. Hey, good doom takes time. The Rochester, New York, outfit are the latest in the classic-doom vein to sign with Cruz Del Sur Music behind the recent acquisition of Ogre and others from the last few years like Apostle of Solitude and Argus, and Ruins of Eternity has been given an October release date, which given guitarist John Gallo‘s penchant for the drama of classic horror, does not make Halloween seem unreasonable. It’ll be out right around the same time as Ogre‘s new record either way, which certainly puts them in good company.

It’s been a long time coming, but Orodruin have a real chance here to make that wait pay off. Here’s hoping they take advantage.

From the PR wire:

orodruin ruins of eternity new cover

ORODRUIN to release “Ruins of Eternity” in October

Veteran Rochester, New York doomsters Orodruin have signed with Cruz Del Sur Music for the release of their second full-length album, “Ruins Of Eternity”. The album — the band’s first in 16 years — will see the light of day this October.

Originally formed in 1998 by John Gallo (guitar), Mike Puleo (bass/vocals), Nick Tydelski (guitar) and Mike Waske (drums), ORODRUIN broke onto the American metal scene with 2003’s “Epicurean Mass”, which remains their lone full-length album to date.
From the vintage school of BLACK SABBATH and SAINT VITUS doom with a European twist, ORODRUIN’s penchant for churning riffs and atmospheric passages instantly put them on the global doom metal map. The band issued a split, compilation, demo and EP in ensuing years, all building up to the eventual release of their sophomore album.

According to Gallo, ORODRUIN wrote nine new songs from 2016 to 2018, with a tenth song, “Letter Of Life’s Regret” coming from 2005. The album was tracked throughout 2018 at Wicked Squid Studio and is currently being mixed with the mastering process right around the corner.

“Stylistically, the songs are in the epic doom realm like the master titans of the 1970s, SABBATH and JUDAS PRIEST,” says Gallo. “The songs are a long-awaiting evolution in our writing and chemistry among brothers on a treacherous journey that will finally be unleashed to the masses. We hope it translates well to the hearts and souls of our fans worldwide.”

In preparation for the band’s triumphant return to European shores for this fall’s Hammer Of Doom Festival festival, ORODRUIN have enlisted drummer Kevin Latchaw of labelmates Argus, who is temporarily manning the drum spot while the band searches for a replacement for Waske, who left ORODRUIN in April of 2018.

Gallo: “We are extremely honored to be playing the same night as Uli Jon Roth and TROUBLE alongside our classic doom brothers MIRROR OF DECEPTION, SKALD and ATLANTEAN KODEX on the next day, to mention only a few! We can’t express how amazing it will be to be playing a substantial doom metal festival in Germany again. We hope people enjoy the new material as much as we do playing it.”

ORODRUIN’s addition to Cruz Del Sur adds to an ever-growing stable of excellent doom metal bands. Not only will the partnership expose ORODRUIN to new audiences, it will put them in close company with many bands who they consider contemporaries. “We have been aware of Cruz Del Sur for a while and it seemed like the perfect home for us as we have a more European audience that appreciates our style of doom metal. Plus, it will be great to be alongside our fellow doom friends in WHILE HEAVEN WEPT, SLOUGH FEG and ARGUS.”

Orodruin is:
Nick Tydelski : Guitar
Michael Puleo : Bass, Vocals, Drums
John Gallo : Other Guitar

https://www.facebook.com/orodruinofficialband
cruzdelsurmusic.com
facebook.com/cruzdelsurmusic
cruzdelsurmusic.bandcamp.com

Orodruin, Epicurean Mass (2003)

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Quarterly Review: Pelican, Swan Valley Heights, Mark Deutrom, Greenbeard, Mount Soma, Nibiru, Cable, Reino Ermitaño, Cardinals Folly & Lucifer’s Fall, Temple of the Fuzz Witch

Posted in Reviews on July 8th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

More computer bullshit this morning. I lost about 45 minutes because my graphics driver and Windows 10 apparently hate each other and before I could disable the former, the machine decided the best it could do for me was to load a blank screen. Hard to find the Pelican record on my desktop when I can’t see my desktop. The Patient Mrs. woke up while I was trying to fix it and suggested HDMIing it to the tv. When I did that, it didn’t project as was hoped, but the display came on — because go figure — and I was able to shut off the driver, the only real advantage of which is it lets me use the night light feature so it’s easier on my eyes. That’s nice, but I’d rather have the laptop function. Not really working on a level of “give me soft red light or give me death!” at this point. I may yet get there in my life.

Today’s the last day of this beast, wrapping up the last of the 60 reviews, and I’m already in the hole for the better part of an hour thanks to this technical issue, the second of the week. Been an adventure, this one. Let’s close it out.

Quarterly Review #51-60:

Pelican, Nighttime Stories

pelican nighttime stories

Split into two LPs each with its own three-minute mood-setter — those being “WST” and “It Stared at Me,” respectively — Pelican‘s Nighttime Stories (on Southern Lord) carries the foreboding sensibility of its title into an aggressive push throughout the album, which deals from the outset with the pain of loss. The lead single “Midnight and Mescaline” represents this well in directly following “WST,” with shades of more extreme sounds in the sharp-turning guitar interplay and tense drums, but it carries through the blastbeats of “Abyssal Plain” and the bombastic crashes of presumed side B closer “Cold Hope” as well, which flow via a last tonal wash toward the melancholy “It Stared at Me” and the even-more-aggro title-track, the consuming “Arteries of Blacktop” and the eight-minute “Full Moon, Black Water,” which offers a build of maddening chug — a Pelican hallmark — before resolving in melodic serenity, moving, perhaps, forward with and through its grief. It’s been six years since Pelican‘s last LP, Forever Becoming (review here), and they’ve responded to that time differential with the hardest-hitting record they’ve ever done.

Pelican on Thee Facebooks

Southern Lord Recordings website

 

Swan Valley Heights, The Heavy Seed

swan valley heights the heavy seed

Though the peaceful beginning of 13-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “The Heavy Seed,” for which the five-song album is named, reminds of Swan Valley Heights‘ Munich compatriots in Colour Haze, the ultimate impression the band make on their Fuzzorama Records debut and second album overall behind a 2016 self-titled (review here) is more varied in its execution, with cuts like “Vaporizer Woman” and the centerpiece “Take a Swim in God’s Washing Machine” manifesting ebbs and flows and rolling out a fuzzy largesse to lead into dream-toned ethereality and layered vocals that immediately call to mind Elephant Tree. There’s a propensity for jamming, but they’re not a jam band, and seem always to have a direction in mind. That’s true even on the three-minute instrumental “My First Knife Fight,” which unfurls around a nod riff and simple drum progression to bridge into closer “Teeth and Waves,” a bookend to The Heavy Seed‘s title-track that revives that initial grace and uses it as a stepping stone for the crunch to come. It’s a balance that works and should be well received.

Swan Valley Heights on Thee Facebooks

Fuzzorama Records on Bandcamp

 

Mark Deutrom, The Blue Bird

Mark Deutrom The Blue Bird

Released in the wee hours of 2019, Mark Deutrom‘s The Blue Bird marks the first new solo release from the prolific Austin-based songwriter/producer/multi-instrumentalist through Season of Mist, and it’s a 50-minute run of genre-spanning outsider art, bringing ’70s folk vibes to the weepy guitar echoes of “Radiant Gravity” right before “O Ye of Little Faith” dooms out for six of its seven minutes and “Our Revels Now Are Ended” basks in 77 seconds of experimentalist winding guitar. It goes like that. Vocals are intermittent enough to not necessarily be expected, but not entirely absent through the midsection of “Hell is a City,” “Somnambulist” and “Maximum Hemingway,” and if there’s traditionalism at play anywhere, it might be in “They Have Won” and “The Happiness Machine,” which, toward the back end of the album, bring a sax-laden melancholy vibe and a straightforward heavy rock feel, respectively, ahead of the closer “Nothing out There,” which ties them together, somehow accounting for the 1:34 “On Fathers Day” as well in its sweetness. Don’t go into The Blue Bird asking it to make sense on any level other than its own and you should be fine. It’s not a minor undertaking at 50 minutes, and not without its indulgences, but even the briefest of pieces helps develop the character of the whole, which of course is essential to any good story.

Mark Deutrom website

Season of Mist website

 

Greenbeard, Onward, Pillager

greenbeard onward pillager

Austin bringers of hard-boogie Greenbeard reportedly issued the three-song Onward, Pillager as a precursor to their next full-length — even the name hints toward it being something of a stopgap — but its tracks stand well on their own, whether it’s the keyboard-laced “Contact High II,” which is presumably a sequel to another track on the forthcoming record, or the chunkier roll of “WCCQ” and the catchy finisher “Kill to Love Yourself,” with its overlaid guitar solo adding to a dramatic ending. It hasn’t been that long since 2017’s Lödarödböl (review here), but clearly these guys are committed to moving forward in neo-stoner rock fashion, and their emergence as songwriters is highlighted particularly throughout “WCCQ” and “Kill to Love Yourself,” while “Contact High II” is more of an intro or a would-be interlude on the full-length. It may only be pieces of a larger, to-be-revealed picture, but Onward, Pillager shows three different sides of what Greenbeard have on offer, and the promise of more to come is one that will hopefully be kept sooner rather than later.

