Posted in Features on July 6th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
If 2015 ended tomorrow, I think you’d still have to say it was a pretty good year for heavy rock. Doom veered into a swath extremes — its own subgenres emerging almost one by one in a growing splinter that nonetheless continues to draw water from its roots — while the neo-stoner ignition of the West Coast continued its boom of new acts proffering classic groove. The East reveled in a progressive vision just waiting to be picked up by others, and in Europe, the ’70s traditionalist movement spread ever wider, essentially defining a modern sound in organic sounding, sometimes-vintage elements. Whether you’re going for crushing, oppressive barbarism or cosmos-bound blissouts, it is, in short, a good time to be alive.
Of course, 2015 doesn’t end tomorrow, and there’s still a whole lot of year to come. About half, as it happens. So, as has been the tradition around here for the last half-decade — and seems to be the tradition in a growing number of outlets; not taking credit or claiming to have invented anything, just noting a proliferation — it’s time to count down the best records of the year so far. There have been more than a handful of gems, and since in December I’m planning on doing a top 30, we’ll mark half the year with a top 15. Seems only fair.
Please note that this isn’t purely a critical evaluation, but a personal list, and that what I’ve put on most is as crucial a factor in my ranking as how important I think a given record is. You know the drill by now. Let’s go:
Kiev three-piece Stoned Jesus have a varied stylistic history, and their third outing, The Harvest was ultimately a success in large part because of its complete refusal to be defined. Atop a foundation of quality songcraft, the trio proffered a sound that was not necessarily experimental in terms of anti-structure noise or effects onslaughts, but bold in each of its forays outward from its heavy rock underpinnings.
It has consistently taken me a while to get a hold on what Freedom Hawk are up to. The steady elements in their sound are held to so firmly that on the first couple listens, it seems to just be more of the same. But the more one digs in, the more there is to be found, and with Into Your Mind, the Virginia Beach trio overcome losing a member to create their most progressive outing to date, flourishes of psychedelia melding easily with their signature style of sunshiny riffing.
Five albums deep, Germany’s My Sleeping Karma are an act unto themselves. Their progress has been natural, fueled by a clear, varied sense of exploratory will, and the results on this year’s Moksha were nothing short of stunning. Branching out their arrangements might not be new to them, but the inclusion of horns, drones, percussion, etc., amid the central guitar, bass, keys and drums lent an almost orchestral feel to the flow between the tracks, and one can only hope they continue on their current path, because it is unquestionably the right one.
So much potential, so much vitality at the heart of this debut from Death Alley. The Amsterdam-based four-piece (interview here) stormed out of the gate with a ripper of a debut, and just when you seemed to have it all figured out, they hit the ignition on a 12-minute full-impulse space rock thrust, a guest vocal appearance from Farida Lemouchi (a former bandmate of Death Alley guitarist Oeds Beydals in The Devil’s Blood) adding both mystique and emotional resonance to what was already a stunning track. With all the riotousness preceding, Black Magick Boogieland readily lived up to its righteous title.
Midwestern-turned-West-Coast heavy psych rockers Mondo Drag may have taken their time in releasing their self-titled sophomore outing, which followed their 2010 debut, New Rituals (review here), and was recorded in 2012, but it’s easy to imagine that’s because they wanted the circumstances to be as special as the album itself, recorded with a fleeting five-piece lineup that included the one-time rhythm section of Radio Moscow who wound up leaving to further their then-nascent project, Blues Pills. Even without that lineup shift as a factor, the late ’60s vibe Mondo Drag brought out across the release proved eminently listenable and has held up on repeat visits.
A gorgeous, shimmering and melodically resonant debut from the Dutch four-piece Cigale, their self-titled gracefully maintained tonal presence and warmth while also enacting a psychedelic sprawl and grooving serenity that acted like the landscape in which the songs took place. It was a rich, bright vibe, and an utter joy to behold, tracks like “Harvest Begun,” “Feel the Heat” and “Eyes Wide Shut” proving as memorable as they were inviting. Having two former members of the much-missed fuzz rock outfit Sungrazer may have initially turned some heads in their direction, but Cigale‘s first album proved they’re an outfit with their own personality, their own development to undertake, and already much to offer.
The awaited return of The Machine brought the band’s fifth album and a further-refined sense of maturity in their processes, as well as intrigue as to where they might be headed, two dual modes of open-ended jamming and more structured songwriting playing off each other in the extended “Chrysalis (J.A.M.)” and “Come to Light” and the more verse/chorus stylizations of “Dry End” and “Off Course.” To be perfectly honest, I doubt The Machine will ultimately pick one side over another, since if Offblast! proved anything it’s that they can easily handle either or both, but as they continue to grow, it’s encouraging to have their style establish itself as so multi-faceted.
First time I pressed play on Gravitron was a real “oh shit!” moment. The last release from NJ stalwarts The Atomic Bitchwax was 2011’s The Local Fuzz (review here), a single-song full-length instrumental riff onslaught that had its charm but was inherently divorced from the appeal of the band’s songwriting. Not only does Gravitron re-factor that in with songs like “Roseland,” “It’s Alright,” “Coming in Hot” and “Ice Age Hey Baby,” among others, but it hits with kick-in-the-ass production force and an all-out heaviness that 2008’s TAB4 showed the three-piece steering directly away from. Just a killer record. Utterly void of pretense. No bullshit. No need to rely on anything more than chemistry, and with the Bitchwax, that’s plenty.
7. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth
Right now, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth are my band to beat for Debut of the Year, and I’m quite frankly not sure how anyone is going to be able to do it, so if list time comes in Dec. and you see Tad Doyle‘s trio marked out as such, know that it’s been that way in my head for some time. The three-piece of Doyle, bassist Peggy “Pegadeth” Tully and drummer Dave French arrived with a roar, and even when their self-titled let up sonically, the atmosphere remained viscerally heavy. Six years having passed since the release of their first demo (review here), I wasn’t sure there was ever going to be an album, but then to have Brothers of the Sonic Cloth show up and enact such thorough demolition only made it more impressive.
It can’t possibly be a surprise to have Luminiferous show up somewhere on this list. The seventh long-player by High on Fire had all the rage and bombast in “Slave the Hive” and “The Black Plot” that have become the band’s hallmarks over their 17 years together, but branched out progressively as well in songs like “The Cave” and “The Falconist,” the latter of which was brazenly catchy and about as emotionally direct as the band has ever gotten, their general modus being — and in that song too, just to a lesser extent — a metaphor-laced lyrical approach. That song was a triumph and so was the album as a whole; the second collaboration with producer Kurt Ballou building on the rampaging victories of 2012’s De Vermis Mysteriis (review here) while also showing growth on the part of one of modern metal’s most pivotal bands.
Hitting more or less concurrent with a vinyl release of their prior album, 2013’s A Time of Hunting (review here), Kings Destroy‘s Kings Destroy is not at all coincidentally titled. Over the course of now three full-lengths, the New York five-piece — about whom I feign no impartiality, let it be noted — have distinguished themselves with a sound neither noise, nor doom, nor heavy rock, but drawing on elements of all three when it suits their purposes with chemistry built from years of being in bands together of various stripes and in various genres. What stands the self-titled out from their past work, in part, is that it is the closest they’ve yet come to capturing their live sound in the studio, and accordingly, it’s a volatile kind of heavy that bends aesthetic to its will rather than capitulating to expectations of any sort. I don’t think they’re done growing by any stretch, but Kings Destroy feels like an arrival front-to-back.
This one was almost a sneak-attack. German heavy psych forerunners Colour Haze released To the Highest Gods We Know, their 11th full-length, in Dec. 2014 on CD (the vinyl was in 2015, which is what we’re counting in this instance), with very, very little fanfare of any sort. There was a track premiere here that came shortly after the album was announced, but I think it was officially out less than a month after its existence was made public, which for a band of Colour Haze‘s stature and influence was surprising. Less devoted to grandeur than 2012’s 2CD She Said (review here), it nonetheless pushed the band’s sound forward and found them experimenting in their studio, particularly on the string-quartet-inclusive finale title-track, which offset jams like “Überall” and the laid back highlight “Call” with a rhythmic oddness that was somehow still Colour Haze‘s own. I couldn’t help but wonder where it was leading, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t masterful in its own right.
Goatsnake didn’t have it easy going into their third album. It had been 15 years since their sophomore outing, Flower of Disease, 11 since their last EP, and five since they first started playing shows again. Expectations? Through the roof. Among heavy rock heads, a new Goatsnake was like seeing the mountaintop. I mean, a big fucking deal and then some. Then the record hits, and there’s just about no way it can live up to the anticipation, but god damn if Goatsnake not only finally put out a third album, but one that was better than I think anyone could’ve hoped for. Hearing Pete Stahl with however many backup singers he had on “Another River to Cross” et. al. was like finding an animal in its native habitat, and between his soul, Greg Anderson‘s riffs, bassist Scott Renner‘s low end rumble and drummer Greg Rogers‘ roll, Black Age Blues won almost immediately and then spent the rest of its 47 minutes throwing itself a victory party. “Elevated Man,” “House of the Moon,” “Jimi’s Gone,” “Grandpa Jones,” almost on a per-track basis, Goatsnake added to the reasons they’ve been so heralded despite a decade-plus’ absence from the studio.
