Apostle of Solitude Post “Ruination be Thy Name” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 23rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Apostle of Solitude

If Apostle of Solitude wanted to just go ahead and make a clip for each of the non-intro/interlude tracks on their new album, From Gold to Ash (review here), I’d be cool with that. As long as I get to premiere one or two of them. Thus far in giving the record video interpretation, they’ve covered side A (if in reverse order) between their prior clip for the ultra-hooky “Keeping the Lighthouse” (posted here) and the new one below for post-intro opener “Ruination be Thy Name.” That leaves “My Heart is Leaving Here,” “Monochrome (Discontent)” and “Grey Farewell.” I say go for it. Those last couple tracks get pretty morose, but screw it, it’s doom. If you can’t handle being miserable, you’re in the wrong subgenre.

Unlike its darker companion piece inthe prior video, “Ruination be Thy Name” is pretty bright in its (visual) tone, comprised of manipulated green-screen performance footage edited together to the rhythm of the song itself. And it’s a considerable rhythm. Where later on, From Gold to Ash gets into some particularly heart-rending fare, both “Ruination be Thy Name” and “Keeping the Lighthouse” bask in more middle-ground tempos and some of the album’s most resonant hooks. Massive groove abounds, naturally, and “Ruination be Thy Name” seems to be built as much around its nodding riff as the repetitions of its title line. One way or another, it provides one of From Gold to Ash‘s most memorable impressions, and as the de facto leadoff cut, it emphasizes just how much the band has grown in the last several years.

I said in my review that this is one of the year’s best records. Well, since I wrote that I’ve only heard more of the candidates, and I completely stand by the earlier statement. From Gold to Ash shows how much life there can be in so-called traditional doom when a band works so diligently to make those traditions their own. If you haven’t checked it out yet, you should. That’s about all there is to it.

Enjoy the clip below, followed by more info from the PR wire:

Apostle of Solitude, “Ruination be Thy Name” official video

U.S. Doom Giants APOSTLE OF SOLITUDE have released the official video for “Ruination Be Thy Name,” a track from new album From Gold to Ash.

Cruz Del Sur Music released From Gold to Ash February 23 on CD, vinyl LP, cassette, and digital formats.

CD: http://tinyurl.com/yaty2zet
Vinyl: http://tinyurl.com/ycjz3elg
Digital (album stream): apostleofsolitude.bandcamp.com/album/from-gold-to-ash

APOSTLE OF SOLITUDE will host an album release show this Friday, March 23 at Black Circle Brewing in Indianapolis, along with Desert Planet, Devil to Pay and Shroud of Vulture.

A U.S. summer tour is currently in the works, as well as another trip across the pond with the band’s confirmed appearance at the 2018 installment of DOOM OVER VIENNA festival.

Recorded in September 2017 at Russian Recording in Bloomington, IN with studio mastermind Mike Bridavsky, From Gold To Ash offers seven songs of ambitious, aching doom. Largely defined by the heartfelt and emotive dual vocals of Chuck Brown and Steve Janiak, From Gold To Ash covers a wide spectrum of heavy, from raging instrumentals to introspective guitar duos, monolithic doom riffs and reflective, melodic heartache. From Gold to Ash is also the first APOSTLE OF SOLITUDE album to feature bassist Mike Naish (Astral Mass, Shroud of Vulture).

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

Apostle of Solitude on Thee Facebooks

Cruz del Sur Music website

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Argus Post Video for “Devils of Your Time”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 6th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

argus

Okay, so I guess technically this is the first Argus video, though they very definitely had a lyric clip posted for “You are the Curse”, so it’s the first video with the band rocking out and all that, and the second video made to promote the band’s latest triumph of traditional heavy metal and doom, From Fields of Fire (review here), their fourth album and third for Cruz del Sur, which was released last year. The new video is for “Devils of Your Time,” which is the post-intro leadoff to Argus‘ most charged and furious work to-date.

