The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2018

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

the-top-30-of-2018

Please note: This post is not culled in any way from the Year-End Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2018 to that, please do.

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

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

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

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

Thanks in advance for reading. Here we go:

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

30. The Skull, The Endless Road Turns Dark

The Skull The Endless Road Turns Dark

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Sept. 12.

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

29. Foghound, Awaken to Destroy

foghound awaken to destroy

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Nov. 21.

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

28. Orange Goblin, The Wolf Bites Back

orange goblin the wolf bites back

Released by Spinefarm Records. Reviewed June 13.

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

27. Fu Manchu, Clone of the Universe

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

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

26. Witch Mountain, Witch Mountain

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

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

25. Windhand, Eternal Return

windhand eternal return

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed Oct. 3.

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

24. Sun Voyager, Seismic Vibes

Sun Voyager Seismic Vibes

Released by King Pizza Records. Reviewed April 18.

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

23. Forming the Void, Rift

forming the void rift

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed July 27.

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

22. Spaceslug, Eye the Tide

spaceslug eye the tide

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

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

21. Conan, Existential Void Guardian

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

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

20. Pale Divine, Pale Divine

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

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

19. Mos Generator, Shadowlands

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

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

18a. Stoned Jesus, Pilgrims

STONED JESUS PILGRIMS

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 5.

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

18. Backwoods Payback, Future Slum

backwoods payback future slum

Self-released. Reviewed Aug. 15.

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

17. Corrosion of Conformity, No Cross No Crown

corrosion of conformity no cross no crown

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Jan. 3

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

16. Naxatras, III

naxatras iii

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 14.

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

15. Clutch, Book of Bad Decisions

clutch book of bad decisions

Released by Weathermaker Music. Reviewed Aug. 27.

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

14. Ancestors, Suspended in Reflections

Ancestors Suspended in Reflections

Released by Pelagic Records. Reviewed Aug. 3.

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

13. High on Fire, Electric Messiah

high on fire electric messiah

Released by eOne Heavy. Reviewed Sept. 28.

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

12. Yawning Man, The Revolt Against Tired Noises

yawning man the revolt against tired noises

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed July 2.

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

11. Greenleaf, Hear the Rivers

greenleaf hear the rivers

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Nov. 26.

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

10. Gozu, Equilibrium

gozu equilibrium

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

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

9. Monster Magnet, Mindfucker

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

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

8. Apostle of Solitude, From Gold to Ash

Apostle of Solitude From Gold to Ash

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

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

7. Holy Grove, Holy Grove II

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

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

6. All Them Witches, ATW

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

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

5. YOB, Our Raw Heart

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

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

4. Brant Bjork, Mankind Woman

brant bjork mankind woman

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Sept. 13.

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

3. Earthless, Black Heaven

earthless black heaven

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed March 15.

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

2. King Buffalo, Longing to Be the Mountain

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

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

1. Sleep, The Sciences

sleep the sciences

Released by Third Man Records. Reviewed May 1.

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

The Next 20

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

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

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

Honorable Mention

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

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

Special Note

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

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

Best Short Release of the Year

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

  • Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard & Slomatics, Totems Split

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

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

Looking Forward

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

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

Okay, That’s It

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

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

So thanks.

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

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

Everybody have a great and safe 2019.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Quarterly Review: Glanville, Destroyer of Light, The Re-Stoned, Ruff Majik, Soldat Hans, High Priestess, Weed Demon, Desert Storm, Ancient Altar, Black Box Warning

Posted in Reviews on July 17th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-CALIFORNIA-LANDSCAPE-Julian-Rix-1851-1903

So Day 1’s done and it’s time to move on to Day 2. Feeling stressed and totally overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff still to be done? Why yes, I am. Thanks for asking. In the past, I used to handle the Quarterly Review well ahead of time. It’s always a lot to get through, but the week before, I’d be setting up back ends, chasing down links and Bandcamp players, starting reviews, etc., so that when it came time, all I had to do was the writing and plug it all into a post and I was set.

There was some prep-work done this past weekend, but especially this time, with my old laptop having been stolen in May, it’s all been way more jazz-improv. I was still adding releases as of last Friday, and writing beforehand? Shit. With the baby having just figured out how to climb? Not bloody likely. Accordingly, here we are, with much to do.

It’ll get done. I haven’t flubbed a Quarterly Review yet, and if I took an extra day to get there, I’m under no delusion that anyone else would care. So there you go. Let’s hit it for Day 2:

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Glanville, First Blood

glanville first blood

First Blood is the aptly-titled five-song debut EP from Glanville, a newcomer dual-guitar outfit with established players Philip Michel (The Earwix) on lead and Christopher West (Named by the Sun, ex-Stubb, etc.) on rhythm, Wight’s Peter-Philipp Schierhorn on bass and René Hofmann on vocals, and Thomas Hoffman (ex-Bushfire) on drums. Based in Germany and the UK, the group present 23 minutes of material on their first outing, drawing from the guitar-led likes of Thin Lizzy and Judas Priest to capture early metal and present it with a heavy rocking soulfulness and modern production. The most raucous of the cuts might be centerpiece “Durga the Great,” but neither “God is Dead” nor “Dancing on Fire” before nor “Demons” and “Time to Go” after want for action, and especially the latter builds to a furious head to close out the release. Hofmann as a standalone singer wants for nothing in range or approach, and the band behind him obviously build on their collective experience to dig into a stylistic nuance rarely executed with such confidence. They’ve found a place willfully between and are working to make it theirs. Can’t ask for more than that.

Glanville on Thee Facebooks

Glanville on Bandcamp

 

Destroyer of Light, Hopeless

destroyer of light hopeless

Having just recently signed to Argonauta Records for a new album in 2019, Austin doomers Destroyer of Light follow their 2017 long-player, Chamber of Horrors (review here), with a further auditory assault in the lumbering Hopeless. Psychedelic and yet still somehow traditional doom lingers in the brain after “Nyx” and “Drowned” have finished – the latter with an Alan Watts sample discussing alcoholism – and the band moves into demos for Chamber of Horrors cuts “Into the Smoke,” “Lux Crusher” and “Buried Alive.” Between the two previously unreleased songs and those three demos, Hopeless pushes to 39 minutes, but it’s probably still fair to call it an EP because of the makeup. Either way, from the miserable plod of “Nyx,” in which each chug in the riff cycle seems to count another woe, to the rolling nod early and surprising melody late in “Drowned,” Hopeless is anything but. Anticipation was already pretty high for Destroyer of Light’s next record after the last one, but all Hopeless does is show further depth of approach and more cleverly-wielded atmospheric murk. And the more it sounds like there’s no escape, the more Destroyer of Light seem to be in their element.

