Floor Announce Halloween Weekender

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 13th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

True story: I was sitting at the kitchen table the other day, across from The Patient Mrs., shooting the shit while we waited for some cauliflower to roast or whatever it was, and as we were listening to Floor‘s 2014 return album, Oblation (review here), I actually said the words, “Golly, I hope they do another record.” That outing is one to which I’ve continually gone back since its release and I’ve found that, in the spirit of its much-lauded self-titled predecessor, it’s only gotten better with time. I dug it when it came out too, as that review made pretty plain, but maybe Floor is a band whose work just needs to be digested for a while before it can be fully appreciated. I’ll be interested to see what I think of it in five years.

But in any case, “Golly, I hope they do another record” sums up my feelings on the matter. No news in that regard here, sadly, but Floor will head out for a Halloween weekender in Florida and Georgia at the end of this month — around Halloween, duh. If I hear of or see other dates abroad posted, I’ll let you know, but you don’t need me to tell that wherever Floor are, if that’s where you are, then that’s where you should be, but I feel like they continue to be undervalued, so I’ll say it anyway.

The stream of Oblation is below if you’d like an excuse to pay it a visit — it’s worth one — and here are Floor‘s live dates, courtesy of the PR wire:

floor

FLOOR announce new tour dates; The Fest appearance

Cult underground rock outfit FLOOR (Steve Brooks (also of TORCHE) – Guitar, Vocals, Anthony Vialon – Guitar, Henry Wilson – drums) have announced new tour dates that lead the band to and from The Fest in Gainesville, FL. The dates, which begin on Oct. 28, see the band playing Orlando, Gainesville, and Athens. More information can be found below.

FLOOR are touring in support of their first new album in over ten years. ‘Oblation.’

FLOOR tour dates
Oct. 28 Orlando, FL @ Backbooth
Oct. 29 Gainesville, FL @ The Wooly as part of The Fest
Oct. 31 Athens, GA @ Preserve

https://www.facebook.com/floorofficial/
https://officialfloor.bandcamp.com/album/oblation
http://www.season-of-mist.com/bands/search?search[band]=Floor&commit=OK

Floor, Oblation (2014)

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Floor Announce Florida Weekender

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 30th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

floor

Way I see it, the more Floor play, the better off the universe as a whole is, so while a couple home-state gigs might not seem like much — certainly not compared to the European and US tours they’ve already done in support of last year’s studio return, Oblation (review here), on Season of Mist — it’s better than nothing. Particularly notable for the three-night run is the fact that House of Lightning will provide support for each show, which means drummer Henry Wilson will be pulling double-duty, and while this post didn’t at all start out that way, it’s kind of become an excuse for me to post the video accompanying, which is a live set and spliced-in interview footage captured for Atlanta Public Television. If you have a minute, check it out, because it rules.

The PR wire lines on the dotted:

FLOOR announce Florida tour dates

Cult underground rock outfit FLOOR (Steve Brooks (also of TORCHE)- Guitar, Vocals, Anthony Vialon – Guitar, Henry Wilson – drums) have announced their first US shows in almost 2 years. The dates, which begin on January 7, see the band playing Miami, Gainesville, and Winter Haven. More information can be found below.

FLOOR previously released new footage shot during their most recent US tour. The footage, shot live at The Bottletree in Birmingham, AL, by regional television show “We Have Signal” is streaming now.

FLOOR are touring in support of their first new album in over ten years. ‘Oblation’. The follow-up to their ground-breaking, cult-classic, self-titled album, ‘Oblation’ delivers on the highest of expectations. From start to finish, the drop-tuned, down-tempo trio mine the power of the riff, their signature melodies, and patented “bomb-string” attack. Instant FLOOR classics like “War Party”, “Sister Sophia”, “Find Away” and the title track prove beyond doubt that ‘Oblation’ is their legacy writ large and that the band is as vital as ever.

Jan. 7 Miami, FL @ Churchill’s (w/ Wrong, AC Cobra, MQN)
Jan. 8 Gainesville, FL @ The Atlantic
Jan. 9 Winter Haven, FL @ Jessie’s Lounge

http://shopusa.season-of-mist.com/catalogsearch/result/?q=floor
https://officialfloor.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/floorofficial

Floor, Live on Atlanta Public Television

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ROADBURN 2015 DAY ONE: My Good Shepherd

Posted in Features, Reviews on April 9th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

roadburn 2015 day one (Photo by JJ Koczan)

04.09.15 — 23.37 — Thurs. Night — Hotel

Some good Roadburn‘ll cure what ails you. Especially if what ails you — it’s what ails all of us, really — is the fact that the rest of your life isn’t Roadburn. Today was my busiest day, and it felt like it. A lot of back and forth. My dogs, such as they are, are barking. It was an early start and a late-enough finish, though it’s worth noting that the finish could’ve been even later. Solstafir (Photo by JJ Koczan)One has to find balance in these things. It’s a four-day fest. This was day one.

