Descendants of Crom: Penance to Headline; Solace, Karma to Burn, The Midnight Ghost Train and More Added to Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 14th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

descendants of crom

Lineup additions have continued to come out over the last week-plus since Pittsburgh-based fest Descendants of Crom made its first announcements with the formidable likes of EarthrideEYEFoghound and Stinking Lizaveta taking part. West Virginian instrumental trailblazers Karma to Burn, New Jersey rock destroyers Solace, Kansas boogie-thrusters The Midnight Ghost Train — as the names have appeared, the geographic reach of Descendants of Crom 2017, which is set for Sept. 30 on the Cattivo Nightclub‘s two stages, has only expanded, but perhaps the biggest addition yet brings the festival much closer to home.

Penance released their Alpha and Omega album in 2001 via the Martyr Music Group, and with it debuted a five-piece incarnation that will play for the first time in 15 years at Descendants of Crom, in a great add to the bill that fulfills the stated mission of the fest in honoring Pittsburgh’s own underground contributions as well as looking outside its borders. Badass all around.

In addition to the already-noted, CantOl’ Time Moonshine and Archarus, have also been added, so the more right on. Here’s the latest from the fest, including some comment from organizer Shy Kennedy on Penance signing on:

DESCENDANTS OF CROM – Penance to Headline with ‘Alpha & Omega’ Lineup

All-day fest set for Sept. 30, 2017, with two stages fueled by riffs created by the riddle of steel.

This all day music festival is the first of its kind in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The underground scene of stoner and doom here is healthy and thriving and the location at Cattivo Nightclub is perfect with two large floors, a stage on each, and good sound with friendly staff.

Descendants of Crom Festival lineup:
CANT
MONOLITH WIELDER
OL’ TIME MOONSHINE
ARCHARUS
HORSEBURNER
WASTED THEORY
FOGHOUND
EYE
BRIMSTONE COVEN
SOLACE
THE MIDNIGHT GHOST TRAIN
KARMA TO BURN
VALKYRIE
EARTHRIDE
STINKING LIZAVETA
PENANCE (Alpha & Omega lineup)

Shy Kennedy on Penance headlining:

It all starts out with an idea of, ‘Hey, wouldn’t it be great if there were a gig in Pittsburgh that had a bunch of riff-fueled bands of all rock and metal genres?’ It’s the perfect place for it, really. The scene here is supportive and it’s an accessible city to many. It doesn’t come out of nowhere –- you have to make it happen.

Next, who headlines this underground, doom-rooted event? The answer would be Penance but they’ve been dormant for some time. The Alpha & Omega lineup are all right here and nearly all active in the scene someway or another. Turns out that you just have to ask. Penance are as excited to be a part of the Descendants of Crom as I am. A lot of the seasoned fans are going to appreciate this and for those who aren’t familiar with Penance are going to get a little lesson in Pittsburgh Doom History.

DESCENDANTS OF CROM will bring great regional talent to a hungry crowd, utilizing national fan favorites to lure them to learn about these other amazing artists. This first year is anticipated to be a contender among other established annual fests and will not be an event to miss.

http://facebook.com/descendantsofcrom
http://www.descendantsofcrom.com/

Penance, “Wizards of Mind”

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Descendants of Crom: Earthride, EYE, Valkyrie & More to Appear at Pittsburgh Festival

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 3rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

descendants of crom

Cheers to a new festival coming to Pittsburgh this fall. Sept. 30 will see the debut installment of the all-day Descendants of Crom held at the two-stage Cattivo Nightclub, and the first lineup announcement has been made with a considerable blend of Chesapeake and Midwestern talent on hand. With a strong focus that seems to put Maryland at the epicenter, prime Dave Sherman-fronted riff-rollers Earthride will play as part of an apparent 2017 resurgence, along with Ripple Music heavy rockers Foghound, whose 2016 outing, The World Unseen (review here), was among the year’s most unabashedly kickass.

One particularly encouraging sign from this first round of confirmations — there’s apparently another to come by the end of the month — is the stylistic variety. To have the lush melo-prog of Ohio’s EYE and the jazzy intricacy of just-reviewed Philly trio Stinking Lizaveta on the same bill is righteous enough, let alone to have them alongside the boozy forward drive of an act like Wasted Theory, the dual-guitar acrobatics of Valkyrie, Brimstone Coven‘s harmonies and the progressive sludge of Horseburner.

Wait. Did I just convince myself to drive to Pittsburgh?

While I ponder that question of questions, dig into Descendants of Crom‘s initial communiqué below, which comes courtesy of the fest itself:

descendants of crom

DESCENDANTS OF CROM – SEPT. 30, 2017

This all day music festival is the first of its kind in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. The underground scene of stoner and doom here is healthy and thriving and the location at Cattivo Nightclub is perfect with two large floors, a stage on each, and good sound with friendly staff.

DESCENDANTS OF CROM will bring great regional talent to a hungry crowd, utilizing national fan favorites to lure them to learn about these other amazing artists. This first year is anticipated to be a contender among other established annual fests and will not be an event to miss.

THIS YEAR’S CONFIRMED TALENT
EYE (Columbus, OH)
FOGHOUND (Baltimore, MD)
BRIMSTONE COVEN (Wheeling, WV)
STINKING LIZAVETTA (Philadelphia, PA)
WASTED THEORY (Delaware)
EARTHRIDE (MD)
VALKYRIE (Harrisonburg, VA)
HORSEBURNER (Parkersburg, VA).

The rest of the line-up will be announced by end of February. You can keep an eye out for updates through DescendantsOfCrom.com and the Facebook page, facebook.com/DescendantsOfCrom.

http://facebook.com/descendantsofcrom
http://www.descendantsofcrom.com/

Earthride, “Mr. Green”

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2016

Posted in Features on December 20th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

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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audiObelisk Transmission 058

Posted in Podcasts on July 21st, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Click Here to Download

 

In my defense, I’ll say it’s been a really hectic couple months. Truth be told, even I think it’s been a really long time since the last podcast, so if you do too, at very least we agree on it. If the tradeoff for that is getting to use a bunch of new tracks, some of which have been featured around here for streaming — like Foghound, Monkey3, Slomatics, Comet Control, Mindkult, New Planet Trampoline, etc. — and some of which haven’t shown up around this site yet — Besvärjelsen, Monolord, King Buffalo, Fungal Abyss, Landing, etc. — then I think it’s a decent tradeoff to make. Listening back to it now that it’s finished, as is my tradition, I dig it.

And of course I hope you dig it as well. We start at full run with Foghound and add some boogie to the mix with Långfinger before crashing into the wall of riffs that is Monolord and digging into the garage swing of Mindkult, so right off the bat there’s a decent amount of ground covered, and it only gets weirder as it moves forward, but hopefully even more immersive as well. The second hour, and really from New Planet Trampoline on, keep an open mind and try to just go where the sounds go. It should be a satisfying trip either way.

Track details follow:

First Hour:

0:00:00 Foghound, “Message in the Sky” from The World Unseen
0:03:58 Långfinger, “Feather Beader” from Crossyears
0:08:20 Monolord, “Lord of Suffering” from Lord of Suffering/Die in a Haze
0:14:44 Mindkult, “Witch’s Oath” from Witch’s Oath
0:20:34 Besvärjelsen, “Havets Sista Vals” from Exil
0:27:48 King Buffalo, “Kerosene” from Orion
0:33:46 Slomatics, “Super Nothing” from Future Echo Returns
0:37:36 Monkey3, “Dead Planet’s Eyes” from Astra Symmetry
0:42:06 New Planet Trampoline, “Acts of Mania” from Dark Rides and Grim Visions
0:51:03 Comet Control, “Artificial Light” from Center of the Maze

Second Hour:

1:00:52 Landing, “Morning Sun” from Third Light
1:15:10 Fungal Abyss, “Perfumed Garden” from Karma Suture
1:37:20 Atomikylä, “Katkos” from Keräily

Total running time: 1:55:09

 

Thank you for listening.

Download audiObelisk Transmission 058

 

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Foghound, The World Unseen: Message in the Sky (Plus Full Album Stream)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on July 6th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

foghound the world unseen

[Click play above to stream Foghound’s The World Unseen in full. Album is out Friday on Ripple Music.]

Originally set for a Spring release, The World Unseen is the second full-length from Baltimorean four-piece Foghound after 2013’s Quick, Dirty and High (review here). It’s also their first offering through Ripple Music, and like a lot of productions in which Mike Dean has a hand — he produced here along with Frank “The Punisher” Marchand and the band itself — one can hear some C.O.C. in a song like “Serpentine,” but in the context of the record as a whole, that becomes only one element at the band’s disposal.

Shades of fellow Marylanders Clutch, of a roughed-up Fu Manchu and of Alabama Thunderpussy‘s Southern edge show up, but primarily what’s happening in The World Unseen is Foghound are establishing their own style with those influences as a foundation. They do Baltimore proud in that, and over the course of its 10 tracks/43 minutes, the album offers a force of delivery well beyond that of the debut. The sound is tighter, the performances crisper, and the production sharper. Not that Quick, Dirty and High didn’t have its hard-hitting side, but The World Unseen sees each member of Foghound turning in the same direction and heading forward at breakneck speed, and the result is strong, clearheaded heavy rock and roll like “Message in the Sky” or “Rockin’ and Rollin’,” songs executed with no pretense of wanting to do anything more than kick ass and have a good time doing it.

More complex vocal arrangements also help bring out more of Foghound‘s sonic identity, drummer Chuck Dukehart and guitarist Bob Sipes splitting the bulk of the lead duties while also backing each other complemented by guitarist Dee Settar. Bassist Jim Forrester rounds out the lineup this time around, making a considerable impression under the guitar fuzz of “Truth Revealed,” and fitting well in Foghound alongside his former Sixty Watt Shaman bandmate Dukehart, who belts out his vocals with similar a physicality to how he hits his drums — a full-body process. The record starts off innocently enough with the roll of “Above the Wake,” one of three songs to hit five minutes with the later “Truth Revealed” and closer “Never Return,” but builds intensity as it moves toward each of its choruses, its loose groove tightening amid a flurry of guitar leads and rhythmic push.

foghound (Photo by Rock and Roll Socialite)

The next two songs, “Message in the Sky” and “Serpentine,” help define a large portion of The World Unseen‘s personality, moving fast, making an impact and wasting zero time. Efficient, catchy and on the beat, they’re paired well together for the hooks they proffer, but all the more so because the more swinging “Serpentine” also provides a more flowing transfer into “On a Roll,” which has a nod straight off The Action is Go and a lyric about blasting off into space, just in case the classic stoner rock vibe wasn’t apparent enough. It was, but the song is almost maddeningly well written, and also the shortest at just over three minutes, so it’s not like it’s overstaying its welcome. “Give up the Ghost” recalls Down in its sung/spoken vocals and its style of riff, but by the time it arrives, Foghound have already established themselves as able to draw these things together to suit their own purposes, and they do likewise to close side A.

A more fervent thrust resumes with “Rockin’ and Rollin’,” which seems like as much a mission statement as anything else, another track that wastes no time getting to its point and offering another driving verse and memorable hook, put to good use, but “Truth Revealed” provides counterbalance with a more laid back groove, highlighting the tone in Sipes and Settar‘s guitars as a blown-out vocal tops as atmospheric accompaniment. They pick up the tempo for the last measure or two, but the prevailing feel is still less insistent, and the spacier instrumental “Bridge of Stonebows” follows up on that and pushes it further with subdued guitar, punctuating drum thud and rumbling bass that speaks to something foreboding but bittersweet, a solo in the second half a standout moment for its fluidity amid the build behind it. The side B interlude doesn’t so much derail the considerable momentum the band has built up to that point, but it does broaden and shift the overarching feel of the album, giving the return to a more straightforward approach on “Street Machine” a different context than it would have coming out of, say, “Truth Revealed” or one of the other tracks.

So be it. “Street Machine” remains catchy in the spirit of “On a Roll” and leads to “Never Return,” which makes a fitting enough finale but one can only hope isn’t prophetic in some way about the band itself. Its chugging riff, mid-paced push and larger sense of space come with lyrical escapism, but for what it’s worth, Foghound don’t sound like a group looking to make their end. Quite the opposite. They sound hungry, and when they return, it’ll be one to watch for, because while The World Unseen makes its primary impression in the quality of its songwriting and the tightness of its performances, it also showcases the real potential at heart in Foghound as they continue to develop. As a second full-length and a debut for this lineup, it marks an arrival for sure — almost for Ripple Music as much as the band itself — but it also feels like another step in a larger process of growth still to play out.

Foghound on Thee Facebooks

Foghound on Bandcamp

Foghound website

Ripple Music

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Live Review: Maryland Doom Fest 2016 Night Three

Posted in Reviews on June 27th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

maryland doom fest poster

The car died as I pulled it into the spot outside Cafe 611, and it was abundantly clear it would not start again sans professional assistance. Oh, and it’s The Patient Mrs.‘ car. So there’s that.

That puts the tally of busted shit at: my feet (I’ve been wearing a supportive boot cast all weekend, not sure if I’ve mentioned that yet), my camera, and my wife’s car. Maryland Doom Fest 2016, you have thoroughly kicked my ass.

None of that is the fest’s fault, of course. After an awesome two and a half weeks, I was due a couple hits, and if anything, yesterday, the third and final day of the festival with another 11 bands on the bill starting at 3PM, it was the music that kept my head up while I was flipping out about things like waiting for tow trucks, The Patient Mrs. never picking up her phone, how the fuck I’m going to get back to Massachusetts with a dead car so I can start my new job on Tuesday, and so on. I’m thankful for that. Not sure I’d have made it through the afternoon otherwise without spontaneously combusting.

Time to wrap this thing up. If you’ve checked out the reviews of night one or night two, thanks, and thanks for reading this one too.

One more time, hello Frederick:

Mangog

Mangog (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I’ll admit it was somewhat strange to watch Bert Hall on stage holding a guitar. The longtime Maryland doomer has played bass through the years in Revelation and Against Nature and now is also handling thick strings and fuzzy-hat for Beelzefuzz, but in Mangog it’s guitar and backing vocals to complement those of Myke Wells. Completed by drummer Mike Rix (ex-Iron Man) and bassist Darby Cox, the four-piece announced this week that they’d signed to Argonauta Records for the early 2017 release of their debut album. Presumably most of what they played, whether it was “God” or “Into Infamy” or “Meld,” comes from that record, but they also played two of the three cuts — “Ab Intra” and the title-track — from their 2015 debut EP, Daydreams Within Nightmares. The band played their first show at Maryland Doom Fest last year, and are still finding themselves as a unit, but seemed to be on the right track with their aggressive blend of doom and metal. Wells was also the first frontman to stand on the P.A. speakers in front of the stage, so points there as well.