Destroyer of Light on Thee Facebooks

Destroyer of Light on Bandcamp

 

The Re-Stoned, Stories of the Astral Lizard

the re-stonEd stories of the astral lizard

The inevitable question is “Why a lizard?” and if you make it four minutes into 11-minute opener “Fractal Panorama” and don’t have your answer, go back ad start over. Moscow heavy psych instrumentalists The Re-Stoned intend the reptile as a spirit guide for their new outing Stories of the Astral Lizard (on Oak Island Records), which follows quickly behind their late-2017 offering, Chronoclasm (review here), and given the ultra-patient desert vibes in the opener, the acoustic-laced folk-prog of “Mental Print for Free,” the languid meander of “A Companion from the Outside,” the swirling sprawl of the 16-minute “Two Astral Projections” and the final cowpoke drift of “The Heather Carnival,” one might indeed just find a lizard sunning its belly amid all the atmospheric evocations and hallucinatory vibes. I’ll take “Two Astral Projections” as the highlight, but mostly because the extra length allows the band to really dig in, but really the whole album feeds together gorgeously and is a new level of achievement when it comes to atmosphere for The Re-Stoned, who were already underappreciated and find themselves only more so now.

The Re-Stoned on Thee Facebooks

Oak Island Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Ruff Majik, Seasons

Ruff Majik Seasons

Right on fuzz, right on groove, right on vibe – there isn’t much else one might say about Ruff Majik’s Seasons (on Rock Freaks Records and Forbidden Place Records) beyond “right on.” Heavy rock with twists of psychedelia, the Pretoria, South Africa, three-piece of Johni Holliday, Jimi Glass and Benni Manchino make their home on the lines of various subgenres, but wherever they go, the proceedings remain decisively heavy. To wit, a cut like “Breathing Ghosts” or the later “Birds Stole My Eyes” might dig into shuffle boogie or extreme-metal-derived thrust, but there’s a chemistry between the members and a resonant looseness that ties the material together, and as the last 14 of the total 66 minutes are dedicated to “Asleep in the Leaves,” there’s plenty of progressive weirdness in which to bask, one song moving through the next such that neither “Hanami Sakura (And the Ritual Suicide” nor the semi-doom-plodding “The Deep Blue” nor the funky twists of “Tar Black Blood” come across as predictable. Seasons might take a few listens to sink in, but it’s easily worth that effort.

Ruff Majik on Thee Facebooks

Ruff Majik at Rock Freaks Records webstore

Forbidden Place Records on Bandcamp

 

Soldat Hans, Es Taut

SOLDAT HANS ES TAUT-750

Hyperbole-worthy post-ism from Switzerland’s Soldat Hans makes their sophomore outing, Es Taut – on Wolves and Vibrancy Records as a 2LP – a forward thinking highlight. As rich in atmosphere as Crippled Black Phoenix and as lethal as Converge or Neurosis or anyone else you might dare to put next to them, the six-piece made their debut with 2014’s Dress Rehearsal (review here) and served notice of their cross-genre ambitiousness. Es Taut finds them four years later outclassing themselves and most of the rest of the planet across three extended tracks – “Story of the Flood” (26:15), “Schoner Zerbirst, Part I” (8:03) and “Schoner Zerbirst, Part II” (18:56) – that sprawl out with a confidence, poise and abrasion that is nothing short of masterful. Es Taut may be a case of a band outdoing their forebears, but whatever their legacy becomes and however many people take notice, Soldat Hans singlehandedly breathe life into the form of post-metal and prove utterly vital in so doing, not only making it their own, but pushing forward into something new in ambience and heft. This is what a band sounds like while making themselves indispensable.

Soldat Hans on Thee Facebooks

Wolves and Vibrancy Records website

 

High Priestess, High Priestess

high priestess high priestess

Calling to order a nod that’s immersive from the opening strains of leadoff/longest-track “Firefly” (still immediate points), Los Angeles trio High Priestess build out the psych-doom ritualizing of their 2017 demo (review here) to make their self-titled full-length debut through Ripple Music. The difference between the demo and the album in terms of what’s included comes down to artwork and the track “Take the Blame,” which adds its bell-of-the-ride swing between the atmosphere and melodic focus of “Banshee” and the spacious roller “Mother Forgive Me.” Potential is writ large throughout from guitarist/vocalist Katie Gilchrest, bassist/vocalist Mariana Fiel and drummer Megan Mullins, as it was on their demo, and even the harsh growls/screams on “Despise” seem to have found their place within the proceedings. As they wrap with the guitar-led jam of “Earth Dive,” High Priestess put the finishing touch on what’s hands-down one of 2018’s best debut albums and offer a reminder that as much potential as there is in their sound for future development, the accomplishments here are considerable unto themselves.

High Priestess on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

 

Weed Demon, Astrological Passages

weed demon astrological passages

Four tracks of gurgling riffy plunder pervade Astrological Passages, the 41-minute – longer if you get the digital version or the tape/CD, which includes the 7:24 “Dominion of Oblivion” – debut album from Columbus, Ohio’s Weed Demon. Delivered on vinyl through Electric Valley Records, the nodder/plodder carves out a cave for itself within a mountain of tonally thick stoner metal riffing, infusing a sense of sludge with shouted and growled vocals from guitarists Andy and Brian and bassist Jordan – only drummer Chris doesn’t get a mic – and an overarching sense of bludgeoning that’s Sleep-derived if not Sleep-adjacent in terms of its actual sound. Nasty? Why, yes it is, but as “Sigil of the Black Moon” heads toward the midpoint of its 10-minute run, the repetitive groove assault makes the band’s intention plain: worship weed, worship riff. They get faster on “Primordial Genocide” and even sneak a bit of speed in amidst the crawl before the banjo takes hold in the second half of 12-minute closer “Jettisoned” – more Americana sludge please; thank you – but they never lose sight of their mission, and it’s the uniting factor that makes their debut hit like the brick to the head that it is.

Weed Demon on Thee Facebooks

Electric Valley Records website

 

Desert Storm, Sentinels

desert storm sentinels

With Sentinels, Oxford, UK, five-piece Desert Storm pass a decade since making their self-titled debut in 2008. They followed that with 2010’s Forked Tongues (review here), 2013’s Horizontal Life and 2014’s Omniscient (review here), and though they had a single out in 2014 on H42 Records as a split with Suns of Thunder (review here) in 2016, Sentinels is their first outing on APF Records and their first long-player in four years. Burl has always been an important factor in what they do, and the High on Fire-meets-Orange Goblin slamming of “The Brawl” backs that up, but Desert Storm have left much of the hyper-dudeliness behind in favor of a more complex approach, and while Sentinels isn’t a minor undertaking at 10 songs and 51 minutes, longer cuts like “Kingdom of Horns” and “Convulsion” demonstrate the maturity they’ve brought to bear, even as the one-two punch of “Drifter”  and “The Extrovert” offer swinging-fist hooks and beard-worthy chug that assures any and all testosterone quotas are met.