On the level of achievement alone, Elder‘s Lore will be the album of the year for many, and there are times (such as right now) when I listen to it and question whether or not it isn’t also my pick for that honor, but wherever it falls on whatever list, far more important is what the Massachusetts/Rhode Island/New York trio manage to accomplish across their third LP’s formidable five-track/59-minute span, songs like “Compendium” and “Deadweight” bridging a rarely approached gap between heavy and progressive rocks while maintaining a flow consistent with the psychedelic vibing of 2011’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here) but grown outward in another aesthetic direction and no sooner setting foot on the ground than seeming to master it in a flurry of blinding turns, sprawling soundscapes and clarity of mind that found perhaps its greatest expression in the centerpiece title-track, the 15-minute “Lore” itself, which I’ve no doubt will stand among if not atop the best songs of 2015 when the year is over and encapsulates the ambition and the corresponding breadth of Elder‘s songwriting, the trio of guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan, and drummer Matt Couto rising as one of the East Coast’s most pivotal acts, with a sound completely their own.
1. Acid King, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere
I use the word “molten” pretty regularly to describe an album or song that seems to just ooze its way out of the speakers or shift seamlessly between its songs, but Acid King set an entirely new standard for the term with Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere. Their first outing for Svart and their first release in a decade, its 55 minutes were a riff-rolling nirvana of lurching fuzz and tonal excellence, the guitar of Lori S. at the fore accompanied by Mark Lamb‘s bass and Joey Osbourne‘s drums, the swing of which propelled a highlight track like “Coming down from Outer Space” right back into it, while elsewhere on the record, “Silent Pictures,” “Red River” and “Infinite Skies” torched stoner conventions into a new space-biker rock, culminating in the heavy psych of “Center of Everywhere,” which seemed to emanate from the place it was describing, at once empty and full. More than just a welcome return after a long dearth of releases, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere found Acid King progressed even beyond where they were with 2005’s III, though more than anything else, what makes it my top pick for the year so far is the fact that I can’t seem to walk away from it for too long before going back, and ultimately, that’s what it all comes down to with his kind of thing. I’ve yet to find a standard to which these songs don’t live up.
A few others worth noting. The Sun Blood Stories album (streamed here) continues to resonate. Also Monolord, Valkyrie, Lamp of the Universe, Garden of Worm, Wo Fat‘s live record, The Midnight Ghost Train‘s Cold was the Ground and Ufomammut‘s Ecate. The Black Rainbows was a joy, as was Spidergawd‘s second LP, and while I still feel like I haven’t given it its due, the Sumac won many over and should get a mention. Steve Von Till‘s solo outing and the latest from Enslaved are worth seeking out as well for anyone who hasn’t heard them yet.
More to Come:
The year’s only half over, which is kind of a scary thought but true nonetheless. Watch out in the coming months for new stuff from Bloodcow, All Them Witches, Clutch, Graveyard, Zun, Sacri Monti (if that one’s not already out), Snail, Uncle Acid, and Kind. The new Kadavar is a sure-fire top tenner, and between that, the potential for a new Neurosis album and stuff like Magnetic Eye Records‘ Electric Ladyland [Redux], there’s no way the book is written on the best of 2015.
So stay tuned.
And if I’ve still got your attention, thanks for reading.
Posted in Reviews on June 26th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
No question that Into Your Mind is, in its songwriting and construction and in the stylistic breadth it covers, a step forward for Virginia Beach heavy rockers Freedom Hawk. Named perhaps for being where the songs go, it’s their fourth outing overall and second for Small Stone behind 2011’s Moving On (review here), its 10-track/52-minute run reinforces the classic metal and heavy rock influences under which they’ve been working all along (Ozzy, Fu Manchu, etc.) while also pushing ahead into new ground, subtly psychedelic but still woven around earthy and traditional structures. Perhaps the biggest change of all is that the band are now a trio, having parted ways with guitarist Matt Cave since their last time out and continued to operate as the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist T.R. Morton, bassist Mark Cave and drummer Lenny Hines.
Where the band might have been in the writing for Into Your Mind when that split occurred, I don’t know, but Matt is given a writing credit on opener “Blood Red Sky,” “Journey Home,” “Waterfall” and side B’s “Beyond Our Reach” — the tracklisting broken into sides even on back of the CD and very much operating in that kind of structure despite the format — though he doesn’t seem to have participated in the actual recording, the trio tracking the instrumental portion of the LP live with producer/engineer/mixer Jim Woodling with Morton handling the vocals afterward. Their chemistry comes through what’s still a crisp production across the board, though, and while there still sounds like a layer of rhythm guitar under the solo in “Blood Red Sky,” their operation with their new lineup configuration is fluid and the momentum they build over the course of the first two tracks, that opener and “Journey Home,” carries through to some of the more stylistically expansive material that follows.
One thing to get straight, we’re not talking about leaps and bounds here, but natural, incremental stylistic progression. Reasonable. It begins on side A, though the let’s-get-to-it-ness of “Blood Red Sky” and “Journey Home”‘s hooks signals business as usual from Freedom Hawk, “Lost in Space,” with its more patient intro from all three and keys from Morton, brings a turn that presages some of side B’s more adventurous moments. At its heart, it’s still catchy and largely straightforward, but the shift in atmosphere is palpable from the first two cuts and it begins a broadening process that continues later. The lead on “On Your Knees” is a standout, though more so the turn in approach of the vocals, which will later get a fuller exploration on the title-track, and Hines‘ drumming proves able to push the material along at whatever pace is set or direction it might be headed.
He holds a tension in “Lost in Space” and the later “The Line” and is forward-minded, but definitely not without a sense of swing to coincide. “Journey Home” showcases that and he begins side A closer “Waterfall” with snare work that sets up the song’s more laid-back vibe, the verse arriving later, a few lines tossed out as a precursor to a relatively stripped down chorus compared to that of “Lost in Space” or “Blood Red Sky,” the trio ready and willing to let their chemistry do the talking when it suits them. Side B’s launch, “Radar,” is more of a riff-rocker, but it picks up in its midsection to find more of a rush in which the band seems utterly at home for the bridge before they turn back to the chorus, chugging central nod and surprisingly airy finish. With the shifts that the second half of Into Your Mind brings about, the beginning of that half is still pretty much in line with the cuts preceding. It’s not really until “Beyond Our Reach” kicks in that they fully show their hand.
A jazzy start like something Fatso Jetson might conjure begins “Beyond Our Reach,” and that rhythm holds after the riff and a NWOBHM-style lead progression commence to give an alternate vision of Freedom Hawk‘s brand of heavy rock. Layered vocals seem to mirror guitar harmonies and while the effect is still heavy and a shuffle is present, once again the context has changed. The previously-alluded-to vocal turn on “Into Your Mind” pushes further against expectation — Morton‘s compression-on higher-register vocals are as much a signature as the band has — and they’re not completely gone, but even changing into and out of the chorus establishes a dynamic in an unanticipated way, and “Into Your Mind” also proves to be Cave‘s best performance on bass, his presence in the pocket just behind the guitar only helps in setting that righteous tone.
At 6:51, the penultimate “The Line” is the longest inclusion by nearly a full minute, and they use that extra time for an instrumental drive, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it a “jam,” since though it finds Hines on his ride, there always seems to be a plotted course being followed. Keys or layered-in background leads pepper the pre-chorus and return later during the extended instrumental part, which is also how they finish before bringing things back to earth for “All Because of You,” a more hook-based start-stopper that seems to be geared toward bookending with “Blood Red Sky,” but honestly, by the time they get there, the opener’s straight-ahead thrust feels like a long time ago and a long ways away. That feeling itself is evidence of the growth Freedom Hawk have undertaken despite losing a player, and though Into Your Mind finds them branching out, it also serves to reinforce the aspects of their sonic personality that have been their hallmarks up to this point in their career. They’re still Freedom Hawk, they’re just working to expand the definition of what that means.
Posted in Whathaveyou on May 8th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Next month, Virginia Beach trio Freedom Hawk head overseas to tour in Germany and the Netherlands around an appearance at this year’s Freak Valley festival. Shortly after their return to the States, they’ll present their new album, Into Your Mind. Their fourth full-length and second for Small Stone Records, Into Your Mind tightens up the tones and songcraft that made the band’s 2011 outing, Holding On (review here), a riffy standout, and marks their first offering as a trio.
Into Your Mind is available to preorder now. Links, info and tour dates follow, hoisted off the PR wire:
US heavy trio FREEDOM HAWK to unleash new album “Into Your Mind” this June on Small Stone Records; European tour dates announced.
If you need seriously heavy and high-spirited rock music in your life, then Virginia Beach’s groove-mongers FREEDOM HAWK are about to give you some, with their fourth album coming out this June on Small Stone Records. Leather, jean and maximum volume mandatory!
