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Janne Westerlund’s There’s a Passage out Feb. 15; Two New Songs Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 18th, 2017 by H.P. Taskmaster

janne westerlund

In the span of two tracks, Janne Westerlund goes from ultra-minimal guy-and-guitar Finnish folk blues to sprawling choral harmonies (in English, but really, the linguistic swap is the smallest of the changes) — and that’s supposed to be the lead-in for Westerlund‘s forthcoming solo LP, There’s a Passage. Wildest part is it probably makes sense when you hear the record. Westerlund, of course, is best known for his work in on-their-own-wavelength-forever progressive post-everything outfit Circle, among others, and There’s a Passage is his second solo offering, set to be released on Feb. 17 via Ektro Records. He’s got two Circle tracks on there among other originals, and the two I mentioned at the start of this paragraph? Yeah, they’re both streaming. You can check them out below.

Art and info off the PR wire:

janne westerlund there's a passage

JANNE WESTERLUND sets release date for new EKTRO album, reveals first tracks

Ektro Records sets February 17th as the international release date for Janne Westerlund’s highly anticipated There’s a Passage. After Marshland, the darkest blues album ever released in Finland, Westerlund is trying to find some light with this new solo effort. By deploying means ranging from the choral exploration of “So Messed Up” to the obsessedly monotonic boogie of “Run No More,” completed with two songs from Circle’s repertoire, he manages to come up with a captivating, sorcerous journey for an album.

Westerlund’s roots may be deep in folk music, but over the years, playing with such bands as Circle, Pharaoh Overlord and Plain Ride, he has developed a highly personalized take on it by questioning the conventions of any given genre. Despite his uncompromising and austere vision on music, there remains an undertone of uncertainty and vulnerability in his voice – perhaps it is precisely this ambivalence that makes his work so accessible and strikingly effective. Hear the first examples of such with the tracks “Kuoleman lautturin tyta?r” HERE and “So Messed Up” HERE. Cover and tracklisting are as follows:

Tracklisting for Janne Westerlund’s There’s a Passage
1. So Messed Up
2. Sick Child
3. Run No More
4. Days of Love
5. Oh Wind
6. Kuoleman lautturin tytar
7. Ydinaukio
8. Back to Etcetera
9. You Come From Far
10. There’s a Passage

www.facebook.com/Westerlund.Janne
www.ektrorecords.com
www.facebook.com/ektrorecords
www.soundcloud.com/ektrorecords

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Void Cruiser Confirm Feb. 27 Release for Wayfarer; New Single Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 17th, 2017 by H.P. Taskmaster

void cruiser

Originally set for issue this past Autumn, the sophomore full-length from Finland’s Void Cruiser has been given a firm release date of Feb. 27 through Argonauta Records. Preceded by the art and track info that you can see below as well as the cumbersomely-titled new single, “I Didn’t Lie but I Know Now that I Should Have,” the album is named Wayfarer and upon digging into the track, one finds an engaging blend of heavy psychedelia and grunge that seems to invite further inspection. A little bit the song brings Dwellers to mind, but is on an altogether more tripped-out wavelength, though how that might play across the whole release I don’t actually know. Haven’t heard it yet.

So it goes. In any case, at well over eight minutes, “I Didn’t Lie but I Know Now that I Should Have” is more than a snippet and should be plenty to dig into, so yeah, have at it. You’ll find the song under the info below, which came down the PR wire:

void cruiser wayfarer

VOID CRUISER reveal cover artwork and first single from their anticipated new album

Finnish cosmonauts VOID CRUISER reveal cover artwork and first single from their new album “Wayfarer”. The song “I didn’t lie but I know now that I should have” is available at this address: https://youtu.be/s0n5zTSWpXs

The band says: “This single track release is a taste from the upcoming album “Wayfarer”. The song ‘I Didn’t Lie But I Know Now That I Should Have’ was among the first two composed songs for the record and it became benchmark for the rest of the song writing progress. People who have listened to our debut album will realise that this time we have cruised deeper into the sonic unknown and tamed some of the previously unencountered euphonious anomalies. We hope that this track, having such a deep meaning for us, will also be meaningful for all of you.”

VOID CRUISER “Wayfarer”, a massive Heavy Space/Fuzz related Metal work, will be released in CD/DD by ARGONAUTA Records and available from February 27th, 2017. Preorders run here: http://bit.ly/2iglk1d

TRACKLIST:
1. A day on which no man was born
2. I didn’t lie but I know now that I should have
3. As we speak
4. Madonnas and whores
5. Seven years late
6. All over nowhere
7. Maailman kallein kaupunki

www.facebook.com/voidcruiser
https://voidcruiser.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/ArgonautaRecords/
www.argonautarecords.com

Void Cruiser, “I Didn’t Lie but I Know Now that I Should Have”

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PH to Release Eternal Hayden March 10 on Svart Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 16th, 2017 by H.P. Taskmaster

PH

Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, yes and yes. You know who’s really excited at the prospect of a new PH record? Me. I am. I’ll admit, I was somewhat concerned that when the Finnish progressive experimentalists formerly known as Mr. Peter Hayden wrapped up a trilogy of LPs with the cosmic breadth drone of 2014’s Archdimension Now (review here), that would be it for them. Doneski. But it seems instead to have closed one era and begun another. Now dubbed PH after the logo/symbol they carry with them on stage, and now signed to Svart — which is easily the most logical place I can think of for them in this universe of illogic — they’ll issue Eternal Hayden on March 10. And as I say, I’m really excited about it.

They have a new teaser streaming now that’s not much more than a couple rumbles, but still — get stoked. More to come.

This from the PR wire:

ph eternal hayden

PH set release date for new SVART album, reveal teaser video

Finnish meta-rocking freebirds Mr. Peter Hayden, now referring to themselves just by their PH insignia, are back with a new album. Their fourth full-length, Eternal Hayden, will be released through Svart Records on March 10th. The release will be celebrated by a Scandinavian tour in March and the rest of Europe during the fall of this yar.

“This album is all about letting go and achieving, reaching something more after giving up everything,” comments the band. “It is a guide to spiritual growth, ascension, and overall progression towards freedom. At the same time, it is a pre-written vision coming true aptly depicting our journey as a band and a spiritual entity.”

Eternal Hayden is the capstone not only for their discography so far, but also for their whole existence. Their return from the voyage through a trilogy of albums exploring the depths of mind, time, and dimensions finally to reveal what it was all about. This album is everything they have ever done before and a fair share of what they are going towards in the future, but performed in a manner none of the earlier albums were. It’s as much a return to the time before the trilogy as it is a brand-new start, the future and the past.

“The trilogy started as an experiment, but became an experience as we were caught within it,” they explain. “In the end, it also become a guide for others to go through the same journey and to gain what we have gained. And only after reaching the archdimension were we able to write and perform this album. Also being born again, we felt obligated to simplify our name from ‘Mr. Peter Hayden’ to the PH monogram, which we have used as our insignia for over 15 years already.”