Flummox

Flummox (Photo by JJ Koczan)

The first, but not the last. Bassist/vocalist Blake Dellinger of Flummox, in checked leotard regalia and with one eye blacked out, also got on that speaker, in addition to thrashing around just about everywhere else on the Cafe 611 stage as he, guitarist Drew Jones, and drummer/vocalist Jody Lester tore into their raucous stoner thrash, which it’s easy to imagine has been a highlight of the last couple years at house shows in their native Murfreesboro, Tennessee, as well as other haunts around the South lucky enough to book the band. Youth was on their side, sure, but they still delivered one of the weekend’s most energetic sets, and had the chemistry between them to stand up to the force of their delivery. They’re also reportedly responsible for the Tennessean Sludge Fest, which this August features Place of SkullsDoomstressShroud Eater and Order of the Owl, among many others, so clearly doing good work on multiple levels.

DopeRider

Doperider (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Hailing from my beloved Garden State, sludge torquemongers DopeRider proffered massive tones offset by a couple stretches of ambience, putting them in league with the likes of Connecticut’s Sea of Bones or any number of crushers in the post-YOB sphere, and that is a compliment as far as I’m concerned. Their slow-churning, growling, thudding lumber wasn’t the first bout of extremity the weekend had seen — one still recalls Philly’s Black Urn starting off Friday — but it did speak to the expanding definition of what Maryland Doom Fest might continue to encompass. Uniformly brutal in their approach, DopeRider — who released a debut demo last year with the tracks “Drugged up Demonoid” (15:09) and “Fractal Resin” (6:07) — were thankful to the crowd, guitarist/vocalist MP saying that there wasn’t much like this in Jersey. I know from personal experience that’s 100 percent true, but little doubt DopeRider would’ve stood out on the bill whatever the context. Will keep an eye out for what they do next.

Seasick Gladiator

Seasick Gladiator (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I’ll admit that for a decent portion of D.C. residents Seasick Gladiator‘s set, I was outside dealing with the tow truck driver from AAA. Actually he was the second, past the one who tried to jump the car to no avail, so yeah, it took a minute. What I saw of the instrumental outfit offered metallic doom marked out through the use of violin, adding a sense of drama to the material as strings invariably will. They had some progressive edge that didn’t necessarily feel showy or overly self-righteous, and from what I heard sounded pretty fluid. Meanwhile, outside, the car still refused to start — battery? alternator? — and had to be dragged onto the back of the flatbed and hauled off to some local garage. A genuine what the fuck moment, but like I said, the music kept me going. Somehow I doubt it will be the last opportunity to catch Seasick Gladiator, and from the glimpses I got and from watching the end of their set after the truck drove away, their appeal came through even despite distraction.

Eternal Black

Eternal Black (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I’ll never pretend to even feign impartiality about any band Joe Wood is playing in. Aside from being a former bandmate, the Borgo Pass and Eternal Black drummer is among the nicest, most sincere individuals I’ve ever met — King of the Dudes — and whether he’s behind the kit or in the crowd, any day I get to see Joe is a good day, including this one. He is not, however, all that Eternal Black have working in their favor. Atop rolling The Obsessed-style riffs, the NY three-piece with Wood, guitarist/vocalist Ken Wohlrob and bassist Hal Miller, fit right in with the sphere of Maryland doom but had more than a touch of Northeastern intensity to their approach as well, particularly from Wohlrob‘s vocals. The same was true of their first demo (review here), which was released last year, but they had a host of new songs in the set — “Snake Oil and Coffin Nails” was a highlight, along with “Sea of Graves” — and announced plans to record this summer/fall for a debut full-length, which will be one to anticipate. Granted NYC is four to five hours from where I live depending on traffic, but I still felt I probably should’ve seen Eternal Black by now. Glad I got to in such a setting.

Toke

Toke (Photo by JJ Koczan)

North Carolina’s Toke were the only band of the weekend to bring their own lights, and their focus on presentation likewise extended to how they carried themselves on stage, each of the three members putting his full body into the groove of their hard-hit, swinging riffs, seeming way more influenced by Sleep live than on their 2014 demo, High Friends in Low Places (review here), but still marked out on the harsher end of sludge by the vocals, which were on the more searing end of screams. Comprised of TimBronco and Jeremy, they reminded some of Elder‘s Matt Couto in the drumming style, but were on an entirely different trip sonically, and for a band who doesn’t yet have an album out, they had steady command over the stage, the room, and their consuming tonal largesse. Very obviously a band who’s done some road time — they played Denver Electric Funeral Fest earlier this month — and one who’ve dug in hard to their practice space. They were high among the most pleasant surprises at Maryland Doom Fest 2016, all three days.

Foghound

Foghound (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Foghound were not a surprise, true, but they were a joy to watch all the same. The Baltimore heavy rock kingpins are on the cusp of releasing their second album, The World Unseen (review forthcoming), on Ripple Music, and they absolutely blew me away last fall at Vultures of Volume II (review here), also in Maryland, but to hear those songs now and know them better, whether it’s the ultra-catchy “Rockin’ and Rollin'” or “Message in the Sky,” “Never Return,” “Above the Wake,” “Serpentine,” etc., was an entirely different experience, drummer Chuck Dukehart III and guitarists Bob Sipes and Dee Settar sharing vocal duties while bassist Jim Forrester held down the low end. Playing a set entirely comprised of new material only emphasized how far beyond 2013’s Quick, Dirty and High (review here) they’re ready to be, and like last time I was fortunate enough to catch them, they were air-tight musically, varied in the vocal arrangements and executed their set on a foundation of strong, waiting to be noticed songwriting. I know it kicks ass, but I’m eager to find out how The World Unseen catches on with listeners once it’s out, as I’m sure the band is as well.

Wasted Theory

Wasted Theory (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Like Foghound before them (and several others), Delaware’s Wasted Theory brought a sampling of their next outing, which is set to be recorded this fall, reportedly, for a 2017 release. I was talking the other night to guitarist/vocalist Larry Jackson, Jr., about the next Wasted Theory and he asked what I’d want to hear on it. Basically what I’d be looking for is a step forward from 2014’s Death and Taxes (review here). I’d want to hear that the band — Jackson, guitarist Dave McMahon, bassist Rob Michael and drummer Brendan Burns — was pushing itself in terms of melody and songcraft. Hard to judge from one live airing, but they seemed to be headed in that direction, bringing a more aggressive edge to some of the Southern groove that on the last album was such a huge part of their take. They still had a definite update-the-’70s classic heavy rock vibe, and Jackson‘s gravely vocals added burl as ever, but that progression that one might hope to hear in their sound came through at Cafe 611. They still have to record the next LP, but hopefully it follows suit when it arrives.

King Giant

King Giant (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I’ve seen dark Virginian rockers King Giant a handful of times now — three or four, maybe, most recently at the aforementioned Vultures of Volume II (review here) — and their sheer have-their-shit-together factor remains hugely impressive. Dudes know exactly what they want their songs to do, where they want to put that Todd Ingram solo, what the verse is moving toward, etc. Vocalist Dave Hammerly had two mics setup with various kinds of compression, and the double-guitar five-piece proceeded to do their thing, which is to offer up grooving slabs of moody Southern heavy, bordering on metal in their attitude but really more about atmosphere than aggression, or at least about toying with that balance. “Requiem for a Drunkard” from 2015’s Black Ocean Waves (review here) was a high point sonically if a particularly downer vibe, but really, King Giant are in league with the safer bets you might make when it comes to quality of craft and performance in their style. It’s not always what I’m looking for stylistically, but for as much as King Giant put into their band, it’s impossible not to respect them.

Karma to Burn

Karma to Burn (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Kind of hard to believe it’s been nearly five years since the last time I saw Karma to Burn. Night and day. With the lineup of founding guitarist Will Mecum, bassist Eric Clutter and drummer Evan Devine the West Virginian instrumental powerhouse were in nothing but top form for their set. One might expect them to be on after having just done a month on the road with The Obsessed across the US, but propelled by Devine‘s crash, they rode Mecum‘s riffing with an energy I’ve never seen from them. The most recent cut they played was “57” from 2014’s Arch Stanton (review here) — though I thought I heard part of “62” as well — and of course their signature piece, “20” from 1999’s Wild Wonderful Purgatory was aired to a particularly fervent response. They were the only band of the weekend so far as I saw who elicited anything close to moshing, and it was well-earned. Just a killer show, front to back, and while I know Karma to Burn has a history of burning through rhythm sections, what Clutter and Devine bring to the band alongside Mecum isn’t to be understated. True power trio form, continually without compromise or bullshit.

Mos Generator

Mos Generator (Photo by JJ Koczan)

“We’ve been here since eight o’clock,” said Mos Generator frontman Tony Reed, “and I’m drunk.” To be fair, it was long past eight by the time the Port Orchard, Washington, heavy rockers took the stage for their headlining/fest-closing set. My fingers were crossed they’d have copies of their new album, Abyssinia (review forthcoming), but no dice. Bought a shirt instead. Their set launched at a furious clip and did not relent, drummer Jon Garrett stepping up to righteously follow what Evan Devine brought to Karma to Burn as bassist Sean Booth served to anchor the material and bolster the impact of Reed‘s guitar. “Lonely One Kenobi” was an early highlight, followed by “There’s No Return from Nowhere” from the new record and “Breaker” and the title-track from 2014’s Electric Mountain Majesty (review here), Reed, of whom I’ll make no bones about being a fan, letting his vocals soar for the latter while completely owning the stage and bringing the room along with him. Hard not to smile watching him on stage — someone so obviously born to do what he’s doing who then set about working really, really hard at it for decades — and he kept the intensity of performance going until the house lights came up as they played “This is the Gift of Nature.” The room had thinned out somewhat by then, as it will, but after a full hour of go-go-go, there was zero slowdown whatsoever. Some bands just want to rock and roll, and Mos Generator do so with a pure reverence for the form that few would dare attempt to match. They were absolutely on fire.

As I write this, I’m on the road in a rental car, headed back north. I start my new job tomorrow. The Patient Mrs., who was visiting family elsewhere in the state, came and picked me up in a rental car and is currently driving me and Postman Dan, who came along for the trip, north. As there’s been no word from the mechanic that the car got towed to, I’ll have to drive back to Frederick on Friday to pick it up. Serves me right for something, I’m sure. Unanswered emails, perhaps.

Before I cut out, I want to thank JB Matson and Mark Cruikshank for having me on board as a sponsor and for having me down to cover Maryland Doom Fest 2016. I know these reviews have been somewhat fraught in their context, but Matson and Cruikshank put on a hell of a show over these three days, and should be commended both for the efforts and the results yielded. I can only hope they keep it going and hope they’ll have me involved again next year.

If they do, I think next time I might just fly in. But I always say that.

Thanks for reading.

 

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Tomorrow’s Dream: 135+ of 2016’s Most Anticipated Releases

Posted in Features on January 25th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

tomorrows dream 2016

If 135-plus releases sounds like a lot, you’re right, it is. I must be out of my god damn mind. To put it to scale though, last year, I did a feature every couple of months called the Quarterly Review that throughout the course of 2015 resulted in no fewer than 200 separate album writeups. 135 is a lot, but it’s not everything. It’s still January. It couldn’t possibly be everything.

The basic fact of the matter is there’s so much out there right now that anyone claiming to even hint at totality of coverage is either clueless or lying. I don’t come close to catching it all. I do the best I can to do as much as I can. I know you’ve heard this all before.

Over the last seven or eight months, I’ve been keeping track of albums, EPs, singles, etc., slated for 2016 release. Some of these are independent, some through labels, some names familiar, some names new. I’ve tried to mix it up as much as possible, and I reserve the right to add to the list over the next couple days anything anyone might suggest in the comments. Last year’s list turned out to be a resource I used throughout the entire time, so, fingers crossed, I’ll be doing the same this go around. Thanks in advance for your participation in making it more complete by leaving a comment.

Ordered Alphabetically by Artist

1. Alunah, TBA

alunahThe Birmingham doom-rollers seem to be on this list every year, but I have it on good authority — namely, Alunah posted about it on the social medias — that they’re writing and entering the studio with an eye toward a late-2016 release for the follow-up to their 2014’s excellent Awakening the Forest (review here), their third full-length and debut on Napalm Records. Alunah on Thee Facebooks, at Napalm Records.
 

2. Ancient Warlocks, II

I don’t even know how many pressings STB Records has been through of Ancient Warlocks‘ self-titled debut (review here), but the follow-up has been finished since September and is reportedly due sometime this Spring. Primo fuzz is expected from the dual-guitar Seattle outfit. Ancient Warlocks on Thee Facebooks, STB Records.
 

3. Asteroid, III

Since their late-2015 reunion (announced here), Swedish trio Asteroid have been added to the lineup for Desertfest in Berlin and just this past week re-signed to Fuzzorama Records — which also released their last full-length, 2010’s II (review here) — for an upcoming release they’ve appropriately-enough dubbed III. Much more to come. Asteroid on Thee Facebooks, Fuzzorama Records.
 

4. Atavismo, TBA

Not much more to go on here than the band alluding to a forthcoming LP being put together, but frankly, I was so enthralled with the Spanish group’s late-2014 debut, Desintegración (review here), that that’s enough to make me excited at the prospect of a next installment from them. Keeping my hopes up it gets here before December. Atavismo on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

5. Banquet, Jupiter Rose

Picked up last fall by Heavy Psych Sounds as part of a torrent of signings from the label, San Francisco’s Banquet make their debut next month with Jupiter Rose, following their 2015 single, Run to You / Mother Road, which was released by Who Can You Trust? Records and boasts soulful West Coast heavy ’10s thrust. Banquet on Thee Facebooks, Heavy Psych Sounds.
 

6. Beelzefuzz, Beelzefuzz II: The Righteous Bloom

When I starting keeping notes for this list, this album was pegged as the debut from Beelzefuzz-offshoot Righteous Bloom, but word came down in December that band had reassumed its former moniker and that Beelzefuzz II: The Righteous Bloom would be issued in the early part of 2016 via The Church Within as the follow-up their 2013 self-titled debut (review here). Whatever name the progressive doomers release it under, I can’t wait to hear it. Beelzefuzz on Thee Facebooks, The Church Within Records.
 

7. Bellringer, TBA

bellringerThere hasn’t been any sort of official announcement of a debut LP from the Mark Deutrom-led Bellringer, but over the course of the last year, the Austin-based former Melvins/Clown Alley bassist has unveiled a number of singles (posted here), and if he keeps it up long enough, he’ll get to an album one way or another. As a fan of creative weirdo heavy rock, I’m looking forward. Bellringer on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

8. Blaak Heat Shujaa, TBA

As of this past April, L.A. desert psych rockers Blaak Heat Shujaa (aka Blaak Heat) were in pre-production for their third full-length and second for Tee Pee Records behind 2013’s expansive The Edge of an Era (review here). The album may or may not be done, but whenever it arrives, it’ll do so with extra interest due to the inclusion of Tom Davis (ex-Nebula) on bass. Blaak Heat Shujaa on Thee Facebooks, Tee Pee Records.
 