Emanating from the barrier dunes of Virginia, FREEDOM HAWK’s heavy riffs, rolling groove, and soulful guitar melodies definitely produce a sound of their own. The trio’s brand of heavy rock capitalizes on the best of the heavy ‘70s, while presenting a modern fuzzy take based around quality songwriting rather than style-over-substance retro posturing.
FREEDOM HAWK made their debut on Small Stone Records with 2011’s Holding On. The follow-up, and their fourth album overall, is Into Your Mind, which brings a new dynamic to their buttery fuzz with all the stomp and swagger one could ask for after the previous effort. Get a taster with first excerpt “Blood Red Sky” HERE.
New album “Into Your Mind”, out June 23 on Small Stone Records CD & Limited Edition 180gr Vinyl preorderAT THIS LOCATION
Veterans already of Roadburn in the Netherlands, FREEDOM HAWK will return to Europe this June, including a special appearance at Germany’s Freak Valley Festival:
FREEDOM HAWK EUROPEAN TOUR 04.06 – ANTWERP (BE) Antwerp Music City 05.06 – NETPHEN (DE) Freak Valley Festival 06.06 – DÜSSELDORF (DE) Pitcher – Rock’n’Roll Headquarter 07.06 – NÜRNBERG (DE) Klub Nychka 08.06 – HAMBURG (DE) Bar 227 09.06 – JENA (DE) Kulturbahnhof 10.06 – BERLIN (DE) Jägerklause 11.06 – NIJMEGEN (NL) De Onderbroek 12.06 – MÜNSTER (DE) Rare Guitar 13.06 – LEIPZIG (DE) Black Label 14.06 – ROESELARE (BE) De Verlichte Geest
FREEDOM HAWK IS Lenny Hines – Drums T.R. Morton – Vocals, Guitar Mark Cave – Bass
Posted in Features on January 21st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
This is the longest list of anything I’ve ever done, and it might be the longest I ever do. The truth is, when I started keeping track of things coming out in 2015, back around October/November, I had no idea what I was getting into. More and more names just kept getting added to the list, and between solid release dates, bands entering the studio, writing sessions underway and the usual round of vague “they’re due”-type speculation, it kept growing. Even now, I’m quite sure that by the time I’m finished with this, I’ll add something else, and 90 will become 91, and then someone will point out something glaring I forgot and 91 will become 92, and so on.
I don’t think I could reasonably expect anyone to read 90 complete entries, so I’ve broken it down somewhat. There are 52 weeks in a year, so my thinking is that if you buy one record per week, I’ve got recommendations to carry through till December (with the acknowledgement that we’re already a couple weeks into 2015) and then more beyond that. Even asking you to skim 52 entries is a lot, but hell, we’ve got 12 months until 2016, so there’s plenty of time. We’ll do 52 entries and then list the others, both alphabetically.
Thank you in advance for reading.
1. Acid King, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere
If this was my year-end list instead of my year-start list, Acid King‘s Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere would be my album of the year. Best album of 2015 about 20 days into it? Maybe. The Oakland trio’s first outing in nearly a decade is a joy of languid riffing and heavy spaceout, songs like “Coming down from Outer Space” and “Center of Everywhere” reminding of just what it is we’ve been missing about Acid King all these years. They’ve continued to play live all that time, of course, and Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere, which is due April 14 on Svart, plainly demonstrates that they’ve lost none of the potency for years absent from studio work. More to come. Acid King on Thee Facebooks, Svart Records.
2. All Them Witches, TBA
The Nashville four-piece blew up following the 2013 digital release of their second album, Lightning at the Door, which saw a physical pressing last year (review here), and with a growing public at their heels and a salivating underground press anxious to hear what they come up with next, All Them Witches hit the studio this month to put together their third full-length. They’re on tour in Feb., and it seems reasonable to expect they’ll be trying out new material on the road, but as free-flowing as Lightning at the Door was, it’s hard not to consider the follow-up one of 2015’s most anticipated records, whenever it arrives and whatever shape(s) it takes. All Them Witches on Thee Facebooks, official website.
3. Anthroprophh, U.F.O.
Guitarist/vocalist PaulAllen, formerlyof TheHeads,teamed up with Jesse Webb and Gareth Turner of the duo Big Naturals as his rhythm section for 2014’s Outside the Circle (review here), and for his new release under the Anthroprophh moniker for Cardinal Fuzz, Allen centers around different U.F.O. abduction reports from the UK between 1954 and 1978, each of the eight tracks taking its name from the date and location of a reported incident. Sound fucking awesome? Yeah, I agree. Expect raw psychedelic experimentation, heavy swing and interpretive instrumentalism galore on the two-sided release when it gets declassified on Feb. 2, pressed in an edition of 500 copies. Anthroprophh on Thee Facebooks, Cardinal Fuzz.
4. Arenna, TBA
Spanish heavy psych outfit Arenna will release the follow-up to their 2011 Nasoni Records debut, Beats of Olarizu (review here), and they just this week posted the 10-minute opener “Butes” from their sophomore outing (listen here). The first album earned them a hearty following, and it’s been four years since it came out, but somehow I doubt Arenna will have much trouble picking up where they left off in their wide-open, jam-heavy sound. They mark a decade together in 2015, and they seem to just be getting started, so I’m particularly interested to learn how the European heavy underground takes to their second LP, which is due to be mastered next month and released sometime thereafter. Arenna on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
5. The Atomic Bitchwax, Gravitron
New Bitchwax? Sold. The stalwart New Jersey three-piece — now featuring two members of Monster Magnet — will release Gravitron on April 21 via Tee Pee Records, just in time to make a stop a few days later at Desertfest London 2015. They toured Europe last summer as well, and I think the fact that they’ll be over that way when they put Gravitron out speaks volumes to their priorities at this point, but who can blame them? Perpetually underappreciated in the US, they’ll follow-up 2011’s The Local Fuzz (review here) in grand form at Desertfest (they play Berlin as well), finally getting their due even if they have to get on a plane to get it. The Atomic Bitchwax on Thee Facebooks, Tee Pee Records.
6. Black Cobra, TBA
Hints were dropped back in November that raging two-piece Black Cobra were working on material for a new album. Whenever it arrives, this year or next, it will be their sixth and first since 2011’s Invernal (review here), which I don’t think I’m alone in counting as their finest moment to-date. They’ll also be at Desertfest for a return appearance, and wherever they go, devastation follows. They posted this week that their tour van has passed the 300,000-mile mark, which is emblematic of the workout they’ve given it over the last decade-plus, and I’d expect no slowdown, tempo or itinerary-wise, from them in 2015, regular oil changes notwithstanding. Black Cobra on Thee Facebooks, Southern Lord Recordings.
7. Black Rainbows, Hawkdope
There are 90-someodd bands included in this feature, all told. Might be over 100. I’m not sure anybody beats Italian trio Black Rainbows in the album-title department, however. Hawkdope, man. Hard to mess with that. Guitarist/vocalist Gabriele Fiori continues to keep his finger on the pulse of European heavy rock with his Heavy Psych Sounds imprint, and while I haven’t heard Hawkdope yet, it seems likely they’ll continue the push toward heavy psychedelia that 2013’s Holy Moon EP (discussed here) and their inclusions in last year’s four-way split (review here) spoke of, but of course, they can always throw down some top notch fuzz riffing as well. Black Rainbows on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
8. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth
Six years after the arrival of their demo (review here), Brothers of the Sonic Cloth will make their self-titled debut through Neurot Recordings on Feb. 17. Immediately notable for being the brainchild of guitarist/vocalist Tad Doyle (ex-TAD), bassist Peggy “Pegadeth” Doyle and drummer Dave French, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth pushes plodding heavy into seething aggression with a lumber only made more potent by Billy Anderson‘s production. It’s been a while in the making, true, but the album’s execution leaves no room for argument in its lung-deflating tonal density. Justifies the wait and then some. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth on Thee Facebooks, Neurot Recordings.
9. Chiefs, Tomorrow’s Over
With vinyl to follow in May on Battleground Records, Arizona/SoCal heavy rockers Chiefs will release their debut LP, Tomorrow’s Over, via Roosevelt Row on Feb. 24. Its striking cover art by David Paul Seymour offers immediate intrigue, as did Chiefs‘ inclusion on their 2014 split 7″ with Fuzz Evil (streamed here). The song from that, “Stone Bull,” won’t be featured on the album, but all four cuts from Chiefs‘ 2013 Buffalo Roam demo will, which should give you some indication as to how much the trio got it right the first time around. The title-track of the demo opens, and the album takes its name from one of the demo tracks as well, so it all ties together. Chiefs on Thee Facebooks, Battleground Records, Roosevelt Row Records.
10. Clutch, TBA
Clutch‘s Earth Rocker (review here) was the undisputed high point of 2013, and the long-running Maryland four-piece have returned to the Machine Shop studio (now located in Texas) to record the follow-up to it. They’ve been playing new material live for a while now, as they’ll do, and while they always manage to change things up from album to album, the fact that they’ve going back to work with Machine again makes in plain that they’re where they want to be at this point sound-wise. As if there was ever any doubt. Their forever-tour will continue, but it’s good to know they’re taking a little break from the road to put together another slab for their always-expanding, always-frothing fanbase. Clutch on Thee Facebooks, Weathermaker Music.