This is something new lurking between the petrified genre definitions and still merely the first step down the group’s path to be cleared. A tantalizingly short teaser video for Eternal Hayden can be viewed HERE. Cover and tracklisting are as follows:

Tracklisting for PH’s Eternal Hayden
1. Looking Back At Mr. Peter Hayden
2. We Fly High
3. Reach
4. Higher
5. Rock And Roll Future

www.mrph.net
www.facebook.com/mrpeterhayden
www.instagram.com/mrpeterhayden
twitter.com/mrpeterhayden
www.svartrecords.com
www.facebook.com/svartrecords
www.youtube.com/svartrecords
www.twitter.com/svartrecords

PH, Eternal Hayden teaser

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Oulu Space Jam Collective Announce EP1 Tape Available to Preorder

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 5th, 2017 by H.P. Taskmaster

oulu space jam collective

Listening to the 57-minute opening track from the new Oulu Space Jam Collective tape, my brain feels like plastic that somebody put in the microwave. The song in question, “Renegade Spaceman,” comes accompanied by two others — “Approaching Beast Moon of Baxool” (24:07) and “Artistic Supplies for Moon Paint Mafia” (14:09) — which makes me think that the title EP1 of the limited-to-50-copies cassette release refers to “episode” rather than it actually being an “EP,” because frankly, if they were going to press it to vinyl, it’d be two 12″ records. Not exactly a short release.

Eggs in Aspic will have the tape out this Friday, but you can order it now, and if you caught that part in the paragraph above where I said they only made 50 of the suckers, you’ll probably want to jump on that. At least if you want your brain to do that whole plastic-in-the-microwave thing — which, frankly, I think we both know you do.

Info courtesy of the label, audio courtesy of the band:

oulu space jam collective ep1

Pre-order Oulu Space Jam Collective – EP1 Now!

Not much is known about mysterious Finnish psych outfit Oulu Space Jam Collective but that’s probably for the best. Since forming in the Northern Finnish city from which they took their name in 2014, the enigmatic sextet have been busy crafting their improvised new-age prog at a series of underground arts events across the city.

Proprietors of a sort of tribalistic, free-flowing nomadic-psych similar to fellow Scandinavians Goat, the group’s physical debut release on Newcastle cassette label Eggs in Aspic, brings together three of the band’s extended genre-hopping jams for the first time.

Clocking in at just under two hours, the cosmic vibes of Renegade Spaceman, Approaching Beast Moon of Baxool and Artistic Supplies for Moon Paint Mafia take the listener on an interplanetary trip to the outer reaches of reality.

Helmed by Joonatan Elokuu, Markus Pitkänen, Petri Lassila, Jani Pitkänen, Kalle Veikko, Olli Niemitalo and Petri Henell, the group’s self-styled ‘Oriental Oulu Kraut’ offers a heady mix of sitar, synths, percussion, lap steel, electronic wizardry and far-out guitars that chime together in shamanistic celebration.

Recorded across two nights at Oulu’s Deep Space Destructors’ Rehearsal Vortex and Etulyötyn Park’s Night of the Arts, EP1 will be released on 6 January 2017 in a limited edition run of 50 purple C120 cassettes featuring a laser-cut transparent J-card, metallic pin badge and digital download code.

Click here to pre-order the limited edition release now

https://www.facebook.com/Ouluspacejamcollective
https://ouluspacejamcollective.bandcamp.com/
http://www.eggsinaspic.com/product/oulu-space-jam-collective-ep1/
http://www.eggsinaspic.com/

Oulu Space Jam Collective, “Renegade Spaceman”

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Rückwater Announce Bonehead EP Due Feb. 24

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 30th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

ruckwater

From the Finnish hotbed of Tampere comes word that heavy rock trio Rückwater will issue a new EP on Feb. 24. Their third, it’s titled Bonehead and will be released via Secret Entertainment. The three-piece are streaming the track “Once More with Feeling” — in fact, if you check out their YouTube channel, they seem to be streaming the whole thing, but there’s nothing wrong with staying focused — and one gets a pretty strong Roadsaw/Orange Goblin-style vibe from it, which of course is nothing to complain about.

With so much of Finland’s heavy underground devoted to weirdness of various stripes, that Rückwater offer something so straightforward is almost bizarre in itself, but if it’s a trap, it’s one well-laid, and I remain a sucker for riffs and hooks, so here’s this from the PR wire:

ruckwater bonehead

Rückwater to release an EP in February!

Rückwater is a three-headed stoner rock monster hailing from Tampere, Finland. Their new EP named Bonehead is released February 24th 2017 by Secret Entertainment. Heartfelt lyrics, strong tunes, two asskickin’ lead singers and the boogie that varies from furious to mellow makes this record worth of listening.

Rückwater has shared a stage with names like Joey Belladonna and stoner legend Karma To Burn, so this really is a band to watch out for.

Track list:
01. Once More With Feeling
02. No Gain
03. Labyrinth
04. Super Frustration
05. Bonehead
06. Flame Doesn’t Cast A Shadow

Line-up:
-Jussi Vehman / Vocals / Bass
-Make Makkonen / Vocals / Guitars
-Jape Makkonen / Drums

Discography:
-So far out… -EP (2011)
-What’s in the box? -EP (2013)
-Bonehead -EP (2017)

Bio:
This 3-headed stoner rock monster was born in 2010. Its first recording session took place in the same year. 7 songs were recorded during 3 burning hot summer days. The masterpiece is called “So Far Out…”. It was a huge review success… Well, it would’ve been if we had sent it to somewhere. But we don’t give a fuck! Since then we’ve been giggin’ and rockin’ our asses off. And of course we’ve written some new classics meanwhile. Early in 2013 we started began making our second record. This time the process was much more diligent and it took many months to get the new 5 classics ready. But result was worth the patience. “What’s In The Box?” is probably the best EP ever!!!

https://twitter.com/ruckwater
https://soundcloud.com/ruckwater
https://www.facebook.com/ruckwater/
https://www.youtube.com/user/Ruckwater
https://twitter.com/SecretEntLabel
https://www.facebook.com/secretentertainmentfinland
http://secretentertainment.fi/

Rückwater, “Once More with Feeling”

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2016

Posted in Features on December 20th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

the obelisk top 30

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 2016 to that, please do.

I say this every year: These are my picks. If you’re unfamiliar with this site, or you don’t come here that often, or if you do and just normally don’t give a crap — all of which is cool — you should know it’s all run by one person. One human being. Me. My name is JJ, and this is a list of what I think are the best albums that were released in 2016.

Since before 2016 began, I’ve kept a running list of releases. My criteria for what gets included in this list is largely unchanged — it’s a balance between what I feel are important records on the level of what they achieve, what I listened to most, what held some other personal appeal, and what I think did the best job of meeting the goals it set for itself. Pretty vague, right? That’s the idea.

The nature of worldwide heavy has become so broad that to encompass it all under some universal standard is laughable. Judging psychedelia, garage rock, heavy psych, doom, sludge and so on by the same measure makes no sense, and as genres continue to splinter and remake themselves as we’ve seen them doing all year and over the last several years, one must be malleable in one’s own taste. We’ve seen a new generation of heavy rock bands emerge in the last three-plus years. It’s been amazing, and there are a few pivotal second and third records that came out in 2016 to affirm that movement underway. Look for it to continue into 2017 and beyond.

