The Obelisk Presents: THE BEST OF 2019

Posted in Features on December 24th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk best of 2019

[PLEASE NOTE: These are not the results of the year-end poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t contributed your list to the cause yet, please do so here.]

Make no mistake, my friends. 2019 was the year it went off the rails.

Every 12-month period brings a lot of records, and they all seem overwhelming, but this was the first year I’ve ever felt quite so helpless when it came time to sit down and actually make my list. Of course, I keep running notes all year long, but even so, ordering everything, bringing it all together? What a mess.

I almost thought of breaking it down into smaller lists in addition to the big one, subgrouped by style. But then, where does doom end and sludge begin? What about psych and heavy rock? Should prog get its own list? And what the hell counts as prog?

In the end, that didn’t seem like it would be doing me any favors, so we’ll stick with the one big list and then others for debut releases and another for EPs, splits, demos and so on. You know, the usual.

Pretty sure I say this every year too, but it bears repeating: if you read any of the below — and thanks if you do — and have a response, be nice. If I’ve forgotten something — and yes, I have; I’m sure of it — that you think needs to be included, and you want to leave a comment that says so, please, by all means. But keep it civil. I know people are passionate about this stuff and so am I, but consider there are probably over 200 offerings covered here by the time you get through all the lists and honorable mentions, and I’m one person. I’m doing my best, and though I try not to, I tend to take being called a dumbass personally. So yeah, chill out and please be constructive in calling me a dumbass. Words matter.

A few hard choices here, most especially for album of the year. I was back and forth with each of the top three in the top spot for a good long while, and it might change again between now and when this post goes up. But it’s been that kind of year. In 2018, there was no question. It was Sleep all the way. The question was what came after that. This year has been different without that kind of duh, punch-in-the-face obvious pick. Relative parity isn’t a bad thing though.

Enough delay. The usual parameters apply. These are a combo of my personal listening habits and what I think are the most important records/achievements of the year, critical importance, etc.

Here we go:

The Top 50 Albums of 2019

#50-31

50. Hazemaze, Hymns of the Damned
49. Lightning Born, Lightning Born
48. Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree, Grandmother
47. PH, Osiris Hayden
46. Thunderbird Divine, Magnasonic
45. Abrahma, In Time for the Last Rays of Light
44. Uffe Lorenzen, Triprapport
43. Swallow the Sun, When a Shadow is Forced into the Light
42. Caustic Casanova, God How I Envy the Deaf
41. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, Tre
40. SÂVER, They Came With Sunlight
39. Ogre, Thrice as Strong
38. Lamp of the Universe, Align in the Fourth Dimension
37. Vokonis, Grasping Time
36. Sacri Monti, Waiting Room for the Magic Hour
35. Across Tundras, The Rugged Ranges of Curbs and Broken Minds
34. Duel, Valley of Shadows
33. Orodruin, Ruins of Eternity
32. Zaum, Divination
31. Inter Arma, Sulphur English

Notes: Honestly, if this had been the top 20 of the year, I’d still call 2019 a win. Aside from the fact that I somehow thought Caustic Casanova would enjoy coming in a number 42, the sheer quality of this stuff should tell you what kind of year 2019 was. Inter Arma’s Sulphur English was a significant achievement in genre melding, and Orodruin’s return after more than a decade since their last LP was a masterclass in doom worship. Debut albums from SÂVER and Thunderbird Divine and Lightning Born showed marked promise of things to come — and there’s more on them below as well — while Zaum’s, Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree’s and Lamp of the Universe’s meditations, Vokonis’ noise, Abrahma’s emotive progressivisim, Swallow the Sun’s melodic melancholy, Sacri Monti’s boogie, and whatever the hell PH were doing on Osiris Hayden remind just how much the word “heavy” can encompass. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, Duel and Uffe Lorenzen and Hazemaze were musts here, and Ogre are perennial favorites whose work always brings a doomly grin. Don’t sleep on any of it.

30. Sun Blood Stories, Haunt Yourself

sun blood stories haunt yourself

Self-released. Reviewed Sept. 6.

Until they put out a complementary follow-up record of such fare, one might’ve accused Idaho three-piece Sun Blood Stories of becoming less experimentalist/droned-out/noisy on Haunt Yourself, but they seem to have met their quota one way or the other with the Oct. 2019 advent of Static Sessions Vol. 1. Still, it’s melody, heavy post-rock/psychedelic drift and emotive soul that rule the day on the crushing and enriching Haunt Yourself, and no complaints from me on that.

29. Church of the Cosmic Skull, Everybody’s Going to Die

Church of the Cosmic Skull Everybodys Going to Die

Released by Septaphonic Records. Reviewed Dec. 10.

I don’t have to do anything more than read the name of the album to have the chorus of the title-track stuck in my head, and it’s a reminder that although the Nottingham troupe put so much into their progressive style and vocal harmonies and arrangements, and a more conceptual theme in the case of Everybody’s Going to Die — their answer to 2018’s excellent Science Fiction (review here) — their roots are in songcraft, and it’s the foundation of songcraft that lets them soar. Would be higher on the list if it weren’t so new.

28. Devil to Pay, Forever, Never or Whenever

devil to pay forever never or whenever

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Nov. 4.

With their sixth album, Indianapolis’ Devil to Pay collect 10 tracks of unpretentious-almost-to-a-fault of straightforward heavy rock songwriting that continues to be woefully underappreciated. They have become utterly reliable in that regard — you know, to a certain extent, what’s coming — but the vocals of guitarist Steve Janiak (also Apostle of Solitude) and some more metallic turns to the riffing give Forever, Never or Whenever a subtlety that holds up all the more on repeat visits. I don’t know if Devil to Pay will ever get their due, but suffice it to say, they’re due.

27. Howling Giant, The Space Between Worlds

howling giant the space between worlds

Released by Blues Funeral Recordings. Reviewed Oct. 11.

If you’re of a certain age, you remember when the first Playstation came out and everyone looked around at their Nintendos and Segas like, “What the hell am I messing around with Mario Golf for? I could be playing Resident Evil!” That’s kind of what Howling Giant are as compared to “regular” rock bands. They’re the Playstation of heavy: that next progressive step forward carrying an inhuman amount of swagger and personality while still delivering a stepped-up product from their would-be peers. The scariest thing about The Space Between Worlds is it’s their first LP. One looks forward to the next generation.

26. Saint Vitus, Saint Vitus

saint vitus saint vitus

Released by Season of Mist. Reviewed March 19.

I know for a fact that bassist Pat Bruders and drummer Henry Vasquez had a hand in writing some of the material on Saint Vitus’ second self-titled LP, and yet the album so much bears the indelible mark of guitarist Dave Chandler that it’s hard not to think of it all as his. The album marked their first release with original singer Scott Reagers since 1995’s Die Healing (discussed here) and featured among their trademark low-tuned slog, an actual punk song, which showed the grinning glee that underlies all they do. Four decades on, Saint Vitus sound like they’re having fun. How is that not a win?

25. Ealdor Bealu, Spirit of the Lonely Places

ealdor bealu spirit of the lonely places

Self-released. Reviewed July 10.

Woodsy Rocky Mountain psychedelia abounded on Boise foursome Ealdor Bealu’s second full-length, and their blend of landscape meditations and grounded heavy progressive melodicism made Spirit of the Lonely Places as much about impact as about space, though of course the real joy was the experience of the entirety. Very much a sophomore album, it learned lessons from 2017’s Dark Water at the Foot of the Mountain (review here) that one only hopes the band will continue to push forward in scope as they so gracefully did here.

24. Yatra, Death Ritual

yatra death ritual

Released through Grimoire Records. Discussed Nov. 13, 2018..

Though hard- and to-date quick-working Maryland trio Yatra have already moved on and are looking ahead to releasing their second album, Blood of the Night (review here), their Grimoire-delivered debut, Death Ritual, is impossible to ignore for the impact it had on reminding listeners of the impact that primeval extreme sludge can have. Another couple tours and some bigger label — Relapse, Prosthetic, eOne, Season of Mist, whoever — will decide they’re “ready,” whatever that means, and then sign them and I won’t be cool enough to do track premieres for them anymore, but as far as accolades go, Yatra earn whatever they get and Death Ritual stands among 2019’s most landmark debuts. They’ve already outdone it, but it’s a stunner just the same.

23. Ecstatic Vision, For the Masses

ecstatic vision for the masses

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Sept. 17.

Ecstatic Vision frontman Doug Sabolik has cast himself in the mold of Arthur Brown or Dave Wyndorf or probably seven or eight dudes who were in Hawkwind at some point as a manic-but-stoned space rock preacher with as he and his band behind him plunge headfirst-or-feetfirst-it-doesn’t-matter-because-your-body-is-an-illusion-man into the molten multicolor void. For the Masses. The ‘masses,’ such as they are, should be so lucky, but the double-meaning is the real tell for where the Philly unit are coming from. Their shows are the masses — gatherings of spirit and song to give praise to the willful expansion of mind. If you can’t get behind that, you might as well go get a job or something. This ain’t no lightweight party for squares and dabblers. This is a high-potency happening for werewolves on motorcycles and freaks of all stripes. Get weird stay weird. Ecstatic Vision are one mostly-mellow 15-minute “Spine of God”-style psych-epic away from perfection.

22. Beastwars, IV

beastwars iv

Released by Destroy Records. Reviewed June 27.

