Dunsmuir Self-Titled Debut Due July 22; New 7″ out this Week

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 14th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster


Dunsmuir‘s pedigree reads like other bands’ lists of influences. With members drawn from the ranks of Black Sabbath, Clutch, Fu Manchu and The Company Band, the four-piece’s existence was announced back in January. Since then, they’ve gone on to release three limited 7″ singles, with a fourth and final one out this week ahead of a July 22 issue date through Hall of Records for the band’s self-titled full-length debut. They’re apparently pressing 1,000 copies, selling them with a signed poster and leaving it at that. No word on whether this is an ongoing, occasional project or what. Probably best to get through putting the album out first before thinking about future plans.

Noteworthy that guitarist Dave Bone, bassist Brad Davis and vocalist Neil Fallon all make some mention either directly or indirectly of working with a metallic influence. Drummer Vinny Appice calls it “heavy rock that rocks,” as well, but having not heard the full outing, it adds intrigue to how that plays out across the tracklisting.

From the PR wire:

dunsmuir dunsmuir


Dunsmuir, the new project featuring CLUTCH singer Neil Fallon, former Black Sabbath drummer Vinny Appice, Fu Manchu bassist Brad Davis, and The Company Band guitarist Dave Bone are set to release their self-titled debut album July 22nd via Hall Of Records. Presales will begin July 8th and will be released digitally exclusively on iTunes. The LP will have a limited pressing of 1,000 copies and will include a signed lithograph poster of the album cover. The LP will be available exclusively at: The first single at radio will be “Our Only Master”.

Dunsmuir has released three 7” vinyl singles to date. The fourth and final 7” is slated for release June 15th with a very limited run of only 500 pieces and WILL NOT be re-pressed. It will be available exclusively at

When asked about the album, Appice explains “This album is pure simple heavy ROCK that ROCKS!”

“This record is an intense collaboration of four minds all set on “destroy”. says Bone. “It’s been a few years in the making and now ready to erupt. Raw and in your face, we hope you like it hot!”

“Dunsmuir has given us the opportunity to explore some of our favorite heavy metal influences” adds Davis. “We strove to create something I hope will inspire a lot of head banging all over the world.”

Fallon adds “We turned out some serious metal on this record and it shreds. The concept behind the lyrics is comprised of 10 tales from the survivors of a shipwreck. What had been intended as a scientific expedition, quickly deteriorates into a struggle to survive both the natural and supernatural world.”

Dunsmuir Track Listing
1. Hung On the Rocks
2. Our Only Master
3. The Bats (Are Hungry Tonight)
4. What Manner of Bliss?
5. Deceiver
6. …And Madness
7. Orb of Empire
8. Church of the Tooth
9. The Gate
10. Crawling Chaos!

Brad Davis (Fu Manchu)
Vinny Appice (Dio / Black Sabbath / Heaven & Hell)
Dave Bone (The Company Band)
Neil Fallon (Clutch)

Dunsmuir, “Our Only Master”

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Psycho Las Vegas Announces Initial Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 20th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

psycho las vegas banner

In the fine tradition of, well, last year’s Psycho fest, 2016’s Psycho Las Vegas has announced an overwhelmingly impressive initial group of acts for its lineup, including some of the finest North America has to offer and choice imports. Notable in that category are Candlemass, The Crazy World of Arthur Brown, Colour Haze, Mars Red Sky, Belzebong, Øresund Space Collective and The Cosmic Dead, and they’re joined by returning figureheads Sleep and Pentagram, who headlined the 2015 Psycho California fest, along with YOB, Down, Mudhoney, Acid King, Fu Manchu and a whole host of others listed below.

The truly insane part about Psycho Las Vegas is that, like last year with Psycho California, the lineup is staggered, so this isn’t it. On Valentines Day, the festival will announce its full lineup of acts, which I’m just going to go out on a limb and assume includes everyone else on earth, and then after that, in March, they’ll follow up again with the headliners. So what we learn today is that 2015’s headliners will have someone playing over them. I don’t know who, or how that could be possible, but you can bet your ass I’m anxious to find out.