I sat on the backside of the photo-pit barrier before Sólstafir went on. They were opening the fest at 15.00, the same time Bell Witch were taking the stage at Het Patronaat — Roadburn means hard choices, always. I sat there, early, alone, tilted my head back and closed my eyes, took a breath in through my nose and let it out through my mouth. My last quiet moment, you see. I let it go, and a short time later, the Icelandic outfit took the stage, performing a live soundtrack to the 1984 film, also Icelandic, Hrafninn Flýgur (translated: When the Raven Flies). It would be my first time seeing them perform, and my first time seeing the movie, so I was probably at a significant disadvantage to some in the crowd, but essentially I was glad to Solstafir (Photo by JJ Koczan)be seeing the band at all, and knowing they’ve got a regular set scheduled for tomorrow, I went in with a pretty open mind. Whatever they were going to do, I was happy to be watching Sólstafir play. Not the most impartial of attitudes, but I dig the band.

Interestingly, a lot of what they did to accompany the movie, was rework their material as instrumental or atmospheric rock. Parts from last year’s Ótta (review here), the back end of the title-track — a landmark for the album if there ever was one — was distinct as the film went on, subtitles in English at the bottom of the big screen behind the band, who were spread out in a manner almost orchestral on the Main Stage. Maybe not surprising, but their sound fit pretty well with images of revenge-seeking Viking-types on horseback, distant mountains, stone weapons and the like. I’m still not entirely sure what was going on, but even to catch Sólstafir playing parts of their songs, I was glad to see it, and it Salem's Pot (Photo by JJ Koczan)made me look forward to their regular set. They took a bow when they were done, after the credits had rolled, and it seemed like they earned it. Over in the Green Room — the middle-size space, smaller than the 013‘s Main Stage or Het Patronaat, bigger than 013‘s Stage01 or the back of Cul de Sac where the stage is (got all that?) — Salem’s Pot were setting up for a buffet of riffs soon to unfold.

Swing, swing, swing. Swing like madmen, and they dressed the part too, all in masks, one in a dress and fishnets, like a troop of droogs gone stoner cult. The Swedish five-piece released their …Lurar ut dig på prärien debut LP (discussed here) last year on RidingEasy Records, and they had a new song for the Roadburn crowd as well as stuff from the album, which was more than solid in that heavy but kind of familiar way, but took on a different character live. Even apart from the theatrics, I guess so much on …Lurar ut dig på prärien was down to the rhythm, but on stage, the songs had different off-kilter melodies in the guitars, the dual vocals worked more dynamically, and the synth and effects swirl was a major factor in how it all came together. “Creep Purple” and “Nothing Hill” were Floor (Photo by JJ Koczan)rolling-groove highlights, and the shorter “Ego Trip,” released as the A-side of a 7″ last fall, was right on as well. I hate to think I had dismissed them, but in presence and performance, Salem’s Pot exceeded my expectations and not only had swing, swing, swing working in their favor, but a more complex approach overall than I saw coming.

A pleasant surprise, then, even though I kind of knew what they’d get up to. In the next room, the Main Stage was being set up for Floor. Now, I’ve seen Floor a few times at this point, and even since they put out their long-awaited studio comebacker Oblation (review here) about a year ago, and my general rule for Roadburn is that the bands I’ve already seen get low priority. Lower, anyway. The difference with Floor was that I’d been hearing all along about how excited people were to see them. I’m not 100 percent, but I think that until this tour, the trio of guitarist Anthony Vialon, drummer Henry Wilson (also of House of Lightning) and guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks (also of Torche) had yet to play Europe since getting back together half a decade ago. That would make them, if nothing else, due.