11. Conan, TBA
I’m not sure if it will be out before the end of 2015, but whenever it arrives, the next Conan should be a much different affair than we’ve yet heard from the UK thunderplodders, whose 2014 Napalm Records debut, Blood Eagle (review here), further established their dominance among the heaviest bands in doom. Since that album hit, guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis has traded out two-thirds of the trio, bringing in producer Chris Fielding on bass/vocals and new drummer Rich Lewis. Davis‘ riffs have always been at the core of what makes Conan the beast they are, so I wouldn’t expect much fixing of what isn’t broken, but don’t be surprised if some different personalities emerge in Fielding and Lewis as well. Conan on Thee Facebooks, Conan’s webstore.
12. Colour Haze, To the Highest Gods We Know
Yeah, I’m sneaking this one in here. Sorry, but frankly, I think Colour Haze deserve more than a toss-it-out-there mid-December album release date, so instead of the CD release, which was last month, I’m choosing to think of the impending Feb./March vinyl issue as the official one for To the Highest Gods We Know (review here), which is both a fascinating and fitting answer to Colour Haze‘s 2012 outing, She Said (review here). Feels strange so early in the year to start calling out end-of-year highlights, but between this and Acid King, I feel like two of my top five are already set in stone, and that’s a pretty good start to any year. Colour Haze are one of the most important heavy rock bands of their generation, and they continue to expand their form and the genre as a whole. Colour Haze’s website, Elektrohasch Schallplatten.
13. Corrections House, TBA
Their totalitarian fetishizing well intact, the it’s-a-supergroup-but-don’t-call-it-a-supergroup Corrections House announced back in November that they’d have a sophomore effort out this year to follow their 2013 debut, Last City Zero. The returning lineup of guitarist Scott Kelly (Neurosis), vocalist Mike Williams (Eyehategod), saxophonist Bruce Lamont (Yakuza) and keyboardist/programmer Sanford Parker (Buried at Sea, etc.) is enough to warrant attention in itself, and while their industrial tinged output isn’t really my thing sound-wise, they’re not an assemblage easily ignored. Hopefully a recently canceled round of tour dates doesn’t derail the new release plams. Corrections House on Thee Facebooks, at Neurot Recordings.
14. Corsair, One Eyed Horse
Virginian dual-guitar classic heavy rock/metallers Corsair are now three years removed from their Shadow Kingdom Records self-titled debut (review here), and their new album, One Eyed Horse, arrives with a striking-almost-disturbing cover and a refined progressive edge. Their melodic sensibility has never been in question, and guitarists Marie Landragin and Paul Sebring, bassist Jordan Brunk (who, like the guitarists, contributes vocals) and drummer Michael Taylor will look to expand their reach even further with the eight new vinyl-ready tracks. One looks forward to the album and hopes for a tour in equal measure. Corsair’s website, Shadow Kingdom Records.
15. Crypt Sermon, Out of the Garden
Classic doom bleeds through the cover of Philly five-piece Crypt Sermon‘s debut full-length, Out of the Garden. Set to release Feb. 24 on Dark Descent Records, I’d expect Out of the Garden to be an early highlight for the year in doom despite being Crypt Sermon‘s first outing. Their Demo MMXIII (review here) found them well schooled in the tenets of the downtrodden, and while the record may end up a sleeper, it’s one that no doubt will find its way to the right ears; namely those of the old school doomers tired of psychedelic idolatry, who want something dark, beaten and grueling without concern for genre-melding or novelty. So, doom on. Crypt Sermon on Thee Facebooks, Dark Descent Records.
16. Ecstatic Vision, TBA
Also based in Philadelphia, heavy psych troupe Ecstatic Vision signed to Relapse on the strength of a demo and an apparent willingness to hit the road — they’ll do so this spring alongside YOB and Enslaved — and as just about any band who’s ever sent that label a rough recording will likely tell you, that’s no small feat. I was fortunate enough to catch them in Brooklyn last month (opening for YOB, as it happened), and the appeal was easy to see in their space rock jamming, lighting effects and propensity for deceptively quick rhythmic turns. A debut offering is reportedly due this year, and as it will come after they spend a month on the road, I expect it will be something to behold. Ecstatic Vision on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.
17. Elder, Lore
What to say about Elder? They’re a bright spot in the hope for the next generation of heavy rock, but they were that already. What really distinguishes their third album, Lore, is the fiercely progressive bent of the tracks, songs like “Compendium” (streamed here) taking the hypnotic rhythms of 2012’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here) and refining what Elder — the trio of guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto — do with a newfound clarity of purpose and precision execution. They make well-thought-out songs sound exciting front to back, and if you’ve ever dug anything they’ve done, you’re going to shit a brick when you hear the title-track of Lore. Elder on Thee Facebooks, Armageddon Shop, Stickman Records.
18. Enslaved, In Times
I make no bones or apologies about being an Enslaved fan. The Norwegian progressive black metallers strip down their presentation with In Times, the follow-up to 2012’s Riitiir (review here), solidifying some aspects of their approach while nodding at the brutality of yore in a still-somehow-forward-thinking manner. They never fail to deliver, and they’ve long since hit a stride where they can deliver album after album and come up with ways to advance their sound each time out. Recording themselves has only made them bolder over their last couple records, and In Times benefits from this in its brought-to-fruition experiments as well. It would take a lot for these guys to do wrong in my eyes. Enslaved on Thee Facebooks, Nuclear Blast Records.
19. Eye, TBA
They’re the Midwest’s inadvertent answer to the West Coast’s Moog-prog vibing, and Ohio’s Eye want for nothing in comparison to any of their coastal contemporaries. The photo above was taken recently in the studio — I’ll just assume the room is actually that color when they record and that that is not, in fact, an Instagram filter — tracking their third record and follow-up to 2013’s brilliant-yes-brilliant Second Sight (review here), which rightfully garnered attention far and wide. No release date yet for the new one from what I’ve seen, but the album is reportedly done, so hopefully it won’t be too long before it sees release, most likely on vinyl since that seems to be where the band’s heart lies. Eye on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
20. Freedom Hawk, TBA
After an appearance last year at Roadburn and confirmation of a return trip to Europe this spring for Freak Valley in Germany, Virginia’s Freedom Hawk would seem to have considerably expanded their reach. Last year saw them lose guitarist Matt Cave and transition from a four-piece to a trio, and they were in the studio in the fall to record their second album for Small Stone behind their 2011 label debut, Holding On (review here), and while I’m not sure if it’s finished or if it will be out in time for the band’s sojourn abroad, one assumes it will be out sooner or later. Their late-2013 Live at the Jewish Mother download makes a decent stopgap if you’ve got a hankering, but they’re due for a new one for sure. Freedom Hawk on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.
21. Glowsun, Glowsun
In a recent discussion about finally picking up Glowsun‘s 2012 outing, Eternal Season, I said I wasn’t going to miss their next record, so I guess you could call this me holding myself to that task. The French heavy psych outfit have a new one, apparently self-titled — though of course I could be wrong; I’m just going by the album art — due out for release this Spring. I haven’t seen an official date from Napalm for when it’s due, but it’s not one I’m going to let slip by one way or another as I did for far too long with Eternal Season. Some mistakes don’t bear repeating, and Glowsun‘s output is of a quality that demands immediacy. At least now I know it. Ha. Glowsun on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
22. Goatsnake, TBA
Rumors abound about a new Goatsnake. They’re in the studio, this is done, that isn’t done, they’re over here, over there. They’re headlining Freak Valley and playing Psycho California, and they headlined Southwest Terror Fest III last fall, but the last official word I saw about a new album — it would be their first since their 2004 Trampled Under Hoof EP — was last Sept., when word came down that it was happening at all and that Southern Lord would put it out. A timetable on when would be convenient, but maybe that’s asking too much and I should be grateful it’s even being discussed. They remain on my bucket list of bands to see before I die. One of these days I’ll get there. Southern Lord Recordings, Southern Lord on Thee Facebooks.
23. Gozu, TBA
Probably the biggest change for Boston’s Gozu since the 2013 release of their second album for Small Stone, The Fury of a Patient Man (review here), is the solidification of their lineup. As they enter into the process for their third Small Stone outing, they’ll do so with bassist Joe Grotto and drummer Mike Hubbard. Grotto played on part of Fury, but Hubbard (ex-Warhorse) is a new presence entirely in the band. They’ve also experimented with a third guitarist, so they might not be so solidified, but they’ve got a monster of a core four-piece to work with in Grotto, Hubbard, guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney and guitarist Doug Sherman, and they seem poised to get the most out of the chemistry they’ve busted their collective ass to develop. Gozu on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.
