The Top 20 of 2015 Readers Poll — RESULTS!

Posted in Features on January 1st, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

top-20-of-2015-readers-poll-results

Happy New Year, and thank you. Thank you to everybody who took time out of what I’m sure was a crazy December to cast a vote in the sixth-annual year-end poll. It’s hugely appreciated, and I’m thrilled to note that with a final tally of 388, we not only beat last year’s number of contributors (355), but did so by a wider margin than last year beat 2013. That means a lot to me, so again, thank you for taking part.

I’ve spent the last month watching the results come in as votes are cast, checking the back end of the poll at least once a day, and more than any time I’ve ever done this, 2015 had a clear runaway. I’ll talk about it a bit in the lists, but let me first say that, as has happened every single time a poll’s results go up, the numbers change a bit over the next day or two as things are checked and rechecked. There won’t be any major shifts, but keep an eye on it anyhow.

Below, you’ll find two lists. The first is the weighted tally, working off a point system put together by Slevin that I barely comprehend in which 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. The second, and more suited to my caveman brain, is the raw votes. There are always some subtle differences between the two.

In addition to those, after the jump there are all the lists submitted over the course of the month. They’re alphabetical order.

Enough disclaimers. Here goes:

Top 20 of 2015 — Weighted Results

elder lore
1. Elder, Lore (858 points)
2. Clutch, Psychic Warfare (527)
3. High on Fire, Luminiferous (433)
4. Kadavar, Berlin (404)
5. All Them Witches, Dying Surfer Meets His Maker (368)
5. Graveyard, Innocence and Decadence (368)
6. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, The Night Creeper (355)
7. Acid King, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere (320)
7. Goatsnake, Black Age Blues (320)
8. Windhand, Grief’s Infernal Flower (307)
9. Monolord, Vænir (284)
10. Torche, Restarter (232)
11. Ghost, Meliora (211)
12. The Atomic Bitchwax, Gravitron (208)
13. With the Dead, With the Dead (189)
14. Baroness, Purple (182)
15. Snail, Feral (179)
16. Ufomammut, Ecate (167)
17. The Sword, High Country (155)
18. Golden Void, Berkana (152)
19. Dopethrone, Hochelaga (133)
20. Kylesa, Exhausting Fire (132)

Honorable mention to:
Fuzz, II (131)
Royal Thunder, Crooked Doors (130)
Weedpecker, II (123)
Monster Magnet, Cobras and Fire (116)
Freedom Hawk, Into Your Mind (113)

Basically what I see in the above is a lot of agreement. People liked Elder and they liked Clutch. Both were picked often and both placed highly on the lists in which they were included, but it’s worth looking at the drop between the two — 858 to 527 is significant. As with every year it’s been done this way so far, the two lists are pretty consistent, the weighted tally and the raw votes, but the order is different, and this list gauges not only how widespread a given record reached, but how deeply it resonated with those who heard it. A couple well-placed ties add two extra picks to the top 10, and from there things hold pretty steady through number 20, though again, the placement at the bottom of the list is jumbled some compared to the raw votes as well. Speaking of…

Top 20 of 2015 — Raw Votes

elder lore

1. Elder, Lore (207)
2. Clutch, Psychic Warfare (138)
3. High on Fire, Luminiferous (128)
4. Kadavar, Berlin (114)
5. Graveyard, Innocence and Decadence (112)
6. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, The Night Creeper (107)
7. Windhand, Grief’s Infernal Flower (103)
8. Acid King, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere (99)
9. All Them Witches, Dying Surfer Meets His Maker (94)
9. Goatsnake, Black Age Blues (94)
10. Monolord, Vænir (82)
11. Torche, Restarter (71)
12. With the Dead, With the Dead (64)
13. The Atomic Bitchwax, Gravitron (62)
14. Ghost, Meliora (61)
15. Ufomammut, Ecate (57)
16. The Sword, High Country (52)
17. Baroness, Purple (50)
17. Golden Void, Berkana (50)
18. Snail, Feral (46)
19. Dopethrone, Hochelaga (43)
20. Fuzz, II (42)
20. Kylesa, Exhausting Fire (42)
20. Royal Thunder, Crooked Doors (42)

Honorable mention to:
Monster Magnet, Cobras and Fire (41)
Mondo Drag, Mondo Drag (38)
Weedpecker, II (38)
Weedeater, Goliathan (37)
The Machine, Offblast! (35)
Goya, Obelisk (34)
Bell Witch, Four Phantoms (33)
Freedom Hawk, Into Your Mind (33)
Spelljammer, Ancient of Days (33)
Ruby the Hatchet, Valley of the Snake (32)
Sacri Monti, Sacri Monti (32)
Death Alley, Black Magick Boogieland (31)
My Sleeping Karma, Moksha (31)

Everything else was under 30 votes. As I alluded above, Elder’s Lore ran away with this one. Within 24 hours of the poll going live, it was ahead by a decent margin, and that margin only increased as the month went on. Granted there were more people than ever taking part in this year’s poll, but it’s also the first release ever to pass 200 votes in this tally, beating out even the formidable likes of YOB’s Clearing the Path to Ascend, which topped last year’s list at 138. That’s an accomplishment in itself, but either way, there was no question what was the Album of 2015, and of course, that’s an assessment with which I agreed as well.

One more time, thank you to everybody who participated, and thanks as always to Slevin for his diligent behind-the-scenes efforts, without which this poll and this site simply would not exist. The man is a hero and should be venerated as such.

Happy 2016 to everybody. I hope it’s a fantastic year for you personally and that your days are filled with good music.

Please find all the lists after the jump, and enjoy. If you find any glaring mathematical errors on the above or there’s something you feel needs to be checked or is missing, let me know in the comments.

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2015

Posted in Features on December 22nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

top 30 albums of 2015 1

Please note: This list is not culled in any way from the Readers Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2015 to that, please do.

It’s damn near impossible to start one of these posts without some derivation of, “Whew! What a year it’s been!” The truth is that, since 2014, I’ve been keeping a list of the best releases of 2015, and the list has just grown and grown and grown over the last 12 months. Could have been a top 40, easy. Could have been a top 50, 60, whatever. It was complete inundation.

If you’ve been checking in on any of the lists that have gone up so far, you might notice that some of these records have appeared elsewhere, and possibly in a different order. How does an album end up ahead of another on one list and not on another? Different criteria. Different basis of judgment. As always, the big year-end list (this one) is derived both from what I think are the most important offerings of the year plus what I listened to the most, because while I believe deeply in the critical value of a given work, I also believe there’s value in the kind of record you just can’t put down.

Basically, I believe records have value. Stay tuned for more daring adventures in understatement.

A few emergent factors for 2015 to note: The increasing expansion of subgenres. Psychedelia and what I’ve come to call the heavy ’10s sound finding further root as prominent styles of the day, as well as a budding of emotive doom in the post-Pallbearer vein. At the same time, a more straightforward heavy rock is also making a return, and look for that to continue as new listeners discover past landmarks and modern plays thereupon. Everything is cyclical, and I’m interested to see what the next two or three years bring, both as Millennials hit 30 (and beyond) and as younger kids come up and fuzz out.

But that’s a conversation for a different time, and before we get there, it’s time to take a look back at the best full-lengths of 2015. I hope if I’ve left something out, you’ll let me know about it in the comments, but until then, here we go:

30. High on Fire, Luminiferous

high on fire luminiferous

Released by eOne Heavy. Reviewed June 15.

Going by some of the results I’ve seen from the Readers Poll, I’m guessing there will be some disagreement on the placement of High on Fire‘s seventh full-length, third for eOne and second to be produced by Kurt Ballou behind 2012’s De Vermiis Mysteriis (review here), but for me it came down to what I went back to more. The brilliant “The Falconist” would be enough on its own for Luminiferous to be included on this list, and taken as a whole, the record affirmed the trio as pivotal heavy metal marauders, an act whose devastation is undulled by the wear they’ve put on it touring the world over and again.

29. CHRCH, Unanswered Hymns

chrch unanswered hymns

Released by Battleground Records. Reviewed June 30.

Undaunted by a name change from Church to CHRCH, the Sacramento five-piece unleashed rare doom extremity on their debut album, but peppered that with a stylistic nuance that many in the pummel-pummel-pummel game cast off, whether it was psychedelic flourish in the guitar or some eerie atmospheric. Among the post potential-filled debut offerings of the year, that’s not a guarantee they’ll find future success on the same level, but it does mean that if you didn’t hear the 19-minute “Dawning,” you missed out.

28. Golden Void, Berkana

golden void berkana

Released by Thrill Jockey Records. Reviewed Sept. 22.

Coherent bliss. The second full-length from the four-piece Golden Void was a logical step forward from the band’s 2012 self-titled debut (review here), but that was precisely what it needed to be. With an emerging dynamic of dual vocals between guitarist Isaiah Mitchell (also Earthless) and keyboardist Camilla Saufley-Mitchell on cuts like “Astral Plane” and “Silent Season,” Berkana was less adherent to space rock overall than its predecessor, but gave a more individualized take and was all the richer for it.

27. Stoned Jesus, The Harvest

stoned jesus the harvest

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 20.

Probably should have a higher number. Part of the enduring appeal for The Harvest for me is not only how Ukrainian three-piece Stoned Jesus so absolutely pushed back from the album before it, 2012’s sophomore outing, Seven Thunders Roar (review here), but how much reasoning they put behind the moves they made on the six included tracks. Each song had its purpose and place in the overarching flow, and The Harvest continues to deliver something new on thoroughly-earned repeat listens. Perhaps most encouraging of all, I have no idea what they’ll do next.