Greenbeard on Thee Facebooks

Sailor Records on Bandcamp

 

Mount Soma, Nirodha

mount_soma_nirodha

Each of the three songs on Mount Soma‘s densely-weighted, live-recorded self-released Nirodha EP makes some mention of suffering in its lyrics, and indeed, that seems to be the theme drawing together “Dark Sun Destroyer” (7:40), “Emerge the Wolf” (5:50) and “Resurfacing” (9:14): a quest for transcendence perhaps in part due to the volume of the music and the act itself of creating it. Whatever gets them there, the trajectory of Nirodha is such that by the time they hit into the YOB-style galloping toward the end of “Resurfacing,” the gruff shouts of “rebirth!” feel more celebratory than ambitious. Based in Dublin, the four-piece bring a fair sense of space to their otherwise crush-minded approach, and though the EP is rough — it is their second short release following 2016’s Origins — they seem to have found a way to tie together outer and inner cosmos with an earthbound sense of gravity and heft, and with the more intense shove of “Emerge the Wolf” between the two longer tracks, they prove themselves capable of bringing a noisy charge amid all that roar and crash. They did the first EP live as well. I wonder if they’d do the same for a full-length.

Mount Soma on Thee Facebooks

Mount Soma on Bandcamp

 

Nibiru, Salbrox

nibiru salbrox

One might get lost in the unmanageable 64-minute wash of Nibiru‘s fifth full-length (first for Ritual Productions), Salbrox, but the opaque nature of the proceedings is part of the point. The Italian ritualists bring forth a chaotic depth of noise and harsh semi-spoken rasps of vocals reportedly in the Enochian language, and from 14-minute opener “EHNB” — also the longest track (immediate points) — through the morass that follows in “Exarp,” “Hcoma,” “Nanta” and so on, the album is a willful slog that challenges the listener on nearly every level. This is par for the course for Nibiru, whose last outing was 2017’s Qaal Babalon (review here), and they seem to revel in the slow-churning gruel of their distortion, turning from it only to break to minimalism in the second half of the album with “Abalpt” and “Bitom” before 13-minute closer “Rziorn” storms in like a tsunami of spiritually desolate plunge. It is vicious and difficult to hear, and again, that is exactly what it’s intended to be.

Nibiru on Thee Facebooks

Ritual Productions website

 

Cable, Take the Stairs to Hell

Cable Take the Stairs to Hell

The gift of Cable was to take typically raw Northeastern disaffection and channel it into a noise rock that wasn’t quite as post-this-or-that as Isis, but still had a cerebral edge that more primitive fare lacked. They were methodical, and 10 years after their last record, the Hartford, Connecticut, outfit return with the nine-song/30-minute Take the Stairs to Hell (on Translation Loss), which brings them back into the modern sphere with a sound that is no less relevant than it was bouncing between This Dark Reign, Hydra Head and Translation Loss between 2001 and 2004. They were underrated then and may continue to be now, but the combination of melody and bite in “Black Medicine” and the gutty crunch of “Eyes Rolled Back,” the post-Southern heavy of the title-track and the lumbering pummel of “Rivers of Old” before it remind of how much of a standout Cable was in the past, reinforcing that not only were they ahead of their time then, but that they still have plenty to offer going forward. They may continue to be underrated as they always were, but their return is significant and welcome.

Cable on Instagram

Translation Loss Records webstore

 

Reino Ermitaño, Reino Ermitaño

Reino Ermitano Reino Ermitano

Originally released in 2003, the self-titled debut from Lima, Peru’s Reino Ermitaño was a beacon and landmark in Latin American doom, with a sound derived from the genre’s traditions — Sabbath, Trouble, etc. — and melded with not only Spanish-language lyrics, but elements of South American folk and stylizations. Reissued on vinyl some 16 years later, it maintains its power through the outside-time level of its craft, sliding into that unplaceable realm of doom that could be from any point from about 1985 onward, while the melodies in the guitar of Henry Guevara and the vocals of Tania Duarte hold sway over the central groove of bassist Marcos Coifman and drummer Julio “Ñaka” Almeida. Those who were turned onto the band at the time will likely know they’ve released five LPs to-date, with the latest one from 2014, but the Necio Records version marks the first time the debut has been pressed to vinyl, and so is of extra interest apart from the standard putting-it-out-there-again reissue. Collectors and a new generation of doomers alike would be well advised on an educational level, and of course the appeal of the album itself far exceeds that.

Reino Ermitaño on Thee Facebooks

Necio Records on Bandcamp

 

Cardinals Folly & Lucifer’s Fall, Split

cardinals folly lucifers fall split

Though one hails from Helsinki, Finland, and the other from Adelaide, Australia, Cardinals Folly and Lucifer’s Fall could hardly be better suited to share the six-song Cruz Del Sur split LP that they do, which checks in at 35 minutes of trad doom riffing and dirtier fare. The former is provided by Cardinals Folly, who bring a Reverend Bizarre-style stateliness to “Spiritual North” and “Walvater Proclaimed!” before betraying their extreme metal roots on “Sworn Through Odin’s and Satan’s Blood,” while the Oz contingent throw down Saint Vitus-esque punk-born fuckall through “Die Witch Die,” the crawling “Call of the Wild” and the particularly brash and speedier “The Gates of Hell.” The uniting thread of course is homage to doom itself, but each band brings enough of their own take to complement each other without either contradicting or making one or the other of them feel redundant, and rather, the split works out to be a rampaging, deeply-drunk, pagan-feeling celebration of what doom is and how it has been internalized by each of these groups. Doom over the world? Yeah, something like that.

Cardinals Folly on Thee Facebooks

Lucifer’s Fall on Thee Facebooks

Cruz Del Sur Music website

 

Temple of the Fuzz Witch, Temple of the Fuzz Witch

Temple of the Fuzz Witch Temple of the Fuzz Witch

A strong current of Electric Wizard runs through the self-titled debut full-length from Detroit’s Temple of the Fuzz Witch (on Seeing Red Records), but even to that, the outfit led by guitarist/vocalist Noah Bruner bring a nascent measure of individuality, droning into and through “Death Hails” after opening with “Bathsheba” and ahead of unveiling a harmonized vocal on “The Glowing of Satan” that suits the low end distortion surprisingly well. They continue to offer surprises throughout, whether it’s the spaciousness of centerpiece “329” and “Infidel,” which follows, or the offsetting of minimalism and crush on “The Fuzz Witch” and the creeper noise in the ending of “Servants of the Sun,” and though there are certainly familiar elements at play, Temple of the Fuzz Witch come across with an intent to take what’s been done before and make it theirs. In that regard, they would seem to be on the right track, and in their 41 minutes, they find footing in a murky aesthetic and are able to convey a sense of songwriting without sounding heavy-handed. There’s nothing else I’d ask of their first album.

Temple of the Fuzz Witch on Thee Facebooks

Seeing Red Records on Bandcamp

 

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Ogre Sign to Cruz Del Sur Music; New Album Thrice as Strong out This October

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 26th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Long-running doomers Ogre, whose cult following remains loyal, will issue their first album in five years, Thrice as Strong, through Cruz Del Sur Music this October. That’s a fair fit, the band and the label, and as Ogre‘s last album came out, 2014’s The Last Neanderthal (review here) through Minotauro Records, the new home aligns them to a host of classic metal and doom and can only go further into getting them a foothold listenership in Europe. That puts Ogre on the same label as Apostle of Solitude and Slough Feg and King Heavy, so, you know, good company and all that. I hear there are more to come in joining those ranks as well.

Ogre don’t really tour — every now and again you can them to leave New England, but don’t count on it — but they went to Russia in 2018 and they’ve made periodic voyages hither and yon. One only hopes that continues as they gear up for Thrice as Strong.

Info came down the PR wire:

ogre

Portland, Maine Doomsters OGRE Join Cruz Del Sur Music; ‘Thrice As Strong’ Studio Album Due This Fall

Long-running Portland, Maine doom trio OGRE has signed with Cruz Del Sur Music for the October release of their forthcoming fifth studio album, “Thrice As Strong”. The album was tracked with Rowan Bishop at Garage Mahal Recording in Westbrook, Maine.

Practitioners of traditional doom with a mix of ’70s rock and proto metal, OGRE was formed in 1999 by Ed Cunningham (bass/vocals), Ross Markonish (guitar) and Will Broadbent (drums). To date, the band has released four studio albums, with 2014’s “The Last Neanderthal” their most recent. OGRE came to the attention of Cruz Del Sur through classic word of mouth — a handful of Cruz Del Sur bands put in the good word for OGRE to label owner Enrico Leccese.