24. High on Fire, TBA
I feel like a new High on Fire record isn’t even just an event for heavy rock at this point but for metal as a whole. The Matt Pike-fronted three-piece hit the studio this month (this week?) after a quick tour up the East Coast, returning to Massachusetts to work with Converge‘s Kurt Ballou at his Godcity Studios, where they also busted out 2012’s De Vermis Mysteriis (review here). For anyone who heard that record, it should be plain why they’d want to work with Ballou again — even enough to go to Massachusetts in January — and whenever their next one shows up, no doubt it will do so as one of 2015’s most anticipated offerings. I’m not sure what to expect other than “heavy,” but that’s enough to go on for now. High on Fire on Thee Facebooks, eOne Metal.
25. Hollow Leg, TBA
My interest was piqued early last year when Floridian sludgers Hollow Leg issued their God-Eater single and spoke of it as the beginning of a change in direction. The change? More melody, a less outright aggressive style, more of an emphasis on thickness rather than rawness. As a starting point, the song “God-Eater” seemed to bode well, and I’m hoping in 2015 that Hollow Leg follow through at least partially on its promise. Not that the viciousness of 2013’s second LP, Abysmal (review here), left me particularly wanting, just that they seemed to be following a fulfilling new-ish path, and I thought the sound was one worth pursuing. They’ve said their third will be out this year, so I’ll take it. Hollow Leg on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
26. Horsehunter, Caged in Flesh
Australian four-piece Horsehunter made an impression a few weeks back with the 16-minute “Stoned to Death,” the opening track from their Magnetic Eye Records debut LP, Caged in Flesh, and it stands to reason why. Crushing tones, brutal vibes and hints of psychedelic wash abounded on what was a gripping sample of the album, which the band had recorded, scapped because it wasn’t heavy enough and then recorded again. There are four songs on Caged in Flesh, so “Stoned to Death” is literally just the beginning for Horsehunter, whose foreboding atmospherics come across no less punishing than their most weighted of tones. Horsehunter on Thee Facebooks, Magnetic Eye Records.
27. Kind, TBA
I’ve been lucky enough to see Boston four-piece Kind play twice, the lineup of vocalist Craig Riggs (also Roadsaw), guitarist Darryl Shepard (also Black Pyramid, Blackwolfgoat, etc.), bassist Tom Corino (also Rozamov) and drummer Matt Couto (also Elder) taking shape visibly from one show to the next. Their debut full-length is in progress now at the Riggs-owned Mad Oak Studios in Allston, and while I don’t think I can say yet what label it’s coming out on (it’s not Small Stone), the latest word I’ve gotten is that a summer release is booked. Definitely interested to hear how the jams I’ve seen live translate to a studio recording, and how Corino‘s tone comes through Mad Oak‘s board. Kind on Thee Facebooks, on Soundcloud.
28. Kings Destroy, Kings Destroy
So, you’d think the pic of Kings Destroy bassist Aaron Bumpus above is from some recent studio shot while they’re tracking their third album, right? Nope. The self-titled’s been in the can for months. It’s out in April on War Crime Recordings. What Kings Destroy are doing now is working on album number four, and I bet before it comes out, they’ll be on number five. Fiercely creative. I’ve had the KD record for I don’t know how long at this point, and it’s the best thing they’ve done yet. I can’t even pretend to feign impartiality after being asked to tour with them twice last year — a fucking blessing both times — but it’s the closest they’ve come to their live sound so far and that progress suits them remarkably well. Kings Destroy on Thee Facebooks, War Crime Recordings.
29. Lamprey, TBA
The two-bass Portland trio Lamprey‘s recent stop-motion video for “Iron Awake” served due notice of their impending album, as yet untitled, and while it’s the shortest track on there by a considerable margin, it nonetheless represents the big-crash, big-impact severity of the outing as a whole. Not sure through what label it will surface if one at all or on what media it will be pressed — the word burning above, which I hope is the album cover, may or may not be — but the full-length seems poised to establish them as a force after 2012’s The Burden of Beasts EP (review here) brought their sometimes-plodding, sometimes-sprinting heavy rock into focus. Also, one of the songs is called “Lament of the Deathworm,” and that just rules. Lamprey on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
30. Lord Dying, Poisoned Altars
The hard-touring Portlanders teamed up with Dark Castle drummer Rob Shaffer for their sophomore outing for Relapse Records, Poisoned Altars (review here), and though he’s since out of the band, his presence bolsters the songs in Lord Dying‘s blend of High on Fire-style thrash and Crowbar-loyal sludge. A pervasive sense of simplicity helps the material achieve maximum force, but the hard-won nature of Lord Dying‘s cohesion isn’t to be understated or underappreciated — they did about 18 months of touring in support of their first effort, Summon the Faithless. At least they know their time wasn’t misspent. Seems likely they’ll continue to pound the pavement throughout 2015, so keep an eye open. Lord Dying on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.
31. Magic Circle, TBA
Rest assured, I’ve seen zero confirmation that a new Magic Circle album is under way. There’s been no word from the by-now-notoriously secretive Massachusetts-based band or their label, Armageddon Shop, on the subject of a follow-up to their 2013 self-titled debut (review here). This is rampant speculation. Their first 7″ was recently re-pressed, though, so there’s activity in their camp one way or another. They also made their way out to Seattle in October to open for Satan, which only emphasizes the fact that you never really know when they’re going to show up until they do. Ditto that their next album, I suppose. Hopefully this year it happens. Armageddom Shop website, on Thee Facebooks.
32. The Midnight Ghost Train, Cold was the Ground
Riotous Southern heavy rockers The Midnight Ghost Train have outdone themselves with their Napalm Records debut, Cold was the Ground, taking the rager blues of 2012’s Buffalo (review here) to new heights of manic push. After several years of steady touring, the Kansas-based trio of guitarist/vocalist Steve Moss, drummer Brandon Burghart and bassist Mike Boyne are an explosive live act, and as the recent video premiere for “Gladstone” showcased, their third album reaps the rewards of their labors. It’s due to release March 10 in North America, but I really don’t need to note the date, because you’ll hear it coming a mile away like the freight train that it is. The Midnight Ghost Train on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
33. Minsk, TBA
A new Minsk full-length is an utterly fascinating thought. Sorry if that sounds cold or overly clinical, but it’s true. Consider that it’s been six years since the Chicago post-metallers last released an album. That record, 2009’s With Echoes in the Movement of Stone (review here), hit at what was arguably the pinnacle of post-metal’s stylistic movement, the waters having since receded in no small part because Minsk wasn’t around to push forward creatively. Now, with slots booked at Roadburn and Desertfest, they’ll make a return to the studio as well, and I have absolutely zero idea of what to expect from them. A partially-revamped, Sanford Parker-less lineup only adds further intrigue. Minsk on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
34. Mondo Drag, Mondo Drag
This is one of I think two or three releases on this list that’s already out. The self-titled Mondo Drag (review here) nonetheless warrants inclusion for its heavy psych boogie concoctions and natural-toned spirit, not full-on retro but still well-indebted to the heavy ’70s in its use of organ and guitar and the swing of its rhythm section. That rhythm section? Zack Anderson and Cory Berry, who, fresh out of Radio Moscow, stepped in to record with fellow Iowans Mondo Drag in 2012 before founding Blues Pills. A shortlived moment in Mondo Drag‘s history, perhaps, but they got a killer record out of it, and while the recordings are already three years old, they’re well worth the time to appreciate. Mondo Drag on Thee Facebooks, Bilocation Records.
35. Monolord, Vaenir
Swedish trio Monolord won over hearts and minds bigtime with their 2014 RidingEasy Records debut, Empress Rising, earning a spot on the 2014 Readers Poll right between Eyehategod and Mastodon. That’s rather significant company to keep — and all the more so for a band’s first record — and with Vaenir, we’ll get to hear how the intervening year has seen them progress. They’ve already proven a favorite among the converted, and they’ll tour in Feb./March with Salem’s Pot ahead of an appearance at Roadburn prior to Vaenir‘s April 28 arrival date, so it looks like they’ll keep their momentum moving forward through the release and most likely beyond. Monolord on Thee Facebooks, RidingEasy Records.
36. Neurosis, TBA
Okay. I don’t know that Neurosis‘ next album will be out in 2015. It’s just not a thing I know. What I know is that the ultra-seminal five-piece are getting together to write in Feb., and that they’re a no-bullshit band when it comes to writing and recording, so the timing works that, if they make new songs happen this winter, their record would probably be ready for release sometime in the summer or early fall. That’s what I’m going on. It might be that they write half the album now and half in 2016, but from what I hear they’re planning on doing some more significant touring this year, so it would stand to reason they’d want to do it with a follow-up to 2012’s Honor Found in Decay (review here) under their collective belt. We’ll see what we get. Neurosis on Thee Facebooks, Neurot Recordings.
37. Pentagram, TBA
I saw Pentagram play 20 shows last year. Believe me when I say the pairing of frontman Bobby Liebling and guitarist Victor Griffin has never seemed stronger musically, and with bassist Greg Turley and drummer Sean Saley, Pentagram head into the making of their next album firing on all proverbial cylinders. Metal Blade, who also issued their 2011 comeback album, Last Rites (review here), seems the likely outlet for the yet-untitled offering, which the band will herald with a headlining performance at Psycho California alongside Sleep and Cult of Luna on May 15-17, and which will no doubt dig deep into Pentagram‘s long history of doom for a trove of classic-style riffs. Pentagram on Thee Facebooks, Metal Blade Records.