Desert Storm on Thee Facebooks

APF Records on Bandcamp

 

Ancient Altar, Cosmic Purge/Foie Gras

ancient altar cosmic purge foie gras

Based in Los Angeles, Ancient AltarScott Carlson (bass/vocals), Barry Kavener (guitar/vocals), Jesse Boldt (guitar) and Etay Levy (drums) – were last heard from on 2015’s dug-in atmosludger Dead Earth (review here), and they return lo these several years later with the two-tracker Cosmic Purge/Foie Gras, pushing into more extreme crush-of-riff with an abandon that’s anything but reckless. On the contrary, there’s some clear development in the 10-minute “Cosmic Purge” and 13-minute “Foie Gras,” rolling out oppressive grooves with blended screams/shouts and cleaner vocals. As with the last album, a drive toward individuality is central here, and Ancient Altar get there in tone while bringing forth a sense of scope to a sound so regularly thought of as closed off or off-putting in general. In its early going, “Foie Gras” hypnotizes with echoing melody and spaciousness only to resolve itself in a deeply weighted dirge march, furthering the pummel of “Cosmic Purge” itself. I don’t know if the EP – on vinyl through Black Voodoo Records, CD on Transcendental Void Records – will lead toward another album or not, but the sense of progression in Ancient Altar’s style is right there waiting to be heard, so here’s hoping.

Ancient Altar on Thee Facebooks

Black Voodoo Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Black Box Warning, Attendre la Mort

black box warning attendre la mort

Listen to it on headphones and the kickdrum on Black Box Warning’s Attendre la Mort is downright painful. Next-level blown-out aggro pulsations. Brutal in a physical sense. The rest of the band doesn’t follow far behind in that regard. Riffs are viscous and violent in noise rock tradition, but denser in their tone despite some underlying punkishness, and the vocals are likewise distorted and abrasive. The five-song/23-minute EP’s title translates to “Waiting for Death,” and each of the tracks is a dose: Opener “5 mg” is followed by “4 mg,” “1 mg,” “2 mg” and “3 mg.” Unsurprisingly, pills are a theme, particularly on “4 mg,” and the sense of violent threat is clear in “2 mg” and 3 mg,” which boast lines like, “Watch them all scream/Watch your enemy bleeded,” and “You are the pig/I am the butcher,” respectively. Between the lyrical and the general aural cruelty, the dis-ease is consuming and unmitigated, sludge becoming a slow-motion grindcore, and that’s clearly the point. Not stabbing, but gouging.

Black Box Warning on Thee Facebooks

Black Box Warning on Bandcamp

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Destroyer of Light Sign to Argonauta Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 3rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Austin doomers Destroyer of Light will release their next full-length in 2019 through Argonauta Records. The four-piece outdid themselves with last year’s Chamber of Horrors (review here), and more than ever, it’s easy to look forward to whatever they have coming next. Their 2018 EP, Hopeless, is streaming at the bottom of this post and will be the impetus for a run to Bad Reputation Fest in Houston later this month. This Fall, they’ll also head out on a tour of the East Coast and Midwest, hitting Shadow Woods IV in Maryland and venerable rooms up, down and all around the Atlantic Seaboard and the middle of the country. Hardly their first run, and presumably the tour will allow them to finalize new material before they actually get down to the business of making their upcoming record.

Argonauta announces the signing thusly:

destroyer of light

DESTROYER OF LIGHT join ARGONAUTA Records

Stoked to announce that DESTROYER OF LIGHT (Austin, TX) are now part of ARGONAUTA Records!

Formed in 2012 from constantly boiling musical cauldron that is Austin, TX, Destroyer of Light has taken a straight forward approach to tempering the disparate and harmonious parts of their influences into a total sum of slow motion tidal heaviness that bows to no altar but that of the riff. With the smoky flavors of hazed out doom and the stomping cadence of rock’s heyday, the band both tickles and deafens the ears with the theatrical flashes of Mercyful Fate, the ominous tones of Electric Wizard, and the ferociously feral feedback of a Sleep dirge.

The band says: “We are excited to announce our collaboration with Argonauta Records for our next LP. As a band, we have continued to evolve and mature, while maintaining the core sound of what is Destroyer of Light. So, after finishing the writing process and doing pre-production on these new songs, it is rewarding to have a record label that feels enthusiasm for these songs just as much as we do.”

New album to be released in 2019, more details to follow soon.

Destroyer of Light – Dates 2018
July Dates
July 13th – San Marcos, TX @ The Morgue Bar
July 18th – Austin, TX @ The Lost Well
July 19th – San Antonio, TX @ The Mix
July 20th – Harlingen, TX @ The Hop Shop
July 21st – Houston, TX @ White Oak Music Hall (Bad Reputation Fest)

Sept./Oct. Dates
9/1 – Denton, TX @ Dan’s Silver Leaf
9/2 – Oklahoma City, OK @ The Blue Note
9/3 – Wichita, KS @ The Elbow Room
9/4 – Lawrence, KS @ Replay Lounge
9/5 – Omaha, NE @ Lookout Lounge
9/6 – St. Paul, MN @ Caydence Records & Coffee
9/7 – Sioux Falls, SD @ Big’s Bar
9/8 – Des Moines, IA @ Vaudeville Mews
9/9 – Milwaukee, WI @ Cactus Club
9/10 – Chicago, IL @ Reggies
9/11 – Cleveland, OH @ 5 O’Clock Lounge
9/12 – Philadelphia, PA @ Kung Fu Necktie
9/13 – Camp Hidden Valley, MD (Shadow Woods Music Fest)
9/16 – Brooklyn, NY @ Lucky 13 Saloon
9/17 – Allston, MA @ O’Briens Pub
9/18 – Buffalo, NY @ Sugar City
9/19 – Montreal, ON @ Piranha Bar
9/20 – Ottawa, ON @ Maverick’s Bar
9/21 – Toronto, ON @ Coalition
9/22 – Detroit, MI @ Sanctuary
9/23 – Lansing, MI @ Mac’s Bar
9/25 – Kalamazoo, MI @ Shakespeare’s Pub
9/26 – Canton, OH @ Buzzbin Art and Music Shop
9/27 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Howlers (Pre-Gala of Descendants of Crom)
9/28 – Columbus, OH @ Tree Bar
9/29 – Indianapolis, IN @ Black Circle Brewery
9/30 – Cincinnati, OH @ Junker’s Tavern
10/1 – Louisville, KY @ Highlands Tap Room
10/2 – Nashville, TN @ Springwater
10/3 – Birmingham, AL @ The Nick
10/4 – Memphis, TN @ Growler’s
10/5 – Little Rock, AR @ White Water Tavern
10/6 – Dallas, TX @ Ruins