If you heard the album, you know that’s not hyperbole. The Pittsburgh-based five-piece have put out work of increasing metallurgy and quality throughout their 13-year tenure, beginning with their self-titled debut (review here) in 2009 and running through 2011’s Boldly Stride the Doomed (discussed here) and 2013’s Beyond the Martyrs (review here), and with From Fields of Fire, they take yet another forward step in their approach, finding a niche between doom and classic metal and treading that ground in a way not only irony-free, but utterly flexible to bend at the will of their songwriting to one side or the other. It’s a special record. An undertaking at 55 minutes, but poised and righteous and a gift to the sphere of American metal.

The video for “Devils of Your Time” is also pretty classic and straightforward in its approach. Directed by Nick Prezioso, it’s got the band rocking out in Headbanger’s Ball-worthy fashion, and if you’re sensitive to flashing lights, you might want to look out because there are a decent portion of them featured here, but beyond that, there’s no reason not to dig into what I think it’s fair to call one of the best kept secrets in US heavy metal and heavy metal in general. Dudes should be on magazine covers and whatnot.

PR wire info follows the video below. Please enjoy:

Argus, “Devils of Your Time” official video

Pittsburgh, PA traditional metal force ARGUS have released the official video for “Devils of your Time,” a track from 2017 Cruz Del Sur Music album From Fields of Fire. The video (the band’s first ever) was conceptualized and created by Nick Prezioso.

From Fields Of Fire was released September 8, 2017 on Cruz Del Sur Music. Order the CD at this location. The Vinyl LP version is available here.

Stream From Fields of Fire at argusmetal.bandcamp.com/album/from-fields-of-fire

Four years after the release of Beyond the Martyrs, the mighty U.S. Heavy Metal torchbearers ARGUS have returned with From Fields of Fire on Italy’s Cruz Del Sur Music! From Fields of Fire is the defining moment from a band that has delivered the goods album after album. It is the highlight of their career to date and one that will be seen as a highlight in heavy metal circles, not just this year, but for years to come.

Argus on Thee Facebooks

Argus on Bandcamp

Cruz del Sur Music website

Cruz del Sur Music on Bandcamp

Cruz del Sur Music on Thee Facebooks

Cruz del Sur Music on Twitter

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Review & Full Album Premiere: Apostle of Solitude, From Gold to Ash

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on February 20th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Apostle of Solitude From Gold to Ash

[Click play above to stream Apostle of Solitude’s From Gold to Ash in its entirety. Album is out this week on Cruz Del Sur Music.]

Understand: I had reasonably high expectations for Apostle of Solitude‘s fourth album. No reason not to, frankly. Since making a splash a decade ago with their debut full-length, Sincerest Misery (discussed here), they’ve never failed to move forward either in their approach or overall quality of output. That was the case as 2010’s Last Sunrise (review here) followed and set the stage for its own follow-up, Of Woe and Wounds (review here), in 2014. Now, between those two records a pivotal change was made in the band that saw founding guitarist/vocalist Chuck Brown and drummer Corey Webb bring aboard guitarist/vocalist Steve Janiak, also of Ripple Music heavy rockers Devil to Pay, to add complement to Brown‘s emotional delivery and thickness and volume to the sound overall. The short version is it worked.

The long version is it worked splendidly. And while it would be rational to imagine that a band whose output across three records has always been geared toward a healthy amount of progression would continue to progress, the fourth Apostle of Solitude, titled From Gold to Ash and issued as their second for knows-its-metal-imprint Cruz Del Sur, surpasses any and all expectations one might’ve placed on it. To be blunt, it is the kind of album that bands go their entire careers trying to make. And I fully recognize that sounds like hyperbole, but as executions of American doom metal go, there’s really nothing more one could ask of these seven tracks, which have weight in their atmosphere and emotion as much as their riffs, huge grooves cut through by melancholic harmonies between Janiak and Brown, and a continued development in songcraft that has produced some of the most memorable Apostle of Solitude material to-date.