But for the circumstances that brought it about — i.e. Beastwars vocalist Matt Hyde’s cancer — the unexpected fourth installment in the Beastwars trilogy was nothing if not welcome. An grand-feeling sense of largesse was nothing new to the New Zealand four-piece, but after breaking up and getting back together to make the album, the grim sincerity with which they presented this exploration of mortality and betrayal by one’s own body was no less palpable than the undulating riffs that threatened, as ever, to consume all in their path. I don’t know their future plans in terms of continuing to write and/or record, but there are reports of touring beyond Aus/NZ for 2020, so one way or another, stay tuned for more from them. Whether or not they do anything else, IV was a triumph in spirit and execution.

21. Eternal Black, Slow Burn Suicide

eternal black slow burn suicide

Self-released. Reviewed June 7.

With the nine songs of Slow Burn Suicide, Brooklyn’s Eternal Black began to unveil the true depth of their project. Their 2017 debut, Bleed the Days (review here), was well received, and rightly so, but operated more in a straight-ahead doom sphere. The second outing, by contrast, delved into a particular vision of the style informed by the crunch of peak-era New York noise and crossover hardcore, and it succeeded not just because it did this, but because it did so around a conjuration of memorable riffs and tracks building on accomplishments carried over from its predecessor. Is this an awaited arrival of next-generation ‘New York doom’? Will theirs be a blueprint others will follow? It’s impossible to know now, and their next album will be telling either way, but the course they’ve set is significant.

20. Candlemass, The Door to Doom

candlemass the door to doom

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Feb. 22.

It may have been the Tony Iommi guest appearance that got Swedish doom legends Candlemass — the world’s earliest and foremost purveyors of doom both classic and epic — their recent Grammy nomination, but it was the long-overdue reunion with original vocalist Johan Längquist that made the album as a whole as powerful as it was. Pairing Längquist’s theatrical and vital approach with founding bassist Leif Edling’s second-to-none doomcraft, The Door to Doom was a catapult not to the bygone days of the band’s landmark debut, 1986’s Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, but an inspired look at not just what might’ve been had Längquist remained with the band longer, but what might still be if he does this time around. Candlemass have been through their share of singers, but as fresh as The Door to Doom sounded, it’s hard not to hope for something more than a one-off with he who got there first. The songs, the spirit, the sheer heart poured into Candlemass’ doom some 35 years past the band’s start only emphasizes how special they have always been.

19. Nebula, Holy Shit

nebula holy shit

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed June 13.

Anyone who might’ve predicted Nebula getting into the studio and making a new album was either in the room when it happened or talking out their ass. And speaking of, was Nebula’s Holy Shit named for the shock one might’ve felt at its existence, or the surprise at how good it actually sounded when you put it on? I don’t know. I probably won’t ever know. It was the best title I saw all year, but more than that, it was a Nebula record, fueled by the classic riffing and unmitigated desert punk soul of founding/guitarist Eddie Glass, whose absence from the heavy underground for the last decade left a void only too many others whiffed on filling. Holy Shit showed just how singular a player Glass was and is, and how much character there is in his style, particularly in solos, but also in rhythmic changes, and so on. I won’t discount the work of bassist Tom Davies and drummer Mike Amster in making Nebula what they are in this incarnation — they’re essential, obviously — but there’s simply no denying that presence at the band’s core.

18. Valley of the Sun, Old Gods

valley of the sun old gods

Released by Fuzzorama Records. Reviewed May 21.

This was a heavy rock record that had everything. Everything. It had songs, style, ups, down, purples, greens, ins, outs, all kinds of whathaveyou. Riffs forever. Valley of the Sun should keep their eyes on Sasquatch, because if they want it, that path is theirs. I know the Cincinnati outfit have had trouble keeping lineups together, but if they can hold onto one, and maybe after their next record start touring more, domestically and abroad — not at all a minor ask, I know — then people will catch on. Old Gods is evidence of the fact that they genuinely have something to offer, and frankly, it’s not at all the first such effective case they’ve made in their career. But they’ve never put anything out that wasn’t a step forward, and yet they’ve never lost sight of the roots of their initial inspiration. And they’ve never sacrificed the song for the riff, which so many do. They’ve only ever gotten better. Let Old Gods be a step toward them getting attention they’ve long since deserved.

17. Kadavar, For the Dead Travel Fast

Kadavar For the Dead Travel Fast

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Oct. 28.

In style and production, For the Dead Travel Fast is the most vintage-sounding offering Berlin trio Kadavar have made in over a half decade, yet neither is it looking backward wistfully toward 2013’s Abra Kadavar (review here) or giving up the modern clarity of 2017’s Rough Times (review here) or 2015’s Berlin (review here). Instead, it strikes a balance with a more sinister edge à la Uncle Acid in songs like “Children of the Night” and “Demons in My Mind” — both singles — and makes a home for itself between proto-metal and garage doom. Whatever genre tag you want to give it — and that might vary from track to track, mind you — it’s unmistakably Kadavar, with the signature hooks and memorable craftsmanship that have made them one of the decade’s most pivotal heavy bands. The real challenge at this point in their career is not to take for granted that Kadavar will produce material of such quality, because, frankly, that’s all they’ve ever done.

16. Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Yn Ol I Annwn

mammoth weed wizard bastard yn ol i annwn

Released by New Heavy Sounds. Reviewed Feb. 7.

Welsh sci-fi cosmic doomers Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard billed Yn Ol I Annwn as the final installment of a trilogy that includes their two prior LPs, 2015’s Noeth Ac Anoeth (review here) and 2016’s Y Proffwyd Dwyll (review here), and while that may be true thematically, there’s also no question the third is a marked step forward from anything they’ve done before. They’re one foot out of the airlock and into space as their synth-laden longform riffing and melodies take them to places they’ve not yet gone, explorations of sight as much as sound, aural translation of colors humans aren’t gifted to see. Their songs across the 65-minute span unfold with the grace of a gravity spiral, pulling the listener deeper into the proceedings with each new phase that emerges until, what, obliteration? Stellar genesis? I’m not sure. They’ve reportedly got one more record to make and then they’re done. If that’s true, they’ll be missed then they’re gone.

15. Magic Circle, Departed Souls

magic circle departed souls

Released by 20 Buck Spin. Reviewed April 3.

They’ve found their way to die, and it’s upon an altar of classic metal and doom. And honestly, they make a pretty good case for it. Departed Souls is the third full-length from the Boston unit and their most stylistically realized work yet, with vocalist Brendan Radigan giving a standout performance alongside the guitars of Chris Corry and Renato Montenegro, the bass of Justin DeTore and Michael “Q” Quartulli’s drums, as the entire band taps into vibes from mid-’70s Black Sabbath and brings them to bear with an energy that is unlike anything in Magic Circle’s history. 2015’s Journey Blind (review here) brought in NWOBHM flash in the guitar work, sure enough, but Departed Souls doesn’t so much carry the torch of classic metal as it does use it to burn down the whole village and rebuild it in the five-piece’s image. From their doomed beginnings on their 2013 self-titled debut (review here) to now, they’re an act who’ve genuinely earned cult status. If you can find a backpatch, buy it.

14. Spaceslug, Reign of the Orion

Spaceslug Reign of the Orion cover

Released by BSFD Records. Reviewed Nov. 22.

Controversy! Drama! Well, probably not, but at very least some respectful disagreement on my part. You see, Poland’s Spaceslug have stated publicly that their latest release, the late-2019 surprise Reign of the Orion is an EP. Their albums regularly top 50 minutes, and at 36 minutes, I guess relative to that, you can see where they’re coming from. However, with the flow of these five songs and the ease with which they carry the listener from front-to-back through the listening experience, I’m sticking to my guns and calling Reign of the Orion an album. Sorry guys. True, it’s shorter than the other full-lengths, but it’s got everything you could ask an album to have in terms of how tracks like “Spacerunner” and the shouty “Half-Moon Burns” play into each other, and the fluidity of the outing on the whole is inarguable. An LP by any other name? Whatever you or they want to call it, there’s no question in my mind Reign of the Orion is one of 2019’s best records. If they insist on it being an EP, then it’s the best one of the year, but I still say it belongs in another category altogether, so here it is.

13. Green Lung, Woodland Rites

green lung woodland rites

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed Jan. 28.

As hyper-crowded as London is with bands at this moment in history, there continue to be acts who sneak through with an individualized and intriguing perspective on doom and heavy rock, and Green Lung are a perfect example, learning from fellow Brits like Alunah and Elephant Tree and incorporating folk and forest goth vibes to their debut album, Woodland Rites. Laced with organ and stuck-in-the-head choruses like “Let the Devil In” and the creeper “Templar Dawn,” the record also pushed into drifting verses on “Into the Wild,” setting up future experimentation with atmospheric variety and genre manipulation. If part of any first album’s appeal is the potential it represents, Green Lung’s offers plenty, but wherever their subsequent course may or may not take them, their accomplishments here shouldn’t be overlooked. Woodland Rites is nothing less than the heavy rock debut album of the year, and though they emerge from a packed field, the work they do to stand themselves out already carries their mark and an apparent will toward progression. They’re on their way.

12. Lo-Pan, Subtle

lo-pan subtle

Released by Aqualamb Records. Reviewed May 9.

My head immediately goes to the hooks of “Ten Days” and “Ascension Day” and “Savage Heart,” but the up-down surges of guitar in “Old News/New Fire” and the midtempo soulfulness in “A Thousand Miles” are no less resonant when it comes to the actual listening experience of the fifth Lo-Pan LP. Subtle, when it came to living up to its name, as much wasn’t as it was. Flourishes of harmony in the vocals of Jeff Martin, the pops in Jesse Bartz’s snare punctuating and propelling in kind, turns in Scott Thompson’s bass work twisting around the guitar of Chris Thompson, a relative newcomer to the fold making his debut with the band and showing no apparent trouble fitting in. I don’t imagine Lo-Pan is an easy band to join, especially at this point. They thrive on personality clash and, through years of touring, have a chemistry they’ve built between them that comes through even on their recordings. Nonetheless, Subtle is their clearest, sharpest-edged work yet, and as tight as their songwriting has become, they still groove and groove mightily. They are a treasure of American heavy rock and roll. Believe it.