Destroyer of Light is:
Steve Colca – Guitar, Vocals
Nick Coffman – Bass
Keegan Kjeldsen – Guitar, Synth
Penny Turner – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/destroyeroflight/
http://www.instagram.com/destroyeroflightofficial/
http://www.twitter.com/DoLAustinDoom
http://destroyeroflight.bandcamp.com/
www.argonautarecords.com
https://www.facebook.com/ArgonautaRecords/
https://twitter.com/argonautarex
https://www.instagram.com/argonautarecords/

Destroyer of Light, Hopeless EP (2018)

Tags: , , , , , ,

Destroyer of Light Announce Fall Tour Dates; Playing Shadow Woods Metal Fest & Descendants of Crom 2018

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 27th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

destroyer of light

No secret at this point that Destroyer of Light get around. The Texan doomers were out earlier this year on a West Coast run heralding the then-soon release of their latest EP, Hopeless (review pending), and come September they’ll be back on the road for a month-plus touring the Midwest and East Coast, making stops for a return appearance at Shadow Woods Metal Fest in the forests of Maryland, and hitting Pittsburgh for the Descendants of Crom 2018 pre-show. They’ll even get up into Canada for gigs in Montreal, Ottawa and Toronto. I’ve seen far less substantial lists of shows called “North American tours,” so fair enough.

Hopeless is out now on Heavy Friends Records as the follow-up to last year’s Chamber of Horrors (review here) long-player, which again, if you haven’t heard, you should hear. Like, get on it. Today would be good. Tomorrow works too.

Happy to host the announcement of this tour. Destroyer of Light are at this point a better band than people know — they also kill it live, which always helps — and hopefully they continue to turn heads their direction this time around.

From the PR wire:

destroyer of light new poster

Destroyer of Light – Fall Tour 2018

This will be the first East Coast tour in two years since the last Shadow Woods appearance with the exception of a few cities, it’ll be over a year. And to add this also be our first time hitting these cities since the releases of Chamber of Horrors (2017) and Hopeless (2018).

9/1 – Denton, TX @ Dan’s Silver Leaf
9/2 – Oklahoma City, OK @ The Blue Note
9/3 – Wichita, KS @ The Elbow Room
9/4 – Lawrence, KS @ Replay Lounge
9/5 – Omaha, NE @ Lookout Lounge
9/6 – St. Paul, MN @ Caydence Records & Coffee
9/7 – Sioux Falls, SD @ Big’s Bar
9/8 – Des Moines, IA @ Vaudeville Mews
9/9 – Milwaukee, WI @ Cactus Club
9/10 – Chicago, IL @ Reggies
9/11 – Cleveland, OH @ 5 O’Clock Lounge
9/12 – Philadelphia, PA @ Kung Fu Necktie
9/13 – Camp Hidden Valley, MD for Shadow Woods Music Fest
9/16 – Brooklyn, NY @ Lucky 13 Saloon
9/17 – Allston, MA @ O’Brien’s Pub
9/18 – Buffalo, NY @ Sugar City
9/19 – Montreal, ON @ Piranha Bar
9/20 – Ottawa, ON @ Maverick’s Bar
9/21 – Toronto, ON @ Coalition
9/22 – Detroit, MI @ Sanctuary
9/23 – Lansing, MI @ Mac’s Bar
9/25 – Kalamazoo, MI @ Shakespeare’s Pub
9/26 – Canton, OH @ Buzzbin Art and Music Shop
9/27 – Pittsburgh, PA @ Howlers (Pre-Gala of Descendants of Crom)
9/28 – Columbus, OH @ Tree Bar
9/29 – Indianapolis, IN @ Black Circle Brewery
9/30 – Cincinnati, OH @ Junker’s Tavern
10/1 – Louisville, KY @ Highlands Tap Room
10/2 – Nashville, TN @ Springwater
10/3 – Birmingham, AL @ The Nick
10/4 – Memphis, TN @ Growler’s
10/5 – Little Rock, AR @ White Water Tavern

Destroyer of Light is:
Steve Colca – Guitar, Vocals
Nick Coffman – Bass
Keegan Kjeldsen – Guitar, Synth
Penny Turner – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/destroyeroflight/
http://www.instagram.com/destroyeroflightofficial/
http://www.twitter.com/DoLAustinDoom
http://destroyeroflight.bandcamp.com/

Destroyer of Light, Hopeless EP (2018)

Tags: , , , , ,

Destroyer of Light Announce Hopeless EP; New Track Posted; Touring West Coast

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 2nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

destroyer of light

Last year, Texas four-piece Destroyer of Light hit a new level of misery entirely with their third long-player, Chamber of Horrors (review here). Seriously. Did you hear it? Don’t get me wrong, there’s a lot of doom out there these days, and a fair amount of it comes from the Lone Star state, but fucking hell, you want to talk about a band outdoing themselves, that’s exactly what happened with that record. All these guys have done is tour and kick ass. They’re like specialists.

Destroyer of Light have a new track posted now called “Nyx” that comes from their upcoming EP, Hopeless, which is out May 11 on their affiliated imprint, Heavy Friends Records. It’s nine minutes long, and the video’s cool, but if you have to put it on and switch to another tab or something because your life is just that busy — and hey, it may well be; if so, thanks for taking the time to check in — the important thing obviously is that you listen to the song, which once again is dead-on in its crawl and atmosphere. I swear this band would be bigger if their name didn’t make you think they were grindcore.

They’re not, by the way. Not grindcore.

To the PR wire:

destroyer of light hopeless

DESTROYER OF LIGHT: Texan Harbingers of Doom Return with Hopeless EP | West Coast Tour Kicks Off Next Month

Hopeless EP by Destroyer of Light is released on 11th May 2018 on Heavy Friends Records

From deep within the belly of the beast, Texan harbingers of doom Destroyer of Light rise in 2018 with the release of a brand-new EP and string of West Coast tour dates throughout North America.