26. Graveyard, Innocence and Decadence

graveyard innocence and decadence

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Oct. 7.

Swedish retro forerunners are hands-down one of the most influential European heavy rock acts of their generation. The ’70s revivalism they helped spearhead on their first, second and third LPs has given them rich ground to develop, and they still managed to bring something new to their sound with the soulfulness of Innocence and Decadence, as well as increasing command and diversity in the vocals. Drummer Axel Sjöberg turned in a career performance, and although there are heaps upon heaps of bands out there indulging in post-Graveyard boogie, they showed once again that they’re able to stand both out from the crowd and well above it. Plus, any swing-rocking album that dares to break out soul-singer backing vocals and blastbeats, and pull both off without blinking deserves respect, no matter what else it might have going on.

25. Death Hawks, Sun Future Moon

death hawks sun future moon

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed Nov. 3

It felt so good to put on Death HawksSun Future Moon for the first time and be completely blindsided by its serene psychedelic ritualizing. The Finnish four-piece reveled in classic progressive methods, and where it would’ve been so easy for songs like “Hey Ya Sun Ra” or “Dream Life, Waking Life” to come across as pretentious, the naturalism in the recording gave the band’s third album such a liquefied flow that it was impossible not to be swept up by it until, at last, “Friend of Joy” launched into and beyond a peaceful stratosphere in spaced-out ambience. My first exposure to the group and their first outing for Svart, it’s a record so textural and so graceful that it seems to unfurl itself more each time through.

24. Spidergawd, II

spidergawd ii

Released by Stickman Records and Crispin Glover Records. Reviewed Jan. 5.

A quick and strong turnaround from this Norwegian sax-inclusive foursome, who might seem to come out of nowhere were it not for the pedigree of Kenneth Kapstad and Bent Sæther in long-running progressives Motorpsycho. Together with Per Borten and Rolf Martin Snustad, Spidergawd spoke to more primal rock instincts — their two LPs to-date and soon to be three are testaments to the ability of music to move, to shove, and to shake; or as they put it, “Get Physical” — but as there is breadth as well, as the psychedelic “Caereulean Caribou” demonstrated. Anchored by the hook of “Fixing to Die Blues,” Spidergawd‘s second wandered far and wide, but welcomed listeners along for each step of the journey.

23. The Midnight Ghost Train, Cold was the Ground

the midnight ghost train cold was the ground

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Feb. 26.

As the title promised, The Midnight Ghost Train‘s third offering and Napalm Records debut delivered harsh truths. They came at breakneck speed and delivered with stage-hewn chemistry by the Midwestern power trio, whose years of road-dogging were brought to bear in the gruff, gravel-throated voice of guitarist Steve Moss, who led drummer Brandon Burghart and newcomer bassist Mike Boyne across nigh-unparalled riff torrents, with all the boogie of any number of ’70s-style sidewinders, but also with a tonal thickness that seemed a miracle it could move at all. Not without its adventurous side in the quieter “The Little Sparrow,” Cold was the Ground brimmed with intensity that brought the band to new levels in every conceivable fashion.

22. Leeches of Lore, Motel of Infinity

leeches of lore motel of infinity

Released by Lorchestral Recording Company. Reviewed Sept. 15.

Blessed art the weirdos, whose records might be few and far between, who might not tour, but whose bold fits and starts span genres easily and whose work truly stands alone. Leeches of Lore‘s Toshi Kasai-produced Motel of Infinity was a godsend in the enduring battle against normality. It was a grinding, grooving anti-punk stampede, at times frenetic and at other times whatever the opposite of frenetic is, and to-date, it’s the Albuquirky outit’s masterpiece, from the low-end buzzsaw, gang-shout and falsetto of “Don’t Open Till Doomsday” through the bass and organ bounce of “Noah’s Soul (is Burning).” They have been and still are a band unto themselves, and the we-do-this-every-day confidence of their execution across Motel of Infinity‘s run only emphasizes how utterly necessary they are.

21. With the Dead, With the Dead

with the dead self titled

Released by Rise Above Records. Reviewed Nov. 11.

With the Dead vocalist Lee Dorrian (also head of Rise Above Records, also ex-Cathedral) basically laid it all out there in the interview here when he said, “We wanted to make the most skull-crushing record we possibly could.” That’s precisely what With the Dead‘s self-titled debut is. It’s as heavy as possible, as filthy as possible, all the way through. In some ways very much the sum of its elements with Dorrian on vocals, Tim Bagshaw on guitar/bass and Mark Greening on drums (both ex-Ramesses), it was also of course more than just that, and while so much of their story has yet to be told as they move into their initial live appearances in 2016, their opening salvo was nothing if not as destructive as its intent.

20. Clutch, Psychic Warfare

clutch psychic warfare

Released by Weathermaker Music. Reviewed Oct. 6.

How could anyone possibly have even remotely reasonable expectations for a Clutch record after 2013’s Earth Rocker (review here). I won’t say the Maryland stalwarts didn’t deliver with Psychic Warfare, and I doubt any fan of the band who’s dug into “X-Ray Visions,” “A Quick Death in Texas” or “Noble Savage” would, but their returning to producer Machine for the second time in a row made it almost too easy to compare Clutch‘s 10th and 11th long-players. Four years between albums was shortened to just two, and that may have had something to do with it as well, but while the songs were there and I’ve no doubt that Psychic Warfare will endure over the long term — ask me sometime how long it took me to get into Pure Rock Fury — in the moment of its release, Psychic Warfare seemed to stand in the shadow of its predecessor rather than in its own light.

19. Mondo Drag, Mondo Drag

mondo drag self-titled

Released by Kozmik Artifactz and RidingEasy Records. Reviewed Jan. 8.

An awaited return for Midwestern-turned-West-Coast psychedelic rockers Mondo Drag, their self-titled sophomore outing had three years between its recording and release, and was made in 2012 with a shortlived incarnation of the band with bassist Zack Anderson and drummer Cory Berry, both formerly of Radio Moscow and then-soon to be of Blues Pills. Unsurprisingly, the grooves were tight, but even better, Mondo Drag blew past the peaceful headtrippery of their 2010 debut, New Rituals (review here), toward more expansive and proggy fare. They’ll look to continue that thread on their third outing, The Occultation of Light, in 2016, but the self-titled captured a special moment worthy of celebration, still rife with the classic-minded ethereal spirit of the first outing, but clearly bent on defining its own sonic dogma in hooks and synthy vibes.

18. Lamp of the Universe, The Inner Light of Revelation

lamp of the universe the inner light of revelation

Released by Clostridium Records and Astral Projection. Reviewed April 27.

At the risk of sounding biased, just about any new release from New Zealand tantric psych outfit Lamp of the Universe is going to be welcome by me. Comprised solely of Craig Williamson (also Arc of Ascent), the long-running project nonetheless casts out gorgeously textured meditative psychedelia, at times delving into drone or Eastern folk, but always marking out its own sonic space, whether in the more rock-minded groove of “God of One” or the drumless acoustic swirl of “Ancient Path.” Lamp of the Universe is a rare band — as much as it is a band — that covers a swath of ground stylistically and manages to sound like nothing but itself as it does so, and Williamson‘s commitment to his cosmic mantras remains firm and creatively fertile as the seeds he planted early on continue to bear fruit in complex arrangements that never distract from the central, spiritual purpose of the music.

17. Mammatus, Sparkling Waters

mammatus sparkling waters

Released by Spiritual Pajamas. Reviewed Nov. 9.

Even with its title-track broken into two 20-plus-minute side-consuming halves, it was abundantly plain to hear that Sparkling Waters was the most realized Mammatus outing yet. The four-song, 75-minute offering brimmed with a clarity that even their late-2013 third album, Heady Mental (review here), could only partially claim, leaving behind the fuzz and fog of their earlier work almost entirely while remaining open to employing sonic heft when suitable to their more complex motives. Most effective about Mammatus at this stage was the way they eased into and through varied parts while tying together a coherent whole piece, the builds and cascades of “Sparkling Waters Part One” setting up an expectation of fluidity that held firm even through the more jagged buzz in the early going of closer “Ornia,” the grand finale of which resonates as a cacophony without letting itself actually lose control.

16. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, The Night Creeper

uncle acid the night creeper

Released by Rise Above Records. Reviewed Sept. 3.

UK ladykillers Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats have emerged as one of the most essential bands of the ’10s. The Night Creeper is their fourth album and it takes the defining eeriness of their melodies and roughs it up with a mostly-live recording job — something which, now that they’re a touring act, they can do — for their grittiest, dirtiest-sounding offering yet. Songs like “Melody Lane,” “Pusher Man” and opener “Waiting for Blood” speak to what’s let their methodology spread so widely in the first place, the VHS grain of their guitars and vocals resting over classic swing and proliferating maddening hooks with lethal intent. Between the nine-minute gruel of “Slow Death” and the hidden acoustic track “Black Motorcade,” The Night Creeper wasn’t without its element of sonic progress, but with Uncle Acid, it’s still the combination of threat, swing and memorable songwriting that brings listeners back to their dark alleyways for another taste.

15. Death Alley, Black Magick Boogieland

death alley black magick boogieland

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed June 8.