11. Roadsaw, Tinnitus the Night

roadsaw tinnitus the night

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed June 12.

While members of Roadsaw have spent the intervening years in projects like Kind, White Dynomite, Sasquatch and Murcielago, the Boston heavy rock kingpins have indeed been missed, and Tinnitus the Night works quickly to show why. It’s been well over 20 years since their first LP — hell, it’s been eight since they put out their 2011 self-titled (review here) — but their craft is at its own level, and Tinnitus the Night comes barreling through with “Shake” and “Along for the Ride” and “Final Phase” before opening up to broader fare on side B with “Find What You Need,” “Under the Devil’s Thumb” and “Midazolam” ahead of the subdued finale “Silence,” and the result is nothing less than a classic heavy rock LP structure as befitting what is itself a classic heavy rock LP. What’s Roadsaw’s future? I don’t know. It took them the better part of a decade to make this one happen, so take from that what you will, but to me, all it says is there’s even more reason to be grateful they got it done and out. To say the songs deserve that is putting it mildly.

10. Worshipper, Light in the Wire

worshipper light in the wire

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed April 24.

I’m not doing a ‘song of the year’ post, but if I was, Worshipper’s “Coming Through” might be it. The opening track from the Boston four-piece’s second album, Light in the Wire, marries classic pop drama in its melody with careening progressive riffing, and sets the tone for a record that is of both future and past, twistingly complex and yet immediately accessible, immersive as an entirety and still comprised of standout moments. These aren’t contradictions in Worshipper’s skillful hands, but the stuff of what’s already becoming their own take on rock. Tied together through melody, skillful rhythmic intricacy and solid structural foundations, “Light in the Wires,” “Visions from Beyond,” “Wither on the Vine” and others throughout post their own triumphs en route to enhancing the album as a whole, while “Nobody Else” and closer “Arise” underscore the emotive basis from which the perspective of the whole LP emanates. There are a lot of “next-gen” heavy rock bands out there weaving prog elements and traditional riffing together to some degree or other. Few, if any, can write a song like Worshipper can. I mean it. This band is something special.

9. Solace, The Brink

solace the brink

Released by Blues Funeral Recordings. Reviewed Nov. 21.

What is there to say about Solace? A band who, nine years after revealing the expectation-slaughtering masterpiece A.D. (review here), return with three-fifths of a swapped-out lineup and simply do it again? This band is explosive. Really. Like, they might explode at any minute. It’s a miracle The Brink ever happened. I’ll be honest, I had my doubts. But Solace are a force like nothing else I’ve ever encountered in music. They take metallic aggression, hardcore’s sense of self-righteousness and heavy rock’s groove, set it all to a doomly swing and they play it in such a way as to leave you utterly dumbfounded by what you just experienced. Here’s a challenge though, for the band personally. From me to them. Do another one. Go ahead. Put out another album. You don’t even have to do it in 2020. Do it 2021. Write the songs and give me a no-holds-barred 45-minute LP of the tightest, meanest shit you’ve ever written. Because massive as the accomplishments are on The Brink, it’s the potential to build from them that resonates most here. So do it, guys. Step up and take advantage of the moment. Call me greedy if you want, I don’t care. Give me another Solace record. I dare you.

8. Brume, Rabbits

brume rabbits

Released by Doom Stew Records & DHU Records. Reviewed Nov. 6.

Simply a case of a band wildly outdoing themselves. Easy story, yeah? In some ways, maybe, but the truth of what Brume achieve on Rabbits. Their second long-player behind 2017’s Rooster (review here), the five-track offering sees the San Francisco three-piece of vocalist/bassist Susie McMullan, guitarist/vocalist Jamie McCathie and drummer Jordan Perkins-Lewis working with producer Billy Anderson to bring theatricality and emotionalism together in a flowing post-heavy context that’s neither derivative nor working at cross purposes. Instead, it is a gorgeous and blooming undertaking across its 43-minute span, working in its own light/dark spectrum and bringing not just the sense of trapped fragility evoked by the cover art, but a corresponding sureness of intent to its ascendant heavy surges. Like Rooster before it, it is loaded with potential, but in “Scurry” and “Lament” and “Despondence” and “Blue Jay and “Autocrat’s Fool,” there’s a patience and command that absolutely does not waver. So yes, a band outdoing themselves. But so much more too.

7. Mars Red Sky, The Task Eternal

mars red sky the task eternal

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed Sept. 20.

This may forever be known as the Mars Red Sky album they wrote in a cave, but the Bordeaux three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras and bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Matieu “Matgaz” Gazeau nonetheless plunged forward along the progressive course they charted back on 2014’s sophomore outing, Stranded in Arcadia (review here), and continued to manifest in 2016’s Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul) (review here). Their blend of melody and tonal heft has become a hallmark of their work to this stage in their career, but The Task Eternal continues to add a sense of breadth to the proceedings, giving their sound a full three-dimensional pull that feels tailor-made for headphones and is consuming in its entirety. With experiments in structure like the pairing of “Recast” and “Reacts,” and the rushing sweep of melody in “Hollow King,” Mars Red Sky’s latest is, as ever, their finest. Outdoing themselves would seem to be the task from which the record derives its title. Fine. Just keep going. Please.

6. Kings Destroy, Fantasma Nera

Kings Destroy Fantasma Nera

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 15.

Every time I think I understand where Kings Destroy want to go as a band, they pull the rug out. That’s what Fantasma Nera is. After their 2015 self-titled (review here) third LP seemed to declare them once and for all in a space between doom and noise rooted in their respective hardcore pasts, the Brooklynite five-piece hooked up with producer David Bottrill (Tool, etc.) and composed a rock album. A real live rock album! With progressive undertones in the guitar work and the most accomplished melodicism of their career, Kings Destroy put everything they had into making Fantasma Nera and one need look no further than the title-track to hear the result of that monumental effort. It is the realization of a band challenging themselves to go so far out of their comfort zone as to be only recognizable in the most rudimentary of ways, and to say it as plainly as I can, “Dead Before” on its own is enough of an accomplishment — and enough of a full-length, at all of 4:25 — to make this list on its own, whatever surrounds it. Song of the year. I’ll say every time I’m a Kings Destroy fan, but I’ve never been gladder to say it than I am in talking about Fantasma Nera.

5. Colour Haze, We Are

colour haze we are

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed Dec. 3.

If you’re saying to yourself, “Ah come on, Colour Haze are always on the list when they put out records,” I have two answers. One, you’re right, and two, if you have a problem with that, blow it out your ass. The Munich forefathers of the European heavy psychedelic underground — yup — marked their 25th anniversary this year, and did so not just by putting out an album, but by putting out We Are, which introduces a full-fledged fourth member to what’s been a three-piece since 1998. Granted, it’s not the first time guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek, bassist Philipp Rasthofer and drummer Manfred Merwald have worked with organist/keyboardist/synthesist Jan Faszbender, but never has the presence of keys been so integral to their work, and never has the dynamic between players shifted in the way it does on tracks like “The Real” and “Life” and “I’m With You,” with keys fleshing out melodies and enriching the bass and guitar. Add to that the Spanish-style guitar on centerpiece “Material Drive” or the operatic flash in the penultimate “Be With Me,” and it’s one more example of one of the best bands on earth refusing to rest on their laurels. Which, as it happens, is why they’re one of the best bands on earth. So hell yes, they’re on all my lists. Fact is my lists are lucky to have them.

4. Blackwater Holylight, Veils of Winter

blackwater holylight veils of winter

Released by RidingEasy Records. Reviewed Sept. 26.

Like nothing else I heard in 2019, Veils of Winter had repeat listenability. It was the album that, most often, when I was choosing something I actually wanted to hear, I went back to time and again. Its dark, moody psychedelic and heavy vibe stands alone among the year’s releases, and is a stylistic milestone that one only hopes other artists will pick up on. Toying with pop melodies on tracks like “Death Realms” and bringing hypnosis and clarity in kind to the subtly traditionalist winding riff of “Moonlit” — would it have been out of place on the first Witchcraft LP? — the Portland, Oregon, five-piece worked on a speedy turnaround and squashed even the significant expectations I had after their self-titled debut (review here) last year. They’ve begun to tour, so I don’t know if another full-length is in the works for 2020, but their craft is enviable in its flow and their songs are shimmering in tone and cohesion alike. Given how bold a step forward Veils of Winter is, I hear nothing in their material to this point to make me think their momentum won’t continue to carry them forward. But, you know, if not, I’d also take about six or seven records just like this one. That’d be fine too. Whatever they want, really.

3. Slomatics, Canyons

Slomatics Canyons

Released by Black Bow Records. Reviewed May 15.

Belfast, Northern Ireland, three-piece Slomatics — guitarists David Marjury and Chris Couzens and drummer/vocalist/synthesist Marty Harvey — finished a narrative trilogy with 2016’s Future Echo Returns (review here), and though the storyline was always vague throughout that and the preceding two offerings, the question of how they would proceed nonetheless hung over Canyons prior to its release. The answer is in the songs themselves. From the sci-fi majesty of lumbering, rolling groove in opener and longest track “Gears of Despair” — oh, they grind — through the mega-stomp of “Telemachus, My Son” and the righteously synth-laden wash that consumes “Mind Fortresses on Theia,” Slomatics bring together concept and execution with a readiness that highlights the fact of their 15th anniversary. They are mature in their approach, yes, but the fact is their approach is so much their own and so given to their particular mode of progression that it almost can’t help but feel fresh. How could something so utterly crushing also feel rejuvenating? As they plod through finale “Organic Caverns II” ending with more waves of synth and tectonic guitar — no bass, remember — they are as restorative as they are punishing, and they stand astride that duality with neither mercy nor pretense. Canyons, whether it’s setting up a new story, building from the old, or doing something completely different, stands on its own.

