The Obelisk Presents: The Top 30 of 2014

Posted in Features on December 22nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

the-obelisk-top-30-of-2014

Please note: These are not the results of the Readers Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t added your list yet, please do.

This was a hard list to put together. The top three have been set in my mind for probably the last month, but trying to work my way backwards from there was a real challenge — what’s a top 10 record, a top 20 record, a top 30, honorable mentions and all the rest. I’ve never done a full top 30 before, always 20, but the truth is there was just too much this year to not expand.

I’m still juggling numbers even as I put together this post, and I’m sure that by the time I’m done several records will have switched places. That’s always how it seems to go. What I’m confident that I have is a list accurately representing critique and my own habits, both what I gravitated toward in listening throughout the year and what I feel is noteworthy on a critical level. This site has always been a blend of those two impulses. It’s only fair this list should be as well.

Before we dig in, you should note this is full-length albums only. I’ll have a list of short releases (EPs, singles, demos) to come, as well as a special list of debut releases, since it seemed to be a particularly good year for them. And since I’m only one person, I couldn’t hear everything, much as I tried.

Okay. Here we go:

30. Orange Goblin, Back from the Abyss

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Released by Candlelight Records. Reviewed on Nov. 17.

The kings of London’s heavy scene offered more powerhouse heavy rock with their eighth album and second for Candlelight, and their rabid and ever-growing fanbase ate it up. Back from the Abyss proved yet again that few can attain the kind of vicious force that seems to come so natural to Orange Goblin, and made it clear their domination shows no signs of losing momentum.

 

29. Mos Generator, Electric Mountain Majesty

mos-generator-electric-mountain-majesty

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed on March 14.

A darker affair from Port Orchard, Washington’s Mos GeneratorElectric Mountain Majesty still found its core in the songwriting led by guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed. They’re a band with some changes on the horizon, and I’ll be interested to hear what hindsight does to these songs. As it was, the hooks and downer vibes may have been in conceptual conflict, but the execution was inarguable.

 

28. Pilgrim, II: Void Worship

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Released by Metal Blade Records. Reviewed on April 15.

Richer in the listening than 2012’s Misery Wizard debut, Pilgrim‘s II: Void Worship nonetheless held firm to the doomly spirit that’s made the Rhode Island outfit such a sensation these last couple years. Its longer songs, “Master’s Chamber,” “Void Worship” and the emotionally weighted “Away from Here,” were particularly immersive, and they remain a bright spot in doom’s future.

 

27. John Garcia, John Garcia

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Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed on July 7.

His long-awaited solo debut, John Garcia‘s John Garcia offered memorable tracks culled from years of songwriting from the former Kyuss, Slo Burn, Unida and Hermano frontman, performed in the classic desert rock style he helped define. I’m not sure it was worth trading a second Vista Chino record for, but it was hard to argue with “The Blvd” and “All These Walls.”

 

26. Swans, To be Kind

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Released by Mute/Young God Records. Reviewed on May 9.

An overwhelming two-disc barrage from a relentless creativity that, more than 30 years on from its first public incarnation, is still to be considered avant garde. I’m not sure planet earth realizes how lucky it is to have Swans running around unleashing all this chaos, but I hope they don’t stop anytime soon. To be Kind was brutal and beautiful in like measure.

 

25. Sólstafir, Ótta

solstafir-otta

Released by Season of Mist. Discussed Oct. 11.

Icelandic four-piece Sólstafir hit on a rarely attained balance of gorgeousness and melancholy, and while Ótta is expansive, it’s also gripping front to back and is the best execution of its style I’ve heard since Anathema‘s Alternative 4, which is not a comparison I make lightly. A challenging record, but satisfying in kind and universal in its expressiveness.

 

24. Greenleaf, Trails and Passes

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Released by Small Stone Records. Reviewed on April 25.

The follow-up to Greenleaf‘s stellar 2012 outing Nest of Vipers (review here) brought lineup changes and stripped away many of the textural elements of the band’s sound — guest appearances, arrangement flourishes — in order to get back to a classic heavy rock sound and translate better to the stage. With guitarist Tommi Holappa‘s songwriting ever at the core, it would be unfair to call the process anything but a success.

 

23. Earth, Primitive and Deadly

earth-primitive-and-deadly

Released by Southern Lord Recordings. Reviewed on Sept. 9.

Most of the headlines went to the fact that Primitive and Deadly had vocals, where the generally-instrumental Earth had avoided singers for 18 years prior, but even putting aside Mark Lanegan and Rabi Shabeen Qazi, whose performance on “From the Zodiacal Light” was the high point of the record, presented Earth‘s always progressive tensions in a rawer, heavier production, and was a joy for longtime fans.

 

22. Ogre, The Last Neanderthal

ogre-the-last-neanderthal

Released by Minotauro Records. Reviewed on March 10.

Six years and one breakup later, Portland, Maine, doom trio Ogre returned with The Last Neanderthal, neither afraid to revel in Sabbathian traditionalism or rock out a more upbeat cut like opener “Nine Princes in Amber.” For bassist/vocalist Ed Cunningham, guitarist Ross Markonish and drummer Will Broadbent, it was a welcome resurgence of pretense-free heavy riffs and grooves.

 

21. The Wounded Kings, Consolamentum

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Released by Candlelight Records. Reviewed on Jan. 30.

Of course, at the time we didn’t know it would be the final outing from this lineup of UK doomers The Wounded Kings, whose guitarist/founder Steve Mills has now reunited with original vocalist George Birch, but Consolamentum was a hell of a closing statement anyway for this era of the band, showcasing their murky, increasingly progressive style still waiting for wider appreciation.

 

20. Floor, Oblation

floor-oblation

Released by Season of Mist. Reviewed on April 22.

Wasn’t sure where to put Floor‘s reunion offering, Oblation, on this list at first, since I kind of fell off listening to it as the year went on, but I’ve gone back to it over the last couple weeks and it has held up to the revisit, whether it’s songs like the extended “Sign of Aeth” or shorter, catchy pummelers like “Rocinante” or “War Party.” Floor‘s 2002 self-titled holds an untouchable legacy in heavy rock, but I think the years will prove Oblation a worthy successor. Nobody knew what they had with Floor at the time either.

 

19. Druglord, Enter Venus

druglord-enter-venus

Released by STB Records. Reviewed on Feb. 14.

Little on 2011’s Motherfucker Rising (review here) or their 2010 demo (review here) prepared for the kind of assault that Druglord‘s Enter Venus brought to bear. Four stomp-laden slabs of tectonic crash and distortion, vocals buried under and calling up from the amp-bred fog. The Virginian trio were in and out on the 27-minute 12″ release, but had enough heavy for a record twice as long, and the tinges of darkened psychedelia made their songs like a lurking presence just on the edge of consciousness, a threat waiting to be unleashed.

 

18. Ararat, Cabalgata Hacia la Luz

ararat-cabalgata-hacia-la-luz

Released by Oui Oui Records. Reviewed on April 4.

For the sheer variety of Ararat‘s third album in rockers like “Nicotina y Destrucción,” “El Hijo de Ignacio,” the experimentalism of “El Arca” and the piano-driven “Los Viajes” and the acoustic closer “Atalayah,” and the assured, flowing manner in which the Argentina trio pulled it all off, Cabalgata Hacia la Luz should be higher on this list than it is. Part of that might be my frustration at my apparent inability to buy a copy, but don’t let that take away from the quality of the material here, which is wonderfully chaotic, memorable and engaging, rushing in some places and stopping to weep in others.

 

17. Radio Moscow, Magical Dirt

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Released by Alive Naturalsound. Reviewed on May 29.

You won’t hear me deny that Radio Moscow‘s primary impact is as a live band, but their fifth album, Magical Dirt, managed to bring forth much of their psychedelic blues presence in “Death of a Queen,” “Before it Burns” and “Gypsy Fast Woman,” the blinding rhythmic turns and wah-soaked guitar supremacy of Parker Griggs front and center throughout. Together with bassist Anthony Meier (also Sacri Monti) and drummer Paul Marrone (also Astra and Psicomagia), Radio Moscow are hitting their stride as one of heavy rock’s most powerful power trios. One never knows what to expect, but hopefully they keep going the way they are.

 

16. Apostle of Solitude, Of Woe and Wounds

apostle-of-solitude-of-woe-and-wounds

Released by Cruz del Sur. Reviewed on Nov. 6.