The bomb-toners lived up to what one might’ve hoped for on the big stage. As it will, their 2002 self-titled featured prominently in tSpidergawd (Photo by JJ Koczan)he set, starting off with the one-two-three of “Scimitar,” “Return to Zero” and “Downed Star,” Brooks and Vialon pushing out now-classic riffs as Wilson seemed to drum with his whole body behind the kit. The guitarists kept a more quiet presence, Brooks here and there on stage, moving with the music but hardly thrashing about, and Vialon more or less still in a zen-through-volume kind of fashion, but the thrust of those songs is undeniable, and as they moved into “Dove” and “Night Full of Kicks” and Oblation cuts like “Trick Scene” and “Find Away” and “The Key,” they kept their momentum, fast or lumbering. “Tales of Lolita” is always a good time, and it worked well next to the thudding “The Quill,” and closing duo “Loanin'” and “Triangle Song” wrapped up to ensure that no bases were left uncovered. They weren’t, and yeah, I’ve seen Floor before, but there was no question doing so again was the right choice.

That said, there was no way in hell I was missing Spidergawd. Largely unknown in the States, and I think known mostly to those in Europe who’ve heard their two Stickman/Crispin Glover Records LPs to date — 2014’s Spidergawd (review here) and 2015’s Spidergawd II (review here) — because of their affiliation with Norwegian prog magnates Motorpsycho, whose bassist, Bent Sæther, and drummer, Kenneth Kapstad, double in the more boogie-oriented outfit alongside saxophonist/vocalist Rolf Martin Snustad and guitarist/vocalist Per Borten, who is related to but not to be confused with a former Norwegian prime minister of the same name. Spidergawd were aSpidergawd (Photo by JJ Koczan) must-see for me. One of several, but a must-see all the same, and they delivered all the way in the energy and upbeat feel of their songs. By the time they got down to “Fixin’ to Die Blues” from the new record, maybe three songs in, they had Het Patronaat eating out of their hands.

And rightly so. I saw a lot of music today and I’ll see a lot more before this weekend’s out, but I don’t know if anyone will give off a genuinely-happy-to-be-here vibe as much as Spidergawd did, still managing to both groove and be heavy while enjoying themselves. Their spirit was infectious, as are their hooks, and though it was hot in the church — damn hot — they had no letup, SnustadKapstad and Borten up front on the stage while Sæther played behind in a curious configuration, but one that obviously works for them. They’re a band more people should know, based solely on the merit of what they play and how they play it, never mind anyone’s pedigree or anything like that. They lit that room up, closing with the Thin Lizzy-style “Sanctuary” from Spidergawd II as if to portend even better things to come. They’ve been working quickly over the course of their first two records, and hopefully it’s not long before a third surfaces as well. The more the merrier.

Uzala (Photo by JJ Koczan)I stopped by to see some of Primitive Man through the door of the Green Room before they finished. Unsurprisingly they were punishing as fuck. Floor had started something of a bang-bang-bang for the rest of my night, one to the next to the next, and I had planned on catching a bit of Uzala in the Green Room and moving on to the next set, but once they went on, the Boise, Idaho, three-piece held me in place. I didn’t know it at the time, but they were just what I was looking for. Guitarist Chad Remains, guitarist Darcy Nutt (also running her guitar through a bass rig, for extra low-end) and drummer Chuck Watkins had a new song in tow called “The Gallows,” and that moved a little faster than some of their more plodding material from 2014’s righteous Tales of Blood and Fire, songs like “Dark Days” and “Seven Veils,” but wherever they headed, they were just the right blend of beat-you-over-the-head heaviness in Remains and Nutt‘s tones, melody and lurching groove that I couldn’t have left even if I’d wanted to. They were not to be missed, in other words. Vocals were a little low, at least up front where I was standing, but Nutt has a powerful voice and as dense as those tones got — seriously, there were parts where they sounded like a machine grinding to a halt; I wondered how they’d restart it for the next measure — she cut through with little trouble and palpable soul.

Their set was a highlight of the day for me, all the more because I’d seen them before, knew what I Uzala (Photo by JJ Koczan)was getting into and they still managed to surprise with how switched on they were. Remains shredded his solos in top form and had some technical trouble along the way that was fixed so promptly by the Green Room crew that I’m not even sure he noticed. Only complaint? No “Tenement of the Lost.” The closer from Tales of Blood and Fire that begins with a wash of feedback and culminates in one of the sweetest minimalist doom ballads my ears have heard in the last five years — it’s my go-to sad song — would’ve certainly been welcome, but honestly, I think the maximum-volume approach they took was probably a more practical call given the room. I could’ve gone to see Russian Circles on the Main Stage, or Thou at Het Patronaat, or Moaning Cities, whose merch I later looked for and could not find, in Stage01, but Uzala kept me where I was. They were a thrill to watch.