2. Year of the Cobra, Ash and Dust

year of the cobra ash and dust

Released by Prophecy Productions. Reviewed Oct. 24.

My anticipation for and expectations of Year of the Cobra’s second long-player were high most especially after 2017’s Burn Your Dead EP (review here), which along with the dead, set alight the notion that the Seattle duo of bassist/vocalist Amy Tung Barrysmith and drummer Jon Barrysmith were simply a heavy/doom band. With elements of post-punk, psych wash, minimalist stretches and propulsive gallop, Ash and Dust cast itself out over an aesthetic range that set a new standard not just for Year of the Cobra, but for anyone who’d dare match them at their own game — and that list will grow with time, absolutely. As their first outing through Prophecy Productions, Ash and Dust threw itself into the very melting pot of its own ambition and emerged with songs that didn’t just bring together disparate ideas, but made them flourish and engage and challenge the listener while still proving consistent in tone and underlying groove. For a two-person, two-instrument outfit (not counting voice, though I should), they proved more malleable than many with more than twice the number of hands on deck, and pushed the notion of what heavy rock is and does forward without stopping to look back or ask for permission. They just did it, and maybe Ash and Dust is the aftermath of all that burning.

2019 Album of the Year

1. Monolord, No Comfort

monolord no comfort

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed Sept. 12.

Look back over the course of this list, and you will find no shortage of bands and releases that surpassed the group in question’s past work. With Gothenburg, Sweden’s Monolord, it wasn’t just about No Comfort — their debut on Relapse, fourth full-length overall — being better than 2017’s Rust (review here), because that was pretty jolly gosh darn enjoyable, but about the band reaching a moment of transcendence to which Rust and all their prior work across 2015’s Vænir (review here) and 2014’s Empress Rising has been leading. With the six tracks of No Comfort, guitarist/vocalist Thomas Jäger, bassist Mika Häkki and drummer Esben Willems not only overcome the influences that launched them — taking full ownership of their sound and defending that claim with the sheer quality of their songwriting — and they not only become as identifiable as those influences themselves, but they overcome themselves. No Comfort means no comfort. Monolord take the simplicity that once fueled their riffing, the willful primitivism of their earliest work, and with songs like “Larvae” and “The Bastard Son” and the closing title-track use it as the foundation it was apparently always intended to be. Monolord have toured plenty and certainly their studio output has shown an increasing complexity from one LP to the next, so progression isn’t unexpected, but the manner in which Monolord have executed that progression has been. Even on “The Last Leaf,” which is arguably the most straightforward fare on the album, one hears it as them rather than the manifestation of the acts that inspired them. The same holds for “Skywards” later on, and for the immersion that takes hold as the mournful “Alone Together” plays into “No Comfort” itself. Monolord take their place among the best bands on the planet, and deliver an Album of the Year for 2019 that, like the absolute best, will have an impact lasting much longer than any period of 12 months might convey.

The Top 50 Albums of 2019: Honorable Mention

You didn’t think we’d stop at 50, did you? Come on. You know me better than that. The fact is that the list itself, humongous as it is, is just the start of the tip of an iceberg attached to a glacier that’s somewhere on an entire planet constructed of ice.

Honorable mentions, you say? Yeah, a few. Here they are in no order whatsoever:

Lord Vicar, Goatess, The Lord Weird Slough Feg, Zone Six, Lykantropi, Earth, White Manna, Atala, Tia Carrera, Merlin, WEEED, Híbrido, Cities of Mars, Stone Machine Electric, Bretus, Blackwolfgoat, The Black Wizards, Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, Alunah, V, Pale Grey Lore, Leeds Point, Sons of Alpha Centauri, Spidergawd, Bus, Death Hawks, BBF, Vessel of Light, Crypt Trip, The Pilgrim, Uffe Lorenzen, Brant Bjork, Doomstress, Black Lung, Kandodo3, Monkey3, Bask, Horseburner, Zed, Bright Curse, Spillage, Sigils, Papir, Dune Sea, Destroyer of Light, Mastiff, Warp, Centrum, Varego, Lord Dying, Volcano, Saint Karloff, Firebreather, High Reeper, Bible of the Devil, Obsidian Sea, Torche, Motorpsycho, Sunn O))), Deadbird, Russian Circles, El Supremo, Pyramidal, Holy Serpent, Elizabeth Colour Wheel, Demon Head, Red Beard Wall, Onhou, Kamchatka, Iguana, Arrowhead, The Whims of the Great Magnet, Serial Hawk, Scissorfight, Monte Luna, Lingua Ignota, Valborg, Sageness, Ruff Majik, The Giraffes, High Fighter, Comacozer, Burning Gloom, Swan Valley Heights, Mark Deutrom, Cable, AVER, Superlynx, The Munsens, No Man’s Valley, Old Mexico, Skraeckoedlan, Godsleep, Øresund Space Collective Meets Black Moon Circle.

Seems cruel to leave it to you to sort through those, but I’m tempted to do just that. You might notice some bigger names there in bands like Earth, Russian Circles, Torche and Sunn O))). Nothing against those bands, but I think we’re seeing a moment where a different group of artists are taking point in terms of innovating heavy styles across an entire swath of microgenres. Either way it’s not a slight that something is here instead of above. And of course, there are plenty of up and coming groups here as well, with Ruff Majik, Elizabeth Colour Wheel — who I’m sure would be a top 30 if I knew the record better than I do — Pale Grey Lore, Monte Luna, Papir, Destroyer of Light, The Munsens, No Man’s Valley, Skraeckoedlan, and so on, but hell’s bells, there’s already a list of 50 and I’m only one man. How high is the list supposed to go and still be a list?

Bottom line: Music is as endless as space and has as much beauty in it for those willing to hear. Do more digging.

The Top 20 Debut Albums of 2019

green lung woodland rites

1. Green Lung, Woodland Rites
2. Yatra, Death Ritual
3. Howling Giant, The Space Between Worlds
4. Thunderbird Divine, Magnasonic
5. SÂVER, They Came with Sunlight
6. Lightning Born, Lightning Born
7. Elizabeth Colour Wheel, Nocebo
8. The Pilgrim, Walking into the Forest
9. Sigils, You Build the Altar You Lit the Leaves
10. E-L-R, Maenad
11. Hey Zeus, X
12. Bellrope, You Must Relax
13. Asthma Castle, Mount Crushmore
14. Thronehammer, Usurper of Oaken Throne
15. Inner Altar, Vol. III
16. Infinity Forms of Yellow Remember, Infinity Forms of Yellow Remember
17. Hippie Death Cult, 111
18. Faerie Ring, The Clearing
19. Gone Cosmic, Sideways in Time
20. Haze Mage, Chronicles

Honorable Mention: Warp, Pelegrin, Lucy in Blue, Volcano, The Sabbathian, Red Eye Tales, Dune Sea, Dury Dava, Pharlee, Giant Dwarf, Ghost:Hello, Surya, Workshed, Children of the Sün, Burning Gloom, Temple of the Fuzz Witch.

Notes: As ever, I consider a band’s debut album something unique and separate from everything else they’ll ever do, and so worthy of highlighting in its own category. It’s a different standard in my mind, one that takes into account what a group might accomplish going forward as well as what they do on the record itself. Plus, putting out an album is hard. Getting two, three, four, five or more people to agree on anything is an accomplishment. Making a cohesive album? Come on. So yes. We see some crossover from the main list above, but I want to draw attention to Howling Giant, Thunderbird Divine and SÂVER particularly here. There’s a swath of genres represented and I feel like a couple of these releases — Sigils, Bellrope, Thronehammer, Inner Altar, Faerie Ring, Infinity Forms of Yellow Remember — didn’t get their due attention. It’s a busy year, I get it. But if you’re skimming through looking for stuff to check out, DON’T IGNORE THIS LIST. Aside from whatever line about the best of tomorrow you want to trot out, there’s important work being done by these acts today. As somebody who’s constantly behind the times, I urge you not to

The Top 20 Short Releases of 2019

geezer spiral fires

1. Geezer, Spiral Fires
2. Ufomammut, XX
3. All Them Witches, 1×1
4. Mount Saturn, Mount Saturn
5. Dopelord, Weedpecker, Major Kong & Spaceslug, 4-Way Split
6. Horehound, Weight
7. Molasses, Mourning Haze
8. Saint Karloff & Devil’s Witches, Split
9. Here Lies Man, No Ground to Walk Upon
10. The Golden Grass, 100 Arrows
11. Mount Atlas, Mistress
12. Midas, Solid Gold Heavy Metal
13. Glory in the Shadows, Glory in the Shadows
14. Hot Breath, Hot Breath
15. Crystal Spiders, Demo
16. Red Wizard, Ogami
17. Thermic Boogie, Fracture
18. Pinto Graham, Dos
19. High Priest, Sanctum
20. Set Fire, Traya
21. Seedium, Awake

Honorable Mention: Love Gang & Smokey Mirror Split, Forebode, Land Mammal, Very Paranoia, Plague of Carcosa, Daal Dazed, Komodor, Mourn the Light & Oxblood Forge Split, High on Fire, Mount Soma.