In several important ways, From Gold to Ash is a direct follow-up to Of Woe and Wounds, and I think even the construction of the two titles hints at that. Now rounded out by bassist Mike Naish, the band returned to Mike Bridavsky to helm the recording, with whom they’ve worked since Last SunriseBridavsky brought a notable shift in clarity to Of Woe and Wounds, and that’s something From Gold to Ash continues. Apostle of Solitude sound unabashedly melodic, and though they’re distorted, rumbling, crashing and heavy, tracks like “Ruination be Thy Name” and “My Heart is Leaving Here” prove spacious enough to allow for dynamic changes in volume and tempo and overall feel, and across the 43-minute offering, the band creates a mire that’s as much heart-rending as it is headbang-worthy, their plod worthy of earliest Trouble even as they call out Pentagram‘s Be Forewarned on the penultimate “Monochrome (Discontent)” en route to rolling closer “Grey Farewell.”

The interaction between Brown and Janiak on vocals and guitar, frankly, is the most outward point of growth on the part of the band — that is, the easiest to perceive — and this makes sense. It would have to be. Either proves capable of taking the frontman position for a given song — Janiak plays that role in Devil to Pay — but it’s in cuts like centerpiece highlight “Keeping the Lighthouse” (video posted here) and in the chorus of “Ruination by Thy Name,” which arrives following the extended intro “Overlord” and delivers both an irresistible swaying groove and much of the lyrical perspective in the line, “To be wounded, and to be maimed, is to exist,” in a midsection break following the second and not-at-all final runthrough of one of From Gold to Ash‘s most resonant hooks.

Apostle of Solitude

It’s telling that the band would separate “Ruination by Thy Name” and “Keeping the Lighthouse” by the quiet 90-second guitar interlude “Autumn Moon,,” allowing the listener to properly recover from the one before moving onto the next, but they do no such favors when it comes to From Gold to Ash‘s final three tracks — a salvo that begins with the 10-minute “My Heart is Leaving here” and continues with “Monochrome (Discontent)” and the finale “Grey Farewell),” both of which top seven minutes and thus are longer than either “Ruination by Thy Name” (6:37) and “Keeping the Lighthouse” (a tidy 6:23). The reason that matters is because after “Keeping the Lighthouse” crashes to its end, “My Heart is Leaving Here” picks up with quiet, echoing guitar and seems to move the album into a different section entirely — it’s the moment where the listener enters “the thick of it.”

Slower, more depressive, more regret-filled, the calls and responses of “My Heart is Leaving Here” are a point at which From Gold to Ash reaches a new stage of expressiveness, and likewise becomes more immersive. It is doomed revelry of the highest order, building toward a guitar solo and huge lumbering finish in which a cymbal wash gives way to the drum fill at the beginning of “Monochrome (Discontent),” on which Janiak seems to take the forward vocal position as he did on “Luna” from Of Woe and Wounds, with results no less successful. Another sorrowful lyric and rolling riff gives way to a stretch of minimal guitar and punching bass after the halfway point — a bridge, essentially, and not a long one — but the peaceful moment is effective in conveying Apostle of Solitude‘s overarching dynamic and the various means through which they’re able to convey a forlorn spirit.

“Monocrhome (Discontent)” drags itself to its ending without another word and “Grey Farewell” crashes in with a suitable largesse of plod before settling into a middle-paced push through one last trade between verse and hook that seems to summarize the various aspects of From Gold to Ash that have worked so well across both sides of the release. There might be a flourish of hope in the dual-layered/dual-channel guitar solo about three-quarters of the way through, but as one recalls the line, “No time can cure the rising anguish” from “My Heart is Leaving Here” and the shouted delivery of “anguish” as a part of that, the impression overall of From Gold to Ash is long since set. Its depressiveness is resonant throughout, but there’s nothing theatrical or overblown about Apostle of Solitude‘s delivery throughout. No drama, no pretense, no wasted time. The sincerity with which From Gold to Ash is executed is one of its great strengths, and while that’s been a key factor to the band’s aesthetic since their beginning, they’ve simply never reached the level they do here.

Let me be blunt: When 2018 is over, From Gold to Ash will have been one of its finest doom releases. Despite its downer sensibility, it is an utter triumph of form, and it should put Apostle of Solitude in a new echelon of consideration as one of the US’ finest purveyors of modern doom. It is a significant accomplishment, and one that should not be ignored or passed over for any reason. Recommended.