Easily one of 2015’s most encouraging debuts. Making its opening salvo with the propulsion of Motörhead-derived heavy rock in songs like “Over Under” and “Black Magick Boogieland,” the first outing from Amsterdam-based foursome Death Alley touched on classic ideals without going retro on “Bewildered Eyes,” nodded toward psychedelic melodicism and more patient intentions in “Golden Fields of Love,” and portrayed its punker roots in “Dead Man’s Bones” — all before the 12:40 space rock extravaganza that took hold with closer “Supernatural Predator.” It was a lot of territory to cover, but Death Alley not only made it sound cohesive, they made it rock and they made it a good time. In just about 41 minutes, Black Magick Boogieland was not only a voyage well worth taking, it was a potential-filled, headbang-worthy ripper of an album from an outfit who deserves every bit of attention they seem to be shouting for. Hope they don’t wait long for a follow-up.

14. The Machine, Offblast!

the machine offblast

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed May 28.

Five records in, Dutch trio The Machine have found a niche for themselves between heavy psych rock, desert fuzz and exploratory jamming. Offblast!, with a title that seemed more reminiscent of Europunker speed rock, was as spacious as it was driving, and whether it was the more structured material like “Dry End” or “Coda Sun” or the two extended cuts, 16-minute opener ““Chrysalis (J.A.M.)” and 12-minute closer “Come to Light,” their dynamic remained natural and held firm to a spontaneous sensibility, like at any turn, any part might take off for an eight-minute ride to who knows where. That that didn’t always happen only made Offblast! a richer listening experience, its varied ideas coming through consistent tonality to affect a more than satisfying front-to-back flow that toyed with momentum even as it built more and more of it. Was a while in the making, coming three years after 2012’s Calmer than You Are (review here), but easily worth the wait.

13. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth

brothers of the sonic cloth self titled

Released by Neurot Recordings. Reviewed March 3.

There were moments where the self-titled debut from Brothers of the Sonic Cloth was almost too much to take in one sitting. By the time the Tad Doyle-led trio got around to the 11-minute “La Mano Poderosa,” sometimes I felt like I needed a second to catch my breath before diving further, always further, into the smoldering abyss their tones, growls and lurch seemed to create. Six years after their demo (review here) served notice like a tectonic rumble in the distance, the album arrived with comet-into-planet heft, and its oppression was as much about atmosphere as it was sheer aural assault. Imagine an arm reaching down your throat, grabbing your lungs, and forcibly deflating them one at a time. Is that hyperbole? Absolutely, and well earned. Every bit the debut of the year.

12. Kind, Rocket Science

kind rocket science

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Dec. 2.

No, Boston supergroup Kind aren’t so high on this list just because they called a song “Pastrami Blaster.” Granted, that didn’t hurt, but ultimately it was the blend of cavernous psychedelics and heavy rumble that made Rocket Science so infectious. Comprised of vocalist Craig Riggs (Roadsaw), guitarist Darryl Shepard (Milligram, The Scimitar, etc.), bassist Tom Corino (Rozamov) and drummer Matt Couto (Elder), Kind earned immediate interest for their pedigree, but it was more the breadth of jams like “Hordeolum” and “The Angry Undertaker” that defined their first outing, various impulses toward structure and open-endedness not so much pushing against each other as working in tandem to craft something that drew from the best of both mindsets. Obviously these are busy guys, but hopefully Kind doesn’t all by the wayside for other ongoing projects. Rocket Science was unmistakable in its demonstration that they have much to offer.

11. Bloodcow, Crystals and Lasers

bloodcow crystals and lasers

Self-released. Reviewed Aug. 4.

Iowa five-piece Bloodcow hadn’t put out a record since 2007’s Bloodcow III: Hail Xenu, but that didn’t stop Crystals and Lasers from being their best work yet. As much punk as metal as heavy rock, it wasn’t for everybody, but it was most definitely for me. With a constant thread of satire in songs like “Ultra Super Sexual,” “Sock,” “Dick for Days” and the oh-shit-I’m-middle-aged-how-the-fuck-did-this-happen (not saying I relate or anything, but holy shit I can relate) “After Party,” it was nonetheless a stylistically varied and universally professional-sounding 13-track collection, offering weirdo quirk in “Blood and Guts,” “Exploding Head” and “Little Chromosome” and finding room for a bit of scathing social commentary in its title-track and “HIVampyre.” If they’re working at an eight-year pace, I don’t know that we’ll get another Bloodcow record, but they very clearly put everything they had into Crystals and Lasers and the result was a defining statement.

10. Kadavar, Berlin

kadavar berlin

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed July 7.

After two wallops in the form of 2013’s Abra Kadavar (review here) and 2012’s self-titled debut (discussed here), German trio Kadavar continued to prove the effectiveness of their songwriting on Berlin, a return that front-to-back brimmed with vitality and bounce rare enough for heavy rock generally more content to be downtrodden or attempting to feign bluesy substance. Unabashedly poppy at times, Berlin was the party that brought everyone along who was up for taking the ride, and whether it was the hook of “Lord of the Sky” showing how just a tiny melodic turn could make a track infectious or cuts like “Thousand Miles Away from Home,” “Filthy Illusion,” “Stolen Dreams,” “Spanish Wild Rose,” “See the World with Your Own Eyes” — all of them, really — working their way into the consciousness, Berlin felt like it was primed to be the soundtrack of many summers to come. They moved away from the retro style of their first two outings, but in so doing took fuller command of their sound and put it to remarkable use.

9. Goatsnake, Black Age Blues

goatsnake black age blues

Released by Southern Lord. Reviewed May 19.

Picking up right where Flower of Disease closer “The River” left off with “Another River to Cross,” Goatsnake‘s third full-length arrived a full 15 years after its predecessor, and as one might expect that brought some considerable changes in the band’s sound. Oh, they still rolled the hell out of a riff, guitarist Greg Anderson (he of SunnO))) and Southern Lord Recordings) very much at the fore tonally, but a bluesy inflection from vocalist Pete Stahl (also earthlings?) and some well-placed backing vocals added personality in a daring and unexpected fashion. Songs like “Jimi’s Gone,” “Elevated Man” and “Grandpa Jones” sat comfortably in the band’s influential pantheon of heft, but it was how Black Age Blues pushed beyond what Goatsnake did in their initial run that made it so satisfying. For a record that arrived five years after they got back together, it could have easily been disaster, but Black Age Blues built on what Goatsnake was without detracting from the legacy that has influenced a generation of heavy rock.

8. Kings Destroy, Kings Destroy

kings destroy self titled

Released by War Crime Recordings. Reviewed April 15.

I’m proud to call the members of Kings Destroy friends and I won’t attempt to feign impartiality when it comes to considering their work as a band, but I felt in listening to their self-titled third LP that they had finally gotten to the point where they were bringing the onstage confrontationalism of their live show to the studio. Yeah, “Mr. O” was upbeat and catchy and gave side A some thrust, but even in chugging opener “Smokey Robinson” or the moody “Mytho” and “Embers,” Kings Destroy not only came further into their own in terms of style, building on the anti-genre defiant stance of 2013’s A Time of Hunting (review here), but did so with a clearheaded progressivism, a better sense of who they are musically and what they want the band to be. I wouldn’t trade seeing them play “Embers” or “W2” as many times as I have for anything, but even unto the gang-shout half-speed hardcore of “Time for War,” Kings Destroy‘s Kings Destroy made no bones about how it wound up with the eponymous title. It’s them through and through.

7. Cigale, Cigale

cigale self titled

Self-released. Reviewed May 4.

It may never be possible to listen to the self-titled debut from Cigale outside the context of the death of guitarist/vocalist Rutger Smeets (ex-Sungrazer). That loss casts a dark shadow over a collection that otherwise radiates colorful sweetness and serenity, the peaceful depth beginning with “Grey Owl” and only broadening as it turns and weaves through “Steeplechase,” “Feel the Heat,” “Harvest Begun” and so on, but the record remains a gorgeous, engrossing wash of resonant melody and underlying presence. Not without its moments of melancholy, the more overarching impression was of beauty not tied to any notion of playing to genre or style, and while I don’t know what the future will hold for the band, if they’ll keep moving forward or not or if they’re even in a place yet to consider such things, they helped broaden the context of European heavy psychedelia with their first album, and that is no minor achievement.

6. Sun Blood Stories, Twilight Midnight Morning

sun blood stories twilight midnight morning

Self-released. Reviewed June 19.

Another one that just kind of smacked me in the face. Idahoan heavy psych explorers Sun Blood Stories‘ second album, Twilight Midnight Morning was soaked in vibe and moved fluidly between experimentalist noisemaking and patient, memorable songwriting. Tracks like “West the Sun,” “Witch Wind” and “Found Reasons Found Out” never raged, exactly, but had enough weight to their rhythm to let you know they were there and interested in groove, while later pieces “Time Like Smoke,” “Moon Song: Waxing” and “Misery is Nebulous” drew exponentially from earlier freakout impulses and shifted into a dronier and more ambient approach. The combination of the two — semi-structure up front, open expansion in the back — made the three-part Twilight Midnight Morning engaging and hypnotic in kind, and though I hope they get weirder and experiment and develop the atmospheric side of their sound, I’ve also got my fingers crossed they hold firm to their more grounded aspects, since its the range between the two that gives their sophomore outing its defining fluidity.

5a. Colour Haze, To the Highest Gods We Know

colour haze to the highest gods we know

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed Jan. 6.

I’ll cite precedent in last year’s list for including a “5a.” The intent in doing so is to convey the idea that Colour Haze‘s latest outing, To the Highest Gods We Know, is worthy of top five consideration, but its release date was split between 2014 (CD) and 2015 (LP), so it was a little unclear where to put it. As the album is basically a year old at this point, it seems fair to say it’s held up, drawing back from the grandiose vision of 2012’s She Said (review here) without losing sight of the progressive elements that have taken root in the German trio’s sound. Their work has been and remains essential to the development of heavy psychedelic rock in Europe and beyond, and even though To the Highest Gods We Know felt like something of a reset — a stripping down of arrangements in places and getting back to a trio-in-a-room feel — it still stepped forward in its title-track and in songs like “Überall” and “Call” and showed that even when it seems Colour Haze have pushed their approach as far as it can go, there’s always new ground to explore, and their pull to do so is undiminished.