Notes: This is probably the least complete of the lists, because it’s the hardest category for me to keep up with. EPs, singles, demos, splits and basically anything else that isn’t an album, all lumped together. Still, I stand by the picks here, and I don’t think anyone who takes on any of them will regret doing so, whether it’s All Them Witches’ surprisingly weighted first single as a trio, Mount Saturn’s debut release, or Geezer’s cosmic jams. Felt a little like cheating putting Ufomammut on there, since technically XX wasn’t new material so much as reworked stuff captured live, but if you want to call me out on it, my own listening habits also factor in, and I’ve spent plenty of time with those reimagined tracks. But anyway, I’m sure there’s a ton of stuff that hasn’t been included here, so please feel free to let me know in the comments and I’ll work accordingly.

Postwax

I haven’t felt comfortable with the idea of writing about it editorially, since I’ve been involved in discussions about it since before it came together and since I did the liner notes for each of the six releases (plus one to come), but I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the incredible work done on the Postwax vinyl subscription series by Blues Funeral Recordings. Label head Jadd Shickler and design specialist Peder Bergstrand (also of Lowrider) put together six offerings that came out in the span of this year and when you hold the LPs in your hand, you can feel the passion that went into making them, from the artists in question to those curating the series in the first place. I hear tell there’s going to be a Postwax Year Two, and I don’t know if I’ll be involved or not, but I’m proud of my miniscule part in the work that went into making these and wanted to bring them to your particular attention. They are something special for those who got to partake:

  • Elder, The Gold and Silver Sessions
  • Daxma, Ruins Upon Ruins
  • Besvärjelsen, Frost
  • Big Scenic Nowhere, Dying on the Mountain
  • Domkraft, Slow Fidelity
  • Lowrider, Refractions

And while we’re talking about projects I was proud to be involved with, I also did liner notes for Acrimony’s The Chronicles of Wode box set from Burning World Records and was honored to do so. Thanks to any and everyone in question for having me involved and dealing with me blowing past deadlines one after the next. It is humbling.

Looking Ahead to 2020

A few names and nothing more about what definitely is and/or might be in the works for next year. Woefully incomplete, so feel free to add to it:

1000mods, Wolves in the Throne Room, Deathwhite, Mondo Drag, Drug Cult, Ocean Chief, Soldati, Sergio Ch., Mitochondrial Sun, Geezer, Mirror Queen, Mondo Generator, The Otolith, Asteroid, Yatra, Vestal Claret, Farer, Ryte, Shadow Witch, Six Organs of Admittance, Naxatras, Wolftooth, Snail, Elder, Pale Divine, Grey Skies Fallen, Ruby the Hatchet, Yuri Gagarin, Sasquatch, Godthrymm, Wo Fat, Red Mesa, CB3, Onsegen Ensemble, Insect Ark, Acid Mammoth, Ritual King, Ulls, Om.

Thank You

Thank you for reading, and please, if you have a thought or something you want to share in the comments, please remember to be kind to each other. We are all human beings behind our phones and keyboards, and while we’ll disagree, often in some ways and some cases, a basic level of respect is always appreciated. At least by me.

I am not so deluded as to think anyone might still be reading, but I want it on record how much I appreciate you being a part of this site and a part of my experience in making it. I’ve been ruminating all year since marking the 10th anniversary back in January about how much The Obelisk has become a part of who I am, and it’s utterly essential to my every day. The way I continue to think about it — and myself, as it happens — is a work in progress, and that would not be possible without you. One more time. Thank you. Always. Always thank you. Thank you.

More to come.

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Review & Full Album Stream: Devil to Pay, Forever, Never or Whenever

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on November 4th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

devil to pay forever never or whenever

[Click play above to stream Devil to Pay’s Forever, Never or Whenever in full. Album is out Nov. 8 on Ripple Music with preorders here.]

Devil to Pay have come to chew bubblegum and play hooks. And while I don’t know the status of their Watermelon Bubble-Yum supply, they’ve definitely got enough hooks for everyone at the bank. The Indianapolis four-piece have riffed and riffed and riffed their way to a well-earned veteran status, and throughout the 10 tracks of Forever, Never or Whenever, which is their 44-minute sixth long-player — third for Ripple Music, behind 2016’s A Bend Through Space and Time (review here) and 2013’s Fate is Your Muse (review here) — they prove to be comfortable in their core processes while willing to expand their sound in some new ways, fleshing out aesthetic turns that might surprise some longtime followers and even just finding more ways to add character to their songs, whether it’s the mini-funk-jam on “Imminent Demise” or the moodier and more patient rollout of the earlier “The Cautionary Tale of Yen Sid,” a moody bit of philosophizing that serves as a reminder that guitarist/vocalist Steve Janiak splits his time between Devil to Pay and doom outfit Apostle of Solitude (and now the reunited The Gates of Slumber as well).

Between that song — which may or may not actually be about Walt Disney and/or his fictional sorcerer representation throughout the Mickey Mouse canon — the subtle vocal layering in “Light Sentence” and the spacious echoes in the penultimate “The Pendulum,” Janiak, fellow guitarist Rob Hough, bassist Matt Stokes and drummer Chad Prifogle bring a fair amount of variety to Forever, Never or Whenever, and six albums deep into a tenure that covers the better part of the last 20 years, there’s just about no way it’s a coincidence. Rather, it’s Devil to Pay refusing to stagnate in terms of style and pushing themselves toward fresh-sounding avenues of expression even as they maintain the focus on songwriting that has carried them since their inception. At their heart, they’ve always been a band about the songs.

You’d think that would be every band, right? Why be a band who writes songs if you’re not going to be about writing the songs? Truth is there are plenty of reasons. Sometimes the song is an excuse to have a solo, or to jam, or it’s a stand-in for some broader message. All of those and a 100,000 more can potentially work, but with Devil to Pay, it’s always been the song itself that has come first. Their style has never been overly flashy, and one supposes it still isn’t, though neither would I call the production on Forever, Never or Whenenever flat. Instead, in the initial salvo of “Heave-Ho,” “The Devil’s Barking Up Your Tree” — which delightfully shares a similar staccato cadence to the second half of “I’m Tired” as performed by Madeline Kahn in Blazing Saddles —  “The Cautionary Tale of Yen Sid” and the driving fuzz of “Get on Down” shove the way through the album’s first half with due energy and a sense of the dynamic that Devil to Pay share on stage.

As it passes its midsection, “Get on Down” slows down and Janiak‘s vocals echo a bit, leading to a winding rhythm that builds its way toward a solo and a final few vocal lines. The presumed side A finale, “Tap Dancing on Your Grave,” is more melancholy as its title might suggest, and sees Hough and Janiak part ways on guitar, one holding down a steady chug while the other complements with a more open, winding line and some foreshadow of the percussive element in the (relatively brief) jam in the subsequent “Imminent Demise” is given. Very much in the spirit of classic heavy rock methodology, side B pushes further stylistically as songs expand on ideas presented in the earlier cuts — “Imminent Demise” taking the percussion aspect of “Tap Dancing on Your Grave” and running with it is perhaps the clearest example, but it’s true throughout in mood and arrangement. This too might be considered the band benefiting from their experience, at least on the most basic level of how they present the material, since their central philosophy remains intact wherever they might veer sound-wise. They’re always about the song.

devil to pay

Forever, Never or Whenever isn’t the first time Devil to Pay have offered variety in their craft, either. Indeed, in its structure, the album seems to be directly building off of what A Bend Through Space and Time brought together in terms of its general modus and range, but it does legitimately push farther. “Imminent Demise” leads to the tense verse and release chorus of “37 Trillion,” a song right in Devil to Pay‘s wheelhouse when it comes to structure and tone. The standout line, “Say you’re a bucket of blood,” would seem to remind of a human’s place in the universe, but the track is quick and doesn’t hang around long enough for much philosophizing. As noted, it’s in “Light Sentence” that the band once again dives into more brooding fare, with Janiak‘s croon answering itself at the end of verse lines, a far-back background layer adding to the atmosphere.

That’s a suitable transition into “The Pendulum,” which follows that path deeper into echoing reaches and an emergent metallic riffing in its second half, threatening to break out in a way it never lets itself do, instead shifting into the dual-leads and more fervent popping snare of “Anti-Gravity Depravity,” a title which hints at a more lighthearted spirit than either of the songs prior. Also the longest cut at 6:26, the closer indeed brings about another turn of vibe, but the track is hardly a goofball ending or anything like that. It calls back to some of the catchier songs early on without being a total redux, and effectively uses lead guitar to offset its deceptively nuanced chug, ending in a last build with Prifogle railing on his crash cymbals before a few last hits around a quick reprise of the track’s opening caps with a duly symmetrical spirit.

Whatever Devil to Pay might be or might do stylistically, they’re a heavy rock band, and an underrated one at that. They bring more character to the production of Forever, Never or Whenever than they’ve ever had before, and perhaps unsurprisingly, it suits them and enriches the material itself. Perhaps most fortunate of all, none of the growth of method the band have undertaken in the last five-plus years has pulled them away from the foundation of their songwriting. It is that which ultimately allows them to flourish as they do, and the ground beneath their feet is as solid as it could possibly be here. A balance of consistency and growth after more than 15 years together? I think maybe it’s time more people started paying attention to and learning lessons from this band.

Devil to Pay on Thee Facebooks

Devil to Pay BigCartel store

Devil to Pay website

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

Ripple Music on Thee Facebooks

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Devil to Pay Post Lyric Video for “37 Trillion” from Forever, Never or Whenever

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 24th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

devil to pay

I’m going to review it properly sometime in the coming weeks, but the new Devil to Pay record? Man, that shit is catchy. The album is called Forever, Never or Whenever, and it’s out Nov. 8 through a longstanding alliance with Ripple Music, collecting 10 tracks of no-nonsense heavy rock and roll. That’s been Devil to Pay‘s stock and trade for the past 15-plus years — their debut, Thirty Pieces of Silver, was released in 2004; Forever, Never or Whenever is their sixth long-player — and they’ve only grown better at it with time. They’ve never been overly fancy in terms of production or presentation, but the tradition they serve is one of putting songwriting at the forefront, and they’re better at it than most who would dare to try.