Four years isn’t the longest time I’ve ever waited for a record to come out, but in the case of Indianapolis’ Apostle of Solitude, it felt like an especially long stretch. Their third full-length and first for Cruz del Sur, Of Woe and Wounds followed the anticipation-building Demo 2012 (review here) and a couple splits and brought aboard bassist Dan Dividson and guitarist/vocalist Steve Janiak (also Devil to Pay), who fit well with drummer Corey Webb and guitarist/vocalist Chuck Brown to result in a payoff worthy and indicative of the time that went into its making. Hands down one of the finest acts in American doom.

 

15. Stubb, Cry of the Ocean

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Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed on Nov. 24.

Stubb‘s second long-player, also their debut on Ripple, gets a nod for the sense of progression it brought in answering the potential of the trio’s 2012 self-titled debut (review here), guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson, bassist Peter Holland and new drummer Tom Fyfe expanding the scope to include more heavy psych influence and soul along with the fuzz riffs and steady rolling while giving no ground in terms of the level of craft at work. Cry of the Ocean has become one of those albums where all I have to do is look at a title, be it “Cry of the Ocean Pt. I” or “Sail Forever” or “Heartbreaker,” and the song is immediately stuck in my head. With these tracks, that’s not at all a complaint.

 

14. Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, Black Power Flower

brant-bjork-and-the-low-desert-punk-band-black-power-flower

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed on Nov. 10.

Brant Bjork has worn many hats, literal and figurative, over the years, whether it’s drummer in Kyuss or Fu Manchu, producer, solo artist or bandleader. With Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, he steps once again into the latter role, and with guitarist Bubba DuPree, bassist Dave Dinsmore and drummer Tony Tornay, presents not only on his heaviest record to date, but what could easily begin a sustainable full-band progression that can go just about anywhere his songwriting wants to take it. “Stokely up Now,” “That’s a Fact Jack,” “Controllers Denied” and “Boogie Woogie on Your Brain” made for some of 2014’s best in desert rock, and Black Power Flower was an stellar return for Bjork to his “solo” work.

 

13. Dwellers, Pagan Fruit

dwellers-pagan-fruit

Released by Small Stone. Reviewed on May 22.

An earlier version of this list had Pagan Fruit at a lower number, but I couldn’t live with it not being closer to the top 10. Salt Lake City’s Dwellers pushed deeper into laid back psych and blues on their second album, and in doing so, crafted an atmosphere entirely their own. From “Creature Comfort” down to “Call of the Hollowed Horn,” with triumphs along the way like “Rare Eagle,” “Totem Crawler” (“Ohh, my queen… To whom, I crawl…) and “Son of Raven,” Pagan Fruit became a staple of my 2014, building off their 2012 debut, Good Morning Harakiri (review here), but presenting their stylistic growth with a confidence and poise that can only come from a band who’ve figured out what they want to be doing and how they want to do it. Front to back, Pagan Fruit sounds like an arrival.

 

12. The Golden Grass, The Golden Grass

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Released by Svart Records. Reviewed on March 25.

What made Brooklyn trio The Golden Grass‘ self-titled debut such a special released wasn’t just that it was heavy, or that the tracks were catchy, or that guitarist Michael Rafalowich and drummer Adam Kriney could harmonize over Joe Noval‘s warm-toned basslines. That was all great, don’t get me wrong, but what really stood out about The Golden Grass was its irony-free positivity, the way it was able to capture an upbeat, sunshiny feel without having to smirk about it on the other side of its mouth. It was self-aware, to be sure — knew what it was doing — but the way I see it, consciousness only makes the stylistic choices more impressive. Add to that the nuance they brought to ’70s revivalism, and all that stuff about catchiness and the harmonies, and there just wasn’t a level on which the album didn’t work.

 

11. The Well, Samsara

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Released by RidingEasy Records. Reviewed on Sept. 22.

My appreciation continues to grow for The Well‘s Samsara, which successfully pulled together influences from garage doom and heavy psychedelia while crafting an identity for the Austin, Texas, three-piece at once raw and melodically accomplished, guitarist Ian Graham and bassist Lisa Alley sharing vocals to classic effect on “Refuge” while otherwise trading off lead position to bolster variety in the material. The high point might’ve been the eight-minute “Eternal Well,” on which GrahamAlley and drummer Jason Sullivvan conjured some of their grooviest demons, but the hooks of “Mortal Bones,” “Trespass” and the attitude-laced “Dragon Snort” were no less engaging. One of many strong releases from their label this year — Slow SeasonThe Picturebooks, etc. — they seemed to come ready to serve notice of a stylistic movement underway.

 

10. Montibus Communitas, The Pilgrim to the Absolute

montibus-communitas-the-pilgrim-to-the-absolute

Released by Beyond Beyond is Beyond. Reviewed on Dec. 4.

Peruvian psych adventurers Montibus Communitas more or less blew my mind when I heard their late-2013 offering, Harvest Times earlier this year, and the narrative, conceptual 2014 release, The Pilgrim to the Absolute, is even more of an achievement in its portrayal of improvised exploration, sonic ritualism and open creativity. The weaving of longer pieces against shorter ones with the various steps along the path as presented in the titles, some journeying, some arriving, some descriptive, almost all accompanied by nature in one form or another, gives The Pilgrim to the Absolute an almost impressionistic quality, so that even as you listen to it, you engage it as much as it carries you along its vibrant, breathtaking progression en route to the closing title-track, which is a destination every bit worthy of the journey. This is the most recently reviewed inclusion on this list, but Montibus Communitas‘ latest readily earns its place in the top 10. It is unique in its surroundings.

 

9. Fu Manchu, Gigantoid

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Released by At the Dojo Records. Reviewed on May 14.

Looking back at the last two Fu Manchu records, 2007’s We Must Obey and 2009’s Signs of Infinite Power, it seemed reasonable to expect the groundbreaking SoCal fuzz foursome to put out another collection of big-sounding riffs in a big-sounding production. Nothing to complain about, but probably not a landmark. By going the other way completely — stripping their buzzed-out riffing down to its punkish core thanks in no small part to recording with Moab‘s Andrew GiacumakisFu Manchu served up a raw reminder both of where they came from and how top notch their songwriting remains. Reissuing their earliest work and being on their own label might’ve had something to do with it, but whatever it was, the 35 minutes of Gigantoid was as efficient a heavy rock outing as one could hope from an already legendary band, whether it was the hook-prone opening salvo of “Dimension Shifter,” “Invaders on My Back,” “Anxiety Reducer” and “Radio Source Sagittarius” or the righteous ending jam “The Last Question.”

 

8. The Skull, For Those Which are Asleep

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Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed on Nov. 5.

Given the origins of The Skull — ex-Trouble members Eric Wagner, Jeff “Oly” Olson and Ron Holzner joining with Lothar Keller and a series of other guitarists, finally Matt Goldsborough, working essentially as a tribute band to their former outfit — I think not only did the quality of the material and performance on For Those Which are Asleep surprise, as well as the classically doomed feel that resonates throughout the album, but the sheer heartfelt nature of songs like “Sick of it All,” “Send Judas Down” and the title-track itself. This wasn’t a cynical attempt to make a go of an already set legacy. It was an expression of appreciation both for what they accomplished as Trouble and a desire to continue that work. The Skull‘s whole thing has been that they’re “more Trouble than Trouble,” and in their lineup that’s been true since they brought Olson on board. For Those Which are Asleep demonstrated that the classic spirit of that band is alive and well, its address has just changed. Moreover, it’s the beginning of a new progression for that spirit, and I hope it continues.

 

7. Blood Farmers, Headless Eyes

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Self-released on CD, LP on PATAC Records. Reviewed on March 24.

Nineteen years after releasing their self-titled debut, New York’s Blood Farmers contended for 2014’s comeback of the year with their sophomore outing, Headless Eyes — a morose, horror-obsessed six-track collection that on “Night of the Sorcerers” owed as much to Goblin as to Sabbath. The closing cover of David Hess‘ theme from The Last House on the Left, “The Road Leads to Nowhere,” was a late bit of melodic flourish to add depth, but how could the highlight be anything other than the 10-minute title-track itself, with its samples from the 1971 horror flick The Headless Eyes, bassist Eli Brown in a call and response with lyrics comprised of lines directly taken from the movie? That after playing shows the last several years, Blood Farmers managed to get a record out was impressive enough. That Headless Eyes turned out to be the year’s best traditional doom release was an entirely different level of surprise. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for their third, but Brown, guitarist David Szulkin and drummer Tad Leger gave plenty to chew on with Blood Farmers‘ second. It was better than would’ve been fair to expect.

