High Fighter Set July 26 Release for Champain; New Song Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 20th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

high fighter

Fresh off an appearance at Desertfest and ahead of a stop at this summer’s Freak Valley and SonicBlast Moledo festivals, as well as other locales, German aggro-heavies High Fighter have unveiled “Before I Disappear,” the opening track of their impending second album and first for Argonauta Records, Champain. The follow-up to their 2016 debut, Scars and Crosses (review here), immediately revives and pushes ahead through that album’s atmospheric darkness, and with the scream of vocalist Mona Miluski out front during the verses, the harsh spirit of the preceding LP is maintained at the same time a broader melodic reach is signaled via the chorus. They reside at the intersection where heavy meets metal, and seem to have no problem playing to either side of that equation. I’ll look forward to hearing more.

The PR wire brought art, info and audio:

high fighter champain

HIGH FIGHTER unleash release details + first track from upcoming album; due out this July on Argonauta Records!

Hamburg-based Sludge Metal unit HIGH FIGHTER returns with their sophomore, brand new album this summer on Argonauta Records. Today the band is sharing with us not only the hotly anticipated release details, but also a first single taken from their upcoming record titled Champain!

After the group’s debut EP The Goat Ritual released end of 2014, followed by numerous shows all over Europe & the UK, including festivals such as Wacken Open Air, Summer Breeze, Desertfest Berlin, London and Antwerp, SonicBlast Moledo, Stoned From The Underground, Up In Smoke, Keep It Low, Red Smoke Festival and many more, as well as countless gigs on tour with bands alike Ahab, Conan, Elder, Downfall of Gaia, Crowbar, Mantar, Corrosion of Conformity, Mammoth Storm, Brant Bjork, The Midnight Ghost Train and Earth Ship to name just a few, HIGH FIGHTER released their first full-length and critically acclaimed album Scars & Crosses in June 2016 on Svart Records. The band’s second studio album, Champain, is set for a release on July 26th 2019 with powerhouse label Argonauta Records.

It seems life on the road has impacted HIGH FIGHTER in a huge way. As their new album has a heavier and fast-paced sound compared to their first records. The best way to describe HIGH FIGHTER in 2019 is PISSED OFF! This is a different band that announced their arrival in 2014 with their debut EP followed by Scars & Crosses. Champain isn’t for the faint hearted and the band may actually surprise a lot of their established fanbase with this album.

“We finally present you the cover art and details for our second album, we have named Champain. This album tells an anti-hero story, and we have probably never sounded that focussed and brutal on a record before.” Vocalist Mona Miluski explains. “Champain has been recorded, mixed and mastered by our dear friend Jan Oberg at Hidden Planet Studio in Berlin, and the clear, classy but epic album artwork has been designed by the talented Johnny Doe. This record is definitely not Scars & Crosses part 2, we tried to evolve our sound to a new level and this time, introducing the even more heavier side of High Fighter.”

Opening songs such as Before I Disappear, Shine Equal Dark and Dead Gift, create an eerie and gloomy atmosphere where the mood can be pitch-black in places. The soaring and brutal riffs on this album allow Mona to show her impressive vocal range, from Death Metal growls, mean screams to her Stoner Rock, Soul and Blues roots.

Champain – Tracklisting:
1. Before I Disappear
2. Shine Equal Dark
3. Interlight
4. Dead Gift
5. Another Cure
6. Kozel
7. I Will Not
8. Interdark
9. When We Suffer ( feat. Anton Lisovoj of Downfall of Gaia )
10. A Shrine
11. Champain

Champain will be coming out July 26th in CD, Vinyl and Digital formats, with a pre-order and many more news to follow soon.

HIGH FIGHTER live:
14.06.19 DE – Hannover / Café Glocksee, w/ Monolord
22.06.19 DE – Freak Valley Festival
03.08.19 DE – Gössnitz Open Air
08.-10.08.19 PT – SonicBlast Moledo
18.10.19 DE – Metal Inferno Paderborn
+ many more shows to be announced soon

HIGH FIGHTER is:
Mona Miluski – vocals
Christian Pappas – guitar
Ingwer Boysen – guitar
Constantin Wüst – bass
Thomas Wildelau – drums & backing vocals

www.highfighter.de
www.facebook.com/highfighter
www.instagram.com/highfighter_official
www.highfighter.bandcamp.com
www.argonautarecords.com
www.facebook.com/ArgonautaRecords

High Fighter, “Before I Disappear”

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Freak Valley 2019 Adds Valley of the Sun, A Place to Bury Strangers, High Fighter and More; Lineup Complete

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 17th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

freak valley 2019 final banner

I’ll just go ahead and answer a question no one asked by saying that, yes, I was thinking of Arrested Development when I wrote the opening line of the announcement below with “MONSTER” in all-caps. Like Buster Bluth with his hook raised. But I mean, who could argue, anyway. Looking at the final lineup for Freak Valley 2019, long since sold out, it is indeed beastly. Even the final splurge of additions below, with Valley of the SunTuberOutsideinsideGreat Electric QuestA Place to Bury StrangersLacertilia, High Fighter and John Fairhurst Band shows the festival branching out in terms of style and geography, and there’s really no stopping it. Biggest Freak Valley yet? Yeah, I think maybe it is. They’ve had some righteous lineups in the past, but it’s hard to mess with Corrosion of Conformity playing Deliverance or the kind of reach that pulls in Arc of Ascent from New Zealand. For them and Spaceslug alone, this thing is masterful. If you go, well, good call.

It’s been a pleasure to help the fest in the small way I have by writing these lineup announcements over the last however long. Here’s the final one:

freak valley 2019 final poster

+++ A PLACE TO BURY STRANGERS | TUBER | VALLEY OF THE SUN | JOHN FAIRHURST BAND | OUTSIDEINSIDE | GREAT ELECTRIC QUEST | LACERTILIA | HIGH FIGHTER +++

Freaks!

This is it — the last lineup announcement for FREAK VALLEY FESTIVAL 2019, and it’s a MONSTER.

In grand finale fashion, we’re doing an absolute blowout to finish out the three-day lineup for this year’s fest, and we’re continuing to add more and diverse acts from across a broad spectrum of heavy so you can, you know, broaden your horizons while you expand your consciousness.

So keep eyes, ears and mind open as we welcome A Place To Bury Strangers, Tuber, Valley of the Sun, John Fairhurst Band, Outsideinside, Great Electric Quest, Lacertilia and High Fighter to Freak Valley 2019!

A PLACE TO BURY STRANGERS
Chaos holds a strong sway in the aesthetic of Brooklyn’s A Place to Bury Strangers, but out of that chaos has derived some of today’s most essential post-space experimentalism. With over 15 years of tenure under their belt in one form or another, they’ve remained relentlessly committed to a forward-thinking, deeply affecting approach, and they’ll come to FREAK VALLEY with an intent to own the stage as only they can. We’ll just say it in advance: You’re welcome.

TUBER
The Greek four-piece Tuber made a definitive statement in 2017 with their second album, ‘Out of the Blue.’ It was a record that took Krautrock and heavy vibes and keyboard-based nuance to a new level for the band and the ultra-populated, much-loved Greek scene from which they’ve emerged. Since their 2012 self-titled EP and the follow-up 2013 long-player, ‘Desert Overcrowded,’ they’ve been geared toward doing their own thing, and we can’t wait to bear witness to their doing exactly that.

VALLEY OF THE SUN
Yes! You may or may not know it yet, but Valley of the Sun are about to release one of the best albums of 2019. It’s called ‘Old Gods’ and it’s the perfect occasion to have the Ohio band over to play. As they approach a decade since their first release, they take their melodic, catchy, and heavy desert-style rock to a new level entirely and stand tall like the statesmen they’ve always been ready to be. If you thought you knew them, prepare to be surprised.