38. Ruby the Hatchet, Valley of the Snake
A not-so-subtle Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats influence permeates Ruby the Hatchet‘s Tee Pee Records debut, Valley of the Snake, which is something the Philly-based band seems to acknowledge willfully on “Vast Acid,” frontwoman Jillian Taylor crooning “I’ll cut you down” toward the end of the song in a call-out of one of the UK outfit’s most resonant hooks. Otherwise, the organ-laced five-piece get down on more psychedelic vibes, though the heavy ’70s swing in the drums could be taken as another common factor, if you really wanted to stretch it. Either way, a laid back, less murderous atmosphere persists, and that suits me just fine. Out Feb. 24. Bonus points for the gorgeous Adam Burke cover art. Ruby the Hatchet on Thee Facebooks, Tee Pee Records.
39. Saturnalia Temple, To the Other
The entire meaning of being a “cult” band has changed since Sweden’s Saturnalia Temple released their UR demo in 2007, but after their 2011 debut, Aion of Drakon, hit with such a low-end wash of psychedelic obscurity, I’m intrigued to hear what they’ve come up with on To the Other, the cover’s foreboding darkness, consuming swirl and bizarre patterning seeming a fit for their sonic methodology. To the Other is out April 7 on The Ajna Offensive, and features Tim Call of The Howling Wind and Aldebaran on drums alongside Saturnalia Temple guitarist/vocalist Tommie Ericksson and bassist Peter. Saturnalia Temple on Thee Facebooks, The Ajna Offensive.
40. Six Organs of Admittance, Hexadic
I’ll make no claims toward understanding the theoretical basis driving the latest outing from the Ben Chasny-helmed project Six Organs of Admittance, which in its 17-year history has gone from bedroom folk and avant electronics to the far-ranging heavy psych jamming of 2012’s Ascent (review here). Chasny, joined by members of Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound and Deerhoof on the album — which is due out Feb. 17 on Drag City — seems to have developed a compositional method based around a system involving playing cards and varying tonal intensities. No idea what the hell any of it means, but it sounds like a freakout to me, so I’m in. Six Organs of Admittance website, Drag City Records.
41. Snail, Feral
Come on, Snail. Even if Feral‘s not coming out until later in the year, you can send it to me. I won’t tell anybody if you don’t want me to. I can keep it to myself. Hell, I won’t even review it until I get word that it’s cool to do so, I just want to hear the damn thing. Alright, Snail, have it your way. I’ll just sit here and remember how awesome Terminus (review here) was when that came out in 2012, and Blood (review here) before that in 2009 back when I did snarky headlines for reviews. That’s cool. I’ve waited this long for your Small Stone debut to make its way into my ears, I guess I’ll just keep waiting until it shows up. Which it would be awfully nice if it did as soon as possible. Today works. Now works. Snail on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.
42. Sourvein, Aquatic Fanatic
At the risk of being sincere, I’ll say it warms my cold, doomed heart to know that Sourvein‘s next album is going to be released by Metal Blade Records. After trudging the Southern sludge underground for, what, 20 years?, the Cape Fear-based outfit led by T-Roy Medlin (whose lineage goes back to Buzzov*en, lest we forget their role in establishing the sound) are finally poised to get their due, and I think it’s fucking awesome. Mike Dean‘s producing the thing, and you know Sourvein are going to tour the hell out of it because that’s what they do whether they’ve got a new record or not. I’m calling it the feelgood story of the year, which is perfect since the music will most likely be utterly scathing. Sourvein on Thee Facebooks, Metal Blade Records.
43. Spidergawd, II
Just stop reading and go fucking listen to Spidergawd. Here, I did a track premiere a little bit ago for the song “Tourniquet.” It rules. Go listen to that. For the life of me I have no idea why this band’s name isn’t on the lips of every boogie-loving heavy rocker in the universe. Stickman has the new album, Spidergawd II, sold out in the special edition preorders, but there’s a regular version still available and apparently en route from the plant, and for the love of all things riffed, it’s glorious. So get on it. I implore you. And no, I don’t have any idea what’s going on with the album cover, so don’t ask. No time for questions anyway. Get listening. Spidergawd on Thee Facebooks, Stickman Records.
44. Stoned Jesus, The Harvest
Ukrainian heavy rockers Stoned Jesus posted the opening track from their third album, The Harvest, a while back on their Bandcamp page, and my goodness it does swing. They’ll make their way to the US for the first time in support of The Harvest, appearing at the Psycho California fest and hopefully elsewhere, and they do so having built up a steady following with their first two long-players, 2010’s First Communion (noted here) and 2012’s Seven Thunders Roar (review here), their most stonerly of names spread far and wide ahead of the latest offering’s early March arrival following 2013’s jams collection, The Seeds, Vol. 1. Stoned Jesus on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
45. Torche, Restarter
I haven’t heard it yet, but Torche‘s awaited Relapse Records debut, Restarter, is due out Feb. 24 and the band are kicking into gear once again to mark its coming. They’ve already announced US and European tours to carry them through June, and I don’t imagine there are many markets they’ll leave un-hit by the time they’re through. Their last album, 2012’s Harmonicraft (review here), was a solid showing of what’s come to be expected of them in terms of hooks, upbeat heaviness and melodies, but especially with the ambitious title, the new label and the energized-seeming schedule, I’m hoping that Restarter gives the band the same kind of boot to the ass they’ve been to delivering the heavy underground for the last decade. Torche on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.
46. Ufomammut, Ecate
Very, very much looking forward to hearing Ecate, the newest outing from Ufomammut and their “second” album for Neurot Recordings behind the 2012 two-parter Oro (reviews here and here). Why is kind of a silly question — new Ufomammut is its own excuse for anticipation — but truth be told, they’ve always managed to get bigger-sounding and more expansive with each LP, and after having to break their last album in half and release the two pieces months apart from each other, I’m dying to know where they go with Ecate, what shifts in their sound the last couple years — including last year, which was their 15th anniversary — have brought and where in the cosmos they might be headed now. Ufomammut on Thee Facebooks, Neurot Recordings.
47. Valkyrie, TBA
During what I guess we’ll call Valkyrie‘s original run, the Virginia two-guitar four-piece released a pair of albums, 2006’s Valkyrie and 2008’s Man of Two Visions — both of which were reissued through MeteorCity in 2010 — before guitarist Peter Adams, who founded the band with his brother, guitarist/vocalist Jake Adams, got signed to Relapse with his other group, Baroness. Now back with Earthling‘s Alan Fary on bass and drummer Warren Hawkins, they’ve got their new LP recorded with Sanford Parker and reportedly in the can for an early 2015 release, also through Relapse. They’ll no doubt be greeted as heroes when they play the Maryland Doom Fest in June, and understandably so. Valkyrie on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.
48. VA, Electric Ladyland Redux & The Best of James Marshall Hendrix
Magnetic Eye Records launched a Kickstarter campaign last fall with the ambitious aim of paying homage to Jimi Hendrix by having current heavy rock artists (Elder, Earthless, Wo Fat, Gozu and more; full list here) re-record Electric Ladyland in its entirety. The project, on track to be released this year to coincide with what would’ve been Hendrix‘s 73rd birthday in November, expanded to include a tribute best-of collection as well, and has grown in repute ahead of its actually being issued to stand as a gathering of some of the finest the underground has to offer playing some of the best rock and roll ever crafted. From the idea to the impending reality of it, there’s really no arguing with this one. Magnetic Eye Records on Thee Facebooks, Magnetic Eye webstore.
49. Wino & Conny Ochs, Freedom Conspiracy
When Scott “Wino” Weinrich entered rehab late last fall, he mentioned in a public statement several projects in the works. Spirit Caravan‘s reunion is ongoing. Saint Vitus are due for a next album, but he also noted the second release for his collaboration with German singer-songwriter Conny Ochs, Freedom Conspiracy, as being in early 2015. Particularly after the ultra-intimate, solo feel of Wino‘s 2010 acoustic debut, Adrift (review here), the first collaboration with Ochs, 2012’s Heavy Kingdom (review here), was an unexpected expansion of the form that paid sonic dividends in both the songwriting and performance of both players. A second installment should benefit from the chemistry they built on the road for the debut. Conny Ochs on Thee Facebooks, Exile on Mainstream.
