I’ve listened to it front to back and I can honestly say this is the best podcast I’ve made in the last five months. Truth be told, I know there are plenty of people who do podcasts as their primary outlet, talk on them and whatnot (hey, I tried it once and reserve the right to do it again at some point), but if it’s between crossfading feedback from one song to another and writing a review of a new record, well, crossfading falls into the same category as just about everything else: Write first.
Fortunately, a longer span of time between casts makes it that much easier to pick tracks. Existence does not hand you a 45-minute Øresund Space Collective jam every day, so I thought that was worth featuring, and I just got Megaritual’s new vinyl for review, so I thought featuring their more recent single-song EP would work well too.
I’m happy with the blend overall, and with Asteroid setting the tone. Be patient with it. Let it unfold. Even with a rocking start, it gets pretty psychedelic pretty quickly, and only continues to move further out. My advice is go with it and see where you end up.
As always, I hope you enjoy.
Track details follow:
0:00:00 Asteroid, “Them Calling” from III
0:05:02 Stinkeye, “Orange Man” from Llantera Demos
0:08:31 Hornss, “Prince of a Thousand Enemies” from Telepath
0:11:36 Ice Dragon, “Broken Life” from Broken Life
0:16:08 Wasted Theory, “Odyssey of the Electric Warlock” from Defenders of the Riff
0:20:59 Pelander, “True Colour” from Time
0:29:41 The Freeks, “Blow Time Away” from Shattered
0:34:26 Baby Woodrose, “Freedom” from Freedom
0:37:27 Comacozer, “The Mind that Feeds the Eye” from Astra Planeta
0:45:21 Mos Generator, “Outlander” from The Firmament
0:51:13 Megaritual, “Eclipse” from Eclipse
1:16:25 Øresund Space Collective, “Visions Of…” from Visions Of…
Posted in Reviews on November 16th, 2016 by JJ Koczan
It’s only been about 18 months since Ice Dragon put out their last album, A Beacon on the Barrow (review here), but one wouldn’t necessarily be wrong to think of that as an eternity when it comes to the self-releasing Boston experimentalist doom rockers. After all, that record — which was the only thing they had out last year — capped a three-year period from 2012 to 2015 that saw Ice Dragon issue no fewer than eight full-lengths, starting with Tome of the Future Ancients (review here), Dream Dragon (review here), greyblackfalconhawk (review here) and Dead Friends and Angry Lovers (which wasn’t an Ice Dragon release, then it was) in 2012, Born a Heavy Morning (review here) in 2013, and Seeds from a Dying Garden (review here) and Loaf of Head (review here) in 2014. Peppered in with these were splits and shorter releases, one-off singles rife with studio fuckery, willfully trashcan sound and the band trying to dig heavy metal, psychedelic rock and/or garage doom down to their very core rawness, thereby remaking them in their own image.
What started as barebones crunch on their 2007 self-titled (review here) and 2010’s The Burl, the Earth, the Aether (review here) exploded into an anti-genre creative streak that simply refused to falter or not move itself forward, even if that motion was happening through regression. And make no mistake, there were plenty of times when it was. Recording themselves at Ron’s Wrecker Service, Ice Dragon developed a signature in the sometimes harsh production they elicited, but it was no less a part of their aesthetic on the Beach Boysian Born a Heavy Morning than it was on 2012’s patient and proggy single, Season of Decay (discussed here), or the return to doom in the 2013 two-tracker Steel Veins b/w Queen of the Black Harvest (review here). It was a part of who they were as a band.
Then they stopped. Bound to happen eventually, right? It would be unreasonable to ask a group to keep up the kind of pace Ice Dragon were working at into perpetuity. Vocalist Ron Rochondo worked on various side-projects, while drummer Brad played bass in Pilgrim, and presumably guitarist/bassist Carter and bassist/guitarist Joe were at work on something or other — maybe life. In any case, Ice Dragon awaken with the new EP Broken Life. Comprised of just two songs, “Scratch at Your Skin” and “Life Means Nothing, Death Means Nothing,” it’s nonetheless the first new output the band has had since A Beacon on the Barrow and so feels like an event in its arrival, even as that comes just through their usual means of posting on Bandcamp as a name-your-price download. In fact, there’s a lot about Broken Life that’s business-as-usual for Ice Dragon, including its unpredictability. After 18 months, who the hell would guess they were going to come up with anything at all, let alone take a stab at what that might actually sound like? Not me.
Further, most of the recording seems to have been done at Rubber Tracks Studio in Boston, which is either owned by or somehow affiliated with shoemaker Converse. They still mixed and mastered at Ron’s Wrecker Service, and recorded vocals and some acoustic guitar there as well, but that’s a significant change in venue for an Ice Dragon offering. Would Broken Life had happened in another circumstance, i.e., without the push of putting it to tape someplace else? I don’t know the circumstances that led to their revival anymore than I do what led to their break, but when it comes to new material, I’ll take it either way. Which brings us around to “Scratch at Your Skin” and “Life Means Nothing, Death Means Nothing.” Together, they run just under 11 minutes. If they’d fit they’d make an excellent 7″ pressing — particularly with the Samantha Allen cover art out front — and in their short span of time they manage to reaffirm what made Ice Dragon‘s prolific stretch so satisfying, most of all that part about always moving forward.
Production, as it turns out, is a factor in that process. While Rochondo‘s howling lyrics in the first cut, “It’s killing you/But not quite yet,” may have been recorded at their home studio, the guitar tone that accompanies them, though still plenty raw, comes through bright and clear at the fore of the mix. I’d be willing to bet Baines Kluxen and Matt Carlson, who helmed the session at Rubber Tracks, had at least some measure of prior familiarity with the band going into the session, because they manage to preserve some of the core features of their sound in the guitar, bass and far-back crash of the drums, while enhancing the overall feel. Vocals echo cavernous over a march in the second half where the title line is delivered in a context outside its usual chorus, and “Scratch at Your Skin” rumbles and hums to a finish, leading to the more prominent bass roll of “Life Means Nothing, Death Means Nothing,” a classic doom rocker that seems to inadvertently come across like darker Kadavar in its verse before moving into a chorus capped with surprising harmonies and a guitar triumph that affects immediate nod before shifting into an acoustic stretch.
The heavier push reemerges after the four-minute mark and more prominent harmonies in the hook help carry Ice Dragon to the finish of the second and closing track. I don’t know a lot about this material — when it was written, how the recording came about, whether it will lead to more, etc. — but if Ice Dragon are marking a return with Broken Life, or even general intent toward one, or if it’s a happenstance one-off and they’ll melt back into the semi-psychedelic doom ooze from which they came, it’s secondary to the fact of how well these two songs work together and off each other. Again, if they wanted to press it, as a fan of the band, I wouldn’t argue, but even as a digital release, Broken Life would seem to signify there’s vitality in Ice Dragon yet. Maybe they won’t put out four albums a year, or even one, but if they do or don’t, it’s comforting to know their creativity and sonic individualism are still intact, for whenever or however often they might want to put them to use.
Posted in Features on January 25th, 2016 by JJ Koczan
If 135-plus releases sounds like a lot, you’re right, it is. I must be out of my god damn mind. To put it to scale though, last year, I did a feature every couple of months called the Quarterly Review that throughout the course of 2015 resulted in no fewer than 200 separate album writeups. 135 is a lot, but it’s not everything. It’s still January. It couldn’t possibly be everything.
The basic fact of the matter is there’s so much out there right now that anyone claiming to even hint at totality of coverage is either clueless or lying. I don’t come close to catching it all. I do the best I can to do as much as I can. I know you’ve heard this all before.
Over the last seven or eight months, I’ve been keeping track of albums, EPs, singles, etc., slated for 2016 release. Some of these are independent, some through labels, some names familiar, some names new. I’ve tried to mix it up as much as possible, and I reserve the right to add to the list over the next couple days anything anyone might suggest in the comments. Last year’s list turned out to be a resource I used throughout the entire time, so, fingers crossed, I’ll be doing the same this go around. Thanks in advance for your participation in making it more complete by leaving a comment.
Ordered Alphabetically by Artist
1. Alunah, TBA
The Birmingham doom-rollers seem to be on this list every year, but I have it on good authority — namely, Alunah posted about it on the social medias — that they’re writing and entering the studio with an eye toward a late-2016 release for the follow-up to their 2014’s excellent Awakening the Forest (review here), their third full-length and debut on Napalm Records. Alunah on Thee Facebooks, at Napalm Records.
Since their late-2015 reunion (announced here), Swedish trio Asteroid have been added to the lineup for Desertfest in Berlin and just this past week re-signed to Fuzzorama Records — which also released their last full-length, 2010’s II (review here) — for an upcoming release they’ve appropriately-enough dubbed III. Much more to come. Asteroid on Thee Facebooks, Fuzzorama Records.
4. Atavismo, TBA
Not much more to go on here than the band alluding to a forthcoming LP being put together, but frankly, I was so enthralled with the Spanish group’s late-2014 debut, Desintegración (review here), that that’s enough to make me excited at the prospect of a next installment from them. Keeping my hopes up it gets here before December. Atavismo on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
5. Banquet, Jupiter Rose
Picked up last fall by Heavy Psych Sounds as part of a torrent of signings from the label, San Francisco’s Banquet make their debut next month with Jupiter Rose, following their 2015 single, Run to You / Mother Road, which was released by Who Can You Trust? Records and boasts soulful West Coast heavy ’10s thrust. Banquet on Thee Facebooks, Heavy Psych Sounds.
6. Beelzefuzz, Beelzefuzz II: The Righteous Bloom
When I starting keeping notes for this list, this album was pegged as the debut from Beelzefuzz-offshoot Righteous Bloom, but word came down in December that band had reassumed its former moniker and that Beelzefuzz II: The Righteous Bloom would be issued in the early part of 2016 via The Church Within as the follow-up their 2013 self-titled debut (review here). Whatever name the progressive doomers release it under, I can’t wait to hear it. Beelzefuzz on Thee Facebooks, The Church Within Records.
7. Bellringer, TBA
There hasn’t been any sort of official announcement of a debut LP from the Mark Deutrom-led Bellringer, but over the course of the last year, the Austin-based former Melvins/Clown Alley bassist has unveiled a number of singles (posted here), and if he keeps it up long enough, he’ll get to an album one way or another. As a fan of creative weirdo heavy rock, I’m looking forward. Bellringer on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
8. Blaak Heat Shujaa, TBA
As of this past April, L.A. desert psych rockers Blaak Heat Shujaa (aka Blaak Heat) were in pre-production for their third full-length and second for Tee Pee Records behind 2013’s expansive The Edge of an Era (review here). The album may or may not be done, but whenever it arrives, it’ll do so with extra interest due to the inclusion of Tom Davis (ex-Nebula) on bass. Blaak Heat Shujaa on Thee Facebooks, Tee Pee Records.
9. Black Black Black, TBA
I feel like Brooklyn post-hardcore heavy rockers Black Black Black caught a bum rap because of their name, but the band’s blend of melody and intensity was not to be ignored on account of moniker or anything else. No solid release date yet, but last I heard, Aqualamb Records, which issued the artbook version of their 2012 self-titled debut (review here) would have a sophomore album released in similar style in the first half of this year. Black Black Black on Thee Facebooks, Aqualamb Records.
10. Black Cobra, Imperium Simulacra
You’ll note several records on this list have a release date of Feb. 26, and it would seem only fair to put Black Cobra‘s fifth outing and first for Season of Mist, Imperium Simulacra (review here), at the head of the bunch even if it didn’t wind up there by alphabetical happenstance. Not by any means the San Francisco duo’s rawest outing, but definitely their most stylistically expansive, and with plenty of their trademark destructive gallop to boot. One you probably don’t need me to tell you that you should hear. Black Cobra on Thee Facebooks, Season of Mist.
11. Black Cowgirl, TBA
Last time Pennsylvania heavy rockers Black Cowgirl were heard from, they said one simple thing: “2016.” That was October. Well, it’s 2016 now, and if we’re talking new releases, an LP from them would just about be their debut. Their 2012 self-titled (discussed here) on Kozmik Artifactz paired newer songs with material from their 2010 demo (discussed here), so a straight-up album feels due. Maybe this is the year. Black Cowgirl on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
12. Black Rainbows, Stellar Prophecy
If this one’s fresh in mind, that’s because it was just announced last week that Rome trio Black Rainbows would release their new album, Stellar Prophecy in April on Heavy Psych Sounds. It’s a quick turnaround for them from 2015’s Hawkdope (review here), but as that album was a marked step forward in their sound, I’m even more eager to hear where they go next. Black Rainbows on Thee Facebooks, Heavy Psych Sounds.
13. Black Shape of Nexus, Carrier
It’s an establish Spring release date for the new Black Shape of Nexus, whose brand of sludge crosses a threshold of thoughtfulness without falling into post-metal cliche. The German outfit’s last record, 2012’s Negative Black (streamed here), was plenty punishing, and I’d expect only creative progression on Carrier, though wouldn’t dare guess at the form in will take. Black Shape of Nexus on Thee Facebooks, Exile on Mainstream.
14. Blood Ceremony, Lord of Misrule
Toronto’s Blood Ceremony enter into their recently-announced fourth full-length, Lord of Misrule in something of a stately position. Since 2013’s The Eldritch Dark, their influence has only spread further across North America and beyond, so the question as the new LP makes its way out via Rise Above on March 25 is how they can stand out from the crowd formed at least partly in their wake. Blood Ceremony on Thee Facebooks, Rise Above Records.
15. Boris with Merzbow, Gensho
So you get your Boris record, then you get your Merzbow record, then you play both at the same time, and that’s your collaborative release. The intermittent pairings from Boris with Merzbow have always been unflinchingly creative and bold in their experimentalism, and going by the teaser posted last week, Gensho will be no different when it arrives March 18 on Relapse. Expect who the hell knows what. Boris on Thee Facebooks, Merzbow website, at Relapse Records.
16. Borracho, TBA
In mid-2015, Washington D.C.’s Borracho took part in a Ripple Music split with Geezer called The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter One (review here). A bolt title, but it found them continuing to refine their sound as a power trio following 2013’s sophomore LP, Oculus (review here). No solid word of something due as yet, but a recent update from the band said they’d be hitting the studio next month. Borracho on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
17. Brimstone Coven, Black Magic
Out this week on Metal Blade, Brimstone Coven‘s debut album follows a well-received self-titled EP compilation (track stream here) that came out last year, and should prove interesting to see how the West Virginian doomers have grown since that material was recorded in 2013, just a year after they formed. I can’t claim to have heard it yet, but it seems like one that the doom converted should be all over. Brimstone Coven on Thee Facebooks, at Metal Blade Records.
18. Causa Sui, Return to Sky
Danish heavy psych instrumentalists Causa Sui posted an album teaser late last week for Return to Sky, and though it only showcased two tracks, it showed their tonal warmth intact and their will to explore as vibrant as ever. To be released through their own El Paraiso Records, my only hope is they don’t get saddled with pressing delays in the Spring, because really, the sooner it gets here, the better off we’ll all be. Causa Sui on Thee Facebooks, El Paraiso Records.
19. La Chinga, Freewheelin’
An awaited follow-up and Small Stone debut brings Freewheelin’ (review here) from Vancouver heavy rockers La Chinga on March 20. The new album reignites the hard-driving, classic-minded methods of their 2013 self-titled (discussed here), but refines the songwriting as well to affect a more memorable impression. The beginning of a big return year for Small Stone. La Chinga on Thee Faceboks, Small Stone on Bandcamp.
20. Church of Misery, …And Then There Were None
Unquestionably one of the most anticipated albums of the year. And Then There Were None brings Church of Misery founder Tatsu Mikami to the US from his native Japan and finds him teamed up with members of Blood Farmers, Earthride and Repulsion in a completely revamped lineup from that which appeared on 2013’s Thy Kingdom Scum (review here). Rise Aboverecently announced a March 4 release. Church of Misery on Thee Facebooks, Rise Above Records.
21. Cities of Mars, TBA
Swedish trio Cities of Mars caught attention with the big riffs and steady swing of their debut single (review here), and announced back in October that they’d have a new EP out in March via Suicide Records. Still somewhat in their formative stages, they’ve presented a sci-fi thematic and it will be interesting to see if they stick with it or move toward something else. Cities of Mars on Thee Facebooks, Suicide Records.
22. Cloud Catcher, TBA
The progressive Denver newcomers are set to hit the studio in Spring to record their sophomore LP and the follow-up to 2015’s Enlightened Beyond Existence (discussed here), so it might be summer or even fall by the time it gets issued, depending on timing of the recording, what label picks them up, etc., but it’s one to keep an eye out for anyway. They’ve shown a willingness to hit the road as well, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they did so again sometime after their Spring tour in Feb./March. Cloud Catcher on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
23. Comacozer, Astra Planeta
When Sydney trio Comacozer signed with HeadSpin Records last July, it was announced they’d be recording in October for a debut full-length to be titled Astra Planeta that would be due this Spring on the label. That process has been delayed somewhat, but there’s still no reason to think they can’t get the record out this year. Their 2015 EP, Deloun Sessions, found them pushing more into tense, moody atmospherics, and it was a shift that suited them well. Comacozer on Thee Facebooks, HeadSpin Records.