Hopeless EP is the latest in the Austin-based quartet’s devastating canon and will get an official release on 11th May through Heavy Friends Records. Containing two, practically feature-length tracks which set out to fill the silence between the praise of last year’s Chamber of Horrors and the promise of their follow up full-length next year, the EP charts an ominous course into the heart of darkness which deals directly with depression, suicide and drug addiction. Reworking the grim theatricality and crushing, heavy metal dirges of their earlier recordings, death and destruction is very much the order of service but with a new and somewhat progressively charged life-force.

“With Hopeless, I wanted to focus more on my clean singing, and our song writing has become more melodic while still maintaining the heavy riffs,” explains guitarist/vocalist Steve Colca. “We don’t limit ourselves to what we write, and the direction you’ll hear on this EP is a taste of what’s to come in the future.”

Unmistakably influenced by the likes of Electric Wizard, Mercyful Fate, EYEHATEGOD, Sleep and Autopsy, along with countless literary and horror anthologies, this new EP signals a massive shift in potential and a development that will see the band step out of cavernous, dank basements and into psychedelic realms hitherto unknown. What’s more, on their way to that strange place, over the coming months the band takes to the road for an extensive West Coast tour (see tour info below) in support of Hopeless, which will be released on 11th May 2018 on Heavy Friends Records.

TOUR DATES:
20th April – El Paso, TX – Neon Rose
21st April – Albuquerque, NM – Sister Bar
22nd April – Denver, CO – Streets of London
23rd April – Boise, ID – High Note Cafe
24th April – Richland, WA – Emerald
25th April – Tacoma, WA – The Valley
26th April – Portland, OR – High Water Mark
27th April – Sacramento, CA – The Blue Lamp
28th April – San Francisco, CA – Thee Parkside
29th April – Pacifica, CA – Winter’s Tavern East
30th April – Los Angeles, CA – Five Star Bar
1st May – San Diego, CA – Til Two Club
2nd May – Tempe, AZ – Yucca Tap Room
3rd May – El Paso, TX – Rockin’ Cigar Bar
4th May – Odessa, TX – The Gabby Doo Saloon
5th May – San Antonio, TX – Faust Tavern
DESTROYER OF LIGHT:

Steve Colca – Guitar, Vocals
Nick Coffman – Bass
Keegan Kjeldsen – Guitar, Synth
Penny Turner – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/destroyeroflight/
http://www.instagram.com/destroyeroflightofficial/
http://www.twitter.com/DoLAustinDoom
http://destroyeroflight.bandcamp.com/

Destroyer of Light, “Nyx” official video

Tags: , , , , ,

Shadow Woods IV Announces Lineup with Tombs, Xasthur, Heavy Temple, Rozamov & Many More

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 15th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

I don’t have any idea what Shadow Woods IV — the name trimmed down from the original Shadow Woods Metal Fest for reasons that will become clear as you continue to read — would possibly have to gain from any kind of endorsement on my part, official or not, but let me say anyway that if you can’t respect this idea, the fact that they’ve done it four years running, and the obvious blood-borne passion that goes into making each edition an event unlike anything else in the US when it comes to the mix of bands, the locale, the vibe and the very concept from which it’s working, you can basically fuck off. I may not be into every band on this list — it’s a really, really long list — but there are plenty here who would justify a trip to Harpers Ferry in September, and yeah, all this is is something special year after year.

The lineup this time around is completely over the top, as you can see first in the grim-grim-grim poster below, then in the running order for each for Shadow Woods IV‘s three nights, and then, finally, in alphabetical order, because they are thorough and that’s only one more reason to hold Shadow Woods in such high regard.

Behold:

shadow-woods-iv-poster

Shadow Woods Productions LLC presents the fourth edition of Shadow Woods Metal Fest, now simply referred to as Shadow Woods IV.

http://www.shadowwoodsmetalfest.com/

What: Shadow Woods IV is a multi-day open air music and camping event in that includes bands from many subgenres of metal, rock, folk, experimental and noise. The fest will host more than 40 bands on two alternating stages with no overlapping sets so attendees can enjoy every set. There will also be delicious food, craft beer, a vendor marketplace with art, jewelry, home decor, music, and rock and metal merchandise.

Where: Our new fest venue is the Harpers Ferry Adventure Center (HFAC) located at 37410 Adventure Center Lane in Purcellville, VA 20132, situated in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains at the confluence of the Shenandoah and the Potomac rivers. HFAC features zip lines, ropes courses, tubing, white water rafting, cabins, campsites and an onsite craft brewery. It is located just a little more than a hour from Washington DC and Baltimore, MD near the intersection of the Maryland, Virginia and West Virginia state lines. Festival attendees receive a discount of HFAC activities as well as on the cost of campground and cabin rental with the Shadow Woods group rate.

https://harpersferryadventurecenter.com/

When: Sept 20-22, 2018. Thursday night features primarily acoustic, folk and ritual noise from 6 p.m. until 11 pm. Friday and Saturday showcases rock and metal bands from noon until 11 pm each day.

How: Tickets are on sale now. A full weekend event pass is $130. Day passes for Thursday are $30; Friday and Saturday passes are $60 each. (Important note: Tent camping and cabin are not included in the tickets. Reservations must be made directly through the HFAC and you must request the Shadow Woods group rate. The venue is requesting that attendees hold off on reserving sites for the time being until a system can be put in place for managing this.)

Why: “It was pretty clear from the positive feedback I received after the 2017 fest that festival goers did not want to see Shadow Woods end, even though our property in Maryland had been sold,” said Mary Spiro, fest founder. So without a venue or a confirmed lineup, I started quietly raising the funds to do a new fest via the contributions of past attendees. In January 2018, I was able to find an fantastic site to host the fest that was even better than what we had before. The lineup came together very quickly and I am extremely proud and excited to present these past favorites and new discoveries.”

Here is lineup by day in roughly the reverse order of playing (so headliner at the top) subject to change of course. Then the lineup is in ABC order at the bottom. Brian Sheehan has done the poster.

At this time in terms of Vendors, you can say expect to see some of the ones seen last year plus many new ones.

Don’t have any food vendors or specific sponsors named yet. Beer is the Harpers Ferry Brewing Company which is part of the venue.