 

6. Lo-Pan, Colossus

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Released by Small Stone. Reviewed on Oct. 7.

A lot of what you need to know about Lo-Pan‘s fourth album you learn in the first five seconds of opener “Regulus.” There’s no fancy intro, no time wasted, nothing to take away from the directness of the song itself. Tones are crisp — the verse is already underway — and guitar, bass and drums are laser-focused in their forward movement. Even when vocalist Jeff Martin enters the song, roughly six seconds later, his arrival comes with no indulgence, no pomp. Colossus is easily Lo-Pan‘s most immediate work to date, and throughout, Martin, guitarist Brian Fristoe (since replaced by Adrian Zambrano), bassist Scott Thompson and drummer Jesse Bartz retain that focus no matter where the material takes them, delivering a clinic in how to kick as much ass as possible at any given moment on cuts like “Marathon Man” and “Eastern Seas,” or even bringing in guest vocalist Jason Alexander Byers, who also designed the album cover, for a spot on “Vox.” They had a hard task in following up 2011’s Salvador (review here), but the Columbus, Ohio, unit stood up to the challenge and met it and everyone else head-on.

 

5a. All Them Witches, Lightning at the Door

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Self-released. Reviewed on Sept. 25.

What to do with All Them Witches‘ Lightning at the Door? The Nashville four-piece released the album last fall digitally, but it wasn’t until this September that it saw a physical manifestation. In fact, if you go back, it was included on the Top 20 of 2013 as well. Which is the release date? I don’t know. What I know is that in terms of the sheer amount of time spent listening, I put on Lightning at the Door more than any other record this year. From where I sit, that alone gets it a place in the top five. Yeah, it might be a cop-out to do a “5a,” but sometimes exceptions have to be made, and All Them Witches have proved to be nothing if not exceptional in their still relatively brief, jam-laden history, the psych-blues dynamic between bassist/vocalist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod, Fender Rhodes specialist Allan van Cleave and drummer Robby Staebler pushing them quickly to the fore of American heavy rock’s innovators, their natural, improv-sounding material feeling brazen and exploratory while reshaping the elements of genre to suit their needs. One can only see this dynamic developing further as they continue to grow as a live band, so Lightning at the Door may just be the start, and that’s perhaps most exciting of all.

 

5. Witch Mountain, Mobile of Angels

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Released by Profound Lore. Reviewed on Aug. 20.

A beautiful, stunning work made even more powerful by the honesty driving it. Portland, Oregon’s Witch Mountain completed a trilogy with the Billy Anderson-produced Mobile of Angels that brought about some of the best doom of this young decade, their 2011 return from a years-long hiatus, South of Salem (review here) serving as the foundation for a stylistic progression that continued on the following year’s Cauldron of the Wild (review here) and onto Mobile of Angels itself as the four-piece’s most accomplished album to date. The reason it feels like such a concluding chapter is because of the departure of vocalist Uta Plotkin, whose voice helped establish Witch Mountain both on stage and in the studio, leaving founders Rob Wrong (guitar) and Nathan Carson (drums) with the sizable task of finding a replacement. That situation will be what it will be, but Mobile of Angels remains a gorgeous, lonely testament. Plotkin gives a landmark performance on “Can’t Settle” and “The Shape Truth Takes,” which in the context of what was happening in Witch Mountain at the time ring with a truth that’s rare in or out of doom, and she seems to have left the band just as they were hitting their finest hour. So it goes.

 

4. Conan, Blood Eagle

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Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed on Jan. 22.

In all of heavy, there is no assault so severe as Conan‘s. With their second full-length and debut on Napalm Records, the UK trio solidified the two sides of the preceding 2012 outing, Monnos (review here), in constructing material that, fast or slow, short or long, retained an epic feel melded with their ungodly tonality and memorable songwriting. Their first recording at guitarist/vocalist Jon DavisSkyhammer Studio, it affirmed Conan‘s will to conquer in its two massive bookends, “Crown of Talons” and “Altar of Grief,” and in the High on Fire-worthy gallop of “Foehammer” — a bludgeon commandingly wielded by Davis, bassist/vocalist Phil Coumbe and drummer Paul O’Neil, the latter to of whom have since left the band to be replaced by longtime-producer Chris Fielding and Rich Lewis, respectively. What effect the changes might have on the band — except apparently more touring, which isn’t a bad thing — have yet to be seen, but Conan are already in the process of writing a follow-up to Blood Eagle, so it doesn’t seem like it’ll be all that long until we find out. With Davis still steering the band in songwriting and overall direction, one severely doubts they’ll be fixing what obviously isn’t broken anytime soon. None heavier.

 

3. Wo Fat, The Conjuring

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Released by Small Stone Records. Reviewed on June 18.

Dallas riff-rockers Wo Fat have grown steadily over the course of their five albums, from the nascent heavy roll of 2006’s The Gathering Dark, to the hooks of 2008’s Psychedelonaut (review here), the jamming that started to surface on 2011’s Noche del Chupacabra (review here) and was pushed further on 2012’s The Black Code (review here). And their approach has been as steady as the frequency of their releases. In making The Conjuring, the three-piece were simply engaging the next step in their progression, but the material on the five-track/48-minute outing goes further than just that. Putting aside (momentarily) the 17-minute closer “Dreamwalker,” the other cuts, “The Conjuring,” “Read the Omens,” “Pale Rider from the Ice” and “Beggar’s Bargain” each found a place for themselves in pulling together jammed-sounding elements with a memorable construction, and when guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, bassist Tim Wilson and drummer Michael Walter did kick into “Dreamwalker,” they hit on not only their longest piece yet, but their most accomplished showcase of the chemistry that has developed between them. That song is a beast unto itself, but as has been the case with Wo Fat each time out so far in their career, there’s nothing on The Conjuring to give the impression the band can’t or won’t continue to keep going on the path that’s worked so well for them on this point. They’ve spent the last eight years on the right track and have yet to waiver. The Conjuring should be played at top volume for anyone who contends there’s no life left in heavy rock and roll.

 

2. Mars Red Sky, Stranded in Arcadia

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Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed on March 11.

Mars Red Sky‘s second LP and first for Listenable, Stranded in Arcadia was originally supposed to be recorded in the California desert, but visa problems kept the French trio of guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras, bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Matgaz in Brazil, where they’d previously been touring. Thus, “stranded in Arcadia,” which is basically another way of saying “lost in paradise.” Can’t say the Bordeaux three-piece didn’t make the most of it, though. Songs like “The Light Beyond” and “Hovering Satellites” — not to mention the utter melodic bliss of “Join the Race” — took cues from their 2011 self-titled debut (review here) in terms of memorable songwriting and melodic craft, but added to that heft and tonal richness more of a psychedelic vibe, so that not only was there fuzz and wah, but a spacious world in which the songs took place. With Kinast on lead vocals, the sneaky boogie of “Holy Mondays” became a highlight, and the one-two swing ‘n’ stomp of “Circles” and “Seen a Ghost” were a perfect demonstration by the band of the various sides of their sound, particularly following after the dreamy instrumental “Arcadia,” an echoing jam distinguished by Pras‘ wistful guitar lead and coming before the closing “Beyond the Light,” which reprises the opener’s resonant unfolding. It probably wasn’t the record they intended to make, but Stranded in Arcadia became one of my go-to albums for 2014, and like the best of any given year’s output, I’ve no doubt it will transcend the passage of time and continue to deliver for years to come. Hell, I was barely done with the debut when this one came out.

 

1. YOB, Clearing the Path to Ascend

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Released by Neurot Recordings. Reviewed on Sept. 3.

“It’s time to wake up.”