This year more than any other seemed to want to bring the different sides together. A laudable goal. Thick riffing marked with flourish of psychedelia. Spacious doom bred against folk impulses. There’s been experimentation around melds that have led to considerable triumphs, and it just doesn’t seem to me that rigid standards can apply. It’s why I don’t grade reviews and never did.

Sound is evolving now as it always has been and as it will keep doing, but like any year, 2016 had a full share of landmarks to offer as a part of that process. As universal development hopefully remains ongoing, it’s only right that we celebrate the accomplishments helping to push it along its winding and sometimes divergent-seeming paths.

I have no doubt you know what I mean. Let’s get to the list:

30. Talmud Beach, Chief

talmud beach chief

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed Feb. 10.

Seems only fair to start with a record I couldn’t put down. Finnish trio Talmud Beach‘s second album and Svart debut, Chief, hit on just the right blend of laid back, semi-acoustic groove-blues, psychedelia and classic progressive folk rock, but with the exception of its sprawling dreamscape title-track (a welcome arrival at the finale), it also kept the songwriting simple, resulting in a natural, pastoral feel that only highlighted their melodic range in songs like “Mountain Man” and “Snow Snow Snow.” I think it flew under a lot of people’s radar, but I’ve kept going back to it over the course of the year and I see no reason to stop.

29. Comet Control, Center of the Maze

comet control center of the maze

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed June 22.

Space is still the place. I’ve already highlighted closer “Artificial Light” from Comet Control‘s sophomore LP, Center of the Maze as my favorite song of 2016, so I’ll spare you the longwinded treatise on its languid cosmic glories — this time — but consider this a reminder that that song was by no means the limit of what the eight-track release had to offer in terms of breadth. From the opening push of “Dig out Your Head” to the dream-drift of “Sick in Space,” it unfolded tonal presence and a melodic depth that engaged a gorgeous, multifaceted sonic wash as it moved onward toward that landmark conclusion.

28. Droids Attack, Sci-Fi or Die

droids attack sci-fi or die

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 17.

There was not a level on which Madison, Wisconsin’s Droids Attack didn’t make it clear they were going all-out, all-in on Sci-Fi or Die. Even the title speaks to the stakes involved. And sure enough, the trio executed their fourth album with a sense of urgency and professionalism in songcraft, production, artwork (discussed here) and nuance of presentation that managed to make even a song called “Clawhammer Suicide” a classy affair. As guitarist/vocalist Brad Van said on the hidden title-track, “Death to false stoner thrash.” Droids Attack brought that ethic and more to life across the entire record.

27. Beelzefuzz, The Righteous Bloom

beelzefuzz the righteous bloom

Released by Restricted Release and The Church Within. Reviewed Aug. 2.

A winding road brought Beelzefuzz around to following up their 2013 self-titled debut (review here), and as The Righteous Bloom brought guitarist/vocalist Dana Ortt and drummer Darin McCloskey together with bassist Bert Hall and lead guitarist Greg Diener, it found their songwriting more expansive, more progressive and dug further into their own particular oddball sense of grandeur. I’ve said on multiple occasions that no one out there is doing what Beelzefuzz are doing and that continues to be true. Even as a first offering from a new lineup of the band, The Righteous Bloom took bold and exciting forward steps.

26. Foghound, The World Unseen

foghound the world unseen

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed July 6.

Down to business. Immediately. Not a moment to spare. Taking part in what can only be considered a landmark year for Ripple Music, Baltimore’s Foghound issued The World Unseen as an answer to their 2013 debut, Quick, Dirty and High (review here), and upped their game across the board. From the intensity in the hooks of “Message in the Sky” and Rockin’ and Rollin'” to the quiet interlude of “Bridge of Stonebows” and the mid-paced heavy rock nod of “Never Return,” they made a strong case for themselves among their label’s foremost acts and found individualism in the growth of their songwriting. It was a kick in the ass you weren’t going to forget.

25a. Egypt, Endless Flight

egypt endless flight

Released by Doomentia Records. Reviewed Dec. 11, 2015.

Put out by the band digitally in Dec. 2015 and issued on vinyl in 2016, Egypt‘s second LP, Endless Flight may be somewhat debatable in terms of when it actually landed (hence “25a.,” above), but the quality of the six-tracker more than warrants inclusion anyway. Rolling dense, massively-fuzzed groove, its nine-minute opening title-track set the course for the Fargo, North Dakota, three-piece, and they only grew the heavy revelry from there, as heard on the penultimate “Black Words,” which seemed to be chewing on rocks even as it played back and forth in tempo, build and push. The converted never had it so good.

25. 1000mods, Repeated Exposure To…

1000mods repeated exposure to

Released by Ouga Booga and the Mighty Oug Recordings. Reviewed Sept. 20.

There seems to be no stopping the Chiliomodi-based 1000mods, who with their third album have stepped to the forefront of Greece’s populous and vibrant heavy rock underground. Progressed well beyond where even 2014’s impressive Vultures (review here) found them, they seemed to hit a stride with Repeated Exposure To… thanks in part to road time and the ability to bring that energy directly into songs like the eight-minute roller “Loose” and the sizable crashes of “Groundhog Day.” Momentum working in their favor could be heard front-to-back from “Above 179” to “Into the Spell,” moving them toward something ever-more crucial and marking a considerable achievement along that path. 2017 might be a good time for them to test the waters with initial US shows.

24. Black Rainbows, Stellar Prophecy

black rainbows stellar prophecy

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed April 11.

Quick turnaround from Roman heavy psych magnate Gabriele Fiori (guitar/vocals) and company, but though it hit just about 13 months after their fourth full-length, Hawkdope (review here), Black Rainbows, Stellar Prophecy wholly succeeded in making an impact of its own, cuts like the oozing, organ-laced “Woman” and 11-minute jam-out triumph “Golden Widow” showcasing an approach in a continuous state of refinement that seems to get rawer as it goes, shifting like a rogue planetoid toward some maddening cosmic realization. How something can seem both so frenetic and so blissful is still a mystery, and perhaps that’s part of what makes Stellar Prophecy resonate as it does, but either way, Black Rainbows brought together some of the year’s most efficient psychedelic immersion.

23. Borracho, Atacama

borracho atacama

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed Nov. 14.

Borracho don’t seem to release an album until they have something to say. That was to their credit on Atacama, their third LP and label debut for Kozmik Artifactz debut. Also their second collection issued as a trio behind 2013’s Oculus (review here), it distinguished itself from its predecessor in its sense of overarching flow, shifting between the ahead-thrust of “Gold from Sand” into the 10-minute sample-laden jam “Overload” to start out with such ease that the listener had little choice but to follow along. With an expanded scope on “Drifted away from the Sun” and the lightly-strummed memento mori “Flower,” Borracho found new avenues of expression to complement their well established dense, heavy riffing, and took obvious care in crafting their most realized LP yet.

22. The Golden Grass, Coming Back Again

the golden grass coming back again

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed April 26.

Nothing Brooklyn’s The Golden Grass does feels like happenstance, and though their classic-styled boogie is imbued with a vibrant, friendly positive energy, there’s an underlying meticulousness in their arrangements and in their songwriting that came further into focus on Coming Back Again, their sophomore release 2014’s self-titled debut (review here). A more progressive take showed itself in “Reflections” and “Down the Line,” and taken in combination with the bookends “Get it Together” and “See it Through,” the three-piece stood on ground that was even more their own than on the first record, striking a careful balance between the willful exploration of new elements and the outright need for tracks to directly engage their listeners with catchy hooks and upbeat vibes. They did it. Expect continued growth.