All the details so far unveiled about Psycho Las Vegas, as well as the link to purchase tickets, appear below:

psycho las vegas poster


Neon Knights arrive and ignite the the city of light in a sleepless celebration of heavy culture. High rollin’ low lifes will low roll the high life at the world famous Hard Rock Hotel and Casino in “Sin City”, Las Vegas. For three straight days, from August 26th through the 28th, born losers win as Psycho Las Vegas holds a rock steady hand of bands, performance artists, tattoo artists, art exhibits, a black light chamber, custom van and chopper show, pinball arcade, and much more.

Psycho Las Vegas sins and grins two blocks south of the strip at the expansive Hard Rock Hotel and Casino. The high-octane Rock ‘n’ Roll-themed casino resort hosts three stages; The Joint, which is a main stage, Vinyl, the rock club and out under the desert night sky is the second main stage, The Pool Stage. Experience live music, 24 hours a day.

In between bands and bets, ride outside to the venue’s open lot and witness the most bitchin’ rides this side of Death Valley at Psycho’s first ever custom van and chopper show!

Psycho Las Vegas features some of the most revered screen printed poster artwork with an exclusive exhibition from commissioned Psycho Las Vegas artist David D’Andrea. D’andrea, who returns to Psycho for a second year, created all the official festival artwork. Attendees will be able to eternally commemorate the event on their own walls with signed, limited edition works from D’Andrea.

Psycho Las Vegas acts and events were co-curated with music scene stalwart Sean “Pellet” Pelletier. (“Last Days Here” documentary) “Thief Present’s ‘Psycho’ festivals are visionary and have consecutively been the number one music event I’ve want to attend since they’ve started”, said Pellet. “I’ve been dreaming about putting on a cool culture and music festival for quite some time and I jumped at the chance to help us all go psycho in Las Vegas! The event is a celebration of subculture and a spiritual gateway for all of us into sonically connected sub-genres of heavy rock that hopefully, some of which, may be new to our senses. I’m booking bands that I’ve always personally wanted to see and have requested setlists that we’ve all wanted to hear.”

Among the first string of live acts announced will be hard rock legends, BLUE OYSTER CULT with a set heavy on their early songs that have inspired so many great bands over the years. Mark Arm and Steve Turner, also both of Green RIver-fame, will remind us why MUDHONEY are heralded as essential grandfathers of grunge. English psych rock pioneer, THE CRAZY WORLD OF ARTHUR BROWN returns to America with a performance sure to highlight where groundbreaking artists such as Kiss, Alice Cooper, and Ghost may have gotten some of their ideas. We’ve reunited proto-metal masters TRUTH AND JANEY who will appear for an exclusive live set to celebrate the 40th anniversary of their underground classic debut, “No Rest For The Wicked”! “A Band Called Death” documentary film stars DEATH, pulsate the pool stage and will show us why they are finally considered one of the first Detroit punk bands. Germany’s top psychedelic stoners COLOUR HAZE have chosen the festival for a rare US manifestation that’s sure rise us all high above the neon. Swedish doom metal ministers CANDLEMASS come crushing in yet another one of Psycho Las Vegas’s special performances. Stay tuned for the announcement of even more acts, over 60 in total, over the next few months.

Thief presents
Friday, August 26, 2016 at 12:00 PM – Sunday, August 28, 2016 at 12:00 AM (PDT)
Las Vegas, NV

DEATH (Detroit)

Join the bands and crew at the Hard Rock Hotel & use the code: Psych16 at checkout to recieve 30% off your rooms.

1/20 – “Warm up” Tickets Onsale 8am pst
2/14 – Full Lineup (60+ acts)
3/15 – Headliners Revealed
5/4 – Van/Chopper & Alt Exhibitions

Sleep, Live at Psycho California

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Dunsmuir: New Band Announced with Members of Fu Manchu, Clutch and Black Sabbath

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 18th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

As of right now, there isn’t much more to go on when it comes to Dunsmuir than a logo and a lineup, but it’s a considerable lineup to start with. Frontman Neil Fallon of Clutch brings a loyal following with him wherever he goes, and in Dunsmuir he’s joined by The Company Band guitarist Dave Bone, Fu Manchu bassist Brad Davis and Heaven and Hell/Black Sabbath drummer Vinny Appice. The band takes its name from the sleepy fishing getaway town in Northern California that, in 1991, was the site of the largest chemical spill ever to happen in the state — a train fell off a cliff into a river carrying toxic, ecosystem-destroying this-and-that — and while there’s no word yet as regards what they’ll actually sound like, for the rhythm section pairing of Davis and Appice alone, the safest bet seems to be that it’ll rock.