9. Black Black Black, TBA

I feel like Brooklyn post-hardcore heavy rockers Black Black Black caught a bum rap because of their name, but the band’s blend of melody and intensity was not to be ignored on account of moniker or anything else. No solid release date yet, but last I heard, Aqualamb Records, which issued the artbook version of their 2012 self-titled debut (review here) would have a sophomore album released in similar style in the first half of this year. Black Black Black on Thee Facebooks, Aqualamb Records.
 

10. Black Cobra, Imperium Simulacra

You’ll note several records on this list have a release date of Feb. 26, and it would seem only fair to put Black Cobra‘s fifth outing and first for Season of Mist, Imperium Simulacra (review here), at the head of the bunch even if it didn’t wind up there by alphabetical happenstance. Not by any means the San Francisco duo’s rawest outing, but definitely their most stylistically expansive, and with plenty of their trademark destructive gallop to boot. One you probably don’t need me to tell you that you should hear. Black Cobra on Thee Facebooks, Season of Mist.
 

11. Black Cowgirl, TBA

Last time Pennsylvania heavy rockers Black Cowgirl were heard from, they said one simple thing: “2016.” That was October. Well, it’s 2016 now, and if we’re talking new releases, an LP from them would just about be their debut. Their 2012 self-titled (discussed here) on Kozmik Artifactz paired newer songs with material from their 2010 demo (discussed here), so a straight-up album feels due. Maybe this is the year. Black Cowgirl on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

12. Black Rainbows, Stellar Prophecy

Black Rainbows Stellar ProphecyIf this one’s fresh in mind, that’s because it was just announced last week that Rome trio Black Rainbows would release their new album, Stellar Prophecy in April on Heavy Psych Sounds. It’s a quick turnaround for them from 2015’s Hawkdope (review here), but as that album was a marked step forward in their sound, I’m even more eager to hear where they go next. Black Rainbows on Thee Facebooks, Heavy Psych Sounds.
 

13. Black Shape of Nexus, Carrier

It’s an establish Spring release date for the new Black Shape of Nexus, whose brand of sludge crosses a threshold of thoughtfulness without falling into post-metal cliche. The German outfit’s last record, 2012’s Negative Black (streamed here), was plenty punishing, and I’d expect only creative progression on Carrier, though wouldn’t dare guess at the form in will take. Black Shape of Nexus on Thee Facebooks, Exile on Mainstream.
 

14. Blood Ceremony, Lord of Misrule

Toronto’s Blood Ceremony enter into their recently-announced fourth full-length, Lord of Misrule in something of a stately position. Since 2013’s The Eldritch Dark, their influence has only spread further across North America and beyond, so the question as the new LP makes its way out via Rise Above on March 25 is how they can stand out from the crowd formed at least partly in their wake. Blood Ceremony on Thee Facebooks, Rise Above Records.
 

15. Boris with Merzbow, Gensho

So you get your Boris record, then you get your Merzbow record, then you play both at the same time, and that’s your collaborative release. The intermittent pairings from Boris with Merzbow have always been unflinchingly creative and bold in their experimentalism, and going by the teaser posted last week, Gensho will be no different when it arrives March 18 on Relapse. Expect who the hell knows what. Boris on Thee Facebooks, Merzbow website, at Relapse Records.
 

16. Borracho, TBA

In mid-2015, Washington D.C.’s Borracho took part in a Ripple Music split with Geezer called The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter One (review here). A bolt title, but it found them continuing to refine their sound as a power trio following 2013’s sophomore LP, Oculus (review here). No solid word of something due as yet, but a recent update from the band said they’d be hitting the studio next month. Borracho on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

17. Brimstone Coven, Black Magic

Out this week on Metal Blade, Brimstone Coven‘s debut album follows a well-received self-titled EP compilation (track stream here) that came out last year, and should prove interesting to see how the West Virginian doomers have grown since that material was recorded in 2013, just a year after they formed. I can’t claim to have heard it yet, but it seems like one that the doom converted should be all over. Brimstone Coven on Thee Facebooks, at Metal Blade Records.
 

18. Causa Sui, Return to Sky

causa suiDanish heavy psych instrumentalists Causa Sui posted an album teaser late last week for Return to Sky, and though it only showcased two tracks, it showed their tonal warmth intact and their will to explore as vibrant as ever. To be released through their own El Paraiso Records, my only hope is they don’t get saddled with pressing delays in the Spring, because really, the sooner it gets here, the better off we’ll all be. Causa Sui on Thee Facebooks, El Paraiso Records.
 

19. La Chinga, Freewheelin’

An awaited follow-up and Small Stone debut brings Freewheelin’ (review here) from Vancouver heavy rockers La Chinga on March 20. The new album reignites the hard-driving, classic-minded methods of their 2013 self-titled (discussed here), but refines the songwriting as well to affect a more memorable impression. The beginning of a big return year for Small Stone. La Chinga on Thee Faceboks, Small Stone on Bandcamp.
 

20. Church of Misery, …And Then There Were None

Unquestionably one of the most anticipated albums of the year. And Then There Were None brings Church of Misery founder Tatsu Mikami to the US from his native Japan and finds him teamed up with members of Blood Farmers, Earthride and Repulsion in a completely revamped lineup from that which appeared on 2013’s Thy Kingdom Scum (review here). Rise Above recently announced a March 4 release. Church of Misery on Thee Facebooks, Rise Above Records.
 

21. Cities of Mars, TBA

Swedish trio Cities of Mars caught attention with the big riffs and steady swing of their debut single (review here), and announced back in October that they’d have a new EP out in March via Suicide Records. Still somewhat in their formative stages, they’ve presented a sci-fi thematic and it will be interesting to see if they stick with it or move toward something else. Cities of Mars on Thee Facebooks, Suicide Records.
 

22. Cloud Catcher, TBA

The progressive Denver newcomers are set to hit the studio in Spring to record their sophomore LP and the follow-up to 2015’s Enlightened Beyond Existence (discussed here), so it might be summer or even fall by the time it gets issued, depending on timing of the recording, what label picks them up, etc., but it’s one to keep an eye out for anyway. They’ve shown a willingness to hit the road as well, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they did so again sometime after their Spring tour in Feb./March. Cloud Catcher on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

23. Comacozer, Astra Planeta

When Sydney trio Comacozer signed with HeadSpin Records last July, it was announced they’d be recording in October for a debut full-length to be titled Astra Planeta that would be due this Spring on the label. That process has been delayed somewhat, but there’s still no reason to think they can’t get the record out this year. Their 2015 EP, Deloun Sessions, found them pushing more into tense, moody atmospherics, and it was a shift that suited them well. Comacozer on Thee Facebooks, HeadSpin Records.
 

24. Conan, Revengeance

conan revengeanceOut this week on Napalm Records, the third album from UK destroyers Conan, Revengeance (review here), finds the trio revamped around founding guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis, with longtime producer Chris Fielding adding a striking, effective counterpoint on bass and vocals and drummer Rich Lewis adding to the tectonic roll on drums. Happy to report, it still sounds like Conan, only perhaps even deadlier. Conan on Thee Facebooks, at Napalm Records.
 

25. Conclave, TBA

I don’t think Massachusetts four-piece Conclave — whose members trace their pedigree back to outfits like Warhorse and Grief — are ready to make the name of their full-length debut public yet, so I’m not going to say it, but I’ve heard the album and it’s full-on death-doom punishment that should bring a satisfied grin to even the most discerning of purists. Their debut EP, Breaking Ground (review here), was grim and brutal in kind, and the album only pushes further into the dark. Conclave on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

26. Corrosion of Conformity, TBA

Since the North Carolinian legends first announced they were reuniting with guitarist/vocalist Pepper Keenan, the question has been whether or not a new album would surface. Last October, they signed to Nuclear Blast while on tour with Clutch and The Shrine (review here), and followed that tour with a headlining run in December. I expect we’ll hear from them a lot in 2016 as they record the first outing with this full four-piece since 2000, and that’s just fine by me. Corrosion of Conformity on Thee Facebooks, Nuclear Blast.
 

27. Cough, TBA

Richmond doomers Cough entered the studio last August to begin tracking their first full-length since 2010’s Ritual Abuse (review here). I haven’t seen any announcement as to when it will be released, but it was finished in September, and we’ll see if it winds up coming out through Relapse, which would be expected, or if part of the delay has been in finding it a new home. That’s sub-speculation, mind you. I’m figuring on release news any minute now. Will let you know how that goes.Cough on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.
 

28. Curse the Son, Isolator

curse the son isolatorI was very glad I got to see Connecticut’s Curse the Son this past fall (review here), both because I dig what they do and because it gave me a sneak peak at the songs that will show up on their new album, Isolator, when it surfaces in March via Snake Charmer Coalition. Expect big, tone-led vibes a la 2012’s Psychache (review here), but with some new edge thanks to the addition of bassist/backing vocalist Brendan Keefe alongside guitarist/vocalist Ron Vanacore and drummer Michael Petrucci. Curse the Son on Thee Facebooks, Snake Charmer Coalition.
 

29. Dali’s Llama, Dying in the Sun

Perpetually underrated CA desert rockers Dali’s Llama will release their new album, Dying in the Sun, early this year. I’m not precisely sure when, but sooner or later it will come out, and when it does, I have full faith it will be a stirring reminder of just how overlooked the band continues to be as they’re now well past their 20th anniversary. The upcoming full-length was mastered as of December, so look out for an update hopefully sooner than later. Dali’s Llama on Thee Facebooks, Dali’s Llama Records.
 

30. Darsombra, TBA

Drone/noise/visual two-piece Darsombra toured across the US in 2015 across 109 different cities. That is no easy feat, and I can’t even imagine how an experience like that might play into the writing from Brian Daniloski and Ann Everton on the band’s next full-length, which, when they finished the last leg of that massive and ambitious run, they said was in the works. I’d like to find out, though, as Darsombra continue to aspire to inner peace through cosmic noisemaking. Darsombra on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

31. Dead Feathers, Dead Feathers 10″

Expected out Feb. 19 via HeviSike Records, the self-titled debut EP from Chicago heavy psych rockers Dead Feathers has been subject to some considerable pressing delays. The band was signed last Spring initially for an Aug. 2015 release that has continued to be pushed back, presumably as a result of so much interest in pressing vinyl at the moment. Still, the tracks have been streaming for a while now, so anyone looking to quench their thirst can do so readily on their Bandcamp. Dead Feathers on Thee Facebooks, HeviSike Records.
 

32. Deadsmoke, Deadsmoke

DEADSMOKE DEADSMOKEAs announced a couple weeks ago, Duna Jam veterans Deadsmoke will issue their self-titled debut via Heavy Psych Sounds on March 25. The Italian sludgers have plans to tour Europe in May as well, and should they happen to pop on a late-spring or summer festival or two along the way, I wouldn’t necessarily be surprised. Heavy Psych Sounds‘ spree continues. Deadsmoke on Thee Facebooks, Heavy Psych Sounds.
 

33. Deamon’s Child, Scherben Müssen Sein

The German title of Deamon’s Child‘s second album, Scherben Müssen Sein, translates to “shards must be.” I’m not sure what it means, but I am sure that the trio’s 2014 self-titled debut (review here) was an intriguing and offbeat brand of noise rock-plus, so I’ve no problem getting down with the idea of another outing from them, though given their breadth I wouldn’t necessarily expect the second LP to be a carbon copy of the first. Deamon’s Child on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

34. Deathkings, All that is Beautiful

Hailing from what I’ll assume is the darkest underbelly of Los Angeles, Deathkings issue their sophomore LP, All that is Beautiful, on March 18 as the follow-up to a 2015 split with Boston’s Rozamov (review here). I’ve got a track stream slated for this week from these guys, so I’ll save more for that, but suffice it to say that it’s surprising music so grueling can come from a place where it never rains. Deathkings on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

35. Devil to Pay, A Bend Through Space and Time

Indianapolis heavy rockers Devil to Pay and their label, Ripple Music, have set a tentative “Summer” release date for the band’s fifth album, A Bend Through Space and Time, but as the recently unveiled “Your Inner Lemmy” showcased, the songwriting that has long served as their chief appeal is ready to roll on the new collection. That song surfaced early as a timely tribute to Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead, so it might be a while before more solid details come down the wire, but whenever it shows, it’ll be welcome. Devil to Pay on Thee Facebooks, Ripple Music.
 

36. Dream Death, Dissemination

A second post-reunion album is always a tricky prospect. A band wants to continue to acknowledge what they were when they started out, progress from their last outing, and get over that hump of songs that may or may not have been written years prior and onto something fresh. How will Pennsylvania’s Dream Death tackle this issue on their forthcoming Dissemination, due out March 4 via Rise Above? Probably by being heavy as hell and sounding completely fucking miserable. Just a guess. More info here. Dream Death on Thee Facebooks, Rise Above Records.
 

37. Droids Attack, Sci-Fi or Die

droids attack sci-fi or dieAnother Feb. 26 release, Sci-Fi or Die, the fourth long-player from Madison, Wisconsin’s Droids Attack, has been in the works for at least the last three years. I’ll be hosting a full-stream of it sometime between now and the release (which I’m stoked for), so keep an eye out for that, but these guys have deserved more attention for a while now one way or another, and the follow-up to 2010’s Must Destroy! (review here) might be the record that gets it for them. Droids Attack on Thee Facebooks, Droids Attack website.
 

38. Drug Honkey, TBA


Various announcements have floated around over the last year and a half or more from Chicago death-churners Drug Honkey, and I’m not sure at this point whether their next release will be an EP of or a complete album or what. Their last full-length was 2012’s Ghost in the Fire (review here), which was inhumane in its onslaught, abrasive in loud or quiet parts, and swirled out an otherworldly sense of terror. So yeah, something to look forward to in a new one. Drug Honkey on Thee Facebooks, Transcending Obscurity on Bandcamp.
 

39. Duel, Fears of the Dead

In addition to boasting a cover that has immediately made my list of the year’s best, look for hard-driving heavy rock swing on Duel‘s debut LP, Fears of the Dead, due out Feb. 12 on Heavy Psych Sounds. The Austin, Texas, four-piece have newly announced European tour dates that will start March 9 and run through April 2, and I’ve little doubt their brash ways will find favor among the beer-soaked good-timers abroad. Over here, I’m just looking forward to hearing the album. Duel on Thee Facebooks, Heavy Psych Sounds.
 

40. Egypt, Endless Flight

We know it’s awesome. It was streamed here last month in its entirety. The real question with Egypt‘s sophomore outing is whether it’s a 2015 or a 2016 release. Vinyl’s still forthcoming last I heard, but the CD hit in December. What counts? For what it’s worth, I’m clearly thinking of it as a 2016 outing, but whatever format you might prefer, think of this as a note to remind you that you should check out. Because it’s awesome. We knew that. Egypt on Thee Facebooks, Egypt on Bandcamp.
 

41. Eight Bells, Landless

Out Feb. 12 on respected purveyor Battleground Records with tapes through Tartarus, Landless casts a severe and progressive glance at the scope of atmospheric heavy and offers an individualized take developed even from what the Portland, Oregon, trio brought to their 2013 debut, The Captain’s Daughter. Doom, black metal and a stately sort of psychedelia intertwine over the album’s span, and it seems all the more likely the band will turn heads with their approach on tour with Voivod (dates here) starting Feb. 6. Eight Bells on Thee Facebooks, Battleground Records.
 