Apostle of Solitude, “Keeping the Lighthouse” official video

Apostle of Solitude on Thee Facebooks

Cruz del Sur Music website

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Apostle of Solitude Post “Keeping the Lighthouse” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 15th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

apostle of solitude keeping the lighthouse

It’s not really a ‘get to know you’ kind of video. You’re not going to recognize the dudes from Apostle of Solitude on the street after you watch it. It’s the kind of clip that has a little mystique to its presence.

It’s really fucking dark, is what I’m trying to say. Like, no-lights-on dark.

Well, there are some lights in the background, but the band are essentially silhouettes throughout the entirety of the seven-minute runtime of “Keeping the Lighthouse,” which is taken from their upcoming fourth album, From Gold to Ash, out next week on Cruz Del Sur. Come to think of it, it’s almost the exact opposite of the Indianapolis doomers’ video for “Lamentations of a Broken Man” (posted here) from 2014’s Of Woe and Wounds (review here). All the lights were on for that one.

And that was the first video from that record too, of several they’d ultimately wind up making, mostly collecting tour footage and putting it together to complement the tracks. “Keeping the Lighthouse” is moodier fare, as all that darkness would hint toward, but hey, maybe they made the one in answer to the other. Maybe it’s the same room, just with something covering the walls and the breakers shut off. Can’t say for sure. Kind of hard to see.

Ha.

More important things to talk about than the lighting design, though — like the fact that if 2018 ended today, From Gold to Ash might be my album of the year. And yes, I’ve heard some of the other candidates. I’m going to be reviewing it next week and hosting a full-album stream, which I can’t wait for, so I don’t want to get too deep into it here, but the whole thing is just on a completely different level, and for the record, I thought Of Woe and Wounds was fantastic, so it’s not like they’re suddenly blindsiding me with a good album. I think all their albums are good. This one’s just the best of them.

And “Keeping the Lighthouse” — when one counts the semi-introductory leadoff track “Overlord” — is the centerpiece of it, in actual placement and quality alike. A cornerstone hook, a choice groove among choice groove, and harmonies that emphasize the emotional foundations of Apostle of Solitude‘s songwriting. Words like “quintessential” come to mind, with emphasis on “essential.”

PR wire info follows the clip below.

Get doomed:

Apostle of Solitude, “Keeping the Lighthouse” official video

Cruz Del Sur Music has opened CD and vinyl pre-orders for From Gold to Ash. The album will be released February 23 on CD, vinyl LP, cassette, and digital formats.

CD Pre-order:
http://tinyurl.com/yaty2zet

Vinyl Pre-order:
http://tinyurl.com/ycjz3elg

Recorded in September 2017 at Russian Recording in Bloomington, IN with studio mastermind Mike Bridavsky, From Gold To Ash offers seven songs of ambitious, aching doom. Largely defined by the heartfelt and emotive dual vocals of Chuck Brown and Steve Janiak, From Gold To Ash covers a wide spectrum of heavy, from raging instrumentals to introspective guitar duos, monolithic doom riffs and reflective, melodic heartache. From Gold to Ash is also the first APOSTLE OF SOLITUDE album to feature bassist Mike Naish (Astral Mass, Shroud of Vulture).

Following the release of From Gold To Ash, APOSTLE OF SOLITUDE plan on hitting the road in the United States and returning to Europe.

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

Apostle of Solitude on Thee Facebooks

Cruz del Sur Music website

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Apostle of Solitude Announce New Album From Gold to Ash out Feb. 23

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 8th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Apostle of Solitude

Look. I won’t even pretend not to have heard this one, and I’m just going to say it outright: Apostle of Solitude‘s From Gold to Ash is one of the best albums that’s going to come out in 2018. In doom? Well, it’s early to know of course, but if it’s not the best traditional doom record of 2018 by the end of the year, I’d sure like to know what came down the line to beat it. Their last outing, 2014’s Of Woe and Wounds (review here), was their high-water mark to-date, and these tracks absolutely blow it out of the water. The harmonies, the groove, the weight of it. It’s among the most exciting heavy slabs I’ve encountered set to arrive in the coming months. I can’t shut it off.