Somewhere in there, it would’ve made sense to have dinner. I did not. No time. Wovenhand would be on the Main Stage shortly, and I knew that was where I wanted to be. It was a return appearance for them and the second time I’d have seen them at Roadburn — never seen them anywhere else, come to think of it — but as I consider the set they played in 2011 a personal landmark, as in, “before I saw it” and “after I saw it,” I’d been very much anticipating their arrival. They were Wovenhand (Photo by JJ Koczan)headliners this time along with Eyehategod, who’d play the Main Stage afterwards, but Wovenhand had the longer set, and put their 80 minutes to use in the most dynamic manner I saw all day, frontman David Eugene Edwards far to the left side of the stage while drummer Ordy Garrison had the middle, and guitarist/backing vocalist Chuck French and bassist Neil Keener anchored the right. Edwards is among the more charismatic stage presences I’ve ever seen, and though he said before they ended that they knew they were “out of their league” in coming back to Roadburn, I felt more like I was out of mine watching them.

Last year’s Refractory Obdurate (review here) featured prominently in their set, which opened with “Hiss,” arguably their heaviest work to-date. Ultimately, it would be a much different kind of intensity they brought than four years ago, when Edwards, seated, laid bare a deeply spiritual — religious, Christian — neo-folk,Wovenhand (Photo by JJ Koczan) worldly in its arrangements and deeper than the eye could follow. Standing, the vocalist/guitarist still had a feather in his hat and still taunted or teased the audience in a kind of war-whoop, but he also softshoed while he played, and Wovenhand this time around was a much more stripped-down, rawer, meaner-toned outfit. Garrison‘s drums, aided now and then by some extra percussion by French, were a driving force, and the seething energy of their rhythm could be felt throughout the main hall, whether they happened to be raging at the time, as in “Hiss,” or engaged in a more quiet brooding, à la “Closer” from 2012’s The Laughing Stalk (review here). Opener “Long Horn” from that album was also a highlight, and I was amazed what a few years could do for band like that progressing in unexpected ways and pursuing different avenues of sound. “Good Shepherd” lacked nothing for its melody, but even that had a coinciding element of pummel.

It was to the point where, I knew I wanted to see Monolord. I’d wanted to see Monolord all along, Monolord (Photo by JJ Koczan)and they were playing Het Patronaat at the same time Wovenhand were on the Main Stage — Roadburn giveth and Roadburn scheduleth conflicteth. I left Wovenhand and went down the block to the other venue just as Monolord were going on. How heavy were they? They were superlatively heavy. A monumental sonic impact that seemed to hit all at once, as though the guitar and bass were also kick drums. It was ridiculous, and the line outside the Patronaat was backed up the longest I’d seen it yet to get in, but as I stood there and watched them, I couldn’t take the fact that Wovenhand were playing Roadburn and I wasn’t in the same room where it was happening. Monolord slayed the place, absolutely. I saw people coming out of there when they were done and they looked even more in a daze than usual. But me, I had to back and watch Wovenhand finish. They were too good to let it pass. And when they were done, they came back out and did an encore. Fucking a.

My evening was more or less done Kandodo (Photo by JJ Koczan)and I knew it, but when Wovenhand finished their encore, I swung back to Het Patronaat to watch some of Kandodo, who are led by guitarist Simon Price of The Heads and were doing a special set with Robert Hampson of Loop sitting in as part of The Heads‘ residency. I didn’t know what that collaboration might bring, but it brought a fervent run of heavy psychedelia that was perfect for me to close out the night. They started in the dark, Price and Hampson on guitar on opposite sides of the stage, bassist Hugo Morgan (also The Heads) and drummer Wayne Maskell (also also The Heads) between, but the lights gradually came up as they jammed their way through a first song — read as “Kandy Rock” on the setlist — and into the next. Watching them made me want to buy many albums, I’ll say that, but time was getting on and I had a review to write, so I cut out after a bit and made my way back to the hotel. It was a mindbender of a first day, but I know there is still much more to come over this weekend.

More pics after the jump.

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The Top 20 of 2014 Readers Poll — RESULTS!

Posted in Features on January 2nd, 2015 by JJ Koczan

top-20-of-2014-readers-poll-RESULTS-etching-by-maxime-lalanne

It was close for a long time, but in the last week or so, one record pulled ahead to stake a definitive claim on the top spot. Even so, more than the 2013 poll, this was a fun one to watch, three albums duking it out, trading back and forth in the raw votes depending on who happened to submit a list at any given time. In the end, 355 people participated in this year’s poll, which is an average of over 11 per day — there was a significant push at the end — and up from 2013, which now that it’s 2015 will no doubt soon feel like ancient history.