24. Conan, Revengeance
Out this week on Napalm Records, the third album from UK destroyers Conan, Revengeance (review here), finds the trio revamped around founding guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis, with longtime producer Chris Fielding adding a striking, effective counterpoint on bass and vocals and drummer Rich Lewis adding to the tectonic roll on drums. Happy to report, it still sounds like Conan, only perhaps even deadlier. Conan on Thee Facebooks, at Napalm Records.
25. Conclave, TBA
I don’t think Massachusetts four-piece Conclave — whose members trace their pedigree back to outfits like Warhorse and Grief — are ready to make the name of their full-length debut public yet, so I’m not going to say it, but I’ve heard the album and it’s full-on death-doom punishment that should bring a satisfied grin to even the most discerning of purists. Their debut EP, Breaking Ground (review here), was grim and brutal in kind, and the album only pushes further into the dark. Conclave on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
26. Corrosion of Conformity, TBA
Since the North Carolinian legends first announced they were reuniting with guitarist/vocalist Pepper Keenan, the question has been whether or not a new album would surface. Last October, they signed to Nuclear Blast while on tour with Clutch and The Shrine (review here), and followed that tour with a headlining run in December. I expect we’ll hear from them a lot in 2016 as they record the first outing with this full four-piece since 2000, and that’s just fine by me. Corrosion of Conformity on Thee Facebooks, Nuclear Blast.
27. Cough, TBA
Richmond doomers Cough entered the studio last August to begin tracking their first full-length since 2010’s Ritual Abuse (review here). I haven’t seen any announcement as to when it will be released, but it was finished in September, and we’ll see if it winds up coming out through Relapse, which would be expected, or if part of the delay has been in finding it a new home. That’s sub-speculation, mind you. I’m figuring on release news any minute now. Will let you know how that goes.Cough on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.
28. Curse the Son, Isolator
I was very glad I got to see Connecticut’s Curse the Son this past fall (review here), both because I dig what they do and because it gave me a sneak peak at the songs that will show up on their new album, Isolator, when it surfaces in March via Snake Charmer Coalition. Expect big, tone-led vibes a la 2012’s Psychache (review here), but with some new edge thanks to the addition of bassist/backing vocalist Brendan Keefe alongside guitarist/vocalist Ron Vanacore and drummer Michael Petrucci. Curse the Son on Thee Facebooks, Snake Charmer Coalition.
29. Dali’s Llama, Dying in the Sun
Perpetually underrated CA desert rockers Dali’s Llama will release their new album, Dying in the Sun, early this year. I’m not precisely sure when, but sooner or later it will come out, and when it does, I have full faith it will be a stirring reminder of just how overlooked the band continues to be as they’re now well past their 20th anniversary. The upcoming full-length was mastered as of December, so look out for an update hopefully sooner than later. Dali’s Llama on Thee Facebooks, Dali’s Llama Records.
30. Darsombra, TBA
Drone/noise/visual two-piece Darsombra toured across the US in 2015 across 109 different cities. That is no easy feat, and I can’t even imagine how an experience like that might play into the writing from Brian Daniloski and Ann Everton on the band’s next full-length, which, when they finished the last leg of that massive and ambitious run, they said was in the works. I’d like to find out, though, as Darsombra continue to aspire to inner peace through cosmic noisemaking. Darsombra on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
31. Dead Feathers, Dead Feathers 10″
Expected out Feb. 19 via HeviSike Records, the self-titled debut EP from Chicago heavy psych rockers Dead Feathers has been subject to some considerable pressing delays. The band was signed last Spring initially for an Aug. 2015 release that has continued to be pushed back, presumably as a result of so much interest in pressing vinyl at the moment. Still, the tracks have been streaming for a while now, so anyone looking to quench their thirst can do so readily on their Bandcamp. Dead Feathers on Thee Facebooks, HeviSike Records.
32. Deadsmoke, Deadsmoke
As announced a couple weeks ago, Duna Jam veterans Deadsmoke will issue their self-titled debut via Heavy Psych Sounds on March 25. The Italian sludgers have plans to tour Europe in May as well, and should they happen to pop on a late-spring or summer festival or two along the way, I wouldn’t necessarily be surprised. Heavy Psych Sounds‘ spree continues. Deadsmoke on Thee Facebooks, Heavy Psych Sounds.
33. Deamon’s Child, Scherben Müssen Sein
The German title of Deamon’s Child‘s second album, Scherben Müssen Sein, translates to “shards must be.” I’m not sure what it means, but I am sure that the trio’s 2014 self-titled debut (review here) was an intriguing and offbeat brand of noise rock-plus, so I’ve no problem getting down with the idea of another outing from them, though given their breadth I wouldn’t necessarily expect the second LP to be a carbon copy of the first. Deamon’s Child on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
34. Deathkings, All that is Beautiful
Hailing from what I’ll assume is the darkest underbelly of Los Angeles, Deathkings issue their sophomore LP, All that is Beautiful, on March 18 as the follow-up to a 2015 split with Boston’s Rozamov (review here). I’ve got a track stream slated for this week from these guys, so I’ll save more for that, but suffice it to say that it’s surprising music so grueling can come from a place where it never rains. Deathkings on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
35. Devil to Pay, A Bend Through Space and Time
Indianapolis heavy rockers Devil to Pay and their label, Ripple Music, have set a tentative “Summer” release date for the band’s fifth album, A Bend Through Space and Time, but as the recently unveiled “Your Inner Lemmy” showcased, the songwriting that has long served as their chief appeal is ready to roll on the new collection. That song surfaced early as a timely tribute to Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead, so it might be a while before more solid details come down the wire, but whenever it shows, it’ll be welcome. Devil to Pay on Thee Facebooks, Ripple Music.
36. Dream Death, Dissemination
A second post-reunion album is always a tricky prospect. A band wants to continue to acknowledge what they were when they started out, progress from their last outing, and get over that hump of songs that may or may not have been written years prior and onto something fresh. How will Pennsylvania’s Dream Death tackle this issue on their forthcoming Dissemination, due out March 4 via Rise Above? Probably by being heavy as hell and sounding completely fucking miserable. Just a guess. More info here. Dream Death on Thee Facebooks, Rise Above Records.
37. Droids Attack, Sci-Fi or Die
Another Feb. 26 release, Sci-Fi or Die, the fourth long-player from Madison, Wisconsin’s Droids Attack, has been in the works for at least the last three years. I’ll be hosting a full-stream of it sometime between now and the release (which I’m stoked for), so keep an eye out for that, but these guys have deserved more attention for a while now one way or another, and the follow-up to 2010’s Must Destroy! (review here) might be the record that gets it for them. Droids Attack on Thee Facebooks, Droids Attack website.
38. Drug Honkey, TBA
Various announcements have floated around over the last year and a half or more from Chicago death-churners Drug Honkey, and I’m not sure at this point whether their next release will be an EP of or a complete album or what. Their last full-length was 2012’s Ghost in the Fire (review here), which was inhumane in its onslaught, abrasive in loud or quiet parts, and swirled out an otherworldly sense of terror. So yeah, something to look forward to in a new one. Drug Honkey on Thee Facebooks, Transcending Obscurity on Bandcamp.
39. Duel, Fears of the Dead
In addition to boasting a cover that has immediately made my list of the year’s best, look for hard-driving heavy rock swing on Duel‘s debut LP, Fears of the Dead, due out Feb. 12 on Heavy Psych Sounds. The Austin, Texas, four-piece have newly announced European tour dates that will start March 9 and run through April 2, and I’ve little doubt their brash ways will find favor among the beer-soaked good-timers abroad. Over here, I’m just looking forward to hearing the album. Duel on Thee Facebooks, Heavy Psych Sounds.
40. Egypt, Endless Flight
We know it’s awesome. It was streamed here last month in its entirety. The real question with Egypt‘s sophomore outing is whether it’s a 2015 or a 2016 release. Vinyl’s still forthcoming last I heard, but the CD hit in December. What counts? For what it’s worth, I’m clearly thinking of it as a 2016 outing, but whatever format you might prefer, think of this as a note to remind you that you should check out. Because it’s awesome. We knew that. Egypt on Thee Facebooks, Egypt on Bandcamp.
41. Eight Bells, Landless
Out Feb. 12 on respected purveyor Battleground Records with tapes through Tartarus, Landless casts a severe and progressive glance at the scope of atmospheric heavy and offers an individualized take developed even from what the Portland, Oregon, trio brought to their 2013 debut, The Captain’s Daughter. Doom, black metal and a stately sort of psychedelia intertwine over the album’s span, and it seems all the more likely the band will turn heads with their approach on tour with Voivod (dates here) starting Feb. 6. Eight Bells on Thee Facebooks, Battleground Records.
42. Electric Citizen, Higher Time
Before Electric Citizen posted the new track “Evil” in a RidingEasy Records sampler last month, word on the street was the Ohio heavy ’10s rockers were looking to add a full-time keyboardist. That search doesn’t seem to have panned out, but their Higher Time is hotly anticipated anyway as the answer to their 2014 debut, Sateen (review here), which showed the Sabbath worshipers how Sabbath worship is done. Electric Citizen on Thee Facebooks, RidingEasy Records.
43. Elephant Tree, TBA
Full disclosure: I know way more about Elephant Tree‘s upcoming Magnetic Eye Records debut LP than I’m putting in this post. Like that it rules. And why! Stick around. Later this week, I’ll have a track premiere from the album up with a review, but the follow-up to their 2014 debut EP, Theia (review here), has already made it into my best-of-2016 consideration and my best-debuts-of-2016 consideration, and I know it’s only January, but right now it’s the one to beat in the latter category. More to come. Elephant Tree on Thee Facebooks, Magnetic Eye Records.
44. Elevators to the Grateful Sky, Cape Yawn
Sicilian four-piece Elevators to the Grateful Sky signed to HeviSike Recordslast month, and while a March 11 release date for the band’s second album, Cape Yawn seems like a quick turnaround, until I hear otherwise it’s what I’m going with. The band released their debut, Cloud Eye, on Transubstans in 2013, but should fit well with HeviSike‘s growing and diverse roster, being growing and sonically diverse themselves. Elevators to the Grateful Sky on Thee Facebooks, HeviSike Records.
45. Faith in Jane, TBA
I have it on zero authority that Maryland heavy rockers Faith in Jane are working on a new release — I know they jammed with Wino earlier this month, and that’s cool — but having had the chance to see the trio play last September at Vultures of Volume II (review here), I’m including them on this list anyway just because they’re one to watch out for. Deep blues vibes roughing up some of the West Coast’s ’70s fetishizing; way heavy and way swinging. Not technical, but intricate, and thoroughly grooved. Lots of potential there.Faith in Jane on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
46. Fatso Jetson, TBA
They’re due, right? Sure, the last couple years have brought splits with Farflung (review here), Herba Mate (review here) and Yawning Man, but we’re coming up on six years since Archaic Volumes (review here) was released in 2010, and I’m dying to hear what a new Fatso Jetson album would sound like with Mario Lalli and son Dino, who’s joined the band in the interim, going head-to-head on guitar. Whenever it’s ready, so am I. Fatso Jetson on Thee Facebooks, Fatso Jetson website.
47. Fever Dog, TBA
Could be later in the hear, could be in 2017 that it shows up, but the next offering from Californian desert psych rockers Fever Dog is reportedly now in the writing stage, and given the effectiveness with which 2014’s Second Wind (review here) demonstrated their willingness to mess around with structure and sound alike, their third outing should find them at an important stage in their development. Still young and significantly underrated. Fever Dog on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
48. The Flying Eyes, Poison the Well / 1969 7″
It’s another year for me and you. Another year with nothin’ to do. Baltimore’s The Flying Eyes are covering The Stooges‘ “1969” (baby) on their new single from H42 Records, mashing it up with “Poison the Well” from their 2011 second album, Done so Wrong (review here). Might be a stopgap on the way to whatever’s next, but should be an interesting listen anyway. The Flying Eyes on Thee Facebooks, H42 Records.
49. Foehammer, TBA
Virginia soul-bashers Foehammer released my favorite EP of 2015 in the form of their Grimoire/Australopithecus self-titled (review here), and I’m eager to know how they’ll expand on the outright brutality of that offering over the course of a full-length, or if they will at all. Entirely possible they’ll just kill, kill, kill the whole way through, and that’s also something I’d like to see them pull off. Either way they go, count me in. Foehammer on Thee Facebooks, Grimoire Records, Australopithecus Records.
50. Fog Cult, The Dying Sun
Initially self-released by the band last year, The Dying Sun is the second full-length by Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, weedian rockers Fog Cult, and it’s set for a vinyl issue via Black Farm Records sometime this year. Not much fixing what isn’t broken about large-scale nod riffs and sludge vibing, but a track like “Altars of the Night” manages to evoke early Alice in Chains-type harmonies without falling into post-Creed cliche, and that in itself is something remarkable. Streaming in full now on their Bandcamp. Fog Cult on Thee Facebooks, Black Farm Records.
51. Foghound, The World Unseen
Might be May before it shows up, but The World Unseen will serve as Maryland heavy rockers Foghound‘s debut on Ripple Music. It’s their second offering behind 2013’s Quick, Dirty and High (review here) and a meaner, leaner take on their sound. The turns are tighter and the groove is more aggressive, but they still sound like they’re having a complete blast. More to come this Spring. Foghound on Thee Facebooks, Ripple Music.
52. Fuzz Evil, TBA
They’ll be playing the Borderland Fuzz Fiesta next month, which I’m proud to say I’ll be attending, and I hope to have a better picture of the debut album by Fuzz Evil‘s arrival date by the end of that if not before. The Arizona band, which shares brothers Wayne and Joseph Rudell with Powered Wig Machine, offered up a split with Chiefs in late 2014 (streamed here) and has piecemealed a track or two since, but the full-length was sent off to mastering in November, so it seems like it’s just a matter of time before it shows up. Fuzz Evil on Thee Facebooks, Fuzz Evil on Bandcamp.
53. John Garcia, TBA
Among the several Garcia-related releases that 2016 might have on offer — he appears no fewer than in three separate entries on this list — the former Kyuss, Slo Born, Unida, Vista Chino, Hermano, etc., vocalist has announced intentions toward a follow-up for his 2014 Napalm Records self-titled solo debut (review here) and an acoustic record, the second of which he reportedly began recording this month. The more the merrier, quite frankly. John Garcia on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
54. Geezer, TBA
According to The Obelisk’s deep-running investigative team — by which I mean I looked at their Thee Facebooks page — New York heavy blues trio Geezer are heading into the studio in a couple weeks to record their next full-length. In 2015, the band offered up the already-noted split with Borracho, The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter One (review here), via Ripple Music, and they’ve set about refining their chemistry on-stage as they hone their fluid mix of languid vibes and smoked-out shuffle. Looking forward to this one. Geezer on Thee Facebooks, STB Records.
55. Goatess, Purgatory Under New Management
First announced here with a track stream in November, the second album from Chritus Linderson-fronted doomers Goatess, titled Purgatory Under New Management, is due out this March of Svart, which also released the Swedish outfit’s 2013 self-titled debut (review here). I haven’t heard much about it since that track stream, so it may or may not be pushed back, but whatever, I’m just glad they did a second record either way. It’ll be out when it’s out. Goatess on Thee Facebooks, Svart Records.
56. The Golden Grass, TBA
Bring on the good vibes. The sophomore LP from sweet ’70s-style rockers The Golden Grass will be the band’s first for Listenable Records after releasing their self-titled debut (review here) via Svart in 2014. They finished mixing earlier this month, so once it’s mastered it seems like it’s really up to the label’s schedule as to when it will be out. Spring or summer would be my guess, which suits the warmth of their harmonies just fine. The Golden Grass on Thee Facebooks, Listenable Records.
57. Gozu, Revival
After issuing two albums through Small Stone in 2010’s Locust Season (review here) and 2013’s The Fury of a Patient Man (review here), Boston four-piece Gozu have aligned themselves to Ripple Music for the release of Revival, their LP overall. Recorded this past fall, it is easily the band’s tightest and most aggressive outing to-date, but their soulful, melodic core remains, and it is all the more identifiable as their own for that. More to come. Gozu on Thee Facebooks, Ripple Music.
58. Graves at Sea, TBA
I know I’ve used the phrase “More to come” several times already in this post — like right now, in the last entry — but while the full-length debut from reactivated West Coast sludge-doomers Graves at Sea was announced as being completed and ready for release by Relapseback in October, legitimately, more info on that prospect is coming up, so keep an eye out. That’s all I’m at liberty to say at the moment. I may have already said too much. Graves at Sea on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.