JOHN FAIRHURST BAND
Got the blues? Want some? John Fairhurst is nothing short of an electric blues master and a troubadour for our tumultuous times. His latest work — released April 12 — is ‘The Divided Kingdom,’ and for the UK-based guitarist probably not much more needs to be said about the meaning behind the title. His modern perspective brings a much-needed edge to a classic blues style, and no doubt we’ll all be dancing the merry dance when he comes to FREAK VALLEY.

OUTSIDEINSIDE
Born out of the ashes of Carousel, the Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based rockers Outsideinside — who are named for THE BEST Blue Cheer record; that’s right, we said it — made their debut with 2017’s ‘Sniff a Hot Rock,’ a shred-laced paradise of ‘70s-style soul boogie. They’ve been quiet since last Fall, but they’ll come roaring back to Europe to join our festivities and we know their warm vibes will turn heads when they hit the stage.

GREAT ELECTRIC QUEST
The seekers of the flame themselves are coming to FREAK VALLEY! The legend of Great Electric Quest has spread far and wide and now we’ll get the real deal right in our faces. The San Diego heavy rockers aren’t shy about their classic metal leanings or anything else, and whether they’re climbing on the amps or waving their banner, literally, their brash, all-out performance will be one you’ll be talking about when the weekend is done. Get ready for true madness.

LACERTILIA
Genre-spanning UK progressive, heavy, psychedelic, space, whatever-you-got rockers Lacertilia have a new album in progress right now. They’re done recording and were mixing last time we checked, so let’s say FREAK VALLEY’s their deadline. Get it done, gentlemen! Whether it’s on-hand or not for the fest, we’ll be glad to see them doing new material after their debut album, ‘We’re Already Inside Your Mind,’ so thoroughly kicked our asses in 2016.

HIGH FIGHTER
Speaking of new albums, High Fighter are in the midst of making their second full-length, taking their metallic sludgecore to new places with a fresh batch of songs to answer the accomplishments of 2016’s ‘Scars and Crosses.’ They’ve been pretty secretive on what the new record sounds like, but we know already they’ll deliver something special, so while we all wait for the release date to be announced, get ready for one of the most aggressive sets you’ll see all year.

www.freakvalley.de
https://www.facebook.com/freakvalley
https://www.facebook.com/events/299339670806919/
https://twitter.com/FreakValley

Great Electric Quest, Chapter II (2018)

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SonicBlast Moledo 2019: Earthless, Graveyard, Eyehategod, The Devil and the Almighty Blues, High Fighter, Cardiel and Jesus the Snake Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 2nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Oh, you know me. Just sitting on ass on a chilly proto-Spring morning, daydreaming of shuffling over to Portugal for a weekend this August, flying into the Azores and then over to Porto, taking a car, train, or maybe just some other magical means of conveyance out to Moledo on the coast and then pretending to be a human among all the skinny Europeans at SonicBlast Moledo 2019, which has just added the likes of Earthless, Graveyard, Eyehategod, The Devil and the Almighty Blues, High Fighter, Cardiel and Jesus the Snake to a lineup that was already (un)fairly packed before them, with Om and Orange Goblin and Windhand and so on.

Maybe I’m sipping my 45th cup of coffee on the second or third day of the fest and watching Minami Deutsch expand minds via psychedelic jams, or maybe Dopethrone have made even that most pristine of locales (in my mind, anyway) seem utterly filthy with their crusty sludge. Either way, the point is I’m there to see it. In my daydreams.

Announcement from the fest:

sonicblast moledo 2019 square poster

We’re very proud to share with you the latest additions to SonicBlast Moledo 2019 line up:

Revered swedish heavy rock band Graveyard, NOLA kings EYEHATEGOD, San Diego cosmic warriors Earthless, The Devil And The Almighty Blues and their slow, dirty, heavy blues (which today are releasing their new album “Tre”), the intense and powerfull High Fighter, mexican power duo Cardiel and one of the freshest talents emerging from the portuguese underground, JESUS THE SNAKE!

3 days that you’re never ever forget!

Om (usa) + Graveyard (sw) + Eyehategod (usa) + Orange Goblin (uk) + Earthless (usa) + My Sleeping Karma (ger) + Windhand (usa) + Monolord (se) + Lucifer (se) + The Obsessed (usa) + The Devil and The Almighty Blues (nor) + Dopethrone (can) + Toundra (es) + Satan’s Satyrs (usa) + Sacri Monti (usa) + Harsh Toke (usa) + Petyr (usa) + High Fighter (ger) + Zig Zags (usa) + Kaleidobolt (fi) + Cardiel (mex) + Maidavale (se) + Minami Deutsch (jp) + Maggot Heart (se) + Jesus The Snake (pt) ++ some more tba ++

Artwork by Branca Studio

SonicBlast Moledo 2019
8, 9 and 10 of August
Moledo
Portugal

https://www.facebook.com/events/183265999284942/
https://www.facebook.com/sonicblastmoledo/
https://sonicblastmoledo.com/

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2018

Posted in Features on December 20th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

the-top-30-of-2018

Please note: This post is not culled in any way from the Year-End Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2018 to that, please do.

It just wouldn’t be a year if it wasn’t completely overwhelming, right?

2018 has certainly met that standard and then some. The swath of output, whether it’s a new generation adopting and adapting established methods or out and out reinventing the stylistic wheel and then pushing it uphill on a seemingly endless barrage of tours, has been staggering, and it’s still happening. There’s a little more than a week to go in the year. You think a band isn’t putting something out today? Of course they are. It’s every day. It’s all the time.

But this year wasn’t just about quantity either. I think one of my biggest struggles in writing about albums in 2018 — and with the last Quarterly Review and various premieres and video posts that were basically album reviews in disguise, let’s estimate we’re somewhere past 300 records reviewed one way or another — was in conveying just how killer so much of the stuff coming through was. How many times can you say the word “awesome?” Well, I’m sure we’ll see it a few more times before this list is over, so there you go.

I say something like this every time I do a list, but please keep in mind these are my picks and I’m one person. But I am a person. I know there’s the whole internet-anonymity thing, but I assure you, I’m a human being (more of a cave troll, really) typing these words. I’m all for everyone sharing their own picks in the comments, and all for passionate advocating, but please, let’s keep it civil and respectful. These things can spiral out of control quickly, but let’s remember that we’re all human beings and worth of basic courtesy, even if some of us are dead wrong about a good many things. You should definitely punch nazis, though.

Thanks in advance for reading. Here we go:

[UPDATE: You’ll notice the inclusion of an ’18a.’ I had Stoned Jesus in my notes as number 18 initially and they got dropped as I was adjusting things along the way. I’ve added them back in, but it didn’t seem fair to bump everyone else down after the post had already been published. That was the best I could come up with for a solution. If you’re pissed about one more killer record being added, please feel free to email me and tell me all about it.]

30. The Skull, The Endless Road Turns Dark

The Skull The Endless Road Turns Dark

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Sept. 12.

Chicago’s The Skull had no small task before them in following up their 2014 debut, For Those Which are Asleep (review here) — let alone living up to their pedigree — but their second album demonstrated a creative growth that sacrificed nothing of memorability when it came to songs like “Breathing Underwater” and “All that Remains (Is True).” They got down to work and got the job done, which is what a working band does. 2018 was by any measure a fantastic year for doom, and The Skull were a big part of why.

29. Foghound, Awaken to Destroy

foghound awaken to destroy

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Nov. 21.

