Kingnomad, The Great Nothing: Into the Outer

Posted in Reviews on August 14th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

kingnomad the great nothing

As to what might be Swedish progressive cult rockers Kingnomad‘s fascination with emptiness, I can’t say, but it’s worked out for them thus far into their relatively brief tenure. Ripple Music released their debut long-player, Mapping the Inner Void, and now issues the quick-turnaround follow-up in the form of The Great Nothing; six tracks recorded by vocalist/guitarist/organist Mr. Jay at The Crazy Heart Studio. It is a work of significant and multifaceted growth that may surprise those who heard the debut for only coming a year later — the band formed in 2014 — but still holds true to a classically naturalist ’70s sound while being modern in both production and atmosphere.

With the lineup of Mr. Jay, fellow guitarist Marcus, bassist/backing vocalist Maximilian and drummer Mano, Kingnomad make an obvious focal point of the 22-minute title-track, which closes out and comprises the entirety of side B, but even when it comes to the rest of what surrounds, from the introduction “The Yoga of Desolation” through “Cosmic Serpent,” “The Mysterious Agreement,” “All Those Things” and “Collapsing Pillars of the Earth,” the group patiently delivers proggy sounds and an engaging ambience without necessarily resorting to trickery to do it.

It is a nighttime album, to be sure, but there is nothing about it that feels like caricature. Kingnomad are sincere in their approach and clearly serious about the forward creative drive they demonstrate in these songs, following a narrative course through the early cuts and into the latter reaches of the title-cut, with its late acoustic strum and volume-swell of effects adding spaciousness and a psychedelic feel to a sweet post-payoff epilogue. That aspect of the band’s execution is pivotal and feels as willful as any of the individual arrangements, and from the harmonized intro “The Yoga of Desolation” onward into the sweep of guitar that starts the space-boogie of “Cosmic Serpent,” the four-piece make plain their intent to invite listeners along the course they’re taking, a winding but consuming path guided by sure hands all the while.

One doesn’t want to overstate it, but even in light of what they were able to bring to their first album, The Great Nothing is a significant achievement, and where that record was concerned with the ‘Inner,’ this collection seems to answer back by centering around an expanse of creative exploration in its songwriting. Elements like the short break to organ at the halfway point of “Cosmic Serpent,” or Mano‘s cyclical tom patterning in the third minute of “The Mysterious Agreement” — let alone anything the title-track brings to bear — demonstrate a nuanced take that only continues in the bed of bass under the guitar at the outset of “All Those Things” and the structure of “Collapsing Pillars of the Earth,” which abandons its opening progression only to embark on King Crimson-y starts and stops, turn that on its head with some early-Witchcraft-ed doom classicism, return to the start-stop, break into a stretch of quiet guitar on its own, work its way into a worthy boogie fleshed out as so much of the record is by the organ, and only then return back to the long-ago opening movement to close out.

kingnomad

This would be dizzying were it not so well done, and especially when taken in kind with the songs before it and in consideration of the smooth flow between them and how one leads into the next, all the more so. Making complex ideas sound organic seems to be a running theme throughout, but it’s also worth remembering the basic elements of songwriting at play. “Cosmic Serpent,” which its layers of vocal harmonies over tripped-out crashes, offers a memorable hook and taps cult rock aspects without giving itself entirely to the post-Uncle Acid garage doom aesthetic.

And likewise, “Collapsing Pillars of the Earth” seems to draw on the smoothly-done harmonies of Swedish countrymen Ghost without aping them at all. From the samples at the beginning of the proto-metal-chugging “The Mysterious Agreement” through the foreshadowing sense of purpose in the not-all-who-wander-are-lost midsection of “All Those Things,” The Great Nothing proves to be of marked character and noteworthy detail, unfolding new elements and aspects on subsequent listens one might have missed the first time around.