“37 Trillion,” which appears on the second half of the new outing, takes a decidedly more political bent, and fairly enough so. Their home state of Indiana is considered a right-wing stronghold in terms of its voting history. Donald Trump won with 56.47 percent of the vote, and the governor and supermajorities of both legislative houses are Republicans, so yes, one would say they’re decidedly “en rouge.” In the current sociopolitical moment, an important one, it’s hard for one who, say, isn’t insane, to look around and wonder how we got here, how people we might otherwise respect or love could be so taken in, and how fragile American democracy truly is and whose interests it’s intended to serve when we’ve been told by our leaders for so many years the state of our union is strong and are still told that on the regular.

One could go on on the subject — and people do, as the entirety of the internet/social media sphere readily demonstrates — but I won’t. Take Devil to Pay‘s reminder that we’re, on average, 37 trillion cells however you will, and enjoy the track on whichever level you choose. If you’re apolitical — what’s your secret? — or you disagree where where they seem to be coming from, well, hooks are hooks and Devil to Pay‘s got a million of ’em, so dig in anyhow and maybe that self-victimization go for a minute or two.

Ah hell there I go again.

Enjoy:

Devil to Pay, “37 Trillion” official lyric video

DEVIL TO PAY – “37 Trillion” Lyric Video. from the album “Forever, Never or Whenever” (11/8/19 via Ripple Music) filmed live at the Green Lantern, Lexington, KY 07/27/19. Edited by S Janiak. Motion Graphics by Ron Coy.

order “Forever, Never or Whenever” via Ripple Music at https://ripplemusic.bigcartel.com/artist/devil-to-pay

Devil to Pay is:
Steve Janiak – guitars/vocals
Matt Stokes – bass
Chad Prifogle – drums
Rob Hough – guitars

Devil to Pay on Thee Facebooks

Devil to Pay BigCartel store

Devil to Pay website

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

Ripple Music on Thee Facebooks

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Devil to Pay to Release Forever, Never or Whenever Nov. 8; New Song Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 30th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

devil to pay

Once. Exactly one time. That’s how long it took me to hear the chorus of the new Devil to Pay song before it got stuck in my head. The track is called “Heave Ho” and it comes from their new album, Forever, Never or Whenever, which will be released on Nov. 8 through Ripple Music as the follow-up to 2016’s A Bend Through Space and Time (review here). It is their sixth album overall in a tenure that goes back some 17 years, and “Heave Ho” opens.

What that tells you is the band are putting their emphasis right where it belongs, which is on their songwriting. They’ve never been a crazy hyper-stylized kind of outfit, and they’ve never put anything in their approach ahead of the craft of memorable combinations of rhythm, melody and personality in their work. Based in Indianapolis and sharing guitarist/vocalist Steve Janiak with Apostle of Solitude for the last seven years, they’ve gradually garnered broad respect for shining through a sonic realm that’s as immediately familiar as it is their own.

Preorders for Forever, Never or Whenever are up now, and I’ll hope to have more to come before the release date.

For now, the PR wire:

devil to pay forever now or whenever

Midwest heavy rock pillars DEVIL TO PAY unleash first track off new album ‘Forever, Never or Whenever’, out November 8th on Ripple Music

Indianapolis relentless heavy rock unit DEVIL TO PAY are set to issue their sixth full-length ‘Forever, Never or Whenever’ this November 8th on Ripple Music. Stream a badass first track now!

Few bands embody the essence of heavy rock like DEVIL TO PAY. These four mercenaries and all-round brilliant songwriters have crafted one air-tight record after another, and sixth studio album ‘Forever, Never or Whenever’ can be easily considered their watermark statement.

Steve Janiak’s powerful gritty vocals take the listener to new heights, while dark, doom-tinged atmospheres are masterfully intertwined with a heavy metal stampede of meaty riffs, for an overall end-of-world feeling. It won’t take long until ‘Forever, Never or Whenever’ drags you to the other side and becomes your new dark heavy rock favorite.

DEVIL TO PAY guitarist and vocalist Steve Janiak experienced life-after-death visions during a hospitalization and deals with this incredible story in his writing. A mystical approach that enshrouds this new album and makes the band sound deeper and darker than ever.

DEVIL TO PAY “Forever, Never or Whenever”
Out November 8th on Ripple Music
Preorders available here

TRACK LISTING:
1. Heave Ho
2. The Devil’s Barking Up Your Tree
3. The Cautionary Tale of Yen Sid
4. Get On Down
5. Tap Dancing On Your Grave
6. Imminent Demise
7. 37 Trillion
8. Light Sentence
9. The Pendulum
10. Anti-Gravity Depravity

DEVIL TO PAY are
Steve Janiak – Vocals & Guitar
Chad Prifogle – Drums
Matt Stokes – Bass
Rob Hough – Guitar

https://www.facebook.com/deviltopay
https://www.instagram.com/deviltopay_band/
https://deviltopay.bandcamp.com/
http://deviltopay.net/
https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/
https://www.instagram.com/ripplemusic/
https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/
http://www.ripple-music.com/

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Quarterly Review: Monkey3, Asthma Castle, The Giraffes, Bask, Faerie Ring, Desert Sands, Cavalcade, Restless Spirit, Children of the Sün, Void King

Posted in Reviews on September 30th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Call two friends and tell them to tell two friends to tell two friends, because the Quarterly Review has returned. This time around, it’s 50 records front to back for Fall 2019 and there are some big names and some smaller names and a whole lot of in between which is just how I like it. Between today and Friday, each day 10 album reviews will be posted in a single batch like this one, and although by Wednesday this always means I’m totally out of my mind, it’s always, always, always worth it to be able to write about so much cool stuff. So sit tight, because there’s a lot to get through and, as ever, time’s at a premium.

Thanks in advance for keeping up, and I hope you find something you dig.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Monkey3, Sphere

monkey3 sphere

It’s a full-on Keanu Reeves “whoa” when opening track “Spirals” kicks in on Monkey3‘s sixth album, Sphere (released by Napalm), and that’s by no means the last one on the cinematic six-tracker. The long-running Swiss mostly-instrumentalists have been consistently, persistently underappreciated throughout their career, but whether it’s the aural scope of guitar and keys in “Axis” or the swaps between intensity and sprawl in 14-minute closer “Ellipsis,” their latest work is consuming in its sense of triumph. Even the four-minute “Ida,” which seems at first like it’s barely going to be more than an interlude, finds a thread of majestic cosmic groove and rides it for the duration, while the proggy immersion of “Prism” and the harder drive of “Mass” — not to mention that shredding solo — make the middle of the record anything but a post-hypnosis dip. I won’t pretend to know if Sphere is the record that finally gets the Lausanne four-piece the respect they’ve already well deserved, but if it was, one could only say it was for good reason. Blends of heft, progressive craft, and breadth are rarely so resonant.

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Napalm Records website

 

Asthma Castle, Mount Crushmore

Asthma Castle Mount Crushmore

When you call your record Mount Crushmore, you need to bring it, and much to their credit, Baltimorean sludge-rocking five-piece Asthma Castle do precisely that on their debut full-length. Issued through Hellmistress Records, the 37-minute/six-track outing is a wordplay-laced pummeler that shows as much persona in its riffing and massive groove as it does in titles like “The Incline of Western Civilization” and “The Book of Duderonomy.” Trades between early-Mastodonic twists and lumbering sludge crash add a frenetic and unpredictable feel to pieces like the title-track, while “Methlehem” trades its plod for dual-guitar antics punctuated by metallic double-kick, all the while the vocals trade back and forth between growls, shouts, cleaner shouts, the odd scream, etc., because basically if you can keep up with it, Asthma Castle wouldn’t be doing their job. One shudders to think of the amount of Natty Bo consumed during its making, but Mount Crushmore is a wild and cacophonous enough time to live up to the outright righteousness of its title. If I graded reviews, it would get a “Fuckin’ A+,” with emphasis on “fuckin’ a.”

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Hellmistress Records website

 

The Giraffes, Flower of the Cosmos

the giraffes flower of the cosmos

Some day the world will wake up and realize the rock and roll powerhouse it had in Brooklyn’s The Giraffes, but by then it’ll be too late. The apocalypse will have happened long ago, and it’ll be Burgess Meredith putting on a vinyl of Flower of the Cosmos in the New York Library as “FAKS” echoes out through the stacks of now-meaningless tomes and the dust of nuclear winter falls like snow outside the windows. The band’s tumultuous history is mirrored in the energy of their output, and yet to hear the melody and gentle fuzz at the outset of “Golden Door,” there’s something soothing about their work as well that, admittedly, “Raising Kids in the End Times” is gleeful in undercutting. Cute as well they pair that one with “Dorito Dreams” on this, their seventh record in a 20-plus-year run, which has now seen them find their footing, lose it, find it again, and in this record and songs like the masterfully frenetic “Fill up Glass” and the air-tight-tense “Like Hate” and “Romance,” weave a document every bit worthy of Mr. Meredith’s attention as he mourns for the potential of this godforsaken wasteland. Oh, what we’ll leave behind. Such pretty ruins.