The Dec. 2017 murder of Rev. Jim Forrester was tragic. No other way to say it. Foghound, who were in the midst of making Awaken to Destroy at the time, put together an album that not only features Forrester‘s last recorded performance, but pays respect to his memory while the wound is still raw and manages to kick ass all the while. It’s a record that can’t ever be divorced from its circumstances — just can’t — and so it can be a heavy listen in more than just its tones, but it’s basically Foghound proving they’re unstoppable. And so they are.

28. Orange Goblin, The Wolf Bites Back

orange goblin the wolf bites back

Released by Spinefarm Records. Reviewed June 13.

Who among us here today is not a sucker for Orange Goblin? Come forward an be judged. I mean, really. Nine records deep, the London sceneforgers are nothing less than an institution, beloved by boozehounds, riffhounds, doomhounds, and really, a wide variety of hounds the world over. Also dudes. With its essential title-track hook and highlight cuts in “Ghosts of the Primitives” and “Burn the Ships” — or, you know, any of them — they added to one of heavy’s most unshakable legacies with an album as furious as it is welcoming to its generations-spanning fanbase.

27. Fu Manchu, Clone of the Universe

fu manchu clone of the universe
Released by At the Dojo Records. Reviewed Feb. 15.

There are two kinds of people in this world, and they’re both Fu Manchu fans. Clone of the Universe turned heads with a guest appearance from Rush‘s Alex Lifeson on the 18-minute side-B-consuming “Il Mostro Atomico,” but really to focus on that instead of “Intelligent Worship,” “(I’ve Been) Hexed,” “Don’t Panic,” “Slower than Light,” etc., is only seeing half the point of the album in the first place. The long-running lords of fuzz hit a new stride with 2014’s Gigantoid (review here), and Clone of the Universe was in every way a worthy successor.

26. Witch Mountain, Witch Mountain

Witch-Mountain-Witch-Mountain
Released by Svart Records. Reviewed May 16.

It was an unenviable task before Witch Mountain in replacing vocalist Uta Plotkin, but founding guitarist Rob Wrong and drummer Nathan Carson found the right voice in Kayla Dixon and solidified the lineup with her and bassist Justin Brown enough to make a declarative statement in Witch Mountain‘s self-titled LP. That’s the story of it. They pulled it off. Met with what was unquestionably a bummer circumstance, they pushed through and moved their sound forward through a new beginning — and not their first one. Watch out when their next record hits.

25. Windhand, Eternal Return

windhand eternal return

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed Oct. 3.

Richmond, Virginia, doomers Windhand‘s second collaboration with producer Jack Endino produced a marked and purposeful expansion of their sound, encompassing classic grunge influences and a heavy psychedelic swirl that added color their previously-greyscale sonic haze. Resonant in tone and emotionalism, Eternal Return readjusted Windhand‘s trajectory in such a manner that, where one might’ve thought they knew where the band were headed in terms of their progression, they’ve made themselves a less predictable outfit on the whole. For that alone, it’s a triumph. Then you have the songs.

24. Sun Voyager, Seismic Vibes

Sun Voyager Seismic Vibes

Released by King Pizza Records. Reviewed April 18.

I don’t even want to admit how long I was waiting for Sun Voyager‘s first long-player to show up, but when it finally did, the New York trio did not disappoint. Catchy, energetic, fuzzed-out tunes with driving rhythms and a heavy psych flourish, they tapped into shoegaze and desert vibes without losing any sense of themselves in the process, and if the extra wait was so they could be so remarkably coherent in their expression on their full-length, then I wouldn’t want it to have shown up any sooner. An easy pick to stand among 2018’s best debut albums. Now to wait for the next one.

23. Forming the Void, Rift

forming the void rift

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed July 27.

It should tell you something that after working quickly to produce three albums, Louisiana’s Forming the Void are still defined by their potential. If I had my druthers, I’d put the recent Ripple signees on tour for the bulk of 2019, across the US and in Europe for festivals and support-slot club shows, really give them an opportunity to hammer out who they are as a band and then hit the studio for LP four. I don’t know if that’ll happen, but they’d only be doing the universe a favor by kicking into that gear. As it stands, their progression is palpable in their material and they stand absolutely ready for whatever the next level might be for them.

22. Spaceslug, Eye the Tide

spaceslug eye the tide

Released by BSFD Records and Oak Island Records. Reviewed June 29.

Aside from the speed at which Spaceslug have turned around offerings — with Eye the Tide following 2017’s Mountains and Reminiscence EP (review here) and Time Travel Dilemma (review here) full-length and their 2016 debut, Lemanis (review here) — the Polish outfit have undertaken significant progression in their sound, moving from pure heavy psychedelic warmth to incorporating elements out of extreme metal as they did on Eye the Tide. Adding to the latest record’s accomplishment is the smoothness with which they brought seemingly opposing sides together, only adding depth to an approach already worthy of oceanic comparison.

21. Conan, Existential Void Guardian

Conan Existential Void Guardian
Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 14.

Conan‘s reign of terror has been unfolding for more than a decade now, and each of their albums has become a kind of step along a path of incremental growth. Consider the melody creeping into the shouts of founding guitarist Jon Davis, or the emergence of bassist Chris Fielding as a vocal presence alongside, the two sharing a frontman role more than ever before while welcoming drummer Johnny King to the fold of destructive tonality and doomly extremism. Existential Void Guardian may end up just being another stomp-print on their way to the next thing, but it affirmed the fact that as much as Conan grow each time out, their central violence continues to hold sway.

20. Pale Divine, Pale Divine

PALE DIVINE S/T
Released by Shadow Kingdom Records. Reviewed Nov. 21.

Look. A new Pale Divine record doesn’t come along every day, so yeah, their self-titled was probably going to be on my list one way or the other, but it definitely helps that not only was it their first outing in six years since 2012’s Painted Windows Black (review here), but it had the songs to live up to a half-decade-plus of anticipation. It marked the first studio appearance from bassist/backing vocalist Ron “Fezz” McGinnis alongside guitarist Greg Diener and drummer Darin McCloskey — now both of Beelzefuzz as well — and made a strong argument for how much Pale Divine deserve more than 20 years on from their initial demo to be considered classic American doom.

19. Mos Generator, Shadowlands

mos generator shadowlands
Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed May 11.

The return and rise to prominence of Washington pure heavy rockers Mos Generator might be the underground’s feelgood story of the decade, but it hasn’t by any means been easily won. In addition to rebuilding the band however many albums ago, guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed has put in innumerable hours on tour and worked to actually develop the group creatively in addition to in terms of stage presence. This is shown throughout some of the classic prog elements making their way onto Shadowlands, and perhaps some of the collection’s moodier aspects are born of the aforementioned road time as well. Hard for that kind of thing not to be a slog after a while, but at least they have killer tunes to play.

18a. Stoned Jesus, Pilgrims

STONED JESUS PILGRIMS

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 5.

The only safe bet about Stoned Jesus‘ fourth long-player, Pilgrims, was that it was going to sound different than the third. That 2015 outing, The Harvest (review here), preceded the band touring to celebrate the fifth anniversary and after-the-fact success of 2012’s Seven Thunders Roar (review here), but Pilgrims defied narrative in that instead of incorporating elements from the second record in more of a heavy psych or jam sound, Stoned Jesus instead showcased a tighter, more sureheaded sense of craft than they’ve ever displayed before, and arrived on Napalm Records with a collection of songs that demonstrated the growth and sense of creative will that drives them. While one can take a look at their moniker and think immediately they know what’s coming, Stoned Jesus have made themselves one of the least predictable bands in heavy rock.

18. Backwoods Payback, Future Slum

backwoods payback future slum

Self-released. Reviewed Aug. 15.