To that end, Happy New Year and huge, huge thanks to everyone who took the time to contribute a list to the poll. Even if it was one or two records, the simple fact that you felt it was worth your time to type out the names of bands and albums and take part in this thing is unbelievably gratifying to me. I do a lot of the talking around here, apart from comments and the forum, so to have your participation in this really means a lot to me. It’s nice knowing you give enough of a crap to take part.

You’ll find two lists below. The first, measured in points, is the weighted tally. A 1-4 ranking is worth five points, 5-8 worth four, 9-12 worth three, 13-16 worth two and 17-20 worth one. After that comes the raw votes, a measure of what caught the most attention along the way.

After the jump, you’ll also find all the lists contributed to the poll — including my own, which seemed fair since I do a lot of reading on this site, mostly to experience shame at the typos and correct them hoping no one else noticed — presented in the order in which they were received. Thank you all again.

Top 20 of 2014 — Weighted Results

yob-clearing-the-path-to-ascend

1. YOB, Clearing the Path to Ascend (560 points)
2. Wo Fat, The Conjuring (404)
3. Electric Wizard, Time to Die (367)
4. Pallbearer, Foundations of Burden (334)
5. Conan, Blood Eagle (275)
6. Orange Goblin, Back from the Abyss (254)
7. Greenleaf, Trails and Passes (240)
8. Truckfighters, Universe (237)
9. Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, Black Power Flower (235)
10. Earth, Primitive and Deadly (230)
11. Fu Manchu, Gigantoid (225)
12. Blues Pills, Blues Pills (211)
13. Lo-Pan, Colossus (202)
14. Eyehategod, Eyehategod (198)
15. Monolord, Empress Rising (190)
16. Mastodon, Once More ‘Round the Sun (188)
17. Mars Red Sky, Stranded in Arcadia (161)
18. John Garcia, John Garcia (156)
19. Bongripper, Miserable (141)
20. Radio Moscow, Magical Dirt (127)

Honorable mention to:
Goat, Commune (126)
Swans, To be Kind (117)
Monster Magnet, Milking the Stars (116)
Blood Farmers, Headless Eyes (105)
Floor, Oblation (104)
Mothership, II (104)

Stubb, Elephant Tree, Thou and plenty of others also did very well in the voting, but everything else I could find was less than 100 points. Again, it was close for a while between Wo Fat, Electric Wizard and YOB — and Pallbearer wasn’t so far behind them, either — but YOB pulled it out in the end and jumped way in front of everyone else. A lot of number-one votes for Clearing the Path to Ascend, which I can understand completely, since I happened to agree with the position.

On to the raw votes:

Top 20 of 2014 — Raw Votes

yob-clearing-the-path-to-ascend

1. YOB, Clearing the Path to Ascend (138 votes)
2. Wo Fat, The Conjuring (111)
3. Electric Wizard, Time to Die (104)
4. Pallbearer, Foundations of Burden (89)
5. Orange Goblin, Back from the Abyss (78)
6. Conan, Blood Eagle (72)
7. Fu Manchu, Gigantoid (71)
8. Truckfighters, Universe (66)
9. Earth, Primitive and Deadly (65)
10. Greenleaf, Trails and Passes (64)
11. Blues Pills, Blues Pills (63)
12. Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, Black Power Flower (60)
13. Lo-Pan, Colossus (58)
14. Eyehategod, Eyehategod (55)
15. Monolord, Empress Rising (52)
16. Mars Red Sky, Stranded in Arcadia (48)
16. Mastodon, Once More ‘Round the Sun (48)
17. John Garcia, John Garcia (47)
18. Bongripper, Miserable (41)
18. Radio Moscow, Magical Dirt (41)
19. Goat, Commune (37)
19. Mothership, II (37)
20. Swans, To be Kind (32)

And some honorable mentions:
Dwellers, Pagan Fruit (31)
Floor, Oblation (31)
Monster Magnet, Milking the Stars (31)
Mos Generator, Electric Mountain Majesty (30)
Thou, Heathen (30)
The Well, Samsara (30)

A couple ties here make the raw votes list a little more inclusive, and since it’s not like we’re giving out olympic medals, it didn’t seem fair to count out ties and sacrifice other numbers. The top 20 has 23 entries? Yeah, sounds about right. Again, not much mystery ultimately to who came out on top, but it was a more thrilling race than the final numbers might suggest. Cool to see some differences in placement emerge between the two lists as well, Greenleaf and Brant Bjork doing really well in the weighted results since they obviously inspire some strong support, and a couple of others working their way into the raw votes top 20. I’m not really a numbers guy, but it’s been cool putting this together.