Likewise, parsing the title-track, which also begins with the aforementioned acoustic strum that closes, is something that requires several visits to that alleged void. And I say “alleged” because “The Great Nothing” is anything but empty. Sure it has its atmospheric stretches, but even these are filled with subtle keys, drums building in tension, and interplay between the two guitars that is as hypnotic as it is thoughtful. Whether loud or quiet at any given time, Kingnomad keep a mind on their ultimate direction and as they make their way into the psychedelic reaches as seven minutes becomes eight and the song seems to almost completely stop, there’s never any doubt that the band know what they’re doing and that none of it is happenstance.

They’ve earned that trust over the course of side A and they put it to use in side B, which picks up around 8:40 with a percussion-backed rumble that pushes into the next heavier section and verse, crossing the halfway point during a chorus that unfolds to bluesy versemaking before it nestles into a bluesy jam. A break after crossing the 14-minute mark returns to the chorus and thicker riffing takes hold to mark the beginning of the last march and payoff. “The Great Nothing” almost can’t help but summarize what Kingnomad do so successfully throughout the LP that shares its name — how could it not? it takes up more than half the runtime! — but particularly the decision to end in relatively subdued form speaks further to the purposefulness of how far they’ve come in so short a time.

It reinforces the suggestion that not only did Kingnomad know what they wanted to do with The Great Nothing, but with their aesthetic as a whole, and that they’ve been working toward those ends over the last four years. I doubt their development is over, but The Great Nothing does not seem to set a goal for itself it subsequently doesn’t achieve. It’s really something.

Kingnomad, The Great Nothing (2018)

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Kingnomad on Bandcamp

Ripple Music website

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Ripple Music on Twitter

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Ripple Music, DHU Records, Kozmik Artifactz & Twin Earth Records Team up for 2LP Compilation Skull Mountain

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 27th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

skull mountain cover

As an old friend used to say — SCENE UNITY! As someone who lives in fear of corralling even one label’s worth of bands onto a sampler, the notion of the logistics involved with Skull Mountain feels like the stuff of anxiety dreams on the part of those making it happen. And yet, the bold souls at Ripple Music, Kozmik Artifactz, Twin Earth Records and DHU Records have come together across continents to make it happen, and a 500-copies-pressed 2LP four-way label sampler split featuring all previously unreleased tracks and versions is the result. I shouldn’t have to tell you this is something special, something that doesn’t happen every day, and something that might not happen again.

And yet, it’s so emblematic of the moment in which the heavy rock underground finds itself today. Time was when labels like Ripple and Kozmik Artifactz would be too busy competing and trying to poach each other’s bands to team up on a joint multi-artist venture, and to have DHU and Twin Earth on board as well only affirms the passion and the taste at heart in what these people are doing. It’s not about who can be the biggest, or who can make the most money. It’s about love of the music and about wanting to support those who make it and, in this case, teaming up to reach as broad an audience as possible so that everyone benefits.

16 bands, four sides of two platters and one deeply, deeply admirable project, Skull Mountain releases on June 16 with preorders beginning today at the times listed in the flyer below.

Beneath that, you can see the official announcement of the release and the complete tracklisting. Kudos to everyone involved on every level in making this one happen.

From the PR wire:

skull mountain poster

Over a year in the making! Perhaps the world’s first Four-Label collaborative effort to bring together some of the best heavy psych, stoner, doom from both sides of the Atlantic. Two US-based labels, Ripple Music and Twin Earth Records, join forces with two European-based labels, DHU Records and Kozmik Artifactz to bring forth a double album of epic proportions, something so massive it could only have its own monolith, Skull Mountain.

Each Label showcases one full album side of its signature sound, each song previously unreleased or unreleased mix. The entire album mastered to perfection by Tony Reed at HeavyHead.

Inside the gatefold, Tarot cards display the four element theme of Skull Mountain with each Label represented by its own signature element, Ripple-Water; Twin Earth-Earth, DHU- Fire, and Kozmik- Air. Accordingly, each label has a limited amount of vinyl available in its own signature elemental color, Ripple-Blue, Twin Earth – Green, DHU-Red, and Kozmik- Clear

That’s right! Only 500 of these stunning 2xLP albums were pressed, with each label only having 125 in its signature color. Once they’re gone, they’re gone.