“Pirate Smile.” “Lines.” “Whatever.” “It Ain’t Right.” “Threes.” “Cinderella.” “Generals.” “Big Enough.” “Alone.” “Lucky. Mike Cummings, Jessica Baker, Erik Larson. Every player, every song, every minute. If you want to know what heart-on-sleeve sounds like, it fucking sounds like Backwoods Payback. In their line from hardcore punk to grunge to heavy rock, they encompass experiences and emotionalism that are both shown in raw form throughout Future Slum, and build all the while on the chemistry they set out in developing with 2016’s Fire Not Reason (review here), when they welcomed Larson to the lineup on drums and revitalized their mission. Also worth noting, they were the best live band I saw this year. Anywhere.

17. Corrosion of Conformity, No Cross No Crown

corrosion of conformity no cross no crown

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Jan. 3

No question the excitement of C.O.C. putting out their first record with frontman Pepper Keenan involved since 2005’s In the Arms of God was one of this year’s top stories in heavy. And No Cross No Crown tapped directly into the spirit of 1994’s Deliverance (discussed here) and 1996’s Wiseblood (discussed here) in terms of direction, while updating the band’s style with a four-part 2LP in mind. In some ways, it’ll be their next album that really gives listeners a sense of where they’re at and where they might be headed, but as welcome returns go, having Keenan alongside Mike DeanWoody Weatherman and Reed Mullin is in no way to be understated, and neither is the quality of their output together, then and now.

16. Naxatras, III

naxatras iii

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 14.

It is no simple feat to hypnotize an audience and convey serenity while at the same time holding attention with songcraft, so that the listener isn’t actually so much unconscious as malleable of mood and spirit in such a direction as the band suggests. Greek trio Naxatras have worked quickly to become experts at this, and their third full-length fosters tonal warmth and jammy progressions with an overarching naturalism that finds them so committed to analog recording that one can buy direct transfers of the tape master of III. Some acts take classic-style practices as an aesthetic choice. With Naxatras, it seems to be the stuff of life, yet their sound is only vibrant and human in a way that, at least one hopes, is even more representative of the future than the past.

15. Clutch, Book of Bad Decisions

clutch book of bad decisions

Released by Weathermaker Music. Reviewed Aug. 27.

It was time for Clutch to make a change in producers, and the Maryland overlords of groove seemed to know it. Known as a live band, they went with Vance Powell, who’s known a live band producer. The results on Book of Bad Decisions might not have been so earth-shatteringly different from 2015’s Psychic Warfare (review here), which was the too-soon follow-up to 2013’s Earth Rocker (review here) — both helmed by Machine — but the inimitable four-piece indeed succeeded in capturing the electricity of their stage performance and, as ever, treated fans to a collection of songs bearing Clutch‘s unmistakable hallmarks of quirky lyrics, funky rhythms and heavy roll. They may always be a live band, but Clutch‘s studio work is in no way to be discounted, ever, as this record reaffirmed. Plus, crab cakes.

14. Ancestors, Suspended in Reflections

Ancestors Suspended in Reflections

Released by Pelagic Records. Reviewed Aug. 3.

After 2012’s In Dreams and Time (review here), I wasn’t sure Ancestors were going to put out another record. They kicked around word of one for a while, but it wasn’t until the end of last year that it really seemed to congeal into a possibility. And by then, who the hell knew what they might get up to on a full-length? With Suspended in Reflections, in some says, they picked up where they left off in terms of finding a niche for themselves in progressive and melodic heavy, but I think the time showed in the poise of their execution and the control of the material. Suspended in Reflections can’t help but be six years more mature than its predecessor, and that suits its contemplative feel. In tracks like “Gone,” and “The Warm Glow,” they tempered their expansive sound with an efficiency that can only be had with time.

13. High on Fire, Electric Messiah

high on fire electric messiah

Released by eOne Heavy. Reviewed Sept. 28.

The narrative here was hard to beat. Matt Pike spending an album cycle talking about Lemmy Kilmister and paying homage to his dirt-rock forebear and the gods of old? It doesn’t get much more perfect than that. Electric Messiah was the third collaboration between High on Fire and producer Kurt Ballou behind 2015’s Luminiferous (review here) and 2012’s De Vermiis Mysteriis (review here), and while it seemed after the last record that the formula might be getting stale, the band only sounded more and more lethal throughout the latest offering. Even putting aside their contributions to underground heavy, they’ve become one of the most essential metal bands of their generation. Metal, period. Doesn’t matter what subgenre you’re talking about it. If you’re listening to High on Fire, you know it. Usually because you’ve just been decapitated.

12. Yawning Man, The Revolt Against Tired Noises

yawning man the revolt against tired noises

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed July 2.

You know, if you take the time to separate Yawning Man from their 30-plus-year history and their legacy as one of the foundational acts of what later became desert rock, and you listen to The Revolt Against Tired Noises, you’re still left with basically a dream of an album. Mostly instrumental, as is their wont, they nonetheless had bassist Mario Lalli (also Fatso Jetson) sing this time around on a version of the previously-unreleased “Catamaran,” which Kyuss covered once upon a whenever although Yawning Man had never officially put it to tape. But really, that and all other novelty aside, guitarist Gary Arce, Lalli and drummer Bill Stinson are a chemistry unto themselves. I don’t know if they’ll ever be as huge as they should be, but every bit of acclaim they get, they’ve earned, and if The Revolt Against Tired Noises helps them get it, all the more so.

11. Greenleaf, Hear the Rivers

greenleaf hear the rivers

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Nov. 26.

Swedish heavy rock mavens Greenleaf have become an entirely different band than they once were. No longer a Dozer side-project from guitarist Tommi Holappa with a rotating cast of players, they’re a solidified, road-tested, powerhouse unit, and Hear the Rivers bleeds soul as a result. Holappa, frontman Arvid Hällagård, bassist Hans Fröhlich and drummer Sebastian Olsson sound like they’re absolutely on fire in the album’s tracks, and far from being staid or formulaic as one might expect a sixth long-player to be, Hear the Rivers built on what the band accomplished with 2016’s Rise Above the Meadow (review here) and came across as all the more vital and nearly frenetic in their energy. I won’t say Greenleaf has seen their last lineup change, because one never knows, but the band as they are today is the realization of potential I don’t think even Greenleaf knew was there.

10. Gozu, Equilibrium

gozu equilibrium

Released by Blacklight Media / Metal Blade Records. Reviewed April 4.

Five records deep into a career into its second decade, Gozu haven’t had a miss yet. Admittedly, some of their early work can seem formative considering where they are now, but still. And after the 2016 rager, Revival (review here), to have the band return to the same studio — Wild Arctic in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where strides producer Dean Baltulonis — for the follow-up allows for the four-piece to directly show how their sound has grown more encompassing in the last couple years. And it has. Equilibrium is a rich and varied listen that holds true to Gozu‘s well-established penchant for soulful vibes and crunching, hard-hitting riffs and groove, but while it shares the directness of approach with Revival, it makes moves that a band could only make moving from one record to the next. I expect nothing less their next time out as well, because a decade later, that’s Gozu‘s proven track record.

9. Monster Magnet, Mindfucker

monster magnet mindfucker
Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Feb. 23.

The battle for the best album title of 2018 ended early when New Jersey everything-rockers Monster Magnet announced the release of Mindfucker. And what else to call a Monster Magnet LP at this point? They’ve stopped writing to genre. They’re driven by the creative mania of frontman/founder Dave Wyndorf, and they’ve seen psychedelic expanses and commercial success the likes of which would serve the tenure of four lesser bands. What’s left to do but whatever the hell you want? So that’s what Monster Magnet are doing. It just so happens that while they’re doing it, they’re still basically outclassing the entirety of the former planet earth as songwriters. As Monster Magnet fan in 2018, there was nothing more I could’ve asked than what Mindfucker delivered. And if you’re still trying to get your brain around it however many months later, you’re not alone. I think that’s the idea.