21. Curse the Son, Isolator

curse the son isolator

Released by Snake Charmer Coalition and The Company Records. Reviewed March 1.

For something so awash in fuzz, so nodding in its rhythms, so let’s-push-the-vocals-back-under-this-huge-awesome-fucking-riff, Curse the Son‘s Isolator was also remarkably clearheaded in its purposes. With the added vocal harmonies of “Callous Unemotional Traits,” the far-off spaces of “Hull Crush Depth” and the stoner metal despair of “Aislamiento,” the Connecticut three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Ron Vanacore, capital-‘d’ Drummer Michael Petrucci and newcomer bassist Brendan Keefe drew a direct, intentional line to sometimes-grueling (hello, “Sleepwalker Wakes”) weighted tonality and found justification for their largesse in its own being. Like 2012’s Psychache (review here), I expect to be returning to Isolator over a longer term than this single year of release.

20. Neurosis, Fires Within Fires

neurosis fires within fires

Released by Neurot Recordings. Reviewed Sept. 21.

I feel like I need to explain myself here. Make no mistake, NeurosisFires Within Fires is among the year’s most accomplished offerings. There’s just about no way it wouldn’t be. So why not top 10? Top five? It’s a question of timing. With the long-running post-metal progenitors, it’s always a longer digestion period. It was about two years before 2012’s Honor Found in Decay (review here) really sunk in, and I expect Fires Within Fires will work similarly over the greater term. Maybe a little guilt on my part for the disparity between its quality and its placement, but rest assured, Neurosis remain among the most imperative bands walking the earth, and as they took on the full brunt of 30 years of unmitigated progression through Fires Within Fires, they were no less brazen in pushing themselves creatively than they’ve ever been.

19. Conan, Revengeance

conan revengeance

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Jan. 19.

Though the narrative of Conan has remained largely unchanged since their inception — hack, slash, kill, riff — and they still bask in nigh-on-unmatched tonal slaughter, their third full-length brings a few key developments. Perhaps most notable from opener “Throne of Fire” onward is the vocal interplay between guitarist/founder Jon Davis and bassist/longtime-engineer Chris Fielding, who joined after 2014’s Blood Eagle (review here). Adding Fielding‘s deeper growls allowed Davis to subtly move into a cleaner shout, and the emergent dynamic between them made Revengeance a decidedly expanded affair compared to Conan‘s past work. Adding drummer Rich Lewis to the mix was no minor shift either, and as much as Conan had already established their sheer dominance, they also sounded refreshed and set themselves up to keep growing.

18. Baby Woodrose, Freedom

baby woodrose freedom

Released by Bad Afro Records. Reviewed Aug. 18.

Some records just feel like gifts, and though many of its lyrical positions were cynical — “Reality,” “21st Century Slave,” “Mind Control Machine,” “Red the Sign Post,” etc. — Freedom marked the 15th anniversary of Danish garage-psych rockers Baby Woodrose with dripping lysergic aplomb, reminding some four years after their last LP, 2012’s Third Eye Surgery (review here), that bandleader Lorenzo Woodrose is unparalleled when it comes to manifesting his take on the psychedelic victories of 13th Floor Elevators and classic-era Hawkwind — firmly at home levitating on the edge of time. Its swirl and underlying foundation of songwriting, its Richie Havens cover title-track, and its sprawling interstellar “Termination” were like a welcome check-in from another dimension, and I only hope it’s not four years before Woodrose sends the next signal. Earth needs this band.

17. Geezer, Geezer

geezer geezer

Released by Ripple Music and STB Records. Reviewed Nov. 10.

I’m not going to discount the shuffle of “Sunday Speed Demon” or sleeze of “Sunday Speed Demon,” but where Geezer‘s self-titled third full-length really showed how far the New York heavy blues-psych trio have come was in its extended midsection jams, “Sun Gods,” “Bi-Polar Vortex” and “Dust,” each of which showed a distinct approach while feeding into an engaging flow between them, offering a blend of trailmarker hooks as they drifted into realms of organic chemistry previously uncharted by the band. The slow-motion swing of “Hangnail Crisis,” raucous push of “Superjam Maximus” and concluding bounce of “Stoney Pony” brought them back down to earth to finish out with a symmetry to the album’s opening, but Geezer kept a collective hand on the controls the whole voyage and when they landed, it was an arrival indeed, and very much what their two previous records were building toward.

16. EYE, Vision and the Ageless Light

eye vision and the ageless light

Released by The Laser’s Edge. Reviewed Nov. 17.

Beautifully experimental with its 27-minute finisher “As Sure as the Sun,” EYE‘s Vision and the Ageless Light seemed throughout its whole 46-minute run to be executing a cohesive vision in its synth-soaked progressive textures. Between the intro “Book of the Dead” and the subsequent “Kill the Slavemaster,” “Searching,” “Dweller of the Twilight Void” and the already-noted closer, each piece had something different to offer that added to the full impact of the whole, and with guitarist Jon Finely and bassist Michael Sliclen joining founding drummer/vocalist Brandon Smith and synth/Mellotron/Moog-ist Lisa Bella Donna (also vocals and acoustic guitar), EYE added to the scope of 2013’s Second Sight (review here) and found a place for themselves where prog complexity didn’t need to come at the expense of memorable songwriting and spaced-out vibes. An absolute joy, front to back.

15. Fatso Jetson, Idle Hands

fatso jetson idle hands

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Oct. 3.

Even Fatso Jetson themselves would probably have to admit that six years — even a six years that saw several splits, singles, etc. — was too long between albums. Fortunately, Idle Hands saw the desert rock forebears in top form as regards their quirk-fueled songwriting, angular approach to punk and inimitable groove. Following 2010’s Archaic Volumes (review here) was no easy task, but with additional depth to the material from the contributions of guitarist Dino von Lalli — son of founding guitarist/vocalist Mario Lalli and nephew of founding bassist Larry Lalli — guest spots from his sister Olive Lalli as well as Sean Wheeler (the latter moves second cut “Portuguese Dream” into high-echelon strangeness) and the ever-propulsive drumming of Tony Tornay, Fatso Jetson were both all over the place and right at the core of where they most ought to be sonically. At 56 minutes, it hardly seemed long enough.

14. Hexvessel, When We are Death

hexvessel when we are death

Released by Century Media. Reviewed Feb. 5.

Each song was like a different persona the band adopted momentarily, whether it was the Bowie-goes-proto-goth-prog of organ-ic opener “Transparent Eyeball” or the grim pastoralia of “Mirror Boy” and the condemnations/proclamations of “Drugged up on the Universe,” but wherever Hexvessel went on their third full-length and Century Media debut, When We are Death, that unifying theme went with them. Death. It was everywhere in the Finland-based genre-benders’ deeply varied approach, though its presence made their material in no way off-putting, and in the case of cuts like “Cosmic Truth” or the later “Mushroom Spirit Doors,” not even dark, and as it drew the tracks together despite working in different sounds and style, it became apparent that When We are Death worked because of a universal quality in songwriting and presentation allowing for such drastic shifts without any risk of losing the audience.