An epic introduction into the worlds of North American and European heavy music. A monumental journey to Skull Mountain

Track Listing:

Side Ripple
The Watchers – Starfire (Cosmic Nebula mix)
Kingnomad – Dewer’s Hollow
Blackwulf – The Tempest (Black Tide mix)
Vokonis – Celestial Embrace

Side Twin Earth
Alastor – Blood on Satan’s Claw
Kabbalah – Abomination
Starts that Move – Give It All Away
Haunted – Crossmoth

Side D.H.U.
Disenchanter – More Evil Than Thou
Dawn – Day of the Lord
Witch Ritual – Drawing Down the Moon
Youngblood Supercult – Sticky Fingers

Side Kozmik
The Heavy Eyes – Home
Devil Electric – Devil’s Bells
Red Spektor – Devil’s Keeper
Hair of the Dog – My Only Home

Each label has 125 copies in its own color available on its own site.

www.ripplemusic.bigcartel.com/products
darkhedonisticunionrecords.bigcartel.com
http://twinearthrecords.storenvy.com
http://shop.bilocationrecords.com/

The Watchers, “Starfire” (original version) official video

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Debut Albums of 2017

Posted in Features on December 18th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk top-20-debut-albums

Please note: This post is not culled in any way from the Year-End Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2017 to that, please do.

Every successive year brings an absolute inundation of underground productivity. Every year, someone new is inspired to pick up a guitar, bass, drums, mic, keyboard, theremin, cello — whatever it might be — and set themselves to the task of manifesting the sounds they hear in their head.

This is unspeakably beautiful in my mind, and as we’ve done in years past, it seems only fair to celebrate the special moment of realization that comes with a band’s first album. The debut full-length. Sometimes it’s a tossed-off thing, constructed from prior EPs or thrown together haphazardly from demo tracks, and sometimes it’s a meticulously picked-over expression of aesthetic — a band coming out of the gate brimming with purpose and desperate to communicate it, whatever it might actually happen to be.

We are deeply fortunate to live in an age (for now) of somewhat democratized access to information. That is, if you want to hear a thing — or if someone wants you to hear a thing — it’s as simple as sharing and/or clicking a link. The strong word of mouth via ubiquitous social media, intuitive recording software, and an ever-burgeoning swath of indie labels and other promotional vehicles means bands can engage an audience immediately if they’re willing to do so, and where once the music industry’s power resided in the hands of a few major record companies, the divide between “listener” and “active participant” has never been more blurred.

Therefore, it is a good — if crowded — time for an act to be making their debut, even if it’s something that happens basically every day, and all the more worth celebrating the accomplishments of these first-albums both on their current merits and on the potential they may represent going forward. Some percent of a best-debuts list is always speculation. That’s part of what makes it so much fun.

As always, I invite you to let me know your favorite picks in the comments (please keep it civil). Here are mine:

telekinetic-yeti-abominable

The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Debut Albums of 2017

1. Telekinetic Yeti, Abominable
2. Rozamov, This Mortal Road
3. Mindkult, Lucifer’s Dream
4. Dool, Here Now There Then
5. Eternal Black, Bleed the Days
6. Arduini/Balich, Dawn of Ages
7. Vinnum Sabbathi, Gravity Works
8. Tuna de Tierra, Tuna de Tierra
9. Brume, Rooster
10. Moon Rats, Highway Lord
11. Thera Roya, Stone and Skin
12. OutsideInside, Sniff a Hot Rock
13. Hymn, Perish
14. Riff Fist, King Tide
15. Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree, Medicine
16. Abronia, Obsidian Visions/Shadowed Lands
17. Book of Wyrms, Sci-Fi Fantasy
18. Firebreather, Firebreather
19. REZN, Let it Burn
20. Ealdor Bealu, Dark Water at the Foot of the Mountain

