The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Debut Albums of 2017

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

the obelisk top-20-debut-albums

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

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

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

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

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

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

telekinetic-yeti-abominable

The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Debut Albums of 2017

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

Honorable Mention

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

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

Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Review & Lyric Video Premiere: Eternal Black, Bleed the Days

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Reviews on August 1st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

eternal-black-bleed-the-days

[Click play above to see the premiere of the lyric video for the title-track of Eternal Black’s Bleed the Days. Album is out Aug. 8.]

Doom prevails in gritty fashion on Bleed the Days, the seven-track debut long-player from New York trio Eternal Black. Self-released through their own Obsidian Sky Records in a digipak that includes a note on its back cover to pay attention to the lyrics and those printed on its inside glossy panels, it is a grimly cast 46 minutes brimming with downer intent as led by the churning-concrete riffing of guitarist/vocalist Ken Wohlrob (also a published novelist and clearly someone for whom words matter) and with significant reinforcement provided by bassist Hal Miller and drummer Joe Wood — the latter also of long-running Long Island rockers Borgo Pass and a former bandmate of mine twice over. Because I consider him among the finest examples of a human being I’ve ever encountered, I’ll note a decided bias on my part in favor of his work here and elsewhere, so if that’s the grain of salt with which you need to take this review, so be it. I won’t fight you.

Either way, Eternal Black‘s full-length ode to downcast nodder traditionalism, recorded and mixed by Joe Kelly and Kol Marshall with mastering by Mos Generator‘s Tony Reed, follows their 2015 self-titled EP/demo (review here) and received a substantial preview earlier this year on the digital offering Live at WFMU (review here), recorded at that venerable open-format radio station in Jersey City, New Jersey, but makes its primary impression in the uniformity of its mood such that even the three-minute centerpiece interlude “Into Nothing” ties to the rest of its surroundings in speaking to the overarching theme of death and the mythology thereof, despite being instrumental. They are nothing if not focused.

But as the saying goes, if you can’t handle brain-crushing singularity of purpose, doom probably isn’t for you, and whether it’s the post-Wino riffing on opener “The Lost, the Forgotten, and the Undying” or second cut “Snake Oil and Coffin Nails,” which is led off by Miller‘s bass in the spirit perhaps of The Hidden Hand circa Mother Teacher Destroyer and shifts into faster gallop in its midsection with a highlight guitar lead, or a slower piece like the lumbering “Stained Eyes on a Setting Sun” (premiered here), Eternal Black do bring a sense of character and a developing sonic persona to the tenets of the style. Wohlrob‘s vocal delivery is a gruff and dudely semi-growl suited to tying the songs together and his lyrics — as one has been advised to regard — grow increasingly vivid as the tracklisting progresses into “Stained Eyes on a Setting Sun,” “Bleed the Days” itself and 11-minute closer “All Gods Fall,” pulling references from Biblical and other Inferno-y sources concerning death.

eternal black photo shane gardner

It’s arguable six of the seven inclusions on Bleed the Days deal directly with the motif — see also: the entirety of Western culture and the human condition — whether it’s the interaction of death and belief on “Snake Oil and Coffin Nails” and “All Gods Fall” or the grim picture-painting of “The Lost, the Forgotten, and the Undying,” “Sea of Graves,” “Into Nothing,” “Stained Eyes on a Setting Sun,” and “Bleed the Days,” but there’s also an underlying use of water imagery. The opener speaks of a ballast of the dead, snake oil is “flooding the plains,” it’s a “Sea of Graves,” bodies are thrown into the sea in “Stained Eyes on a Setting Sun,” walls of rain unleash a river in the title-track, and flames rain down and oceans reabsorb in the finale. Again, that’s six of six tracks with words in them. One can’t help but wonder if that was a purposeful aesthetic choice in the composition of the material or simply a fitting representation of the abyss. In any case, like Wohlrob‘s vocals, the tonal density of his guitar and Miller‘s low end and the ultra-solid push of Wood‘s drums, it is another aspect of Bleed the Days that serves to tie the songs together.