13. Zun, Burial Sunrise

zun burial sunrise

Released by Small Stone Records. Reviewed Feb. 16.

Yawning Man guitarist Gary Arce — a key figure in the development of desert rock and a player of unmatched tone, period — had quite a year, between Zun‘s Burial Sunrise, his main outfit and his collaboration with Fatso Jetson vs. HifiKlub, but it was the dreamscape drift of songs like “Come Through the Water” and “All that You Say I Am” as well as the subtle hooks of “Into the Wasteland” and “All for Nothing” that, for me, made this the highlight. Sure, bringing in vocalists Sera Timms (Ides of Gemini, Black Mare) and John Garcia (ex-Kyuss, Slo Burn, Vista Chino, etc.) and having them swap back and forth between the tracks didn’t hurt either, but the wash of ethereal presence in Arce‘s guitar was an excellent showcase for his patience and improvisational sensibilities, and the spaces Burial Sunrise covered seemed to have an infinite horizon all their own. Will hope for a follow-up, will hope Garcia and Timms return, and will hope for a duet.

12. Elephant Tree, Elephant Tree

elephant tree elephant tree

Released by Magnetic Eye Records. Reviewed Jan. 29.

One had reasonably high expectations for the debut full-length from London’s Elephant Tree after their 2014 EP Theia (review here) so deftly blended spacious, sitar-laced heavy psychedelic rock with more visceral sludge impulses — a difficult mix to pull off — but I think it would’ve been impossible to see the quality of this self-titled outing coming in any substantive way. Gone were the screams, in was a depth of tone and nigh-on-perfect tempo — see “Dawn” and “Aphotic Blues,” as well as the acoustic “Circles” between them — and where some first albums have a kind of tentative, feeling-it-out vibe, guitarist/vocalist Jack Townley (interview here), bassist/vocalist Peter Holland, drummer Sam Hart and sitarist/vocalist/engineer Riley MacIntyre took utter command of the proceedings. They won’t have the element of surprise working for them next time, but as Elephant Tree made perfectly clear in its biggest surprise of all, neither do they need it.

11. Mos Generator, Abyssinia

mos generator abyssinia

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed July 12.

If you were to ask me to summarize in one word the last four-plus years of Mos Generator‘s tenure, since their reactivation with 2012’s Nomads (review here) and the subsequent lineup changes and hard-touring that followed 2014’s Electric Mountain Majesty (review here), I’d say “go.” I might say it three times: Go-go-go. One of three LP-ish offerings out this year, the studio album Abyssinia embodied this ethic as it started with immediate momentum on “Strangest Times” and “You’ve Got a Right” and seemed to push itself into new ground as it went. Guitarist/vocalist/founder Tony Reed brought heavy boogie to bear at a frenetic clip, but Abyssinia offset its early mania with later progressive stylization on “There’s No Return from Nowhere,” “Time and Other Thieves” and harmonized closer “Outlander,” so that in addition to representing their furious creativity, it also brought them to places they’ve never been before in sound.

10. Slomatics, Future Echo Returns

slomatics future echo returns

Released by Black Bow Records. Reviewed June 29.

In some ways, Future Echo Returns was simply picking up where Belfast’s Slomatics left off with 2014’s Estron (review here), as heard on the riff of lead-in track “Estronomicon,” but as the third in a purported trilogy following that record and 2012’s A Hocht, it also brought the tonecrushing three-piece to Skyhammer Studio to work with producer Chris Fielding (Conan) and presented a linear storyline that, while rife with standout moments in cuts like “Electric Breath,” the ambient “Ritual Beginnings” and ultra-catchy “Supernothing,” found a genuine sense of resolution in the finale “Into the Eternal” that spoke to the scope the entire work was meant to represent — not just itself, but an entirety spanning three albums. Not a minor feat, but what also made Future Echo Returns so resonant was how well the material stood on its own, so that even without the narrative context, it was immersive, hypnotic and unbridled in its heft.

9. Wo Fat, Midnight Cometh

wo fat midnight cometh

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed April 21.

After two landmarks issued by Small Stone in 2014’s The Conjuring (review here) and 2012’s The Black Code (reviews here and here), Texas forerunners of riff Wo Fat gave a concise rundown of their appeal in the six-track Ripple debut and sixth LP overall, Midnight Cometh. Their ongoing development as found them bringing together a two-sided personality of memorable songs and open, fluid jams, and cuts like “There’s Something Sinister in the Wind,” “Of Smoke and Fog,” “Three Minutes to Midnight” and “Nightcomer” emphasized the next stage of this process, while the shuffling “Riffborn” and swaggering blues rock of “La Dilleme de Detenu” gave listeners a chance to touch ground every now and again. Over the last two-plus years, Wo Fat have become a point of influence for other, particularly American, acts — see labelmates Geezer — and Midnight Cometh assured that will be the case going forward too; a status well-earned.

8. King Buffalo, Orion

king buffalo orion

Released by Stickman Records. Reviewed July 29.

Offered up this summer as a limited self-release and picked up by no less than Stickman Records (Motorpsycho, Elder), Orion might be the most molten inclusion on this list. It’s also my pick for 2016 Debut of the Year, and to hear cuts like “She Sleeps on a Vine,” “Kerosene,” the sprawling closer “Drinking from the River Rising,” or even just to take the whole record front-to-back, which was clearly how the band intended it be experienced, there’s just about no competition in that regard that stands up. The Rochester, NY, three-piece showed marked promise on their 2013 demo (review here) and 2015 split with Lé Betre (review here), but the listenability of Orion — which earned every single one of its repeat visits — made it a triumph on a different level entirely, and distinguished King Buffalo as a formidable presence in the sphere of US heavy psychedelia, fostering a sound no less soulful for its outward cosmic reach and to-be-measured-in-lightyears scale of potential.

7. Wight, Love is Not Only What You Know

wight love is not only what you know

Released by Fat and Holy Records, Kozmik Artifactz, Import Export Music and SPV. Reviewed Sept. 7.

German outfit Wight answered significant anticipation on their third album, Love is Not Only What You Know, some four years after 2012’s Through the Woods into Deep Water (review here) and undertook a significant evolution in sound. A transition from a trio to a four-piece and adding a strong current of funk to their heavy psych groove and boogie resulted in cuts like “The Muse and the Mule,” the jammed-out “Kelele” and “The Love for Life Leads to Reincarnation,” which were as danceable as they were nod-ready, and when complemented by shorter classic rockers like “Helicopter Mama” and “I Wanna Know What You Feel” (still plenty funky) and the Eastern-tinged interlude “Three Quarters,” gave Love is Not Only What You Know scope to match its ass-shaking encouragement. It was a spirit unto itself among 2016 releases, but ultimately, the key to understanding the record was right there in the title: It was all about love, and wherever Wight went in a given track, they never lost sight of that.

6. Greenleaf, Rise Above the Meadow

greenleaf rise above the meadow

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Feb. 18.