59. Greenleaf, Rise Above the Meadow
Oh fuck yes. How good is the new Greenleaf? So good. You know how 2014’s Trails and Passes (review here) kind of reset the band and gave a more stripped-down, stage-ready take? Rise Above the Meadow takes that, pushes it forward exponentially, adds some Dozer-style edge to the mix and presents it all with ferocious energy more common to bands on their second album rather than their sixth. Out Feb. 26. Will be a top 10 record in December, no question. Greenleaf on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
60. Heavy Temple, TBA
There have been many changes in Philadelphia trio Heavy Temple since they offered up their self-titled debut EP (review here), or at least a couple involving the lineup of the band. Either way, it’s a revamped trio that last summer discussed a second extended-player for 2016. So far as I know, record label is still to be determined so far as I know — the first EP came out on Ván, which is an immediate endorsement — but they’ve been gaining traction in Philly and they seem to have ambitions beyond that city’s limits, so I can’t imagine someone won’t get on board with it, if they haven’t yet. Heavy Temple on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
61. Hermano, TBA
In addition to taking part in Hellfest 2016 in Clisson, France, this June, Hermano have put out word of an impending full-length to be released at some point this year. The John Garcia-fronted outfit also featuring bassist Dandy Brown (who will also play the Borderland Fuzz Fiesta solo) last released an album in 2007, which was Into the Exam Room, a striking, mature, engaging heavy rocker that not only showcased Garcia‘s vocals in creative arrangements, but them memorable songs to top and a variety of moods in which to work. Even nine years later, that record was enough to make me look forward to a follow-up. John Garcia on Thee Facebooks, Borderland Fuzz Fiesta.
62. Hexvessel, When We are Death
Out this week as their first release for Century Media, Hexvessel‘s When We are Death pushes beyond the confines of psychedelic folk rock (not that there were so many, particularly as regards their prior output) and into more solidified rock territory, an edge of gothic theatricality making itself felt alongside a stylistically amorphous late-’60s cultistry that doesn’t want to be defined nearly so much as to enthrall. I’ll have a review up one of these days soon, but I feel like I’m still getting to know the record, and that may be a permanent condition. Hexvessel on Thee Facebooks, Century Media.
63. High Priest of Saturn, Son of Earth and Sky
Here is yet another of Feb. 26’s many releases. I haven’t heard it yet, but given the traditionalism of the Norwegian outfit’s first LP and the fact that there are only five tracks on Son of Earth and Sky, it seems fair to expect High Priest of Saturn are letting their material flesh out a bit on their sophomore offering through Svart. Announced just a couple weeks ago, it’s been in the can since 2014, so it may not be all that long before a follow-up makes an appearance as well. High Priest of Saturn on Thee Facebooks, Svart Records.
64. Hijo de la Tormenta, El Manto de la Especie
I dug Argentinian heavy psych trio Hijo de la Tormenta‘s 2014 self-titled debut (review here), and last year, they followed it up with a quick live two-songer called En Vivo en Buenos Aires that found their sound no less engaging on stage than on record. The upcoming El Manto de la Especie was recently announced here, and should hopefully be together and out sometime in the first half of this year. Hijo de la Tormenta on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
There’s been a buzz around the Pacific Northwest’s fertile ground over the last couple years for Portland, Oregon’s Holy Grove, and on March 18, the soul-rock four-piece will make their full-length debut via Heavy Psych Sounds. The only other release from them I know about to-date is 2014’s Live at Joonior’s (review here), a two-track sampler, so for a lot of listeners outside the band’s regional homebase, this will really be their first experience hearing them. Holy Grove on Thee Facebooks, Heavy Psych Sounds.
67. Holy Serpent, TBA
The hot tip is look for it in August on RidingEasy. Melbourne, Australia’s Holy Serpent shroom-doomed their self-titled debut (review here) last year, and they’ll be going for a fast turnaround on the follow-up in 2016. No audio, info or art or anything like that yet, but I’m told it’ll be late summer, so that’s what I’m going on. Holy Serpent on Thee Facebooks, RidingEasy Records.
68. Inter Arma, TBA
So far, both Inter Arma and Relapse Records have been pretty tight-lipped on specifics when it comes to the Virginian genre-melders’ second LP for the label (third overall), but we know it was recorded by Mikey Allred, that it’s done and due out this summer, and that they’re starting their touring cycle for it even before it comes out. That’s not nothing. Given the laudatory response to 2014’s single-song EP The Cavern, I’d expect this one to get considerable attention both in the pre-release hype and the post-release exclamatory stages. Inter Arma on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.
69. Joy, Ride Along!
Announced just last week, Ride Along! will be West Coast jammers Joy‘s second album out through Tee Pee, following the psych spellcasting of 2014’s Under the Spell of… (review here). A few notable guests show up, but I’m looking for the band to distinguish themselves further this time around, find their niche within the post-Earthless sphere of instrumental Cali heavy. They showed some genuine personality on the last one, hope they keep it up. Out April 29. Joy on Thee Facebooks, Tee Pee Records.
70. King Dead, Woe and Judgment
Brooding atmospheres, a kind of post-metallic anxiety and moments of outright physical exertion are spread across Woe and Judgment (review here), the first LP from Pennsylvanian trio King Dead. The band released the album digitally last year on the sly in order to self-finance a vinyl pressing, and after succeeding in that endeavor, they’ll have the record out officially in April or thereabouts. King Dead on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
71. Lightsabres, TBA
Swedish one-man outfit Lightsabres began its association with HeviSike Records with a tape release for 2014’s sophomore album Spitting Blood (review here). The genre-spanning garage psych project linked up with STB for 2015’s Beheaded, but returns to HeviSike for the follow-up fourth long-player, which is due out March 4 with preorders starting this week. Lightsabres on Thee Facebooks, HeviSike Records.
72. The Linus Pauling Quartet, Ampalanche
Unlike most offerings on this list, Ampalanche by Texas noise rock weirdos the Linus Pauling Quartet is actually out now. Vincebus Eruptum released the vinyl on Jan. 15. It’ll be out digitally in April as well though, and there’s a big ol’ zip file on my desktop waiting to be reviewed — several, actually but bear with me — so sometime between now and then expect to hear more about the album, which is the band’s first full-length since 2012’s Bag of Hammers (review here), despite a slew of singles between. Linus Pauling Quartet on Thee Facebooks, Vincebus Eruptum Recordings.
73. Lo-Pan, TBA
I don’t know what Lo-Pan‘s secret plan is, but I know they were in the studio last week, so whether it’s a new album, a single, an EP, split or whatever, they’ve got something going. It would be a relatively quick turnaround from 2014’s Colossus (review here), but they’ve since added guitarist Adrian Zambrano (also Brujas del Sol) to the lineup, so a burst of creativity isn’t necessarily out of the question. Whatever they’re up to, they’ll be on the road as ever this year, touring with Black Cobra and Bongzilla this spring. Lo-Pan on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.
74. Lord, Awake
As of last September, chaotic Virginian five-piece Lord were mastering their Awake album with an eye on a 2016 release. I’ve been keeping a relatively close eye, and I haven’t heard anything about a meteor crashing into the final tapes (or hard drive) or anything, so I’m just going to assume and hope that it gets out this year. Lord‘s last full-length, Chief (review here), came out in 2011 and they also issued the Alive in Golgotha EP (review here) in 2014. Lord on Thee Faceboks, Heavy Hound Records.
75. Lord Fowl, TBA
More wishful thinking than nailed-down guarantee, perhaps, but Connecticut’s Lord Fowl are due to give an answer to their 2012 Small Stone debut and second album overall, Moon Queen (review here). Last I spoke to the band was the middle of last year and they were writing, but in October, they entered the studio to begin the recording process, so hopefully that means it’ll be out sooner than later. Lord Fowl on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.
76. Low Flying Hawks, Kofuku
Not exactly out of nowhere — apparently out of Los Angeles, or somewhere thereabouts — but Low Flying Hawks‘ forthcoming Magnetic Eye debut, Kofuku, did seem to show up as a sudden blip on the radar. Notable for working with such Melvins-related characters as producer Toshi Kasai, drummer Dale Crover, and bassist Trevor Dunn, the band effectively blends moody post-rock atmospheres with weighted, hypnotic grunge, keeping things dark as seen in their recent video for “Ruins.” Low Flying Hawks on Thee Facebooks, Magnetic Eye Records.
77. Mantar, Ode to the Flame
I’ll admit to being somewhat surprised when Germany’s Mantar signed to Nuclear Blast late last year. Their sound is so raw, so unabashedly extreme in its intent on their 2014 debut, Death by Burning (review here) — which was released by Brutal Panda and Svart both — and something tells me that with a title like Ode to the Flame, their second LP won’t offer much letup in intensity, but having seen the band live (review here), they are unmistakably a force. Mantar on Thee Facebooks, Nuclear Blast Records.
78. Mars Red Sky, Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul)
The third album from Bordeaux-based heavy psych rockers Mars Red Sky feels like a logical step forward from 2014’s Stranded in Arcadia (review here), but it is very definitely a step forward, in its atmospheric complexity, in the depths of its arrangements and the breadth of its tones. Songs like “Mindreader” and “Under the Hood” exemplify how much the band has progressed since their 2011 self-titled debut (review here), and though it comes preceded by the newly-released Providence EP (review here), that’s really just the beginning of the story about to be told. Mars Red Sky on Thee Facebooks, Listenable Records.
79. Merchant, Suzerain
Finished recording as of Jan. 11, Suzerain will serve as the debut full-length from aggro tone-bearers Merchant, who announced their coming with a 10-minute single called Seismic (review here). Their principal task will be to distinguish themselves from the pack of Melbourne’s crowded heavy underground, but I’m looking forward to finding out how they go about it and where their apparent potential will take them. Merchant on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
80. Merlin, Electric Children
Kansas City doom rockers Merlin gave a taste of Electric Children back in November with a track premiere for “Bad Trip” and the album itself will see release on March 11 through 4One8 Records on CD. Vinyl will be through Poisoned Mind, who also issued the band’s Christkiller LP (review here) in 2014. To say they have a flair for the dramatic might be understating it, but Merlin do well to keep a reliable core of songwriting underneath. Merlin on Thee Facebooks, 4One8 Records, Poisoned Mind Records.
81. Mondo Drag, The Occultation of Light
Ready for release on — you guessed it — Feb. 26, The Occultation of Light is the third full-length from psych-prog traditionalists Mondo Drag, second via RidingEasy, and it gives a more updated take on their sound than did last year’s self-titled (review here), which was recorded in 2012 with a different lineup. They seem poised to really establish themselves with this record, which was announced in November, and from where I sit, the record is strong enough to do it. Mondo Drag on Thee Facebooks, RidingEasy Records.
82. Mondo Generator, TBA
Nick Oliveri oversaw some lineup changes last fall for Mondo Generator, but to go with that and their European tour, it was announced that the band was working — as a trio now — on their fifth full-length for an eventual 2016 release. That’s not to say it’s showing up tomorrow, but if they were writing in the fall, it doesn’t seem outside the realm of possibility that they could have something out before the year is done. Oliveri‘s last release was the 2014 solo album, Leave Me Alone (streamed here). Mondo Generator on Thee Facebooks, Mondo Generator webstore.
83. Monkey3, TBA
For Swiss instrumentalists Monkey3‘s Nov. 2015 European tour, the band specifically noted they would be playing out new material as a “preview.” I don’t know if that means their next album is recorded or if they were trying stuff out on stage before they went into the studio, but, now signed to Napalm, the band will hopefully in 2016 have a follow-up out for 2013’s The 5th Sun, which was their fourth long-player. Monkey3 on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
84. Monobrow, TBA
Last time Ottawa’s Monobrow mentioned their new LP was Nov. 24. They said, “new album slowly coming together.” So there you go. They reportedly took more time after a Dec. 5 show with Public Animal to work on it, but there’s been no solid word of a release date or even recording date as yet. It’s in progress. Their 2015 single, A Handwritten Letter from the Moon (review here), presented a less bombastic feel than, say, 2014’s Big Sky, Black Horse (review here). We’ll see which impulse ultimately wins out in their sound. Monobrow on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
85. Mos Generator, TBA
Among the safest bets one might place this year is that Washington’s Mos Generator will release something, but the band, led of course by workaholic guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed, premiered an acoustic take on Easy Evil” back in September that was to be included on an unplugged release through H42 Records, and their last album, Electric Mountain Majesty (review here), came out in 2014, so I wouldn’t be surprised if in addition to continuing to road-dog across the US and likely beyond, they didn’t also find time to punch out a new studio LP. Mos Generator on Thee Facebooks, Listenable Records.
86. Mothership, Live over Freak Valley
True, Mothership released Live over Freak Valley on Jan. 15. You got me. The reason I’ve still got them on this list, however, is because I’m wondering if the Texas heavy rockers might keep the momentum they’ve got on their side after their recent tour with C.O.C., Saviours and Brant Bjork going by jumping back in the studio and belting out a follow-up to 2014’s Mothership II (review here). Even if it’s later in the year, crazier things have happened. Mothership on Thee Facebooks, Ripple Music.
87. Mountain God, TBA
Early last year, bleak Brooklyn atmosludge extremists Mountain God offered their single-song EP, Forest of the Lost (review here), which followed their prior 2013 demo tape, Experimentation on the Unwilling (review here). They’ve been writing all the while, and it seems likely they’ll manage a release of some sort this year as well. Whether that’s their debut full-length, which I’m hoping creeps as much as it shrieks — or at least a little — or something else, I don’t know. Mountain God on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Sold out in numerous CD and cassette editions following its release in April, the live-recorded self-titled debut from Greek heavy psych rockers Naxatras continued to earn praise throughout the rest of last year. The Thessaloniki-based trio will reportedly release a single as a 10″ before their second long-player surfaces, but both have been recorded and seem like they’re ready to roll out as soon as they’re pressed. I wouldn’t mind if they did a CD re-press of the first album either, but no word on that as of yet. Naxatras on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
90. Neurosis, TBA
It’s done, it’s in the can, it’s mastered, and it pains me that a new Neurosis album exists somewhere on this planet and I haven’t heard it yet. It’s a downright tragedy. The post-metal progenitors also recently announced a deluxe anniversary boxed set of all their albums to-date (not including the new one) called Strength and Vision, but as ever, their eyes are forward even as they’re celebrating their 30 years as a band. But seriously, if I don’t hear that record soon, I’m gonna cry. Actual tears. Neurosis on Thee Facebooks, Neurot Recordings.
91. Om, TBA
The Al Cisneros-led trio Om were recently in the studio, and while I can’t say for certain it was for a new album to follow-up 2012’s brilliant Advaitic Songs (review here), I sure as hell hope so. Om are another band who were on last year’s list too, so take this for what it is, but I think it’s safe to say Advaitic Songs is one of the strongest albums of the decade so far, and a subsequent outing feels due. Om on Thee Facebooks, Drag City.
92. Oranssi Pazuzu, Värähtelijä
Effective, trance-inducing psychedelic black metal isn’t easily done, and when someone does it as well as Oranssi Pazuzu on Värähtelijä or as Deathspell Omega on Fas – Ite Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum, it tends to get noticed by a very specific subset of the heavy metal literati. No doubt the same has been and will continue to be the case for the Finnish blackened hypnotists leading up to the Feb. 26 Svart/20 Buck Spin release of Värähtelijä, their fourth album, but the hype is legitimate, and the record crosses vast expanses over the course of an encompassing 69 minutes. Sometimes it’s hard to argue with consensus. Oranssi Pazuzu on Thee Facebooks, 20 Buck Spin, Svart Records.
93. Pale Divine, TBA
Pennsylvanian doomers Pale Divine take their time. Nothing wrong with that, and anyway, it’s only been four years since their last album, Painted Windows Black (review here), came out a full five after 2007’s Cemetery Earth, so, you know, no rush. In 2016, however, they’re coming closer to marking 20 years since the release of their first demo, 1997’s Crimson Tears, which in many ways established the course of their sound, so if a new full-length were to happen this or next year, it would seem only appropriate. Would also be their first since adding Ron McGinnis (Admiral Browning, Bailjack, etc.) on bass several years ago now. Pale Divine on Thee Facebooks, Shadow Kingdom Records.
94. Picaporters, TBA
Buenos Aires-based trio Picaporters posted a new track called “War is Over” on their Bandcamp a while back that will feature on their upcoming album, which is listed on that page as being released on Aug. 1, 2016. Last I heard it was due to be ready in January, so I’m not actually sure when the follow-up to their 2013 debut, Elefantes (review here), will actually be out, but the doomers have leaked a couple songs from it at this point and it sounds right on. Best I can say is keep an eye out. Picaporters on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
95. Iggy Pop, Post Pop Depression
The immortal badassery of Iggy Pop notwithstanding, his Post Pop Depression probably wouldn’t be in this site’s field of vision were it not for the involvement of Queens of the Stone Age frontman Joshua Homme as guitarist and songwriting collaborator. Announced to much fanfare on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert as being released March 18, the record is intended as a sequel to the Pop/David Bowie collaboration Lust for Life, and since Homme does a pretty mean Bowie I’m sure it’ll be just fine. I thought it was hilarious that the first song released from the album was called “Gardenia.” Iggy Pop website, Queens of the Stone Age on Thee Facebooks.