Honorable Mention

Alastor, Black Magic
Devil’s Witches, Velvet Magic
Elbrus, Elbrus
Green Meteor, Consumed by a Dying Sun
Grigax, Life Eater
High Plains, Cinderland
Kingnomad, Mapping the Inner Void
Lord Loud, Passé Paranoia
Masterhand, Mind Drifter
The Necromancers, Servants of the Salem Girl
Owlcrusher, Owlcrusher
Petyr, Petyr
The Raynbow, The Cosmic Adventure
Savanah, The Healer
War Cloud, War Cloud
WhiteNails, First Trip

I could keep going with honorable mentions, and no doubt will add a few as people remind me of other things on which I brainfarted or whathaveyou, preferably without calling me an idiot, though I recognize that sometimes that’s a lot to ask. Either way, the point remains that the heavy underground remains flush with fresh infusions of creativity and that as another generation comes to maturity, still another is behind it, pushing boundaries forward or looking back and reinventing what came before them.

Notes

Will try and likely fail to keep this brief, but the thing I find most striking about this list is the variety of it. That was not at all something I planned, but even if you just look at the top five, you’ve got Telekinetic Yeti at the forefront. Abominable is something of a speculative pick on my part for the potential it shows on the part of the Midwestern duo in their songcraft and tonality, but then you follow them with four other wildly different groups in Rozamov, Mindkult, Dool and Eternal Black. There you’ve got extreme sludge from Boston, a Virginian one-man cult garage project, Netherlands-based dark heavy rock with neo-goth flourishes, and crunching traditionalist doom from New York in the vein of The Obsessed.

What I’m trying to say here is that it’s not just about one thing, one scene, one sound, or one idea. It’s a spectrum, and at least from where I sit, the quality of work being done across that spectrum is undeniable. Think of the prog-doom majesty Arduini/Balich brought to their collaborative debut, or the long-awaited groove rollout from Vinnum Sabbathi, or how Italy’s Tuna de Tierra snuck out what I thought was the year’s best desert rock debut seemingly under everybody’s radar. Stylistically and geographically these bands come from different places, and as with Brume and Moon Rats, even when a base of influence is similar, the interpretation thereof can vary widely and often does.

That Moon Rats album wasn’t covered nearly enough. I’m going to put it in the Quarterly Review coming up just to give another look at the songwriting on display, which was maddening in its catchiness. Maddening in its cacophony of noise was Stone and Skin from Brooklyn’s Thera Roya, which found itself right on the cusp of the top 10 with backing from the ’70s heavy rock vibes of the post-Carousel Pittsburgh outfit OutsideInside. Norway’s Hymn thrilled with their bleak atmospheres, while Australia’s Riff Fist showed off a scope they’d barely hinted at previously, and Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree offered surprises of their own in their warm heavy psych tonality and mostly-instrumental immersion. That record caught me almost completely off-guard. I was not at all prepared to dig it as much as I did.

Thrills continue to abound and resound as the Young Hunter-related outfit Abronia made their first offering of progressive, Americana-infused naturalist heavy, while Book of Wyrms dug themselves into an oozing riffy largesse on the other side of the country and Sweden’s Firebreather emerged from the defunct Galvano to gallop forth and claim victory a la early High on Fire. REZN’s Let it Burn got extra points in my book for the unabashed stonerism of it, while it was the ambience of Ealdor Bealu’s Dark Water at the Foot of the Mountain that kept me going back to it. An album that was genuinely able to project a sense of mood without being theatrical about it was all the more impressive for it being their first. But that’s how it goes, especially on this list.

There you have it. Those are my picks. I recognize I’m only one person and a decent portion of my year was taken up by personal matters — having, losing a job; pregnancy, childbirth and parenting, etc. — but I did my best to hear as much music as I could in 2017 and I did my best to make as much of it as new as I could.