Taking into account Bleed the Days as Eternal Black‘s debut, the album becomes even more impressive in its establishment of theme and aesthetic — well earning the amount of purple on its Joshua M. Wilkinson cover art — and when given repeat listens, further nuance of intent gradually unveils itself, whether it’s the airy flourish of guitar layering buried in the second half of “All Gods Fall” or the force with which the overall trajectory of the trio’s procession leads them to that closer. That shift takes place between the songs themselves, which seem to grow slower from “The Lost, the Forgotten, and the Undying” onward, but “Into Nothing” becomes a crucial divide between the first three cuts and the latter three that follow, which cast a plodding and weighted mire that, even when it picks up a bit in terms of tempo in the title-track, remains enduringly bleak.

Thus “All Gods Fall” can be read as a moment of arrival for Eternal Black and their audience alike, and it meets that task ably in summarizing the atmosphere of what’s come before it, showcasing an avenue for potential forward growth on the part of the band and providing a landing point for the consistently downward push that brings it on. Like the stated subject of death, “All Gods Fall” feels inevitable by the time it hits, and its final lines, “Man faces his eternity/Standing alone,” encapsulate the perspective of Bleed the Days as a whole. There could hardly be a more fitting end for an album that stands so willfully in doomed gruel, and as “All Gods Fall” marches to its fading finish, the sound of crashing waves would seem to provide an answer as to the corresponding watery elements that so much of the material highlighted previously.

I don’t know if I’d call Bleed the Days a concept album in terms of a singular narrative playing out, but neither would I be surprised if Eternal Black went that route sometime in the future, as there is a decided interest in storytelling here, and pivotally, they back that with quality songwriting that’s no less a foundation than the roll in Wood‘s drums. They’ve left themselves room to grow in terms of branching out arrangements and style, but as doom for doomers by doomers, Eternal Black‘s first album brings a host of depressive delights.

Eternal Black, Bleed the Days (2017)

Eternal Black website

Eternal Black on Bandcamp

Eternal Black on Thee Facebooks

Eternal Black on Instagram

Eternal Black on Soundcloud

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audiObelisk Transmission 062

Posted in Podcasts on July 25th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk podcast 62

Click Here to Download

 

It’s easy when you’re putting one of these things together to get locked into a headspace and all of a sudden everything you’re putting next to each other kind of sounds the same, kind of blurs together. I’m immensely pleased to say that’s not at all what happened this time around. The sounds throughout vary from heavy psych to rock to proggy jams to Blaak Heat who are on their own wavelength entirely to doom and space rock and so on. It flows though. I’m really happy with how it flows.

That includes the second hour, which has a couple different vibes as opposed to just the usual all-psych head-trip. Also, as you make your way through, keep in mind that a lot of this stuff is coming from debut albums. Moon Rats, Kabbalah, Eternal Black, Mindkult, The Raynbow, Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree. Hell, Steak’s track is their second album, and Youngblood Supercult too, so yeah, there’s a lot of fresh stuff included from newer bands. I didn’t come into it with a plan at all. This is just how it worked out, which of course is more fun anyway.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

Track details follow:

First Hour:

0:00:00 Moon Rats, “Highway Lord” from Highway Lord
0:03:36 Youngblood Supercult, “The Hot Breath of God” from The Great American Death Rattle
0:07:31 Kabbalah, “Phantasmal Planetoid” from Spectral Ascent
0:12:11 Wretch, “The Wretch” from Bastards Born
0:20:25 Steak, “Creeper” from No God to Save
0:24:28 Eternal Black, “Stained Eyes on a Setting Sun” from Bleed the Days
0:31:44 Mindkult, “Howling Witch” from Lucifer’s Dream
0:36:51 Shooting Guns, “Flavour Country” from Flavour Country
0:45:04 Endless Boogie, “Vibe Killer” from Vibe Killer
0:53:22 Blaak Heat, “Marr El Kallam” from The Arabian Fuzz 7”
0:57:55 The Grand Astoria, “The Sleeper Awakes” from The Fuzz of Destiny

Second Hour:

1:02:45 Eggnogg, “Overture / Wild Goose Chase” from Rituals in Transfigured Time – Prologue
1:16:06 Elara, “Harmonia” from Deli Bal
1:31:41 Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree, “Sail Away I” from Medicine
1:45:50 The Raynbow, “Changes” from The Cosmic Adventure

Total running time: 2:01:51

 

Thank you for listening.