50. Wizard Eye, TBA
Heard it. Slays. Actually, I’m not sure if the version of Wizard Eye‘s sophomore full-length I got was final, but the songs were killer either way, and the Philly stoner-toner three-piece will have the album out on vinyl later this year through a newcomer label that I don’t think I’m supposed to mention yet so I won’t. Either way, they’re included here because the more heads they reach the better, their blend of rolling grooves, sludged out vocals and the occasional bout of theremin is just right for the riff-loving purist in all of us. Their recent live outing, Riff Occult Live (review here) says it better than I could, so make a note to yourself to dig into that at your next convenience. It’s name-your-price on Bandcamp. Wizard Eye on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
51. Wretch, TBA
Listed as the “bastard spawn” of The Gates of Slumber, Wretch finds that band’s guitarist/vocalist Karl Simon teamed with bassist Bryce Clark and drummer Chris Gordon, the prior outfit having been laid to rest in 2013 after what seemed like an excellent return to form in 2011’s The Wretch (review here) and subsequent Scion-sponsored EP. I haven’t heard the new band yet, but some demos have made their way out thus far, and you’d have to figure it won’t be too long before Simon, Clark and Gordon make their proper debut as Wretch and start a new chapter in one of modern traditional doom’s most pivotal legacies. Wretch on Thee Facebooks, Tone Deaf Touring.
52. Zun, TBA
Early in 2013, a song called “Come through the Water” (review here) appeared as the first audio from a new project helmed by guitarist Gary Arce of Yawning Man called Zun. It was to be used as Zun‘s portion of a split with Fatso Jetson and while I’m not sure that ever materialized, it drew immediate attention for the collaboration between Arce and vocalist Sera Timms of Ides of Gemini and Black Mare, also formerly of Black Math Horseman. A significant duo for sure. With Bill Stinson (also Yawning Man) on drums, they’re set to debut later this year on Small Stone with their first album, and if Timms and Arce aren’t enough to draw your attention so late in the feature — the hazards of alphabetics — the one and only John Garcia is set for a guest appearance on the record. Dig that, desert rockers. Yawning Man on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.
Going Into Overload…
So, okay. At this point, you could literally buy a different record each week of this year and hear something that, unless there’s some disaster between the idea of the album and the actual thing itself, is most likely worth your time. That’s not too bad. But we’re not at 88 yet, so with those 52 already set, I’ve got 36 more that you might want to keep on your radar.
Some of these are solidly lined up, some are slated to be recorded, etc., so the same rule of “things don’t always work out the way they’re supposed to” applies. With that caveat:
53. Abrahma, TBA — Their second album for Small Stone is due sometime this year.
54. Bedroom Rehab Corporation, Fortunate Some — From what I hear, the Connecticut twosome have their second record in the can.
55. Black Black Black, TBA — Brooklyn outfit featuring former members of Disengage should have a sophomore album out in 2015.
56. Black Pyramid, New 7″ — The trio will release a new single to coincide with their Euro tour that includes a stop at Desertfest.
57. Bright Curse, New 10″ EP — It was mentioned the new lineup would record an EP before taking on their next album.
58. Camel of Doom, TBA — Was announced in December there’d be a new Camel of Doom along with a vinyl of their last album.
59. Cherry Choke, Raising the Waters — Should be out this month on Elektrohasch.
60. La Chinga, TBA — Vancouver group’s Small Stone debut is reportedly being mixed.
61. Curse the Son, TBA — I’m hoping this one gets out by the end of the year. It will be the CT trio’s first with their new bassist.
62. Egypt, Endless Flight — North Dakota’s favored sons will return with a new full-length this summer. Album trailer posted with a clip of the new song “Tres Madres.”
63. Enos, TBA — Not sure where they’re at with it, but worth keeping an eye out.
64. Foghound, TBA — The Maryland rockers have finished tracking their new album with Mike Dean of Corrosion of Conformity at the helm.
65. Funeral Horse, TBA — They’ve been full of surprises on their first two releases and they work quick, so I wouldn’t be surprised if something new showed up.
66. Fuzz Evil, TBA — Interested to see where they go on an LP after their split with Chiefs.
67. The Glasspack, Moon Patrol — A snippet clip has been posted that bodes well. Supposed to be done recording in the spring. They’re currently sorting out label whatnots.
68. Graves at Sea, TBA — Yeah, it’s been more than a decade since their demo, but a split and an EP into their reunion, they just signed to Relapse, so now might be the time a debut album shows up.
69. House of Broken Promises, TBA — Should be a change from the first album after swapping out bassist/vocalists. They killed live last I saw.
70. Ice Dragon, TBA — No solid word of a new release from the Boston garage doom forerunners, but they’re always up to something.
71. Killer Boogie, Detroit — The debut from this Black Rainbows offshoot is out this month on Heavy Psych Sounds.
72. Krautzone, TBA — German synth-heavy prog-jammers have hit a groove and hopefully they continue to ride it as well as they have thus far.
73. Leeches of Lore, TBA — Wishful thinking on my part? Maybe. Got my fingers crossed, though.
74. Legion of Andromeda, Iron Scorn — They’re about as extreme as extreme doom gets. Album out next month.
75. Lord Fowl, TBA — I think they’re writing. Might be 2016 before it gets here, but I’ll take it whenever it comes. They’re worth a mention either way.
76. The Machine, TBA — Been a minute since we last heard from the Dutch heavy psych jammers. They were on this list last year as well.
77. Mirror Queen, Scaffolds of the Sky — Should be out in April on Tee Pee, and that suits me just fine. Choice grooves for springtime.
78. Mountain God, Forest of the Lost — A single-song EP from the Brooklyn post-sludgers is out in Feb. with a release show booked.
79. Om, TBA — I’ve yet to see solid evidence that a new Om is in the pipeline, but no one knew that Sleep single was coming last year either.
80. Planes of Satori, Planes of Satori — Dug their single, hope the full-length follows suit.
81. Pombagira, Flesh Throne Press— Their sixth album and Svart debut is due on March 23 as per this week’s announcement.
82. Righteous Bloom, TBA — My understanding was the Beelzefuzz offshoot are writing. Would be good if they can pick up where the prior act left off.
83. Royal Thunder, Crooked Doors— The Atlanta outfit’s second album for Relapse is due out April 7.
84. Sandrider/Kinski, Split — Don’t know much about Kinski, but new Sandrider is enough to sell me on it. Out Feb. 17 on Good to Die.
85. SardoniS, TBA — Expect big lumbering riffs from this Belgian duo, always. A new album is en route, last I heard.
86. Sun Voyager, TBA — Didn’t get to hear their last tape, but a five-song EP is due out sometime soon.
87. Sweat Lodge, Talismana — Not much word since they signed to Ripple, but they said this year, so until I hear otherwise…
88. Throttlerod, TBA — A teaser clip of new riffage came out over this past weekend. New Throttlerod is never something to complain about.
89. Venomous Maximus, Firewalker — When they signed to Shadow Kingdom in November, they gave it the ol’ “sometime in 2015.”
90. Weedeater, TBA — After a whole series of reissues, their Season of Mist debut is due.
91. Wight, Love is Not Only What You Know — Alphabetically last but not at all last in my heart, Germany’s Wight have their third record in progress. More in the comments.
92. Wo Fat, Live Juju at Freak Valley— Wo Fat‘s live set from the 2014 Freak Valley fest in Germany is due to release on vinyl March 17 in an edition of 500 copies.
Others to Keep an Eye On…
Guitarist Ian Gerber of Indianapolis’ The Heavy Co. has a couple side-projects going, but new stuff from his main band doesn’t seem unlikely either. New York’s Geezer might also have something new before December in addition to Ripple‘s CD version of their Gage release, and labelmates King Buffalo are continuing their relationship with STB Records via a new spit next month, so hopefully a debut LP follows that. Let it Breathe should make their debut on the label too in 2015.
Recently streamed trio Wake up Lucid release their EP on March 31. Last I heard The Body had a new one coming too in collaboration with Thou. Sixty Watt Shaman have plans to record tracks for a split due out later this year, and they’ll reissue their first album, 1998’s Ultra Electric, as well. Look out for Godhunter‘s split/collaboration with Amigo the Devil, and the second offering from Black Moon Circle is on the way. Balam‘s full-length should also be out sometime this year, and I anxiously await news of a solid release date for the third Clamfight record.
Murmurings abound also for new ones from Graveyard, Greenleaf, The Sword, Vhöl and others.
Plus, Sleep still exist and that simple fact probably makes them worth more of a mention than this quick aside. Their 2014 single The Clarity was an offering of pure Iommic idolatry. A sign of things to come? Who the hell knows.
If you don’t have enough to go by yet, labels like Sulatron, Tee Pee, El Paraiso, Ripple, Small Stone, STB, Napalm and so on are always worth a keen watch what’s next. There’s always something.
Which I guess is the point of this whole thing. I’m sure, even as huge as this list is, someone is going to drop a comment immediately that will make me slap my forehead and wonder how I ever forgot whatever it is. It’s always something. It looks like it’s going to be a tremendous year, so if you’ll pardon me, I’ll cut out quick and get started making my way through it.
No doubt I’ll add to this post over the next couple days, so if the numbers change, don’t be surprised. In any case, if you made it this far, thanks again for reading. May your 2015 be filled with excellent music and even better times.