A decade and a half after 2001’s Revolution Rock (discussed here), Sweden’s Greenleaf most embodied that ethic with Rise Above the Meadow, their sixth long-player and Napalm Records debut. 2014’s Trails and Passes (review here) represented the key step of founding guitarist Tommi Holappa (interview here) bringing vocalist Arvid Johnsson into the lineup, but Rise Above the Meadow built exponentially on what that album achieved, bolstered by work as a touring band and a revitalized songwriting process heard in “Howl,” “A Million Fireflies,” “You’re Gonna be My Ruin,” the stomping “Golden Throne” and “Tyrants Tongue,” among others. I refuse to discount the quality of Trails and Passes, 2012’s Nest of Vipers (review here) or 2007’s landmark Agents of Ahriman (review here), but as Greenleaf shifted toward a style more reminiscent of Holappa‘s later output with Dozer, they also seemed to stake their claim on the forefront of European heavy rock and roll, which was just waiting for them to do so.

5. Brant Bjork, Tao of the Devil

brant bjork tao of the devil

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 15.

Perhaps the most believable lyric of 2016 was the opening line of leadoff cut “The Gree Heen” from Brant Bjork‘s Tao of the Devil: “I got all that I need. I got the gree-heen.” From the prominent pot leaf on the cover to that single clause — which set the tone for that song’s mega-nod as much as everything that followed in the boogie of “Humble Pie” and “Stackt,” the so-laid-back-it’s-almost-unconscious title-track and the longer-form explorations of “Dave’s War” and the wah’ed-out “Evening Jam” — the inimitable Bjork seems to have embraced the role of stoner guru and the Godfather of Desert Rock. Tao of the Devil was his second release through Napalm behind 2014’s Black Power Flower (review here), which introduced the Low Desert Punk Band, and far from hanging its hat on the man’s historical accomplishments from his days in KyussFu ManchuCheVista Chino, etc., the 50-minute eight-tracker came fueled by the soul most typified in Bjork‘s solo catalog, which it’s increasingly easy to argue is his greatest contribution to the desert aesthetic. Definitely in his wheelhouse, but what a wheelhouse.

4. Asteroid, III

asteroid iii

Released by Fuzzorama Records. Reviewed Oct. 21.

What a relief it was to have Asteroid back, and what a relief it was to have III arrive some six years after II (review here) and find the Örebro, Sweden, trio’s certified-organic chemistry undulled by that long stretch. The songs — “Pale Moon,” “Last Days,” “Til Dawn,” “Wolf and Snake,” “Silver and Gold,” “Them Calling,” “Mr. Strange” — there wasn’t a miss in the bunch, and in addition to the reignited craftsmanship, III made clear a progression as players and the intent to move forward from guitarist/vocalist Robin Hirse, bassist/vocalist Johannes Nilsson and drummer Elvis Campbell (since replaced by Jimmi Kolscheen), so that the material didn’t just let listeners know Asteroid was a band again after having unceremoniously faded out for a half-decade, but gave a signal that perhaps they were just getting started. One can only hope that turns out to be the case, but either way, III felt like a reward dolled out to their fanbase after a long absent stretch, and one that, like II and their 2007 self-titled debut (discussed here) before it, will reverberate its echoes for years to come. Hands down 2016’s most welcome return.

3. Gozu, Revival

gozu revival

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed May 19.

Though it would carry the context of its scorching opener “Nature Boy” with it for the duration and, accordingly, hit with a more intense feel than its 2013 predecessor, The Fury of a Patient Man (review here), Gozu‘s fourth album overall and Ripple label debut was a kick in the ass on more than just that one level. It found the Boston foursome with the finally-solidified lineup of vocalist/guitarist Marc Gaffney, guitarist Doug Sherman, bassist Joe Grotto and drummer Mike Hubbard, and while one could argue they still wound up under the banner of a heavy rock band, that became happenstance to the songs themselves. That is, even more than The Fury of a Patient Man or 2010’s Locust Season (review here), Gozu came across as writing not to style, but to their own impulses, as demonstrated in “Big Casino,” the echoing soul of “Tin Chicken” and shuffle-thrust of “Oldie,” and as they moved beyond their initial swath of influence into this individualized sonic persona, they reaped the benefits of the locked-in lineup and a process of craft that never sounded so purposeful. Revival was indeed typified by its vitality, but it was also the sound of a band maturing as a unit, becoming who they were meant to be, and there is almost nothing more exciting than that for a single album to represent. Plus, it had a song called “By Mennen,” and, you know, references.

2. Mars Red Sky, Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul)

mars red sky apex iii praise for the burning soul

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed Feb. 24.

It was unreasonable to expect the third full-length from Bordeaux, France, trio Mars Red Sky to surpass 2014’s Stranded in Arcadia (review here) and the progressive crux that album brought to the warm tones and sweet melodicism of their 2011 self-titled debut (review here), but Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul) reinforced the elements that worked so well on previous outings while pushing inarguably onto what the band seemed to know was “Alien Ground” if the title of their intro was anything to go by. More over, it did so with a natural fluidity and poise that were as striking as they were encompassing in sound. Tying to earlier 2016’s Providence EP (review here) in concept and execution through that intro and the title-track following it, Apex III presented the to-date pinnacle of Mars Red Sky‘s growth in songs like “The Whinery,” “Mindreader,” the tear-inducing “Under the Hood,” the swing-happy “Friendly Fire,” the willful atmospheric crash of closer “Prodigal Sun” — each one a crucial advancing step from the trio of guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras, bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Mathieu “Matgaz” Gazeau — and brilliantly fed them one into the other, so that in addition to the standout impressions of each, there developed a personality to the whole span of the album; a world of Mars Red Sky‘s own creation, where they dwelt for what seemed too short a time before returning to earth and on from here to who knows where next.

1. SubRosa, For this We Fought the Battle of Ages

subrosa for this we fought the battle of ages

Released by Profound Lore. Reviewed Aug. 26.

Most of all, For this We Fought the Battle of Ages was fearless. For their fourth album, Salt Lake City’s SubRosa adapted themes from 1924’s We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, which laid out a futuristic dystopia wherein all identity is subsumed to the state and even love is outlawed when not properly sanctioned. This framework, obscure if influential, gave guitarist/vocalist Rebecca Vernon, violinist/vocalist Sarah Pendleton, violinist/backing vocalist Kim Pack, bassist/vocalist Levi Hanna, drummer/engineer Andy Patterson (formerly of Iota, among others), and a range of other contributors, a space in which to explore gender and LGBT issues across the six included tracks, and from the opening build and crush of the chorus to “Despair is a Siren” through the depiction of privilege in “Wound of the Warden,” the 97-second Italian-language ballad “Il Cappio” (translated: “the noose”) and into the gut-wrenching finale of “Troubled Cells,” their musical accomplishment was no less stunning than lyrics like, “Isn’t it good to be acquainted with darkness?/To caress it gently/To slit its throat,” from “Black Majesty.” Tense in its quiet stretches, harmonized vocally, given orchestral presence through its use of strings, flute, French horn, and so on, For this We Fought the Battle of Ages worked fluidly in what for most acts would be a contradictory modus of careful, meticulous arrangements and raw, emotional realism. No matter how deep it dove — and by the time identity was being erased and the state was taking control of the body on “Killing Rapture,” it was diving pretty deep — SubRosa never lost their sense of poise, so that the defiance in the last movement of “Troubled Cells” in which Heaven itself is rejected with the clearest of justifications, “Paradise is a lie if you’re not by my side,” the band seemed to stand as straight and tall as their multi-tiered righteousness would warrant. But even if one took For this We Fought the Battle of Ages with politics aside, its achievement in marrying post-metallic structures, gothic texture and progressive atmospherics was on a plane of its own making, operating under its own rules and in its own definitive space. Albums like it do not happen every year, and forward motion for genre as a whole is rarely so visible as it was in this special offering, which seems only fair to regard as a landmark for the band and anyone whose ears and hearts it touched.