42. Electric Citizen, Higher Time

Before Electric Citizen posted the new track “Evil” in a RidingEasy Records sampler last month, word on the street was the Ohio heavy ’10s rockers were looking to add a full-time keyboardist. That search doesn’t seem to have panned out, but their Higher Time is hotly anticipated anyway as the answer to their 2014 debut, Sateen (review here), which showed the Sabbath worshipers how Sabbath worship is done. Electric Citizen on Thee Facebooks, RidingEasy Records.
 

43. Elephant Tree, TBA

elephant treeFull disclosure: I know way more about Elephant Tree‘s upcoming Magnetic Eye Records debut LP than I’m putting in this post. Like that it rules. And why! Stick around. Later this week, I’ll have a track premiere from the album up with a review, but the follow-up to their 2014 debut EP, Theia (review here), has already made it into my best-of-2016 consideration and my best-debuts-of-2016 consideration, and I know it’s only January, but right now it’s the one to beat in the latter category. More to come. Elephant Tree on Thee Facebooks, Magnetic Eye Records.
 

44. Elevators to the Grateful Sky, Cape Yawn

Sicilian four-piece Elevators to the Grateful Sky signed to HeviSike Records last month, and while a March 11 release date for the band’s second album, Cape Yawn seems like a quick turnaround, until I hear otherwise it’s what I’m going with. The band released their debut, Cloud Eye, on Transubstans in 2013, but should fit well with HeviSike‘s growing and diverse roster, being growing and sonically diverse themselves. Elevators to the Grateful Sky on Thee Facebooks, HeviSike Records.
 

45. Faith in Jane, TBA

I have it on zero authority that Maryland heavy rockers Faith in Jane are working on a new release — I know they jammed with Wino earlier this month, and that’s cool — but having had the chance to see the trio play last September at Vultures of Volume II (review here), I’m including them on this list anyway just because they’re one to watch out for. Deep blues vibes roughing up some of the West Coast’s ’70s fetishizing; way heavy and way swinging. Not technical, but intricate, and thoroughly grooved. Lots of potential there.Faith in Jane on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

46. Fatso Jetson, TBA

They’re due, right? Sure, the last couple years have brought splits with Farflung (review here), Herba Mate (review here) and Yawning Man, but we’re coming up on six years since Archaic Volumes (review here) was released in 2010, and I’m dying to hear what a new Fatso Jetson album would sound like with Mario Lalli and son Dino, who’s joined the band in the interim, going head-to-head on guitar. Whenever it’s ready, so am I. Fatso Jetson on Thee Facebooks, Fatso Jetson website.
 

47. Fever Dog, TBA

Could be later in the hear, could be in 2017 that it shows up, but the next offering from Californian desert psych rockers Fever Dog is reportedly now in the writing stage, and given the effectiveness with which 2014’s Second Wind (review here) demonstrated their willingness to mess around with structure and sound alike, their third outing should find them at an important stage in their development. Still young and significantly underrated. Fever Dog on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

48. The Flying Eyes, Poison the Well / 1969 7″

the flying eyes poison the well 1969It’s another year for me and you. Another year with nothin’ to do. Baltimore’s The Flying Eyes are covering The Stooges‘ “1969” (baby) on their new single from H42 Records, mashing it up with “Poison the Well” from their 2011 second album, Done so Wrong (review here). Might be a stopgap on the way to whatever’s next, but should be an interesting listen anyway. The Flying Eyes on Thee Facebooks, H42 Records.
 

49. Foehammer, TBA

Virginia soul-bashers Foehammer released my favorite EP of 2015 in the form of their Grimoire/Australopithecus self-titled (review here), and I’m eager to know how they’ll expand on the outright brutality of that offering over the course of a full-length, or if they will at all. Entirely possible they’ll just kill, kill, kill the whole way through, and that’s also something I’d like to see them pull off. Either way they go, count me in. Foehammer on Thee Facebooks, Grimoire Records, Australopithecus Records.
 

50. Fog Cult, The Dying Sun

Initially self-released by the band last year, The Dying Sun is the second full-length by Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, weedian rockers Fog Cult, and it’s set for a vinyl issue via Black Farm Records sometime this year. Not much fixing what isn’t broken about large-scale nod riffs and sludge vibing, but a track like “Altars of the Night” manages to evoke early Alice in Chains-type harmonies without falling into post-Creed cliche, and that in itself is something remarkable. Streaming in full now on their Bandcamp. Fog Cult on Thee Facebooks, Black Farm Records.
 

51. Foghound, The World Unseen

Might be May before it shows up, but The World Unseen will serve as Maryland heavy rockers Foghound‘s debut on Ripple Music. It’s their second offering behind 2013’s Quick, Dirty and High (review here) and a meaner, leaner take on their sound. The turns are tighter and the groove is more aggressive, but they still sound like they’re having a complete blast. More to come this Spring. Foghound on Thee Facebooks, Ripple Music.
 

52. Fuzz Evil, TBA

They’ll be playing the Borderland Fuzz Fiesta next month, which I’m proud to say I’ll be attending, and I hope to have a better picture of the debut album by Fuzz Evil‘s arrival date by the end of that if not before. The Arizona band, which shares brothers Wayne and Joseph Rudell with Powered Wig Machine, offered up a split with Chiefs in late 2014 (streamed here) and has piecemealed a track or two since, but the full-length was sent off to mastering in November, so it seems like it’s just a matter of time before it shows up. Fuzz Evil on Thee Facebooks, Fuzz Evil on Bandcamp.
 

53. John Garcia, TBA

john garciaAmong the several Garcia-related releases that 2016 might have on offer — he appears no fewer than in three separate entries on this list — the former Kyuss, Slo Born, Unida, Vista Chino, Hermano, etc., vocalist has announced intentions toward a follow-up for his 2014 Napalm Records self-titled solo debut (review here) and an acoustic record, the second of which he reportedly began recording this month. The more the merrier, quite frankly. John Garcia on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
 

54. Geezer, TBA

According to The Obelisk’s deep-running investigative team — by which I mean I looked at their Thee Facebooks page — New York heavy blues trio Geezer are heading into the studio in a couple weeks to record their next full-length. In 2015, the band offered up the already-noted split with Borracho, The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter One (review here), via Ripple Music, and they’ve set about refining their chemistry on-stage as they hone their fluid mix of languid vibes and smoked-out shuffle. Looking forward to this one. Geezer on Thee Facebooks, STB Records.
 

55. Goatess, Purgatory Under New Management

First announced here with a track stream in November, the second album from Chritus Linderson-fronted doomers Goatess, titled Purgatory Under New Management, is due out this March of Svart, which also released the Swedish outfit’s 2013 self-titled debut (review here). I haven’t heard much about it since that track stream, so it may or may not be pushed back, but whatever, I’m just glad they did a second record either way. It’ll be out when it’s out. Goatess on Thee Facebooks, Svart Records.
 

56. The Golden Grass, TBA

Bring on the good vibes. The sophomore LP from sweet ’70s-style rockers The Golden Grass will be the band’s first for Listenable Records after releasing their self-titled debut (review here) via Svart in 2014. They finished mixing earlier this month, so once it’s mastered it seems like it’s really up to the label’s schedule as to when it will be out. Spring or summer would be my guess, which suits the warmth of their harmonies just fine. The Golden Grass on Thee Facebooks, Listenable Records.
 

57. Gozu, Revival

After issuing two albums through Small Stone in 2010’s Locust Season (review here) and 2013’s The Fury of a Patient Man (review here), Boston four-piece Gozu have aligned themselves to Ripple Music for the release of Revival, their LP overall. Recorded this past fall, it is easily the band’s tightest and most aggressive outing to-date, but their soulful, melodic core remains, and it is all the more identifiable as their own for that. More to come. Gozu on Thee Facebooks, Ripple Music.
 

58. Graves at Sea, TBA

I know I’ve used the phrase “More to come” several times already in this post — like right now, in the last entry — but while the full-length debut from reactivated West Coast sludge-doomers Graves at Sea was announced as being completed and ready for release by Relapse back in October, legitimately, more info on that prospect is coming up, so keep an eye out. That’s all I’m at liberty to say at the moment. I may have already said too much. Graves at Sea on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.

59. Greenleaf, Rise Above the Meadow

greenleaf rise above the meadowOh fuck yes. How good is the new Greenleaf? So good. You know how 2014’s Trails and Passes (review here) kind of reset the band and gave a more stripped-down, stage-ready take? Rise Above the Meadow takes that, pushes it forward exponentially, adds some Dozer-style edge to the mix and presents it all with ferocious energy more common to bands on their second album rather than their sixth. Out Feb. 26. Will be a top 10 record in December, no question. Greenleaf on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
 

60. Heavy Temple, TBA

There have been many changes in Philadelphia trio Heavy Temple since they offered up their self-titled debut EP (review here), or at least a couple involving the lineup of the band. Either way, it’s a revamped trio that last summer discussed a second extended-player for 2016. So far as I know, record label is still to be determined so far as I know — the first EP came out on Ván, which is an immediate endorsement — but they’ve been gaining traction in Philly and they seem to have ambitions beyond that city’s limits, so I can’t imagine someone won’t get on board with it, if they haven’t yet. Heavy Temple on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

61. Hermano, TBA

In addition to taking part in Hellfest 2016 in Clisson, France, this June, Hermano have put out word of an impending full-length to be released at some point this year. The John Garcia-fronted outfit also featuring bassist Dandy Brown (who will also play the Borderland Fuzz Fiesta solo) last released an album in 2007, which was Into the Exam Room, a striking, mature, engaging heavy rocker that not only showcased Garcia‘s vocals in creative arrangements, but them memorable songs to top and a variety of moods in which to work. Even nine years later, that record was enough to make me look forward to a follow-up. John Garcia on Thee Facebooks, Borderland Fuzz Fiesta.
 

62. Hexvessel, When We are Death

Out this week as their first release for Century Media, Hexvessel‘s When We are Death pushes beyond the confines of psychedelic folk rock (not that there were so many, particularly as regards their prior output) and into more solidified rock territory, an edge of gothic theatricality making itself felt alongside a stylistically amorphous late-’60s cultistry that doesn’t want to be defined nearly so much as to enthrall. I’ll have a review up one of these days soon, but I feel like I’m still getting to know the record, and that may be a permanent condition. Hexvessel on Thee Facebooks, Century Media.
 

63. High Priest of Saturn, Son of Earth and Sky

Here is yet another of Feb. 26’s many releases. I haven’t heard it yet, but given the traditionalism of the Norwegian outfit’s first LP and the fact that there are only five tracks on Son of Earth and Sky, it seems fair to expect High Priest of Saturn are letting their material flesh out a bit on their sophomore offering through Svart. Announced just a couple weeks ago, it’s been in the can since 2014, so it may not be all that long before a follow-up makes an appearance as well. High Priest of Saturn on Thee Facebooks, Svart Records.
 

64. Hijo de la Tormenta, El Manto de la Especie

I dug Argentinian heavy psych trio Hijo de la Tormenta‘s 2014 self-titled debut (review here), and last year, they followed it up with a quick live two-songer called En Vivo en Buenos Aires that found their sound no less engaging on stage than on record. The upcoming El Manto de la Especie was recently announced here, and should hopefully be together and out sometime in the first half of this year. Hijo de la Tormenta on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

65. Hollow Leg, Crown

hollow leg crownFloridian sludgers Hollow Leg also appeared on this list last January, but the difference is not only has their third album been recorded, but it’s been given a solid March 4 release date by Argonauta Records. So I feel a good deal more comfortable saying it’s definitely going to be out, since it exists, has artwork, tracks, a teaser and all that kind of thing. Hollow Leg on Thee Facebooks, Argonauta Records.
 

66. Holy Grove, Holy Grove

There’s been a buzz around the Pacific Northwest’s fertile ground over the last couple years for Portland, Oregon’s Holy Grove, and on March 18, the soul-rock four-piece will make their full-length debut via Heavy Psych Sounds. The only other release from them I know about to-date is 2014’s Live at Joonior’s (review here), a two-track sampler, so for a lot of listeners outside the band’s regional homebase, this will really be their first experience hearing them. Holy Grove on Thee Facebooks, Heavy Psych Sounds.
 

67. Holy Serpent, TBA

The hot tip is look for it in August on RidingEasy. Melbourne, Australia’s Holy Serpent shroom-doomed their self-titled debut (review here) last year, and they’ll be going for a fast turnaround on the follow-up in 2016. No audio, info or art or anything like that yet, but I’m told it’ll be late summer, so that’s what I’m going on. Holy Serpent on Thee Facebooks, RidingEasy Records.
 

68. Inter Arma, TBA

So far, both Inter Arma and Relapse Records have been pretty tight-lipped on specifics when it comes to the Virginian genre-melders’ second LP for the label (third overall), but we know it was recorded by Mikey Allred, that it’s done and due out this summer, and that they’re starting their touring cycle for it even before it comes out. That’s not nothing. Given the laudatory response to 2014’s single-song EP The Cavern, I’d expect this one to get considerable attention both in the pre-release hype and the post-release exclamatory stages. Inter Arma on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.
 

69. Joy, Ride Along!

Announced just last week, Ride Along! will be West Coast jammers Joy‘s second album out through Tee Pee, following the psych spellcasting of 2014’s Under the Spell of… (review here). A few notable guests show up, but I’m looking for the band to distinguish themselves further this time around, find their niche within the post-Earthless sphere of instrumental Cali heavy. They showed some genuine personality on the last one, hope they keep it up. Out April 29. Joy on Thee Facebooks, Tee Pee Records.
 

70. King Dead, Woe and Judgment

king dead woe and judgmentBrooding atmospheres, a kind of post-metallic anxiety and moments of outright physical exertion are spread across Woe and Judgment (review here), the first LP from Pennsylvanian trio King Dead. The band released the album digitally last year on the sly in order to self-finance a vinyl pressing, and after succeeding in that endeavor, they’ll have the record out officially in April or thereabouts. King Dead on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

71. Lightsabres, TBA

Swedish one-man outfit Lightsabres began its association with HeviSike Records with a tape release for 2014’s sophomore album Spitting Blood (review here). The genre-spanning garage psych project linked up with STB for 2015’s Beheaded, but returns to HeviSike for the follow-up fourth long-player, which is due out March 4 with preorders starting this week. Lightsabres on Thee Facebooks, HeviSike Records.
 

72. The Linus Pauling Quartet, Ampalanche

Unlike most offerings on this list, Ampalanche by Texas noise rock weirdos the Linus Pauling Quartet is actually out now. Vincebus Eruptum released the vinyl on Jan. 15. It’ll be out digitally in April as well though, and there’s a big ol’ zip file on my desktop waiting to be reviewed — several, actually but bear with me — so sometime between now and then expect to hear more about the album, which is the band’s first full-length since 2012’s Bag of Hammers (review here), despite a slew of singles between. Linus Pauling Quartet on Thee Facebooks, Vincebus Eruptum Recordings.
 