Can’t imagine this is any great surprise. Not only did Clearing the Path to Ascend – YOB‘s seventh album and first for Neurot — produce my pick for song of the year in its sprawling, emotionally weighted 18-minute closer, “Marrow,” but in the three full-lengths the Eugene, Oregon, trio of drummer Travis Foster, bassist Aaron Rieseberg and guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt have released since the latter reformed the band after breaking it up following 2005’s The Unreal Never Lived, all three have been my album of the year. The Great Cessation was in 2009, and Atma was in 2011. Consistency aside, I’ll point out specifically that each of the same three records has earned that position, perhaps Clearing the Path to Ascend most of all for its progressive feel, moving past genre even at its most raging moment, second cut “Nothing to Win,” the chorus of which proved that among everything else YOB could be, they could be anthemic. The cosmic, spiritual questing that has always been present in their songs, that feeling of searching, showed up in opener “In Our Blood,” but even there, it was evident YOB were pushing themselves beyond what they’ve done before, rewriting their own formulas incorporating lessons from their past in among their other points of inspiration. “Unmask the Spectre” could have easily been an album closer itself, with its patient exploration and feverishly intense payoff, but with the melodic progressivism of “Marrow” and the soul poured into every second of that track, every verse and chorus, solo and build — including the Hammond added to the last of them by producer Billy Barnett — YOB created a landmark both for themselves and the increasing many working under their influence. I’ve said on several occasions (bordering on “many” at this point) that YOB are a once-in-a-generation band, and it feels truer in thinking of Clearing the Path to Ascend than it ever has. Without a doubt, album of the year and then some.

 

 

Honorable Mention

First, special note to Colour Haze‘s To the Highest Gods We Know. I’ve decided to count it as a 2015 release since the vinyl will be out in Spring, but otherwise surely it would earn a place on this list. Blackwolfgoat‘s Drone Maintenance also deserves note.

A few other honorable mentions:

MothershipMothership II — It’s hard to argue with a classic heavy rock power trio kicking ass. I won’t try.

AlunahAwakening the Forest — Every time I make a list, no matter what kind of list it is, there’s a band I wind up kicking myself for forgetting about at the time. This is the case 100 percent with why Alunah aren’t in the Top 30. In fact, I might go in and swap them out with somebody.

Ice DragonSeeds from a Dying Garden — Boston experimental psych/garage doomers continue to defy expectation. May their weirdness last forever and continue to produce material so satisfying.

TruckfightersUniverse – I thought at some point I’d go back to Universe again, but never really did. A problem with me more than the album.

SteakSlab City — An impressive debut following two strong EPs.

GodfleshA World Lit Only by Fire — I never got a review copy, so I never reviewed it. Its name is here because I’m a fan of the band and glad they’re back.

ThouHeathen — Just recently purchased this and am only getting to know it, but a ridiculously strong album.

Corrosion of ConformityIX — Everybody who gets a boner whenever Pepper Keenan is mentioned in connection with this band has missed out. This record and the self-titled kick ass.

SpidergawdSpidergawd — Holy shit they’re over here! No they’re over there! No wait over here again! Oh my god I’ve just gone blind!

Monster MagnetMilking the Stars — I wasn’t sure what to do with this since technically it’s not a new album, mostly reworked songs from the last one. I still listened to it a ton though, whatever it is.

SlomaticsEstron — Another one I’m just getting to know, but am very much digging.

Electric WizardTime to Die — People seem to do this thing where Electric Wizard puts out a record, everyone slathers over it for a few months and then spends the next two years talking about how it sucked. I guess I’ll be on the ground floor with not having been that into Time to Die.

PallbearerFoundations of Burden — Had to put their name somewhere on this list or someone would burn my house down. Album of the year for many.

The list goes on: Monolord, Comet Control, Mammatus, Triptykon, Eyehategod, Fever Dog, Moab, Karma to Burn, Atavismo, Grifter, 1000mods, Megaton Leviathan, Wovenhand, Mr. Peter Hayden, Primordial, and many more.

Before I check out and go sit in a corner somewhere to try and rebuild brain power after this massive dump of a purge, I want to sincerely thank you for reading. If you check in regularly, or if you’ve never been to the site before, if you don’t give a crap about lists or if you’re gonna go listen to even one band on here, it’s fantastic to me. Thank you so much for all the support this site receives, for your comments, for sharing links, retweeting, whatever it is. I am a real person — I’m sitting on my couch at this very moment — and being able to do this and have people see it and be a part of it with me is unbelievable. I realize how fortunate I am. So thank you. Thank you.

Thank you.

More to come as we close out 2014. I’ll have a list of short/split/demo releases, a year-end podcast, a list of the best debuts, a round up of the best live shows I saw, as much more as time allows. Please stay tuned.

And again, thank you. If I left anyone off the list, I hope you’ll let me know in the comments and contribute your own top albums, however many there are, to the Readers Poll.

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Wo Fat’s Live Juju: Wo Fat at Freak Valley Available to Preorder

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 4th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Wo-Fat-5-Photo-by-Falk-Hagen-Bernshausen-480

On March 17, Texas riffers Wo Fat will release Live Juju: Wo Fat at Freak Valley. Their first official live album, it was recorded earlier this year as the name implies at Germany’s Freak Valley festival, which was part of Wo Fat‘s “Texas Takeover” European tour with Mothership, and is available to preorder now through the Dallas trio’s own Fuzz Lab Records in a limited vinyl pressing of 500 copies.

Guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump of Wo Fat – who’ve already put out one of 2014’s best records in the form of The Conjuring (review here) on Small Stone – offered this comment on the new release and what was clearly a special performance for the band:

“Freak Valley was one of the highlights of what was a pretty smokin’ European tour that we did last spring. It was a transcendent experience for us to be a part of this amazing event with such a killer lineup of bands and the support of so many great fans. We decided to call the album Live Juju partly to try and convey some of the magic that was in the air that day that started out cold and wet and turned into a beautiful sunny spring day not long before our set.”

Preorders for Live Juju: Wo Fat at Freak Valley come with an immediate download of “Read the Omens,” which featured in their 40-minute Freak Valley set from The Conjuring. More info on the release follows here, courtesy of the band:

wo fat live juju wo fat at freak valley

Recorded Live at Freak Valley, Netphen, Germany, May 30, 2014 by Jens Hunecke of Heinen Studios
Mixed By Kent Stump at Crystal Clear Sound
Mastered by Nolan Brett at Crystal Clear Sound
Released by Fuzz Lab Records

The vinyl will include a download immediately of one song and a download of the entire album on the release date.

Track List:
1. The Black Code
2. Read the Omens
3. Bayou Juju
4. Enter the Riffian
5. Sleep of the Black Lotus

Artwork: David Paul Seymour - http://davidpaulseymour.com/

Recorded Live at Freak Valley, Netphen, Germany, May 30, 2014 by Jens Hunecke of Heinen Studios
Mixed By Kent Stump at Crystal Clear Sound
Mastered by Nolan Brett at Crystal Clear Sound
Released by Fuzz Lab Records

Pre-sale link: https://wofat.bandcamp.com/album/live-juju-wo-fat-at-freak-valley
https://www.facebook.com/wofatriffage/

Wo Fat, Live Juju: Wo Fat at Freak Valley (2015)

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Mothership Stream “Holy Massacre”; Mothership II Out Today

Posted in audiObelisk on November 11th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

mothership

Mothership II, the aptly-titled second full-length and Ripple Music debut from Dallas heavy rocking trio Mothership, is available today. You can hear the complete thing on Ripple‘s Bandcamp if you’re so inclined, but given the opportunity to do so, I also wanted to feature a track from the record since it demonstrates so clearly how guitarist/vocalist Kelley Juett, bassist/vocalist Kyle Juett and drummer Judge Smith have progressed since their 2012 self-titled debut (review here), which Ripple also released last year.

If the power trio have moved forward from their first record — and I’ll point to the Floydisms of opener “Celestial Prophet” and later instrumental “Tami Massif” and the masterful use of tempo shifts on “Priestess of the Moon,” the progressive edge of “Holy Massacre” and the grand stoner epic closer “Serpents Throne” (not to be confused with Philadelphia-based instrumental outfit Serpent Throne) as evidence that they have — then it’s evolution hard won. The Juetts and Smith have spent a goodly portion of the last two years road-dogging back and forth across the country, even venturing to Europe for the first time mothership iithis past summer to play the Freak Valley festival and elsewhere. Their time on tour has fed into their confidence in their performance and their command of songwriting, so that “Astromancer” seems to offer payoff where The Sword never quite did and “Centauromachy” touches on classic metal chugging with the smoothness of tone and atmosphere — Wo Fat guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, who also helmed the debut, recorded Mothership II at his band’s Crystal Clear Studios in Dallas — that only heavy rock swagger can provide. And Mothership II is not short on swagger. Whether it’s the swing in Smith‘s crash or the interplay of Kelley‘s shred-ready guitar and Kyle‘s bass, Mothership are locked in and they sound like they know it.