“Once we started working on this album, we posted a few messages on social media, reaching out to any potential labels that might be interested in working with us this time around,” says Markonish. “Will started up a correspondence with Butch Balich from Argus who then put us in touch with Tom Phillips of While Heaven Wept, who works closely with Enrico. We played with WHILE HEAVEN WEPT years ago at a doom festival in Rochester, New York and we’ve also shared the stage with other Cruz artists, including ARGUS and Apostle of Solitude, so we couldn’t be happier to share a label with all those great bands, not to mention SLOUGH FEG, another favorite!”

Since the release of “The Last Neanderthal”, OGRE has kept themselves busy with shows in Portland, while working on the material that would eventually become “Thrice As Strong”. The band even found time to make their impact abroad: “One particularly cool thing that we did recently was travel to Arkhangelsk, Russia in October of last year to play the Belomor-Boogie Festival, a Russian rock festival that currently is in its 25th year of existence,” notes Markonish. “Arkhangelsk is the sister city of our hometown of Portland, Maine, so it was an amazing experience to travel across the globe and represent the Portland scene for the people of Russia. We made a ton of new friends and fans out there!”

According to Markonish, the “Thrice As Strong” album title plays off OGRE’s power-trio formation and is taken from their namesake song, “Ogre”, which is the first track on their first album, “Dawn Of The Proto-Man”, which is also where “The Last Neanderthal” title came from. “As our fans know, we really like all of these self-referential details, as it sort of builds up the concept of an ‘OGRE Universe’. Not surprisingly, we are all fans of comic books, sci-fi and horror novels/movies, and bands like RUSH, who specialize in those sorts of geeky things.”

OGRE is recording with Bishop because of his “good set of ears” and the stripped-down feel of Garage Mahal Studios. Markonish says the new songs are not a departure from the band’s vintage sound, but fans can expect a few different influences this time around.

“When we first started working on this album, our original plan was to try to keep song lengths down a bit,” he says. “Reason being, our prior albums all featured at least one song in the 10-15-minute range, never mind our concept album, ‘Plague Of The Planet’, which consists of a single, 37-minute song! While that proved difficult (a couple songs on this album stretch into the 8-minute range), it still did inform our general approach to songwriting this time around.

“I would also say that there is a bit more of an ‘80s metal influence on these tracks — some MAIDEN, a little DIO perhaps, and also some of the more underground bands of the time, like CIRITH UNGOL and MANILLA ROAD. Rowan even said he heard a little MERCYFUL FATE on some of the songs! The way I put it to someone, while our prior albums were majorly influenced by ’70s-era PENTAGRAM, this one shares some of its sound and ethos with the Victor Griffin ’80s line-up that produced the ‘Relentless’ and ‘Day Of Reckoning’ albums.”

Tracklisting:
1. The Future
2. Hive Mind
3. Big Man
4. Judgment Day
5. Blood of Winter
6. King of the Wood
7. Cyber-Czar

Ogre is:
Vocals/Bass: Ed Cunningham
Guitars: Ross Markonish
Drums: Will Broadbent

https://www.facebook.com/Rockogre/
https://ogrereal.bandcamp.com/
cruzdelsurmusic.com
facebook.com/cruzdelsurmusic
cruzdelsurmusic.bandcamp.com

Ogre, The Last Neanderthal (2014)

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Review & Track Premiere: The Lord Weird Slough Feg, New Organon

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on May 24th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the lord weird slough feg new organon

[Click play above to stream ‘Headhunter’ from The Lord Weird Slough Feg’s New Organon. Album is out June 14 on Cruz Del Sur Music.]

For nigh on 30 years, The Lord Weird Slough Feg have served the greater good as classic metal’s gift to heavy rock. Or are they classic rock’s gift to heavy metal? Or metal’s gift to heavy? Plus Celtic influences? Whatever. The point is, across 10 full-lengths and a swath of other singles and splits, etc., the band have become one-of-a-kind practitioners of the metallic arts. New Organon is the San Francisco-based outfit’s first long-player in the five years since 2014’s Digital Resistance (review here) came out on Metal Blade, and it finds them reunited with Cruz del Sur Music for the first since 2009’s Ape Uprising! and 2007’s Hardworlder. It’s a solid fit, considering Slough Feg‘s traditionalist approach, and New Organon feels like a purposeful stripping down of tones and general vibe. Perhaps unsurprisingly to those familiar with Slough Feg‘s work, that suits the material well.

Across 10 tracks and a LP-prime 37 minutes, the four-piece of founding guitarist/vocalist Mike Scalzi, fellow guitarist Angelo Tringali, bassist Adrian Maestas — who takes a lead vocal on side B’s “Uncanny” — and relatively-new drummer Jeff Griffin (John Dust also plays on the album), set about renewing the faith of the denim-clad faithful while at the same time mining the lecture notes of Scalzi, a philosophy professor, for lyrical themes. From the Rousseau through Sartre, Plato through Francis Bacon, from whose work the title derives, Scalzi turns cerebral and existential query into the stuff of fist-pumping proto-thrash and heavy rock and roll. It does not seem like a coincidence that they should re-don their full moniker for the effort, having gone simply by Slough Feg since 2005’s Atavism instead of the full The Lord Weird Slough Feg, since the atmosphere in the clear but sans-frills production and the basic structure of the songs is no less directed to the band’s own roots than those of heavy metal itself. They are among the most woefully underappreciated acts in metal, too bizarre it would seem even for the most brazen of self-declared nonconformists, but all the more righteous for standing alone.

“Headhunter,” which opens, is also the longest track at just over five minutes (immediate points), and the band waste no time whatsoever in letting the listener know the order of things. Guitars intertwine in tense riffing for an early verse over tom runs and the chorus bounds through not quite paying off that tension, but driving it forward nonetheless. A post-midsection movement of starts and stops offset by NWOBHM-style lead work — not the last of it to come — leads to a more ripping-style solo and back to the verse telling tales of piles of shrunken heads and so on. It’s a rousing start to New Organon, and it leads to the brooding and likewise tense “Discourse on Equality,” on which the drums time quick stop-start thuds behind matching guitar/bass chug with a lead line sprawled over with the vocals.

slough feg

It is stomach-tightening, and when they finally let go a little bit and blowout consecutive solos in the back half of the track, it’s a palpable relief as, the go-where-they-want mood set, Slough Feg move into “The Apology,” with a creeping verse and a more standout hook, which perhaps is rivaled only by the title-track still to come as the strongest of the record. “Being and Nothingness” follows, and as every Slough Feg review must at some point include a Thin Lizzy reference, there’s mine, but even more striking is the initial thrust of the song’s intro, which emphasizes how well the band ties together thrash and classic heavy rock. New Organon is a dirtier-sounding album than anything Slough Feg have done in some time, and it’s meant to be. They’re digging in and inviting those who can get on board to do the same, but “Being and Nothingness” isn’t about accessibility. Cut short in its solo and giving way directly to the start of the title-track, it’s a moment meant to dangerously careen near the edge of oblivion, and it does that successfully without losing itself in the process, perhaps finding its completion in “New Organon,” with Scalzi donning Bacon’s perspective for the chorus, “The sum of my knowledge will conquer the earth/And the sons of my college will rise/And give birth.” Take that, scientific method of old!

The title-cut rounds out side A with more fervent chug and ripping soloing, squeezing in a last verse effectively amongst the fray, and turns over the proceedings to “Sword of Machiavelli” and an immediate shift in vibe. Slower and more fluid in its groove, it finds Scalzi‘s vocals more laid back and an almost garage-style feel to the drums and tape-worthy guitar. The shortest inclusion at 2:17, it soon gives way to the sharp, early-metal-style “Uncanny,” which brings Maestas into the vocalist role, which is a change that further builds on the signal sent by “Sword of Machiavelli” that the second half of the album represents a shift from the first. That holds true for the swaying strangeness of “Coming of Age in the Milky Way,” taking its title from Timothy Ferris’ 1988 book of the same name.

Near as I can tell, that’s as modern as the philosophy gets on New Organon, which is fair enough, and the more laid back sensibility that accompanies feels like a massive change from the tightened-fist of “Discourse on Equality” and “Headhunter,” turning back to the Thin Lizzyism on “Exegesis/Tragic Hooligan” with acoustic and electric guitars woven together effectively in the chorus, ahead of the fitting summary that is closer “The Cynic,” with one last megadose of soloing amid a roll-credits melody and something of a return to where Slough Feg came from on the first half of the record. Of course they end on a fading guitar ringout — how could they not? — but as ever with the band’s material, there’s more at play throughout New Organon than riffs and leads, and it’s in the less-tangible nature of what they do that one finds their personality. The sound of struggle in Scalzi‘s vocals. The quick turns of bass and drums. The willful way in which they set their own rules and then play at breaking them. The Lord Weird Slough Feg are unique even among classic metal loyalists. I don’t know if they’ll ever get their due for the quality of the work they’ve done over their time, but they’re clearly engaged in a broader conversation.