96. Psychedelic Witchcraft, The Vision
Though they’re still in the process as well of overseeing reissues of their 2015 Black Magic Man EP (review here) — the latest is vinyl through Taxi Driver Records with a bonus Sam Gopal cover that follows a CD through Twin Earth Records — Italian cult rockers Psychedelic Witchcraft have signed to Soulseller Records for the release of their debut long-player, The Vision. It’s due in Spring and can be reasonably expected to generate much fanfare, at least if the response to the prior EP is anything to go by. Psychedelic Witchcraft on Thee Facebooks, Soulseller Records.
97. Radio Moscow, TBA Live Album
Freshly returned from a South American tour, Radio Moscow will head to Australia for a run next month with Kings Destroy and Holy Serpent before they get around to issuing the double-live album they recorded last month in Los Angeles. And then after that, they’ll probably go tour somewhere else, because that’s how they do. The live record arrives at a particularly choice moment, though, since the material from their fourth LP, 2014’s Magical Dirt (review here) translates particularly well to the stage. Also they’re one of the best live bands in the world. That helps too. Radio Moscow on Thee Facebooks, Alive Naturalsound.
98. Red Fang, TBA
I’m twofold intrigued at the recently-announced prospect of Red Fang‘s fourth full-length. Maybe even threefold. First, automatic interest on the basis of their prior work. They’ve certainly earned that. Second, though it would be a mistake to call 2013’s Whales and Leeches (review here) anything other than a marked success, it was put together in a hurry and it sounded like it, so I’m wondering if they’ll be able to stretch out this process more. Third, it’s Ross Robinson producing, and given the commercial breadth of his work across genres, I’m eager to hear what he brings to a genuine heavy rock band. Could be a whole new take on the sound, one way or another. Red Fang on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.
99. Rozamov, TBA
Now veterans of Psycho California and tours across the US, having opened for Slayer in their hometown and spread their darkened gospel along the Eastern Seaboard, don’t you think it’s time Boston’s Rozamov put out an album? I know I do. I was in the studio with them for a check-in last August, and what I heard in progress sounded utterly punishing as a follow-up to their split with Deathkings (review here), and that holds true on the five tracks of the finished product as well, but it’s high time it came out. Side note, they recently announced the arrival of new drummer Tranxidis. Pretty sure that’s more recent than the recording though. Rozamov on Thee Facebooks, Rozamov on Bandcamp.
100. Salem’s Pot, TBA
Bizarro riff worshipers Salem’s Pot will have a new full-length out, reportedly, in June 2016. It will be their sophomore LP behind 2014’s …Lurar ut dig på prärien (discussed here), which garnered praise for its atmosphere and riff-rolling methods alike, stoner for stoners and all that. I was fortunate enough to catch the band’s set last year at Roadburn (review here), and they offered thrills in bulk, unabashedly basking in pill-popper groove but keeping a spirit of underlying violence in the material as well, as much drug as droog. A new 7″ titled The Vampire Strikes Back is also due Feb. 15. Salem’s Pot on Thee Facebooks, RidingEasy Records.
101. Samavayo, TBA
Not certain of the timing on the new full-length from Samavayo, who will also play Desertfest Berlin this April, but their 2015 Setalight Records split 10″ with The Grand Astoria (review here) was much-dug around these parts and efficiently presented a diverse take from the Berlin natives, between instrumental stretch-out and more traditional hooks and structure. Their last full-length, Soul Invictus, came out in 2012 as the third in a series of three albums each year (it was their fourth overall), so maybe they needed to catch their breath. Samavayo on Thee Facebooks, Setalight Records.
102. Serpents of Secrecy, TBA
This West Virginia/Virginia/Maryland collaboration between former members of Sixty Watt Shaman — drummer Chuck Dukehart and bassist Rev. Jim Forrester (both also of Foghound) — and King Giant guitarist Todd Ingram did right last summer in picking Ontario-based vocalist Al “Yeti” Bones as the singer for their debut record. Maybe not so much geographically, but no question Bones (formerly of Mister Bones and The Mighty Nimbus) has all the burl their riffs could ask for, and I haven’t heard the album yet, but I’m sure they’re asking for plenty. Serpents of Secrecy on Thee Facebooks, their website.
103. Sinister Haze, Laid Low in the Dust of Death
After issuing their Betrayed by Time EP (review here) via Heavy Slab Records last year, Virginian doombringers Sinister Haze have signed on with STB to issue their debut full-length, Laid Low in the Dust of Death. The trio played Psycho California this May, touring out and back, and also had a two-song self-titled cassette out in 2015 that they took with them on the road, but no word as to whether any of that material will make it onto the album. In fact, no word on if the album is an album. I’m just kind of going by what STB says they have coming up in the next few months. Presumably more info will surface before the release arrives. Sinister Haze on Thee Facebooks, STB Records.
104. -(16)-, TBA
Blunt as ever, Los Angeles/San Diego sludge metallers -(16)- pulled no punches on Dec. 31 when they rang in the New Year by saying, “We will be releasing a new album in 2016.” They finished recording in December, and I’m relatively sure that whatever the new album is called, it’ll be released by Relapse — using the logic of, if you were the label, why wouldn’t you want to put out a new -(16)- album? — but other than that, there’s no info. They said it’s coming this year. Seems like they’d be the ones to know. -(16)- on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.
105. Skuggsjá, A Piece for Mind and Mirror
If you know, then you know. I was pleasantly surprised that the Skuggsjá collaboration between Enslaved‘s Ivar Bjørnson and Wardruna‘s Einar Selvik was doing anything at all, let alone putting out a studio release of their commissioned work for the 200th anniversary of Norway’s constitution. A Piece for Mind and Mirror was recently given a March 11 release date through Season of Mist, and while it may be a few who latch on to the combined vision of Bjørnson and Selvik, that’s going to be a lucky few indeed. Skuggsjá on Thee Facebooks, Season of Mist.
106. Slabdragger, Rise of the Dawncrusher
If I’m not mistaken — and to be sure, I probably am — this is the last release on this list coming out on Feb. 26. Slabdragger‘s sophomore LP, Rise of the Dawncrusher is being delivered via Holy Roar, and it comes some six years after their debut, Regress. I remember being at Desertfest in London circa 2012-2013 and hearing people talk up Slabdragger as having significant boot-to-ass potential. Listening to Rise of the Dawncrusher, it’s pretty easy to hear what might’ve given them that impression. Slabdragger on Thee Facebooks, Holy Roar Records.
107. Slomatics, TBA
Yes. Bring on new Slomatics. The sooner the better, the louder the better. The riff-bashing Belfast trio signed to Jon Davis of Conan‘s Black Bow Recordslast November, and quickly set about reissuing their first two albums, 2005’s Flooding the Weir and 2007’s Kalceanna, and that’s super, but as someone who caught on relatively late to the glories of the band’s 2014 album, Estron (review here), there’s no way I’m letting the next one get by me. Slomatics on Thee Facebooks, Black Bow Records.
108. Snowy Dunes, Atlantis
Stockholm heavy rockers Snowy Dunes left a resonant impression with their 2015 self-titled debut, and on Jan. 13, they unveiled a completely improvised 19-minute track called “Atlantis, Part I” digitally as a precursor to their second LP, Atlantis, which is reportedly set to release next month as they head out on tour with countrymen riffers Skraeckoedlan. The extended piece is impressive in building on the boogie rock of the debut, but how much its atmosphere will ultimately play into the record itself remains to be seen. In any case, a good band who don’t seem like they’ll be under the radar of Europe’s heavy rock scene for much longer. Snowy Dunes on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
109. Soon, Vol. I
I’ll readily admit my ignorance when it comes to indie rock, so I haven’t heard of The Love Language, Bitter Resolve or Grohg, which are the bands from whose lineups the ungooglable Soon draw, but after checking out a couple demos when the March 4 release of Vol. Iwas announced, I dug the sound anyway. Someone else might have a completely different context for hearing it, but to me it just sounds like interesting, wide-ranging excursions into sonic heft. It’s pretty rare something like that isn’t going to find welcome, as far as I’m concerned. Soon on Thee Facebooks, Temple of Torturous.
110. Spidergawd, III
For the last two years, Norwegian four-piece Spidergawd have been churning out high-grade heavy rock and roll with a vitality that few could come close to matching. 2015’s Spidergawd II (review here) fleshed out elements of psychedelia from their 2014 self-titled debut (review here), and with Spidergawd III, the approach continues to be refined and honed to an even finer point on hooks like “El Corason del Sol” and “The Funeral.” Reportedly out now, so go get it. Spidergawd on Thee Facebooks, Stickman Records, Crispin Glover Records.
111. Spirit Caravan, TBA
By now I’m sure they’ve played “Be the Night” (live video here) at more than just the Vultures of Volume II fest, which was where I saw it, but either way, the first new material from a reunited Spirit Caravan — also kind of a The Obsessed hybrid with Ed Gulli on drums — reignites the collaboration between bassist/vocalist Dave Sherman and guitarist/vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich, who since they got back together in 2014 have been reminding audiences of just how vital that one-two punch of tone is to what heavy rock has become over the last decade and a half, in Maryland and beyond. Hope they get a record together, hope it gets out in 2016. Spirit Caravan on Thee Facebooks, Tone Deaf Touring.
112. Spiritual Beggars, Sunrise to Sundown
Back to business for Swedish heavy rockers Spiritual Beggars. The Michael Amott-led troupe recently revealed that they will offer their ninth long-player, Sunrise to Sundown on March 18 (March 25 North America) through InsideOut Music. Turns out they’ll also have a 7″ out concurrently via H42 Records, and they’re set to tour in Europe beginning the week after the album comes out, hitting Desertfest Berlin and more. This will be their third album with vocalist Apollo Papathanasio, but for me, the band is even more about the blend of Amott‘s guitar and the keys of Per Wiberg (ex-Opeth, Candlemass). Doesn’t get much more classic than that. Spiritual Beggars on Thee Facebooks, InsideOut Music.
113. Stone Machine Electric, TBA
The recently-released jammer EP, The Amazing Terror (review here), was intended as a precursor to the next full-length from Stone Machine Electric, which is reportedly now in the process of being recorded. On Jan. 11, they also asked their audience if they’d get behind a crowdfunding campaign to support a vinyl release, so it might be a while before the album actually shows up, but given the response they received, it seems fair to expect a pressing on wax. Stone Machine Electric on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
114. Suma, The Order of Things
2016 makes it 15 years since Swedish aural devastators Suma got their start, and it’s been six years since their last album, Ashes, was released, but that album continues to gain a following, having been snagged for a re-release on Argonauta Records just a couple weeks ago. The Malmö four-piece were on the US West Coast this month to record The Order of Things with the venerable Billy Anderson — who also helmed Ashes and 2006’s Let the Churches Burn — and they managed to sneak in a couple shows playing with, among others, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth. Now that is a fucking bill. Suma on Thee Facebooks, Suma on Bandcamp.
115. Summoner, TBA
Been a quick three years since Boston neo-prog heavy riffers Summoner released their second album, Atlantian (discussed here), and pushed ahead of the already sprawling, richly arranged approach of their 2012 debut, Phoenix. Well, I saw the band last month, and I’m happy to report they haven’t fallen apart or anything in the interim. I have it on good authority — by which I mean they told me — that they’ll be recording later this year, and while that may or may not mean a 2017 release, I thought it better to serve early notice of their impending third LP. So heads up on that. Summoner on Thee Facebooks, Magnetic Eye Records.
116. Sunnata, Zorya
Announced just after the New Year for an April arrival, Zorya will serve as the second album from Warsaw-based Sunnata, who delivered their debut in 2014 with Climbing the Colossus. I haven’t heard it yet, but the band effectively blended heavy rock groove with progressive ideals on the first outing, and I see no reason to expect anything but a step forward along the same lines this time around. I’ll take it. Sunnata on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Sometimes it’s too easy to be greedy. Since getting back together at the start of the decade, Swans have released three albums — 2010’s My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky (review here), 2012’s The Seer and 2014’s To be Kind (review here) — as well as older LP reissues, limited-edition live recording, and so on. They’ve toured the world over and have a fourth post-reunion album due out this year, but even so, when Michael Gira said last summer that the next Swans would be the last Swans for the time being — he didn’t even say forever — it was hard not to feel sad. Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think. Swans on Thee Facebooks, Young God Records.
119. Teacher, TBA
It took Seattle duo Teacher about 49 seconds to get me interested in hearing their forthcoming debut LP. Really less than that, because by the time the vocals kicked in on the recently-posted teaser clip, I was already on board. Whenever it comes out, the album will be released by Devil’s Child Records, which is quickly making a name for itself in the Pacific Northwest with offerings by Mos Generator/Sower and Year of the Cobra. No release date yet, but it sounds like the band are sneaking into a niche of natural, unpretentious swing, and I hope that’s exactly how the record goes. Teacher on Thee Facebooks, Devil’s Child Records.
120. Ulver, ATGCLVLSSCAP
Ulver‘s good-luck-making-a-word-of-this-acronym new album ATGCLVLSSCAP came out last week. Doesn’t mean it wasn’t one of 2016’s most anticipated. Really, anytime this Norwegian post-genre leviathan breathes, it’s an event, and as ATGCLVLSSCAP draws on live-recorded improvisations and explorations, but I’m not sure it’s proper to call it a live record in the is-everybody-having-a-good-time-tonight sense of the phrase. Info is plentiful and descriptive, but vague on the actual nuts and bolts of the makings, and that’s likely not an accident. Mystery is part of the fun. Is everybody having a good time tonight? Ulver on Thee Facebooks, House of Mythology Records.
121. Uzala, TBA
I know, I know. Uzala just put out Live at Roadburn MMXV (review here). Hell, I know that. And that vinyl is reportedly coming soon, but I’ve got the Boise trio on this list because I’m holding out for a studio follow-up to 2013’s Tales of Blood and Fire. I’m not saying it has to happen immediately, or really at all. I’m just saying I’d greatly prefer it if it did. That last album still gets fairly regular plays around here, so it only seems reasonable to call it haunting, and the live record had two new songs on it, so maybe there’s more in progress. Uzala on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
122. VA, Brown Acid: The Second Trip
How could RidingEasy Records not do a second Brown Acid compilation of lost heavy ’70s freakout and heavy singles, how could they not call it Brown Acid: The Second Trip, and how could they not release it on April 20? The whole thing seems so inevitable it’s astounding. Look for forgotten cuts by Sonny Hugg, Buck, Glass Sun, Ash, the awesomely-monikered Iron Knowledge and a whole host of others you can pretend you knew about beforehand. RidingEasy Records website, on Thee Facebooks.
123. Venomous Maximus, TBA
Like several others on this list, Texas’ Venomous Maximus will take part in the Obelisk-presented Heavy Metal Parking Lot 3 at SXSW (info here). They’re no strangers to awesome bills, having toured this past fall alongside High on Fire to support the release of their second album, Firewalker (review here), which was released on Shadow Kingdom. Looking back on my notes, I’m not sure where I heard they had a new release in the offing, but it would be awesome to see them recapture the momentum they had coming out of their first album, 2012’s raging Beg upon the Light (review here), and a quick turnaround certainly wouldn’t hurt that. Venomous Maximus on Thee Facebooks, Shadow Kingdom Records.
124. Vista Chino, TBA
Maybe most of all the entries posted today, this one is wishful thinking. I saw a couple months back that Vista Chino — the John Garcia and Brant Bjork post-Kyuss Lives! incarnation that wound up with Mike Dean of C.O.C. on bass in a lineup rounded out by guitarist Bruno Fevery — were confirmed for Hellfest in France this summer, and couldn’t help but think about the possibility of a follow-up to their 2013 debut, Peace (review here). Doesn’t seem likely with everyone working on their respective projects, but I’m still hoping those guys get back in the studio someday. Cool they’re playing out at all, if nothing else. Vista Chino on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
125. Vodun, Possession
Preorders are up now for the debut album from London ritual-psych purveyors Vodun, and the Possession vinyl will also mark the first physical offering from Riff Rock Records, the new label spearheaded by Groan bassist Leigh Jones. Clearly someone who knows how to make an entry, Jones brought Vodun on board and issued a digital single last year for “Minos Army” (video here), the band tearing through influences in the metallic, heavy, Afrobeat, psychedelic and beyond. I haven’t heard the full-length yet, but it’s out March 25 and I feel safe guaranteeing that nothing else in 2016 will sound quite like it. Vodun on Thee Facebooks, Riff Rock Records.
German trio-turned-foursome Wight make a bold shift with their upcoming third full-length, Love is Not Only What You Know, digging deep into full-on psychedelic funk on tracks like “Kelele,” “The Love for Life Leads to Reincarnation,” and the opener “Helicopter Mama,” which came out last year as a 7″ single (review here) to herald the change in direction from their jammy 2012 LP, Through the Woods into Deep Water (review here). It’s a fine line to walk, but Wight do right by dancing all over it instead. They’ve also got a limited tape, Live in Athens, due March 7, on which a good portion of the new album is played. Wight on Thee Facebooks, Wight on Bandcamp.