The Next 20

Like any good Top 30, mine goes to 50. Here is the next batch:

31. Blaak Heat, Shifting Mirrors
32. Truckfighters, V
33. West, Space & Love, Vol. II
34. Seedy Jeezus with Isaiah Mitchell, Tranquonauts
35. Yawning Man, Historical Graffiti
36. Causa Sui, Return to Sky
37. Vokonis, Olde One Ascending
38. Hotel Wrecking City Traders, Phantomonium
39. The Wounded Kings, Visions in Bone
40. It’s Not Night: It’s Space, Our Birth is but a Sleep and a Forgetting
41. Beastwars, The Death of all Things
42. Naxatras, II
43. Holy Grove, Holy Grove
44. Worshipper, Shadow Hymns
45. Wretch, Wretch
46. Colour Haze, Live Vol. I: Europa Tournee 2015
47. Zaum, Eidolon
48. Bellringer, Jettison
49. Young Hunter, Young Hunter
50. Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Y Proffwyd Dwyll

From the kinetic desert artistry of Blaak Heat to Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard’s ethereal synth-laden doom, there are more than a few essentials here. I’ve never before done a year-end list that had so many releases on it, but my motivation in doing so this time around couldn’t have been simpler: They were simply too good and had too much to offer to leave out. It would’ve been an oversight to do so.

Honorable Mentions

Even a Top 50 fails to grasp the full scope of what 2016 brought about musically, so here are even more, alphabetically:

Ancient Warlocks, II
Black Moon Circle, Sea of Clouds
Sergio Ch., Aurora
Lamp of the Universe, Hidden Knowledge
Mondo Drag, The Occultation of Light
Øresund Space Collective, Visions Of…
-(16)-, Lifespan of a Moth
Spidergawd, III
The Well, Pagan Science
Wovenhand, Star Treatment

And if that’s still not enough, here are 60-plus more names who shouldn’t be left out of the discussion, also alphabetically:

Akris, Atala, Atomikylä, Backwoods Payback, Beastmaker, BigPig, Black Cobra, Black Lung, Blood Ceremony, Blues Pills, Bright Curse, Bus, Dee Calhoun, Captain Crimson, Child, La Chinga, Church of Misery, Conclave, Cough, Devil to Pay, Domkraft, Dot Legacy, Electric Citizen, Estoner, Eternal Elysium, Fatso Jetson & Gary Arce vs. Hifiklub, Fox 45, Goatess, Goblin Cock, Graves at Sea, Heavy Temple (they’ll be back on next year’s list), High Fighter, Holy Serpent, Hotel Wrecking City Traders, Inter Arma, Joy, Kaleidobolt, Khemmis, King Dead, Lord, Lord Vicar, Merchant, Mirrors for Psychic Warfare, Helen Money, Monkey3, Moon Coven, Mother Mooch, Necro, New Keepers of the Water Towers, T.G. Olson, Oranssi Pazuzu, Pooty Owldom, Russian Circles, Salem’s Pot, Samavayo, Seremonia, Skuggsjá, Sourvein, Spirit Adrift, Stone Machine Electric, Suma, Surya Kris Peters, Swans, Throttlerod, Virus, Wasted Theory, Wretch, and Zaum.

Thank You

In case none of the above has made it clear, I’ll just say flat out that 2016 has been an amazing year for music, and that every time I feel like maybe underground heavy has hit a wall and there’s nowhere left for it to go, sure enough about three minutes later another record shows up that slaps me in the face with a reminder of just how wrong that notion is.

If you’re still reading — how could you be? — thank you so much for your incredible support throughout 2016 and all the years The Obelisk has been in progress. I already know that 2017 is going to bring some incredible music as well, but that’s another list for another time, so I’ll just say again how much I appreciate your being a part of this ongoing project, how much it means to me to have you here. Thank you, thank you, and thank you.

And please, if there’s anything I forgot, got wrong, misspelled, or if you just think I used the word “breadth” too many times, please let me know about it in the comments.

One more time: Thank you.

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Hexvessel Post New Live Video and Announce Finnish Tour Dates

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 15th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

hexvessel-Photo-by-Bastiank-Sofortbildfotografie

A three-song pro-shot live video from Hexvessel is a pretty easy sell as far as I’m concerned, but it seems like an especially worthy endeavor in this case since it allows the Finnish weirdo-prog forerunners to not only highlight their latest work and Century Media debut, When We are Death (review here), but to tie it back directly to their prior output. That matters because while just their third album, When We are Death represents a significant sidestep and broadening of their aesthetic, so to have them sandwich “Hunter’s Prayer” and “Earth over Us” from the new offering around “Woods to Conjure” from 2012’s No Holier Temple on stage gives their audience — at the show and watching online — a chance to better understand how the band feels the songs intertwine.

I guess that’s a far cry from, “Dude — it rocks!” but that kind of simplicity has never been Hexvessel‘s thing, though I’ll say that some of the tracks on When We are Death strip song structures down to their essential verse/chorus core. But even then, there are layers of melody and mood built on top of it, not to mention the variety in sound across the whole run of the record, that add complexity. One finds in watching this clip that the sense of ritual that has been at the core of Hexvessel‘s approach since their beginning is well intact as they push into these new avenues of expression. True till death, as the metallers might say, but with an expanding (and cosmic) version of the truth that they continue to refine as they go.

Hexvessel will tour in Finland early next year joined by Death Hawks — which, goodness gracious, is a pairing I’d very much like to see — as well as Kairon Irse. They also managed to sneak out a limited tape called Unfurled in 2016 that, sad to say, is already sold out. Too bad.

More info and some comment from the band follow the clip below, courtesy of the PR wire.

And as always, please enjoy:

Hexvessel, Live at Menuo Juodaragis Festival 2016 official video

HEXVESSEL release concert shortfilm and announce Finland headline tour

In January 2016 HEXVESSEL released their 3rd album “When We Are Death”, and were praised by media, worldwide. The band just calls it psychedelic forest folk.

One of the many live gigs in support of the new album was at the Menuo Juodaragis Festival in the national forest of Lithuania. Finnish filmmaker (and former Sentenced drummer) Vesa Ranta filmed this special event with help from Jaime Gomez Arellano (previously worked on the Hexvessel albums as well as producing bands like Solstafir and Paradise Lost) who took care of the audio live mix.