The Giraffes website

The Giraffes on Bandcamp

 

Bask, III

bask iii

In the fine tradition of heavy rock as grown-up punk, North Carolina’s Bask bring progressive edge and rolling-Appalachian atmospherics to the underlying energy of III, their aptly-titled and Season of Mist-issued third album. Their foot is in any number of styles, from Baroness-style noodling to a hard twang that shows up throughout and features prominently on the penultimate “Noble Daughters II – The Bow,” but the great triumph of III, and really the reason it works at all, is because the band find cohesion in this swath of influences. They’re a band who obviously put thought into what they do, making it all the more appropriate to think of them as prog, but as “Three White Feet” and “New Dominion” show at the outset, they don’t serve any aesthetic master so much as the song itself. Closing with banjo and harmonies and a build of crash cymbal on “Maiden Mother Crone” nails the point home in a not-understated way, but at no point does III come across as hyper-theatrical so as to undercut the value of what Bask are doing. It’s a more patient album than it at first seems, but given time to breathe, III indeed comes to life.

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Season of Mist on Bandcamp

 

Faerie Ring, The Clearing

fairie ring the clearing

Listening to the weighty rollout of opening cut “Bite the Ash” on Faerie Ring‘s debut album, The Clearing (on King Volume Records), one is reminded of the energy that once-upon-a-time came out of Houston’s Venomous Maximus. There’s a similar feeling of dark energy surging through the riffs and echoing vocals, but the Evansville, Indiana, four-piece wind up on a different trip. Their take is more distinctly Sabbathian on “Lost Wind” and even the swinging “Heavy Trip” lives up to its stated purpose ahead of the chugging largesse of finisher “Heaven’s End.” They find brash ground on “The Ring” and the slower march of “Somnium,” but there’s metal beneath the lumbering and it comes out on “Miracle” in a way that the drums late in “Lost Wind” seem to hint toward on subsequent listens. It’s a mix of riff-led elements that should be readily familiar to many listeners, but the sheer size and clarity of presentation Faerie Ring make throughout The Clearing makes me think they’ll look to distinguish themselves going forward, and so their first record holds all the more potential for that.

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King Volume Records on Bandcamp

 

Desert Sands, The Ascent EP

Desert Sands The Ascent

Begun as the solo-project of London-based multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Mark Walker and presently a trio including Louis Kinder and Jonathan Walker as well, Desert Sands make their recorded debut through A Records with the three-song/half-hour The Ascent EP, a work of psychedelic existentialism that conveys its cosmic questioning even before the lyrics start, with an opening riff and rhythmic lurch to “Are You There” that seems to throw its central query into a void that either will or won’t answer. Does it? The hell should I know, but The Ascent proves duly transcendent in its pulsations as “Head Towards the Light” and 11:45 closer “Yahweh” — yeah, I guess we get there — bring drifting, languid enlightenment to these spiritual musings. The finale is, of course, a jam in excelsis and if drop-acid-find-god is the narrative we’re working with, then Desert Sands are off to a hell of a start as a project. Regardless of how one might ultimately come down (and it is, by my estimation at least, a comedown) on the question of human spirituality, there’s no denying the power and ethereal force of the kind of creativity on display in The Ascent. One will wait impatiently to see what comes next.

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A Recordings on Thee Facebooks

 

Cavalcade, Sonic Euthanasia

Cavalcade Sonic Euthanasia

Say what you want about New Orleans or North Carolina or wherever the hell else, Midwestern sludge is another level of filth. To wit, the Carcass-style vocals that slice through the raw, dense riffing on “Aspirate on Aspirations” feel like the very embodiment of modern disillusion, and there’s some flourish of melodic guitar pluck there, but that only seems to give the ensuing crunch more impact, and likewise the far-back char of “Freezing in Fire” as it relates to the subsequent “Dead Idles,” as Cavalcade refute the trappings of genre in tempo while still seeming to burrow a hole for themselves in the skull of the converted. “Noose Tie” and “We Dig Our Own Graves” tell the story, but while the recording itself is barebones, Cavalcade aren’t now and never really have been so simple as to be a one-trick band. For more than a decade, they’ve provided a multifaceted and trickily complex downer extremity, and Sonic Euthanasia does this as well, bringing their sound to new places and new levels of abrasion along its punishing way. Easy listening? Shit. You see that eye on the cover? That’s the lizard people staring back at you. Have fun with that.

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Cavalcade on Bandcamp

 

Restless Spirit, Lord of the New Depression

restless spirit lord of the new depression

Long Island chug-rockers Restless Spirit would seem to have been developing the material for their self-released debut album, Lord of the New Depression, over the last couple years on a series of short releases, but the songs still sound fresh and electrified in their vitality. If this was 1992 or ’93, they’d be signed already to RoadRacer Records and put on tour with Life of Agony, whose River Runs Red would seem to be a key influence in the vocals of the nine-track/39-minute offering, but even on their own, the metal-tinged five-piece seem to do just fine. Their tracks are atmospheric and aggressive and kind, and sincere in their roll, capturing the spirit of a band like Down with somewhat drawn-back chestbeating, “Dominion” aside. They seem to be challenging themselves to push outside those confines though in “Deep Fathom Hours,” the longest track at 7:35 with more complexity in the melody of the vocals and guitar, and that suits them remarkably well as they dig into this doomly take on LOA and Type O Negative and others from the early ’90s NYC underground — they seem to pass on Biohazard, which is fine — made legendary with the passage of time. As a gentleman of a certain age, I find it exceptionally easy to get on board.

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Restless Spirit on Bandcamp

 

Children of the Sün, Flowers

Children of the Sun Flowers

An eight-piece outfit based in Arvika, Sweden, which is far enough west to be closer to Oslo than Stockholm, Children of the Sün blend the classic heavy rock stylizations of MaidaVale, first-LP Blues Pills and others with a decidedly folkish bent. Including an intro, their The Sign Records debut album, Flowers, is eight track and 34 minutes interweaving organ and guitar, upbeat vibes and bluesier melodies, taking cues from choral-style vocals on “Emmy” in such a way as to remind of Church of the Cosmic Skull, though the aesthetic here is more hippie than cult. The singing on “Sunschild” soars in that fashion as well, epitomizing the lush melody found across Flowers as the keys, guitar, bass and drums work to match in energy and presence. For a highlight, I’d pick the more subdued title-track, which still has its sense of movement thanks to percussion deep in the mix but comes arguably closest to the flower-child folk Children of the Sün seem to be claiming for their own, though the subsequent closing duo of “Like a Sound” and “Beyond the Sun” aren’t far off either. They’re onto something. One hopes they continue to explore in such sünshiny fashion.

Children of the Sün on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Void King, Barren Dominion

void king barren dominion

Having made their debut with 2016’s There is Nothing (discussed here), Indianapolis downtrodden heavy rock four-piece Void King come back for a second go with Barren Dominion (on Off the Record Label), a title of similar theme that finds them doom riffing through massive tonality on “Burnt at Both Ends,” asking what if Soundgarden played atmospheric doom rock on “Crippled Chameleon” — uh, it would be awesome? yup — and opening each side with its longest track (double immediate points) in a clearly intended vinyl structure hell bent on immersing the listener as much as possible in the lumber and weight the band emit. Frontman Jason Kindred adds extra burl to his already-plenty-dudely approach on “Crippled Chameleon” and closer “The Longest Winter,” the latter with some harmonies to mirror those of opener “A Lucid Omega,” and the band around him — bassist Chris Carroll, drummer Derek Felix and guitarist Tommy Miller — seem to have no trouble whatsoever in keeping up, there or anywhere else on the eight-song/46-minute outing. Topped with striking cover art from Diogo SoaresBarren Dominion is deceptively nuanced and full-sounding. Not at all empty.

Void King on Thee Facebooks

Off the Record Label BigCartel store

 

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Void King to Release Barren Dominion Sept. 13; Stream “The Longest Winter”

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 7th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

void king

Last I heard from Indianapolis’ Void King, they were taking off for Europe to support their first album, There is Nothing (discussed here), alongside Louisiana’s Boudain. Good company. The four-piece will present their second record through Off the Record Label on Sept. 13 and they’re streaming the with-burl-to-spare closing track “The Longest Winter” from it now, showcasing a somewhat darker take on the heavy vibes of the prior offering. They opted to have Bongripper‘s guitarist master the thing, which will no doubt account for some of the inherent volume involved, but one way or the other, it’s a pretty fierce groove they’ve locked in. I haven’t had the chance yet to dig into the full release, but certainly what “The Longest Winter” has to offer is an encouraging argument to do so.

The PR wire brings art, gets informative, rocks out, like this:

void king barren dominion

U.S. Stoner Doom and Roll Practitioners VOID KING Releasing ‘Barren Dominion’ September 13 on Off The Record

Stoner Doom and Roll practitioners VOID KING are proud to announce the forthcoming release of sophomore album Barren Dominion on Off The Record. On Barren Dominion, the band has harnessed raw emotion and embraced a darker, heavier sound to express three years of personal and group struggles and victories.

Barren Dominion will be available for mass consumption on September 13 via voidking.bandcamp.com/ and all major digital platforms, as well as on CD. A vinyl release is planned to follow at a later date.

“At the heart of it, this record is who we are. Jason and I have been through some pretty trying times in the last couple of years and managed to rise above it all”, says guitar player Tommy Miller. “I wouldn’t go so far to call this a concept record, but there is a theme running through the entire thing.”

Barren Dominion was recorded with Bloomington, IN artist Niko Albanese, and mastered by Dennis Pleckham of Comatose studios and guitarist for the band BONGRIPPER. “We needed people working on this record that understood not just the sound that we were going for, but also the vibe that we wanted to hit. Dennis and Niko really hit that perfectly on both fronts”, says drummer of VOID KING, Derek Felix. “We talked a lot about making sure that this record was massive. Between recording the drums in an empty warehouse and having the guitar player from BONGRIPPER master the record, I would say that this album is exactly what we were looking for.”