The Lord Weird Slough Feg website

The Lord Weird Slough Feg on Thee Facebooks

The Lord Weird Slough Feg on Instagram

Cruz del Sur Music website

Cruz del Sur Music on Thee Facebooks

Cruz del Sur Music on Bandcamp

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The Neptune Power Federation to Release Memoirs of a Rat Queen on Cruz del Sur Music

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 22nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

I read a fair amount of band quotes in my day-to-day waking existence, so I come across a good one, I feel like it’s worth pointing it out. Not just, “We’re excited about the new album,” or something like that — of course you’re excited about the new album; if you weren’t, you probably wouldn’t have made it — but something that really tells a story. Accordingly, when guitarist Inverted CruciFox of Sydney, Australia’s The Neptune Power Federation says of their signing to Cruz del Sur, “Perhaps we will become like Scientology only with more guitars, battle jackets and drinking,” I feel like that really tells a story about who the band are and where they’re coming from. Their new album, Memoirs of a Rat Queen, will be released through Cruz del Sur this Fall, and yeah. Shit would seem to be pretty weird, and in pretty much the best way.

Check it out:

the neptune power federation

THE NEPTUNE POWER FEDERATION Joins CRUZ DEL SUR MUSIC

Cruz Del Sur Music is proud to announce the signing of Australian psychedelic rock and roll occultists THE NEPTUNE POWER FEDERATION. The label will release the band’s next full-length, Memoirs Of A Rat Queen, this coming September.

THE NEPTUNE POWER FEDERATION and Cruz Del Sur Music decided to join forces after the band’s triumphant appearance at the 2018 installment of the Hell Over Hammaburg festival in Hamburg, Germany. Cruz Del Sur owner Enrico met the band backstage and subsequently offered them a deal. “It’s a pretty cool way of getting signed,” says guitarist Inverted CruciFox. “I didn’t think things like that happened nowadays, but it keeps with our retro aesthetic.”

Enrico adds: “I was first introduced to NPF over a year ago and I couldn’t miss the opportunity to see them live at Hell Over Hammaburg last March. I must say that their show was way beyond my best expectations, their energy and vibes were something I hadn’t witnessed live for a long time. Something significant happened: I went in the backstage to give my support to Sanhedrin before their show and NPF were getting off stage. When the doors opened and they stepped into the backstage a spontaneous applause rose in the small room. For me that was a sign that the band really gave everything on stage and was able to touch the audience really deeply. Seeing NPF live was an intense, overwhelming experience that I will always carry in my heart.”

While the band is already prolific in the studio, it is their live presentation that sets THE NEPTUNE POWER FEDERATION apart, harkening back to a time when theatrics were just as important as the music. “We attempt to connect with as many senses as possible, with the exclusion of smell,” says Inverted CruciFox. “The Imperial Priestess wears the traditional dress of a time travelling space witch and because these beings are uncommon in our dimension, her appearance can often come as a shock. The rest of us wear a simple uniform to recognize we are her backing band — and also because MOTORHEAD did it that way.”

On Memoirs Of A Rat Queen, the band plans to further convey the narrative which has woven their previous albums together — an intergalactic tale of time travel. “Currently we are attempting to convey the story of the Imperial Priestess’s time travelling existence on earth and the various lives she has lived through human history. Occasionally we touch on her mortal enemy, the Wizzard King and his never-ending attempts to defeat her.”

Memoirs Of A Rat Queen is currently being mixed, after which, the band will be playing several Australian festivals. Once the album is out, it will be accompanied with a handful of new music videos.

“We are very excited about increasing the reach of THE NEPTUNE POWER FEDERATION church internationally – like rock and roll missionaries,” closes Inverted CruciFox. “Perhaps we will become like Scientology only with more guitars, battle jackets and drinking.”

THE NEPTUNE POWER FEDERATION is:
Screaming Loz Sutch: Vocals
Inverted CruciFox: Guitar
Search & DesTroy: Guitar
Jaytanic Ritual: Bass
Mr Styx: Drums

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The Neptune Power Federation, Neath a Shin Ei Sun (2017)

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The Lord Weird Slough Feg to Release New Organon in June

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 19th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

American traditional metal/heavy rock treasures The Lord Weird Slough Feg will issue their first LP in five years, New Organon, in June through Cruz Del Sur Music. As regards metallic righteousness, there are few of their caliber, and as they re-don their full moniker, having issued 2014’s Digital Resistance (review here) and several other outings before it as the truncated Slough Feb, one can’t help but wonder what that might mean in terms of the sound of the album itself. Certainly the fact that founding guitarist/vocalist Mike Scalzi is embracing his background in philosophy to greater degree than he has before is an interesting turn, though they’ve never exactly wanted for intellectual appeal. The life of the mind, plus riffs.

I’ll always remember what Bible of the Devil told me about Scalzi when I interviewed them in 2012. They had done some touring together, and because Slough Feg is a band with such character and because I’d never spoken to Scalzi, I asked what he was like. The answer I got was, “he suffers no fools gladly.” To sure, I’ve never had it in me to interview Scalzi since, because if I’ve ever been anything, it’s a fool. Especially on the phone.

Here’s PR wire info for the album. I already put in a request to host a track premiere, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed that comes together:

the lord weird slough feg new organon

THE LORD WEIRD SLOUGH FEG Returns With First Album In Five Years, ‘New Organon’

“I didn’t want to just ‘put out another album,’” begins SLOUGH FEG vocalist/guitarist Mike Scalzi. “I remember telling people that I didn’t want to do another album just to do another album, like so often happens. So, we wrote a lot of songs and only picked the best ones.”

Such was the approach for SLOUGH FEG’s long-awaited tenth studio album, New Organon, which will see the light of day via Cruz Del Sur Music on June 14 in European territories and June 21 in North America. New Organon also marks the recording debut of drummer Jeff Griffin (who split studio duties with John Dust) and joins Scalzi and longtime members Angelo Tringali (guitar) and Adrian Maestas (bass).

New Organon is another definitive statement from one of America’s most enduring and unique true metal bands, whose penchant for THIN LIZZY-inspired guitar harmonies and Scalzi’s timeless storytelling has turned albums such as 2005’s Atavism, 2007’s Hardworlder and 2010’s The Animal Spirits into proto-metal bedrocks.

Since the release of 2014’s Digital Resistance, SLOUGH FEG did three touring jaunts through Europe in addition to some shorter American runs, not to mention the release of the New Organon seven-inch, which was issued last year. Scalzi freely admits that real life has gotten in the way of SLOUGH FEG making a new LP. That, and his desire to make sure the band still sounds fresh after nine studio albums. “A lot of stuff ended up on the cutting room floor,” he says. “There were some songs we tried to work out for months but ended up dropping because they bored us. We have to be excited about new songs or there’s no point in recording them. We dropped several songs I came up with and some that the other guys came up with, too. It’s tough, but sometimes you have to be honest with yourself and the people in your band and move on when an idea is not working. So, we came up with a lot of song ideas and only kept the ones that sounded exciting for months.”

In true SLOUGH FEG tradition, there is a strong theme running throughout New Organon, which was inspired by the 1620 book published by Francis Bacon of the same name. “It presents a new version of the scientific method, as originally presented by Aristotle 2,000 years earlier,” notes Scalzi, who is also a philosophy professor at a college in California. “According to Bacon and others, the science method had remained stagnant for this long period, through the middle ages and renaissance, and needed a refresher. ‘Organon’ refers to a scientific ‘instrument’ or more literally, ‘organ.’ So, it represents a new method for scientific revolution. The songs are all basically about philosophy—from my lecture notes! It starts out talking about primitive tribal society like shamanism as the first philosophers and then proceeds though the pre-Socratics era and then Plato, Aristotle, medieval catholic theology, enlightenment and then existentialist philosophy — mostly in chronological order.”

Fans of the band’s early output when they went under the extended name of THE LORD WEIRD SLOUGH FEG will no doubt be enthused for what’s in store on New Organon. The album has a more natural, if not “rustic” feel to it, recalling the band’s halcyon Twilight Of The Idols and Down Among The Deadmen era. “Very simply, the songs are more heavy, rough and produced rawer than the last album or two,” says Scalzi. “The themes are not about technology, but about ancient philosophy and science. It’s just more metal, but in a very primitive way — but that’s sort of our specialty anyway.”

Around the release date of New Organon, SLOUGH FEG will be trekking across the United States with labelmates SANHEDRIN. “We’ll be doing ten shows on the east coast in late May/early June, right about the time when the album comes out, including New York, Boston, Baltimore and Pittsburgh,” says Scalzi. “In early August, SANHEDRIN is going to come out we’ll do another run with them up and down the west coast.”

Track Listing:
1 Headhunter
2 Discourse on Equality
3 The Apology
4 Being and Nothingness
5 New Organon
6 Sword of Machiavelli
7 Uncanny
8 Coming of Age in the Milky Way
9 Exegesis/Tragic Hooligan
10 The Cynic

SLOUGH FEG/SANHEDRIN Tour Dates:
May 30 – Baltimore, MD, Metro Gallery
May 31- Brooklyn, NY, Saint Vitus
June 1- Montreal, QC, Bar LeRitz
June 2 – Ottawa, ON, Mavericks
June 3 – Toronto, ON, Velvet Underground
June 4 – Pittsburgh, PA, Spirit
June 5 – Detroit, MI, Sanctuary
June 6 – Cleveland, OH, Now That’s Class
June 7 – Philadelphia, PA, Kung Fu Necktie
June 8 – Boston, MA, Middle East

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Slough Feg, Digital Resistance (2014)

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2018

Posted in Features on December 20th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

the-top-30-of-2018

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 2018 to that, please do.