Still, if there’s something egregious I left out or just an album you’d like to champion, hell yes, count me in. What were some of your favorites? Comments are right down there. Let’s get a discussion going and maybe we can all find even more music to dig into.

Thanks for reading and here’s to 2018 to come and the constant renewal of inspiration and the creative spirit.

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Review & Full Album Stream: Kingnomad, Mapping the Inner Void

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on February 22nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

kingnomad-mapping-the-inner-void

[Click play above to stream Kingnomad’s Mapping the Inner Void in full. Album is out this Friday, Feb. 24, on Ripple Music.]

When it comes to new bands, there are some who just kind of get together in a room and see what comes out. Not a bad approach by any means. In many instances, for a lot of acts with the right combination of players, it works. Others seem to approach even their very beginnings with a specific idea of what they want to accomplish and then set to building on that. Notwithstanding Kingnomad‘s purported history — that guitarists Jay and Marcus got together in 2014 to jam Sabbath and then riffs came out and they called up bassist Maximilian and drummer Andreas to join in — the sound of their Ripple Music debut full-length, Mapping the Inner Void, would seem to place them squarely in the latter camp.

It is a record whose seven tracks/38 minutes brim with aesthetic purpose, and granted they’ve had a couple years to put it together, but even so, their sound does not come across as one onto which one might just stumble blindly, melding as it does modern cultishness with classic progressive melodies and semi-vintage tonality, marked out by the sporadic use of spellcasting samples to play up further ghoulish sentiments amid the fuzzed-out roll of a short Lovecraftian nod like “Whispers from R’lyeh,” which follows the one-two opening salvo of the catchy, almost post-Ghost pop spirit of “Lucifer’s Dream” and “Nameless Cult,” and sets up transitions into blues rock, expansive psych and garage doom that follow throughout “The Witches Garden,” “The Green Meadow Part 1 & 2,” “She Wizard” and closer “The Waiting Game.” With the flow the four-piece enact between these cuts and the standout moments of songcraft in them, yes, it seems utterly reasonable to me to attribute their making to more than happenstance. This is a band with a stylistic message.

That message? Perhaps that there are still realms of dark magic to be explored in classic-minded heavy rock. I’m not talking necessarily about the tropes of cult lyrics — though there’s some of that to be had throughout Mapping the Inner Void, for sure — but more about the magic of a collaborative creative effort. Jay, who in addition to playing guitar also sings and handles keys (piano and organ), is a formidable presence throughout the record as he was when Kingnomad met with Michigan’s BoneHawk on Ripple‘s The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter Three split (review here) in 2016, but a considerable difference is in the production, which feels hairier by the time the audio collage at the start of “Lucifer’s Dream” has given over to the song itself. Its arrival is marked by Dead Meadow-style fuzz riffing and a slow drum march for the verse that calls to the aforementioned Ghost with falsetto backing layers in the first chorus.

Immediately, structure seems to be something to toy with as the band launches at the halfway point into more uptempo swing before deftly returning to the fuzzy march, this time topping with a flourish of organ and piano to lull the listener into a false sense of security before the explosive open of “Nameless Cult” proffers old horror sampling en route to one of Mapping the Inner Void‘s strongest choruses. They lean on it a bit and rightly so, since while “Nameless Cult” will find something of a mirror in the penultimate “She Wizard” toward the album’s end, the journey there in the three songs between — not to mention the closer after — is varied enough to warrant a stretch on the most solid of ground. Or at least as close as one can come to it with a hook that seems to take flight as that of “Nameless Cult” does. In any case, though “Whispers from R’lyeh” is almost definitely still on side A, as an interlude it functions almost as a second intro to the album, with an already-noted brief but heavier roll and a few airy lines of guitar leading into centerpiece track “The Witches Garden,” which makes itself a highlight in subtler fashion than did “Nameless Cult” via boogie shuffle and a laid back vocal from Jay that adds atmosphere and melody in kind.