About not being a numbers guy: All the lists that came in appear after the jump below. If you find some glaring error in my math, or something seems like it really got enough votes to be included in one or the other, it’s possible I just missed it. I hope you’ll point it out in the comments so that if there is a mistake, I can get on correcting it as soon as possible. Your vigilance is sincerely appreciated.

And thank you again so much for being a part of this readers poll. It’s been a really great experience and I look forward to doing it again come Dec. 2015.

Please find everybody’s list after the jump, and have fun browsing:

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audiObelisk Transmission 043

Posted in Podcasts on December 23rd, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Click Here to Download

 

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

Since I don’t do theme podcasts or anything, the thoroughly unofficial subtitle of this latest one is “SOME of the Best of 2014.” Truth be told, it’s four hours long and I feel like I barely scratched the surface, so definitely the emphasis should be on “some.” By no means is it meant to be comprehensive, or am I claiming that it’s all the best and the rest sucked or anything like that. But some of the best stuff is here, so, you know, I hope you enjoy.

My intent was to make it three hours long, and then I got there and it just didn’t feel done without another hour’s worth of extended psych jams. That’s an odd habit to have. Could be worse. For what it’s worth, I was thinking of this as a companion for some of the year-end coverage that’s already been posted and is still to come. Some of this was inspired by picks from the Readers Poll, the submissions for which are still open. If you haven’t added your list yet, I’d greatly appreciate it.

And once again, hope you dig it:

First Hour:
YOB, “Nothing to Win” from Clearing the Path to Ascend
Fu Manchu, “Radio Source Sagittarius” from Gigantoid
Radio Moscow, “Death of a Queen” from Magical Dirt
The Golden Grass, “Stuck on a Mountain” from The Golden Grass
Monster Magnet, “No Paradise for Me” from Milking the Stars: A Reimagining of Last Patrol
Pallbearer, “The Ghost I Used to Be” from Foundations of Burden
The Skull, “Sick of it All” from For Those Which are Asleep
Electric Wizard, “Time to Die” from Time to Die
Orange Goblin, “The Devil’s Whip” from Back from the Abyss
Moab, “No Soul” from Billow

Second Hour:
Sleep, “The Clarity” from The Clarity 12”
Mars Red Sky, “Hovering Satellites” from Stranded in Arcadia
Floor, “Rocinante” from Oblation
Slomatics, “And Yet it Moves” from Estron
Conan, “Foehammer” from Blood Eagle
Druglord, “Feast on the Eye” from Enter Venus
Apostle of Solitude, “Die Vicar Die” from Of Woe and Wounds
Pilgrim, “Away from Here” from II: Void Worship
Blood Farmers, “The Road Leads to Nowhere” from Headless Eyes

Third Hour:
Lo-Pan, “Regulus” from Colossus
Elephant Tree, “Vlaakith” from Theia
The Well, “Mortal Bones” from Samsara
Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds, “Counting Time” from The Shining One
Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, “Stokely up Now” from Black Power Flower
Joy, “Driving Me Insane” from Under the Spell of Joy
Greenleaf, “Depth of the Sun” from Trails and Passes
Mothership, “Priestess of the Moon” from Mothership II
Truckfighters, “Get Lifted” from Universe
Mos Generator, “Enter the Fire” from Electric Mountain Majesty
Mammatus, “Brain Drain” from Heady Mental

Fourth Hour:
Øresund Space Collective, “Beardlandia” from Music for Pogonologists
My Brother the Wind, “Garden of Delights” from Once There was a Time When Time and Space were One
The Cosmic Dead, “Fukahyoocastulah” from Split with Mugstar
Montibus Communitas, “The Pilgrim to the Absolute” from The Pilgrim to the Absolute

Total running time: 4:02:57

 

Thank you for listening.

Download audiObelisk Transmission 043

 

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 30 of 2014

Posted in Features on December 22nd, 2014 by JJ Koczan

the-obelisk-top-30-of-2014

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

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

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

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

Okay. Here we go:

30. Orange Goblin, Back from the Abyss

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Released by Candlelight Records. Reviewed on Nov. 17.

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

 

29. Mos Generator, Electric Mountain Majesty

mos-generator-electric-mountain-majesty

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed on March 14.

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

 

28. Pilgrim, II: Void Worship

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Released by Metal Blade Records. Reviewed on April 15.

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

 

27. John Garcia, John Garcia

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Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed on July 7.

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

 

26. Swans, To be Kind

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

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

 

25. Alunah, Awakening the Forest

alunah awakening the forest

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Oct. 14.