128. Witchskull, The Vast Electric Dark
Word came out last month that Canberra three-piece Witchskull had inked a deal with STB Records. The Aussie band check in with a particularly classically metallic take on heavy rock and doom, as evidenced by their 2015 debut full-length, The Vast Electric Dark, which will serve as their debut vinyl on the NJ-based imprint. Haven’t heard a solid release date for it yet, but “early 2016” was the ballpark figure given, so I guess anytime between now and summer would be a possibility. Witchskull on Thee Facebooks, STB Records.
129. Wo Fat, Midnight Cometh
If Wo Fat‘s Midnight Cometh is not near the top of your most wanted list, you are fucking up. Unless you’re going alphabetically with your list, as I am with mine, in which case their position at #129 makes sense. In whatever organizational method, the coming sixth long-player from these Texan fuzz forerunners deserves the utmost consideration. Their first for Ripple Music after two on Small Stone (info here), Midnight Cometh boasts all the riffy jamming and heavy grooves we’ve come to love from the three-piece, but refines the vocal approach markedly, giving the band even more of a sense of command of the material. Sure to be a highlight of the year. Expect it this summer. Wo Fat on Thee Facebooks, Ripple Music.
130. Worm Ouroboros, TBA
Sorry to say I missed out completely on Worm Ouroboros‘ second album, Come the Thaw, when it was released by Profound Lore in 2012. I’d dug their 2010 self-titled debut (review here), but the next one, yeah, just kind of got by me. Never too late, you might say, and I’d have to agree. Maybe I can sneak in a purchase before the band are finished in the studio for their third record, which they were set to begin recording this month. In any case, will do my best to see that the same doesn’t happen with the new LP as happened with the last one. Hence putting them on this list. What, you thought it was for you? Worm Ouroboros on Thee Facebooks, Profound Lore Records.
131. The Wounded Kings, Visions in Bone
Always fascinating, always changing, UK progressive doomers The Wounded Kings have managed to deliver high-quality material seemingly no matter who is in the lineup. For the forthcoming Visions in Bone, founding guitarist Steve Mills reunites with former/founding vocalist George Birch, who hasn’t been in the band since their 2010 second album, The Shadow over Atlantis (review here). Haven’t seen an official release date yet, but they’re touring in March to support the record, so one might reason a Spring arrival. Not saying I’ve heard it, but the record kills. The Wounded Kings on Thee Facebooks, Candlelight Records.
132. Wretch, TBA
By the last update, The Gates of Slumber offshoot Wretch were starting to record their debut album in December. I don’t know whether that was a long-term process or a couple days in and out of the studio, but I’m betting that at some point in 2016 we’ll find out. Having had the opportunity to see the Indianapolis trio last fall at Vultures of Volume II (review here), I’m glad to report that the ultra-downer vibes that pervaded The Gates of Slumber’s final album, 2011’s The Wretch (review here), have found a new home and that frontman Karl Simon seemed as soulfully, Sabbathly miserable as ever. Wretch on Thee Facebooks.
133. Yawning Man, Live at Maximum Fest
The last couple years of these lists have featured Yawning Man, more specifically the perpetually-in-the-making next studio offering, Gravity is Good for You, but as that may or may not get out this year, it seemed fair to include them for the Go Down Records live outing, Live at Maximum Fest anyway. Put up for preorder in Nov., it was recorded back in 2013 and features the founding lineup of guitarist Gary Arce, bassist Mario Lalli and drummer Alfredo Hernandez; an allstar roster of desert rockers if ever there was one. Yawning Man on Thee Facebooks, Go Down Records.
134. Year of the Cobra, TBA
Somehow, I think it probably won’t be out until later in the year, but if you caught onto Seattle duo Year of the Cobra‘s 2015 EP, The Black Sun (review here) when it was released by Devil’s Child or DHU Records, then you’re probably already hip to the fact that the follow-up LP will be released by STB Records and is set to be recorded by a certain legendary West Coast producer of heavy who used to be based in the Bay Area but has since set up shop in Portland, Oregon. Not naming names or anything, but as you already know, it should rule. Year of the Cobra on Thee Facebooks, STB Records.
135. Young Hunter, TBA
I have been dying to hear the next full-length from Portland-by-way-of-Arizona mood rockers Young Hunter since long before I hosted the premiere of the track “Nothing Shakes the Void” (posted here) back in Oct., and I’m going to continue to be dying to hear it until I actually do, so there. Very, very much looking forward to it, hoping the stars align and whatever else needs to happen happens so it can get out in the early part of the year. We’ll see how it pans out, but last I heard they beat their crowdfunding goal to press it, so something should show up from that. Not soon enough, in any case. Young Hunter on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
136. Zaum, TBA
The mystical, Eastern-influenced doom trafficked longform by Canadian outfit Zaum has offered immersive vibes across the band’s debut LP, 2014’s Oracles (review here), and their 2015 split with Shooting Guns (review here) and that’s enough to make me look forward to their second album without reservations. The New Brunswick duo started out with a firm idea of what they wanted their sound to do, and I’m hoping they continue to follow that vision where it takes them on the next offering. Summer release expected. Zaum on Thee Facebooks, I Hate Records.
137. Zun, Burial Sunrise
First made public three years ago via the track “Come Through the Water” (posted here), which will also appear on the album, Zun began as a collaboration between guitarist Gary Arce of Yawning Man and vocalist Sera Timms of Ides of Gemini, the album Burial Sunrise also brings in John Garcia as a lead vocal contributor, Mario Lalli, Harper Hug and a host of others (detailed here) for an atmosphere of subdued desert rock that’s unmatched in recent memory, in the desert or out of it. I mean that. This one is essential. Out March 25. Zun on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.
What’s that you say, 137 releases isn’t enough? You want more? Okay.
Well, I’m pretty sure I just put up news about a new album from Iron Man vocalist Dee Calhoun due in Spring. That’s one. And fucking King Buffalo. Their record will be out not at all soon enough.
And while you’re hawkishly keeping an eye out for the stuff listed above, why not also watch for word from Bongzilla, whose reunion is now well underway, as well as The Body, who have a new collaborative release with Full of Hell coming out, Ice Dragon, who spent the better part of last year curiously silent, and All Them Witches, who probably won’t have a new LP out but are always putting together singles, jams and so on for those aching for a digital fix?
There is a “slim but real” chance of a new Clamfight record in the fall. I’ve heard murmurings indicating Elder are working on a follow-up to 2015’s glorious Lore, and since Baby Woodrose are playing Freak Valley, is it possible they could blow our minds with a new album as well? Conny Ochs has a new one on Exile on Mainstream, Mount Desert could easily follow-up their 2015 two-songer that made such a splash, and EYE — oh EYE! — I’ve been waiting for their new one since last year, so hopes are high it’s out soon. And I didn’t include them because the album already came out in Europe, but The Shrine make their Century Media debut with Rare Breed this week in North America.
Other names to watch for in no particular order or likelihood: Argus, Serpent Throne, Them Bulls, War Drum, Black Lung, Worshipper, The Exploding Eyes Orchestra, 3rd Eye Experience, Switchblade Jesus, Seedy Jeezus, Horsehunter, Bright Curse, It’s Not Night: It’s Space, Black Moon Circle, Bison Machine, Fogg, Electric Moon, Arc of Ascent, Beastwars, Thera Roya, Svartanatt (late Spring), Red Wizard (on STB), and Ripple Music‘s second chapter of The Second Coming of Heavy split series with Supervoid and Red Desert.
Still not enough? Check back soon. Just in the time I was putting this list together, I got emails about new releases from Nicklas Sørensen of Papir, Mr. Bison, Instant Boner, Duckhunters, Lord Summerisle and Sonic Mass — and others. Point is there’s always more to come.
Posted in Features on December 22nd, 2015 by JJ Koczan
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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
It felt so good to put on Death Hawks‘ Sun 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 McLeod, Allan 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.
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
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.
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.
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.
Tombstones, Vargariis – 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, Goya, Sun and Sail Club, Deville, Sacri Monti, Dirty Streets, Ufomammut, Wo Fat‘s live album, Mirror Queen, Pentagram, Torche, Sumac, Garden of Worm, Black Rainbows, Holy Serpent, Minsk, Baron, Weedpecker, Electric Moon, Fuzz, Bell Witch, Windhand, Niche, We Lost the Sea, Seremonia, Sunder, Domovoyd, The Heavy Eyes, Demon Head, Fogg, Stars that Move, Enslaved, Ruby 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.
Posted in Reviews on March 25th, 2015 by JJ Koczan
In the world of Ice Dragon, six months between releases is kind of a long time. Not their longest stretch, I don’t think, but for the band who issued two full-lengths last August and September about two weeks apart — and who might put out another at a moment’s notice — it’s a notable span of time. And more than their prolific level of output, the growth of their aesthetic range over the last eight years since they released their 2008 self-titled debut (discussed here) has been even more impressive than their ability to self-record and release albums with little more ceremony than making a Bandcamp post public. Recent outings like the Aug./Sept. pair, Seeds from a Dying Garden (review here) and Loaf of Head (review here) have delved into psychedelic serenity and weirdo lysergic rock with equal abandon, the band seeming at times to follow a conceptual path sound-wise if not in narrative terms, but then also pushing against that impulse when their whim takes them elsewhere, as on the brash opening salvo of Loaf of Head. Their latest work, a half-hour full-length dubbed A Beacon on the Barrow, seems interested in bringing together these impulses with a sensibility of riffing more akin to the medieval, cavernous doom they conjured across records like 2010’s The Burl, the Earth, the Aether and 2011’s The Sorrowful Sun (both reviews here), but one of the five-track outing’s great strengths is that it keeps the anything-goes unhinged vibe of their later work, so that as A Beacon on the Barrow progresses, the material itself ranges further sonically and stylistically. Recorded, as ever, at Ron’s Wrecker Service, and with the (presumed) lineup of vocalist/drummer Ron Rochondo, guitarist/bassist Carter, bassist/guitarist Joe and drummer Brad, Ice Dragon continue one of the underground’s most intriguing progressions, rife with classic swagger and a truly open creative feel. They continue to bend genre to their will better than most of the few who actually try.
And unlike much of their other material — an exception perhaps in 2013’s Born a Heavy Morning (review here) — this record does follow a narrative course. Or at least it’s easy to put one to the consecutive titles “The Rider,” “The Journey,” “The Arrival,” “The Light” and “The Return,” and imagine that the songs are shifting according to where the story goes. Lyrics, which are included in the post with the album, are vague enough to be taken as chapters or not, but as the uptempo riffing and stonerly vibe of “The Rider” launched A Beacon on the Barrow, there’s little doubt Ice Dragon have movement in mind. While later cuts like “The Arrival” and “The Light” venture pretty far into doom, and even the chorus of “The Rider” itself has a slowdown, the momentum given to the album by its first cut, with its unabashed hook, ethereal vocal layering and near-Songs for the Deaf-style rush, proves invaluable as the story continues to play out. “The Rider” cuts its pace for a second-half doom weirdout, but the effect is accomplished anyway. “The Journey,” sure enough, is a march. Or at least a stomp. Or a slog. Big drums slam hard behind a winding riff, and a careening current of noise comes to the fore in the midsection, the progression resuming in the raw-throated verse, the song ending with the riff repeated topped by rhythmic screams. It seems for a minute there like “The Journey” isn’t going well, but inevitably it leads to the centerpiece of the album, “The Arrival.” Also the longest cut at 8:18, “The Arrival” is complex in its structure, early frenetic vibing topped by grandiose spoken word after a full-thrust verse leading to a stop, long pick-slide and swaggering chorus, cycling back through, and halting, after five minutes in, for a longer break before the chorus kicks back in, that leading to a stop of its own and some flourish of amp noise and drone that would seem to act as a signal for the oddities to come in “The Light” and “The Return.”
“The Light” immediately constructs a wall of megafuzz under which the vocals are buried, an echoing, indecipherable drawl that moves atop the slower verse, which gives way to a tense bridge that, later in the track, takes hold following a feedback-soaked dirge of psychedelic doom, a riff emerging but the shape of the song overall more amorphous than would allow for calling it a central figure. Briefly, they cut to just an intake of breath, then that original bridge line returns, this time met by obscure incantations that devolve into screams as the tension continues to build. It finally comes to a head and crashes out, the last 40 seconds or so of the song’s 6:47 given over to quiet amp hum that one almost expects to surge again at any time. With “The Return” still to go, it’s already been a considerable voyage. A Beacon on the Barrow‘s seven-minute closer is hauntingly beautiful; an experiment in subtle melodicism, drone-riffing and psychedelia gone right. “The Return” holds onto the rawness that has been pervasive all along and is by now a signature element in Ice Dragon‘s aesthetic, but its spaciousness and fluidity bring something new to the table for them as well. They’ve done plenty of droning in their time, but the way the guitar layers interlace across “The Return,” the way its instrumental course ebbs and flows, makes it something special. The band never fails to offer a twist of some forward-thinking sort or another, and as much as A Beacon on the Barrow updates some of their doomed impulses in cuts like “The Journey” and “The Rider,” it pushes ahead with “The Return” with a boldness as much Ice Dragon‘s own as the roughness of their production, ending their latest album with a humming resonance that gently gives way to silence. Those who’ve followed their growth in the last several years will know that when it comes to their material, anything can happen at any time, but A Beacon on the Barrow isn’t without its moments of surprise, and whether a listener is hearing Ice Dragon for the first time or the 30th, there’s as much weight in the creativity of these tracks as there is in the tones.
Posted in Features on January 21st, 2015 by JJ Koczan
This is the longest list of anything I’ve ever done, and it might be the longest I ever do. The truth is, when I started keeping track of things coming out in 2015, back around October/November, I had no idea what I was getting into. More and more names just kept getting added to the list, and between solid release dates, bands entering the studio, writing sessions underway and the usual round of vague “they’re due”-type speculation, it kept growing. Even now, I’m quite sure that by the time I’m finished with this, I’ll add something else, and 90 will become 91, and then someone will point out something glaring I forgot and 91 will become 92, and so on.
I don’t think I could reasonably expect anyone to read 90 complete entries, so I’ve broken it down somewhat. There are 52 weeks in a year, so my thinking is that if you buy one record per week, I’ve got recommendations to carry through till December (with the acknowledgement that we’re already a couple weeks into 2015) and then more beyond that. Even asking you to skim 52 entries is a lot, but hell, we’ve got 12 months until 2016, so there’s plenty of time. We’ll do 52 entries and then list the others, both alphabetically.
Thank you in advance for reading.
1. Acid King, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere
If this was my year-end list instead of my year-start list, Acid King‘s Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere would be my album of the year. Best album of 2015 about 20 days into it? Maybe. The Oakland trio’s first outing in nearly a decade is a joy of languid riffing and heavy spaceout, songs like “Coming down from Outer Space” and “Center of Everywhere” reminding of just what it is we’ve been missing about Acid King all these years. They’ve continued to play live all that time, of course, and Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere, which is due April 14 on Svart, plainly demonstrates that they’ve lost none of the potency for years absent from studio work. More to come. Acid King on Thee Facebooks, Svart Records.
2. All Them Witches, TBA
The Nashville four-piece blew up following the 2013 digital release of their second album, Lightning at the Door, which saw a physical pressing last year (review here), and with a growing public at their heels and a salivating underground press anxious to hear what they come up with next, All Them Witches hit the studio this month to put together their third full-length. They’re on tour in Feb., and it seems reasonable to expect they’ll be trying out new material on the road, but as free-flowing as Lightning at the Door was, it’s hard not to consider the follow-up one of 2015’s most anticipated records, whenever it arrives and whatever shape(s) it takes. All Them Witches on Thee Facebooks, official website.
3. Anthroprophh, U.F.O.
Guitarist/vocalist PaulAllen, formerlyof TheHeads,teamed up with Jesse Webb and Gareth Turner of the duo Big Naturals as his rhythm section for 2014’s Outside the Circle (review here), and for his new release under the Anthroprophh moniker for Cardinal Fuzz, Allen centers around different U.F.O. abduction reports from the UK between 1954 and 1978, each of the eight tracks taking its name from the date and location of a reported incident. Sound fucking awesome? Yeah, I agree. Expect raw psychedelic experimentation, heavy swing and interpretive instrumentalism galore on the two-sided release when it gets declassified on Feb. 2, pressed in an edition of 500 copies. Anthroprophh on Thee Facebooks, Cardinal Fuzz.