Ringing bells begin “The Green Meadow Part 1 & 2” in what’s almost certainly intended as a call to worship, and dense garage-doom fuzz takes hold on a slow-rolling plod for the next two-plus minutes, dropping out to let the vocals stand alone for the first line of the song before there emerges a blown-out nod that reintroduces the organ around its midpoint and consumes with tone and the lumbering of its rhythm. At seven-plus minutes, “The Green Meadow Part 1 & 2” has room for guitar and drum solos, but Kingnomad rightly bring it back around to the chorus again at the end and harmonize guitar lines over the last percussive roll in order to change the progression even as they’re tying the song together, making it whole and complete and that much broader at once.

As mentioned, “She Wolf” is the second to last cut on Mapping the Inner Void, which also makes it the centerpiece of side B — I think — and it functions well between the more extended “The Green Meadow Part 1 & 2” and “The Waiting Game,” with a simpler arrangement of neo-biker chug and forward rhythmic movement, once again using its keys well for depth of arrangement as it heads directly for the start of “The Waiting Game,” which with its intro of hi-hat and lazily strummed guitar and ensuing march seems to be speaking directly to Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats‘ “Death’s Door,” though much to their credit, Kingnomad make this influence their own.

Layered-in backing vocals add to the chorus as the band plays between fuller and sparser places on their stomp, and though it seems with the pre-midsection solo at about three minutes in that they’re headed out for good, they pull back for another verse before actually making their departure into concluding instrumental exploration, a controlled freakout that runs “The Waiting Game” to its full 8:38, bringing samples back in amid increasing noise before cutting everything out and letting the guitar finish Mapping the Inner Void on the central line of the song, held out at the end on a satisfying fade.

While not flawless in its performance in a manner that would speak to studio trickery, from the click-of-play that starts “Lucifer’s Dream” to that guitar line closing “The Waiting Game,” one finds no aesthetic missteps on the part of Kingnomad, who thereby further the notion of stylistic purpose behind their work. That’s not to say they haven’t left themselves room to grow — watch out next time for increased confidence in the vocals — but that their starting point has given them a clear path to travel. As a debut, the complexity of Mapping the Inner Void unfolds more on repeat listens, and the band earn those listens all the more through songwriting, making the album all the more a success in terms of balance, craft and execution.

Kingnomad on Thee Facebooks

Kingnomad on Twitter

Kingnomad on Bandcamp

Ripple Music website

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Ripple Music on Twitter

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Kingnomad Announce Mapping the Inner Void Due Feb. 24

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 26th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

kingnomad

Swedish outfit Kingnomad made a striking impression last year with their participation in Ripple Music‘s The Second Coming of Heavy split series, bringing a classic garage-fuzz sensibility to their half of a co-release with Michigan’s BoneHawk (review here). Little surprise Ripple snapped them up for the ensuing full-length, which is titled Mapping the Inner Void and set for issue on Feb. 24, but what is kind of a surprise is the more modern presentation one finds Kingnomad working with on the newly-posted track “Nameless Cult.”

The album art — also freshly unveiled — still speaks to some retro mindset, so I’m not sure yet what the album as a whole will hold, but intrigued to find out. You can hear the cut streaming below, and if I do say so myself, it goes nicely with the PR wire info also included here for your perusal.

Have at it:

kingnomad mapping the inner void

KINGNOMAD to release Mapping The Inner Void next month on Ripple Music | Stream and share new song ‘Nameless Cult’

Swedish psychedelic doom band Kingnomad is very much a product of the riffs that inspired them.

Initially formed in 2014 by best friends Jay and Marcus while hanging out in Jay’s studio basement jamming on Black Sabbath grooves and downing bottomless beers, the pair soon stumbled onto a riff of their own making. Over the space of one evening evolved the song ‘Lucifer Is Dead’, and with that one track followed a newfound purpose.