It just wouldn’t be a year if it wasn’t completely overwhelming, right?

2018 has certainly met that standard and then some. The swath of output, whether it’s a new generation adopting and adapting established methods or out and out reinventing the stylistic wheel and then pushing it uphill on a seemingly endless barrage of tours, has been staggering, and it’s still happening. There’s a little more than a week to go in the year. You think a band isn’t putting something out today? Of course they are. It’s every day. It’s all the time.

But this year wasn’t just about quantity either. I think one of my biggest struggles in writing about albums in 2018 — and with the last Quarterly Review and various premieres and video posts that were basically album reviews in disguise, let’s estimate we’re somewhere past 300 records reviewed one way or another — was in conveying just how killer so much of the stuff coming through was. How many times can you say the word “awesome?” Well, I’m sure we’ll see it a few more times before this list is over, so there you go.

I say something like this every time I do a list, but please keep in mind these are my picks and I’m one person. But I am a person. I know there’s the whole internet-anonymity thing, but I assure you, I’m a human being (more of a cave troll, really) typing these words. I’m all for everyone sharing their own picks in the comments, and all for passionate advocating, but please, let’s keep it civil and respectful. These things can spiral out of control quickly, but let’s remember that we’re all human beings and worth of basic courtesy, even if some of us are dead wrong about a good many things. You should definitely punch nazis, though.

Thanks in advance for reading. Here we go:

[UPDATE: You’ll notice the inclusion of an ’18a.’ I had Stoned Jesus in my notes as number 18 initially and they got dropped as I was adjusting things along the way. I’ve added them back in, but it didn’t seem fair to bump everyone else down after the post had already been published. That was the best I could come up with for a solution. If you’re pissed about one more killer record being added, please feel free to email me and tell me all about it.]

30. The Skull, The Endless Road Turns Dark

The Skull The Endless Road Turns Dark

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Sept. 12.

Chicago’s The Skull had no small task before them in following up their 2014 debut, For Those Which are Asleep (review here) — let alone living up to their pedigree — but their second album demonstrated a creative growth that sacrificed nothing of memorability when it came to songs like “Breathing Underwater” and “All that Remains (Is True).” They got down to work and got the job done, which is what a working band does. 2018 was by any measure a fantastic year for doom, and The Skull were a big part of why.

29. Foghound, Awaken to Destroy

foghound awaken to destroy

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Nov. 21.

The Dec. 2017 murder of Rev. Jim Forrester was tragic. No other way to say it. Foghound, who were in the midst of making Awaken to Destroy at the time, put together an album that not only features Forrester‘s last recorded performance, but pays respect to his memory while the wound is still raw and manages to kick ass all the while. It’s a record that can’t ever be divorced from its circumstances — just can’t — and so it can be a heavy listen in more than just its tones, but it’s basically Foghound proving they’re unstoppable. And so they are.

28. Orange Goblin, The Wolf Bites Back

orange goblin the wolf bites back

Released by Spinefarm Records. Reviewed June 13.

Who among us here today is not a sucker for Orange Goblin? Come forward an be judged. I mean, really. Nine records deep, the London sceneforgers are nothing less than an institution, beloved by boozehounds, riffhounds, doomhounds, and really, a wide variety of hounds the world over. Also dudes. With its essential title-track hook and highlight cuts in “Ghosts of the Primitives” and “Burn the Ships” — or, you know, any of them — they added to one of heavy’s most unshakable legacies with an album as furious as it is welcoming to its generations-spanning fanbase.

27. Fu Manchu, Clone of the Universe

fu manchu clone of the universe
Released by At the Dojo Records. Reviewed Feb. 15.

There are two kinds of people in this world, and they’re both Fu Manchu fans. Clone of the Universe turned heads with a guest appearance from Rush‘s Alex Lifeson on the 18-minute side-B-consuming “Il Mostro Atomico,” but really to focus on that instead of “Intelligent Worship,” “(I’ve Been) Hexed,” “Don’t Panic,” “Slower than Light,” etc., is only seeing half the point of the album in the first place. The long-running lords of fuzz hit a new stride with 2014’s Gigantoid (review here), and Clone of the Universe was in every way a worthy successor.

26. Witch Mountain, Witch Mountain

Witch-Mountain-Witch-Mountain
Released by Svart Records. Reviewed May 16.

It was an unenviable task before Witch Mountain in replacing vocalist Uta Plotkin, but founding guitarist Rob Wrong and drummer Nathan Carson found the right voice in Kayla Dixon and solidified the lineup with her and bassist Justin Brown enough to make a declarative statement in Witch Mountain‘s self-titled LP. That’s the story of it. They pulled it off. Met with what was unquestionably a bummer circumstance, they pushed through and moved their sound forward through a new beginning — and not their first one. Watch out when their next record hits.

25. Windhand, Eternal Return

windhand eternal return

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed Oct. 3.

Richmond, Virginia, doomers Windhand‘s second collaboration with producer Jack Endino produced a marked and purposeful expansion of their sound, encompassing classic grunge influences and a heavy psychedelic swirl that added color their previously-greyscale sonic haze. Resonant in tone and emotionalism, Eternal Return readjusted Windhand‘s trajectory in such a manner that, where one might’ve thought they knew where the band were headed in terms of their progression, they’ve made themselves a less predictable outfit on the whole. For that alone, it’s a triumph. Then you have the songs.

24. Sun Voyager, Seismic Vibes

Sun Voyager Seismic Vibes

Released by King Pizza Records. Reviewed April 18.

I don’t even want to admit how long I was waiting for Sun Voyager‘s first long-player to show up, but when it finally did, the New York trio did not disappoint. Catchy, energetic, fuzzed-out tunes with driving rhythms and a heavy psych flourish, they tapped into shoegaze and desert vibes without losing any sense of themselves in the process, and if the extra wait was so they could be so remarkably coherent in their expression on their full-length, then I wouldn’t want it to have shown up any sooner. An easy pick to stand among 2018’s best debut albums. Now to wait for the next one.

23. Forming the Void, Rift

forming the void rift

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed July 27.

It should tell you something that after working quickly to produce three albums, Louisiana’s Forming the Void are still defined by their potential. If I had my druthers, I’d put the recent Ripple signees on tour for the bulk of 2019, across the US and in Europe for festivals and support-slot club shows, really give them an opportunity to hammer out who they are as a band and then hit the studio for LP four. I don’t know if that’ll happen, but they’d only be doing the universe a favor by kicking into that gear. As it stands, their progression is palpable in their material and they stand absolutely ready for whatever the next level might be for them.

22. Spaceslug, Eye the Tide

spaceslug eye the tide

Released by BSFD Records and Oak Island Records. Reviewed June 29.

Aside from the speed at which Spaceslug have turned around offerings — with Eye the Tide following 2017’s Mountains and Reminiscence EP (review here) and Time Travel Dilemma (review here) full-length and their 2016 debut, Lemanis (review here) — the Polish outfit have undertaken significant progression in their sound, moving from pure heavy psychedelic warmth to incorporating elements out of extreme metal as they did on Eye the Tide. Adding to the latest record’s accomplishment is the smoothness with which they brought seemingly opposing sides together, only adding depth to an approach already worthy of oceanic comparison.

21. Conan, Existential Void Guardian

Conan Existential Void Guardian
Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 14.

Conan‘s reign of terror has been unfolding for more than a decade now, and each of their albums has become a kind of step along a path of incremental growth. Consider the melody creeping into the shouts of founding guitarist Jon Davis, or the emergence of bassist Chris Fielding as a vocal presence alongside, the two sharing a frontman role more than ever before while welcoming drummer Johnny King to the fold of destructive tonality and doomly extremism. Existential Void Guardian may end up just being another stomp-print on their way to the next thing, but it affirmed the fact that as much as Conan grow each time out, their central violence continues to hold sway.

20. Pale Divine, Pale Divine

PALE DIVINE S/T
Released by Shadow Kingdom Records. Reviewed Nov. 21.

Look. A new Pale Divine record doesn’t come along every day, so yeah, their self-titled was probably going to be on my list one way or the other, but it definitely helps that not only was it their first outing in six years since 2012’s Painted Windows Black (review here), but it had the songs to live up to a half-decade-plus of anticipation. It marked the first studio appearance from bassist/backing vocalist Ron “Fezz” McGinnis alongside guitarist Greg Diener and drummer Darin McCloskey — now both of Beelzefuzz as well — and made a strong argument for how much Pale Divine deserve more than 20 years on from their initial demo to be considered classic American doom.

19. Mos Generator, Shadowlands

mos generator shadowlands
Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed May 11.