Thursday
Xasthur – doomgrass, folk rock (Los Angeles, CA)
On The Water – strange folk (Philadelphia)
Goblin Hovel – metal folk (NY/PA)
Skulsyr – occult noise (Doylestown, PA)
Jerome Deppe and Miss Elizabeth’s All-Girl Band – folk ballads of the damned (Baltimore, MD)
Bound For The Ground – the devil’s blues supergroup with members of Grave Gnosis, The Owls Are Not What They Seem, and Cultic (GA/FL/PA)
Earendel – acoustic folk duo (Baltimore)

Friday
Tombs – post metal (NYC)
Rozamov – psyche-tinged grueling doom (Boston)
Heavy Temple – Hard Fuzz, Psych and Doom (Philadelphia)
Barishi – Gritty Progressive Metal (Brattleboro, VT)
Aether Realm – Viking folk metal (Greenville, NC)
Destroyer of Light – doom and roll (Austin, TX)
Electropathic – doom hard rock with members from several foundational Maryland doom groups (Wheaton, MD)
Husbandry – Fugazi meets Aaliyah (NYC)
God Root – ritualistic sludge (Philadelphia)
Dysfigure – modern heavy metal (Martinsburg, WV)
Windfaerer – extreme aural entity (New Jersey)
Witch Hazel – occult rock and roll/doom (York, PA)
Forest of Legend – doom/stoner/sludge (Virginia Beach, VA)
Hepatagua – sludge/doom/thrash (Boston)
Flummox – nongenre specific doomy metal (Murfreesboro, TN)
Ferus Din – black metal and flutes (Buffalo, NY)
Haze Mage – stoner metal (Baltimore)
Malphas – progressive blackened melodeath (Philadelphia)

Saturday
Uada – black metal (Portland, OR)
Cloak – black and roll (Atlanta, GA)
Panzerfaust – black metal (Toronto, ON)
Voarm – black metal (Richmond, VA)
Imperial Triumphant – black metal (NYC)
Athame – black metal (MD/WV)
Hubris – black metal (Buffalo, NY)
Enthauptung – atmospheric black metal (Rochester, NY)
A Sound of Thunder – traditional/NWOBHM heavy metal (DC/VA)
Bound By The Grave – death metal (Baltimore)
Destroying Angel – dark folk rock (Philadelphia)
All Hell – black and roll (Asheville, NC)
Black Mass – death thrash (Boston)
Hexxus – sludge metal (Birmingham, AL)
Replicant – death metal (NJ)
Tyrannis – death metal (Radford, VA)
Sluagh – progressive metal (Martinsburg, WV)
Sickdeer – death metal (DC)

Alphabetical
Aether Realm
All Hell
A Sound of Thunder
Athame
Barishi
Black Mass
Bound By The Grave
Bound For The Ground
Cloak
Jerome Deppe and Miss Elizabeth’s All-Girl Band
Destroyer of Light
Destroying Angel
Dysfigure
Earendel
Electropathic
Enthauptung
Ferus Din
Flummox
Forest of Legend
Goblin Hovel
God Root
Haze Mage
Heavy Temple
Hepatagua
Hexxus
Hubris
Husbandry
Imperial Triumphant
Malphas
On The Water
Panzerfaust
Replicant
Rozamov
Sickdeer
Skulsyr
Sluagh
Tombs
Tyrannis
Uada
Voarm
Windfaerer
Witch Hazel
Xasthur

http://www.shadowwoodsmetalfest.com/
https://www.facebook.com/shadowwoodsmetalfest/
https://twitter.com/ShadowWoodsMF
https://harpersferryadventurecenter.com/

Shadow Woods Metal Fest 2018 playlist

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Six Dumb Questions with Destroyer of Light

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on August 30th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

destroyer of light

Name your band Destroyer of Light and you’re setting up some pretty serious expectations on the part of your audience. The Austin-based outfit — veterans of Psycho CaliforniaFreak TulsaElectric Funeral in Denver and others — have never tackled those expectations as head-on as they do with the newly-released Chamber of Horrors, their third album. Songs like “Into the Smoke” and “Luxcrusher” bring a refocused approach on grim, rolling doom even from what the band presented on 2014’s Bizarre Tales Vol. 2, and the chugging, driving, lumbering pummel suits them remarkably well, coming as it does complemented by a persistently bleak atmosphere summarized in the title. More than they ever have before, Destroyer of Light are putting their listeners in a specific place. And it’s pretty damn horrific in there.

Brought to the blinding light of day by guitarist/vocalist Steve Colca, guitarist Keegan Kjeldsen, drummer Penny Turner and bassist Jeff Klein (who seems to since be out of the band), Chamber of Horrors may be playing more toward the heft Destroyer of Light are known for in their live performances, but that doesn’t mean it’s all raw or wanting for a sense of purpose in its vibe as a studio album. Rather, the murk conjured by songs like “Prisoner of Smoke” and “The Virgin” and the ambient threat that lingers from the moment the chamber door opens at the start of intro “Whispers in the Threshold” till the moment it closes at the end of 10-minute finale “Buried Alive” resound with doomed directionality, the finisher especially punishing in its tempo and uncompromising in its trades between creeping, The Gates of Slumber-esque verses and Electric Wizardly swirl in its marching hook.

The whole record carries the stink of death, and Destroyer of Light have never sounded so alive as they do reveling in it.

As Destroyer of Light set themselves to the task of a 2018 that will be spent largely supporting Chamber of Horrors as well as a follow-up two-song EP that’s set to arrive in the coming months via the band-affiliated Heavy Friends Records — see also: Heavy Friends Booking, which handles their touring end — as well as perhaps finding a new bassist if they haven’t yet, I wanted to talk to them about how their experience on the road already has affected their sound this time in the studio, how they developed the ideas that became Chamber of Horrors and how they see themselves continuing to grow as they move forward from here. Fortunately, both Kjeldsen and Colca were willing to discuss these subjects and more, and you’ll find the results below.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

destroyer-of-light-chamber-of-horrors

Six Dumb Questions with Keegan Kjeldsen and Steve Colca of Destroyer of Light

Talk about writing Chamber of Horrors. The album is a pretty significant change for the band in terms of sound. How did that come about? Was there something you wanted to consciously shift in your approach, or did it just happen in the writing process?

Keegan Kjeldsen: We knew before we started writing it that we wanted to make a very heavy record, which may sound like a cliché. But the previous material was sludgier and usually more up-tempo, and we experimented a lot. For the self-titled release, we’d had some pretensions of getting a ‘vintage, lo-fi’ sound. That kind of sound wasn’t really right for us, though, and our goal shifted to creating a record with the kind of powerful, crushing experience that audiences were getting live. We heard a lot over the years, “The album is cool and all, but you guys are so much heavier live!” We took it as a compliment, but it taught us that the shows were selling the recordings, the recordings weren’t really selling the shows. So we wanted to push it to the limit in terms of both quality and volume. Thankfully, our engineer Matt Meli outdid himself this time. We also included elements of our live shows: lengthy feedback, melodic interludes, sample clips from old horror movies. But from the start, our core has always been doom metal, so the natural thing for our goal of making a heavier record was to focus on that.