4. Arenna, TBA
Spanish heavy psych outfit Arenna will release the follow-up to their 2011 Nasoni Records debut, Beats of Olarizu (review here), and they just this week posted the 10-minute opener “Butes” from their sophomore outing (listen here). The first album earned them a hearty following, and it’s been four years since it came out, but somehow I doubt Arenna will have much trouble picking up where they left off in their wide-open, jam-heavy sound. They mark a decade together in 2015, and they seem to just be getting started, so I’m particularly interested to learn how the European heavy underground takes to their second LP, which is due to be mastered next month and released sometime thereafter. Arenna on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
5. The Atomic Bitchwax, Gravitron
New Bitchwax? Sold. The stalwart New Jersey three-piece — now featuring two members of Monster Magnet — will release Gravitron on April 21 via Tee Pee Records, just in time to make a stop a few days later at Desertfest London 2015. They toured Europe last summer as well, and I think the fact that they’ll be over that way when they put Gravitron out speaks volumes to their priorities at this point, but who can blame them? Perpetually underappreciated in the US, they’ll follow-up 2011’s The Local Fuzz (review here) in grand form at Desertfest (they play Berlin as well), finally getting their due even if they have to get on a plane to get it. The Atomic Bitchwax on Thee Facebooks, Tee Pee Records.
6. Black Cobra, TBA
Hints were dropped back in November that raging two-piece Black Cobra were working on material for a new album. Whenever it arrives, this year or next, it will be their sixth and first since 2011’s Invernal (review here), which I don’t think I’m alone in counting as their finest moment to-date. They’ll also be at Desertfest for a return appearance, and wherever they go, devastation follows. They posted this week that their tour van has passed the 300,000-mile mark, which is emblematic of the workout they’ve given it over the last decade-plus, and I’d expect no slowdown, tempo or itinerary-wise, from them in 2015, regular oil changes notwithstanding. Black Cobra on Thee Facebooks, Southern Lord Recordings.
7. Black Rainbows, Hawkdope
There are 90-someodd bands included in this feature, all told. Might be over 100. I’m not sure anybody beats Italian trio Black Rainbows in the album-title department, however. Hawkdope, man. Hard to mess with that. Guitarist/vocalist Gabriele Fiori continues to keep his finger on the pulse of European heavy rock with his Heavy Psych Sounds imprint, and while I haven’t heard Hawkdope yet, it seems likely they’ll continue the push toward heavy psychedelia that 2013’s Holy Moon EP (discussed here) and their inclusions in last year’s four-way split (review here) spoke of, but of course, they can always throw down some top notch fuzz riffing as well. Black Rainbows on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
8. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth
Six years after the arrival of their demo (review here), Brothers of the Sonic Cloth will make their self-titled debut through Neurot Recordings on Feb. 17. Immediately notable for being the brainchild of guitarist/vocalist Tad Doyle (ex-TAD), bassist Peggy “Pegadeth” Doyle and drummer Dave French, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth pushes plodding heavy into seething aggression with a lumber only made more potent by Billy Anderson‘s production. It’s been a while in the making, true, but the album’s execution leaves no room for argument in its lung-deflating tonal density. Justifies the wait and then some. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth on Thee Facebooks, Neurot Recordings.
9. Chiefs, Tomorrow’s Over
With vinyl to follow in May on Battleground Records, Arizona/SoCal heavy rockers Chiefs will release their debut LP, Tomorrow’s Over, via Roosevelt Row on Feb. 24. Its striking cover art by David Paul Seymour offers immediate intrigue, as did Chiefs‘ inclusion on their 2014 split 7″ with Fuzz Evil (streamed here). The song from that, “Stone Bull,” won’t be featured on the album, but all four cuts from Chiefs‘ 2013 Buffalo Roam demo will, which should give you some indication as to how much the trio got it right the first time around. The title-track of the demo opens, and the album takes its name from one of the demo tracks as well, so it all ties together. Chiefs on Thee Facebooks, Battleground Records, Roosevelt Row Records.
10. Clutch, TBA
Clutch‘s Earth Rocker (review here) was the undisputed high point of 2013, and the long-running Maryland four-piece have returned to the Machine Shop studio (now located in Texas) to record the follow-up to it. They’ve been playing new material live for a while now, as they’ll do, and while they always manage to change things up from album to album, the fact that they’ve going back to work with Machine again makes in plain that they’re where they want to be at this point sound-wise. As if there was ever any doubt. Their forever-tour will continue, but it’s good to know they’re taking a little break from the road to put together another slab for their always-expanding, always-frothing fanbase. Clutch on Thee Facebooks, Weathermaker Music.
11. Conan, TBA
I’m not sure if it will be out before the end of 2015, but whenever it arrives, the next Conan should be a much different affair than we’ve yet heard from the UK thunderplodders, whose 2014 Napalm Records debut, Blood Eagle (review here), further established their dominance among the heaviest bands in doom. Since that album hit, guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis has traded out two-thirds of the trio, bringing in producer Chris Fielding on bass/vocals and new drummer Rich Lewis. Davis‘ riffs have always been at the core of what makes Conan the beast they are, so I wouldn’t expect much fixing of what isn’t broken, but don’t be surprised if some different personalities emerge in Fielding and Lewis as well. Conan on Thee Facebooks, Conan’s webstore.
12. Colour Haze, To the Highest Gods We Know
Yeah, I’m sneaking this one in here. Sorry, but frankly, I think Colour Haze deserve more than a toss-it-out-there mid-December album release date, so instead of the CD release, which was last month, I’m choosing to think of the impending Feb./March vinyl issue as the official one for To the Highest Gods We Know (review here), which is both a fascinating and fitting answer to Colour Haze‘s 2012 outing, She Said (review here). Feels strange so early in the year to start calling out end-of-year highlights, but between this and Acid King, I feel like two of my top five are already set in stone, and that’s a pretty good start to any year. Colour Haze are one of the most important heavy rock bands of their generation, and they continue to expand their form and the genre as a whole. Colour Haze’s website, Elektrohasch Schallplatten.
13. Corrections House, TBA
Their totalitarian fetishizing well intact, the it’s-a-supergroup-but-don’t-call-it-a-supergroup Corrections House announced back in November that they’d have a sophomore effort out this year to follow their 2013 debut, Last City Zero. The returning lineup of guitarist Scott Kelly (Neurosis), vocalist Mike Williams (Eyehategod), saxophonist Bruce Lamont (Yakuza) and keyboardist/programmer Sanford Parker (Buried at Sea, etc.) is enough to warrant attention in itself, and while their industrial tinged output isn’t really my thing sound-wise, they’re not an assemblage easily ignored. Hopefully a recently canceled round of tour dates doesn’t derail the new release plams. Corrections House on Thee Facebooks, at Neurot Recordings.
14. Corsair, One Eyed Horse
Virginian dual-guitar classic heavy rock/metallers Corsair are now three years removed from their Shadow Kingdom Records self-titled debut (review here), and their new album, One Eyed Horse, arrives with a striking-almost-disturbing cover and a refined progressive edge. Their melodic sensibility has never been in question, and guitarists Marie Landragin and Paul Sebring, bassist Jordan Brunk (who, like the guitarists, contributes vocals) and drummer Michael Taylor will look to expand their reach even further with the eight new vinyl-ready tracks. One looks forward to the album and hopes for a tour in equal measure. Corsair’s website, Shadow Kingdom Records.
15. Crypt Sermon, Out of the Garden
Classic doom bleeds through the cover of Philly five-piece Crypt Sermon‘s debut full-length, Out of the Garden. Set to release Feb. 24 on Dark Descent Records, I’d expect Out of the Garden to be an early highlight for the year in doom despite being Crypt Sermon‘s first outing. Their Demo MMXIII (review here) found them well schooled in the tenets of the downtrodden, and while the record may end up a sleeper, it’s one that no doubt will find its way to the right ears; namely those of the old school doomers tired of psychedelic idolatry, who want something dark, beaten and grueling without concern for genre-melding or novelty. So, doom on. Crypt Sermon on Thee Facebooks, Dark Descent Records.
16. Ecstatic Vision, TBA
Also based in Philadelphia, heavy psych troupe Ecstatic Vision signed to Relapse on the strength of a demo and an apparent willingness to hit the road — they’ll do so this spring alongside YOB and Enslaved — and as just about any band who’s ever sent that label a rough recording will likely tell you, that’s no small feat. I was fortunate enough to catch them in Brooklyn last month (opening for YOB, as it happened), and the appeal was easy to see in their space rock jamming, lighting effects and propensity for deceptively quick rhythmic turns. A debut offering is reportedly due this year, and as it will come after they spend a month on the road, I expect it will be something to behold. Ecstatic Vision on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.
17. Elder, Lore
What to say about Elder? They’re a bright spot in the hope for the next generation of heavy rock, but they were that already. What really distinguishes their third album, Lore, is the fiercely progressive bent of the tracks, songs like “Compendium” (streamed here) taking the hypnotic rhythms of 2012’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here) and refining what Elder — the trio of guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto — do with a newfound clarity of purpose and precision execution. They make well-thought-out songs sound exciting front to back, and if you’ve ever dug anything they’ve done, you’re going to shit a brick when you hear the title-track of Lore. Elder on Thee Facebooks, Armageddon Shop, Stickman Records.
18. Enslaved, In Times
I make no bones or apologies about being an Enslaved fan. The Norwegian progressive black metallers strip down their presentation with In Times, the follow-up to 2012’s Riitiir (review here), solidifying some aspects of their approach while nodding at the brutality of yore in a still-somehow-forward-thinking manner. They never fail to deliver, and they’ve long since hit a stride where they can deliver album after album and come up with ways to advance their sound each time out. Recording themselves has only made them bolder over their last couple records, and In Times benefits from this in its brought-to-fruition experiments as well. It would take a lot for these guys to do wrong in my eyes. Enslaved on Thee Facebooks, Nuclear Blast Records.
19. Eye, TBA
They’re the Midwest’s inadvertent answer to the West Coast’s Moog-prog vibing, and Ohio’s Eye want for nothing in comparison to any of their coastal contemporaries. The photo above was taken recently in the studio — I’ll just assume the room is actually that color when they record and that that is not, in fact, an Instagram filter — tracking their third record and follow-up to 2013’s brilliant-yes-brilliant Second Sight (review here), which rightfully garnered attention far and wide. No release date yet for the new one from what I’ve seen, but the album is reportedly done, so hopefully it won’t be too long before it sees release, most likely on vinyl since that seems to be where the band’s heart lies. Eye on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
20. Freedom Hawk, TBA
After an appearance last year at Roadburn and confirmation of a return trip to Europe this spring for Freak Valley in Germany, Virginia’s Freedom Hawk would seem to have considerably expanded their reach. Last year saw them lose guitarist Matt Cave and transition from a four-piece to a trio, and they were in the studio in the fall to record their second album for Small Stone behind their 2011 label debut, Holding On (review here), and while I’m not sure if it’s finished or if it will be out in time for the band’s sojourn abroad, one assumes it will be out sooner or later. Their late-2013 Live at the Jewish Mother download makes a decent stopgap if you’ve got a hankering, but they’re due for a new one for sure. Freedom Hawk on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.
21. Glowsun, Glowsun
In a recent discussion about finally picking up Glowsun‘s 2012 outing, Eternal Season, I said I wasn’t going to miss their next record, so I guess you could call this me holding myself to that task. The French heavy psych outfit have a new one, apparently self-titled — though of course I could be wrong; I’m just going by the album art — due out for release this Spring. I haven’t seen an official date from Napalm for when it’s due, but it’s not one I’m going to let slip by one way or another as I did for far too long with Eternal Season. Some mistakes don’t bear repeating, and Glowsun‘s output is of a quality that demands immediacy. At least now I know it. Ha. Glowsun on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
22. Goatsnake, TBA
Rumors abound about a new Goatsnake. They’re in the studio, this is done, that isn’t done, they’re over here, over there. They’re headlining Freak Valley and playing Psycho California, and they headlined Southwest Terror Fest III last fall, but the last official word I saw about a new album — it would be their first since their 2004 Trampled Under Hoof EP — was last Sept., when word came down that it was happening at all and that Southern Lord would put it out. A timetable on when would be convenient, but maybe that’s asking too much and I should be grateful it’s even being discussed. They remain on my bucket list of bands to see before I die. One of these days I’ll get there. Southern Lord Recordings, Southern Lord on Thee Facebooks.
23. Gozu, TBA
Probably the biggest change for Boston’s Gozu since the 2013 release of their second album for Small Stone, The Fury of a Patient Man (review here), is the solidification of their lineup. As they enter into the process for their third Small Stone outing, they’ll do so with bassist Joe Grotto and drummer Mike Hubbard. Grotto played on part of Fury, but Hubbard (ex-Warhorse) is a new presence entirely in the band. They’ve also experimented with a third guitarist, so they might not be so solidified, but they’ve got a monster of a core four-piece to work with in Grotto, Hubbard, guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney and guitarist Doug Sherman, and they seem poised to get the most out of the chemistry they’ve busted their collective ass to develop. Gozu on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.
24. High on Fire, TBA
I feel like a new High on Fire record isn’t even just an event for heavy rock at this point but for metal as a whole. The Matt Pike-fronted three-piece hit the studio this month (this week?) after a quick tour up the East Coast, returning to Massachusetts to work with Converge‘s Kurt Ballou at his Godcity Studios, where they also busted out 2012’s De Vermis Mysteriis (review here). For anyone who heard that record, it should be plain why they’d want to work with Ballou again — even enough to go to Massachusetts in January — and whenever their next one shows up, no doubt it will do so as one of 2015’s most anticipated offerings. I’m not sure what to expect other than “heavy,” but that’s enough to go on for now. High on Fire on Thee Facebooks, eOne Metal.
25. Hollow Leg, TBA
My interest was piqued early last year when Floridian sludgers Hollow Leg issued their God-Eater single and spoke of it as the beginning of a change in direction. The change? More melody, a less outright aggressive style, more of an emphasis on thickness rather than rawness. As a starting point, the song “God-Eater” seemed to bode well, and I’m hoping in 2015 that Hollow Leg follow through at least partially on its promise. Not that the viciousness of 2013’s second LP, Abysmal (review here), left me particularly wanting, just that they seemed to be following a fulfilling new-ish path, and I thought the sound was one worth pursuing. They’ve said their third will be out this year, so I’ll take it. Hollow Leg on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
26. Horsehunter, Caged in Flesh
Australian four-piece Horsehunter made an impression a few weeks back with the 16-minute “Stoned to Death,” the opening track from their Magnetic Eye Records debut LP, Caged in Flesh, and it stands to reason why. Crushing tones, brutal vibes and hints of psychedelic wash abounded on what was a gripping sample of the album, which the band had recorded, scapped because it wasn’t heavy enough and then recorded again. There are four songs on Caged in Flesh, so “Stoned to Death” is literally just the beginning for Horsehunter, whose foreboding atmospherics come across no less punishing than their most weighted of tones. Horsehunter on Thee Facebooks, Magnetic Eye Records.
27. Kind, TBA
I’ve been lucky enough to see Boston four-piece Kind play twice, the lineup of vocalist Craig Riggs (also Roadsaw), guitarist Darryl Shepard (also Black Pyramid, Blackwolfgoat, etc.), bassist Tom Corino (also Rozamov) and drummer Matt Couto (also Elder) taking shape visibly from one show to the next. Their debut full-length is in progress now at the Riggs-owned Mad Oak Studios in Allston, and while I don’t think I can say yet what label it’s coming out on (it’s not Small Stone), the latest word I’ve gotten is that a summer release is booked. Definitely interested to hear how the jams I’ve seen live translate to a studio recording, and how Corino‘s tone comes through Mad Oak‘s board. Kind on Thee Facebooks, on Soundcloud.
28. Kings Destroy, Kings Destroy
So, you’d think the pic of Kings Destroy bassist Aaron Bumpus above is from some recent studio shot while they’re tracking their third album, right? Nope. The self-titled’s been in the can for months. It’s out in April on War Crime Recordings. What Kings Destroy are doing now is working on album number four, and I bet before it comes out, they’ll be on number five. Fiercely creative. I’ve had the KD record for I don’t know how long at this point, and it’s the best thing they’ve done yet. I can’t even pretend to feign impartiality after being asked to tour with them twice last year — a fucking blessing both times — but it’s the closest they’ve come to their live sound so far and that progress suits them remarkably well. Kings Destroy on Thee Facebooks, War Crime Recordings.
29. Lamprey, TBA
The two-bass Portland trio Lamprey‘s recent stop-motion video for “Iron Awake” served due notice of their impending album, as yet untitled, and while it’s the shortest track on there by a considerable margin, it nonetheless represents the big-crash, big-impact severity of the outing as a whole. Not sure through what label it will surface if one at all or on what media it will be pressed — the word burning above, which I hope is the album cover, may or may not be — but the full-length seems poised to establish them as a force after 2012’s The Burden of Beasts EP (review here) brought their sometimes-plodding, sometimes-sprinting heavy rock into focus. Also, one of the songs is called “Lament of the Deathworm,” and that just rules. Lamprey on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
30. Lord Dying, Poisoned Altars
The hard-touring Portlanders teamed up with Dark Castle drummer Rob Shaffer for their sophomore outing for Relapse Records, Poisoned Altars (review here), and though he’s since out of the band, his presence bolsters the songs in Lord Dying‘s blend of High on Fire-style thrash and Crowbar-loyal sludge. A pervasive sense of simplicity helps the material achieve maximum force, but the hard-won nature of Lord Dying‘s cohesion isn’t to be understated or underappreciated — they did about 18 months of touring in support of their first effort, Summon the Faithless. At least they know their time wasn’t misspent. Seems likely they’ll continue to pound the pavement throughout 2015, so keep an eye open. Lord Dying on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.