The return and rise to prominence of Washington pure heavy rockers Mos Generator might be the underground’s feelgood story of the decade, but it hasn’t by any means been easily won. In addition to rebuilding the band however many albums ago, guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed has put in innumerable hours on tour and worked to actually develop the group creatively in addition to in terms of stage presence. This is shown throughout some of the classic prog elements making their way onto Shadowlands, and perhaps some of the collection’s moodier aspects are born of the aforementioned road time as well. Hard for that kind of thing not to be a slog after a while, but at least they have killer tunes to play.

18a. Stoned Jesus, Pilgrims

STONED JESUS PILGRIMS

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 5.

The only safe bet about Stoned Jesus‘ fourth long-player, Pilgrims, was that it was going to sound different than the third. That 2015 outing, The Harvest (review here), preceded the band touring to celebrate the fifth anniversary and after-the-fact success of 2012’s Seven Thunders Roar (review here), but Pilgrims defied narrative in that instead of incorporating elements from the second record in more of a heavy psych or jam sound, Stoned Jesus instead showcased a tighter, more sureheaded sense of craft than they’ve ever displayed before, and arrived on Napalm Records with a collection of songs that demonstrated the growth and sense of creative will that drives them. While one can take a look at their moniker and think immediately they know what’s coming, Stoned Jesus have made themselves one of the least predictable bands in heavy rock.

18. Backwoods Payback, Future Slum

backwoods payback future slum

Self-released. Reviewed Aug. 15.

“Pirate Smile.” “Lines.” “Whatever.” “It Ain’t Right.” “Threes.” “Cinderella.” “Generals.” “Big Enough.” “Alone.” “Lucky. Mike Cummings, Jessica Baker, Erik Larson. Every player, every song, every minute. If you want to know what heart-on-sleeve sounds like, it fucking sounds like Backwoods Payback. In their line from hardcore punk to grunge to heavy rock, they encompass experiences and emotionalism that are both shown in raw form throughout Future Slum, and build all the while on the chemistry they set out in developing with 2016’s Fire Not Reason (review here), when they welcomed Larson to the lineup on drums and revitalized their mission. Also worth noting, they were the best live band I saw this year. Anywhere.

17. Corrosion of Conformity, No Cross No Crown

corrosion of conformity no cross no crown

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Jan. 3

No question the excitement of C.O.C. putting out their first record with frontman Pepper Keenan involved since 2005’s In the Arms of God was one of this year’s top stories in heavy. And No Cross No Crown tapped directly into the spirit of 1994’s Deliverance (discussed here) and 1996’s Wiseblood (discussed here) in terms of direction, while updating the band’s style with a four-part 2LP in mind. In some ways, it’ll be their next album that really gives listeners a sense of where they’re at and where they might be headed, but as welcome returns go, having Keenan alongside Mike DeanWoody Weatherman and Reed Mullin is in no way to be understated, and neither is the quality of their output together, then and now.

16. Naxatras, III

naxatras iii

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 14.

It is no simple feat to hypnotize an audience and convey serenity while at the same time holding attention with songcraft, so that the listener isn’t actually so much unconscious as malleable of mood and spirit in such a direction as the band suggests. Greek trio Naxatras have worked quickly to become experts at this, and their third full-length fosters tonal warmth and jammy progressions with an overarching naturalism that finds them so committed to analog recording that one can buy direct transfers of the tape master of III. Some acts take classic-style practices as an aesthetic choice. With Naxatras, it seems to be the stuff of life, yet their sound is only vibrant and human in a way that, at least one hopes, is even more representative of the future than the past.

15. Clutch, Book of Bad Decisions

clutch book of bad decisions

Released by Weathermaker Music. Reviewed Aug. 27.

It was time for Clutch to make a change in producers, and the Maryland overlords of groove seemed to know it. Known as a live band, they went with Vance Powell, who’s known a live band producer. The results on Book of Bad Decisions might not have been so earth-shatteringly different from 2015’s Psychic Warfare (review here), which was the too-soon follow-up to 2013’s Earth Rocker (review here) — both helmed by Machine — but the inimitable four-piece indeed succeeded in capturing the electricity of their stage performance and, as ever, treated fans to a collection of songs bearing Clutch‘s unmistakable hallmarks of quirky lyrics, funky rhythms and heavy roll. They may always be a live band, but Clutch‘s studio work is in no way to be discounted, ever, as this record reaffirmed. Plus, crab cakes.

14. Ancestors, Suspended in Reflections

Ancestors Suspended in Reflections

Released by Pelagic Records. Reviewed Aug. 3.

After 2012’s In Dreams and Time (review here), I wasn’t sure Ancestors were going to put out another record. They kicked around word of one for a while, but it wasn’t until the end of last year that it really seemed to congeal into a possibility. And by then, who the hell knew what they might get up to on a full-length? With Suspended in Reflections, in some says, they picked up where they left off in terms of finding a niche for themselves in progressive and melodic heavy, but I think the time showed in the poise of their execution and the control of the material. Suspended in Reflections can’t help but be six years more mature than its predecessor, and that suits its contemplative feel. In tracks like “Gone,” and “The Warm Glow,” they tempered their expansive sound with an efficiency that can only be had with time.

13. High on Fire, Electric Messiah

high on fire electric messiah

Released by eOne Heavy. Reviewed Sept. 28.

The narrative here was hard to beat. Matt Pike spending an album cycle talking about Lemmy Kilmister and paying homage to his dirt-rock forebear and the gods of old? It doesn’t get much more perfect than that. Electric Messiah was the third collaboration between High on Fire and producer Kurt Ballou behind 2015’s Luminiferous (review here) and 2012’s De Vermiis Mysteriis (review here), and while it seemed after the last record that the formula might be getting stale, the band only sounded more and more lethal throughout the latest offering. Even putting aside their contributions to underground heavy, they’ve become one of the most essential metal bands of their generation. Metal, period. Doesn’t matter what subgenre you’re talking about it. If you’re listening to High on Fire, you know it. Usually because you’ve just been decapitated.

12. Yawning Man, The Revolt Against Tired Noises

yawning man the revolt against tired noises

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed July 2.

You know, if you take the time to separate Yawning Man from their 30-plus-year history and their legacy as one of the foundational acts of what later became desert rock, and you listen to The Revolt Against Tired Noises, you’re still left with basically a dream of an album. Mostly instrumental, as is their wont, they nonetheless had bassist Mario Lalli (also Fatso Jetson) sing this time around on a version of the previously-unreleased “Catamaran,” which Kyuss covered once upon a whenever although Yawning Man had never officially put it to tape. But really, that and all other novelty aside, guitarist Gary Arce, Lalli and drummer Bill Stinson are a chemistry unto themselves. I don’t know if they’ll ever be as huge as they should be, but every bit of acclaim they get, they’ve earned, and if The Revolt Against Tired Noises helps them get it, all the more so.

11. Greenleaf, Hear the Rivers

greenleaf hear the rivers

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Nov. 26.

Swedish heavy rock mavens Greenleaf have become an entirely different band than they once were. No longer a Dozer side-project from guitarist Tommi Holappa with a rotating cast of players, they’re a solidified, road-tested, powerhouse unit, and Hear the Rivers bleeds soul as a result. Holappa, frontman Arvid Hällagård, bassist Hans Fröhlich and drummer Sebastian Olsson sound like they’re absolutely on fire in the album’s tracks, and far from being staid or formulaic as one might expect a sixth long-player to be, Hear the Rivers built on what the band accomplished with 2016’s Rise Above the Meadow (review here) and came across as all the more vital and nearly frenetic in their energy. I won’t say Greenleaf has seen their last lineup change, because one never knows, but the band as they are today is the realization of potential I don’t think even Greenleaf knew was there.

10. Gozu, Equilibrium

gozu equilibrium

Released by Blacklight Media / Metal Blade Records. Reviewed April 4.

Five records deep into a career into its second decade, Gozu haven’t had a miss yet. Admittedly, some of their early work can seem formative considering where they are now, but still. And after the 2016 rager, Revival (review here), to have the band return to the same studio — Wild Arctic in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where strides producer Dean Baltulonis — for the follow-up allows for the four-piece to directly show how their sound has grown more encompassing in the last couple years. And it has. Equilibrium is a rich and varied listen that holds true to Gozu‘s well-established penchant for soulful vibes and crunching, hard-hitting riffs and groove, but while it shares the directness of approach with Revival, it makes moves that a band could only make moving from one record to the next. I expect nothing less their next time out as well, because a decade later, that’s Gozu‘s proven track record.

9. Monster Magnet, Mindfucker

monster magnet mindfucker
Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Feb. 23.

The battle for the best album title of 2018 ended early when New Jersey everything-rockers Monster Magnet announced the release of Mindfucker. And what else to call a Monster Magnet LP at this point? They’ve stopped writing to genre. They’re driven by the creative mania of frontman/founder Dave Wyndorf, and they’ve seen psychedelic expanses and commercial success the likes of which would serve the tenure of four lesser bands. What’s left to do but whatever the hell you want? So that’s what Monster Magnet are doing. It just so happens that while they’re doing it, they’re still basically outclassing the entirety of the former planet earth as songwriters. As Monster Magnet fan in 2018, there was nothing more I could’ve asked than what Mindfucker delivered. And if you’re still trying to get your brain around it however many months later, you’re not alone. I think that’s the idea.