Steve Colca: Like Keegan said, we did go in wanting this record to be more heavy sonically and closer to what we sound like live. However, when we wrote the music for this album, we didn’t have the intention of how the songs would take shape. Obviously, it still sounds like us at the core, but our songwriting keeps improving and our palettes progress over time to add different touches to our sound that maybe we didn’t show previously. As you grow as musicians and songwriters, it definitely helps with your confidence and allows the ability to try new, different things.

You’ve done significant touring the last several years. Do you feel like that was a factor in how this record took shape? If so, how?

KK: Touring will whip you into shape. You’re effectively practicing the same set every single night for a month. After playing some of our material live so frequently and consistently, we’d find that a year after we recorded something, it was sounding very different on stage. Sometimes it was just little nuances or flourishes that one of us didn’t come up with until months of playing the song live. But sometimes the whole tempo would change, or parts would be extended or added. We were determined to let the songs for Chamber of Horrors breathe. After we recorded them for a pre-production demo, we played the whole album from start to finish on a six-day tour through Texas. By the time we were recording the album proper, we felt like the songs had developed enough that we could call them finished.

SC: Yeah, I believe doing a six-day run just playing the album front-to-back live really gave these songs the energy and final touches that they needed. We always found previously that after playing the songs live that we would change things here and there. To add, extensive touring also improved our playing as musicians and we become more confident in our abilities as songwriters. For me, vocally, all the touring and learning to deal with my vocals helped a lot on this record.

Is there a concept at work behind the album? What’s the story being told in these songs?

KK: It’s a loose concept album. Most of the storytelling and symbolism can work on multiple levels, so it’s up to the audience as to what you want to take from it. The album begins with the opening of a large, heavy door, and ends with it slamming shut. There are also whispering voices in both the first and last song. We were playing with the idea of the line between dream and reality being blurred. I was thinking a lot about Carl Jung at the time, and how there really isn’t much difference in what we mean by the word ‘hell,’ and a psychological hell that a person creates for himself. People make themselves suffer because of the things they pursue, and sometimes the private torment they undergo is more real than anything else in their lives.

So, the song “Into the Smoke” – on one level it’s about a protagonist who goes down into a cave, searching for something valuable, but is possessed by a monster made of psychedelic smoke that permeates him and enslaves him, sending him on a bad trip that lasts forever. On another level, it could be a song about drug addiction. But more archetypally, it’s a song about the feeling of being powerless, driven by forces beyond your control into a mental underworld. It’s opening the door to the unconscious part of the psyche and getting consumed by the shadow. The Twilight Zone was also a huge influence on both Steve and myself in writing these horror stories, or alternatively, private hells within the chamber of horrors, since a lot of Rod Serling’s stories deal with a character trait, usually a flaw, that becomes a real, physical phenomenon in the character’s life.

SC: I was also thinking along the lines of In the Mouth of Madness. As every song has its own individual theme and story, they all tie into the question, is it a dream or reality? There is a lot of ugliness in the world, and sometimes you don’t want to believe it and want to stay naive to the whole possibility. However, you read the news and papers, and some of these stories really happen.

You seem to be trying a lot of new things vocally in particular here. Tell me about changing your voice to fit a certain part in a given song. What makes you feel like “Luxcrusher” needs a different approach than “The Virgin?”

KK: In the case of “Luxcrusher,” I wrote that song, and really wanted to sing a significant part of the lyrics because of how personal they were. I’ve usually had one or two vocal parts on each recording, but I think that’s something I’m going to move away from. I feel like I’m at the point where I’m getting worse, whereas Steve gets better on every record. The lyrics are actually about being in a doom band and touring – when I’m talking about “midnight worship at the shrine” and my body being throttled every night, being ravaged by sound. But the lyrics also take a nihilistic turn because that’s how I was feeling at the time.

The placement of that song on the album was something that unconsciously worked really well with the concept, because the lyrics ended up recounting the subject matter of the first half of the record – talking about human sacrifice, or about being pulled into a haze. It was unintentional, but I think of it now as if “Luxcrusher” is the voice of the devil that was summoned in “The Virgin.” As far as the different approaches in general, I think the narrative structure of the songs sometimes lends itself to different voices in a variety of styles, as if they’re different characters or personas. Suzy does this on “The Virgin.” It was a Fleetwood Mac kind of attitude – we had three vocalists on this record, lending different styles where it was appropriate.

SC: Back to extensive touring throughout the years, I have become more comfortable and confident in my vocal ability. Which has allowed me to try and do different things. Vocal melodies have always been very important to us. Also, from the start of this band, we wanted to incorporate screaming and growling as I used to be in a death metal band and a heavier sludge band before this. Whatever vocal style the song requires, we want to be able to do it. No need to be tied down to one particular sound or style. That’s the beauty of writing music, no limitations… unless it is completely out of your capability.

I know it’s early, but where do you see Destroyer of Light going from here sound-wise?

KK: More melody, and even heavier. It’s not as early to talk about it as you might think. We have an EP that we plan on releasing soon, I can’t say anything about when exactly, but it’s already recorded. It’s two songs that are tuned even lower, with a more pounding, guttural tone. We did one of the slowest songs we’ve ever done. All the space you get when you play a really slow, plodding song allows you to fill the void with harmony, melody. I’ve been listening to a lot of drone music, maybe you could even call it post-doom, stuff like later-era Earth, OM, Grails. Steve’s love for Alice in Chains came out, also. I think the next full-length will head even further in that direction. Me and Steve have also been jamming some of our favorite stuff from the ‘80s recently, like The Cure, Tears for Fears.

SC: We’ve already started writing of a few songs for the follow-up. It is a continuation of where the last album left off. Like Keegan said, the music will be heavy, but probably more of a focus on melody. Like I said, no limitations. We do plan on incorporating some different approaches because of some of our other influences coming out in the songwriting. I’ve been listening to a lot of Alice in Chains, The Cure, Depeche Mode, and Helmet. A lot of bands that I grew up listening to when I first started learning guitar. So, we shall see where some of this will take us. However, the two-song EP that we release down the line will give you a taste of our direction.

How much will you tour for Chamber of Horrors? Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

KK: We’re going to tour for the foreseeable future. We have some short jaunts planned, but next year we’ll be hitting the road a lot harder. This year has been relatively slow for us. It’s great to finally put this album out, and take a breather before we dive headfirst into it again. I guess, on that note, the only closing words I have is a thank you to all the fans and friends who have let us stay with them, made us food, or even just bought a shirt or bought us a shot of whiskey. You guys are the reason why we’re able to go on the road, and we love y’all.