No public audio yet. I’ve put in a request to host a stream with a review and I’d like to interview the band as well if I can get my head together to do so. Either way, whatever works out, expect more to come on this one, particularly on most-anticipated and best-of lists for the rest of the year.

Dig the details:

Apostle of Solitude From Gold to Ash

APOSTLE OF SOLITUDE Releasing ‘From Gold to Ash’ February 23 on Cruz Del Sur Music

APOSTLE OF SOLITUDE will release new album From Gold to Ash February 23 on Cruz Del Sur Music. The album will be available on CD, vinyl LP, and digital formats.

The doom bell tolls roughly every four years for Indiana’s APOSTLE OF SOLITUDE. Formed in 2004 by former THE GATES OF SLUMBER drummer Chuck Brown, the band followed their 2008 Sincerest Misery debut with Last Sunrise in 2010, then, in between two splits and a demo, released Of Woe And Wounds in 2014, which also served as their first album for Italy’s Cruz Del Sur Music. Just in time, APOSTLE OF SOLITUDE greets the legions of doom in early 2018 with their fourth studio album, From Gold To Ash.

Recorded in September 2017 at Russian Recording in Bloomington, Indiana with studio owner and engineer Mike Bridavsky, From Gold To Ash offers seven songs of ambitious and equally aching doom. Largely defined by the heartfelt and emotive vocals of Brown, From Gold To Ash covers a wide spectrum of doom, from thundering gallops, mid-tempo bashers to reflective, melodic romps. With songs as voluminous as this, it’s no surprise the songwriting process for APOSTLE OF SOLITUDE (who are rounded out by guitarist Steve Janiak, bassist Mike Naish and drummer Corey Webb) is one of deliberation and utmost care.

From Gold To Ash starts with the savage and gritty guitar chugs of “Overlord”, and gradually starts to take shape with the Sabbath thunder-clap of “Ruination Be Thy Name”, a cut that features some of Brown’s most elaborate singing to date. After the soft peddles found on interlude “Autumn Moon”, the slow-crawl guitar harmonies of “Keeping The Lighthouse” and dominating lurch of “My Heart Is Leaving Here” find APOSTLE OF SOLITUDE playing at near-funeral doom tempos. The sorrow continues with “Monochrome (Discontent)” and “Grey Farewell”, where Brown unfurls soulful, yet melancholic vocal lines, which, according to the singer, was a point of emphasis during songwriting sessions.

Upon the release of From Gold To Ash, APOSTLE OF SOLITUDE plan on hitting the road in the United States and Europe.

Track List

CD:
1. Overlord
2. Ruination Be Thy Name
3. Autumn Moon
4. Keeping The Lighthouse
5. My Heart Is Leaving Here
6. Monochrome (discontent)
7. Grey Farewell

LP:
1. Overlord
2. My Heart Is Leaving Here
3. Autumn Moon
4. Keeping The Lighthouse
5. Monochrome (Discontent)
6. Ruination Be Thy Name
7. Grey Farewell

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

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

Apostle of Solitude, “Luna” official video

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2017

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

top-30-of-2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here goes:

30. Geezer, Psychoriffadelia
geezer psychoriffadelia

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

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

29. Orango, The Mules of Nana

orango the mules of nana

Released by Stickman Records. Reviewed March 27.

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

28. Radio Moscow, New Beginnings

radio moscow new beginnings

Released by Century Media. Reviewed Oct. 6.

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

27. Spaceslug, Time Travel Dilemma

spaceslug time travel dilemma

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

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

26. Mothership, High Strangeness

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

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

25. Eternal Black, Bleed the Days

eternal black bleed the days

Released by Obsidian Sky Records. Reviewed Aug. 1.

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

24. Kadavar, Rough Times

kadavar rough times

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Sept. 6.