73. Lo-Pan, TBA

I don’t know what Lo-Pan‘s secret plan is, but I know they were in the studio last week, so whether it’s a new album, a single, an EP, split or whatever, they’ve got something going. It would be a relatively quick turnaround from 2014’s Colossus (review here), but they’ve since added guitarist Adrian Zambrano (also Brujas del Sol) to the lineup, so a burst of creativity isn’t necessarily out of the question. Whatever they’re up to, they’ll be on the road as ever this year, touring with Black Cobra and Bongzilla this spring. Lo-Pan on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.
 

74. Lord, Awake

As of last September, chaotic Virginian five-piece Lord were mastering their Awake album with an eye on a 2016 release. I’ve been keeping a relatively close eye, and I haven’t heard anything about a meteor crashing into the final tapes (or hard drive) or anything, so I’m just going to assume and hope that it gets out this year. Lord‘s last full-length, Chief (review here), came out in 2011 and they also issued the Alive in Golgotha EP (review here) in 2014. Lord on Thee Faceboks, Heavy Hound Records.
 

75. Lord Fowl, TBA

More wishful thinking than nailed-down guarantee, perhaps, but Connecticut’s Lord Fowl are due to give an answer to their 2012 Small Stone debut and second album overall, Moon Queen (review here). Last I spoke to the band was the middle of last year and they were writing, but in October, they entered the studio to begin the recording process, so hopefully that means it’ll be out sooner than later. Lord Fowl on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.
 

76. Low Flying Hawks, Kofuku

low flying hawks kofukuNot exactly out of nowhere — apparently out of Los Angeles, or somewhere thereabouts — but Low Flying Hawks‘ forthcoming Magnetic Eye debut, Kofuku, did seem to show up as a sudden blip on the radar. Notable for working with such Melvins-related characters as producer Toshi Kasai, drummer Dale Crover, and bassist Trevor Dunn, the band effectively blends moody post-rock atmospheres with weighted, hypnotic grunge, keeping things dark as seen in their recent video for “Ruins.” Low Flying Hawks on Thee Facebooks, Magnetic Eye Records.
 

77. Mantar, Ode to the Flame

I’ll admit to being somewhat surprised when Germany’s Mantar signed to Nuclear Blast late last year. Their sound is so raw, so unabashedly extreme in its intent on their 2014 debut, Death by Burning (review here) — which was released by Brutal Panda and Svart both — and something tells me that with a title like Ode to the Flame, their second LP won’t offer much letup in intensity, but having seen the band live (review here), they are unmistakably a force. Mantar on Thee Facebooks, Nuclear Blast Records.
 

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

The third album from Bordeaux-based heavy psych rockers Mars Red Sky feels like a logical step forward from 2014’s Stranded in Arcadia (review here), but it is very definitely a step forward, in its atmospheric complexity, in the depths of its arrangements and the breadth of its tones. Songs like “Mindreader” and “Under the Hood” exemplify how much the band has progressed since their 2011 self-titled debut (review here), and though it comes preceded by the newly-released Providence EP (review here), that’s really just the beginning of the story about to be told. Mars Red Sky on Thee Facebooks, Listenable Records.
 

79. Merchant, Suzerain

Finished recording as of Jan. 11, Suzerain will serve as the debut full-length from aggro tone-bearers Merchant, who announced their coming with a 10-minute single called Seismic (review here). Their principal task will be to distinguish themselves from the pack of Melbourne’s crowded heavy underground, but I’m looking forward to finding out how they go about it and where their apparent potential will take them. Merchant on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

80. Merlin, Electric Children

Kansas City doom rockers Merlin gave a taste of Electric Children back in November with a track premiere for “Bad Trip” and the album itself will see release on March 11 through 4One8 Records on CD. Vinyl will be through Poisoned Mind, who also issued the band’s Christkiller LP (review here) in 2014. To say they have a flair for the dramatic might be understating it, but Merlin do well to keep a reliable core of songwriting underneath. Merlin on Thee Facebooks, 4One8 Records, Poisoned Mind Records.
 

81. Mondo Drag, The Occultation of Light

mondo drag the occultation of lightReady for release on — you guessed it — Feb. 26, The Occultation of Light is the third full-length from psych-prog traditionalists Mondo Drag, second via RidingEasy, and it gives a more updated take on their sound than did last year’s self-titled (review here), which was recorded in 2012 with a different lineup. They seem poised to really establish themselves with this record, which was announced in November, and from where I sit, the record is strong enough to do it. Mondo Drag on Thee Facebooks, RidingEasy Records.
 

82. Mondo Generator, TBA

Nick Oliveri oversaw some lineup changes last fall for Mondo Generator, but to go with that and their European tour, it was announced that the band was working — as a trio now — on their fifth full-length for an eventual 2016 release. That’s not to say it’s showing up tomorrow, but if they were writing in the fall, it doesn’t seem outside the realm of possibility that they could have something out before the year is done. Oliveri‘s last release was the 2014 solo album, Leave Me Alone (streamed here). Mondo Generator on Thee Facebooks, Mondo Generator webstore.
 

83. Monkey3, TBA

For Swiss instrumentalists Monkey3‘s Nov. 2015 European tour, the band specifically noted they would be playing out new material as a “preview.” I don’t know if that means their next album is recorded or if they were trying stuff out on stage before they went into the studio, but, now signed to Napalm, the band will hopefully in 2016 have a follow-up out for 2013’s The 5th Sun, which was their fourth long-player. Monkey3 on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
 

84. Monobrow, TBA

Last time Ottawa’s Monobrow mentioned their new LP was Nov. 24. They said, “new album slowly coming together.” So there you go. They reportedly took more time after a Dec. 5 show with Public Animal to work on it, but there’s been no solid word of a release date or even recording date as yet. It’s in progress. Their 2015 single, A Handwritten Letter from the Moon (review here), presented a less bombastic feel than, say, 2014’s Big Sky, Black Horse (review here). We’ll see which impulse ultimately wins out in their sound. Monobrow on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

85. Mos Generator, TBA

Among the safest bets one might place this year is that Washington’s Mos Generator will release something, but the band, led of course by workaholic guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed, premiered an acoustic take on Easy Evil” back in September that was to be included on an unplugged release through H42 Records, and their last album, Electric Mountain Majesty (review here), came out in 2014, so I wouldn’t be surprised if in addition to continuing to road-dog across the US and likely beyond, they didn’t also find time to punch out a new studio LP. Mos Generator on Thee Facebooks, Listenable Records.
 

86. Mothership, Live over Freak Valley

mothership live over freak valleyTrue, Mothership released Live over Freak Valley on Jan. 15. You got me. The reason I’ve still got them on this list, however, is because I’m wondering if the Texas heavy rockers might keep the momentum they’ve got on their side after their recent tour with C.O.C., Saviours and Brant Bjork going by jumping back in the studio and belting out a follow-up to 2014’s Mothership II (review here). Even if it’s later in the year, crazier things have happened. Mothership on Thee Facebooks, Ripple Music.
 

87. Mountain God, TBA

Early last year, bleak Brooklyn atmosludge extremists Mountain God offered their single-song EP, Forest of the Lost (review here), which followed their prior 2013 demo tape, Experimentation on the Unwilling (review here). They’ve been writing all the while, and it seems likely they’ll manage a release of some sort this year as well. Whether that’s their debut full-length, which I’m hoping creeps as much as it shrieks — or at least a little — or something else, I don’t know. Mountain God on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

88. Mountain Tamer, Mountain Tamer

These West Coast stoner rockers were picked up by Argonauta Records last month after their Mtn Tmr Demo (review here) offered psychedelia-via-neo-grunge thrills and classic-minded swing. More to come on this self-titled debut from the Santa Cruz trio, which will be out on Feb. 12. Mountain Tamer on Thee Facebooks, Argonauta Records.
 

89. Naxatras, II

Sold out in numerous CD and cassette editions following its release in April, the live-recorded self-titled debut from Greek heavy psych rockers Naxatras continued to earn praise throughout the rest of last year. The Thessaloniki-based trio will reportedly release a single as a 10″ before their second long-player surfaces, but both have been recorded and seem like they’re ready to roll out as soon as they’re pressed. I wouldn’t mind if they did a CD re-press of the first album either, but no word on that as of yet. Naxatras on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

90. Neurosis, TBA

It’s done, it’s in the can, it’s mastered, and it pains me that a new Neurosis album exists somewhere on this planet and I haven’t heard it yet. It’s a downright tragedy. The post-metal progenitors also recently announced a deluxe anniversary boxed set of all their albums to-date (not including the new one) called Strength and Vision, but as ever, their eyes are forward even as they’re celebrating their 30 years as a band. But seriously, if I don’t hear that record soon, I’m gonna cry. Actual tears. Neurosis on Thee Facebooks, Neurot Recordings.
 

91. Om, TBA

The Al Cisneros-led trio Om were recently in the studio, and while I can’t say for certain it was for a new album to follow-up 2012’s brilliant Advaitic Songs (review here), I sure as hell hope so. Om are another band who were on last year’s list too, so take this for what it is, but I think it’s safe to say Advaitic Songs is one of the strongest albums of the decade so far, and a subsequent outing feels due. Om on Thee Facebooks, Drag City.
 

92. Oranssi Pazuzu, Värähtelijä

Oranssi Pazuzu VärähtelijäEffective, trance-inducing psychedelic black metal isn’t easily done, and when someone does it as well as Oranssi Pazuzu on Värähtelijä or as Deathspell Omega on Fas – Ite Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum, it tends to get noticed by a very specific subset of the heavy metal literati. No doubt the same has been and will continue to be the case for the Finnish blackened hypnotists leading up to the Feb. 26 Svart/20 Buck Spin release of Värähtelijä, their fourth album, but the hype is legitimate, and the record crosses vast expanses over the course of an encompassing 69 minutes. Sometimes it’s hard to argue with consensus. Oranssi Pazuzu on Thee Facebooks, 20 Buck Spin, Svart Records.
 

93. Pale Divine, TBA

Pennsylvanian doomers Pale Divine take their time. Nothing wrong with that, and anyway, it’s only been four years since their last album, Painted Windows Black (review here), came out a full five after 2007’s Cemetery Earth, so, you know, no rush. In 2016, however, they’re coming closer to marking 20 years since the release of their first demo, 1997’s Crimson Tears, which in many ways established the course of their sound, so if a new full-length were to happen this or next year, it would seem only appropriate. Would also be their first since adding Ron McGinnis (Admiral Browning, Bailjack, etc.) on bass several years ago now. Pale Divine on Thee Facebooks, Shadow Kingdom Records.
 

94. Picaporters, TBA

Buenos Aires-based trio Picaporters posted a new track called “War is Over” on their Bandcamp a while back that will feature on their upcoming album, which is listed on that page as being released on Aug. 1, 2016. Last I heard it was due to be ready in January, so I’m not actually sure when the follow-up to their 2013 debut, Elefantes (review here), will actually be out, but the doomers have leaked a couple songs from it at this point and it sounds right on. Best I can say is keep an eye out. Picaporters on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

95. Iggy Pop, Post Pop Depression

The immortal badassery of Iggy Pop notwithstanding, his Post Pop Depression probably wouldn’t be in this site’s field of vision were it not for the involvement of Queens of the Stone Age frontman Joshua Homme as guitarist and songwriting collaborator. Announced to much fanfare on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert as being released March 18, the record is intended as a sequel to the Pop/David Bowie collaboration Lust for Life, and since Homme does a pretty mean Bowie I’m sure it’ll be just fine. I thought it was hilarious that the first song released from the album was called “Gardenia.” Iggy Pop website, Queens of the Stone Age on Thee Facebooks.
 

96. Psychedelic Witchcraft, The Vision

Though they’re still in the process as well of overseeing reissues of their 2015 Black Magic Man EP (review here) — the latest is vinyl through Taxi Driver Records with a bonus Sam Gopal cover that follows a CD through Twin Earth Records — Italian cult rockers Psychedelic Witchcraft have signed to Soulseller Records for the release of their debut long-player, The Vision. It’s due in Spring and can be reasonably expected to generate much fanfare, at least if the response to the prior EP is anything to go by. Psychedelic Witchcraft on Thee Facebooks, Soulseller Records.
 

97. Radio Moscow, TBA Live Album

radio moscow (Photo by Tony Wold)Freshly returned from a South American tour, Radio Moscow will head to Australia for a run next month with Kings Destroy and Holy Serpent before they get around to issuing the double-live album they recorded last month in Los Angeles. And then after that, they’ll probably go tour somewhere else, because that’s how they do. The live record arrives at a particularly choice moment, though, since the material from their fourth LP, 2014’s Magical Dirt (review here) translates particularly well to the stage. Also they’re one of the best live bands in the world. That helps too. Radio Moscow on Thee Facebooks, Alive Naturalsound.
 

98. Red Fang, TBA

I’m twofold intrigued at the recently-announced prospect of Red Fang‘s fourth full-length. Maybe even threefold. First, automatic interest on the basis of their prior work. They’ve certainly earned that. Second, though it would be a mistake to call 2013’s Whales and Leeches (review here) anything other than a marked success, it was put together in a hurry and it sounded like it, so I’m wondering if they’ll be able to stretch out this process more. Third, it’s Ross Robinson producing, and given the commercial breadth of his work across genres, I’m eager to hear what he brings to a genuine heavy rock band. Could be a whole new take on the sound, one way or another. Red Fang on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.
 

99. Rozamov, TBA

Now veterans of Psycho California and tours across the US, having opened for Slayer in their hometown and spread their darkened gospel along the Eastern Seaboard, don’t you think it’s time Boston’s Rozamov put out an album? I know I do. I was in the studio with them for a check-in last August, and what I heard in progress sounded utterly punishing as a follow-up to their split with Deathkings (review here), and that holds true on the five tracks of the finished product as well, but it’s high time it came out. Side note, they recently announced the arrival of new drummer Tranxidis. Pretty sure that’s more recent than the recording though. Rozamov on Thee Facebooks, Rozamov on Bandcamp.
 

100. Salem’s Pot, TBA

Bizarro riff worshipers Salem’s Pot will have a new full-length out, reportedly, in June 2016. It will be their sophomore LP behind 2014’s …Lurar ut dig på prärien (discussed here), which garnered praise for its atmosphere and riff-rolling methods alike, stoner for stoners and all that. I was fortunate enough to catch the band’s set last year at Roadburn (review here), and they offered thrills in bulk, unabashedly basking in pill-popper groove but keeping a spirit of underlying violence in the material as well, as much drug as droog. A new 7″ titled The Vampire Strikes Back is also due Feb. 15. Salem’s Pot on Thee Facebooks, RidingEasy Records.
 

101. Samavayo, TBA

Not certain of the timing on the new full-length from Samavayo, who will also play Desertfest Berlin this April, but their 2015 Setalight Records split 10″ with The Grand Astoria (review here) was much-dug around these parts and efficiently presented a diverse take from the Berlin natives, between instrumental stretch-out and more traditional hooks and structure. Their last full-length, Soul Invictus, came out in 2012 as the third in a series of three albums each year (it was their fourth overall), so maybe they needed to catch their breath. Samavayo on Thee Facebooks, Setalight Records.
 