8. Apostle of Solitude, From Gold to Ash

Apostle of Solitude From Gold to Ash

Released by Cruz del Sur Music. Reviewed Feb. 20.

Best doom album of 2018. The combination of craft and passion behind the delivery. The way the dark tones fed into the emotions so clearly on display and sheer presence of it in listening to songs like “Keeping the Lighthouse,” “Ruination by Thy Name” and “My Heart is Leaving Here.” Apostle of Solitude never seem to be the highest profile band out there, but their work seems never to be anything less than outstanding, and I refuse to accept them as anything less than among the most pivotal American acts out there making traditional doom. And not just making it, but making it their own, with a sense of new pursuits and individualism that extends to playing style as well as atmosphere. I know doom isn’t exactly in short supply these days — figuratively or literally — but if you miss out on what Apostle of Solitude are doing with it, you’ll only regret it later. I’ll say it one more time: Best doom album of 2018.

7. Holy Grove, Holy Grove II

holy grove ii
Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Oct. 31.

Every now and again, anticipating the crap of an album really pays off, and such was the case with Holy Grove II, the Ripple Music debut from the Portland outfit whose 2016 self-titled (review here) seemed like such a herald of excellence to come while also, you know, being killer. Holy Grove II brought the four-piece of vocalist Andrea Vidal, guitarist Trent Jacobs, bassist Gregg Emley and drummer Eben Travis to entirely new levels of composition and execution. In songs like “Blade Born,” the shorter, sharper “Aurora,” the patiently rolling “Valley of the Mystics,” “Solaris” and closer “Cosmos,” which boasted a not-really-necessary-but-definitely-welcome guest vocal appearance from YOB‘s Mike Scheidt, — and oh wait, that’s all of the tracks — Holy Grove entered a different echelon. Anticipation will likewise be high for Holy Grove III, but it’ll be hard to complain with this record to keep company in the meantime.

6. All Them Witches, ATW

all them witches atw
Released by New West Records. Reviewed Sept. 18.

Over five All Them Witches albums, the Nashville four-piece have gone from a nascent heavy Americana jam band to one of the most distinct acts in the US underground. Their development in sound is chemistry-driven, so it was a risk when the founding trio of bassist/vocalist Charles Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod (who also produced) and drummer Robby Staebler welcomed new keyboardist Jonathan Draper into the lineup to take the place of Allan van Cleave. Amid a more naturalist production than that of 2017’s Sleeping Through the War (review here), the revamped four-piece flourished in terms of songwriting and conveying their stage-born sonic personae. From the gleeful fuckery of opener “Fishbelly 86 Onions” to the memorable moodiness of “Diamond” and the back-end jam “Harvest Feast” en route to the stretched-out end of “Rob’s Dream,” All Them Witches essentially confirmed they could do whatever they wanted and make it work.

5. YOB, Our Raw Heart

yob our raw heart
Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed June 7.

Actually, if you want a sample of YOB‘s raw heart, the place to go is probably 2014’s Clearing the Path to Ascend (review here), but whatever the Eugene, Oregon, shapers of cosmic doom might’ve lacked in titular accuracy on their eighth long-player, they made up for in a new, statesman-like posture. Their approach was mature, hammered out to a professionalism working completely on its own terms, and they never sounded so sure of who they are as a band or as confident of their direction. In extended cuts “Beauty in Falling Leaves” and “Our Raw Heart,” they explored new and progressive textures and melodies, and managed to reaffirm their core aspects while finding room for conveying emotion that came across as nothing but ultimately sincere. They have been and still are one of a kind, and as they continue to move forward, they remain a band that makes one feel lucky to be alive to witness their work. Our Raw Heart was perhaps more refined than it let on, but the heart was there for sure, as always.

4. Brant Bjork, Mankind Woman

brant bjork mankind woman

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Sept. 13.

I’m not going to say I wasn’t a fan of the (relatively) harder-hitting approach Brant Bjork and his Low Desert Punk Band took on 2014’s Black Power Flower (review here) and 2016’s Tao of the Devil (review here), but Mankind Woman brought in some more of his soul influences, and whether it was the subtly subversive funk of “Chocolatize” and “Brand New Old Times” or the callout “1968” and laid back vibes of the title-track and “Swagger and Sway,” Bjork — working with guitarist Bubba DuPree on songwriting and production — offered a definitive look at what has made his 20-year solo career so special and demonstrates not only his longevity and his legacy, but his will to continue to progress as an artist honing his craft. His discography is well populated by now to be sure, but Mankind Woman represents a turn from the last couple records, and if it’s in any way portentous of things to come, it bodes well. Bjork is right at home nestled into classic-style grooves, and his legacy as one of the principal architects of desert rock is continually reaffirmed.

3. Earthless, Black Heaven

earthless black heaven

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed March 15.

They’ve been great, not just good, for a long time now, and as forerunners of the San Diego heavy scene, they’re godfathers to an up and coming generation of bands taking their influence — let alone acts from the rest of the world — but Black Heaven is a special moment for them because of its departure. No, it wasn’t not the first time guitarist Isaiah Mitchell sang on an Earthless recording, but it did represent a tip of the balance in that direction for the band on a studio full-length, and that resulted in a special moment. Album opener “Gifted by the Wind” was one of the best songs I heard this year, and while “End to End” and the all-thrust “Volt Rush” affirmed that more traditional songwriting was well within the grasp of Mitchell, bassist Mike Eginton and drummer Mario Rubalcaba, they still found space for a sprawling jam or two, keeping their claim on the instrumentalism that’s (largely) fueled their tenure to date. Earthless don’t want for acclaim, but every bit of it is earned, and while their primary impact has always been live, Black Heaven saw them construct a traditional-style LP that still bore the hallmarks of their collective personality. It was the best of all worlds.

2. King Buffalo, Longing to Be the Mountain

king buffalo longing to be the mountain
Self-released/released by Stickman Records. Reviewed Sept. 27.

In the dark early hours of 2018, the Rochester, New York, trio of guitarist/vocalist Sean McVay, bassist Dan Reynolds and drummer Scott Donaldson issued the Repeater EP (review here) as a follow-up to their 2016 debut, Orion (review here), so Longing to Be the Mountain didn’t exactly come out of nowhere, but even with Repeater preceding its arrival, I don’t think anyone necessary expected King Buffalo‘s second album to have such a scope or to be so engrossing with it. In its melody, patience, atmosphere and heft, it was an absolute joy to behold. Its songs were memorable at the same time they were far-reaching, and while Orion was already my pick for the best debut of 2016, Longing to Be the Mountain realized even more potential than that record had hinted toward. It could be intimate or majestic at its whim, and its dynamic set an individual characterization of heavy psychedelia and blues-style sprawl that the band wholly owned. With production by Ben McLeod of All Them Witches behind them, they worked to serve notice of a progression undertaken the results of which are already staggering and still seem to be looking ahead to the next stage, literally and figuratively. One of the principal standards I use in constructing this list every year is what I listen to most. That’s this record.

1. Sleep, The Sciences

sleep the sciences

Released by Third Man Records. Reviewed May 1.

Obviously, right? To some extent, when Sleep surprise-announced on April 19 they’d release their first album in 15 years the next day, and then did, they took ownership of 2018. Even with records still to come at that point from YOB and Sleep guitarist Matt Pike‘s own High on Fire, there was no way that when the end of the year came around, it wasn’t going to be defined by the advent of a new Sleep record. And even if it sucked, it would probably still be Album of the Year, but fortunately, as Pike, bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros (also Om) and drummer Jason Roeder (also Neurosis) took their long-running stage reunion to the studio, they brought material that highlighted the best elements from all players. Pike‘s wild soloing, Cisneros‘ meditative vocals and Roeder‘s intricate but smooth style of roll all came together in older pieces like “Antarcticans Thawed” and “Sonic Titan” and newer highlights “Giza Butler” and “Marijuanaut’s Theme,” and aside from the excitement at their existence, they showed the mastery of form that Sleep had been demonstrating live since 2009 and which they hinted toward in the 2014 single, The Clarity (review here). A new Sleep full-length was something long-discussed, long-rumored and long-considered, but when it finally happened, I think the results vaporized expectation in a way no one could’ve anticipated. There’s a reason Sleep are Sleep. Having The Sciences as a reminder of that brought about the defining moment of 2018.