For those reading between the lines of the above, the roots of Dunsmuir would seem to be in The Company Band. Dave Bone played guitar in that band and was principal songwriter, but Fallon and Davis were also members along with CKY‘s Jess Margera and Jim Rota of Fireball Ministry. That group’s last outing was the 2012 Pros and Cons EP (review here), which followed behind their 2009 self-titled debut full-length (review here) and 2008’s debut EP, Sign Here, Here and Here. If Dunsmuir is a continuation on some level of what The Company Band were doing, perhaps without the underlying corporate thematic that the last EP seemed to push away from anyhow, then I doubt they’d meet with many complaints, but it’s really all speculation at this point until some audio begins to surface.

As to that, there’s nothing yet at least that I’ve been able to find. When and if something comes along, I’ll let you know, but here’s that logo and lineup in the meantime, as posted by Davis, along with website/social links in case you’d also like to keep an eye:

dunsmuir logo


Brad Davis (Fu Manchu)
Vinny Appice (Dio / Black Sabbath / Heaven & Hell)
Dave Bone (The Company Band)
Neil Fallon (Clutch)

The Company Band, “El Dorado”

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Fu Manchu Announce 25th Anniversary Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 24th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

fu manchu (Photo by Andrew Stuart)

You know Fu Manchu‘s 25th anniversary tour is gonna be hell on wheels, but that’s no big deal. Actually, wait, it is a big deal. It’s frickin’ awesome. The masters of fuzz will head out starting this June on a round of shows spanning months and countries, hitting the West Coast of the US before hightailing it to Europe in September and not looking back. This is the first leg of the tour, and they’ll be reissuing 1999’s hook-factory King of the Road on 2LP through their own At the Dojo Records imprint to mark the occasion, also playing the album front-to-back at a free show in Chicago as one of two sets.

Two sets! At a free show! That’s twice the Fu at no cost to you, the consumer. If this was an infomercial, you’d already be dialing.

The band posted the following on Thee Facebooks:

fu manchu 25th anniversary tour

FU MANCHU announce 1st leg of their 25th Anniversary 2015 / 2016 Tour

The band will be hitting the West Coast of the USA, Canada and 14 countries in Europe from mid June through the end of October. There will also be a special FREE Chicago show at The Double Door on July 11th.

The band will be touring without an opening act in most markets and playing a 2 set show of rarely played songs spanning their 11 Album career and an entire set of their album “King Of The Road” from start to finish for the first time. “King Of The Road” will be reissued as a double LP for the tour. More shows will be added soon. Tickets go on sale this friday.

june 13 Costa Mesa CA wayfarer
june 25 calgary, canada sled island festival- Dickens
june 26 calgary, canada sled Island club show- The Palamino
july 11 chicago, IL double door (free show)
july 15 san francisco, CA bottom of the hill
july 17 portland, OR hawthorne
july 18 seattle, WA neumos
july 19 vancouver, canada rickshaw
july 21 reno, NV jub jubs
july 22 san jose, CA the ritz (support by Dusted Angel)
aug 8 west hollywood, CA troubadour
aug 15 san diego, CA casbah

Sat 26 Nijmegen Doornroosje, Netherlands
Sun 27 Haarlem Patronaat, Netherlands
Mon 28 Hamburg Kunst, Germany
Wed 30 Copenhagen Beta, Denmark

Thurs 1 Malmo Babel, Sweden
Fri 2 Oslo John Dee, Norway
Sat 3 Stockholm Debaser Strand, Sweden
Mon 5 Helsinki Nosturi, Finland
Tues 6 Tallin Rock Cafe, Estonia
Thurs 8 Poznan Minoga, Poland
Fri 9 Berlin Astra, Germany
Sat 10 Erfurt HsD Gewerkschaftshaus, Germany
Mon 12 Budapest A38, Hungary
Wed 14 Vienna Szene, Austria
Thurs 15 Salzburg Rockhouse, Austria
Sat 17 Milan / Mezzago Bloom, Ilaly
Sun 18 Geneva Usine, Switzerland
Mon 19 Zurich Mascotte. Switzerland
Wed 21 Munich Strom, Germany
Thurs 22 Cologne Gebaude, Germany
Fri 23 Paris Le Marpquinerie., France
Sat 24 London Islington Academy, UK