The album is also two-sided both in the vinyl A/B sense and in terms of the songwriting. While “Priestess of the Moon,” “Astromancer” and “Centauromachy” tell stonerly tales of monsters and outer space, Mothership also get down with a fair bit of classic rock sleaze to break things up. Side A’s “Shanghai Surprise” and side B’s “Hot Smoke and Heavy Blues” — not to mention the borderline-creepy CD bonus track “Good Morning Little School Girl” — feed into a dudely heavy rock trope of long-standing. Though “Holy Massacre” doesn’t necessarily represent this lyrical aspect of Mothership II – something I’ll argue works in its favor — the song’s fluidity, natural tonality, live feel and high-octane delivery speak to many of the strengths at work across the album, and that’s not to mention the strength of the hook at play in its chorus. A bluesy chug emerges as it builds to its stomping apex, and Mothership shift tempo so smoothly that before you know it, you’re being carried off to the next movement.

If you haven’t heard it yet, take a listen to “Holy Massacre” below to get a taste for some of Mothership II‘s finest heavy. Hope you enjoy:

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

Mothership‘s Mothership II is out now on Ripple Music in Europe and North America. They’ll play their official release show Nov. 21 at Lola‘s Saloon in Ft. Worth, TX. More info at the links.

Mothership on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

 

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Mothership II Album Details Revealed

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 2nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Mothership‘s new album is a scorcher, plain and simple. The Texas natives made waves with their self-titled debut, which got picked up by Ripple for a re-release, but Mothership II is a different beast altogether, and one that trounces its predecessor easily. I’ll have more on the record as we get closer to its newly-announced November release, again through Ripple Music, but for now, take this as notice that the album is one worth looking forward to, and particularly if you dug the first one, something that’s going to make a late addition to your best of the year list.

Details and tracks and art, just off the PR wire:

MOTHERSHIP Reveal Details of Sophomore Album, Mothership II

Ripple Music and Dallas, Texas-based riffers Mothership are excited to finally reveal the details of Mothership’s highly anticipated second release, Mothership II. After months of playing their new tunes to sweaty, ecstatic masses both in Europe and on across the United States, the trio is excited for fans to finally hear the album in its entirety. For the album art, the band chose good friend and incredibly talented artist Zach “EZ” Nelson (Instagram – @ezwheelin) to hand draw his version of the galactic Valkyrie who also appeared in another form on the cover of the band’s debut album. For the album’s engineering, Mothership returned to Kent Stump of Wo Fat, who also lent his magic to the group’s eponymous debut album, at Dallas’ Crystal Clear Studios. Mothership II will be released on single LP gatefold vinyl and on digipack CD.

RELEASE DATES:

US: November 11th
Europe/UK: November 10th

TRACK LISTING:

1. Celestial Prophet
2. Priestess of the Moon
3. Shanghai Surprise
4. Holy Massacre
5. Centauromachy
6. Hot Smoke & Heavy Blues
7. Tamu Massif
8. Astromancer
9. Serpents Throne

The CD will have two bonus songs:

1. Eye of Sphinx
2. Good Morning Little Schoolgirl

mothershipusa.bandcamp.com
mothershiphaslanded.com
facebook.com/mothershipusa
twitter.com/mothershipusa
ripple-music.com
ripplemusic.bandcamp.com

Mothership, “Serpents Throne” live in Germany

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Wo Fat Stream Instrumental Version of New Album The Conjuring

Posted in audiObelisk on June 30th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

I’m not sure what prompted Dallas trio Wo Fat to produce an instrumental version of their latest and fifth album, The Conjuring (review here), taking away the vocal work of Kent Stump and Michael Walter to leave just their guitar and drums, respectively, and the bass work of Tim Wilson, but if you want to apply the old stoner rock cliché, it definitely fits: “It’s all about the riffs, man”

That’s been the case, more or less, all along for the heavy fuzz-rocking three-piece, but this instrumental take on The Conjuring brings into focus more than ever before just how righteous Wo Fat‘s nod is, how fluidly they roll from groove to groove. Even a shorter song like the just-under-seven-minute “Read the Omens” — which in its vocalized incarnation is among the record’s catchiest pieces — works smoothly as an instrumental moving between its riffs. Wo Fat have developed their jammy side particularly over the course of their last two albums, 2012’s The Black Code (review here), which was also their debut on Small Stone, 2011’s Noche del Chupacabra (review here), but whether it’s an airy Stump lead, smooth fill from Wilson or perfectly placed crash from Walter, the instrumental The Conjuring highlights just how dynamic and powerful a trio they’ve become.

Of course, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the 17-minute closing title-track, “Dreamwalker,” which feels all the more open without the verses or chorus to ground it, but of particular note as well is the centerpiece “Pale Rider from the Ice,” which, without its bluesy intro, launches with a solid 90 seconds of right-on tone, an utter wash of fuzz courtesy of Stump, before moving into a heavy psychedelic flow that, while satisfying on the regular edition, is an utter highlight here, and all the more so moving into the swaggering “Beggar’s Bargain.”

It’s not an official title or anything, but I’ve been referring to it as The Voiceless Conjuring. So, if you’ve ever wanted to do Wo Fat karaoke — I’d be lying if I said I hadn’t — The Voiceless Conjuring is your chance. Fuzz on:

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

Wo Fat‘s The Conjuring was recorded at the band’s own Crystal Clear Sound in Dallas and is available now on Small Stone Records. The band recently returned from a European tour alongside Mothership that included a stop at Freak Valley. More info and updates at the links.

Wo Fat on Thee Facebooks

Wo Fat’s website

The Conjuring at Small Stone’s Bandcamp

Small Stone Records

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Wo Fat, The Conjuring: It was No Dream

Posted in Reviews on June 18th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

To those already familiar with Dallas riff forerunners Wo Fat, their fifth album, The Conjuring, will likely hold few surprises. It is foremost the next stage in the Texas heavy rock trio’s ongoing progression, captured at the band’s own Crystal Clear Sound studio by guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, it runs a sonically consistent thread forward from their last several records even unto its Alexander von Wieding artwork, the German artist having contributed the last two covers as well, to 2012’s The Black Code (vinyl review here, CD review here), which was their debut on Small Stone, as well as 2011’s Noche del Chupacabra (review here), released by Nasoni. But as that collaboration has yet to yield a piece of such impact as that which adorns The Conjuring, so too do the album’s five songs/47 minutes find Wo Fat at their most developed yet, be it the smooth tempo shifts in “Read the Omens,” the hooks in the opening title-track or the boogie-strong “Beggar’s Bargain,” the bluesy humor of “Pale Rider from the Ice,” or the extended jam in the 17-minute closer “Dreamwalker,” which looms large over the rest of the tracklisting. Wo Fat have only become more spacious and jammed-out over time, so these things are natural progressions, and they very much remain a heavy rock band, but to trace their development since their 2006 debut, The Gathering Dark, and its follow-up, 2008’s Psychedelonaut (review here), is to understand the roots of the utter mastery of their sound they show in these tracks, the power trio dynamic between Stump, bassist Tim Wilson and drummer/backing vocalist Michael Walter shining through the dense wall of fuzz and riffed excellence they’ve crafted. I consider myself a fan, but I think even the most impartial of ears would have to admit they’ve outdone themselves again.

Listening to “Dreamwalker,” one can only wonder how long it will be before Wo Fat jam out a single-track LP, one vital piece that brings their voodoo tales and rolling grooves to bear across a massive, 40-minute exploration, but as much as that cut is bound to be a focal point for anyone who takes on The Conjuring, that’s not to underplay the quality of songwriting that precedes (or, really, that contained within it; as stretched out as that song is, it’s also got a hook). The album opens with a sample culled from 1957’s Curse of the Demon, the quote, “I know the value of the cold light of reason, but I also know the deep shadows that light can cast,” topping a mounting swell of feedback that least to the first riffs of “The Conjuring,” which unfolds patiently but clearly announces its verse riff upon arrival. Immediately Wo Fat are in their element: Vital, natural-sounding, not forcing the song but enjoying the trip they’re taking with it. Between songs like “Shard of Leng” and “Lost Highway” from The Black Code, “Bayou Juju” and “Descent into the Maelstrom” from Noche del Chupacabra and “El Culto de la Avaricia” and “Analog Man” from Psychedelonaut, there’s no question Wo Fat have a history of mixing a few choice hooks into each record, the kinds of choruses you hear immediately in your head upon seeing the name of the song, but The Conjuring balances this impulse best of all with their predilection for jamming, extended tracks bookending the album while “Read the Omens,” “Pale Rider from the Ice” and “Beggar’s Bargain” hold true and further the methods they’ve established as their own over the course of their decade-plus tenure. I don’t know how many layers of guitar there are by the time “The Conjuring” wraps its near-10-minute run, but I know they’re all put to good use, and I know “Read the Omens,” which follows, continues the momentum with no letup and a raucous wash of cymbals to accompany.