The Next 20

Indeed, it wouldn’t be much of a Top 30 at all if it didn’t go to 50. Don’t try to make sense of it, just look at the records.

31. Atavismo, Valdeinfierno
32. Grayceon, IV
33. Clamfight, III
34. Seedy Jeezus, Polaris Oblique
35. Megaton Leviathan, Mage
36. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Wasteland
37. Arcadian Child, Superfonica
38. Freedom Hawk, Beast Remains
39. The Machine, Faceshift
40. Messa, Feast for Water
41. Black Rainbows, Pandaemonium
42. Church of the Cosmic Skull, Science Fiction
43. Domkraft, Flood
44. Träden, Träden
45. Mythic Sunship, Another Shape of Psychedelic Music
46. Samavayo, Vatan
47. Foehammer, Second Sight
48. Bongripper, Terminal
49. Mansion, First Death of the Lutheran
50. Sunnata, Outlands
51. Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters, Come and Chutney

Believe me when I tell you, I sweated over this section more than I did the actual top 30. Mansion should be higher. So should Chubby Thunderous, though something in me thought they might like being #50 on a list of 30. Church of the Cosmic Skull, Clamfight, Black Rainbows, Foehammer, Seedy Jeezus, Messa, Domkraft. All of these were fucking awesome. And there are more (we’ll get there). Eventually numbers add up. I won’t say a bad word about any of these. That’s it.

Honorable Mention

This section always winds up expanded as other people point out things I missed and so on, but here’s what I’ve got in the immediate, alphabetically:

  • Alms, Act One
  • Ape Machine, Darker Seas
  • Belzebong, Light the Dankness
  • Black Moon Circle, Psychedelic Spacelord
  • Blackwater Holylight, Blackwater Holylight
  • Bong, Thought and Existence
  • Carpet, About Rooms and Elephants
  • Churchburn, None Shall Live… The Hymns of Misery
  • Deadbird, III: The Forest Within the Tree
  • Dead Meadow, The Nothing They Need
  • Death Alley, Superbia
  • Drug Cult, Drug Cult
  • Dunbarrow, II
  • Electric Citizen, Helltown
  • Eagle Twin, The Thundering Heard: Songs of Hoof and Horn
  • Evoken, Hypnagogia
  • Funeral Horse, Psalms for the Mourning
  • Fuzz Evil, High on You
  • Graven, Heirs of Discord
  • Graveyard, Peace
  • Green Dragon, Green Dragon
  • Green Druid, Ashen Blood
  • Here Lies Man, You Will Know Nothing
  • High Priestess, High Priestess
  • Horehound, Holocene
  • IAH, II
  • JIRM, Surge ex Monumentis
  • Killer Boogie, Acid Cream
  • Lonely Kamel, Death’s Head Hawkmoth
  • MaidaVale, Madness is Too Pure
  • Moab, Trough
  • Mountain Dust, Seven Storms
  • Mouth, Floating
  • Mr. Plow, Maintain Radio Silence
  • T.G. Olson, Earthen Pyramid
  • Onségen Ensemble, Duel
  • Orango, Evergreen
  • Owl, Nights in Distortion
  • Pushy, Hard Wish
  • Rifflord, 7 Cremation Ground/Meditation
  • River Cult, Halcyon Daze
  • Rotor, Sechs
  • Somali Yacht Club, The Sea
  • Sumac, Love in Shadow
  • Sundrifter, Visitations
  • Svvamp, Svvamp II
  • Thou, Magus
  • Thunder Horse, Thunder Horse
  • Weedpecker, III

Special Note

Somehow it didn’t seem appropriate to include these in the list proper because they’re not really underground releases, but there were two more records I especially wanted to highlight for their quality:

  • Alice in Chains, Rainier Fog
  • Judas Priest, Firepower

Best Short Release of the Year

Normally I’d do this as a separate post, but as a result of being robbed earlier this year, I feel like my list is woefully incomplete. If you have any demos, EPs, splits, singles, etc., to add to it, please feel free to do so in the comments below. Still, the top pick was clear:

  • Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard & Slomatics, Totems Split

Rarely do two bands work in such coherent tandem to their mutual benefit. Here are a few other essential short releases for 2018, alphabetically:

  • All Them Witches, Lost and Found
  • Alunah, Amber & Gold
  • Canyon, Mk II
  • Demon Head, The Resistence
  • Destroyer of Light, Hopeless
  • Ecstatic Vision, Under the Influence
  • Godmaker & Somnuri, Split
  • Holy Mushroom, Blood and Soul
  • King Buffalo, Repeater
  • Minsk & Zatokrev, Split
  • Sleep, Leagues Beneath
  • Stonus, Lunar Eclipse
  • Sundecay, Gale

Looking Forward

A good many albums have already been announced or hinted at for 2019. I in no way claim this to be a complete roundup of what’s coming, but here’s what I have in my notes so far, in absolutely no order:

Kings Destroy, Lo-Pan, Cities of Mars, Heavy Temple, Mr. Peter Hayden, Curse the Son, High Fighter, Destroyer of Light, Year of the Cobra, Buffalo Fuzz, Zaum, The Sonic Dawn, Alunah, Candlemass, Elepharmers, Grandier, Dorre, Abrahma, Mars Red Sky, Eternal Black, Elephant Tree, Atala, No Man’s Valley, Sun Blood Stories, Crypt Sermon, The Riven, Hibrido, Snail, Red Beard Wall, 11Paranoias, Dead Witches, Monte Luna, Captain Caravan (LP), Swallow the Sun, Oreyeon, Motorpsycho, Vokonis, Hexvessel, Saint Vitus, Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Kind, Mastiff, Shadow Witch, Om.

Okay, That’s It

Yeah, no, I’m serious. List is done. Everybody go back to your lives. Your families miss you.

Really though, while this is by no means my last post of 2018, I can’t let it pass without saying thank you so much to everyone for checking out the site this year, or for just digging into this, or for sending me music, or hitting me up on social media, sharing a link, anything. Thank you. Thank you. I could never have imagined when it started out where it would be now. Or that I’d still be doing it. Your support means more to me than I can say, and I thank you so much for being a part of this with me.

So thanks.

If you have something to add to the list, please do so by leaving a comment below, but keep in mind as well the above note requesting civility. Please don’t make me feel stupid because I forgot your favorite record. I forgot a lot of people’s favorite records. I’m one dude. I’m doing my best.

And please keep in mind if you’ve got a list together that the Year-End Poll is open and results will be out Jan. 1.

Everybody have a great and safe 2019.

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Desertfest London 2019 Confirms Om, Wovenhand, Stoned Jesus, Great Electric Quest, Elephant Tree, Messa, High Fighter and More

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 29th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

desertfest london 2019 square poster

A monstrous announcement from Desertfest London 2019 finds the festival, as it has over the last several years, with a far reach in geography and style alike. Acts like Great Electric Quest, High Reeper, Salem’s Bend, The Devil and the Almighty Blues, High Fighter, and Messa represent a flood of up and coming underground heavy from the US and Europe — I’d count hometown heroes Elephant Tree and Greece’s Naxatras at the forefront of that surge — while Om, Wovenhand, Mondo Generator, Stoned Jesus, Sabbath AssemblyJaye JayleHHY and the Macumbas and Wiegedood are of course no minor shakes in terms of draw or aesthetic swath.