I initially made this list without Alunah‘s excellent third album and Napalm Records, but when it came down to it, not having the UK four-piece on here haunted me to the point where I had to come back in and swap them out with somebody else. Just couldn’t live with myself for not giving this record its due, which, to be frank, I’m still not since it should be higher on the list than it is. At least it’s here though, so the mistake is somewhat corrected.

 

24. Greenleaf, Trails and Passes

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Released by Small Stone Records. Reviewed on April 25.

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

 

23. Earth, Primitive and Deadly

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

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

 

22. Ogre, The Last Neanderthal

ogre-the-last-neanderthal

Released by Minotauro Records. Reviewed on March 10.

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

 

21. The Wounded Kings, Consolamentum

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Released by Candlelight Records. Reviewed on Jan. 30.

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

 

20. Floor, Oblation

floor-oblation

Released by Season of Mist. Reviewed on April 22.

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

 

19. Druglord, Enter Venus

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Released by STB Records. Reviewed on Feb. 14.

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

 

18. Ararat, Cabalgata Hacia la Luz

ararat-cabalgata-hacia-la-luz

Released by Oui Oui Records. Reviewed on April 4.

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

 

17. Radio Moscow, Magical Dirt

radio-moscow-magical-dirt

Released by Alive Naturalsound. Reviewed on May 29.

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

 

16. Apostle of Solitude, Of Woe and Wounds

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

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

 

15. Stubb, Cry of the Ocean

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Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed on Nov. 24.

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

 

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

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

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed on Nov. 10.

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

 

13. Dwellers, Pagan Fruit

dwellers-pagan-fruit

Released by Small Stone. Reviewed on May 22.

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

 

12. The Golden Grass, The Golden Grass

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Released by Svart Records. Reviewed on March 25.

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

 

11. The Well, Samsara

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Released by RidingEasy Records. Reviewed on Sept. 22.

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

 

10. Montibus Communitas, The Pilgrim to the Absolute

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

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

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

 

9. Fu Manchu, Gigantoid

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

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

 

8. The Skull, For Those Which are Asleep

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

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

 

7. Blood Farmers, Headless Eyes

blood-farmers-headless-eyes

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

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

 

6. Lo-Pan, Colossus

lo-pan-colossus

Released by Small Stone. Reviewed on Oct. 7.

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

 

5a. All Them Witches, Lightning at the Door

all-them-witches-lightning-at-the-door

Self-released. Reviewed on Sept. 25.

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

 

5. Witch Mountain, Mobile of Angels

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Released by Profound Lore. Reviewed on Aug. 20.

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

 

4. Conan, Blood Eagle

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Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed on Jan. 22.

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

 

3. Wo Fat, The Conjuring

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Released by Small Stone Records. Reviewed on June 18.

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

 

2. Mars Red Sky, Stranded in Arcadia

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Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed on March 11.

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

 

1. YOB, Clearing the Path to Ascend

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Released by Neurot Recordings. Reviewed on Sept. 3.

“It’s time to wake up.”

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

 

 

Honorable Mention

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

A few other honorable mentions:

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

Sólstafir, Ótta — They were originally on the list proper but had to be moved to make room for Alunah. I didn’t really get to know this record in 2014 anyway.

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

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

SteakSlab City — An impressive debut following two strong EPs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

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

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

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Floor Announce Spring 2015 European Tour with Minsk

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 18th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

floor

After delivering 2014 an elephantine boot to the ass with their much-anticipated reunion full-length, Oblation (review here), Floor are set to continue their run in 2015. The Miami trio will launch a European tour at Roadburn on April 9 and be joined by Minsk for shows in Germany, the Czech Republic, France, Austria, Belgium, Italy and a stop in London for Desertfest. It’s a stint that ends on April 25, which is just enough time to give guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks a breather before Torche‘s own recently-announced European tour kicks off on May 2 in Leipzig, where Floor will have been less than a month earlier for the Doom over Leipzig festival.

A cruel schedule for Brooks, perhaps, but sure to be time well spent in Floor alongside guitarist Anthony Vialon and drummer Henry Wilson meeting the riffy demands of a hungry public. If you need a refresher, Oblation can be heard in full under the PR wire news below:

floorminsktouradmatfinal

FLOOR announce European tour

Cult underground rock outfit FLOOR (Steve Brooks (also of TORCHE)- Guitar, Vocals, Anthony Vialon – Guitar, Henry Wilson – drums) have announced a European tour. The European tour, their first, sees them travel throughout a half dozen countries and play several European festivals, including Roadburn, Desert Fest London, Doom over Leipzig, and Solomacello Fest. Support on this tour comes from MINSK, and a full list of confirmed tour dates can be found below.