102. Serpents of Secrecy, TBA

This West Virginia/Virginia/Maryland collaboration between former members of Sixty Watt Shaman — drummer Chuck Dukehart and bassist Rev. Jim Forrester (both also of Foghound) — and King Giant guitarist Todd Ingram did right last summer in picking Ontario-based vocalist Al “Yeti” Bones as the singer for their debut record. Maybe not so much geographically, but no question Bones (formerly of Mister Bones and The Mighty Nimbus) has all the burl their riffs could ask for, and I haven’t heard the album yet, but I’m sure they’re asking for plenty. Serpents of Secrecy on Thee Facebooks, their website.
 

103. Sinister Haze, Laid Low in the Dust of Death

After issuing their Betrayed by Time EP (review here) via Heavy Slab Records last year, Virginian doombringers Sinister Haze have signed on with STB to issue their debut full-length, Laid Low in the Dust of Death. The trio played Psycho California this May, touring out and back, and also had a two-song self-titled cassette out in 2015 that they took with them on the road, but no word as to whether any of that material will make it onto the album. In fact, no word on if the album is an album. I’m just kind of going by what STB says they have coming up in the next few months. Presumably more info will surface before the release arrives. Sinister Haze on Thee Facebooks, STB Records.
 

104. -(16)-, TBA

Blunt as ever, Los Angeles/San Diego sludge metallers -(16)- pulled no punches on Dec. 31 when they rang in the New Year by saying, “We will be releasing a new album in 2016.” They finished recording in December, and I’m relatively sure that whatever the new album is called, it’ll be released by Relapse — using the logic of, if you were the label, why wouldn’t you want to put out a new -(16)- album? — but other than that, there’s no info. They said it’s coming this year. Seems like they’d be the ones to know. -(16)- on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.
 

105. Skuggsjá, A Piece for Mind and Mirror

skuggsja a piece for mind and mirrorIf you know, then you know. I was pleasantly surprised that the Skuggsjá collaboration between Enslaved‘s Ivar Bjørnson and Wardruna‘s Einar Selvik was doing anything at all, let alone putting out a studio release of their commissioned work for the 200th anniversary of Norway’s constitution. A Piece for Mind and Mirror was recently given a March 11 release date through Season of Mist, and while it may be a few who latch on to the combined vision of Bjørnson and Selvik, that’s going to be a lucky few indeed. Skuggsjá on Thee Facebooks, Season of Mist.
 

106. Slabdragger, Rise of the Dawncrusher

If I’m not mistaken — and to be sure, I probably am — this is the last release on this list coming out on Feb. 26. Slabdragger‘s sophomore LP, Rise of the Dawncrusher is being delivered via Holy Roar, and it comes some six years after their debut, Regress. I remember being at Desertfest in London circa 2012-2013 and hearing people talk up Slabdragger as having significant boot-to-ass potential. Listening to Rise of the Dawncrusher, it’s pretty easy to hear what might’ve given them that impression. Slabdragger on Thee Facebooks, Holy Roar Records.
 

107. Slomatics, TBA

Yes. Bring on new Slomatics. The sooner the better, the louder the better. The riff-bashing Belfast trio signed to Jon Davis of Conan‘s Black Bow Records last November, and quickly set about reissuing their first two albums, 2005’s Flooding the Weir and 2007’s Kalceanna, and that’s super, but as someone who caught on relatively late to the glories of the band’s 2014 album, Estron (review here), there’s no way I’m letting the next one get by me. Slomatics on Thee Facebooks, Black Bow Records.
 

108. Snowy Dunes, Atlantis

Stockholm heavy rockers Snowy Dunes left a resonant impression with their 2015 self-titled debut, and on Jan. 13, they unveiled a completely improvised 19-minute track called “Atlantis, Part I” digitally as a precursor to their second LP, Atlantis, which is reportedly set to release next month as they head out on tour with countrymen riffers Skraeckoedlan. The extended piece is impressive in building on the boogie rock of the debut, but how much its atmosphere will ultimately play into the record itself remains to be seen. In any case, a good band who don’t seem like they’ll be under the radar of Europe’s heavy rock scene for much longer. Snowy Dunes on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

109. Soon, Vol. I

I’ll readily admit my ignorance when it comes to indie rock, so I haven’t heard of The Love Language, Bitter Resolve or Grohg, which are the bands from whose lineups the ungooglable Soon draw, but after checking out a couple demos when the March 4 release of Vol. I was announced, I dug the sound anyway. Someone else might have a completely different context for hearing it, but to me it just sounds like interesting, wide-ranging excursions into sonic heft. It’s pretty rare something like that isn’t going to find welcome, as far as I’m concerned. Soon on Thee Facebooks, Temple of Torturous.
 

110. Spidergawd, III

spidergawd iiiFor the last two years, Norwegian four-piece Spidergawd have been churning out high-grade heavy rock and roll with a vitality that few could come close to matching. 2015’s Spidergawd II (review here) fleshed out elements of psychedelia from their 2014 self-titled debut (review here), and with Spidergawd III, the approach continues to be refined and honed to an even finer point on hooks like “El Corason del Sol” and “The Funeral.” Reportedly out now, so go get it. Spidergawd on Thee Facebooks, Stickman Records, Crispin Glover Records.
 

111. Spirit Caravan, TBA

By now I’m sure they’ve played “Be the Night” (live video here) at more than just the Vultures of Volume II fest, which was where I saw it, but either way, the first new material from a reunited Spirit Caravan — also kind of a The Obsessed hybrid with Ed Gulli on drums — reignites the collaboration between bassist/vocalist Dave Sherman and guitarist/vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich, who since they got back together in 2014 have been reminding audiences of just how vital that one-two punch of tone is to what heavy rock has become over the last decade and a half, in Maryland and beyond. Hope they get a record together, hope it gets out in 2016. Spirit Caravan on Thee Facebooks, Tone Deaf Touring.
 

112. Spiritual Beggars, Sunrise to Sundown

Back to business for Swedish heavy rockers Spiritual Beggars. The Michael Amott-led troupe recently revealed that they will offer their ninth long-player, Sunrise to Sundown on March 18 (March 25 North America) through InsideOut Music. Turns out they’ll also have a 7″ out concurrently via H42 Records, and they’re set to tour in Europe beginning the week after the album comes out, hitting Desertfest Berlin and more. This will be their third album with vocalist Apollo Papathanasio, but for me, the band is even more about the blend of Amott‘s guitar and the keys of Per Wiberg (ex-Opeth, Candlemass). Doesn’t get much more classic than that. Spiritual Beggars on Thee Facebooks, InsideOut Music.
 

113. Stone Machine Electric, TBA

The recently-released jammer EP, The Amazing Terror (review here), was intended as a precursor to the next full-length from Stone Machine Electric, which is reportedly now in the process of being recorded. On Jan. 11, they also asked their audience if they’d get behind a crowdfunding campaign to support a vinyl release, so it might be a while before the album actually shows up, but given the response they received, it seems fair to expect a pressing on wax. Stone Machine Electric on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

114. Suma, The Order of Things

2016 makes it 15 years since Swedish aural devastators Suma got their start, and it’s been six years since their last album, Ashes, was released, but that album continues to gain a following, having been snagged for a re-release on Argonauta Records just a couple weeks ago. The Malmö four-piece were on the US West Coast this month to record The Order of Things with the venerable Billy Anderson — who also helmed Ashes and 2006’s Let the Churches Burn — and they managed to sneak in a couple shows playing with, among others, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth. Now that is a fucking bill. Suma on Thee Facebooks, Suma on Bandcamp.
 

115. Summoner, TBA

Been a quick three years since Boston neo-prog heavy riffers Summoner released their second album, Atlantian (discussed here), and pushed ahead of the already sprawling, richly arranged approach of their 2012 debut, Phoenix. Well, I saw the band last month, and I’m happy to report they haven’t fallen apart or anything in the interim. I have it on good authority — by which I mean they told me — that they’ll be recording later this year, and while that may or may not mean a 2017 release, I thought it better to serve early notice of their impending third LP. So heads up on that. Summoner on Thee Facebooks, Magnetic Eye Records.
 

116. Sunnata, Zorya

sunnata zoryaAnnounced just after the New Year for an April arrival, Zorya will serve as the second album from Warsaw-based Sunnata, who delivered their debut in 2014 with Climbing the Colossus. I haven’t heard it yet, but the band effectively blended heavy rock groove with progressive ideals on the first outing, and I see no reason to expect anything but a step forward along the same lines this time around. I’ll take it. Sunnata on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

117. Sun Voyager, TBA

Time for Sun Voyager to do this thing. The New York heavy psych rockers put out one of 2015’s best short releases in their Lazy Daze tape (review here), but after putting themselves on the hook last month in announcing their first album release, it’s time to make that a reality. Like a reality I can listen to. And groove out on. Because that would be awesome. They were also working on a split single with The Mad Doctors for King Pizza, and that’s all well and good so long as it doesn’t delay the full-length. Sun Voyager on Thee Facebooks, King Pizza Records.
 

118. Swans, TBA

Sometimes it’s too easy to be greedy. Since getting back together at the start of the decade, Swans have released three albums — 2010’s My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky (review here), 2012’s The Seer and 2014’s To be Kind (review here) — as well as older LP reissues, limited-edition live recording, and so on. They’ve toured the world over and have a fourth post-reunion album due out this year, but even so, when Michael Gira said last summer that the next Swans would be the last Swans for the time being — he didn’t even say forever — it was hard not to feel sad. Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think. Swans on Thee Facebooks, Young God Records.
 

119. Teacher, TBA

It took Seattle duo Teacher about 49 seconds to get me interested in hearing their forthcoming debut LP. Really less than that, because by the time the vocals kicked in on the recently-posted teaser clip, I was already on board. Whenever it comes out, the album will be released by Devil’s Child Records, which is quickly making a name for itself in the Pacific Northwest with offerings by Mos Generator/Sower and Year of the Cobra. No release date yet, but it sounds like the band are sneaking into a niche of natural, unpretentious swing, and I hope that’s exactly how the record goes. Teacher on Thee Facebooks, Devil’s Child Records.
 

120. Ulver, ATGCLVLSSCAP

Ulver‘s good-luck-making-a-word-of-this-acronym new album ATGCLVLSSCAP came out last week. Doesn’t mean it wasn’t one of 2016’s most anticipated. Really, anytime this Norwegian post-genre leviathan breathes, it’s an event, and as ATGCLVLSSCAP draws on live-recorded improvisations and explorations, but I’m not sure it’s proper to call it a live record in the is-everybody-having-a-good-time-tonight sense of the phrase. Info is plentiful and descriptive, but vague on the actual nuts and bolts of the makings, and that’s likely not an accident. Mystery is part of the fun. Is everybody having a good time tonight? Ulver on Thee Facebooks, House of Mythology Records.
 

121. Uzala, TBA

uzala live at roadburn mmxvI know, I know. Uzala just put out Live at Roadburn MMXV (review here). Hell, I know that. And that vinyl is reportedly coming soon, but I’ve got the Boise trio on this list because I’m holding out for a studio follow-up to 2013’s Tales of Blood and Fire. I’m not saying it has to happen immediately, or really at all. I’m just saying I’d greatly prefer it if it did. That last album still gets fairly regular plays around here, so it only seems reasonable to call it haunting, and the live record had two new songs on it, so maybe there’s more in progress. Uzala on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

122. VA, Brown Acid: The Second Trip

How could RidingEasy Records not do a second Brown Acid compilation of lost heavy ’70s freakout and heavy singles, how could they not call it Brown Acid: The Second Trip, and how could they not release it on April 20? The whole thing seems so inevitable it’s astounding. Look for forgotten cuts by Sonny Hugg, Buck, Glass Sun, Ash, the awesomely-monikered Iron Knowledge and a whole host of others you can pretend you knew about beforehand. RidingEasy Records website, on Thee Facebooks.
 

123. Venomous Maximus, TBA

Like several others on this list, Texas’ Venomous Maximus will take part in the Obelisk-presented Heavy Metal Parking Lot 3 at SXSW (info here). They’re no strangers to awesome bills, having toured this past fall alongside High on Fire to support the release of their second album, Firewalker (review here), which was released on Shadow Kingdom. Looking back on my notes, I’m not sure where I heard they had a new release in the offing, but it would be awesome to see them recapture the momentum they had coming out of their first album, 2012’s raging Beg upon the Light (review here), and a quick turnaround certainly wouldn’t hurt that. Venomous Maximus on Thee Facebooks, Shadow Kingdom Records.
 

124. Vista Chino, TBA

Maybe most of all the entries posted today, this one is wishful thinking. I saw a couple months back that Vista Chino — the John Garcia and Brant Bjork post-Kyuss Lives! incarnation that wound up with Mike Dean of C.O.C. on bass in a lineup rounded out by guitarist Bruno Fevery — were confirmed for Hellfest in France this summer, and couldn’t help but think about the possibility of a follow-up to their 2013 debut, Peace (review here). Doesn’t seem likely with everyone working on their respective projects, but I’m still hoping those guys get back in the studio someday. Cool they’re playing out at all, if nothing else. Vista Chino on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
 

125. Vodun, Possession

Preorders are up now for the debut album from London ritual-psych purveyors Vodun, and the Possession vinyl will also mark the first physical offering from Riff Rock Records, the new label spearheaded by Groan bassist Leigh Jones. Clearly someone who knows how to make an entry, Jones brought Vodun on board and issued a digital single last year for “Minos Army” (video here), the band tearing through influences in the metallic, heavy, Afrobeat, psychedelic and beyond. I haven’t heard the full-length yet, but it’s out March 25 and I feel safe guaranteeing that nothing else in 2016 will sound quite like it. Vodun on Thee Facebooks, Riff Rock Records.
 

126. Vokonis, TBA

After releasing an impressive demo last year called Temple (review here) under the moniker Creedsmen Arise, Swedish riffers Vokonis swapped out bassist, swapped out monikers, signed to respected purveyor Ozium Records and set a February entry to hit the studio and record their debut album. They’ve gotten a good response so far, but I think we’re only seeing the beginning of what they can do. Look for more throughout the year. Vokonis on Thee Facebooks, Ozium Records.
 

127. Wight, Love is Not Only What You Know

wightGerman trio-turned-foursome Wight make a bold shift with their upcoming third full-length, Love is Not Only What You Know, digging deep into full-on psychedelic funk on tracks like “Kelele,” “The Love for Life Leads to Reincarnation,” and the opener “Helicopter Mama,” which came out last year as a 7″ single (review here) to herald the change in direction from their jammy 2012 LP, Through the Woods into Deep Water (review here). It’s a fine line to walk, but Wight do right by dancing all over it instead. They’ve also got a limited tape, Live in Athens, due March 7, on which a good portion of the new album is played. Wight on Thee Facebooks, Wight on Bandcamp.
 