5. The Atomic Bitchwax, Gravitron

the atomic bitchwax gravitron

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed April 20.

Doesn’t exactly seem like giving away state secrets to note that a record with songs like “Sexecutioner” and “Fuck Face” is aggressive, but it’s particularly interesting in light of the past work of New Jersey trio The Atomic Bitchwax, who I don’t think sounded as barn-burning as they do on Gravitron even in their earliest going. The trio of bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik, guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan and drummer Bob Pantella kept their signature winding riff style intact — demonstrated most expansively over 2011’s single-song full-length instrumental The Local Fuzz (review here) — but while their turns were as blinding as ever, their tones were more pointed and Pantella‘s snare more upfront on the beat, which gave Gravitron a newfound sense of urgency. It worked. Even poppier songs like “Roseland” or the closing “Ice Age Hey Baby” benefited from the additional thrust, and the album overall felt lean, mean and ready to be taken on the road, which of course is exactly what they did with it. Six albums in, The Atomic Bitchwax were at their most vital yet.

4. All Them Witches, Dying Surfer Meets His Maker

all them witches dying surfer meets his maker

Released by New West Records. Reviewed Oct. 20.

Nashville four-piece All Them Witches probably could’ve gone into the studio, churned out a record of crunchy riffs with a quiet part or two for flavor and positioned themselves at the forefront of American heavy rock with their New West Records debut and third full-length overall, Dying Surfer Meets His Maker. Instead, they defied expectation boldly and brought their growing audience into the room with them and producer Mikey Allred as they captured the album, which finds its most affecting moments not in tonal weight, but emotional resonance, the melody at the midpoint of “Talisman” or the string arrangement gracefully tucked into “Open Passageways.” There’s still the push of “Dirt Preachers,” and entrancing closer “Blood and Sand – Milk and Endless Waters” has its heft as well, but All Them Witches‘ success ultimately came from being the album they wanted to make, built from the dynamic that’s developed on stage between bassist/vocalist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeodAllan Van Cleave on Fender Rhodes/strings, and drummer Robby Staebler, and alive in its feeling of exploration. I won’t predict what they might do from here, but I’m willing to say outright it’ll be worth hearing one way or another.

3. Snail, Feral

snail feral

Released by Small Stone Records. Reviewed Oct. 13.

My expectations for Snail‘s third post-reunion full-length and Small Stone label debut, Feral, were pretty high. Not unreasonably so, though. Their 2012 outing, Terminus (review here), built on the blend of heavy psych riffs, laid back roll and melodicism that 2009’s Blood (review here) established as the band’s working modus, but Feral was going to be a different beast from the start because it was the West Coast outfit’s first full-length as a trio since they made their self-titled debut (reissue review here) in 1993 before splitting up the next year. Whatever my expectations were, however, Snail shattered them almost immediately. In the progression of their songwriting as shown across the strong opening salvo of “Building a Haunted House,” “Smoke the Deathless” and “A Mustard Seed” through one of the year’s best songs in the expansive and crushing “Thou Art That,” the three-piece showcased a breadth unlike anything they’d conjured before, and it only continued through “Born in Captivity,” the catchy “Derail,” “Psilocybe” and the soul-infused wah leads that peppered the pleading closer “Come Home.” Where Terminus offered intensity, Feral offered patience in its execution, and the atmosphere it created suited the band’s sound as well as the Seldon Hunt cover art seemed to summarize the alternate reality in which the music took place. Everything about how it came together worked just right, and even as a fan of the band’s work since they got together again, I was taken aback by the unflinching quality of Feral front to back.

2. Acid King, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere

acid king middle of nowhere center of everywhere

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 19.

Ten years is a long, long time. Especially in music. The prospect of a fourth Acid King record has been tossed around for at least the last six of those 10 years, but to finally have it realized was something else entirely. Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere was without a doubt my most-listened-to album of the year, and its combination of tonal haze, low-end heft and spacious atmosphere was perfect. There’s just no other way to say it. It was perfect. From “Silent Pictures” and “Coming down from Outer Space” through “Red River,” “Infinite Skies” and the sprawling “Center of Everywhere” itself, guitarist/vocalist Lori S., bassist Mark Lamb and drummer Joey Osbourne crafted an absolutely perfect heavy psych record. How many bands walking the earth could even get away with calling a track “Laser Headlights,” let alone make it kick ass? Yeah, Goatsnake came back this year, and that was great, but for me, the return of Acid King to their throne of nod was even more the story of the year. Together with producer Billy Anderson, they offered a depth of tone that was simply unmatched, and without an ounce of pretense, they unveiled a roll that continues to resound. I’m a big fan of getting lost in a record, and Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere eased the listener in with its “Intro,” pulled reality apart from with “Silent Pictures” and set about doing the universe a favor by remaking the cosmos as the kind of place where one might find a wizard riding a tiger past the craters of the moon, until, at last, it deposited you back where you started. Best trip of 2015, no question.

1. Elder, Lore

elder lore

Released by Armageddon Shop and Stickman Records. Reviewed Feb. 19.

Make no mistake, 2015 was Elder‘s year. We were all just living in it. Truth be told, I’ve been back and forth between Elder and Acid King in the top spot for the last couple months (you might recall in July they were reversed), but when it finally came to it, there was no way I could feasibly call anything other than Lore the album of the year. From the gorgeous Adrian Dexter artwork (discussed here), through the progressive clarion of “Compendium”‘s noodling guitar line and into the massive scope of the title-track (discussed here), Lore was the moment in which Elder — guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto — tore down the walls of genre, whether it was heavy rock, psychedelia or anything else, and emerged with their own approach and complex, varied modus of songwriting. They’ve been turning heads since their self-titled debut arrived in 2008, but with 2011’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here), they began to demonstrate the potential for really adding something to the patchwork of underground heavy. In moving forward by making clarity a hallmark both of their sound and of their purpose, Elder came into their own with these five tracks, and do not at all be surprised a couple years from now when bands start showing up aping DiSalvo‘s style of riffing, since such a bold and successful foray of individualism can only be influential in the longer run. At nearly an hour long, Lore was not a minor undertaking, but each song seemed to set up its own atmosphere, feeding not only its own singular focus, but that of the album overall. Its turns blinding, its impact forceful and its affect drawing from the best of the sonic personalities of all three players, Elder‘s Lore reaped wide acclaim and earned it every step of the way. Its progressive vision has only begun to be digested.

Honorable Mention

Killer Boogie, Detroit – Impressive debut from the retro-minded offshoot of Black Rainbows brought ’70s boogie to Italy. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had a quick turnaround, but either way, their first outing knew its audience and spoke directly to it.

My Sleeping Karma, Moksha – This one was on various incarnations of the list. Very interested to see where the German heavy prog outfit wind up in terms of expanding their arrangements, but Moksha was a satisfying step forward in that process.

Egypt, Endless Flight – Should probably have a number, but the fact is it’s only been out for like two weeks, so it hasn’t really been given the test of time at this point. Still, Egypt always deliver and this was no exception.

Valkyrie, Shadows – An awaited third full-length from Virginia’s Valkyrie and also their Relapse Records debut offered enough blazing guitar work to meet any quota, and was a welcome return after a long absence.

Magic Circle, Journey’s End – The second LP from this Massachusetts outfit pushed beyond doomly confines into more traditional metallurgy but held its eerie atmospherics intact, and the combination suited them remarkably well.

Monolord, Vænir – This was my go-to for 2015 when nothing else seemed quite crushing enough. The Swedish trio have very quickly stomped their way into the hearts and minds of the international underground, and rightfully so.

Freedom Hawk, Into Your Mind – After making a transition from a four-piece to a trio, this Virginian outfit proceeded to take a few stylistic risks on their second Small Stone long-player, and they paid off.

TombstonesVargariis – Fourth full-length from this Norwegian trio pushed them outside of doom’s confines into a darker and more extreme version of heaviness that pulled from death and black metals in addition to its sludgy underpinnings. The meld was punishing and lost nothing of its groove, wherever it went at any given moment.

Faces of Bayon, Ash and Dust Have no Dominion – I guess my only hesitation with including Faces of Bayon‘s second outing in any kind of year-end fare is I’m not sure if the album has actually been released yet. Even if not, they’re easily worth a mention.

Ice Dragon, A Beacon on the Barrow – Kind of a down year from Ice Dragon in terms of overall productivity, but if the quantity was down compared to some, A Beacon on the Barrow was quality enough to carry them through. In a way, I think the album actually benefited from the band giving listeners time to take it in.

Arenna, Given to Emptiness – Ah, so good. The Spanish heavy psych troupe dug in deep on Given to Emptiness and conjured sonic and emotional resonance on their second full-length. It’s one that still gets repeat listens.

Monster Magnet, Cobras and Fire – The long-running New Jersey outfit’s reworking of their 2010 album Mastermind was excellent, don’t get me wrong, but it didn’t seem fair to list it when they’re working mostly from already-released source material. But still, if you haven’t heard it, go find it.

Various Artists, Electric Ladyland [Redux] – Even if the results hadn’t been so spectacular, Electric Ladyland [Redux] would deserve a mention for the sheer scope and logistical nightmare that the project must have been. Kudos to Magnetic Eye Records all around.