Desertfest‘s first announcement, which came through in September with Earthless, All Them Witches, Kadavar and Colour Haze, among others, was enticing enough. This one does nothing but make one want to book travel and lodging.

The PR wire has the details:

desertfest london 2019 old empire stage

Drone doom pioneers OM confirmed as first headliner + 15 more acts added to the DESERTFEST LONDON 2019 lineup!

After warming you up with our first announcement in September, it’s time to break out the big guns. Today we’re adding 16 killer bands to Desertfest, including the lineup for 2019’s Old Empire stage, which, after years of bringing some of the heaviest sounds all weekend, will this year takeover as our Friday main stage. We couldn’t be happier with their first pick, Desertfest 2019’s opening headliners, the incomparable, spiritual force of stoner drone that is Om.

Formed in 2003 as one great band drifted off for a decade, Om – then consisting of the two-part assault of Sleep’s Al Cisneros and Chris Hakius – brought with them an extension of the hypnotic heavy first hinted at on Sleep’s Jerusalem/Dopesmoker. Achieving more with just vocals, bass and drums than most can dream of with a packed out stage, the opening one-two punch of Variations on a Theme and Conference of the Birds serves as a revelation to many; stripped-back power that cleans the cobwebs from your brain with reverberating blasts of droned-down stoner-doom.

By 2007’s Pilgrimage – the last full-length to feature Hakius on drums – Om had begun to lean more and more heavily into spiritual themes and Eastern tones, bringing about a new definition of what exactly heavy is; because let’s be clear, Om are heaviness incarnate, just not in the traditional sense. Through God is Good and their latest LP, Advaitic Songs – their first as a trio and surely one of the finest put to record this decade – Om continued down a path of hazed out perfection. It’s a testament to the importance of the band that, even as Sleep woke up, Om persist, ready to send you into a trance at the pluck of a bass. Be sure to catch Om when they headline the Old Empire stage – and Desertfest at large – on Friday 3rd May.

Joining them on the Old Empire stage, and continuing Old Empire’s tradition of showcasing heaviness from unexpected places, are Wovenhand. Labelled many things over the near two decades they’ve been kicking around, from alternative country, to neofolk, to Southern-gothic, Wovenhand are simply low and slow, oozing with an atmosphere of gloom. Music torn from the heart and soul of David Eugene Edwards (ex-16 Horsepower), Wovenhand are a deeply personal experience that you won’t want to miss.

But that’s not all for the Old Empire stage, who offer up three more treats for Desertfest 2019; firstly, a slice of black metal in the shape of Wiegedood, whose Die doden hebben het goed trilogy serves as a granite slab of brutality. Featuring members of post-black metal heroes Oathbreaker, as well as being part of the illustrious Church of Ra collective – a handful of acts tethered by a DIY ethic – Wiegedood will bring heaviness as we traditionally know it to the stage.

The jazz-inspired, ominous soundscapes of HHY & the Macumbas bring an exploration of the apocalypse to proceedings. Showcasing why they’re one of the most inimitable acts in the Portuguese, or perhaps even European underground scene, HHY are ordered chaos, wielding a twin attack of percussion and horns, tied together with a thin spine of drone.

Rounding off this year’s Old Empire stage come the desolate, minimalist sonic mantras of Louisville’s Jaye Jayle. Revelling in the simplicity of a “Less is more” philosophy, Jaye Jayle build tension with their barely crawling musical progressions and stitch it all together with the gruff, semi-spoken vocals of Evan Patterson.

Yet again, the Old Empire stage looks set to be one of the most exciting places to be over the whole of the Desertfest weekend, bringing both the darkness and the light; but that’s not all to expect over the May Bank Holiday weekend in Camden.

Elsewhere over the weekend, we’re excited to be welcoming Ukraine’s Stoned Jesus to Desertfest London. The stoner blues trio, who released their 4th full-length Pilgrims in September, possess a tone all of their own. Offering up one of the scene’s most beloved albums in 2012’s Seven Thunders Roar, Stoned Jesus remain a treat to catch live; as do punk infused stoner rockers Mondo Generator. Headed up by legend of the underground, Nick Oliveri, Mondo Generator are, like any of Oliveri’s myriad projects, an undeniably raucous experience live.

Next up, a double bill of some of Europe’s finest heavy psych; Part of the modern Greek wave of stoner and psych, without ever disappearing into the crowd, Naxatras are unashamed worshippers of the 70s riff. That said, they bring plenty of their own flavour to the mix. Whilst Oslo’s The Devil and the Almighty Blues live up to their name, bringing a devilishly groovy stomp and infusing it with their almost nonchalant, relaxed tones, fast becoming one of the most exciting bands in all of heavy psych.

There’s doom aplenty as ever at Desertfest, with all angles covered; the occult is worshipped with Sabbath Assembly and Messa’s take on the science of slow, whilst Elephant Tree will continue to show why they’re one of the UK’s finest acts with their uncompromising push outwards to the outer limits of doom.

A double dose of 70’s worship comes in the form of the strutting duo of Great Electric Quest and Salem’s Bend, with today’s announcement rounded off by two chances to get high; High Fighter are set to surround us with a densely packed smog of doom and High Reeper filtering the riffs of classic heavy metal through the So-Cal skater scene.

With dozens more bands still to be announced, including our Saturday and Sunday headliners, Desertfest 2019 is shaping up to be another hit of the best stoner, doom, sludge and psych on the planet. Don’t miss the annual celebration of the underground in Camden next May Bank Holiday weekend. Book your tickets today.

http://www.desertfest.co.uk/
https://www.facebook.com/DesertfestLondon
https://www.instagram.com/desertfest_london/
https://twitter.com/DesertFest

Wovenhand, Live at Fire in the Mountains, Jackson, WY, June 30, 2018

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High Fighter Sign to Argonauta Records for New Album in 2019

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 28th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

A fitting union and another solid pickup for Argonauta Records as the label welcomes German sludgecore rockers High Fighter to its seemingly ever-expanding roster. The Hamburg-based band released their debut album, Scars and Crosses (review here), in 2016 on Svart and worked to blend a number of genres for a style they’ll look to continue to expand after a number of tours in support. Spring 2019 would seem to be the intention, and I’m sure there’ll be more info and audio out before then.

Kudos to band and label both. This should work out nicely when it comes to the album, the title for which remains TBA.

From the PR wire:

high fighter (Photo by Peter Kupfer)

HIGH FIGHTER SIGNS WITH ARGONAUTA RECORDS! New album coming in the Spring of 2019!

Hamburg-based Sludge and Stoner Metal unit High Fighter have signed a worldwide deal with Argonauta Records. Currently putting together the final songwriting touches, the band’s hotly anticipated second album will be released in the Spring of 2019!

Says Argonauta’s CEO Gero Lucisano:
“Today I’m beyond stoked to welcome HIGH FIGHTER in the Argonauta family. I remember how their album “Scars & Crosses” has been on heavy rotation here in our head-quarters for many months, and still is an “evergreen” listening these days. Moreover, thanks to the fact they are an hard working band always on tour, I got the chance to see them on stage, where I saw a captivating band with an uncontrollable energy, top professional attitude and awareness of their own means. Speaking with the band, I immediately got we are both moved by the same type of enthusiasm and it’d be such a lack of synergy to not join forces for their new album, which I can already grant it will be totally massive!”