Setting off on a quest to forge music from the influence of hard and heavy 70s rock, psychedelic flights of fancy and the hauntingly ethereal worlds of H.P. Lovecraft, the main driving force behind Kingnomad was to have as much fun as possible. Recruiting the only two people that they knew were qualified enough to orchestrate a killer rhythm section, into the fold came Andreas on drums and Maximilian on bass.

With the quartet retreating back to Jay’s basement – newly christened the “The Room of Doom” – material flowed like a never-ending stream of occult energy. Songs were written, parts recorded and almost as if by magic they found themselves propelled forward in time, primed and ready to release what they had created. Closely courted by Ripple Music they were asked last year to contribute to Chapter III in the label’s ongoing underground series The Second Coming of Heavy, with Michigan rockers Bonehawk. And with the alchemy of creativity burning fervently in their minds, a new batch of original songs were recorded for their debut album shortly afterward.

Officially released next month via Ripple Music, Kingnomad will unleash that very album, Mapping The Inner Void, on 24 February 2017. In the meantime stream and share their new song ‘Nameless Cult’ here.

Kingnomad:
Mr Jay – Vocals, Lead Guitar, Piano/Organ
Andreas – Drums, Percussion
Marcus – Guitars
Maximilian – Bass, Backing Vocals

https://www.facebook.com/kingnomadofficial
https://twitter.com/Kingnomadband
https://kingnomad.bandcamp.com/releases
http://www.ripple-music.com/
https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/theripplemusic/
https://twitter.com/RippleMusic

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Short Releases of 2016

Posted in Features on December 30th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk top 20 short releases

Please note: This post is not culled in any way from the Year-End Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2016 to that, please do.

Yeah, I know I said as much when the Top 20 Debut Albums of 2016 went up, but I take it back: this is the hardest list to put together. And to be honest, there’s a part of me that’s hesitant even to post it because I know as soon as I do someone’s going to be like, “No way you dick your entire existence is shit because you forgot Release X,” and very likely they’ll be right. Up to the very moment this post is going live, I’ve been making changes, and I expect I’ll continue to do so for a while after it’s out there.

So what’s a “short release?” That’s another issue. Pretty much anything that’s not an album. Singles, digital or physical, as well as EPs, splits, demos, and so on. The category becomes nebulous, but my general rule is if it’s not a full-length, it qualifies as a short release. Sounds simple until you get into things like, “Here’s a track I threw up on Bandcamp,” and “This only came out as a bonus included as a separate LP with the deluxe edition of our album.” I’m telling you, I’ve had a difficult time.

Maybe that’s just me trying to protect myself from impending wrath. This year’s Top 30 albums list provoked some vehement — and, if I may, prickishly-worded — responses, so I might be a bit gunshy here, but on the other hand, I think these outings are worth highlighting, so we’re going forward anyway. If you have something to add, please use the comments below, but remember we’re all friends here and there’s a human being on the other end reading what’s posted. Thanks in advance for that.

And since this is the last list of The Obelisk’s Best-of-2016 coverage, I’ll say thanks for reading as well. More to come in the New Year, of course.

Here we go:

scissorfight chaos county

The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Short Releases of 2016

1. Scissorfight, Chaos County EP
2. Earthless / Harsh Toke, Split
3. Mars Red Sky, Providence EP
4. Mos Generator, The Firmament
5. Soldati, Soldati
6. Monolord, Lord of Suffering / Die in Haze EP
7. Wren, Host EP
8. Goya, The Enemy EP
9. The Sweet Heat, Demo
10. River Cult, Demo
11. Stinkeye, Llantera Demos
12. Megaritual, Eclipse EP
13. Ragged Barracudas / Pushy, Split
14. Mindkult, Witchs’ Oath EP
15. Iron Jawed Guru, Mata Hari EP
16. Brume, Donkey
17. Bison Machine / Wild Savages / SLO, Sweet Leaves Vol. 1 Split
18. BoneHawk / Kingnomad, The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter Three Split
19. Wicked Gypsy, EP
20. Love Gang, Love Gang EP

Honorable Mention

An expansive category as ever. In addition to what’s above, the following stood out and no doubt more will be added over the course of the next few days. If you feel something is missing, please let me know.