There are so many others: Abrahma, GoyaSun and Sail Club, DevilleSacri MontiDirty StreetsUfomammutWo Fat‘s live album, Mirror Queen, PentagramTorcheSumacGarden of WormBlack RainbowsHoly SerpentMinskBaronWeedpeckerElectric MoonFuzzBell WitchWindhand, Niche, We Lost the SeaSeremoniaSunderDomovoyd, The Heavy EyesDemon HeadFoggStars that MoveEnslavedRuby the Hatchet, on and on and on. That’s not even to mention the stuff I didn’t hear — Baroness will be on many people’s lists, no doubt, as well as Mutoid Man, Ghost and Kylesa — so yeah, I could pretty much keep going ad infinitum.

I, however, cannot. It’s been an absolute pleasure trying to keep up with 2015’s barrage the last 12 months, and I expect 2016 will only bring more. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading or that you’re able to get some use out of this post, whatever that might mean, and I thank you deeply, from the bottom of my heart, for your time and for reading. It means more to me than I can say that you might check out even any portion of this site or be involved, whether it’s sharing a link, leaving a comment to let me know who I forgot to mention or correct my spelling, signing up for the forum, listening to the radio, whatever it might be.

Thank you for an amazing 2015. And please stay tuned, because of course, there’s much more to come.

 

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 10 Songs of 2015

Posted in Features on December 10th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

top-10-songs-(the-castle-at-Meudon-near-Paris)

Please note: This list is not culled in any way from the Readers Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2015 to that, please do.

Last year, I did a Song of the Year post, but it wound up having basically a list’s worth of honorable mentions at the bottom, so as we move further into year-end season, it seemed only fair to give more releases their due.

One of the trickier aspects of putting this list together is trying to separate songs from the context of the albums on which they appear. That is, thinking of a given song as a standalone entity, apart from the track before, the track after and whatever else the record on which it appears might have on offer. I did my best to make sure these tracks had enough power and presence within them to be considered on their own as well. I’d expect that much of whether or not you think I was successful in that will depend on how much you agree with the picks. That’s fair enough.

And to that end, as always, please let me know if you think something was omitted here, if there was a song that really stood out to you this year — somebody’s single, or something from a record, whatever it might be — that doesn’t show up on the list. Hell, there are only 10 included. That’s bound to not be everything. Still, these are what hit me especially hard this year:

elder-lore

The Obelisk Presents: The Top 10 Songs of 2015

1. Elder, “Lore”
2. Acid King, “Center of Everywhere”
3. High on Fire, “The Falconist”
4. Death Alley, “Supernatural Predator”
5. Snail, “Thou Art That”
6. All Them Witches, “Open Passageways”
7. Sun Blood Stories, “Witch Wind”
8. The Atomic Bitchwax, “Hey Baby Ice Age”
9. Goatsnake, “Grandpa Jones”
10. Øresund Space Collective, “20 Steps Towards the Invisible Door”

Honorable Mention

A few honorable mentions: Kings Destroy‘s “Mr. O” remains a sentimental favorite and a song I go back to on many occasions when I need a boot to the ass. Clutch‘s “X-Ray Visions” efficiently reaffirmed the righteousness of their direction since Earth Rocker, while Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats‘ “Melody Lane” did likewise for that UK outfit’s malevolent grit-pop.

It was buried under a morass of riffs, but Windhand‘s “Kingfisher” was a standout, while Kadavar‘s “See the World with Your Own Eyes” skillfully walked a fine line between inspirational and cornball without any concern for sliding from one to the next, and so didn’t. If this list went to 11, Graveyard‘s “Too Much is Not Enough” would’ve been my next pick for the unabashed soulfulness pervading its melancholy atmosphere.

Notes

What was to be done with Elder‘s “Lore?” In the end, I’m not sure any other single track showed the kind of scope, the emotive presence, the poise, the progression and, pivotally, the groove it did. In its three stages, the 16-minute album centerpiece and title-track underlined the sheer mastery Elder put on display across their third full-length’s span. Wait a few years and you will find bands coming out who sound like this.

I had a hard time picking a song from Acid King‘s Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere. “Coming Down from Outer Space” has that mega-hook. “Red River” rolls so fluidly. In the end, “Center of Everywhere combines all those aspects with the atmospheric breadth that played such a huge role in making the album so special. It simply would not be denied. Similarly, High on Fire‘s “The Falconist” from 2015’s Luminiferous is arguably that trio’s most melodic, progressive work to-date. Infectious, heavy and emotionally resonant in a way that a lot of their material actively works against being, to my ears it’s the boldest thing they’ve done.

Scope was a big part of the appeal of Death Alley‘s “Supernatural Predator,” the Dutch band running between Motörhead and Hawkwind in one song and bringing in former The Devil’s Blood vocals Farida Lemouchi to help them do it. At nearly 13 minutes long, its hypnosis feels like it could push even further if it wanted to, and that’s one of my favorite aspects of it. Also over 10 minutes long, Snail‘s “Thou Art That” was for me the defining moment of their excellent Feral album, a whopper of a riff marking a place within a brooding psychedelic landscape that even just three years ago I’m not sure they would have been able to conjure in the same way. One of those tracks that eats like an album.

There was a video of All Them Witches playing “Open Passageways” at a radio station in Nashville that was out before the song had a title, and since I first saw that earlier this year, I’d hoped it would make its way onto their third album, Dying Surfer Meets His Maker. It did, and the arrangement was stunning from the propulsive drum work and sustained consonants of the vocals to the weeping violin. It was between “Witch Wind” and “West the Sun” from Sun Blood Stories‘ Twilight Midnight Morning, but the former was the hook that first caught my ear and made me dig deeper into the Boise natives’ 2015 offering, and I couldn’t discount that factor. A release that continues to deliver every time I put it on.

I remain a sucker for The Atomic Bitchwax, and while their Gravitron album was harder hitting overall than anything they’ve done in a while, “Hey Baby Ice Age” balanced that with a bit of their penchant for a poppier hook, and the result nestled into my mental jukebox, where it remains in high rotation to this day. Goatsnake‘s “Grandpa Jones” had a similar effect, its megagroove and ultra-catchy chorus continue to be stuck in my head more often than not. If I had any desire to escape from either whatsoever, it might be a problem.

Rounding out the list of 10 and worthy of special note is Øresund Space Collective‘s “20 Steps Towards the Invisible Door” from their recently-issued Different Creatures album. I think it’s the most recent release on this list, but I had to get the song in somewhere. It’s a sprawling 45-minute jam that could just as easily have been put out as its own full-length, but closes out the 140-minute double-CD gorgeously by pushing the listener farther and farther out to the very limits of the reaches of space rock. Progressive improvisation is no easy feat, but “20 Steps Towards the Invisible Door” left the band with no option but to include every second of its extended span. It’s all essential.

These are just my picks. If you agree, disagree, have more to add, I’d love to know about it in the comments. Thanks for reading.

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High on Fire Touring Australia/New Zealand in Feb.; North American Dates Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 17th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

high on fire (Photo by Jimmy Hubbard)

In about two months’ time, High on Fire will cover ground on two sides of the planet. It’s not their first time in either territory, of course, but a pretty impressive feat when one considers the amount of geography they’re taking on and the fact that 18 years on from getting together, they continue to tour like 20-year-old punk rockers. Their latest, Luminiferous (review here), is out on eOne Music, but you’re already well aware of that, because it’s High on Fire. They may be a known quality, but that doesn’t make their live show any less devastating.

They hit Australia and New Zealand in February, and are back in the US in March to take part in the Decibel tour with Abbath. I cobbled together details from the PR wire:

high on fire tour

HIGH ON FIRE to Join 2016 Decibel Magazine Tour; Lineup + Dates Announced

Legendary California Metal Band, Abbath, Skeletonwitch and Tribulation Unite for All-Star North American Trek

Life is Noise presents: AUSTRALIA + NEW ZEALAND TOUR FEBRUARY 2016

Heavy music giants HIGH ON FIRE will tour North America as part of the 2016 Decibel Magazine Tour, set to launch March 17 in Baltimore, MD. Joining HIGH ON FIRE on the bill will be Sweden’s Tribulation, Ohio’s Skeletonwitch and Abbath (former frontman of Norwegian black metal legends, Immortal). The month-long trek will run through April 15 in Philadelphia, PA.

High on Fire have always been a band best consumed in the flesh. Their live show is an invigorating display of three world-class musicians at their creative peak. These songs erupt with unparalleled ferocity on stage. Pike’s mastery of the guitar is a sight to behold – he’s the kind of talent we’ll be talking about in the heavy metal canon for decades to come. Don’t miss your chance to see one of the most powerful live bands on the planet.

See High on Fire crush skulls and melt faces on the following dates:
Perth – Rosemount Hotel – Wednesday, February 17
Adelaide – Fowler’s – Thursday, February 18
Melbourne – Max Watt’s – Friday, February 19
Sydney – Manning Bar – Saturday, February 20
Brisbane – Crowbar – Sunday, February 21
Auckland – Kings Arms – Tuesday, February 23
Presented with Under the Radar.