Download audiObelisk Transmission 062

 

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Eternal Black Announce Bleed the Days Due Aug. 8; Premiere “Stained Eyes on a Setting Sun”

Posted in audiObelisk, Whathaveyou on July 19th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

eternal black photo shane gardner

Go ahead and click play on the Eternal Black track premiere at the bottom of this post and then come back up and read the rest of this. Got it? Okay cool. Now that you’re digging into the lumbering weight of ‘Stained Eyes on a Setting Sun,’ I feel like we can really get down to business. The gruff Brooklynite doom metallers are today announcing that in less than a month’s time — Aug. 8 is the date and preorders are up through their Bandcamp — they’ll make their full-length debut with Bleed the Days.

I’m not gonna be coy here. I’ve heard the record and it’s a banger. Like, someone’s-gonna-pick-it-up-and-put-out-vinyl kind of banger. Playing to classic-minded nod, Eternal Black roll out riff after riff of dead-on, no-frills-needed doom. They’ve got seven tracks of it loaded up and ready to move, and as they build from the accomplishments of their 2015 self-titled EP (review here) and pay off the preview of new material they gave on earlier-2017’s Live at WFMU (discussed here), one would be hard pressed to find a less pretentious execution, and especially as it’s their debut, Bleed the Days shows the Maryland Doom Fest veterans as a band looking to make their mark in the sphere of the East Coast underground.

I’ll have more to come as we get closer to the Aug. 8 release, but for now, click play again and give “Stained Eyes on a Setting Sun” another listen as a portend of good things on the way, and dig into the album announcement as sent down the PR wire. You’re going to want to familiarize:

eternal-black-bleed-the-days

Eternal Black to Release Debut Full-Length Album ‘Bleed the Days’ on August 8

Premieres New Track “Stained Eyes On A Setting Sun”

Brooklyn-based doom band ETERNAL BLACK will unleash their debut full-length album, ?Bleed the Days, on August 8th, 2017. In anticipation of the album’s release, a new track, “Stained Eyes On A Setting Sun” will be available for streaming via SoundCloud and Bandcamp.

Bleed the Days is the band’s third release, following their 2015 self-titled EP and a live recording from 2017, ?Live at WFMU? . According to the band, “Sonically, we were aiming for somewhere between Black Sabbath’s ?Master of Reality and The Obsessed’s ?Lunar Womb. We wanted the album to be an obvious step forward in the progression of our sound. Darker and heavier than anything you’ve heard from us before, with the grit of old school Doom.”

Eternal Black again worked with Joe Kelly and Kol Marshall (Mercyful Fate, King Diamond, Ministry), who produced and mixed the album. It was mastered by none other than Tony Reed of Mos Generator. Joshua M. Wilkinson of The Company (Curse the Son, Doctor Doom, Keef Mountain) designed the cover and album art.

Bleed the Days will be released on August 8th, 2017 on CD and digital formats. Preorders can be placed via ?Eternal Black’s Bandcamp page?. A double-LP vinyl version with be available in Fall 2017 with limited edition variations.

Formed in late 2014, Eternal Black is made up of Joe Wood on drums (Borgo Pass), Hal Miller on bass, and Ken Wohlrob on guitar and vocals. The group came together out of a desire to create dark songs driven by fuzz-drenched riffs and old-school heavy grooves.

Bleed the Days tracklisting:
1. The Lost, The Forgotten, and The Undying
2. Snake Oil and Coffin Nails
3. Sea of Graves
4. Into Nothing
5. Stained Eyes on a Setting Sun
6. Bleed The Days
7. All Gods Fall

Eternal Black live:
JUL 20 Eternal Black, Curse the Son, Clouds Taste Satanic, Leeds Point
Lucky 13 Saloon New York, NY

AUG 5 Eternal Black, Reign of Zaius, Goat Wizard, & Begotten
Arlene’s Grocery New York, NY

SEP 23 Eternal Black, Thunderbird Divine, Goat Wizard, & King Bison
Century Philadelphia, PA

OCT 7 NY Invades MD! w/ CLOVER/CLOUDS TASTE SATANIC/ETERNAL BLACK/FAITH IN JANE
Guido’s Speakeasy Frederick, MD

http://eternalblackdoom.com
https://eternalblack.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/blackhanddoom
https://instagram.com/eternalblackdoom/
https://soundcloud.com/eternalblackdoom

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