128. Witchskull, The Vast Electric Dark

Word came out last month that Canberra three-piece Witchskull had inked a deal with STB Records. The Aussie band check in with a particularly classically metallic take on heavy rock and doom, as evidenced by their 2015 debut full-length, The Vast Electric Dark, which will serve as their debut vinyl on the NJ-based imprint. Haven’t heard a solid release date for it yet, but “early 2016” was the ballpark figure given, so I guess anytime between now and summer would be a possibility. Witchskull on Thee Facebooks, STB Records.
 

129. Wo Fat, Midnight Cometh

If Wo Fat‘s Midnight Cometh is not near the top of your most wanted list, you are fucking up. Unless you’re going alphabetically with your list, as I am with mine, in which case their position at #129 makes sense. In whatever organizational method, the coming sixth long-player from these Texan fuzz forerunners deserves the utmost consideration. Their first for Ripple Music after two on Small Stone (info here), Midnight Cometh boasts all the riffy jamming and heavy grooves we’ve come to love from the three-piece, but refines the vocal approach markedly, giving the band even more of a sense of command of the material. Sure to be a highlight of the year. Expect it this summer. Wo Fat on Thee Facebooks, Ripple Music.
 

130. Worm Ouroboros, TBA

Sorry to say I missed out completely on Worm Ouroboros‘ second album, Come the Thaw, when it was released by Profound Lore in 2012. I’d dug their 2010 self-titled debut (review here), but the next one, yeah, just kind of got by me. Never too late, you might say, and I’d have to agree. Maybe I can sneak in a purchase before the band are finished in the studio for their third record, which they were set to begin recording this month. In any case, will do my best to see that the same doesn’t happen with the new LP as happened with the last one. Hence putting them on this list. What, you thought it was for you? Worm Ouroboros on Thee Facebooks, Profound Lore Records.
 

131. The Wounded Kings, Visions in Bone

Always fascinating, always changing, UK progressive doomers The Wounded Kings have managed to deliver high-quality material seemingly no matter who is in the lineup. For the forthcoming Visions in Bone, founding guitarist Steve Mills reunites with former/founding vocalist George Birch, who hasn’t been in the band since their 2010 second album, The Shadow over Atlantis (review here). Haven’t seen an official release date yet, but they’re touring in March to support the record, so one might reason a Spring arrival. Not saying I’ve heard it, but the record kills. The Wounded Kings on Thee Facebooks, Candlelight Records.
 

132. Wretch, TBA

By the last update, The Gates of Slumber offshoot Wretch were starting to record their debut album in December. I don’t know whether that was a long-term process or a couple days in and out of the studio, but I’m betting that at some point in 2016 we’ll find out. Having had the opportunity to see the Indianapolis trio last fall at Vultures of Volume II (review here), I’m glad to report that the ultra-downer vibes that pervaded The Gates of Slumber’s final album, 2011’s The Wretch (review here), have found a new home and that frontman Karl Simon seemed as soulfully, Sabbathly miserable as ever. Wretch on Thee Facebooks.
 

133. Yawning Man, Live at Maximum Fest

yawning man live at maximum festivalThe last couple years of these lists have featured Yawning Man, more specifically the perpetually-in-the-making next studio offering, Gravity is Good for You, but as that may or may not get out this year, it seemed fair to include them for the Go Down Records live outing, Live at Maximum Fest anyway. Put up for preorder in Nov., it was recorded back in 2013 and features the founding lineup of guitarist Gary Arce, bassist Mario Lalli and drummer Alfredo Hernandez; an allstar roster of desert rockers if ever there was one. Yawning Man on Thee Facebooks, Go Down Records.
 

134. Year of the Cobra, TBA

Somehow, I think it probably won’t be out until later in the year, but if you caught onto Seattle duo Year of the Cobra‘s 2015 EP, The Black Sun (review here) when it was released by Devil’s Child or DHU Records, then you’re probably already hip to the fact that the follow-up LP will be released by STB Records and is set to be recorded by a certain legendary West Coast producer of heavy who used to be based in the Bay Area but has since set up shop in Portland, Oregon. Not naming names or anything, but as you already know, it should rule. Year of the Cobra on Thee Facebooks, STB Records.
 

135. Young Hunter, TBA

I have been dying to hear the next full-length from Portland-by-way-of-Arizona mood rockers Young Hunter since long before I hosted the premiere of the track “Nothing Shakes the Void” (posted here) back in Oct., and I’m going to continue to be dying to hear it until I actually do, so there. Very, very much looking forward to it, hoping the stars align and whatever else needs to happen happens so it can get out in the early part of the year. We’ll see how it pans out, but last I heard they beat their crowdfunding goal to press it, so something should show up from that. Not soon enough, in any case. Young Hunter on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
 

136. Zaum, TBA

The mystical, Eastern-influenced doom trafficked longform by Canadian outfit Zaum has offered immersive vibes across the band’s debut LP, 2014’s Oracles (review here), and their 2015 split with Shooting Guns (review here) and that’s enough to make me look forward to their second album without reservations. The New Brunswick duo started out with a firm idea of what they wanted their sound to do, and I’m hoping they continue to follow that vision where it takes them on the next offering. Summer release expected. Zaum on Thee Facebooks, I Hate Records.
 

137. Zun, Burial Sunrise

zun burial sunriseFirst made public three years ago via the track “Come Through the Water” (posted here), which will also appear on the album, Zun began as a collaboration between guitarist Gary Arce of Yawning Man and vocalist Sera Timms of Ides of Gemini, the album Burial Sunrise also brings in John Garcia as a lead vocal contributor, Mario Lalli, Harper Hug and a host of others (detailed here) for an atmosphere of subdued desert rock that’s unmatched in recent memory, in the desert or out of it. I mean that. This one is essential. Out March 25. Zun on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.

What’s that you say, 137 releases isn’t enough? You want more? Okay.

Well, I’m pretty sure I just put up news about a new album from Iron Man vocalist Dee Calhoun due in Spring. That’s one. And fucking King Buffalo. Their record will be out not at all soon enough.

And while you’re hawkishly keeping an eye out for the stuff listed above, why not also watch for word from Bongzilla, whose reunion is now well underway, as well as The Body, who have a new collaborative release with Full of Hell coming out, Ice Dragon, who spent the better part of last year curiously silent, and All Them Witches, who probably won’t have a new LP out but are always putting together singles, jams and so on for those aching for a digital fix?

There is a “slim but real” chance of a new Clamfight record in the fall. I’ve heard murmurings indicating Elder are working on a follow-up to 2015’s glorious Lore, and since Baby Woodrose are playing Freak Valley, is it possible they could blow our minds with a new album as well? Conny Ochs has a new one on Exile on Mainstream, Mount Desert could easily follow-up their 2015 two-songer that made such a splash, and EYE — oh EYE! — I’ve been waiting for their new one since last year, so hopes are high it’s out soon. And I didn’t include them because the album already came out in Europe, but The Shrine make their Century Media debut with Rare Breed this week in North America.

Other names to watch for in no particular order or likelihood: Argus, Serpent Throne, Them Bulls, War Drum, Black Lung, Worshipper, The Exploding Eyes Orchestra, 3rd Eye Experience, Switchblade Jesus, Seedy Jeezus, Horsehunter, Bright Curse, It’s Not Night: It’s Space, Black Moon Circle, Bison Machine, Fogg, Electric Moon, Arc of Ascent, Beastwars, Thera Roya, Svartanatt (late Spring), Red Wizard (on STB), and Ripple Music‘s second chapter of The Second Coming of Heavy split series with Supervoid and Red Desert.

Still not enough? Check back soon. Just in the time I was putting this list together, I got emails about new releases from Nicklas Sørensen of Papir, Mr. Bison, Instant Boner, Duckhunters, Lord Summerisle and Sonic Mass — and others. Point is there’s always more to come.

What’d I miss? Let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading.

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Front to Back: Vultures of Volume II Day Two in Hagerstown, MD, 09.05.15

Posted in Reviews on September 9th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

vultures of volume ii poster

The hotel breakfast — not so much. I woke up pretty early after Day One of Vultures of Volume II, drawn by the allure of free scrambled eggs or at very least some carbs to start the day, but some lumpy-looking sausage and a weird egg/potato/cheese combo deal scared me off. A cup of coffee and a rigid search of the interwebs later, I found a cafe up the road a little ways.

A quick lunch would turn out to be my only meal of the day, because once it got going, Vultures of Volume II Day Two simply did not stop. First band, on at 1PM. Last band, off a little before 2AM. It was 13 acts and very nearly 13 hours of front-to-back performances, and by the time the day was a quarter over, the Delmar Inn in Hagerstown had developed full-on as a festival ecosystem. Just about everyone knew everyone else, and the vibe was thick throughout. Some were dragging after getting down a little too hard the night before, or at least hard enough, but the only thing to do was keep going. This festival, in the fine tradition of gatherings like Emissions from the Monolith, Stoner Hands of Doom, Days of the Doomed and the Eye of the Stoned Goat, would brook no absence.

Yeah, I was beat, but fuck it. It was rock and roll and I drove a long way to be there. The lineup for Day Two was Elder, Dorthia Cottrell of Windhand playing a solo set, Wretch, Weed is Weed, Carousel, Righteous Bloom, Foghound, Witch Hazel, Thousand Vision Mist, Wizard Eye, Wasted Theory, Buzzard Canyon and Heavy Temple, and the latter had the illustrious task of getting things rolling:

Heavy Temple

Heavy Temple (Photo by JJ Koczan)

It had been more than two years since the last time I saw Philadelphia’s Heavy Temple, which was also the first time, and in between, bassist/vocalist High Priestess Nighthawk has completely revamped the trio’s lineup — she’s now joined by drummer Siren Tempestas and guitarist Archbishop Barghest — and has moved forward following the release through Ván Records of the band’s self-titled debut EP (review here), which by my estimation was one of last year’s finest short releases. They played four songs, all of them new, and I was glad for the glimpse at what’s to come, finding creative progression evident in how smoothly Heavy Temple seemed to weave in and out of parts, the fluidness with which they utilized classic stoner riffing without necessarily being beholden to it, and the dynamic between Nighthawk and her newcomer cohorts, Barghest an almost shoegazing presence on stage while Tempestas seemed to throw her whole body at the kit while she played. Some presentation nuances to be ironed out between the three of them — that is, I think at this point the band could do away with the stage names, and Nighthawk is the only one in a ritual robe, though that was the case last time as well — but past those crucial decisions to be made between robes and denim shorts, they were sonically more than dead on, rounding out their set with well-timed starts and stops and off-mic screams that were effective in adding drama to a set that showed Heavy Temple as a band well on their way. Looking forward to their next EP, which is reportedly already recorded.

Buzzard Canyon

Buzzard Canyon (Photo by JJ Koczan)

There was little one might reasonably ask of a hard rock act that Buzzard Canyon didn’t offer, whether it was the soul behind the dual vocals of Amber Leigh and guitarist Aaron Lewis, or the straight-ahead but still weighted grooves of bassist Randall Dumas and drummer Matt Raftery. Actually, there was one thing one probably could’ve asked of them: the second guitar they left behind in Connecticut when they departed for Maryland early in the morning on Saturday in time to make their slot at Vultures of Volume II. Pretty much everything else they had covered. There was just about no way I was going to go into their set thinking of them as something other than Lewis‘ band — I’ve just known that dude for simply too long, been a part of projects with him, done shows with his other band, When the Deadbolt Breaks, etc. — but it was not only great to see him play after what’s been too long, but likewise great to see him explore the more upbeat, rocking side. Buzzard Canyon‘s debut, which they decided on stage was eight tracks, maybe nine, probably 11 by the time it’s done, is apparently in the works, and though they were down a guitar, they did well as a four-piece, playing both songs from the two-songer CDR they brought with them to give away, “Wyoming” and “Not My Cross,” the former of which seemed a long-enough time to wait to break out the cowbell and the latter of which closed their set in reinforcement of the active feel of the material, not at all afraid to have a good time or encourage the crowd to do the same.

Wasted Theory

Wasted Theory (Photo by JJ Koczan)

You know, I do dig Wasted Theory. The Delaware four-piece have come a long, long way since the first time I saw them, and they’ve done a couple tours and weekenders since they put out their 2014 full-length, Death and Taxes (review here), and that has only furthered their cause in both the tightness of their execution and their confidence on stage. Sometimes though, I feel like I’m just not quite dudely enough for it. Here’s these guys, and they’re killing it, singing songs about running ‘shine through the southland and this and that, and I’m standing there watching them feeling like I should probably call up my primary care physician and see if I can get some testosterone supplements or something so as to properly appreciate what’s going down on stage. As has been the case the last couple times I’ve seen them — and I’ll see them again before the month is out, if all goes according to plan — “Hellfire Ritual” and “Black Widow Liquor Run” were highlights, guitarist Larry Jackson, Jr. having his “whiskey-soaked” in full effect while on either side, bassist Jonathan Charles and guitarist Dave McMahon followed a hairpin course of riffs propelled by Brendan Burns‘ drums. They would not be the day’s last kick in the ass, but they were a vehement one all the same, even for one so apparently hormonally imbalanced as I. In all seriousness, Wasted Theory are scary tight for being still-recently off their first record, and by all appearances they’re only continuing to nail down what they do. Not trying to tell anyone their business, but Ripple Music, keep an eye out.

Wizard Eye

Wizard Eye (Photo by JJ Koczan)

We’re just about a month out from the release date of Wizard Eye‘s much-awaited self-titled second album on Black Monk Records, and the Philadelphia three-piece — Erik on guitar/vocals/theremin, Dave on bass/vocals, Mike on drums — seemed very much to be in good spirits ahead of the release. It was, as it was the last time I saw them, an absolute pleasure to watch them play. What they do isn’t overly complex or painstakingly crafted for nuance, but it’s impeccably well done and deceptively individualized. Most of what they played was culled from the impending Wizard Eye, which finds their semi-crusted rolling grooves firmly intact on songs like “Flying/Falling,” “Thunderbird” and “Eye of the Deep,” but there was one inclusion on the setlist I didn’t recognize — “Revenant” — which isn’t from the tracklisting I’ve seen for the new record, or from their 2010 debut, Orbital Rites, so I’m not sure if maybe it’s new or was left off the new album or what. Doesn’t seem unreasonable to think that after five years between outings they might have more material than just what’s showing up on the new LP. Either way, I’ll take their fuzz-overdosed nod any time I can. They were locked in tight at Vultures of Volume II, and remain a much better band than people seem to know, which is something that the new album will hopefully work to correct. Erik went to the theremin just once, earlier in the set — was it “Gravebreath” or “Flying/Falling?” — but even so, they were a blast to see again and offered stone-baked groove in plenty for their afternoon set.