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

23. Shroud Eater, Strike the Sun

shroud eater strike the sun

Released by STB Records. Reviewed June 28.

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

22. Enslaved, E

enslaved e

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Oct. 4.

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

21. Arc of Ascent, Realms of the Metaphysical

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

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

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

20. Causa Sui, Vibraciones Doradas

causa sui vibraciones doradas

Released by El Paraiso Records. Reviewed Oct. 20.

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

19. Telekinetic Yeti, Abominable

telekinetic yeti abominable

Released by Sump Pump Records. Reviewed April 10.

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

18. Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kozmic Dust

cloud catcher trails of kozmic dust

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

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

17. Ruby the Hatchet, Planetary Space Child

ruby the hatchet planetary space child

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Aug. 29.

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

16. Alunah, Solennial

alunah solennial

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 1.

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

15. Mindkult, Lucifer’s Dream

mindkult-lucifers-dream

Released by Transcending Obscurity Records and Caligari Records.

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

14. Argus, From Fields of Fire

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

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

13. Uffe Lorenzen, Galmandsværk

Uffe-Lorenzen-Galmandsvaerk

Released by Bad Afro Records. Reviewed Nov. 6.

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

12. The Flying Eyes, Burning of the Season

the flying eyes burning of the season

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Oct. 11.

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

11. Bell Witch, Mirror Reaper

bell witch mirror reaper

Released by Profound Lore. Reviewed Dec. 27.

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

10. Monolord, Rust

monolord rust

Released by RidingEasy Records. Reviewed Oct. 26.

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

9. Vokonis, The Sunken Djinn

vokonis-the-sunken-djinn

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed June 5.

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

8. Electric Moon, Stardust Rituals

electric moon stardust rituals

Released by Sulatron Records. Reviewed April 7.

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

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

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

Self-released. Reviewed May 1.

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

6. The Atomic Bitchwax, Force Field

the-atomic-bitchwax-force-field

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Dec. 7.

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

5. Atavismo, Inerte

atavismo inerte

Released by Temple of Torturous. Reviewed Feb. 21.

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

4. Samsara Blues Experiment, One with the Universe

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

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

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

3. Elder, Reflections of a Floating World

Elder-Reflections-of-a-Floating-World

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

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

2. Colour Haze, In Her Garden

colour haze in her garden

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed March 9.

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

1. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War

all them witches sleeping through the war

Released by New West Records. Reviewed Jan. 27.

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

The Next 20

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

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

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

What’s that? More records? Okay…

Honorable Mentions

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

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

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

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

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

Thank You

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

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

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

And one more time, thank you for reading.

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Debut Albums of 2017

Posted in Features on December 18th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk top-20-debut-albums

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

Every successive year brings an absolute inundation of underground productivity. Every year, someone new is inspired to pick up a guitar, bass, drums, mic, keyboard, theremin, cello — whatever it might be — and set themselves to the task of manifesting the sounds they hear in their head.

This is unspeakably beautiful in my mind, and as we’ve done in years past, it seems only fair to celebrate the special moment of realization that comes with a band’s first album. The debut full-length. Sometimes it’s a tossed-off thing, constructed from prior EPs or thrown together haphazardly from demo tracks, and sometimes it’s a meticulously picked-over expression of aesthetic — a band coming out of the gate brimming with purpose and desperate to communicate it, whatever it might actually happen to be.

We are deeply fortunate to live in an age (for now) of somewhat democratized access to information. That is, if you want to hear a thing — or if someone wants you to hear a thing — it’s as simple as sharing and/or clicking a link. The strong word of mouth via ubiquitous social media, intuitive recording software, and an ever-burgeoning swath of indie labels and other promotional vehicles means bands can engage an audience immediately if they’re willing to do so, and where once the music industry’s power resided in the hands of a few major record companies, the divide between “listener” and “active participant” has never been more blurred.

Therefore, it is a good — if crowded — time for an act to be making their debut, even if it’s something that happens basically every day, and all the more worth celebrating the accomplishments of these first-albums both on their current merits and on the potential they may represent going forward. Some percent of a best-debuts list is always speculation. That’s part of what makes it so much fun.