Read more »

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Wo Fat to Release The Conjuring on June 17

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 7th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

If you’ve got a calendar, you might want to mark June 17 for the release of Wo Fat‘s new album, The Conjuring, or failing that, get your preorder ready to roll. However you go about it, the point is the fifth record from the Dallas fuzz explorers is one you don’t want to let slide. The artwork, release date and bio I wrote were already premiered here a little while back, but a reminder from the PR wire never hurt anybody, and in addition to the preorder link, this one also comes with confirmation of Wo Fat‘s European tour alongside Mothership, whose new album was just recorded with Wo Fat‘s Kent Stump at the band’s own Crystal Clear Sound in Dallas.

That tour includes a stop at the Freak Valley festival, which looks awesome:

WO FAT: Dallas Psychedelic Haze-Bringers To Unveil The Conjuring Next Month Via Small Stone; European Takeover Announced

You can wade through as many WO FAT press quotes about being “Texas-sized” as you want or see how many top-whatever lists the band has made since the Dallas trio began raging in 2003, but none of that is going to be the same as staring down their swampadelic fuzz groove for yourself. If you want to know the monster, shake its hand.

Next month, WO FAT will release The Conjuring, their fifth full-length and second via the volume perpetrators at Small Stone. Much like their last two works — 2012’s The Black Code and 2011’s Noche del Chupacabra – The Conjuring is a heavy-riff/heavy-jam blast of a time, the sort of record that turns the vaguely interested into converts and makes the corners on squares look even sharper.

Guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, bassist Tim Wilson and drummer/backing vocalist Michael Walter are jazz-combo tight and their roll is easy and natural, much like Fu Manchu, but far bigger and in the case of The Conjuring, far darker. There’s been a creature lurking in the woods since WO FAT’s 2006 debut, The Gathering Dark. Their second album, 2009’s Psychedelonaut, pulled back on the threat some to lighten the mood, but whether it’s the motor-driven rush of “Read The Omens” or the you’re-already-lost-in-it riff-exploration of seventeen-minute closer “Dreamwalker,” The Conjuring is indeed a backwoods ritual. Bluesmen have sold their souls for less.

Veterans of Roadburn, slated for Freak Valley 2014 and self-sufficient with Stump handling the recording at his own Crystal Clear Sound on their home turf, WO FAT pushes their jams farther than they’ve ever gone before on these five tracks. Topped off with a mastering job from Nolan Brett at Stump’s studio and an otherworldly cover courtesy of Alexander Von Wieding, the beast that WO FAT’s tectonic riffage calls to earth has never seemed more real or more alive than it does on The Conjuring.

The Conjuring Track Listing:
1. The Conjuring
2. Read The Omens
3. Pale Rider From The Ice
4. Beggar’s Bargain
5. Dreamwalker

The Conjuring will drop via Small Stone on June 17th, 2014 on CD, vinyl, and digitally. Preceding the release, WO FAT will take their smoky stoner rituals overseas on a twelve-date trek. The games begin on May 27th in London. From there, the band will spread their jams through France, The Netherlands, Germany, Poland, Sweden, and Spain, including an appearance at the illustrious Freak Valley Festival sharing the stage with Truckfighters, Blues Pill, Solstafir, Mothership and more!

Preorder The Conjuring today at THIS LOCATION where you can also sample fourth track, “Beggar’s Bargain.”

WO-FAT Live 2014:
5/27/2014 The Black Heart – London, UK
5/28/2014 Le Glazart – Paris, FR
5/29/2014 Little Devil – Tilburg, NL
5/30/2014 Freak Valley Festival 2014 – Netphen, DE
5/31/2014 Jagerklause – Berlin, DE
6/01/2014 Fonobar – Waraw, POL
6/02/2014 Chemiefabrik – Dresden, DE
6/03/2014 Chemiefabrik – Munich, DE
6/04/2014 Kinski – Zurich, SW
6/05/2014 Le Volume – Nice, FR
6/06/2014 Rocksound – Barcelona, ESP
6/07/2014 Peyote Fest – Madrid, ESP

http://www.facebook.com/wofatriffage
http://www.smallstone.com
http://www.facebook.com/smallstonerecords

Wo Fat, “Beggar’s Bargain” from The Conjuring (2014)

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Wo Fat to Release The Conjuring June 17; Artwork and Details Revealed

Posted in Visual Evidence on February 12th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Today I have the extreme pleasure of premiering the artwork for Wo Fat‘s forthcoming fifth album, The Conjuring. Set for release on June 17 through Small Stone – though from what I hear it’ll be available at the merch table on the Dallas trio’s upcoming European tour — the cover art to The Conjuring arrives courtesy of none other than Alexander von Wieding, who has outdone himself in capturing the album’s brooding and dark psychedelia. Von Wieding did the cover as well for 2012’s The Black Code (review here), and of course counts Karma to Burn, his own Larman ClamorBlack ThaiManilla Road and many others among his clientele. Samples of his work are available at his website.

Click the image below for a more detailed look, and just for kicks, I’ve also included the Wo Fat bio for The Conjuring, which I wrote:

Wo Fat – The Conjuring Bio

You can wade through as many press quotes about “Texas-sized” as you want or see how many top-whatever lists Wo Fat have made since the Dallas trio got started in 2003, but none of that is going to be the same as staring down their swampadelic fuzz groove for yourself. If you want to know the monster, shake its hand.

In 2014, Wo Fat will release The Conjuring, their fifth full-length and second through Small Stone. Like their last two, 2012’s The Black Code and 2011’s Noche del Chupacabra, it’s a heavy-riff/heavy-jam blast of a time – the kind of record that turns the vaguely interested into converts and that makes the corners on squares look even sharper. Guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, bassist Tim Wilson and drummer/backing vocalist Michael Walter are jazz-combo tight and their roll is easy and natural, like you remember Fu Manchu being, but bigger-sounding and in the case of The Conjuring, darker as well.

There’s been a creature lurking in the woods since Wo Fat’s 2006 debut, The Gathering Dark – their second album, 2009’s Psychedelonaut, pulled back on the threat some to lighten the mood – but whether it’s the motor-driven rush of “Read the Omens” or the you’re-already-lost-in-it riff-exploration of 17-minute closer “Dreamwalker,” The Conjuring is indeed a backwoods ritual. Bluesmen have sold their souls for less.

Veterans of Roadburn, slated for Freak Valley 2014 and self-sufficient with Stump handling the recording at the band’s own Crystal Clear Sound in Dallas, Wo Fat push their jams farther than they’ve ever gone before on these five tracks. Topped off with a mastering job from Nolan Brett at their studio and an otherworldly cover courtesy of Alexander Von Wieding, the beast that Wo Fat’s tectonic riffage calls to earth has never seemed more real or more alive than it does on The Conjuring.

The Conjuring tracklisting:
1. The Conjuring
2. Read the Omens
3. Pale Rider from the Ice
4. Beggar’s Bargain
5. Dreamwalker

Wo Fat:
Kent Stump: Guitar/vocals
Tim Wilson: Bass
Michael Walter: Drums/backing vocals

https://www.facebook.com/wofatriffage
http://wofat.net/
http://smallstone.com/
http://smallstone.bandcamp.com/

Wo Fat, “Nameless Cults” from Cyclopean Riffs split with Egypt (2013)

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On Wax: Wo Fat, The Black Code

Posted in On Wax on January 24th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

I’ve had Wo Fat on the brain lately, ever since I found out they’d have a new record out this year and they got announced for Small Stone‘s showcases in Boston and Brooklyn this March, as well as playing Freak Valley in Germany this coming May, so with a ton going on, it didn’t seem outlandish to pay their 2012 fourth full-length, The Black Code (review here), another visit. Small Stone put the thing out on vinyl last year in a first run of 500 split up among three color variations. Gone. Second pressing comes limited to 250 copies in 180g vinyl, either solid yellow or transparent orange. The one I got is solid yellow, which I think sits pretty well next to the Alexander Von Wieding album art, playing off the greens of the cover itself and in the gatefold and accenting the band’s logo and the sand of the otherworldly desert landscape. Call me superficial if you want, but in addition to being a fuzz-drenched glory-jam of a full-length, it’s also a nice-looking find.