Thousand Vision Mist

Thousand Vision Mist (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Given that they take their moniker from the name of Life Beyond‘s 2002 debut/swansong full-length, and given that they share guitarist/vocalist Danny Kenyon with that defunct MD trio, I guess I just assumed that when they got started, Thousand Vision Mist would essentially be an incarnation of the same kind of straight-ahead, post-The Obsessed/Revelation Maryland-style doom. That was not the case. Together with be-chapeaued bassist/vocalist Tony Comulada and drummer Chris SebastianKenyon led the charge through a set of fiery but progressive metal. Doom was definitely a part of it, and listening to the studio versions on their 2015 debut demo of cuts like “Garden of Ghosts,” “Drifter” and “Tears of the Moon” — which was particularly proggy coming from the Delmar stage — that holds up, but by no means was it the sum-total of what they had to offer. Instead, they pulled off quick turns and shifts while also having a heavy sensibility, and the technical intricacies came across fluidly as the crowd clearly loved on a hometown act. As a power trio, the dynamic looked to be more the guitar and bass, then the drums, rather than the standard guitar/rhythm section divide, but I’d by no means consider the matter settled considering they just have the five-song demo out, and for what it’s worth, they played a new song “Skybound and Beyond,” which they said had been written on Thursday, just two days prior, and though it seemed like it was about to come flying apart at any moment, it never actually did, and Thousand Vision Mist‘s impressive control over their sound can only continue to suit them as they move forward.

Witch Hazel

Witch Hazel (Photo by JJ Koczan)

It might have been enough for York, Pennsylvania, four-piece Witch Hazel to earn sympathy points for the recent loss of their hometown venue, The Depot, and it might have been enough that they broke out the weekend’s first tambourine to go along with their post-Pentagram ’70s-ish shuffle, but they also featured some especially passionate cowbell/headbang action in the last song (when else?) from frontman Nate Tyson, and dedicated a song to Iron Man, so if there were bases to cover, they were duly covered. Some of it was a little over-the-top — as intended — with the eyeliner, elaborate pants, and so on, but hard to fault Witch Hazel for keeping an eye toward presentation. Their new album, Nocturnity, is available now, and is a 28-minute concept piece that seems to be about a family with a bloodline that cures vampires, but though I don’t think “Moon People Unite” comes from that record, the crowd started to make its way back in to get a glimpse at what Witch Hazel — Tyson, guitarist Andy Craven, high-cymbal drummer Nick Zinn and bassist Seibert Lowe, who was playing his first show with the band — had to offer with their shuffling style and weirdo neo-classic edge. They closed with “Secret Door” from their 2013 debut, Forsaken Remedies, which only furthered their boogie cred.

Foghound

Foghound (Photo by JJ Koczan)

No sooner did Baltimore’s Foghound walk on the stage than they owned it. Seriously. Before they even started playing, the entire room was theirs. Last time I saw the band was Eye of the Stoned Goat IV in Worcester, MA (review here), and they killed then, but this was a different league entirely. No doubt part of that stems from relatively-new bassist Rev. Jim Forrester, who, like Foghound drummer Chuck Dukehart III, is a Sixty Watt Shaman expat. Forrester was kinetic on stage — and off it, as he hopped down on the regular throughout — and seemed to pull the rest of the band along with him, Dukehart sharing vocal duties with guitarists Bob Sipes and Dee Settar all the while, the three of them switching back and forth here, coming together there, racing through material from their upcoming second album. They were a shot of life just when I was feeling like I needed it most, and while the locals, who obviously have more occasion to see them than I do, weren’t necessarily surprised by what they delivered, I was utterly blown away. Their new stuff was faster, meaner and tighter than 2013’s Quick, Dirty and High (review here), and I liked that CD plenty. The tempo of the songs, the stomp and the energy they brought made them the band of the day up to that point, and cuts like “Serpentine” and “Rockin’ and Rollin'” were absolutely propulsive alongside the other “Dragon’s Tooth” and “Resurrect the Throwaways,” which remains almost insidiously catchy. That song was a bit of a slowdown comparatively, but the momentum held up anyway to the end of the set, and if Foghound brought even half of that level of vitality to the studio, their second record’s going to be a stunner.

Righteous Bloom

Righteous Bloom (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Whatever unfortunate drama brought about the change in the first place, I have to think particularly after seeing them play at Vultures of Volume II that the changeover from Beelzefuzz to Righteous Bloom will be a positive in the longterm for the band. Not even because Bert Hall — speaking of chapeaus; his deserves its own Facebook page just so I can like it, unlike it, then like it again — is such a monster player, though rest assured he is, as he’s proved over the years in Revelation and Against Nature, but just for how much easier it is to take them seriously with the new name. I never saw Beelzefuzz as a four-piece after they added Pale Divine frontman Greg Diener as a lead guitarist, but he serves in that capacity well in Righteous BloomHall is indeed a master of groove, and Darin McCloskey‘s fluid drumming is every bit as effective in the new band as it was in the old, adding classic style to underscore the eerie progressivism in frontman Dana Ortt‘s effects-heavy guitar work and live-multitracked vocals. Some of what they played came from Beelzefuzz‘s 2013 self-titled debut (review here) — “All the Feeling Returns,” “Lotus,” “Hypnotize” and “Reborn” garnering knowing appreciation from the crowd, myself included — but newer songs like “Within Trance” (posted here) and “Nazz Riff” went over with no trouble, as well as older demo cuts “Peace Mind,” which opened, “The Soulless” and “Hard Luck Melody,” Ortt‘s wide-eyed delivery throughout playing off a quiet “hey man” hippie routine between the songs that was Akerfeldtine in its entertainment value. Fact of the matter is that he could easily become the kind of dude who, years from now, people will talk about the first time they saw him play and try to compare notes for who got in lowest on the ground floor. I can’t make any such claim, but watching Righteous Bloom for the first time post-Beelzefuzz sure felt like a landmark anyway. Hall fit in perfectly, Diener‘s soloing was tasteful, McCloskey‘s timing and swing are as close to a sure thing as life has to offer and Ortt was the madman front and center. There was nothing — and I mean nothing — not to dig. Their album can’t get here fast enough.

Carousel

Carousel (Photo by JJ Koczan)

If you’re having a good time, Carousel want to be the reason why. The Pittsburgh natives’ sophomore LP, 2113, was still pretty fresh in my head after its recent stream and review, so I was glad to have the chance to catch the four-piece live and experience the songs first-hand. They played the first three of them in a row — “Trouble,” “Photograph” and the unrepentantly hooky “Buried Alive in Your Arms” — and guitarist/vocalist Dave Wheeler took the time to note between the second and third that the band is very well known for their expert sequencing. That was something I mentioned in my review, but I wouldn’t flatter myself to think they had any idea who I was other than drummer Jake Leger, who also plays in reactivated ’70s rockers Bang, who toured with Kings Destroy last year for a run on which I tagged along. I’m sure it was a happy coincidence. Still, Wheeler was right, 2113 was a well put together album, and I’m not really sure what might be wrong with that. Either way, their boozy classic-heavy good times carried over remarkably well live — turns out they know how to structure a set as well, dipping back to the title-track from their 2013 debut, Jeweler’s Daughter (review here), after “Buried Alive in Your Arms” — and their cardiovascular-style delivery felt like an all-around win. Wheeler took the time to introduce the band, starting with bassist Jim Wheeler before getting to Leger and guitarist/backing vocalist Matt Goldsborough, who he noted handles guitar as well in Pentagram from time to time and in Trouble offshoot The Skull, and ending with himself: “And I’m Dave,” the band playing behind him all the while in classic showman fashion. They slowed down the set and brought the energy level back up effectively with the 2113 title-track, and their catchy songcraft, ’70s vibes and, yes, sequencing, found much welcome.

Weed is Weed

Weed is Weed (Photo by JJ Koczan)

You could give me a pad and paper and two full weeks to brainstorm ideas, but I’m not sure I could come up with anything more stoner rock than Dave Sherman fronting Weed is Weed while singing through a mic on a custom stand made to look like a bong. It even had incense burning near the bottom so there was smoke coming out. That, my friends, is charm, and Weed is Weed have plenty of it to go around between Sherm clearly having a blast with the entire thing and the riffery provided by three — three! — guitarists: Gary Isom (ex-Spirit Caravan), Russ Strahan (ex-Pentagram) and Rob Portillo. With Darren Waters holding down yet more low end on bass throughout such family-friendly hits as “Cleptus Butanus” — a song about stealing lighters that featured a line about having enough in your pocket to build a butane rocket — and “The Bong Remains the Same,” Weed is Weed also introduced their new drummer, Tyler Lee, age 18. Gotta start ’em young. Worth noting that “The Bong Remains the Same” will also be the title of the six-piece’s next EP, and it must have been a hard call between that and “Reign in Bud,” which closed out, Lee teasing a Slayer drum thud reference at the beginning before they took off on another stoner-for-stoner onslaught, their groove as undeniable as their central theme was dank. Does anyone say dank anymore? I don’t even know. In any case, Weed is Weed‘s particular brand of fun was infectious, and even as a non-smoker, their puns were second to none. Not a stem in the nugget.

Wretch

Wretch (Photo by JJ Koczan)

In much the same way that Righteous Bloom is a continuation of Beelzefuzz, so too does Wretch feel born directly from the demise of The Gates of Slumber. The Indianapolis three-piece had traveled the farthest to get to Hagerstown — headliners Elder would be no slouch in that department either — and they were heavy enough that the head sitting on top of guitarist/vocalist Karl Simon‘s full-stack of cabinets was at several points very close to vibrating off and falling to the floor. It didn’t, thankfully, and Simon, drummer J. Clyde Paradis — who, like Simon, is a The Gates of Slumber alum — and bassist Bryce Clark held down some of the weekend’s most thoroughly doomed vibes, morose plod and downer tones emanating at max volume. “R.I.P.” was a highlight, which feels strange to even say, and a couple of songs from the final The Gates of Slumber album, 2011’s The Wretch (review here), were aired, among them “Bastards Born” and “The Wretch” itself. They finished out with “The Jury,” which originally appeared on 2004’s …The Awakening debut from the defunct outfit, their set having been cut short on account of the usual running late, but ending on a faster note somehow suited them. From what I’ve seen, Wretch have a few studio tracks floating around, but I’ve yet to hear of anything recorded being due for public consumption. Seems like a no brainer that they’re one to watch given their pedigree and Simon‘s established post-Vitus doom supremacy, but it’ll be even more interesting to see how they manage to stand themselves out from The Gates of Slumber and how much of what that band was will ultimately carry forward into the new one.

Dorthia Cottrell

Dorthia Cottrell (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Only one problem with putting Windhand vocalist Dorthia Cottrell on so late in the day for a solo acoustic set — everyone’s sloshed. Much to the room’s credit, people actually did really well policing themselves to keep conversation to a minimum as Cottrell ran through a set of dark neofolk accompanied only by the Delmar‘s fog machine and laser lights, the response to which was mixed but which I thought worked well. Anyone can play a sad twanger like “Maybe it’s True” from Cottrell‘s 2015 self-titled solo debut in the dark, but to do it with a lightshow going? That’s impressive. Those committed to being loud either moved to the back bar or went outside, but everyone who stayed was treated to Cottrell‘s quiet, alternately traditional and minimalist atmospherics, her breathy delivery calling to mind any number of blues singers who earned the first name Mama” while keeping consistent in its downtrodden feel to work with her main outfit. Influences were worn on her sleeve in covering Townes Van Zandt‘s “Rake,” a song both Wino and Scott Kelly have taken on previously, and the traditional “Wayfaring Stranger” — the mere mention of which immediately sends my mind reeling back to David Eugene Edwards and 16 Horsepower‘s version on 2000’s Secret South full-length, though everyone from Burl Ives to Neil Young has given it a shot — was slowed-down and given due melancholy to comport with the rest of the set. A marked change in sound from the rest of the day, but more consistent in overall mood with Wretch than one might initially think, Cottrell offered a moment of clarity as Vultures of Volume II made ready to round out its journey on a sea of riffs.

Elder

Elder (Photo by JJ Koczan)

“Dead Roots Stirring” made for an especially righteous opener. I hadn’t seen Massachusetts trio Elder since the release show for their 2015 third album, Lore (review here), which continues to rightly garner praise from all corners of the globe and has positioned the three-piece as headliners for the first time both on tour and at fests like this one. They are quite possibly the East Coast’s most pivotal up and coming act at this point — the great heavy hope of an entire seaboard’s next-gen scene — and with Lore, they’ve moved into a progressive style that’s entirely their own without giving up the sonic impact of their earlier work. And where the turns of “Compendium” were somewhat choppy back in March, two full tours (US and EU) later, they’re no less fluid than was “Dead Roots Stirring” at the start or “Release” from their 2012 Spires Burn/Release EP (streamed here), guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo having apparently long since mastered the complex notations of his own design while bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto held together the tight turns of that song and “Spirit at Aphelion,” also from the new album. Between songs, DiSalvo apologized to anyone who might’ve run into the band the night before, and that got a laugh from the crowd who had very clearly stuck around to see them specifically. They’ve grown not just tighter on the more recent songs, but in terms of their stage presence as well, and particularly with Donovan and Couto, they were so locked in that they didn’t even really have to look at each other to know where they were and where they were going. That kind of chemistry only really develops with touring acts, which of course Elder have become, and and they continue to move forward with Lore and beyond, it will continue to serve them well. They are distinct sonic personalities, between Couto‘s swing, Donovan‘s smooth, warm-toned basslines and DiSalvo‘s penchant for exploring progressive psychedelic passages, but the way they’ve come to work together is truly something special, and they showed that in top form at Vultures of Volume II, building and releasing tension throughout “Spirit at Aphelion” and closing out their set and the fest as a whole with “Gemini” from Dead Roots Stirring (review here), which seemed tailor made to be suited to the task. They’re still growing. They’re not done. But still, don’t be surprised a couple years from now when new bands are coming out and noodling like you hear on Lore, because people have picked up in a serious way to what Elder are doing. They’ll get no argument from me.

In the back of my mind I’d had the thought of starting to drive home directly after the fest ended, getting in my car and pushing through all night on the highways of Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, maybe beyond. Didn’t happen. Instead, I not only went back to the hotel to crash out, but overslept and wound up making my return home even later than I’d intended. After 13 bands, the extra two hours of sleep might well have enabled my survival.

Before I wrap this up, I have to note the hard work of Kathy Reeves in putting Vultures of Volume together. No way a two-dayer like this is easy to make happen, but she pulled it off and made it look that way anyhow. Job well done, and thanks for having me down for the reminder of just how unique and welcoming the Maryland heavy scene is.

Thanks also to Darin McCloskey, Matt Dayton, Mike Smith, Fanny Shamer, Ron McGinnis, Jaki Cunha, Dustin Davis, Chris Wolfe, Don Welch, Lisa Hass, Melanie Streko, Jon Pacella, Jim Forrester, Håkan Nyman, Kesha Atwood Nyman, Elyse Mitchell, Ron, Andrew Thornhill, Nick DiSalvo, Jack Donovan, Matt Couto (though, man, those are some fierce looks in those shots), and everyone else whose names I’ll hope to add over the next however long.

Most of all, thanks again to you for reading. More pics after the jump.

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