2016 DECIBEL Magazine Tour Dates
Featuring Abbath, High on Fire, Skeletonwitch and Tribulation
March 17 Baltimore, MD Baltimore Soundstage
March 18 Charlotte, NC Amos’ Southend
March 19 Atlanta, GA The Masquerade
March 20 Ybor City, FL The Ritz Ybor
March 22 Dallas, TX Gas Monkey Live!
March 23 Austin, TX Emo’s
March 25 Scottsdale, AZ Live Wire
March 26 San Diego, CA The Observatory North Park
March 27 Santa Ana, CA The Observatory
March 28 Los Angeles, CA The Regent Theater DTLA
March 29 San Francisco, CA The Regency Ballroom
March 31 Portland, OR Roseland Theatre
April 1 Seattle, WA El Corazon
April 2 Vancouver, BC Commodore Ballroom
April 5 Denver, CO Gothic Theatre
April 6 Lawrence, KS Granada Theater
April 7 Minneapolis, MN Mill City Night
April 8 Chicago, IL – Metro
April 9 Cleveland, OH Agora Ballroom
April 10 Toronto, ON The Opera House
April 12 New York, NY Webster Hall
April 14 Boston, MA Royale
April 15 Philadelphia, PA Union Transfer

High on Fire on Spotify
https://twitter.com/highonfireband
https://www.facebook.com/highonfire
http://tickets.lifeisnoise.com/
http://decibelmagazinetour.com/

High on Fire, Luminiferous (2015)

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High on Fire and Crowbar Announce Southeastern Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 21st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

I can’t imagine High on Fire and Crowbar are going to run into too many complaints about this one. “Oh no, don’t tour together. Anything but that.” Actually, scrap that. They are going to run into complaints. Lots of them. From everywhere they’re not playing. Because now that I think about it, this is a run that should really go nationwide. They’re labelmates on eOne, and it only seems reasonable that two bands as thoroughly devastating should bring their combined pummel to as many suspecting and unsuspecting skulls as possible. Maybe it’s a precursor to a full US tour? Maybe the South just gets lucky this time around.

From what I hear, Crowbar are headed back overseas in the New Year. More on that to come. Till then, this is fresh off the PR wire:

high on fire and crowbar

HIGH ON FIRE Announces U.S. Tour Dates

Legendary Metal Band’s Late Autumn Trek to Feature Support from Crowbar

Universally celebrated, heavy metal power trio HIGH ON FIRE has announced U.S. tour dates in support of its new album, Luminiferous. The trek will launch on December 10 in Nashville, TN and will feature support from New Orleans’ sludge kings, Crowbar.

The just-announced headlining live dates are as follows:

HIGH ON FIRE tour dates:
December 10 Nashville, TN Exit / In
December 11 Chattanooga, TN Revelry Room
December 12 Durham, NC Motorco
December 13 Charleston, SC The Music Farm
December 15 Orlando, FL The Social
December 16 Ft. Lauderdale, FL Culture Room
December 17 Ybor City, FL The Orpheum
December 18 Gainesville, FL The Wooly
December 19 Jacksonville, FL Underbelly

HIGH ON FIRE’s new album, Luminiferous, was released on June 23 via eOne Music and, in the time since, has been praised as one of the strongest moments of the award-winning band’s career. Recorded at Salem, Massachusetts’ GodCity Studios with producer Kurt Ballou.

https://www.facebook.com/highonfire
http://www.highonfire.net/
https://www.facebook.com/crowbarmusic
http://www.martyrstore.net/
https://www.facebook.com/eOneHeavy

High on Fire, “The Black Plot” live in New Orleans, 2015

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 15 of 2015 So Far

Posted in Features on July 6th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

top 15 of 2015 so far the-rhinoceros-albrecht-durer

If 2015 ended tomorrow, I think you’d still have to say it was a pretty good year for heavy rock. Doom veered into a swath extremes — its own subgenres emerging almost one by one in a growing splinter that nonetheless continues to draw water from its roots — while the neo-stoner ignition of the West Coast continued its boom of new acts proffering classic groove. The East reveled in a progressive vision just waiting to be picked up by others, and in Europe, the ’70s traditionalist movement spread ever wider, essentially defining a modern sound in organic sounding, sometimes-vintage elements. Whether you’re going for crushing, oppressive barbarism or cosmos-bound blissouts, it is, in short, a good time to be alive.

Of course, 2015 doesn’t end tomorrow, and there’s still a whole lot of year to come. About half, as it happens. So, as has been the tradition around here for the last half-decade — and seems to be the tradition in a growing number of outlets; not taking credit or claiming to have invented anything, just noting a proliferation — it’s time to count down the best records of the year so far. There have been more than a handful of gems, and since in December I’m planning on doing a top 30, we’ll mark half the year with a top 15. Seems only fair.

Please note that this isn’t purely a critical evaluation, but a personal list, and that what I’ve put on most is as crucial a factor in my ranking as how important I think a given record is. You know the drill by now. Let’s go:

15. Stoned Jesus, The Harvest

stoned jesus the harvest

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 20.

Kiev three-piece Stoned Jesus have a varied stylistic history, and their third outing, The Harvest was ultimately a success in large part because of its complete refusal to be defined. Atop a foundation of quality songcraft, the trio proffered a sound that was not necessarily experimental in terms of anti-structure noise or effects onslaughts, but bold in each of its forays outward from its heavy rock underpinnings.

 

14. Freedom Hawk, Into Your Mind

freedom hawk into your mind

Released by Small Stone. Reviewed June 26.

It has consistently taken me a while to get a hold on what Freedom Hawk are up to. The steady elements in their sound are held to so firmly that on the first couple listens, it seems to just be more of the same. But the more one digs in, the more there is to be found, and with Into Your Mind, the Virginia Beach trio overcome losing a member to create their most progressive outing to date, flourishes of psychedelia melding easily with their signature style of sunshiny riffing.

 

13. My Sleeping Karma, Moksha

my sleeping karma moksha

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed May 12.

Five albums deep, Germany’s My Sleeping Karma are an act unto themselves. Their progress has been natural, fueled by a clear, varied sense of exploratory will, and the results on this year’s Moksha were nothing short of stunning. Branching out their arrangements might not be new to them, but the inclusion of horns, drones, percussion, etc., amid the central guitar, bass, keys and drums lent an almost orchestral feel to the flow between the tracks, and one can only hope they continue on their current path, because it is unquestionably the right one.

 

12. Death Alley, Black Magick Boogieland

death alley black magick boogieland

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed June 8.

So much potential, so much vitality at the heart of this debut from Death Alley. The Amsterdam-based four-piece (interview here) stormed out of the gate with a ripper of a debut, and just when you seemed to have it all figured out, they hit the ignition on a 12-minute full-impulse space rock thrust, a guest vocal appearance from Farida Lemouchi (a former bandmate of Death Alley guitarist Oeds Beydals in The Devil’s Blood) adding both mystique and emotional resonance to what was already a stunning track. With all the riotousness preceding, Black Magick Boogieland readily lived up to its righteous title.

 

11. Mondo Drag, Mondo Drag

mondo drag self titled

Released on RidingEasy Records and Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed Jan. 8.

Midwestern-turned-West-Coast heavy psych rockers Mondo Drag may have taken their time in releasing their self-titled sophomore outing, which followed their 2010 debut, New Rituals (review here), and was recorded in 2012, but it’s easy to imagine that’s because they wanted the circumstances to be as special as the album itself, recorded with a fleeting five-piece lineup that included the one-time rhythm section of Radio Moscow who wound up leaving to further their then-nascent project, Blues Pills. Even without that lineup shift as a factor, the late ’60s vibe Mondo Drag brought out across the release proved eminently listenable and has held up on repeat visits.

 

10. Cigale, Cigale

cigale self-titled

Self-released. Reviewed May 4.

A gorgeous, shimmering and melodically resonant debut from the Dutch four-piece Cigale, their self-titled gracefully maintained tonal presence and warmth while also enacting a psychedelic sprawl and grooving serenity that acted like the landscape in which the songs took place. It was a rich, bright vibe, and an utter joy to behold, tracks like “Harvest Begun,” “Feel the Heat” and “Eyes Wide Shut” proving as memorable as they were inviting. Having two former members of the much-missed fuzz rock outfit Sungrazer may have initially turned some heads in their direction, but Cigale‘s first album proved they’re an outfit with their own personality, their own development to undertake, and already much to offer.

 

9. The Machine, Offblast!

the machine offblast

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed May 28.

The awaited return of The Machine brought the band’s fifth album and a further-refined sense of maturity in their processes, as well as intrigue as to where they might be headed, two dual modes of open-ended jamming and more structured songwriting playing off each other in the extended “Chrysalis (J.A.M.)” and “Come to Light” and the more verse/chorus stylizations of “Dry End” and “Off Course.” To be perfectly honest, I doubt The Machine will ultimately pick one side over another, since if Offblast! proved anything it’s that they can easily handle either or both, but as they continue to grow, it’s encouraging to have their style establish itself as so multi-faceted.

 

8. The Atomic Bitchwax, Gravitron

the atomic bitchwax gravitron

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed April 20.

First time I pressed play on Gravitron was a real “oh shit!” moment. The last release from NJ stalwarts The Atomic Bitchwax was 2011’s The Local Fuzz (review here), a single-song full-length instrumental riff onslaught that had its charm but was inherently divorced from the appeal of the band’s songwriting. Not only does Gravitron re-factor that in with songs like “Roseland,” “It’s Alright,” “Coming in Hot” and “Ice Age Hey Baby,” among others, but it hits with kick-in-the-ass production force and an all-out heaviness that 2008’s TAB4 showed the three-piece steering directly away from. Just a killer record. Utterly void of pretense. No bullshit. No need to rely on anything more than chemistry, and with the Bitchwax, that’s plenty.

 

7. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth

brothers of the sonic cloth self titled

Released by Neurot Recordings. Reviewed March 3.