8. Apostle of Solitude, From Gold to Ash

Apostle of Solitude From Gold to Ash

Released by Cruz del Sur Music. Reviewed Feb. 20.

Best doom album of 2018. The combination of craft and passion behind the delivery. The way the dark tones fed into the emotions so clearly on display and sheer presence of it in listening to songs like “Keeping the Lighthouse,” “Ruination by Thy Name” and “My Heart is Leaving Here.” Apostle of Solitude never seem to be the highest profile band out there, but their work seems never to be anything less than outstanding, and I refuse to accept them as anything less than among the most pivotal American acts out there making traditional doom. And not just making it, but making it their own, with a sense of new pursuits and individualism that extends to playing style as well as atmosphere. I know doom isn’t exactly in short supply these days — figuratively or literally — but if you miss out on what Apostle of Solitude are doing with it, you’ll only regret it later. I’ll say it one more time: Best doom album of 2018.

7. Holy Grove, Holy Grove II

holy grove ii
Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Oct. 31.

Every now and again, anticipating the crap of an album really pays off, and such was the case with Holy Grove II, the Ripple Music debut from the Portland outfit whose 2016 self-titled (review here) seemed like such a herald of excellence to come while also, you know, being killer. Holy Grove II brought the four-piece of vocalist Andrea Vidal, guitarist Trent Jacobs, bassist Gregg Emley and drummer Eben Travis to entirely new levels of composition and execution. In songs like “Blade Born,” the shorter, sharper “Aurora,” the patiently rolling “Valley of the Mystics,” “Solaris” and closer “Cosmos,” which boasted a not-really-necessary-but-definitely-welcome guest vocal appearance from YOB‘s Mike Scheidt, — and oh wait, that’s all of the tracks — Holy Grove entered a different echelon. Anticipation will likewise be high for Holy Grove III, but it’ll be hard to complain with this record to keep company in the meantime.

6. All Them Witches, ATW

all them witches atw
Released by New West Records. Reviewed Sept. 18.

Over five All Them Witches albums, the Nashville four-piece have gone from a nascent heavy Americana jam band to one of the most distinct acts in the US underground. Their development in sound is chemistry-driven, so it was a risk when the founding trio of bassist/vocalist Charles Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod (who also produced) and drummer Robby Staebler welcomed new keyboardist Jonathan Draper into the lineup to take the place of Allan van Cleave. Amid a more naturalist production than that of 2017’s Sleeping Through the War (review here), the revamped four-piece flourished in terms of songwriting and conveying their stage-born sonic personae. From the gleeful fuckery of opener “Fishbelly 86 Onions” to the memorable moodiness of “Diamond” and the back-end jam “Harvest Feast” en route to the stretched-out end of “Rob’s Dream,” All Them Witches essentially confirmed they could do whatever they wanted and make it work.

5. YOB, Our Raw Heart

yob our raw heart
Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed June 7.

Actually, if you want a sample of YOB‘s raw heart, the place to go is probably 2014’s Clearing the Path to Ascend (review here), but whatever the Eugene, Oregon, shapers of cosmic doom might’ve lacked in titular accuracy on their eighth long-player, they made up for in a new, statesman-like posture. Their approach was mature, hammered out to a professionalism working completely on its own terms, and they never sounded so sure of who they are as a band or as confident of their direction. In extended cuts “Beauty in Falling Leaves” and “Our Raw Heart,” they explored new and progressive textures and melodies, and managed to reaffirm their core aspects while finding room for conveying emotion that came across as nothing but ultimately sincere. They have been and still are one of a kind, and as they continue to move forward, they remain a band that makes one feel lucky to be alive to witness their work. Our Raw Heart was perhaps more refined than it let on, but the heart was there for sure, as always.

4. Brant Bjork, Mankind Woman

brant bjork mankind woman

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Sept. 13.

I’m not going to say I wasn’t a fan of the (relatively) harder-hitting approach Brant Bjork and his Low Desert Punk Band took on 2014’s Black Power Flower (review here) and 2016’s Tao of the Devil (review here), but Mankind Woman brought in some more of his soul influences, and whether it was the subtly subversive funk of “Chocolatize” and “Brand New Old Times” or the callout “1968” and laid back vibes of the title-track and “Swagger and Sway,” Bjork — working with guitarist Bubba DuPree on songwriting and production — offered a definitive look at what has made his 20-year solo career so special and demonstrates not only his longevity and his legacy, but his will to continue to progress as an artist honing his craft. His discography is well populated by now to be sure, but Mankind Woman represents a turn from the last couple records, and if it’s in any way portentous of things to come, it bodes well. Bjork is right at home nestled into classic-style grooves, and his legacy as one of the principal architects of desert rock is continually reaffirmed.

3. Earthless, Black Heaven

earthless black heaven

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed March 15.

They’ve been great, not just good, for a long time now, and as forerunners of the San Diego heavy scene, they’re godfathers to an up and coming generation of bands taking their influence — let alone acts from the rest of the world — but Black Heaven is a special moment for them because of its departure. No, it wasn’t not the first time guitarist Isaiah Mitchell sang on an Earthless recording, but it did represent a tip of the balance in that direction for the band on a studio full-length, and that resulted in a special moment. Album opener “Gifted by the Wind” was one of the best songs I heard this year, and while “End to End” and the all-thrust “Volt Rush” affirmed that more traditional songwriting was well within the grasp of Mitchell, bassist Mike Eginton and drummer Mario Rubalcaba, they still found space for a sprawling jam or two, keeping their claim on the instrumentalism that’s (largely) fueled their tenure to date. Earthless don’t want for acclaim, but every bit of it is earned, and while their primary impact has always been live, Black Heaven saw them construct a traditional-style LP that still bore the hallmarks of their collective personality. It was the best of all worlds.

2. King Buffalo, Longing to Be the Mountain

king buffalo longing to be the mountain
Self-released/released by Stickman Records. Reviewed Sept. 27.

In the dark early hours of 2018, the Rochester, New York, trio of guitarist/vocalist Sean McVay, bassist Dan Reynolds and drummer Scott Donaldson issued the Repeater EP (review here) as a follow-up to their 2016 debut, Orion (review here), so Longing to Be the Mountain didn’t exactly come out of nowhere, but even with Repeater preceding its arrival, I don’t think anyone necessary expected King Buffalo‘s second album to have such a scope or to be so engrossing with it. In its melody, patience, atmosphere and heft, it was an absolute joy to behold. Its songs were memorable at the same time they were far-reaching, and while Orion was already my pick for the best debut of 2016, Longing to Be the Mountain realized even more potential than that record had hinted toward. It could be intimate or majestic at its whim, and its dynamic set an individual characterization of heavy psychedelia and blues-style sprawl that the band wholly owned. With production by Ben McLeod of All Them Witches behind them, they worked to serve notice of a progression undertaken the results of which are already staggering and still seem to be looking ahead to the next stage, literally and figuratively. One of the principal standards I use in constructing this list every year is what I listen to most. That’s this record.

1. Sleep, The Sciences

sleep the sciences

Released by Third Man Records. Reviewed May 1.

Obviously, right? To some extent, when Sleep surprise-announced on April 19 they’d release their first album in 15 years the next day, and then did, they took ownership of 2018. Even with records still to come at that point from YOB and Sleep guitarist Matt Pike‘s own High on Fire, there was no way that when the end of the year came around, it wasn’t going to be defined by the advent of a new Sleep record. And even if it sucked, it would probably still be Album of the Year, but fortunately, as Pike, bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros (also Om) and drummer Jason Roeder (also Neurosis) took their long-running stage reunion to the studio, they brought material that highlighted the best elements from all players. Pike‘s wild soloing, Cisneros‘ meditative vocals and Roeder‘s intricate but smooth style of roll all came together in older pieces like “Antarcticans Thawed” and “Sonic Titan” and newer highlights “Giza Butler” and “Marijuanaut’s Theme,” and aside from the excitement at their existence, they showed the mastery of form that Sleep had been demonstrating live since 2009 and which they hinted toward in the 2014 single, The Clarity (review here). A new Sleep full-length was something long-discussed, long-rumored and long-considered, but when it finally happened, I think the results vaporized expectation in a way no one could’ve anticipated. There’s a reason Sleep are Sleep. Having The Sciences as a reminder of that brought about the defining moment of 2018.

The Next 20

Indeed, it wouldn’t be much of a Top 30 at all if it didn’t go to 50. Don’t try to make sense of it, just look at the records.