After their critically acclaimed debut EP ‘The Goat Ritual’, self-released in the end of 2014, followed by numerous shows all over Europe including festival appearances at Wacken Open Air, Summer Breeze, Desertfest Berlin & Antwerp, Sonic Blast, Stoned From The Underground, Up In Smoke and many more, gigs on tour with bands alike Ahab, Conan, Crowbar, Mantar, Corrosion of Conformity, Elder, Downfall of Gaia, Mammoth Storm, Brant Bjork or Earth Ship to name just a few, HIGH FIGHTER released their first full-length ‘Scars & Crosses’ in June 2016 with Finland’s cult label Svart Records.

“We have met Gero a few years ago at a show in Italy, and we immediately felt his passion and love for the underground heavy music scene.“ HIGH FIGHTER vocalist Mona Miluski comments. „Over the past few months, I also got the chance to work closely with Gero due to my daytime job in the music industry, and I have probably not met many people like him before in this very tough business. His passionate but also very professional hard work for versatile, heavy bands not only impressed me but the entire band, when Gero made us an offer we could not refuse. We have and always will be very grateful for what Svart Records did for us and our first album, but musically we feel a step to sunny Italy with a label that represents the direction we currently go with our new album has been a great choice and move. We can’t wait to start recording in Berlin at the Hidden Planet Studio with our dear friend Jan Oberg (Earth Ship) in the beginning of 2019, and unleash our second full-length baby with Argonauta Records next Spring!“

HIGH FIGHTER are:
Mona Miluski – Vocals
Christian Pappas – Guitar
Ingwer Boysen – Guitar
Constantin Wüst – Bass
Thomas Wildelau – Drums / Backing Vocals

www.highfighter.de
www.facebook.com/highfighter
www.instagram.com/highfighter_official
www.highfighter.bandcamp.com
www.argonautarecords.com
www.facebook.com/ArgonautaRecords

High Fighter, Scars and Crosses (2016)

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High Fighter Add Dates to Summer Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 1st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

high fighter (Photo by Peter Kupfer)

Seems to me that every time I write about Germany’s High Fighter I use a different genre tag. That’s a pretty good sign. Some bands you go “stoner” and you’re done. The Hamburg-based five-piece make it a little more of a challenge. When they announced a string of UK dates last month supporting their 2016 debut album, Scars and Crosses (review here), I used “sludge metallers.” Not exactly wrong, but meh. Way general. I must’ve been in a hurry. Today I’m feeling more like something along the lines of “metallic sludgecore” when it comes to summing up their sound. It’s metallic in its aggression, -core in its charge and sludge in its tonality and focus on riffs. I feel pretty good about that one. Will I still next time around? Most likely not. Maybe next time I’ll add “progressive” to the mix to highlight the thoughtful nature of their craft. Progressive metallic sludgecore. Sounds like fun.

High Fighter have added dates to the previously announced run, and you’ll find the update below, courtesy of the PR wire:

high fighter summer tour poster

HIGH FIGHTER ANNOUNCE MORE UPCOMING SUMMER TOUR DATES!

Hamburg-based Sludge & Stoner Metal band HIGH FIGHTER, who just recently announced to return to the UK this summer with support from special guests TUSKAR and MY DIABLO, have added a bunch of new dates around their UK summer run! Beside gigs at Bolton’s Riff Fest and more UK cities, HIGH FIGHTER added some upcoming shows in France as well as Luxembourg.

It’s been three years since the band toured the United Kingdom while on their first European tour ever back in early 2015. This August, HIGH FIGHTER will bring their latest record ‘Scars & Crosses’ as well as some brand new material live on stage. It will be one of the last tours HIGH FIGHTER are going to play this year and before they will release their second full length album in early 2019. If you’re looking for a highly polished band then look elsewhere as HIGH FIGHTER play mean and dirty Blues, Stoner, Doom & Sludgy riffs to fuel your appetite with, make sure to catch them live on the following dates this year:

23.08.18 NL – Tilburg / Little Devil
24.08.18 UK – Bournemouth / The Anvil
25.08.18 UK – Bolton / Riff Fest
26.08.18 UK – Edinburgh / Bannerman’s
27.08.18 UK – Bristol / The Old England
28.08.18 UK – Milton Keynes / The Craufurd Arms
29.08.18 UK – London / The Devonshire Arms
30.08.18 FR – Lille / Bobble Café
31.08.18 FR – Paris / Rigoletto
01.09.18 LUX – Belval / Mix n Kawa

More upcoming HIGH FIGHTER dates:
14.09.18 DE – Hannover / Subkultur
20.10.18 DE – München / Keep It Low Festival

Born in the summer of 2014 by former band members of A Million Miles, Buffalo Hump and Pyogenesis, this band is a volatile cocktail of heavy as hell riffs! Add a heavy dose of the blues and these deadly schizophrenic vocals and HIGH FIGHTER offer something new to the Sludge, Stoner, Doom & Metal Scene. After their critically acclaimed debut EP ‘The Goat Ritual’ released end of 2014, followed by numerous shows all over Europe, including festivals such as Wacken Open Air, Summer Breeze, Desertfest Berlin & Antwerp, Sonic Blast, Up In Smoke and many more, as well as several gigs with bands alike Ahab, Conan, Crowbar, Mantar, Corrosion of Conformity, Elder, Downfall of Gaia, Mammoth Storm, Brant Bjork, The Midnight Ghost Train and Earth Ship to name just a few, HIGH FIGHTER released their first full length album ‘Scars & Crosses’ in June 2016 with Svart Records. The band’s second studio album will see the light of day in early 2019.

HIGH FIGHTER are:
Mona Miluski – Vocals
Christian Pappas – Guitar
Ingwer Boysen – Guitar
Constantin Wüst – Bass
Thomas Wildelau – Drums / Backing Vocals

www.highfighter.de
www.facebook.com/highfighter
www.instagram.com/highfighter_official
www.highfighter.bandcamp.com
www.svartrecords.com

High Fighter, “Darkest Days” official video

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Keep it Low 2018 Adds High Fighter & The Devil and the Almighty Blues

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 3rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

The lineup for Keep it Low 2018, which already feels like a birthday present with the likes of Colour HazeAcid KingElderLowriderWo FatSasquatch and Child on the bill — among others — continues to get even richer. Two more bands have been newly added between German aggro sludge metallers High Fighter and Norwegian heavy blues purveyors The Devil and the Almighty Blues, and as distinct as the two acts’ sounds are, they each have a foothold in the capital-H ‘Heavy’ that unites them with each other and with the rest of Keep it Low‘s lineup, which might be the strongest I’ve yet seen from the festival in its six incarnations. And I don’t think they’re done adding bands, either.

High Fighter recently announced a string of UK dates for August supporting their visceral 2016 Svart Records debut, Scars and Crosses (review here), while The Devil and the Almighty Blues issued their second album, II (review here), last year via Blues for the Red Sun Records. I’m not sure if either appearance at Keep it Low 2018 will be part of larger touring plans, but it certainly isn’t out of the realm of possibility for either act.

Keep it Low 2018 is presented by Sound of Liberation and is set for Oct. 19 and 20. The latest announcement follows:

keep it low 2018 poster

Keepers,

As promised, here are 2 new bands confirmed for Keep It Low Festival 2018: Heavy-Blues Rockers The Devil And The Almighty Blues that we are thrilled to have back in Munich on Oct. 19th after the incredible show they played at Feierwerk in May; and the ferocious High Fighter to fuel your appetite with mean and dirty Blues, Stoner, Doom & Sludgy riffs on Oct. 20th!

Tickets are selling fast (2-day passes already gone), so do not wait too long to grab yours !
https://www.keepitlow.de/tickets-keep-it-low

https://www.facebook.com/keepitlowfestival/
https://www.facebook.com/events/300578407135232/
https://www.facebook.com/Soundofliberation/
https://www.soundofliberation.com/news

High Fighter, “Darkest Days” official video

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