Songs:
Hunter’s Prayer (from the album “When We Are Death”)
Woods To Conjure (from the album “No Holier Temple”)
Earth Over Us (from the album “When We Are Death”)

The band comments: “Our idea was to try to capture a sense of the transcendental nature of one of our live shows, when you set our music to the backdrop of the forest at an event that has great meaning for us spiritually. There are a few events that have enabled this perfect conjuration of what Hexvessel means to happen. Menuo Juodaragis is one of those such magic events. A pagan festival held deep in the wilds of Lithuania on a beautifully lush island surrounded by forests, It is an event which celebrates our culture and heritage and it is utterly unique in Europe. We were so proud to go there and play the main stage and in our own way offer a sacrifice of sound to the great transformation that was taking place within people at the festival. It’s a place where you can feel the ancients breath, you can sense a great unity of spirit and mind and it’s a very warm and inclusive, familiar atmosphere. We were delighted to feel bound and compelled together with people from all parts of the world who had travelled there to get some sense of an old and almost forgotten religion. When you are there, really brought out of yourself and back into your more primitive awareness, you know that the old religion still exists only waiting to be pulled out again from the earth, the ash and the roots of age-old trees. Here you know the real meaning of what it was to truly know the earth and the universe. It was a beautiful and life-changing event that we are very happy to have this visual and resonant memento of.”

Next step? Three enigmatic pioneers of the current and modern psych rock movement in Finland, take to the roads in February 2017!

HEXVESSEL, Death Hawks, Kairon Irse FINLAND 2017 Tour:
02.02.2017 45 Special, Oulu
03.02.2017 Bar 15, Seinäjoki
04.02.2017 Tanssisali Lutakko, Jyväskylä
09.02.2017 Tavastia-klubi, Helsinki
10.02.2017 Suistoklubi, Hämeenlinna
11.02.2017 Olympia-kortteli, Tampere
17.02.2017 Ravintola Torvi, Lahti
18.02.2017 Dynamo, Turku
24.02.2017 Ravintola Kerubi, Joensuu
25.02.2017 Bar Downtown Kouvola, Kouvola

Hexvessel on Thee Facebooks

Hexvessel Tumblr

Hexvessel at Century Media

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Albinö Rhino, Upholder: Swirl of the North (Plus Full Album Stream)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on December 6th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

albino_rhino_upholder

[Click play above to stream Albinö Rhino’s Upholder in full. Album is out Dec. 9 with US vinyl availability to follow in Jan. 2017.]

To look at the span of dates involved, one can’t help but wonder just as to the particulars behind the making of Finnish trio Albinö Rhino‘s third album, Upholder. By the Helsinki heavy psych rockers’ own declaration, progress would seem to have started in Sept. 2014 with drums and basic tracks. That timing makes sense in light of the fact that the band would’ve released their self-titled sophomore outing earlier in the year (their debut having been 2013’s Return of the Goddess), and the two rumbling, spacious, extended cuts that comprise Upholder, “Uphold the Light Part 2” (20:47) (premiered here) and “Uphold the Light Part 3” (15:43), are direct sequels to the closer of that self-titled, which was called — wait for it — “Uphold the Light Part 1” and itself topped 14 minutes long.

How much in progress the full trilogy (so far) may or may not have been at the time, I don’t know, but it would seem that elements continued to build on top of that basic foundation over the course of the next year-plus by guitarist/vocalist Kimmo Tyni, bassist Ville Harju and drummer Viljami Väre, with Tyni handling the recording himself between 2015 and 2016 at Audiospot in Helsinki. The final piece, apart from a mastering job by Jaakko Viitalähde in Kuhmoinen, would seem to have been a guest appearance on modular synth by Scott “Dr. Space” Heller of Øresund Space Collective — who seems to show up weekly around these parts — which was tracked in Feb. 2016, though it’s entirely possible that Albinö Rhino added more to the release afterwards. In any case, that they managed to come out of what seems to have been such a convoluted process with such a cohesive and flowing album is nothing short of miraculous.

Tonally gorgeous in a way that I’ve already likened to both earliest Natas and Sungrazer — neither is a comparison I’m willing to make lightly — and adventurous in a way one might not expect with how forcefully they underscore the repetitions of the line “Uphold the light” in “Uphold the Light Part 2,” Albinö Rhino‘s 36-minute two-tracker expands its immersion from its very beginning moments. TyniHarju and Väre set off with “Uphold the Light Part 2” — both opener and longest track (immediate points) — via a relatively straightforward roll compared to much of what follows. Dream-tone guitar is introduced as well as a fuzzier lead tone over a solid rhythmic foundation, and by three minutes, they’re beginning to dig into the central riff that will back the initial burst of lyrics. By the five-minute mark, Tyni takes another solo and follows it with a wash of feedback and noise to transition back into a heavier “verse” — one might just as easily call it a “chorus” — of the repeated lines, the thicker fuzz calling to mind the riffy triumphs of Toner Low.

albino-rhino-photo-by-nooa-katajala

The next time Albinö Rhino round out that movement, the jam begins, and once they open the gate on it, the immediate impression is that there’s no way they’re coming back. That same serenity of guitar tone that led off returns past 10 minutes in and is no less hypnotic the second time around. If anything, more so, since it gets fleshed out even further with the backing of Harju‘s warm-toned bass, the play between shimmer and rumble enough to earn the Sungrazer comparison above. A thunder strike circa the 12-minute mark brings the drums to a halt temporarily and sets up a kind of droning nod, from which the bass introduces a groovier progression that, as the rest of the track plays out, will rise to prominence — oh, the glorious noodling that happens on the way! — and much to the listener’s inevitable surprise, gets topped late with another section of lyrics, effectively tying “Uphold the Light Part 2” together as having had a master plan all along even as much as that master plan seemed to be singly geared toward expansion.

With that final shift, and with the fact that as it comes to a finish beyond the 20-minute mark, it actually ends, one doesn’t quite know what to expect going into “Uphold the Light Part 3,” and that’s probably the best way to approach it. The B-side of Upholder isn’t as long as its counterpart, but still has plenty of room to flesh out in its 15-minute sprawl. Its basic progression is arguably more straightforward — they’re essentially riding riffs, one after the other, that divide the total piece into different sections — but with the guest appearance from Heller on synth and some complementary leads from Tyni, there remains plenty of swirl to be had. Nonetheless, it’s a marked shift in vibe from “Uphold the Light Part 2,” which is something of a surprise considering the lineage between the two (or three) tracks, and even at its most laid back moment between about 10 and a half and 12 minutes in, “Uphold the Light Part 3” has a more active overall feel.

Another change from its predecessor is that it stays instrumental for the duration, giving Heller a proper showcase to act as a driving force alongside the trio, and he does not disappoint in that regard, hanging in even as the final minute finds the guitar taking over with a dominant wash that acts as the apex and the last rumble and ring-out features trails of resonant cosmic dust before its sudden cutoff. In addition to UpholderAlbinö Rhino have two other new releases from late in 2016 — the 14-minute digital single Riff Religion and a vinyl split with Morbid Evils boasting the 12-minute “Human Caravan” as their contribution — so it may well be that the band is entering a deeply prolific stage, or it may be happenstance that these recordings from the past several years are all coming to bear at the same time. Either way, the glut of material should offer followers plenty to dig into and listeners who haven’t yet been introduced no shortage of opportunity to become so, and particularly as regards Upholder and what it hopefully stands for in terms of the general progression of Albinö Rhino as a unit, that’s an introduction well worth undertaking.

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Upholder preorder at Record Shop X

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