As always, I invite you to let me know your favorite picks in the comments (please keep it civil). Here are mine:

telekinetic-yeti-abominable

The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Debut Albums of 2017

1. Telekinetic Yeti, Abominable
2. Rozamov, This Mortal Road
3. Mindkult, Lucifer’s Dream
4. Dool, Here Now There Then
5. Eternal Black, Bleed the Days
6. Arduini/Balich, Dawn of Ages
7. Vinnum Sabbathi, Gravity Works
8. Tuna de Tierra, Tuna de Tierra
9. Brume, Rooster
10. Moon Rats, Highway Lord
11. Thera Roya, Stone and Skin
12. OutsideInside, Sniff a Hot Rock
13. Hymn, Perish
14. Riff Fist, King Tide
15. Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree, Medicine
16. Abronia, Obsidian Visions/Shadowed Lands
17. Book of Wyrms, Sci-Fi Fantasy
18. Firebreather, Firebreather
19. REZN, Let it Burn
20. Ealdor Bealu, Dark Water at the Foot of the Mountain

Honorable Mention

Alastor, Black Magic
Devil’s Witches, Velvet Magic
Elbrus, Elbrus
Green Meteor, Consumed by a Dying Sun
Grigax, Life Eater
High Plains, Cinderland
Kingnomad, Mapping the Inner Void
Lord Loud, Passé Paranoia
Masterhand, Mind Drifter
The Necromancers, Servants of the Salem Girl
Owlcrusher, Owlcrusher
Petyr, Petyr
The Raynbow, The Cosmic Adventure
Savanah, The Healer
War Cloud, War Cloud
WhiteNails, First Trip

I could keep going with honorable mentions, and no doubt will add a few as people remind me of other things on which I brainfarted or whathaveyou, preferably without calling me an idiot, though I recognize that sometimes that’s a lot to ask. Either way, the point remains that the heavy underground remains flush with fresh infusions of creativity and that as another generation comes to maturity, still another is behind it, pushing boundaries forward or looking back and reinventing what came before them.

Notes

Will try and likely fail to keep this brief, but the thing I find most striking about this list is the variety of it. That was not at all something I planned, but even if you just look at the top five, you’ve got Telekinetic Yeti at the forefront. Abominable is something of a speculative pick on my part for the potential it shows on the part of the Midwestern duo in their songcraft and tonality, but then you follow them with four other wildly different groups in Rozamov, Mindkult, Dool and Eternal Black. There you’ve got extreme sludge from Boston, a Virginian one-man cult garage project, Netherlands-based dark heavy rock with neo-goth flourishes, and crunching traditionalist doom from New York in the vein of The Obsessed.

What I’m trying to say here is that it’s not just about one thing, one scene, one sound, or one idea. It’s a spectrum, and at least from where I sit, the quality of work being done across that spectrum is undeniable. Think of the prog-doom majesty Arduini/Balich brought to their collaborative debut, or the long-awaited groove rollout from Vinnum Sabbathi, or how Italy’s Tuna de Tierra snuck out what I thought was the year’s best desert rock debut seemingly under everybody’s radar. Stylistically and geographically these bands come from different places, and as with Brume and Moon Rats, even when a base of influence is similar, the interpretation thereof can vary widely and often does.

That Moon Rats album wasn’t covered nearly enough. I’m going to put it in the Quarterly Review coming up just to give another look at the songwriting on display, which was maddening in its catchiness. Maddening in its cacophony of noise was Stone and Skin from Brooklyn’s Thera Roya, which found itself right on the cusp of the top 10 with backing from the ’70s heavy rock vibes of the post-Carousel Pittsburgh outfit OutsideInside. Norway’s Hymn thrilled with their bleak atmospheres, while Australia’s Riff Fist showed off a scope they’d barely hinted at previously, and Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree offered surprises of their own in their warm heavy psych tonality and mostly-instrumental immersion. That record caught me almost completely off-guard. I was not at all prepared to dig it as much as I did.