Posted in audiObelisk on December 17th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Every year at Roadburn, there are a couple bands — guaranteed, without fail — whose sets you want to watch but don’t get to. Maybe you’re somewhere else seeing a once-in-a-lifetime show or reunion or one-time-only thing or maybe you just get the schedule wrong and miss it. This batch of Roadburn 2014 audio streams has the three bands I most regret not seeing at this year’s fest: Freedom Hawk, Inter Arma (pictured above), and Aqua Nebula Oscillator. I wouldn’t have minded catching Anciients, Hark, Glitter Wizard or The Old Wind either, but those three stung particularly hard.
In the case of Inter Arma, their single-song 2014 full-length, The Cavern, has made a considerable splash on the Readers Poll so far, and like their fellow Virginians, Freedom Hawk, they were a band whose schedule just didn’t match my own. At least I can hear what I missed out on, thanks to Marcel van de Vondervoort and his crew, who’ve returned again with another diligently gathered round of primo live recordings. As we move closer to 2015 and the next incarnation of the festival — Roadburn 2015 has a few lineup announcements left, but it seems to be by and large set — all the better to cap off the year that was by tying up such loose ends.
Check out the streams on the players below, snagged from the Dutch website Vpro 3voor12:
Anciients – Roadburn 2014
Aqua Nebula Oscillator – Roadburn 2014
Freedom Hawk – Roadburn 2014
Glitter Wizard – Roadburn 2014
Graves at Sea – Roadburn 2014
Hark – Roadburn 2014
Inter Arma – Roadburn 2014
The Old Wind – Roadburn 2014
Thanks as always to Walter and the Roadburn crew for permission to host the streams. For the other batches of audio from Roadburn 2014 — there’s some stuff worth digging for — click here, here, here and/or here, and to read the coverage from this year’s fest, click here.
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 16th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Now a trio after parting ways this year with guitarist Matt Cave — his brother, Mark, still handles bass — Virginia Beach heavy rockers Freedom Hawk have been announced as the latest addition to the 2015 Freak Valley festival in Germany. Their appearance at Freak Valley 2015 follows a quick run through parts of Europe this past spring that included a stop at the Roadburn festival in the Netherlands. Freedom Hawk also recently were in the studio recording for the follow-up to their 2011 Small Stone label debut, Holding On (review here). No word on a release date yet or whether the Freak Valley gig will be part of another round of European tour dates, but there’s time yet for such things to align and be revealed. In any case, if you’re keeping a running list of stuff to look forward to in 2015, Freedom Hawk isn’t a name to be left out.
Freak Valley put it thusly:
We are stoked to announce that Virginia Riff-Wranglers FREEDOM HAWK will play Freak Valley Festival 2015 !!
Hailing from the barrier dunes of Virginia, this quartet blends heavy riffs, a rolling groove, and soulful guitar melodies to produce the sound that is Freedom Hawk. Their brand of heavy rock coupled with a high energy live show, leaves many wondering if they’ve stepped through a time warp that has taken them to rock’s heyday of the 70’s by the power of their dark music fueled by the sun.
FREEDOM HAWK’s sound is large, like trying to force an elephant to fit in a closet. It’s also melodic for such heavy-handed playing. Walls of guitar riffs were pushed out heavy, soaring and moving like swells and waves at the same time.
Mindblowing cover art by Antoine Defarges // Headbang Design
FREAK VALLEY FESTIVAL – 4th-5th-6th June 2015
FVF tickets are selling like Blues Pills vinyls already – get yours in time – the first 3 editions have been sold out early!! We are selling tix to all parts of this planet!!
Goatsnake – Earthless – Crippled Black Phoenix – The Vintage Caravan – Electric Moon – Gas Giant – Monkey3 – Danava – Egypt – Siena Root – Bröselmaschine – Sigiryia – Kamchatka – Purson – Dead Man – Freedom Hawk – Mountain Witch – Tuber – Valley of the Sun – Tombstones – more tba soon!!
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 25th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Centered around their slot at Roadburn on April 10, Virginian dual-guitar fuzz rockers Freedom Hawk will embark April 5 on a stint that will also take them through Germany, Belgium and France over the course of a week of shows. The four-piece have been working on a follow-up to 2011’s Small Stone debut, Holding On (review here), and with new material expected in their set, their next full-length is due to be recorded over the summer for an early-2015 release.
The PR wire has the particulars:
Small Stone Records and Eclipse Productions Presents: Freedom Hawk (USA) European Tour including Roadburn Festival appearance
In April of 2014, the band known as Freedom Hawk will swoop into Europe complete with their shredding heavy riffs, rolling groove and soulful guitar melodies wrapped in metal packaging. They will be performing at a short run of club shows in Germany, Belgium, France, and Netherlands including an appearance at Roadburn in Tilburg, Netherlands. After tearing up SXSW last year, many showcase events and club shows in the U.S., this unsuspecting and highly underrated group is honored to be invited to the highly coveted Roadburn festival and will be ready to embrace European fans of heavy rock with open talons.
Hailing from the barrier dunes of Virginia, this quartet’s brand of heavy, dark stoner rock fueled by the sun coupled with a high energy live show, leaves many scratching their heads wondering if they’ve stepped through a time warp that has taken them to rock’s heyday of the 70’s. With their latest release ‘Holding On’ coursing through the night air for several years now , the album has had time to embed in the minds of many and grow on others to be regarded as a must have in any music collection.
You surely will not want to miss their live show that will be sure to include one or two unreleased new tunes feathered into the set list to test out on the European audience much like the one titled “Blood Red Sky” that has been exposed to the US audiences. Unfortunately for Europe, Freedom Hawk will need to get back to their creative home nest to continue working on their new full-length album set with the band to record in late summer. The new album is anticipated to be released to the masses via Small Stone Records in late 2014/early 2015 in hopes to please the need of the faithful and newcomers alike.
From the casual rock’n’roller to the rebellious riff-rastler, none of which will be put out to past, it’s guaranteed these new tunes will want to be heard on full blast. In the meantime, do yourself a favor and go get their latest album, Holding On, on CD or your usual digital providers like iTunes, Amazon, etc. and if you’re lucky 180g Vinyl on the bands merch table or at your local record store as they are sold out via Small Stone Records. Regardless, their latest album is sure to please in any format! Let’s Rawk!
Freedom Hawk Tour Dates:
April 5 Siegen, Germany VORTEX April 6 Antwerp, Belgium AMC April 7 Paris, France Le Glazart April 8 Dusseldorf, Germany The Pitcher April 9 Berlin, Germany Jagerklause April 10 Tilburg, Netherlands **Roadburn Festival April 11 Wurzburg, Germany Immerhin April 12 Munster, Germany RARE Guitar
New Merch available on-line now and on the merch table.
Posted in Whathaveyou on November 27th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Virginia fuzzdudes Freedom Hawk have been confirmed for Roadburn 2014. The four-piece are a lock. Now it’s just a matter of paying for it. They could’ve probably done a Kickstarter or something, but everybody’s got one of those, and frankly, “Hey pay for my flight and here’s the vague promise of some future reward,” doesn’t inspire much confidence. Freedom Hawk are a classically-styled band, so they’re taking a classic approach. They’re selling music and merch.
The full story of how the recording of Live at the Jewish Mothercame to be you can see below — essentially it’s a bootleg; soundboard recording, I’d grade it an A for quality — but I wanted to feature the tracks here because for a $5 download, you’re getting something pretty killer and Freedom Hawk are a good band who are going to kill it on the continent. Music and info are below, merch and such is at their Bandcamp.
Freedom Hawk, Live at the Jewish Mother (2013)
Please donate to our European Tour fund raiser to ensure we get there! This a Live Bootleg Recording @ The Jewish Mother, November 23, 2011/The night before Thanksgiving (which happens to be our 8yr anniversary) unknown to the band by Matthew Archerson (sp?) who gave the tracks to Chris Kendrick in the Influence band on the bill that night before he disappeared to LA. Club sound guy got a hold of em and mixed it and gave it to us 2 months ago. Matthew wherever you are – thank you!
Also added are some very limited merch items that include downloads and a limited (50) edition of of our 2008 Sunlight CD in Digipack packaging that includes immediate download.
The live tracks includes tracks off Sunlight and tracks off the S/T release — mixed but unmastered. “Bad Man” and “Stand Back” are very different than the recordings. This live recording is kind of a bootleg really… A dude who was with another band that played that night recorded us on his MacBook Pro hooked into the soundboard (we can’t even confirm if he had the sound engineer’s permission/or if the sound guy knew?). Well long story short the tracks surfaced via the other band’s guitarist (Chris Kendrick) giving it to the sound engineer who also mixed it (Jim Woodling of Phunk Junkies bass player/Highland Studios, Phoenix, AZ).
Jim mixed it for us and gave it to us a month or so ago. We thought it was ok enough to offer to the public to help fund our European tour expenses while not having to stoop to Indiegogo or some other “give me money” scheme. We also put up merch there too that is very limited. The tracks will be combined for inclusion on a European only CD for sale on our Euro Tour/Roadburn performance only. Several of the unreleased live tracks may also show up on a bonus CD included with our new SS album (if it is determined SS worthy quality) we are putting together for a 2014 release (exact date TBD). All donations go directly to our Euro flight purchases!!!