SC: We have a few short runs lined up to finish the year. I think more of the extensive touring for Chamber of Horrors will begin in 2018. This year, where it may have been the slowest year for the band; albeit, a couple tours, recording of a two-song EP, and an album release. Our personal lives have been very busy. So, it’s been nice to have a somewhat, casual year, but it’ll be nice to get back out there and do what we do. Thanks to everyone that has bought and said some very nice things about Chamber of Horrors. Very proud of this record and glad to see a lot of you agree with us on it. See you again soon on the road, I can’t wait to see you! Much love!

Destroyer of Light, Chamber of Horrors (2017)

Destroyer of Light on Thee Facebooks

Destroyer of Light on Bandcamp

Heavy Friends Records on Thee Facebooks

Tags: , , , , ,

Review & Track Premiere: Destroyer of Light, Chamber of Horrors

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on June 15th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

destroyer-of-light-chamber-of-horrors

[Click play above to stream ‘Lux Crusher’ by Destroyer of Light from Chamber of Horrors, out July 14 via Heavy Friends Records.]

The last couple years have apparently done much to hone the focus of Austin, Texas’ Destroyer of Light. Chamber of Horrors is the third full-length from the four-piece and their first standalone outing since 2014’s Bizarre Tales Vol. 2, which was followed by the 2015 Endsville split/collaboration LP (video premiere here) with Godhunter, and its seven tracks mark a significant turn of approach and mood. This could well be the result of heavy touring undertaken since Bizarre Tales Vol. 2 came out, but it feels like a conscious decision one way or the other, and as guitarist/vocalist Steve Colca, guitarist Keegan Kjeldsen, bassist Jeff Klein and drummer Penny Turner elicit their most directed and longest offering yet at 44 minutes, they also find themselves holed up in a doomed swamp befitting the Adam Burke cover art, otherworldly and ruinous as it is.

Patiently and with purpose, they roll out massive grooves like that of 10-minute closer “Buried Alive” or the preceding “Prisoner of Eternity,” on which Colca‘s vocal cadence and the march in general seems to be in direct conversation with Sweden’s Goatess more than the brash heavy rock Destroyer of Light offered on their previous outings. Flourish of organ in that track, guest vocals and samples on “The Virgin” and ambient pieces like the intro “Whispers into the Threshold” and the centerpiece/presumed side B opener “Twilight Procession” add depth and complexity to the morose vibe, and a mix by Matt Meli of Austin’s Orb Recording Studios sets up a suitable abyss into which the band can feel free to plummet. And plummet they do. Gloriously.

The first grim claw is raised not long after “Whispers into the Threshold” begins with a sample of a creaky, heavy-wood door opening into an echoing room and likewise echoing guitar (also actual whispers). It’s worth noting that at the end of “Buried Alive,” there’s a corresponding shutting of that door, and one assumes that’s the band putting their audience in the titular Chamber of Horrors. So be it. That bookend is one more example of the kind of cohesion and attention to detail Destroyer of Light bring to their third album, and the songwriting holds up to a similar standard, whether it’s the mournful wail of lead guitar and earlier shouts turning to moans in the second half of “Into the Smoke” that set the stage for more of what’s to come later or the more direct horror-worship of “The Virgin,” which with its guest vocals alongside Colca and even more dramatic take is something of an outlier in the tracklist, despite the engaging flow that’s already been crafted between the first two songs and which continues throughout. It’s almost as though, after years of being called a doom band, Destroyer of Light decided to turn around and become one.

destroyer of light

It suits them. The devil himself shows up on “The Virgin,” which almost feels like it was bound to happen somewhere along the line, and amid spacious lead guitar, the band unfurl an accordingly resonant melody and percussive thud to lead into the first creeper verse of an effective linear build. As with “Into the Smoke,” they’re telling a story. I don’t know if Chamber of Horrors would or should be considered a concept record, but it’s definitely thematic, and there’s a clear intent in the way it plays out piece by piece. A somewhat minimalist weaving of two guitar lines over a subtle dirge of drumming takes hold with “Twilight Procession,” and almost before the listener realizes what’s happened, Destroyer of Light have constructed a momentum that’s carried them through side A without misstep.

It’s one thing for a group to grow into a new sound. It’s another for them to arrive at it sounding already so well schooled in the tenets of the style and so readily knowledgeable about which rules they want to abide by and which they want to break. As they touch on post-Electric Wizard riffing to start “Lux Crusher” in a way that mirrors somewhat the progression at the outset of “Into the Smoke,” it again makes clear the level of nuance to which Destroyer of Light are playing, and though, as noted, “Lux Crusher” calls to mind the righteous swaying Vitusism of Goatess especially in Colca‘s vocal approach, the band bring this influence into their own sonic context, harsher shouts emerging as they roll toward the track’s chugging, feedback-laden conclusion and into its six-minute companion-piece “Prisoner of Eternity,” which begins with rim taps from Turner and clean-sounding guitar before its full rumble kicks in, signaling the end is near. Like “The Virgin,” “Prisoner of Eternity” centers more around its hook, but the addition of organ beneath and around its guitar solo adds an even more classic feel. That’s fair game for Destroyer of Light at this point, because with the 10-minute “Buried Alive,” which follows and rounds out, they engage an entirely different level of doomly traditionalism.

With perhaps the boldest take on clean vocals out front to start, “Buried Alive” reinterprets an ambience that brings to mind The Gates of Slumber, and though they’ll move into more extreme growls and a wash of noise before they’re done, the lumbering misery of their finale never gets lost in the slow-motion cacophonous melee that ensues. Once again, they cap with feedback before that door closes, and though it’s hard to know from the context of the audio whether we’re trapped in the Chamber of Horrors or we’ve managed to escape, one way or the other, the album makes a lasting and colorful impression such that, even if we’re out, we’re not unaffected by what’s been witnessed within. It’s not the most dramatic sonic turn that’s ever taken place — that is, Destroyer of Light had elements of doom even at their most psychedelic moments, and they have elements of psych here even at their most doomed — but Chamber of Horrors nonetheless represents a brazen reset on the band’s part and whether they continue to walk along this bleak path or head elsewhere aesthetically, what they’ve accomplished in pulling off the shift in these brave and willfully dismal tracks is not to be understated.

Destroyer of Light on Thee Facebooks

Destroyer of Light on Bandcamp

Heavy Friends Records on Thee Facebooks

Tags: , , , , ,