As to the record itself, well, if you didn’t hear it when you came out, not to be a prick about it, but you’ve been missing out on some of the finest heavy fuzz the US has to offer. As the folks — myself included — who caught Wo Fat at Roadburn last year, they’ll tell you. Wo Fat tap into classically hairy tones and fit them to whatever proportional gag about “Texas-sized” you might want to make. Guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump drives the formidable groove of “Lost Highway” and “The Black Code” on side A, opening things up a bit to let drummer Michael Walter tie up purposefully-left-loose ends on “Hurt at Gone” while bassist Tim Wilson adds bottom end heft to the languid-but-swinging push. The Black Code was self-recorded, but wants nothing for production in either its clarity of natural vibe, and Wo Fat lock in their riffy grooves like the unpretentious heirs to Fu Manchu, saving plenty of room to jam in these long, spacious-sounding tracks.

That’s true all the more on side B of the vinyl, which feels all the more like a wall of fuzz with the CD-closing duo of “The Shard of Leng” and “Sleep of the Black Lotus” flowing one right into the next. One factor that particularly stands out in revisiting The Black Code is that although it’s the jammiest outing Wo Fat have released to date, the songs also hold tightly to memorable choruses, whether it’s “The Shard of Leng” building from its slow-groove intro into more straight-driving riffy crunch or “Lost Highway” kicking the record off with one of its most resonant hooks back on side A. As a power trio, Stump, Wilson and Walter are dead-on and their transitions run accordingly smooth. “The Shard of Leng” stomps its way through swaggering riffery, comfortably paced but irresistibly grooving, with Walter backing Stump‘s vocals in the chorus before breaking out the cowbell and signaling the move into The Black Code‘s longest jam, Echoplex and all.

“Sleep of the Black Lotus” keeps a similar vibe in its okay-this-is-the-song-and-then-we-jam-the-crap-out-of-these-riffs mentality, and though both sides are about even time-wise, the second feels longer with the two more extended tracks. Still, they make an excellent pairing even more on vinyl for being isolated from the rest of The Black Code, righteous and exploratory as they are. Whatever Wo Fat might have in store for their fifth album, and whenever it might arrive this year amid their touring first to the Northeast from Dallas and then overseas, it comes on the heels of their most accomplished full-length to-date — anyone further fiending for their fuzz should explore their 2013 split with Egypt (review here) — and for as great as The Black Code looks and sounds on wax, I can’t wait to hear how they follow it up.

Wo Fat, The Black Code (2012)

Wo Fat on Thee Facebooks

Small Stone Records

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audiObelisk: Elliott’s Keep Unveil “Gates Beyond” from New Album Nascentes Morimur

Posted in audiObelisk on November 26th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

For over half a decade, Dallas, Texas, doom metal trio Elliott’s Keep have paid homage to fallen comrade Glenn Riley Elliott, the three-piece of Kenneth Greene (bass/vocals), Jonathan Bates (guitar) and Joel Bates (drums) having made their debut with 2008’s In Medias Res (review here). In some ways, that album has proven to be the blueprint for everything Elliott’s Keep have done since. Released on Brainticket, it established Elliott’s Keep as a powerfully metallic act running an electric current of Solitude Aeturnus-style traditional American doom metal through their songs. The ensuing follow-up on the same label, Sine Qua Non (review here), was more cohesive and more metal, but crucially, more confident in establishing its darkened course.

Elliott’s Keep‘s third album, the forthcoming Nascentes Morimur, holds to some of the band’s established traditions. It has a Latin title (meaning, “From the moment we’re born, we die”), as well as artwork with a castle keep on the front cover, and it sure enough taps into trad doom and metallic elements from what I’ve heard of it, but like last time around, there’s also progression on the part of the band. And since they returned to record with J.T. Longoria (Solitude Aeturnus, Absu, Mercyful Fate), that progression comes through with clarity and a professionally crisp presentation that’s still heavy as all hell. For example, take the closing track of the CD’s total nine, “Gates Beyond.”

What impresses most about the song isn’t necessarily that it expands the band’s sonic palette by incorporating violin alongside Greene‘s mournful vocals, but how well that expansion blends with the strength in the songwriting. Yeah, “Gates Beyond” is interesting, but it’s also quality doom, and I feel like all too often the one is sacrificed in service of the other (or the other to the one, as it were). Elliott’s Keep have been able to hold firm to the parts of their processes they want to maintain and at the same time bring in new ideas and ultimately change the output in a natural way. “Gates Beyond” proves that, five-years on from their first record, Elliott’s Keep are able to bend their sound to their will. They’re the masters of their own fate.

And that being the case, all the better that I have the opportunity to premiere “Gates Beyond” in advance of the album release. Check it out on the player below, and please enjoy:

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

Elliott’s Keep‘s Nascentes Morimur is due in December and will be available on CD/digital. More info at the following links.

Elliott’s Keep on Thee Facebooks

Brainticket Records

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Elliott’s Keep Finish Recording Nascentes Morimur

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 2nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

With their eyes on a Fall 2013 release, Dallas doomers Elliott’s Keep have finished recording their third album, Nascentes Morimur. Last we heard from the trio, they were starting to record in May, so as the record is being mixed, they’re on track to have it out as planned. J.T. Longoria (whose considerable credentials you can see below) will be handling the mix, and while it’s probably not up there with the highest profile outings he’s worked on, Elliott’s Keep‘s mission of honoring their fallen comrade with heavy-as-hell trad doom continues to impress with both its sincerity and its metallic heft.

The band sent an update down the PR wire:

ELLIOTT’S KEEP COMPLETES RECORDING OF THIRD ALBUM

ELLIOTT’S KEEP, the Dallas metal doom trio have completed the recording of their third full-length album, entitled Nascentes Morimur, which is scheduled for a fall 2013 release.

As with their first two releases, ELLIOTT’S KEEP recorded again with J.T. LONGORIA (Solitude Aeturnus, Candlemass, Absu, Mercyful Fate, King Diamond, Volbeat). Primary recording was completed again at Nomad Studios in Carrollton, Texas. Drums were tracked at Empire Sound Studio in Carrollton, Texas.

Nascentes Morimur is currently being mixed by J.T. LONGORIA, with GARY LONG of Nomad Studios again mastering. In keeping with the band’s use of Latin titles, Nascentes Morimur means “from the moment we are born, we begin to die.”

Song titles for Nascentes Morimur are as follows:

Waves of Anguish
Days of Hell
Now Taken
Feanor’s Bane
Regicide
Tale of Grief
Convergence
Omen
Gates Beyond

In Medias Res was released in November 2008 on Brainticket Records. Sine Qua Non was released in September 2010 on Brainticket Records.

Elliott’s Keep, “Days of Hell” practice recording

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Wo Fat / Egypt, Cyclopean Riffs Split LP: Hellhound in the Temple

Posted in Reviews on July 10th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Texas fuzz mavens Wo Fat and resurgent North Dakota riff rockers Egypt join forces on a new limited-to-500 split LP released via Totem Cat Records. Dubbed Cyclopean Riffs perhaps because the two bands see through one eye or as a play on the fact that the parts work in cycles, the 12″ smoke-colored splatter vinyl features two cuts from each trio. So, to go by the numbers it’s one eye, one release, two bands, two songs each, three members in each band. If you want to keep it going, there’s four songs total and each band has five letters in its name. To draw further correlation, each three-piece also recorded and mixed their own material, with Wo Fat guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump playing the role of engineer for the extended “Nameless Cults,” which starts off their side, and “Electric Hellhound,” while Egypt‘s own six-stringer, Neal Stein, helmed “Blood Temple Hymn” and “Ancient Enemy.” Both have done their own recordings before — Stump has grown into his own as a producer over the course of Wo Fat‘s four albums and Stein proved himself up to the task earlier this year on Egypt‘s comeback LP, Become the Sun (review here) — and with a little over 18 minutes apiece, both bands give a firm sense of where they’re coming from sonically while making a surprisingly good pairing for each other. It’s not necessarily a shock that two fuzzy, heavy rock bands would go together well — that happens all the time — but front to back, Cyclopean Riffs makes the most of a palpable stylistic kinship between Wo Fat and Egypt, its songs based around top quality riffing and classic jamming swagger.