31. Magic Circle, TBA
Rest assured, I’ve seen zero confirmation that a new Magic Circle album is under way. There’s been no word from the by-now-notoriously secretive Massachusetts-based band or their label, Armageddon Shop, on the subject of a follow-up to their 2013 self-titled debut (review here). This is rampant speculation. Their first 7″ was recently re-pressed, though, so there’s activity in their camp one way or another. They also made their way out to Seattle in October to open for Satan, which only emphasizes the fact that you never really know when they’re going to show up until they do. Ditto that their next album, I suppose. Hopefully this year it happens. Armageddom Shop website, on Thee Facebooks.
32. The Midnight Ghost Train, Cold was the Ground
Riotous Southern heavy rockers The Midnight Ghost Train have outdone themselves with their Napalm Records debut, Cold was the Ground, taking the rager blues of 2012’s Buffalo (review here) to new heights of manic push. After several years of steady touring, the Kansas-based trio of guitarist/vocalist Steve Moss, drummer Brandon Burghart and bassist Mike Boyne are an explosive live act, and as the recent video premiere for “Gladstone” showcased, their third album reaps the rewards of their labors. It’s due to release March 10 in North America, but I really don’t need to note the date, because you’ll hear it coming a mile away like the freight train that it is. The Midnight Ghost Train on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
33. Minsk, TBA
A new Minsk full-length is an utterly fascinating thought. Sorry if that sounds cold or overly clinical, but it’s true. Consider that it’s been six years since the Chicago post-metallers last released an album. That record, 2009’s With Echoes in the Movement of Stone (review here), hit at what was arguably the pinnacle of post-metal’s stylistic movement, the waters having since receded in no small part because Minsk wasn’t around to push forward creatively. Now, with slots booked at Roadburn and Desertfest, they’ll make a return to the studio as well, and I have absolutely zero idea of what to expect from them. A partially-revamped, Sanford Parker-less lineup only adds further intrigue. Minsk on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
34. Mondo Drag, Mondo Drag
This is one of I think two or three releases on this list that’s already out. The self-titled Mondo Drag (review here) nonetheless warrants inclusion for its heavy psych boogie concoctions and natural-toned spirit, not full-on retro but still well-indebted to the heavy ’70s in its use of organ and guitar and the swing of its rhythm section. That rhythm section? Zack Anderson and Cory Berry, who, fresh out of Radio Moscow, stepped in to record with fellow Iowans Mondo Drag in 2012 before founding Blues Pills. A shortlived moment in Mondo Drag‘s history, perhaps, but they got a killer record out of it, and while the recordings are already three years old, they’re well worth the time to appreciate. Mondo Drag on Thee Facebooks, Bilocation Records.
35. Monolord, Vaenir
Swedish trio Monolord won over hearts and minds bigtime with their 2014 RidingEasy Records debut, Empress Rising, earning a spot on the 2014 Readers Poll right between Eyehategod and Mastodon. That’s rather significant company to keep — and all the more so for a band’s first record — and with Vaenir, we’ll get to hear how the intervening year has seen them progress. They’ve already proven a favorite among the converted, and they’ll tour in Feb./March with Salem’s Pot ahead of an appearance at Roadburn prior to Vaenir‘s April 28 arrival date, so it looks like they’ll keep their momentum moving forward through the release and most likely beyond. Monolord on Thee Facebooks, RidingEasy Records.
36. Neurosis, TBA
Okay. I don’t know that Neurosis‘ next album will be out in 2015. It’s just not a thing I know. What I know is that the ultra-seminal five-piece are getting together to write in Feb., and that they’re a no-bullshit band when it comes to writing and recording, so the timing works that, if they make new songs happen this winter, their record would probably be ready for release sometime in the summer or early fall. That’s what I’m going on. It might be that they write half the album now and half in 2016, but from what I hear they’re planning on doing some more significant touring this year, so it would stand to reason they’d want to do it with a follow-up to 2012’s Honor Found in Decay (review here) under their collective belt. We’ll see what we get. Neurosis on Thee Facebooks, Neurot Recordings.
37. Pentagram, TBA
I saw Pentagram play 20 shows last year. Believe me when I say the pairing of frontman Bobby Liebling and guitarist Victor Griffin has never seemed stronger musically, and with bassist Greg Turley and drummer Sean Saley, Pentagram head into the making of their next album firing on all proverbial cylinders. Metal Blade, who also issued their 2011 comeback album, Last Rites (review here), seems the likely outlet for the yet-untitled offering, which the band will herald with a headlining performance at Psycho California alongside Sleep and Cult of Luna on May 15-17, and which will no doubt dig deep into Pentagram‘s long history of doom for a trove of classic-style riffs. Pentagram on Thee Facebooks, Metal Blade Records.
38. Ruby the Hatchet, Valley of the Snake
A not-so-subtle Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats influence permeates Ruby the Hatchet‘s Tee Pee Records debut, Valley of the Snake, which is something the Philly-based band seems to acknowledge willfully on “Vast Acid,” frontwoman Jillian Taylor crooning “I’ll cut you down” toward the end of the song in a call-out of one of the UK outfit’s most resonant hooks. Otherwise, the organ-laced five-piece get down on more psychedelic vibes, though the heavy ’70s swing in the drums could be taken as another common factor, if you really wanted to stretch it. Either way, a laid back, less murderous atmosphere persists, and that suits me just fine. Out Feb. 24. Bonus points for the gorgeous Adam Burke cover art. Ruby the Hatchet on Thee Facebooks, Tee Pee Records.
39. Saturnalia Temple, To the Other
The entire meaning of being a “cult” band has changed since Sweden’s Saturnalia Temple released their UR demo in 2007, but after their 2011 debut, Aion of Drakon, hit with such a low-end wash of psychedelic obscurity, I’m intrigued to hear what they’ve come up with on To the Other, the cover’s foreboding darkness, consuming swirl and bizarre patterning seeming a fit for their sonic methodology. To the Other is out April 7 on The Ajna Offensive, and features Tim Call of The Howling Wind and Aldebaran on drums alongside Saturnalia Temple guitarist/vocalist Tommie Ericksson and bassist Peter. Saturnalia Temple on Thee Facebooks, The Ajna Offensive.
40. Six Organs of Admittance, Hexadic
I’ll make no claims toward understanding the theoretical basis driving the latest outing from the Ben Chasny-helmed project Six Organs of Admittance, which in its 17-year history has gone from bedroom folk and avant electronics to the far-ranging heavy psych jamming of 2012’s Ascent (review here). Chasny, joined by members of Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound and Deerhoof on the album — which is due out Feb. 17 on Drag City — seems to have developed a compositional method based around a system involving playing cards and varying tonal intensities. No idea what the hell any of it means, but it sounds like a freakout to me, so I’m in. Six Organs of Admittance website, Drag City Records.
41. Snail, Feral
Come on, Snail. Even if Feral‘s not coming out until later in the year, you can send it to me. I won’t tell anybody if you don’t want me to. I can keep it to myself. Hell, I won’t even review it until I get word that it’s cool to do so, I just want to hear the damn thing. Alright, Snail, have it your way. I’ll just sit here and remember how awesome Terminus (review here) was when that came out in 2012, and Blood (review here) before that in 2009 back when I did snarky headlines for reviews. That’s cool. I’ve waited this long for your Small Stone debut to make its way into my ears, I guess I’ll just keep waiting until it shows up. Which it would be awfully nice if it did as soon as possible. Today works. Now works. Snail on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.
42. Sourvein, Aquatic Fanatic
At the risk of being sincere, I’ll say it warms my cold, doomed heart to know that Sourvein‘s next album is going to be released by Metal Blade Records. After trudging the Southern sludge underground for, what, 20 years?, the Cape Fear-based outfit led by T-Roy Medlin (whose lineage goes back to Buzzov*en, lest we forget their role in establishing the sound) are finally poised to get their due, and I think it’s fucking awesome. Mike Dean‘s producing the thing, and you know Sourvein are going to tour the hell out of it because that’s what they do whether they’ve got a new record or not. I’m calling it the feelgood story of the year, which is perfect since the music will most likely be utterly scathing. Sourvein on Thee Facebooks, Metal Blade Records.
43. Spidergawd, II
Just stop reading and go fucking listen to Spidergawd. Here, I did a track premiere a little bit ago for the song “Tourniquet.” It rules. Go listen to that. For the life of me I have no idea why this band’s name isn’t on the lips of every boogie-loving heavy rocker in the universe. Stickman has the new album, Spidergawd II, sold out in the special edition preorders, but there’s a regular version still available and apparently en route from the plant, and for the love of all things riffed, it’s glorious. So get on it. I implore you. And no, I don’t have any idea what’s going on with the album cover, so don’t ask. No time for questions anyway. Get listening. Spidergawd on Thee Facebooks, Stickman Records.
44. Stoned Jesus, The Harvest
Ukrainian heavy rockers Stoned Jesus posted the opening track from their third album, The Harvest, a while back on their Bandcamp page, and my goodness it does swing. They’ll make their way to the US for the first time in support of The Harvest, appearing at the Psycho California fest and hopefully elsewhere, and they do so having built up a steady following with their first two long-players, 2010’s First Communion (noted here) and 2012’s Seven Thunders Roar (review here), their most stonerly of names spread far and wide ahead of the latest offering’s early March arrival following 2013’s jams collection, The Seeds, Vol. 1. Stoned Jesus on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
45. Torche, Restarter
I haven’t heard it yet, but Torche‘s awaited Relapse Records debut, Restarter, is due out Feb. 24 and the band are kicking into gear once again to mark its coming. They’ve already announced US and European tours to carry them through June, and I don’t imagine there are many markets they’ll leave un-hit by the time they’re through. Their last album, 2012’s Harmonicraft (review here), was a solid showing of what’s come to be expected of them in terms of hooks, upbeat heaviness and melodies, but especially with the ambitious title, the new label and the energized-seeming schedule, I’m hoping that Restarter gives the band the same kind of boot to the ass they’ve been to delivering the heavy underground for the last decade. Torche on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.
46. Ufomammut, Ecate
Very, very much looking forward to hearing Ecate, the newest outing from Ufomammut and their “second” album for Neurot Recordings behind the 2012 two-parter Oro (reviews here and here). Why is kind of a silly question — new Ufomammut is its own excuse for anticipation — but truth be told, they’ve always managed to get bigger-sounding and more expansive with each LP, and after having to break their last album in half and release the two pieces months apart from each other, I’m dying to know where they go with Ecate, what shifts in their sound the last couple years — including last year, which was their 15th anniversary — have brought and where in the cosmos they might be headed now. Ufomammut on Thee Facebooks, Neurot Recordings.
47. Valkyrie, TBA
During what I guess we’ll call Valkyrie‘s original run, the Virginia two-guitar four-piece released a pair of albums, 2006’s Valkyrie and 2008’s Man of Two Visions — both of which were reissued through MeteorCity in 2010 — before guitarist Peter Adams, who founded the band with his brother, guitarist/vocalist Jake Adams, got signed to Relapse with his other group, Baroness. Now back with Earthling‘s Alan Fary on bass and drummer Warren Hawkins, they’ve got their new LP recorded with Sanford Parker and reportedly in the can for an early 2015 release, also through Relapse. They’ll no doubt be greeted as heroes when they play the Maryland Doom Fest in June, and understandably so. Valkyrie on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.
48. VA, Electric Ladyland Redux & The Best of James Marshall Hendrix
Magnetic Eye Records launched a Kickstarter campaign last fall with the ambitious aim of paying homage to Jimi Hendrix by having current heavy rock artists (Elder, Earthless, Wo Fat, Gozu and more; full list here) re-record Electric Ladyland in its entirety. The project, on track to be released this year to coincide with what would’ve been Hendrix‘s 73rd birthday in November, expanded to include a tribute best-of collection as well, and has grown in repute ahead of its actually being issued to stand as a gathering of some of the finest the underground has to offer playing some of the best rock and roll ever crafted. From the idea to the impending reality of it, there’s really no arguing with this one. Magnetic Eye Records on Thee Facebooks, Magnetic Eye webstore.
49. Wino & Conny Ochs, Freedom Conspiracy
When Scott “Wino” Weinrich entered rehab late last fall, he mentioned in a public statement several projects in the works. Spirit Caravan‘s reunion is ongoing. Saint Vitus are due for a next album, but he also noted the second release for his collaboration with German singer-songwriter Conny Ochs, Freedom Conspiracy, as being in early 2015. Particularly after the ultra-intimate, solo feel of Wino‘s 2010 acoustic debut, Adrift (review here), the first collaboration with Ochs, 2012’s Heavy Kingdom (review here), was an unexpected expansion of the form that paid sonic dividends in both the songwriting and performance of both players. A second installment should benefit from the chemistry they built on the road for the debut. Conny Ochs on Thee Facebooks, Exile on Mainstream.
50. Wizard Eye, TBA
Heard it. Slays. Actually, I’m not sure if the version of Wizard Eye‘s sophomore full-length I got was final, but the songs were killer either way, and the Philly stoner-toner three-piece will have the album out on vinyl later this year through a newcomer label that I don’t think I’m supposed to mention yet so I won’t. Either way, they’re included here because the more heads they reach the better, their blend of rolling grooves, sludged out vocals and the occasional bout of theremin is just right for the riff-loving purist in all of us. Their recent live outing, Riff Occult Live (review here) says it better than I could, so make a note to yourself to dig into that at your next convenience. It’s name-your-price on Bandcamp. Wizard Eye on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
51. Wretch, TBA
Listed as the “bastard spawn” of The Gates of Slumber, Wretch finds that band’s guitarist/vocalist Karl Simon teamed with bassist Bryce Clark and drummer Chris Gordon, the prior outfit having been laid to rest in 2013 after what seemed like an excellent return to form in 2011’s The Wretch (review here) and subsequent Scion-sponsored EP. I haven’t heard the new band yet, but some demos have made their way out thus far, and you’d have to figure it won’t be too long before Simon, Clark and Gordon make their proper debut as Wretch and start a new chapter in one of modern traditional doom’s most pivotal legacies. Wretch on Thee Facebooks, Tone Deaf Touring.
52. Zun, TBA
Early in 2013, a song called “Come through the Water” (review here) appeared as the first audio from a new project helmed by guitarist Gary Arce of Yawning Man called Zun. It was to be used as Zun‘s portion of a split with Fatso Jetson and while I’m not sure that ever materialized, it drew immediate attention for the collaboration between Arce and vocalist Sera Timms of Ides of Gemini and Black Mare, also formerly of Black Math Horseman. A significant duo for sure. With Bill Stinson (also Yawning Man) on drums, they’re set to debut later this year on Small Stone with their first album, and if Timms and Arce aren’t enough to draw your attention so late in the feature — the hazards of alphabetics — the one and only John Garcia is set for a guest appearance on the record. Dig that, desert rockers. Yawning Man on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.
Going Into Overload…
So, okay. At this point, you could literally buy a different record each week of this year and hear something that, unless there’s some disaster between the idea of the album and the actual thing itself, is most likely worth your time. That’s not too bad. But we’re not at 88 yet, so with those 52 already set, I’ve got 36 more that you might want to keep on your radar.
Some of these are solidly lined up, some are slated to be recorded, etc., so the same rule of “things don’t always work out the way they’re supposed to” applies. With that caveat:
53. Abrahma, TBA — Their second album for Small Stone is due sometime this year.
54. Bedroom Rehab Corporation, Fortunate Some — From what I hear, the Connecticut twosome have their second record in the can.
55. Black Black Black, TBA — Brooklyn outfit featuring former members of Disengage should have a sophomore album out in 2015.
56. Black Pyramid, New 7″ — The trio will release a new single to coincide with their Euro tour that includes a stop at Desertfest.
57. Bright Curse, New 10″ EP — It was mentioned the new lineup would record an EP before taking on their next album.
58. Camel of Doom, TBA — Was announced in December there’d be a new Camel of Doom along with a vinyl of their last album.
59. Cherry Choke, Raising the Waters — Should be out this month on Elektrohasch.
60. La Chinga, TBA — Vancouver group’s Small Stone debut is reportedly being mixed.
61. Curse the Son, TBA — I’m hoping this one gets out by the end of the year. It will be the CT trio’s first with their new bassist.
62. Egypt, Endless Flight — North Dakota’s favored sons will return with a new full-length this summer. Album trailer posted with a clip of the new song “Tres Madres.”
63. Enos, TBA — Not sure where they’re at with it, but worth keeping an eye out.
64. Foghound, TBA — The Maryland rockers have finished tracking their new album with Mike Dean of Corrosion of Conformity at the helm.