Right now, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth are my band to beat for Debut of the Year, and I’m quite frankly not sure how anyone is going to be able to do it, so if list time comes in Dec. and you see Tad Doyle‘s trio marked out as such, know that it’s been that way in my head for some time. The three-piece of Doyle, bassist Peggy “Pegadeth” Tully and drummer Dave French arrived with a roar, and even when their self-titled let up sonically, the atmosphere remained viscerally heavy. Six years having passed since the release of their first demo (review here), I wasn’t sure there was ever going to be an album, but then to have Brothers of the Sonic Cloth show up and enact such thorough demolition only made it more impressive.

 

6. High on Fire, Luminiferous

high on fire luminiferous

Released by eOne Heavy. Reviewed June 15.

It can’t possibly be a surprise to have Luminiferous show up somewhere on this list. The seventh long-player by High on Fire had all the rage and bombast in “Slave the Hive” and “The Black Plot” that have become the band’s hallmarks over their 17 years together, but branched out progressively as well in songs like “The Cave” and “The Falconist,” the latter of which was brazenly catchy and about as emotionally direct as the band has ever gotten, their general modus being — and in that song too, just to a lesser extent — a metaphor-laced lyrical approach. That song was a triumph and so was the album as a whole; the second collaboration with producer Kurt Ballou building on the rampaging victories of 2012’s De Vermis Mysteriis (review here) while also showing growth on the part of one of modern metal’s most pivotal bands.

 

5. Kings Destroy, Kings Destroy

kings destroy self titled

Released by War Crime Recordings. Reviewed April 15.

Hitting more or less concurrent with a vinyl release of their prior album, 2013’s A Time of Hunting (review here), Kings Destroy‘s Kings Destroy is not at all coincidentally titled. Over the course of now three full-lengths, the New York five-piece — about whom I feign no impartiality, let it be noted — have distinguished themselves with a sound neither noise, nor doom, nor heavy rock, but drawing on elements of all three when it suits their purposes with chemistry built from years of being in bands together of various stripes and in various genres. What stands the self-titled out from their past work, in part, is that it is the closest they’ve yet come to capturing their live sound in the studio, and accordingly, it’s a volatile kind of heavy that bends aesthetic to its will rather than capitulating to expectations of any sort. I don’t think they’re done growing by any stretch, but Kings Destroy feels like an arrival front-to-back.

 

4. Colour Haze, To the Highest Gods We Know

colour haze to the highest gods we know

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed Jan. 6.

This one was almost a sneak-attack. German heavy psych forerunners Colour Haze released To the Highest Gods We Know, their 11th full-length, in Dec. 2014 on CD (the vinyl was in 2015, which is what we’re counting in this instance), with very, very little fanfare of any sort. There was a track premiere here that came shortly after the album was announced, but I think it was officially out less than a month after its existence was made public, which for a band of Colour Haze‘s stature and influence was surprising. Less devoted to grandeur than 2012’s 2CD She Said (review here), it nonetheless pushed the band’s sound forward and found them experimenting in their studio, particularly on the string-quartet-inclusive finale title-track, which offset jams like “Überall” and the laid back highlight “Call” with a rhythmic oddness that was somehow still Colour Haze‘s own. I couldn’t help but wonder where it was leading, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t masterful in its own right.

 

3. Goatsnake, Black Age Blues

goatsnake black age blues

Released by Southern Lord Recordings. Reviewed May 19.

Goatsnake didn’t have it easy going into their third album. It had been 15 years since their sophomore outing, Flower of Disease, 11 since their last EP, and five since they first started playing shows again. Expectations? Through the roof. Among heavy rock heads, a new Goatsnake was like seeing the mountaintop. I mean, a big fucking deal and then some. Then the record hits, and there’s just about no way it can live up to the anticipation, but god damn if Goatsnake not only finally put out a third album, but one that was better than I think anyone could’ve hoped for. Hearing Pete Stahl with however many backup singers he had on “Another River to Cross” et. al. was like finding an animal in its native habitat, and between his soul, Greg Anderson‘s riffs, bassist Scott Renner‘s low end rumble and drummer Greg Rogers‘ roll, Black Age Blues won almost immediately and then spent the rest of its 47 minutes throwing itself a victory party. “Elevated Man,” “House of the Moon,” “Jimi’s Gone,” “Grandpa Jones,” almost on a per-track basis, Goatsnake added to the reasons they’ve been so heralded despite a decade-plus’ absence from the studio.

 

2. Elder, Lore

elder lore

Released by Armageddon Shop and Stickman Records. Reviewed Feb. 19.

On the level of achievement alone, Elder‘s Lore will be the album of the year for many, and there are times (such as right now) when I listen to it and question whether or not it isn’t also my pick for that honor, but wherever it falls on whatever list, far more important is what the Massachusetts/Rhode Island/New York trio manage to accomplish across their third LP’s formidable five-track/59-minute span, songs like “Compendium” and “Deadweight” bridging a rarely approached gap between heavy and progressive rocks while maintaining a flow consistent with the psychedelic vibing of 2011’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here) but grown outward in another aesthetic direction and no sooner setting foot on the ground than seeming to master it in a flurry of blinding turns, sprawling soundscapes and clarity of mind that found perhaps its greatest expression in the centerpiece title-track, the 15-minute “Lore” itself, which I’ve no doubt will stand among if not atop the best songs of 2015 when the year is over and encapsulates the ambition and the corresponding breadth of Elder‘s songwriting, the trio of guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan, and drummer Matt Couto rising as one of the East Coast’s most pivotal acts, with a sound completely their own.

 

1. Acid King, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere

acid king middle of nowhere center of everywhere

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 19.

I use the word “molten” pretty regularly to describe an album or song that seems to just ooze its way out of the speakers or shift seamlessly between its songs, but Acid King set an entirely new standard for the term with Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere. Their first outing for Svart and their first release in a decade, its 55 minutes were a riff-rolling nirvana of lurching fuzz and tonal excellence, the guitar of Lori S. at the fore accompanied by Mark Lamb‘s bass and Joey Osbourne‘s drums, the swing of which propelled a highlight track like “Coming down from Outer Space” right back into it, while elsewhere on the record, “Silent Pictures,” “Red River” and “Infinite Skies” torched stoner conventions into a new space-biker rock, culminating in the heavy psych of “Center of Everywhere,” which seemed to emanate from the place it was describing, at once empty and full. More than just a welcome return after a long dearth of releases, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere found Acid King progressed even beyond where they were with 2005’s III, though more than anything else, what makes it my top pick for the year so far is the fact that I can’t seem to walk away from it for too long before going back, and ultimately, that’s what it all comes down to with his kind of thing. I’ve yet to find a standard to which these songs don’t live up.

Honorable Mention:

A few others worth noting. The Sun Blood Stories album (streamed here) continues to resonate. Also MonolordValkyrie, Lamp of the UniverseGarden of WormWo Fat‘s live record, The Midnight Ghost Train‘s Cold was the Ground and Ufomammut‘s Ecate. The Black Rainbows was a joy, as was Spidergawd‘s second LP, and while I still feel like I haven’t given it its due, the Sumac won many over and should get a mention. Steve Von Till‘s solo outing and the latest from Enslaved are worth seeking out as well for anyone who hasn’t heard them yet.

More to Come:

The year’s only half over, which is kind of a scary thought but true nonetheless. Watch out in the coming months for new stuff from BloodcowAll Them WitchesClutchGraveyardZunSacri Monti (if that one’s not already out), SnailUncle Acid, and Kind. The new Kadavar is a sure-fire top tenner, and between that, the potential for a new Neurosis album and stuff like Magnetic Eye Records‘ Electric Ladyland [Redux], there’s no way the book is written on the best of 2015.

So stay tuned.

And if I’ve still got your attention, thanks for reading.
 

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High on Fire, Luminiferous: Flying Above the Rift

Posted in Reviews on June 15th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

high on fire luminiferous

It is a fun coincidence of timing that High on Fire‘s seventh album, Luminiferous (released by eOne Metal), should arrive — a summer blockbuster in its own right — just one month after George Miller‘s film Mad Max: Fury Road, since the two works would seem to share so much in common. Not merely in their thrust or in the pummel and whirlwind they’re able to conjure when reaching a similar maximum velocity, but in the ability to balance the real and the unreal while doing so. Luminiferous is High on Fire‘s second collaboration with producer Kurt Ballou, and like the movie, its nine tracks/54 minutes are executed with minimal trickery. Real stunts. Sure, Des Kensel‘s toms and snare on second cut “Carcosa” or the second half of closer “The Lethal Chamber,” or that of “The Sunless Years,” or in the midsection of “The Dark Side of the Compass” have a war-drum sound to them, huge, thudding, but it’s not inorganic in its construction.

And while both movie and album can seem superficially at times to be sacrificing all else for the sake of the sheer badassery of their impact, High on Fire‘s latest is actually among their more progressive works, following 2012’s adrenaline-pumped stunner De Vermis Mysteriis (review here) — their first with Ballou — with more of a flow from one song into the next and likewise fluid shifts between tempos and flourishes of melody and emotion on “The Falconist” or “The Cave” to go along with all-out thrashfests like “Slave the Hive” or the penultimate title-track, which is sandwiched between the two longest tracks here, “The Cave” and “The Lethal Chamber,” both of which stand as evidence of the desire from High on Fire — guitarist/vocalist Matt Pike (also Sleep) and bassist Jeff Matz, in addition to Kensel — to continue the creative development that’s been there to hear all along throughout their 17-year run for anyone willing to look under the sometimes-masking layer of raw brutality.