Track Listing:
1. A Lucid Omega
2. Leftover Savages
3. Burnt At Both Ends
4. of Whip And Steed
5. Temples Made of Bone
6. Learning From The Ashes
7. Crippled Chameleon
8. The Longest Winter

Album Credits:
Recorded/Mixed – Niko Albanese
Mastering – Comatose Studios
Album Art – Soares Artwork

VOID KING is:
Derek Felix – Percussion
Chris Carroll – Bass
Jason Kindred – Vocals
Tommy Miller – Guitar

http://voidking.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/voidkingband/
https://www.offtherecordshop.nl/

Void King, “The Longest Winter”

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The Gates of Slumber: Karl Simon Talks Reuniting the Band, Future Plans and More

Posted in Features on May 3rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the gates of slumber

It’s only too fitting that The Gates of Slumber‘s reunion after five years of inactivity should focus on their 2004 debut, …The Awakening. Founded in 1997 in Indianapolis as The Keep by guitarist/vocalist Karl Simon, the band would go on to release five full-lengths between ’04 and 2011, as well as a slew of splits and EPs, thereby spearheading an American traditionalist doom outside the geographic confines of Maryland’s scene. Their sound embraced epic metal on Conqueror (2008) and 2009’s Hymns of Blood and Thunder (review here), but never wavered from its core purpose in doom, and their final LP, 2011’s The Wretch (review here), was a gloriously downtrodden exploration of drunken regret set to riffage that used the open spaces of the recording to create an even more oppressive sphere.

When bassist Jason McCash left the band in Sept. 2013Simon said, “I always said I’d never go on doing TGoS without Jason, I don’t think anyone ever really believed it, but yeah, it’s done.” Soon enough, Simon would go on to found Wretch as a continuation of The Gates of Slumber‘s cathartic outlet, and their self-titled debut LP (review here) showed up in 2016, followed the next year by an EP, Bastards Born (discussed here), as the new unit began to find its own direction within the sphere of doom. The legacy of The Gates of Slumber and McCash, who passed away in 2014, loomed large, but Simon was always upfront about what he wanted the band to be and Wretch went so far as to play select The Gates of Slumber songs live. You don’t name your new band after your old band’s last album if you’re trying to distance yourself from what you’ve done in the past. Wretch worked and continues to work as a project precisely because of its direct engagement and honesty about its origins.

News came down earlier this week that The Gates of Slumber would reunite for Hell Over Hammaburg in Hamburg, Germany, next year, playing alongside NifelheimArgusHauntBellrope and a slew more not yet announced. The new lineup of the band features Steve Janiak of Devil to Pay and Apostle of Solitude on bass and Chuck Brown of Apostle of Solitude on drums. The latter is also a veteran of The Gates of Slumber, having played on …The Awakening before being ousted and starting his own band. Together, the new trio will embark on the trip to Germany in 2020 and then…? It’s up in the air. Simon notes below they’re willing to take it as far as people want without affecting anyone’s work in other bands, including his own, and of course one recalls that at the time of their breakup, The Gates of Slumber were slated to do nearly three weeks on the road supporting Church of Misery the next month. I don’t think they’ll pickup right where they left off, but perhaps there’s some sense of work still to be done on the part of one of this millennium’s most essential US doom purveyors.

So, with Germany ahead and Wretch on tour now (playing New England Stoner & Doom Fest in CT this weekend), behold The Gates of Slumber‘s reawakening. Thanks to Simon for taking the time to talk about it on short notice, and to you for reading.

The Gates of Slumber Interview with Karl Simon

First things first: How did the reunion come about? Did Hell Over Hammaburg bring the idea to you? What made you think this was the time to bring back The Gates of Slumber?

Well, Wolf [Mühlmann] from HOH asked me a while back about TGoS playing, and I was not in a place to really deal with it. My mother had just passed after a long illness and Wretch was on hold due to drama in the band, so I said something non-committal about the whole thing and left it at that. I basically took a chunk of time and quit thinking about bands. I learned a bunch of songs arranged for an acoustic and just kind of played for myself. Last year I asked Dustin Boltjes formerly of Skeletonwitch, The Dream is Dead, Demiricous and all around raging dude to take the throne and we started working on songs for the next Wretch record. In the middle of that, I tore my Achilles and had to take months off. And Oli [Richling] from Church Within contacted me asking about The Awakening, I’d been trying to pitch the live LP from the The Wretch tour forever, and we got a deal worked out for the Live record, The Awakening AND Like a Plague Upon the Land — the last recorded stuff with that lineup. Chuck had come by a bit during my downtime and we’d been talking a lot. We had this deal where our records were going to come back out and the way I saw it it would be a dumb thing to not at least play a few shows to support it. Jason would have done it in a minute…. and it gave me an excuse to play those songs with Chuck again and just hang out with an old friend. And that’s that.

How did the the lineup end up being you, Chuck and Steve? Was the fact that Chuck had been in Gates before a factor? Obviously they’re both in Apostle of Solitude now, but how did that all come together?

We both wanted to take this chance for sure, TGoS had a decent profile and we wanted to ride the goddamn snake, but we did not want any stress. It’s all super laid back for a change. Steve fell right in because he could commit right away and he was into it. His gear was at Chuck‘s where we practice and we just went with it. It’s all been very chill and easy. Which is how we want it.

It’s been nearly six years since the band first broke up. How do you feel about what The Gates of Slumber accomplished during its initial run? I know Wretch has played some Gates songs in the past, but how do you feel looking back on that material now that the band is going again? Has your appreciation for it changed at all?

We’ve been relearning songs from that era that basically stopped when we fired Chuck in ’05… it’s been fun and in a dippy sense healing. We realized how destructive we were to each other back then and how insecure we were as people and players, at least I have been. As far as what Wretch will do, basically the only song from TGoS we do is the namesake, I see that as a rallying point for Wretch… the other songs are going to stay with TGoS… I mean maybe someday we’ll trot out “Scovrge of Drvnkeness” or something, but in Wretch we are focused on writing new songs.

Do you have any idea of what you’ll play live yet?

We’ll be focusing exclusively on songs from The Awakening era. Sorry if you’re a fan of the later stuff. This is going back to the beginning and we plan to play at least an hour and 20 min, focusing mostly on songs that never got played live. You’ll hear “The Leach” for the first time, “The Burial” will be back, along with “Dweller in the Deep” and a bunch of other stuff.

It goes without saying that Jason’s legacy looms large in all things concerning The Gates of Slumber. The band initially quit when he left. How much is he in your mind when you think about what makes The Gates of Slumber what it was and is?

He’s there constantly, you know. His shadow looms over TGoS and Wretch a lot. I’ve had a lot of time with death. And grief never goes away. It’s softens… it’s like, Wretch just played our first show in two years on his birthday. His widow and son were there. It’s a family thing.

How far will this reunion go? Will you play other shows besides Hell Over Hammaburg? How will it affect Wretch, Apostle of Solitude and Devil to Pay? Will there ever be another Gates record?

As far as folks want it to, if there is a demand we’ll play… it’s not going to effect Apostle of Solitude or Wretch or Devil to Pay. For me Wretch is number one. We actually leave for tour tomorrow May 2. So, dear reader, if you’re trying to ask some questions about this you’d best see me at the merch table, get it? Got it? Good.

See you all soon!

Karl

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The Gates of Slumber on Twitter

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The Gates of Slumber Reunite for Hell over Hammaburg 2020; Post Rehearsal Footage

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 30th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the gates of slumber

Bands come and go all the time. All the time. They come, then go, then come again, then go again. But if you and I were to sit down and have a chat — doesn’t that sound nice? — about bands who’ve come and gone and were unlikely to return, I’d probably have put The Gates of Slumber on that list. When the Indianapolis three-piece forerunners of doom traditionalism disbanded in 2013, then yeah, okay, maybe they’d have gotten back together, but then a few months later when bassist Jason McCash passed away, and guitarist/vocalist Karl Simon moved on to form Wretch, it just didn’t seem like the kind of thing that was ever going to happen. Then Germany called.

The Gates of Slumber will play a special set for Hell Over Hammaburg 2020. Of course the idea will be to focus on the band’s history and pay homage to McCash and the legacy of what they created in their original run. The new lineup is comprised of Simon, bassist Steve Janiak (also guitarist/vocalist of Devil to Pay and Apostle of Solitude) and drummer Chuck Brown (also guitarist/vocalist in Apostle of Solitude and drummer in an earlier incarnation of The Gates of Slumber as well), and they’ve posted a clip of some rehearsal footage on Thee Facebooks in order to get word out of the revitalization of the band.

There are always people who naysay reunions, and reunions with a new lineup as well. Whatever. The Gates of Slumber went out on the heels of their best work yet in 2011’s The Wretch (review here) — technically they also had the Stormcrow EP (review here) before they were done, but stay with me — and I think the fact that Simon went on to form Wretch is clear indication there was still more to be said there. I don’t know if they’ve even thought of working on new material, but my understanding is this is a special kind of one-off thing, they might do some dates around the festival, but basically it’s something unique for Hell Over Hammaburg next year, and that’s where it stands now. Of course we know plans can change. There wouldn’t be a reunion in the first place if that wasn’t true.

Check out the rehearsal footage below. There may also be some reissues in the works and the long-supposed live album might happen as well. I’ll hope for more to come all around.

Enjoy:

Just Announced: The Gates of Slumber to reunite for Hell Over Hammaburg 2020. More details to follow…

The Gates of Slumber on Thee Facebooks

Hell Over Hammaburg website

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