65. Funeral Horse, TBA — They’ve been full of surprises on their first two releases and they work quick, so I wouldn’t be surprised if something new showed up.
66. Fuzz Evil, TBA — Interested to see where they go on an LP after their split with Chiefs.
67. The Glasspack, Moon Patrol — A snippet clip has been posted that bodes well. Supposed to be done recording in the spring. They’re currently sorting out label whatnots.
68. Graves at Sea, TBA — Yeah, it’s been more than a decade since their demo, but a split and an EP into their reunion, they just signed to Relapse, so now might be the time a debut album shows up.
69. House of Broken Promises, TBA — Should be a change from the first album after swapping out bassist/vocalists. They killed live last I saw.
70. Ice Dragon, TBA — No solid word of a new release from the Boston garage doom forerunners, but they’re always up to something.
71. Killer Boogie, Detroit — The debut from this Black Rainbows offshoot is out this month on Heavy Psych Sounds.
72. Krautzone, TBA — German synth-heavy prog-jammers have hit a groove and hopefully they continue to ride it as well as they have thus far.
73. Leeches of Lore, TBA — Wishful thinking on my part? Maybe. Got my fingers crossed, though.
74. Legion of Andromeda, Iron Scorn — They’re about as extreme as extreme doom gets. Album out next month.
75. Lord Fowl, TBA — I think they’re writing. Might be 2016 before it gets here, but I’ll take it whenever it comes. They’re worth a mention either way.
76. The Machine, TBA — Been a minute since we last heard from the Dutch heavy psych jammers. They were on this list last year as well.
77. Mirror Queen, Scaffolds of the Sky — Should be out in April on Tee Pee, and that suits me just fine. Choice grooves for springtime.
78. Mountain God, Forest of the Lost — A single-song EP from the Brooklyn post-sludgers is out in Feb. with a release show booked.
79. Om, TBA — I’ve yet to see solid evidence that a new Om is in the pipeline, but no one knew that Sleep single was coming last year either.
80. Planes of Satori, Planes of Satori — Dug their single, hope the full-length follows suit.
81. Pombagira, Flesh Throne Press— Their sixth album and Svart debut is due on March 23 as per this week’s announcement.
82. Righteous Bloom, TBA — My understanding was the Beelzefuzz offshoot are writing. Would be good if they can pick up where the prior act left off.
83. Royal Thunder, Crooked Doors— The Atlanta outfit’s second album for Relapse is due out April 7.
84. Sandrider/Kinski, Split — Don’t know much about Kinski, but new Sandrider is enough to sell me on it. Out Feb. 17 on Good to Die.
85. SardoniS, TBA — Expect big lumbering riffs from this Belgian duo, always. A new album is en route, last I heard.
86. Sun Voyager, TBA — Didn’t get to hear their last tape, but a five-song EP is due out sometime soon.
87. Sweat Lodge, Talismana — Not much word since they signed to Ripple, but they said this year, so until I hear otherwise…
88. Throttlerod, TBA — A teaser clip of new riffage came out over this past weekend. New Throttlerod is never something to complain about.
89. Venomous Maximus, Firewalker — When they signed to Shadow Kingdom in November, they gave it the ol’ “sometime in 2015.”
90. Weedeater, TBA — After a whole series of reissues, their Season of Mist debut is due.
91. Wight, Love is Not Only What You Know — Alphabetically last but not at all last in my heart, Germany’s Wight have their third record in progress. More in the comments.
92. Wo Fat, Live Juju at Freak Valley— Wo Fat‘s live set from the 2014 Freak Valley fest in Germany is due to release on vinyl March 17 in an edition of 500 copies.
Others to Keep an Eye On…
Guitarist Ian Gerber of Indianapolis’ The Heavy Co. has a couple side-projects going, but new stuff from his main band doesn’t seem unlikely either. New York’s Geezer might also have something new before December in addition to Ripple‘s CD version of their Gage release, and labelmates King Buffalo are continuing their relationship with STB Records via a new spit next month, so hopefully a debut LP follows that. Let it Breathe should make their debut on the label too in 2015.
Recently streamed trio Wake up Lucid release their EP on March 31. Last I heard The Body had a new one coming too in collaboration with Thou. Sixty Watt Shaman have plans to record tracks for a split due out later this year, and they’ll reissue their first album, 1998’s Ultra Electric, as well. Look out for Godhunter‘s split/collaboration with Amigo the Devil, and the second offering from Black Moon Circle is on the way. Balam‘s full-length should also be out sometime this year, and I anxiously await news of a solid release date for the third Clamfight record.
Murmurings abound also for new ones from Graveyard, Greenleaf, The Sword, Vhöl and others.
Plus, Sleep still exist and that simple fact probably makes them worth more of a mention than this quick aside. Their 2014 single The Clarity was an offering of pure Iommic idolatry. A sign of things to come? Who the hell knows.
If you don’t have enough to go by yet, labels like Sulatron, Tee Pee, El Paraiso, Ripple, Small Stone, STB, Napalm and so on are always worth a keen watch what’s next. There’s always something.
Which I guess is the point of this whole thing. I’m sure, even as huge as this list is, someone is going to drop a comment immediately that will make me slap my forehead and wonder how I ever forgot whatever it is. It’s always something. It looks like it’s going to be a tremendous year, so if you’ll pardon me, I’ll cut out quick and get started making my way through it.
No doubt I’ll add to this post over the next couple days, so if the numbers change, don’t be surprised. In any case, if you made it this far, thanks again for reading. May your 2015 be filled with excellent music and even better times.
Posted in Reviews on October 15th, 2014 by JJ Koczan
Especially listening to them one into the next, it’s hard not to try to string a narrative between Ice Dragon‘s albums The Burl, the Earth, the Aether (2010), The Sorrowful Sun (2011) and Tome of the Future Ancients (2012). All three — plus side-project Tentacle‘s 2013 sophomore offering, Ingot Eye— have been given a sturdy jewel case CD treatment from Canada’s PRC Music, each with a four-panel liner with the original covers plus lyrics, recording info and/or other art, and right away the intent feels archival, the label having stepped in to release these albums to give them some form outside the crowded nebula of their digital incarnations. To my knowledge, the only one of these three Ice Dragon records to have been pressed at all was The Sorrowful Sun, which Acid Punx released on tape alongside the Boston band’s 2007 self-titled debut (review here), but either way, these feel official and the ability to hold them and explore their art and liner notes gives each one that much more of its own personality. Ice Dragon have taken to putting out new music at such a prolific rate, sometimes it can be hard to keep up.
All the more reason to explore the releases individually, then, since they each have something different to offer, as has proven a big part of the appeal of Ice Dragon‘s work these last few years. We’ll start at, or at least near, the beginning:
The Burl, the Earth, the Aether (2010)
Their second. Working as the trio of bassist Joe, guitarist Carter and drummer/vocalist Ron, Ice Dragon began a run with The Burl, the Earth, the Aether that’s still going on. To date, they’ve released nine albums in the four years since, not to mention singles and splits and side-projects, but more than just the quantity of their output, the standout is the quality of it, and The Burl, the Earth, the Aether stands as a beginning point there as well. Comprised of eight tracks totaling in a 53-minute runtime, the album boasts the classic doom of “Squares inside Squares” and “The Watcher,” recorded with the raw and blown-out sensibilities of US black metal, but still riff-led in a stonerly tradition, and while Ron gets into some rougher shouts on “The Watcher” and “Alucard” — the Castlevania reference there fits with the record’s dark intent — far more prevalent are the echoing howls that resonate from the album’s overarching murk. In “Spellpouch,” “Meddoe” and “Winged Prophet,” Ice Dragon show their propensity for working with acoustics, and in the context of what they’ve done since, moving into psychedelic, psych-pop and folk influences, the ultra-quiet finish of “Winged Prophet” seems like a forebear of future adventurousness, while the ultra-distorted grandiosity of 11-minute closer “Aquageddon” and its blend of malevolent swirl and lumbering riffage with a slow descent into abrasive noise come across like a direct line to what Tome of the Future Ancients would have in store two years later.
The Sorrowful Sun (2011)
Both The Sorrowful Sun itself, which divides its concise 38 minutes into two roughly equal halves, and its Adam Burke artwork seem to be begging for a vinyl release, but no less on CD, what Ice Dragon achieves on their third album is a standout in their catalog. Aesthetically, there’s a cohesion and a confidence in the presentation of what just a year prior seemed to be experimentation, the swing of songs like “Interspecies Communication” and “Flowers” having solidified into the beer-soaked garage doom on which much of their current take remains based. Likewise, they begin to explore folkish material on “Light Years” — underscored by some righteous bass fuzz — and add several interludes in “Dusk,” and the intro “Sunrise” to give a more complete album-concept feel. The obscure psychedelia of “Poseidon’s Grasp,” with its mix-consuming leads, the drearier churn of “White Tusks” and the subdued exploration of “Near Sun, on Earth” make for as satisfying a three-track run as any Ice Dragon have yet conjured as they round out The Sorrowful Sun, the three-piece not only engaging a multitude of styles but successfully commanding all of them so that the songs flow well one into the next even as the sprawl grows wider. Particularly with a few years of hindsight, one can hear a lot being figured out on The Sorrowful Sun that seems like a foundation for where Ice Dragon would go creatively, but like its predecessor and even more than its predecessor, it stands on its own accomplishments as well and continues to resonate even three years later. If you needed a starting point for the band, The Sorrowful Sun might be it.
Tome of the Future Ancients (2012)
Including Tome of the Future Ancients, Ice Dragon released four full-length albums in 2012, and to date it was their most productive year, also resulting in Dream Dragon (tape review here), greyblackfalconhawk (discussed here) and the moody Dead Friends and Angry Lovers, initially released as a side-project called Slow Heart but later brought into the Ice Dragon fold. Of the bunch, Tome of the Future Ancients is by far the most expansive, and the intent of the 12-track/75-minute offering feels clearly bent toward the overwhelming. On CD, it is a beast. Half the songs top seven minutes, and whether it’s “The Black Book of Hours” or the opening “Manuscript 408,” Ice Dragon seem to be taking the drone lessons of Earth and applying them to their own brand of doom, thudding and struggling with various impulses along the way, be it the where-did-this-come-from boogie-to-noise onslaught of “Illuminations Foretold” or the excruciating plod of “Night” or the sitar-laced 10-minute blowout of “The Bearded Mage.” What unites the material is the fact that it’s all over the place, but “tome” is right as Ice Dragon prove that fuckall still rules the day on their fourth album. Relatively peaceful psychedelics on “Adoration of Ra” and non-abrasive experimental guitar sweetness on “Infinite Requiem” round out, but the campaign to get there is wearying, the trio merciless in crafting a path that seems to cut further and further into a clouded abyss of distortion and foreboding, where even the drone-noise of “Astronomical Union” pushes downward into a pervasive void of silence. It is lung-filling doom.
Tentacle, Ingot Eye (2013)
Like the manifestation of all of Ice Dragon‘s darkest tendencies, Tentacle ooze forth four tracks of abrasive, cavernous regression on their second outing, Ingot Eye. Originally released early in 2013, it’s another two-sider folded into a linear mass on the PRC CD — the back cover divides the songs, each “side” starting with a 10-plus-minute monster — and what it shares in common with Ice Dragon aside from the lineup and raw vibe is its immersiveness. As much as Ice Dragon push and pull in various directions, Tentacle swallows you whole, and Ingot Eye‘s four pieces — “The Blackness of My Soul will be so Great as to Make the Night Weep” (11:26), “Dull Ache (I Hate Myself Today)” (4:59), “(Revenge) Dust for Blood” (12:46) and “Our Serpent Mother’s Kiss” (9:53) — comprise a lumbering mass. The second cut, “Dull Ache (I Hate Myself Today),” is the only real point of letup, taking on a more shuffling groove and cleaner vocal, but “Our Serpent Mother’s Kiss” arrives at a downer moment of accessibility as well, the its vocals buried deep in gleefully farty low-end and preceded by devolved noise that’s emblematic of how unfriendly these guys can get when they feel like it. What distinguishes Ingot Eye most from Ice Dragon‘s output is how much Tentacle turns the band’s ambitions on their head. And then stomps that head into a muddy goo from which no light can escape.
Ice Dragon continue a multifaceted progression. This year, in addition to a split with Space Mushroom Fuzz (info here) and other singles, they’ve issued two full-lengths, Seeds from a Dying Garden (review here) and Loaf of Head (review here). PRC has a preorder available for a CD edition of Dream Dragon, so it seems safe to say that if the label and the band wish to continue their affiliation, there will be fodder for releases for years to come.
Posted in Reviews on September 15th, 2014 by JJ Koczan
It hasn’t yet been a full month since Boston’s Ice Dragon issued their Seeds from a Dying Garden (review here) album, more or less dropping it on the heads of listeners in their customary Bandcamp/YouTube fashion, and this weekend the admirably prolific foursome followed it up with Loaf of Head. The new release starts off like the aural equivalent of showing up at a fancy dinner party, pulling down your pants and slapping your balls on the coffee table. It swaggers and swings and drunkenly pushes you out of the way with opener “Yes I Am,” working quick to proffer shouted-across-the-room dudely burl while the subsequent “Walking Tall” stomps its feelings away in a stupor of slide guitar and blown-out proclamations. Maybe after Seeds from a Dying Garden was out Ice Dragon decided they had to let loose a little — though one imagines the two were written concurrently — and Loaf of Head certainly follows suit with that. It is raucous and mean, and even when the guitar gets a little psychedelic at the end of “Walking Tall,” one would hardly call it a peaceful moment.
Yet there’s more to it than the initial boasting and riffbeating as well — not that I have a problem with either, particularly in the context of Ice Dragon‘s multifaceted sound — and Loaf of Head shifts with “The Question Unanswered” into a more style more psychedelic in its garage doom roll. The lead guitar is still over-the-top grandiose, and it’s still plenty heavy, but it’s a more languid unfurling, less immediately aggressive, and more of a nod. The band, comprised of vocalist Ron Rochondo (some drums), guitarist Carter (some bass), bassist Joe (some guitar) and drummer Brad, continue down this path with “A Song by Hildegarde Hawthorne,” a slower garage rocker more peaceful than either in the opening duo, but still with movement underscoring its warm distortion, layers of lead and rhythm guitar, rounding out with “aah” sweetness in a way that almost telegraphs how much it’s setting you up how-about-a-Hawaiian-punch-style for “I’m Sorry to all the Girls,” which returns to the knuckleheaded butt rock thrust of “Yes I Am” and “Walking Tall.” And just so there’s no mistaking, indeed, “knuckleheaded” is a compliment.
They said at some point over the last couple weeks that their next one was gonna be a rocker, and they were right. Continually, Ice Dragon show an awareness of what they’re bringing to each release sonically. Even down to Loaf of Head‘s artwork, which is manic and psychedelic but rawer than the Beach Boys-style sunshine of Seeds from a Dying Garden, the album reaffirms their consciousness of the scope they’re creating. They can come across as nihilistic, particularly on songs like “Yes I Am” or “I’m Sorry to all the Girls,” which delights in its scuzzy blues, but Ice Dragon know what they’re doing here, and every song, every album they make is a result of thought-out decisions, even if the decision involved is, “Okay, we’re gonna get loaded and hit record.” If you’re wondering why they might be sorry to all the girls, it’s because they need “a savory older lady.” That song sort of disintegrates behind Rochondo‘s vocals, and the sleaze continues on “Living in the Goddamn City,” though with a more socially-conscious turn in lines like, “There’s a rich woman yellin’ on her telephone/She’s never had a job she’s got a beautiful home.”
A punk ethic and accordingly a punk riff, though slowed down in a stonerly tradition. After a bridge and tripped-out solo, they repeat the chorus in what feels like surprisingly traditional fashion, and Loaf of Head rounds out with “The Rising Moon, the Setting Sun.” I thought they might try to tie the two sides of the offering together, or maybe begin a turn to the easy psych flow of “The Question Unanswered” and “A Song by Hidegarde Hawthorne” and just cut it short, and they seem to lean more to the former idea. A highlight bassline and swinging drum march meet with airy guitar and a chorus that satisfies in the tradition of big ’70s rockers — when Ice Dragon decides to do “their ELO record,” shit is going to hit the fan — and whatever it may be doing to tie the leave-’em-loose ends of Loaf of Head together, “The Rising Moon, the Setting Sun” is the album’s best track, crafted fluidly and engagingly around a simple, central chug but opening in that chorus part to a glorious wash that’s as accomplished as anything I’ve yet heard from Ice Dragon on one of their many outings. A signature moment, and a fitting close.
Their progression, walking down several different avenues at the same time, continues unabated. I wouldn’t hazard a guess at what they might break out next — a metallic single? a drone-folk collection of peaceful resonance? — but whatever it might be, the underlying processes by which Ice Dragon are able to concoct all this diverse material move forward. They’re a lot to keep up with, but the catalog they’ve created — now upwards of 10 albums deep, plus other singles, splits, etc., all DIY — is unlike anything else out there. And in the case of Loaf of Head, I mean way out there.