Fu Manchu, King of the Road (1999)

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Friday Full-Length: Fu Manchu, The Action is Go

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 2nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

Fu Manchu, The Action is Go (1997)

If you’re gonna start something — a year, for example — you might as well do it right, so yeah, it’s Fu Manchu‘s 1997 fourth album, The Action is Go. And so it was. Arriving just a year after their landmark third outing, In Search Of…, The Action is Go marked the beginning of a new era for the SoCal fuzz progenitors, who had in the time between the two records traded out guitarist Eddie Glass and drummer Ruben Romano for Bob Balch and Brant Bjork, respectively.

That’s no minor switch. In fact, I’d go so far as to argue it’s a pivotal moment in the development of American heavy rock in the mid and late ’90s. That sounds like hyperbole, but I don’t think it is. Glass and Romano would go on to form Nebula, whose first EP surfaced in ’98 and who went on to have a significant impact on the US and European stoner and heavy psych scenes in the ’00s until dissolving in 2010. Romano can currently be found in The Freeks, while Glass is MIA. Meanwhile, for Brant Bjork — who had produced Fu Manchu‘s 1994 debut, No One Rides for Free — filling the drummer role was his first solid gig since his departure from Kyuss, and it was a position he’d hold until 2001’s California Crossing, only four years but also three records later, also releasing the debut from Ché and his first solo record, Jalamanta, in the meantime. And as for Balch, well, his lead work and style of play has become an institution in and of itself and is as integral to Fu Manchu‘s sound as the riffs and attitude-dripping vocal style of guitarist Scott Hill or the density of Brad Davis‘ bass. Fu Manchu‘s with-Balch discography — records like The Action is Go, 1999’s Eatin’ Dust, 2000’s King of the Road, 2001’s California Crossing, all the way up to last year’s stellar Gigantoid (review here) — reads like a riff-lover’s dream playlist, and Fu Manchu simply wouldn’t be who they are today without him.

So yeah, The Action is Go was a very important time for US heavy rock, but I doubt it would be half as much so if the record itself didn’t kick so much ass. From “Eagle Eye” down through “Laserbl’ast” and “Saturn III,” it’s the kind of album that feels so much of its place and time — its fisheye-lens cover photo of a late-’70s skater dude is almost too perfect — that it manages to translate that atmosphere even going on 18 years later. I know I’ve written about The Action is Go a lot over the years. A live clip of “Eagle Eye” was one of the first week-closers I ever did. But it’s one of those albums that, well, if you like stuff that doesn’t suck, it’s worth going back to over and over. I’ve yet to not have my ass kicked by it.

Happy New Year, and enjoy.

Please note, this isn’t actually the close of the week since at midnight I’m premiering a new video from When the Deadbolt Breaks. No, it’s not the Rocky Horror Picture Show. It’ll all make sense later.

No New Year’s resolutions for me. Not that I couldn’t stand some self-improvement on any number of fronts — intellectual, physical, spiritual, sarcasm-mitigation — just that tying such things to days of the week has always seemed silly. If it’s your bag, good luck. Enjoy the satisfaction of knowing you’re doing something good for yourself — at least that’s usually how resolutions go; I don’t think anyone ever resolved to start smoking — while I’m still the same jerk I’ve always been. This guy in his frickin’ pajamas talking about riffs all day.

Oh yeah, and by the way, I wrote 50 fucking reviews this week. Five. Zero. Fifty. That’s one more than 49! The stack of discs on my desk? Demolished. It was a god damned thrill. I don’t know what the previous record was, but I beat it.

Gonna try to establish some post-holiday normalcy this coming week. Monday I’ve got a track stream from Spidergawd going up, and I want to get back to the stack of vinyl waiting for writeups. I’m pretty burnt out on lists, and after doing all those shorter reviews this week I feel like I’m ready to tackle something like the new Colour Haze, so I’ll do that sometime before next Friday. And despite being burnt out on lists, I’ll be continuing to put together my 2015-most-anticipated assemblage, which at this point is up over 70 entries. Not sure yet how I’m going to organize it, but it’ll be week after next anyway. Need to catch my breath a little.