There aren’t sides, per se, but Wo Fat are given top billing, and they launch Cyclopean Riffs with “Nameless Cults,” a song that plays into a similar kind of swamp-mystic thematic that has presented itself across their last two full-lengths, 2012’s The Black Code (review here) and 2011’s Noche del Chupacabra (review here), while remaining consistent on a musical level as well. One thinks of 10-minute-plus jamming excursions like “The Shard of Leng” from last year’s outing or the title-track of the record before it and it seems Wo Fat‘s penchant for improv-style fuzz wandering has remained strong in the time since they put The Black Code to tape. They continue to hone a blend between that side of their approach and a knack for memorable choruses, as both “Nameless Cults” and the considerably less open-structured “Electric Hellhound” offer a hook worthy of their reputation, the former using a straightforward verse/chorus beginning as a springboard for an instrumental jam that holds sway for the entirety of the second half of the track — Stump taking leads here and there while bassist Tim Wilson and drummer Michael Walter (also backing vocals) keep a sense of motion and build rolling along — while the latter works largely the same, only without the departure from its initial base structure. An increase in stomp from Walter and build throughout the song itself would make an extended jam almost redundant, not to mention the fact that they just did one and would run out of room on the side of an LP.

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Mothership Summer Tour with Communion Starts June 24

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 12th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

After marauding this Spring with like-minded booze rockers Gypsyhawk, Texan trio Mothership are taking to the streets once again this month for a week of shows alongside Communion. The tour will include a stop, as noted below, at the pre-party for Show Class magazine’s Born Free 5 fest.

No word yet on a follow-up to the band’s self-titled debut, self-released by the band last year and reissued by Ripple Music earlier in 2013, but I can only imagine they’re hammering out new songs on the road, which for what Mothership does, is where they belong.

The PR wire takes it from here:

MOTHERSHIP Gearing Up For Summer Tour With COMMUNION

The Dallas, Texas-based trio of heavy rock bad asses known as MOTHERSHIP is about to make a return the road for a brief run with psychedelic doomsters COMMUNION.

Those who missed out on the band’s Spring run with GYPSYHAWK now have a second chance to experience some no-frills rock n’ roll magic when MOTHERSHIP kicks off their Summer tour on June 24th at Hotel Vegas in Austin, TX. This run will include a June 28th stop in Trabuco Canyon, CA for Show Class Magazine’s Born Free 5 Festival People’s Champ Party. Details for Born Free 5 and the pre-party can be found at the following links:

bornfreeshow.blogspot.com
www.showclassmag.com
www.heavy-clothing.com

In other news, the song “Lunar Master,” off of MOTHERSHIP’s self-titled debut, has been ranked #3 on The Paranoid Hitsophrenic ‘Regular Old Doom Charts.’ Check out the rankings, which includes a link to a stream of the track, at this location.

MOTHERSHIP Summer 2013 Tour Dates w/ COMMUNION
June 24 Austin, TX @ Hotel Vegas
June 25 El Paso, TX @ The Lowbrow Palace
June 26 Tucson, AZ @ Surly Wench Pub w/ Thorncaster
June 27 San Diego, CA @ The Void w/ Harsh Toke
June 28 Trabuco Canyon, CA @ Cook’s Corner – Born Free 5 Pre-Party w/ O Zorn
June 30 Los Angeles, CA @ TBA
July 1 Phoenix, AZ @ Yucca Tap Room w/ Flying Scorpion
July 2 Albuquerque, NM @ TBA
July 3 Midland, TX @ Blue Max

Mothership, Mothership (2013, Ripple)

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Hawk vs. Dove, Hawk vs. Dove: An Unexpected Landing

Posted in Reviews on May 14th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

A fun game to play for first-time listeners of the four-piece Hawk vs. Dove‘s self-titled, self-released debut might be to give the songs a runthrough and try to guess where on earth the band might be from. On my initial hearing, I ran a geographical gamut from Georgia to London to Brooklyn to California, going by the various influences I heard in their sound, from angular riffing to sweet multiple-participant vocal arrangements, languid rhythms and periods of thick, crunching stomp that give way to classic rocking guitar and organ interplay, subdued moody crescendos and drawn-out melodies. Finally I settled on Portland, if only because it seemed to me the region where such a melting pot of elements might thrive, given the variety of the scene there.

Spoiler alert: Hawk vs. Dove are from Dallas, Texas. They recorded the eight songs of Hawk vs. Dove at The Echo Lab in Denton, following a series of digital singles, and have put it out both on CD and vinyl with detailed artwork from Larry Carey. The foursome — guitarist/vocalist Johnny Hardy, guitarist/vocalist Sean Butler, bassist/vocalist James Losoya and drummer/vocalist Joe Hardy – have little of the Southern metal burl to their tones, but what they offer instead makes the 39 minutes of their debut a much more enjoyable listening experience; a genuine sense of assured aesthetic while also keeping a diverse approach to their songs and shifting the mood along with the tempo. Even on CD, Hawk vs. Dove is broken into sides, and rightly so, beginning with the winding Skynyrd-via-Mastodon riff of “Between the Headlines,” the shortest cut on the record at 2:31 and a motor-ready mover to build immediate momentum as they go forward.

Right away, the vocals make an impression. “Between the Headlines” is brief, but it establishes the singing as one of Hawk vs. Dove‘s standout factors, and the band continue to prove their ability in this regard throughout the tracks, whether it’s in the actual performances of the members or the skillful hand with which those performances are arranged. “The Sabbath” might just as easily be named for its bassline, but half-time drumming gives the track an open feel to go with its initial stomp and the slow-rolling verse, the alternately Queens of the Stone Age and Radiohead vibes of which reminded me of some of Crystal Head‘s well-honed dynamics, but Joe‘s drumming keeps a sense of motion underlying even the stillest parts of Hawk vs. Dove, so that when the Losoya-thickened Helmet-style groove of “Only Words” — its pacing fluid and undulating — takes hold, it’s no more out of place than “The Sabbath” was coming off of “Between the Headlines.”

Johnny and Sean work mostly in tandem on “Only Words,” but still find room for lead/rhythm interplay, enhancing the noisy feel that (East Coast boy that I am) I always relate to Unsane but could just as easily be culled from The Jesus Lizard or any number of other acts, and though the first three tracks are relatively short — all under four minutes — compared to what follows, Side A of Hawk vs. Dove finds its arrival point in the drumroll and brazen classic heavy riffing of “(Run the) Rockwaltz,” organ joining the guitar while the vocals weave into and out of falsetto and a sense of bluesy chaos pervades a desert booziness. There’s the inevitable jam, and Hawk vs. Dove let it ride to the end, gradually deconstructing “(Run the) Rockwaltz” (the initial minutes of which are, indeed, a waltz) as they play out its 8:35 so that by the finish, there’s nothing left but a wash of amp noise and some fed-up sounding cymbal crashes.

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Elliott’s Keep Recording New Album for Fall Release

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 15th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Good news from Texas today in that Dallas trio Elliott’s Keep have a batch of new material they’re getting ready to record next month. According to the update below, which the band sent down the PR wire, they’ll be working again with engineer J.T. Longoria, who also manned their 2010 sophomore outing, Sine Qua Non (review here). A sampling of his credits, which are considerable, is listed below.

Look for more on the album, dubbed Nascentes Morimur in Elliott’s Keep‘s tradition of Latin titles, as we get closer to the Fall 2013 release, but for now here’s the announcement and the front cover of what’s to come:

As we did three years ago, we will begin recording the next Elliott’s Keep record over Memorial Day weekend. This one is entitled Nascentes Morimur, which translates to “From the moment we are born, we begin to die.” The cover art is attached. We will be working again with J.T. Longoria (Solitude Aeturnus, Candlemass, Concept of God, Absu, King Diamond).

Nine tracks this time. The record should be released in the fall.

Elliott’s Keep, “Fearless” from Sine Qua Non

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