Thrills continue to abound and resound as the Young Hunter-related outfit Abronia made their first offering of progressive, Americana-infused naturalist heavy, while Book of Wyrms dug themselves into an oozing riffy largesse on the other side of the country and Sweden’s Firebreather emerged from the defunct Galvano to gallop forth and claim victory a la early High on Fire. REZN’s Let it Burn got extra points in my book for the unabashed stonerism of it, while it was the ambience of Ealdor Bealu’s Dark Water at the Foot of the Mountain that kept me going back to it. An album that was genuinely able to project a sense of mood without being theatrical about it was all the more impressive for it being their first. But that’s how it goes, especially on this list.

There you have it. Those are my picks. I recognize I’m only one person and a decent portion of my year was taken up by personal matters — having, losing a job; pregnancy, childbirth and parenting, etc. — but I did my best to hear as much music as I could in 2017 and I did my best to make as much of it as new as I could.

Still, if there’s something egregious I left out or just an album you’d like to champion, hell yes, count me in. What were some of your favorites? Comments are right down there. Let’s get a discussion going and maybe we can all find even more music to dig into.

Thanks for reading and here’s to 2018 to come and the constant renewal of inspiration and the creative spirit.

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Bible of the Devil Record New Album for 2018 Release

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 19th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

It’s been half a decade since Chicago’s Bible of the Devil released their last record, For the Love of Thugs and Fools (discussed here), and I don’t care by what scale you’re measuring — law of averages, Murphy’s law, law of dudes having real jobs and real lives, etc. — that’s way too long. Over the summer, the dual-guitar wizards issued a split with defunct desert weirdos Leeches of Lore (review here) that one hoped was a portend of further activity to come, and it turns out that was pretty much exactly the case.

Bible of the Devil hit the studio earlier this month with Sanford Parker at the helm to track the long-awaited follow-up to For the Love of Thugs and Fools, and while details on the outing are minimal at this point with no title, artwork, tracklisting, or release date yet unveiled, I’m already looking forward to hearing what they’ve come up with after so long an absence from album-creation, and you should be too. At least, you know, if you like awesome classic metal and heavy rock, songs about the night, and stuff that kicks ass in general. Which I think you do or you probably wouldn’t still be reading this. So yeah, get stoked.

I’m not sure if Bible of the Devil are still signed to Cruz del Sur, which put out For the Love of Thugs and Fools, but either way, hopefully more info will surface soon on the impending long-player. Will say something when I see something, as the propaganda posters tell me to do.

Dig:

bible-of-the-devil-Photo-Trevor-Weston

Bible of the Devil Update Fall 2017

Greetings! BOTD has been busy this fall! Coming off the successful “High In The Night” tour this summer with our friends High Spirits, we spent the first weekend in October recording at Electrical Audio here in Chicago. This will be our 7th studio album and follow-up to the 2012 release For the Love of Thugs and Fools. Sanford Parker, who previously produced Firewater At My Command, The Diabolic Procession, and the critically acclaimed Freedom Metal, is behind the controls once again. Expect a rocker of the most epic proportions to be released in 2018.

BOTD also has one show to close out 2017 that will be happening next Saturday, October 21st. Details are as follows:

Oct. 21st Sat. Chicago, IL @ Live Wire

Doors 8pm
Tix $8 adv/$10 dos

BOTD 12am
Witchcryer (Austin, TX) 11pm
Arriver 10pm
Reivers 9pm

In addition, BOTD will also be re-releasing the seminal 2003 album, Tight Empire, on vinyl with its original artwork in the Winter of 2018. Pre-orders can be sent through PayPal at botdmusic@gmail.com and are $20 + $5 shipping.

Stay tuned for the announcement of RAWfest3, Alehorn of Power X, and some select dates in the Summer of 2018.

Bible of the Devil is:
Nathan Perry: Vocals, Guitars
Greg Spalding: Drums, Loathing
Darren Amaya: Bass, Vocals
Chris Grubbs: Guitars

www.facebook.com/bibleofthedevil
http://bibleofthedevil.net/
http://www.cruzdelsurmusic.com/

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