Before I roll out, thanks to everyone again for checking out the best of 2014 coverage, be it the top 30, the Readers Poll, short releases list, debuts list, or whatever. I had more I wanted to do, but I think it might be time to let it go, save it for this Dec., and start looking forward instead. But especially with Facebook deciding all my posts don’t backtrack anymore to the Like button on this page (a more significant source of stress for me this week than it should have been), I appreciate you checking stuff out and sharing links, etc. That means a lot to me.

Hope you dig the Fu Manchu, hope you had a great New Year’s, hope you check out the forum and radio stream, and hope to see you back here at midnight for that Deadbolt video and on Monday. Cheers.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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The Top 20 of 2014 Readers Poll — RESULTS!

Posted in Features on January 2nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster


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

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

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

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

Top 20 of 2014 — Weighted Results


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

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

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

On to the raw votes:

Top 20 of 2014 — Raw Votes


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

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

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

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

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

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

Read more »

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audiObelisk Transmission 043

Posted in Podcasts on December 23rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Click Here to Download


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

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

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

And once again, hope you dig it:

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

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

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

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

Total running time: 4:02:57


Thank you for listening.

Download audiObelisk Transmission 043


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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 30 of 2014

Posted in Features on December 22nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster


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

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

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

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

Okay. Here we go:

30. Orange Goblin, Back from the Abyss


Released by Candlelight Records. Reviewed on Nov. 17.

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


29. Mos Generator, Electric Mountain Majesty


Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed on March 14.

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


28. Pilgrim, II: Void Worship


Released by Metal Blade Records. Reviewed on April 15.

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


27. John Garcia, John Garcia


Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed on July 7.

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


26. Swans, To be Kind


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

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


25. Alunah, Awakening the Forest

alunah awakening the forest

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Oct. 14.

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


24. Greenleaf, Trails and Passes


Released by Small Stone Records. Reviewed on April 25.

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


23. Earth, Primitive and Deadly


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

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


22. Ogre, The Last Neanderthal


Released by Minotauro Records. Reviewed on March 10.

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


21. The Wounded Kings, Consolamentum


Released by Candlelight Records. Reviewed on Jan. 30.

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


20. Floor, Oblation


Released by Season of Mist. Reviewed on April 22.

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


19. Druglord, Enter Venus


Released by STB Records. Reviewed on Feb. 14.

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


18. Ararat, Cabalgata Hacia la Luz


Released by Oui Oui Records. Reviewed on April 4.

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


17. Radio Moscow, Magical Dirt


Released by Alive Naturalsound. Reviewed on May 29.

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


16. Apostle of Solitude, Of Woe and Wounds


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

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


15. Stubb, Cry of the Ocean


Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed on Nov. 24.

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


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


Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed on Nov. 10.

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


13. Dwellers, Pagan Fruit


Released by Small Stone. Reviewed on May 22.

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


12. The Golden Grass, The Golden Grass


Released by Svart Records. Reviewed on March 25.

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


11. The Well, Samsara


Released by RidingEasy Records. Reviewed on Sept. 22.

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


10. Montibus Communitas, The Pilgrim to the Absolute


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

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


9. Fu Manchu, Gigantoid


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

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


8. The Skull, For Those Which are Asleep


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

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


7. Blood Farmers, Headless Eyes


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

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


6. Lo-Pan, Colossus


Released by Small Stone. Reviewed on Oct. 7.

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


5a. All Them Witches, Lightning at the Door


Self-released. Reviewed on Sept. 25.

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


5. Witch Mountain, Mobile of Angels


Released by Profound Lore. Reviewed on Aug. 20.

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


4. Conan, Blood Eagle


Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed on Jan. 22.

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


3. Wo Fat, The Conjuring


Released by Small Stone Records. Reviewed on June 18.

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


2. Mars Red Sky, Stranded in Arcadia


Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed on March 11.

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


1. YOB, Clearing the Path to Ascend


Released by Neurot Recordings. Reviewed on Sept. 3.

“It’s time to wake up.”

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



Honorable Mention

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

A few other honorable mentions:

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

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

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

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

SteakSlab City — An impressive debut following two strong EPs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

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

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

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