Even if Luminiferous is better constructed and more dynamic overall than was De Vermis Mysteriis, its opening salvo is still geared toward finding out how big of a crater it can make. Opener “The Black Plot” has its hook but is among the record’s nastier thrashers, Pike following his guitar and taking a somewhat surprising melodic turn in the chorus vocally as Kensel and Matz hold together a gallop that’s as much of a signature move as High on Fire has. The subsequent “Carcosa,” which tops seven minutes and sets up the aforementioned later epics, dials back its pacing somewhat, but seems to use its extra time to make every forceful blow count. Vicious tonally but ultimately propelled by its drums, it finds Pike as the snarling conjurer atop the storm, a swinging progression well locked in by the two-minute mark carrying into a bigger groove that’s bound to test the tensile strength of many necks in its presence and which returns shortly as the bed for another a mix-consuming, about-to-fly-off-the-rails solo, though its ultimately Kensel‘s war drums that hold the day.

Matz, who joined the band in 2006 before they made what has become something of a defining statement with 2007’s Death is this Communion and is by now their longest-tenured bassist, has his moment in the midsection of “The Sunless Years,” stepping forward to match a guitar solo from Pike and continuing to hold attention even as the track moves back to its verse, offset earlier by a hook that recalls the marauding “Serums of Laio” from the last album before a slowdown once more brings Kensel‘s plodding drums to the front — though Matz gets his fills in there as well. Three tracks in, already High on Fire have given three different looks, but “Slave the Hive” (also released as a Scion-sponsored single in 2013) and “The Falconist” show there’s more to be delivered, the former their shortest inclusion at 3:50 and offering a thrashing viciousness rivaled only by “Luminiferous” itself on the second LP, and the latter an inevitably slower roll with the album’s strongest chorus, more choice low end, and Pike‘s boldest vocal in the chorus, “You can see my fly above the rift/And watch me dive and play the risks/You can see me flying/Watch me diving/From the wrist of the falconist,” as gorgeous and apt a metaphor as any I could imagine for the course of his career and stage presence both, though whether or not that’s what he’s going for, I couldn’t say.

high on fire (Photo by Jimmy Hubbard)

The centerpiece of the offering for good reason, “The Falconist” is as bold a step in the direction of accessibility as High on Fire have taken, and the emotion driving it feels genuine even as its harder-hitting edge is maintained toward an ending solo that seems to want to move back into one last chorus but cuts short in the end and makes way for “The Dark Side of the Compass,” the apocalyptic tension of which finds release in a chorus of lockstep lead guitar and vocals, the execution no less tight than anything before or after it, but memorable and all the more so for not being an immediate afterthought to “The Falconist” preceding. Feedback fades quickly to end “The Dark Side of the Compass” and makes way to the subdued opening of “The Cave,” a meandering guitar line topping Matz‘s bass and opening quick to an almost-psychedelic vibe, watery vocals and all. High on Fire‘s “Planet Caravan?” Maybe, but if they’re doing it, they’re doing it in their own style, the track exploding into a rolling, lumbering hook before receding again.

That tradeoff moves back and forth through the first half of its 7:40 run, the third verse and weightier chorus moving into a longer section playing off the latter before a cut to the bass and vocal line sets up the final, solo-topped push, the bass and guitar bookending with a last quiet measure, seemingly as much to lead into “Luminiferous” as out of “The Cave” itself, the immediate punch of the titular cut not to be understated even if it takes a about a minute for the verse to be revealed in its full, whipping fury. One could only accuse “Luminiferous” of being in High on Fire‘s wheelhouse, but as they have on many occasions before, they burn that wheelhouse to the ground, and where prior title-tracks have had more sprawl à la “The Cave” or subsequent closer “The Lethal Chamber” — thinking of 2010’s Snakes for the Divine (review here), the aforementioned Death is this Communion, or 2005’s Blessed Black Wings — “Luminiferous” is a turn in itself, being shorter and more outwardly intense in the tradition of “Surrounded by Thieves” from their 2002 sophomore outing of the same name. Fitting somehow for a band subtly, continuously pushing their own boundaries that they should round out with one of their longest songs.

At a long-fading but fully-used 8:50, “The Lethal Chamber” is second only to “Master of Fists” from High on Fire‘s 2000 debut, The Art of Self-Defense, in runtime — that cut being the band’s only one to-date topping 10 minutes — but its impact is made more in how they use that time than that they use it at all. Lurching groove and drum stomp in a timing nod not entirely dissimilar from Sleep‘s “The Clarity” take hold early, but of course the vibe is entirely High on Fire‘s own. They carry that march to and through a solo at the halfway point, some churn providing quick transition amid a flurry of toms from Kensel, who after making his presence felt throughout the entire tracklist leaves yet more bruises following a quick stop at 5:45, his hard-hitting approach and Matz‘s bassline serving as the foundation from which Pike launches an airier finale solo, the fadeout arriving less like the band are finishing out and more like the listener is leaving the strange, dark, storming world in which the end of “The Lethal Chamber” will still be taking place after we’re gone.

More about its reach than its catchiness, as were the likes of “The Black Plot,” “The Sunless Years,” or “The Falconist,” “The Lethal Chamber” underscores the multifaceted approach that High on Fire are able to take as they push closer to their 20th year, and one of Luminiferous‘ most satisfying aspects proves to be how naturally they seem to be able to balance an ongoing creative progression with trademark thickened thrash that, here as ever, sounds like it’s sitting on top of 7,000 pounds of nitro-boosted war machine. Hands down one of the year’s best, for its blinding turns, the obvious chemistry of the trio who made it, its songwriting and the lingering sense of work still to be done when it’s over.

High on Fire, “The Falconist”

High on Fire on Thee Facebooks

High on Fire’s website

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High on Fire Announce North American Tour with Pallbearer, Lucifer and Venomous Maximus

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 12th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

high on fire

June 16 is the release date for High on Fire‘s new album, Luminiferous, and today the fury-heavy trio have announced a North American tour starting in July with support from Pallbearer, Lucifer and Venomous Maximus, because I guess if you’re going to do something, do it in style. The band released a new track today called “The Black Plot” on some other site, but the tour dates and a live video of the same song are below, along with the art and tracklisting for the Kurt Ballou-produced Luminiferous.

It’s all straight off the PR wire:

high on fire luminiferous

HIGH ON FIRE Announces North American Headlining Tour

Legendary Metal Band to Release New Album, Luminiferous, June 16

World-renowned power trio HIGH ON FIRE will release its highly-anticipated new album, Luminiferous, on June 16 via eOne Music. Recorded at Salem, Massachusetts’ GodCity Studios with producer Kurt Ballou, the record is the follow-up to the group’s 2012 release, De Vermis Mysteriis.

HIGH ON FIRE has announced a North American headlining tour in support of Luminiferous. The trio — Matt Pike (guitar, vocals), Des Kensel (drums) and Jeff Matz (bass) — will kick off the 21 city trek on July 30 in San Diego, CA, and will storm stages through August 23 in New Orleans, LA.

Support on the HIGH ON FIRE tour will be provided by Pallbearer, Lucifer and Venomous Maximus. Tickets will go on sale this Friday, May 15.

HIGH ON FIRE tour dates:
North American Luminiferous Tour
July 30 San Diego, CA The Casbah
July 31 Los Angeles, CA Echoplex
August 1 San Francisco, CA The Regency Ballroom
August 3 Portland, OR Hawthorne Theater
August 4 Vancouver, BC Rickshaw
August 5 Seattle, WA Neumos
August 7 Salt Lake City, UT The Complex
August 8 Denver, CO The Gothic
August 10 Minneapolis, MN Mill City Nights
August 11 Chicago, IL Thalia Hall
August 12 Ferndale, MI The Loving Touch
August 13 Toronto, ON Opera House
August 14 Syracuse, NY Lost Horizon
August 15 New York, NY Irving Plaza
August 17 Boston, MA Royale
August 18 Brooklyn, NY Music Hall of Williamsburg
August 19 Philadelphia, PA Theatre of the Living Arts
August 20 Baltimore, MD Baltimore Sound Stage
August 21 Winston-Salem, NC Ziggy’s
August 22 Atlanta, GA Masquerade
August 23 New Orleans, LA One Eyed Jack’s (* Venomous Maximus will not appear)

Universally recognized as one of the most potent acts in music today, HIGH ON FIRE creates molten heavy metal that merges primal fury and aggression, blackened bombast and hall of fame heaviness. The group’s seventh studio album, Luminiferous, is a supersonic exercise in conquest by volume, delivering calculated catharsis as a volcano of revolving riffs and hailstorm of thundering drums combine to beam a blazing spotlight towards the future of modern metal music.

“We’re doing our part to expose The Elite and the fingers they have in religion, media, governments and financial world downfall and their relationship to all of our extraterrestrial connections in the race to control this world,” comments vocalist / guitarist Matt Pike. “Wake up, it’s happening. All while we stare at a socially engineered lie we think of as normalcy. Unless we wake from the dream, there will come true doom.”

After nearly two decades of trailblazing new passageways to heaviness, HIGH ON FIRE’s strong, stunning archetype continues to both sharpen and evolve; the trio’s vision has never been clearer. The Riff, as always, is King.

Track listing:
1.) The Black Plot
2.) Carcosa
3.) The Sunless Years
4.) Slave the Hive
5.) The Falconist
6.) Dark Side of the Compass
7.) The Cave
8.) Luminiferous
9.) The Lethal Chamber

Pre-order HIGH ON FIRE’s Luminiferous now at this location.

“I’m really happy High on Fire decided to come back to GodCity to do another album,” states producer and Converge guitarist, Kurt Ballou. “Having been a fan of theirs since The Art of Self Defense, the opportunity to collaborate with one of my favorite bands has truly been an honor.”

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High on Fire, “The Black Plot” Live at Saint Vitus Bar

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