31. Atavismo, Valdeinfierno
32. Grayceon, IV
33. Clamfight, III
34. Seedy Jeezus, Polaris Oblique
35. Megaton Leviathan, Mage
36. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Wasteland
37. Arcadian Child, Superfonica
38. Freedom Hawk, Beast Remains
39. The Machine, Faceshift
40. Messa, Feast for Water
41. Black Rainbows, Pandaemonium
42. Church of the Cosmic Skull, Science Fiction
43. Domkraft, Flood
44. Träden, Träden
45. Mythic Sunship, Another Shape of Psychedelic Music
46. Samavayo, Vatan
47. Foehammer, Second Sight
48. Bongripper, Terminal
49. Mansion, First Death of the Lutheran
50. Sunnata, Outlands
51. Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters, Come and Chutney

Believe me when I tell you, I sweated over this section more than I did the actual top 30. Mansion should be higher. So should Chubby Thunderous, though something in me thought they might like being #50 on a list of 30. Church of the Cosmic Skull, Clamfight, Black Rainbows, Foehammer, Seedy Jeezus, Messa, Domkraft. All of these were fucking awesome. And there are more (we’ll get there). Eventually numbers add up. I won’t say a bad word about any of these. That’s it.

Honorable Mention

This section always winds up expanded as other people point out things I missed and so on, but here’s what I’ve got in the immediate, alphabetically:

  • Alms, Act One
  • Ape Machine, Darker Seas
  • Belzebong, Light the Dankness
  • Black Moon Circle, Psychedelic Spacelord
  • Blackwater Holylight, Blackwater Holylight
  • Bong, Thought and Existence
  • Carpet, About Rooms and Elephants
  • Churchburn, None Shall Live… The Hymns of Misery
  • Deadbird, III: The Forest Within the Tree
  • Dead Meadow, The Nothing They Need
  • Death Alley, Superbia
  • Drug Cult, Drug Cult
  • Dunbarrow, II
  • Electric Citizen, Helltown
  • Eagle Twin, The Thundering Heard: Songs of Hoof and Horn
  • Evoken, Hypnagogia
  • Funeral Horse, Psalms for the Mourning
  • Fuzz Evil, High on You
  • Graven, Heirs of Discord
  • Graveyard, Peace
  • Green Dragon, Green Dragon
  • Green Druid, Ashen Blood
  • Here Lies Man, You Will Know Nothing
  • High Priestess, High Priestess
  • Horehound, Holocene
  • IAH, II
  • JIRM, Surge ex Monumentis
  • Killer Boogie, Acid Cream
  • Lonely Kamel, Death’s Head Hawkmoth
  • MaidaVale, Madness is Too Pure
  • Moab, Trough
  • Mountain Dust, Seven Storms
  • Mouth, Floating
  • Mr. Plow, Maintain Radio Silence
  • T.G. Olson, Earthen Pyramid
  • Onségen Ensemble, Duel
  • Orango, Evergreen
  • Owl, Nights in Distortion
  • Pushy, Hard Wish
  • Rifflord, 7 Cremation Ground/Meditation
  • River Cult, Halcyon Daze
  • Rotor, Sechs
  • Somali Yacht Club, The Sea
  • Sumac, Love in Shadow
  • Sundrifter, Visitations
  • Svvamp, Svvamp II
  • Thou, Magus
  • Thunder Horse, Thunder Horse
  • Weedpecker, III

Special Note

Somehow it didn’t seem appropriate to include these in the list proper because they’re not really underground releases, but there were two more records I especially wanted to highlight for their quality:

  • Alice in Chains, Rainier Fog
  • Judas Priest, Firepower

Best Short Release of the Year

Normally I’d do this as a separate post, but as a result of being robbed earlier this year, I feel like my list is woefully incomplete. If you have any demos, EPs, splits, singles, etc., to add to it, please feel free to do so in the comments below. Still, the top pick was clear:

  • Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard & Slomatics, Totems Split

Rarely do two bands work in such coherent tandem to their mutual benefit. Here are a few other essential short releases for 2018, alphabetically:

  • All Them Witches, Lost and Found
  • Alunah, Amber & Gold
  • Canyon, Mk II
  • Demon Head, The Resistence
  • Destroyer of Light, Hopeless
  • Ecstatic Vision, Under the Influence
  • Godmaker & Somnuri, Split
  • Holy Mushroom, Blood and Soul
  • King Buffalo, Repeater
  • Minsk & Zatokrev, Split
  • Sleep, Leagues Beneath
  • Stonus, Lunar Eclipse
  • Sundecay, Gale

Looking Forward

A good many albums have already been announced or hinted at for 2019. I in no way claim this to be a complete roundup of what’s coming, but here’s what I have in my notes so far, in absolutely no order:

Kings Destroy, Lo-Pan, Cities of Mars, Heavy Temple, Mr. Peter Hayden, Curse the Son, High Fighter, Destroyer of Light, Year of the Cobra, Buffalo Fuzz, Zaum, The Sonic Dawn, Alunah, Candlemass, Elepharmers, Grandier, Dorre, Abrahma, Mars Red Sky, Eternal Black, Elephant Tree, Atala, No Man’s Valley, Sun Blood Stories, Crypt Sermon, The Riven, Hibrido, Snail, Red Beard Wall, 11Paranoias, Dead Witches, Monte Luna, Captain Caravan (LP), Swallow the Sun, Oreyeon, Motorpsycho, Vokonis, Hexvessel, Saint Vitus, Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Kind, Mastiff, Shadow Witch, Om.

Okay, That’s It

Yeah, no, I’m serious. List is done. Everybody go back to your lives. Your families miss you.

Really though, while this is by no means my last post of 2018, I can’t let it pass without saying thank you so much to everyone for checking out the site this year, or for just digging into this, or for sending me music, or hitting me up on social media, sharing a link, anything. Thank you. Thank you. I could never have imagined when it started out where it would be now. Or that I’d still be doing it. Your support means more to me than I can say, and I thank you so much for being a part of this with me.

So thanks.

If you have something to add to the list, please do so by leaving a comment below, but keep in mind as well the above note requesting civility. Please don’t make me feel stupid because I forgot your favorite record. I forgot a lot of people’s favorite records. I’m one dude. I’m doing my best.

And please keep in mind if you’ve got a list together that the Year-End Poll is open and results will be out Jan. 1.

Everybody have a great and safe 2019.

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Apostle of Solitude Post Original Demos; Euro Touring Starts this Week

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 7th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

apostle of solitude old pic

As they prepare to head abroad later this week to tour in Austria, France, Belgium and Germany on a run bookended by appearances at Doom over Vienna XIII and Hammer of Doom XIII, Indianapolis doomers and all around national treasure Apostle of Solitude have posted their original demos from 2005 and 2006 for name-your-price public consumption via Bandcamp. The band has said it’s a limited-time thing, so if it’s the kind of whatnot you might be interested in, you might want to get while the getting’s good.

Of course, there have been some significant changes in the band’s sound in the last 13 years, but the mournful melodies and unmistakably doomed riffing is right there from the start, central to Apostle of Solitude‘s purpose even then. They go to Europe supporting this year’s From Gold to Ash (review here) full-length, a highlight of a strong 2018 in doom, and while it’s a lot of fun to revisit “Pale, Sick Horse” from the 2005 self-titled demo or the 11-minute rawness of “Life Like Quicksand” on 2006’s Embraced by the Black, there’s just no taking away from the quality of the work they’re doing now.

You can stream both demos and the album at the bottom of this post, because I feel strongly enough about that to include three embeds:

In honor of the Apostle of Solitude 2018 European tour starting this week, we are offering Bandcamp downloads of the first two Apostle of Solitude releases (the 2005 AOS Demo and 2006’s Embraced by the Black) with the “Name Your Price” option, for a limited time. link in the comments below.

Apostle of Solitude 2018 European dates:
11.09.18 – Vienna, Austria @ Viper Room Vienna DOOM OVER VIENNA XIII
11.10.18 – Marburg, Germany @ Knubbel Marburg w/ BST & Skinjob
11.11.18 – Lomme, France @ Bobble Café w/ Nornes
11.12.18 – Deinze, Belgium @ ELPEE Café w/ Growing Horns
11.13.18 – Oldenburg, Germany @ MTS LPs and CDs w/ BST
11.14.18 – Tilburg, Netherlands @ Little Devil Bar w/ BST and King Heavy
11.15.18 – Hamburg, Germany @ Bambi Galore w/ BST & King Heavy
11.16.18 – Wurzburg, Germany @ Posthalle Wurzburg HAMMER OF DOOM XIII
11.17.18 – Saarbrucken, Germany @ Horst w/ BST

APOSTLE OF SOLITUDE is:
Corey Webb – drums
Chuck Brown – guitars, vocals
Steve Janiak – guitars, vocals
Mike Naish – bass

www.facebook.com/apostleofsolitude
twitter.com/apostledoom
apostleofsolitude.com
www.cruzdelsurmusic.com
cruzdelsurmusic.bandcamp.com
www.facebook.com/cruzdelsurmusic
twitter.com/CruzDelSurMusic

Apostle of Solitude, Apostle of Solitude (2005 Demo)

Apostle of Solitude, Embraced by the Black (2006 Demo)

Apostle of Solitude, From Gold to Ash (2018)

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