FLOOR are touring in support of ‘Oblation’, their first new album in over ten years. ‘Oblation’, which is available for purchase here, and for digital download here.

FLOOR Tour Dates:
(All dates with MINSK)
4/9 Tilburg, Holland @ Roadburn (FLOOR ONLY)
4/10 Leipzig, Germany @ Doom Over Leipzig
4/11 Hamburg, Germany @ Hafenklang
4/12 Berlin, Germany @ Cassiopeia
4/13 Warsaw, Poland @ Hydrozagadka
4/14 Prague, Czech Rep @ 007
4/15 Innsbruck, Austria @ p.m.k.
4/16 München, Germany @ Feierwerk
4/17 Bologna, Italy @ Freakout
4/18 Milano, Italy @ Lo Fi Club, Solomacello Fest
4/20 Paris, France @ Espace B
4/21 Nantes, France @ La Scene Michelet
4/22 Lille, France @ La Peniche
4/23 Dortmund, Germany @ FZW
4/24 London, UK @ Desertfest
4/25 Antwerp, Belgium @ Kavka

http://officialfloor.bandcamp.com/album/oblation
https://www.facebook.com/floorofficial
http://season-of-mist.com/

Floor, Oblation (2014)

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Friday Full-Length: Floor, Floor

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 14th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Floor, Floor (2002)

The self-titled debut full-length from Floor is a monument to the gloriousness of weighted tonality. For me, particularly over the last couple years, it’s an album I’ve come to associate with motion, with going places. Reason being is that it was on an iPod I’d initially bought for The Patient Mrs. years back but wound up sort of appropriating after she more or less discarded it (this same iPod was also recently stolen out of my car by some jerk who remains at large), and with the relatively limited selection there as compared to my CD rack, I’d find it in the playlist usually while sitting in an airport and be all excited, pretty much each time out. So walking on airplanes, walking off airplanes, getting from here to somewhere else, Floor‘s Floor is the record for me by which that happens. It’s been my soundtrack for at least the last four trips to Roadburn.

It also seems fitting that it should be a travel album because the music itself is so compelling. Whether it’s “Scimitar,” or “Downed Star” or the one-two-three quick punch of “Twink,” “Sheech” and “Assassin,” which I still feel like I’m trying to catch up to, the album itself moves. The Miami trio of guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks — who’d go on to found Torche following Floor‘s dissolution — guitarist Anthony Vialon and drummer Henry Wilson propelled themselves from one song to the next, sometimes in attention-deficit-disorder leaps that seemed to leave ideas incomplete in a punkish sort of tradition and sometimes just at the right time, but never with a moment wasted. To date, it remains one of heavy rock’s best examples of a lean record that still sounds mammoth and pummeling — that’s not to mention the upbeat tempos or pop influence — and its thrust and brash feel has had a considerable influence since the time of its release on No Idea Records in 2002. Probably too early to call it a classic just 12 years after the fact, but there’s nothing that seems like it’ll stop it from getting there as the years continue to progress.

All the more so because of Floor‘s reactivated status, and with this lineup. Earlier 2014’s Oblation (review here) was a worthy successor to Floor‘s original run, which came to an end with 2004’s sophomore outing, Dove. By then the lineup had changed and it was clear the dynamic in the band was shifted, but from the time Floor got back together following the welcome reception of their 10LP Below and Beyond box set through Robotic Empire (who also have a reissue of the self-titled for sale on their Bandcamp with outtakes), the question of a new album was always there, and they answered that question loudly and in progressive, still immensely heavy form. Brooks seems primed for a shift back to Torche in 2015 for their Relapse label debut, but Floor continue to play shows in support of Oblation as well, shifting from a “reunion” band to a working one. They’ll play Roadburn and Desertfest in 2015 and probably much more around Europe between. As a fan of the band, I hope they continue on and put out a follow-up fourth long-player, but the self-titled continues to hold a special place in my heart, even if that place seems to constantly be in motion.

Hope you enjoy.

Will keep it quick this time. Stay tuned next week. Hopefully I’ll have a review of the new Murcielago record, plus the Orange Goblin which I’m sure you’ve already heard, plus an interview one way or another, be it the Lowrider Q&A or one with Soph from Alunah. I’ve also got a track premiere and quickie Q&A with It’s Casual slated for Wednesday and maybe one or two audio-type tricks up my sleeve for the rest of the week as well. We’ll see how it shapes up.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Please check out the forum and radio stream.

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