Presented alphabetically:

Cambrian Explosion, The Moon EP
Candlemass, Death Thy Lover EP
Cultist, Cultist EP
Danava, At Midnight You Die 7″
Dos Malés, Dos Malés EP
Druglord, Deepest Regrets EP
Fu Manchu, Slow Ride 7″
Geezer, A Flagrant Disregard for Happiness 12″
Gorilla vs. Grifter, Split
Holy Smoke, Holy Smoke! It’s a Demo!
Karma to Burn, Mountain Czar
LSD and the Search for God, Heaven is a Place EP
Pallbearer, Fear and Fury
Reign of Zaius, Planet Of…
Sea of Bones / Ramlord, Split
Shallows, The Moon Rises
The Skull, EP
Snowy Dunes, “Atlantis Part I” digital single
Sun Voyager / The Mad Doctors, Split
Valborg, Werwolf 7″

Notes

Was it just the raw joy of having Scissorfight back? No, but that was for sure part of it. It was also the brazenness with which the New Hampshire outfit let go of their past, particularly frontman Christopher “Ironlung” Shurtleff, and moved forward unwilling to compromise what they wanted to do that made their Chaos County so respectable in my eyes. Having always flourished in the form, they delivered an EP of classic Scissorfight tunes and issued a stiff middle finger to anyone who would dare call them otherwise. They couldn’t have been more themselves no matter who was in the band.

At the same time, it was a hard choice between that and the Earthless / Harsh Toke split for the top spot. I mean, seriously. It’s Earthless — who at this point are the godfathers of West Coast jamadelica — and Harsh Toke, who are among the style’s most engaging upstart purveyors, each stretching out over a huge and encompassing single track. I couldn’t stop listening to that one if I wanted to, and as the year went on, I found I never wanted to.

I was glad when Mars Red Sky included the title-track of the Providence EP as a bonus cut on their subsequent album, Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul), both because it tied the two releases together even further and because it gave me another opportunity to hear it every time I listened to the record. Their short releases have always shown significant character apart from their full-lengths, and this was no exception. I still tear up when I hear “Sapphire Vessel.”

To bounce around a bit: Had to get Mos Generator on the list for the progressive expansion of the live-recorded The Firmament. Stickman was right to put that out on vinyl. Both Monolord and Goya provided quick outings of huge riffs to sate their respective and growing followings, while Megaritual’s Eclipse basked in drone serenity and the debut release from Sergio Ch.’s Soldati provided hard-driving heavy rock with the particular nuance for which the former Los Natas frontman is known. It’s the highest among a slew of first/early outings — see also The Sweet Heat, Wren (Host was their second EP), River Cult’s demo, Stinkeye, Mindkult, Iron Jawed Guru, Brume, Wicked Gypsy and Love Gang.

Ultimately, there were fewer splits on the list this year than last year, but I’ll credit that to happenstance more than any emergent bias against the form or lack of quality in terms of what actually came out. The BoneHawk and Kingnomad release, the Ragged Barracudas and Pushy split, and that heavy rocking onslaught from Bison Machine and company were all certainly welcome by me, and I’ll mention Gorilla vs. Grifter there too again, just because it was awesome.

One more time, thank you for reading, and if you have something to add, please do so in the comments below. Your civility in that regard is appreciated.

This is the last of my lists for 2016, but the Readers Poll results are out Jan. 1 and the New Year hits next week and that brings a whole new round of looking-forward coverage, so stay tuned.

As always, there’s much more to come.

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BoneHawk & Kingnomad, The Second Coming of Heavy — Chapter Three: Carousers and Revelers

Posted in Reviews on August 1st, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the-second-coming-of-heavy-chapter-three-bonehawk-kingnomad

It would seem that as Ripple Music‘s split series presses forward in number it’s doing likewise in sound. As well it should. The Second Coming of Heavy — Chapter Three once again brings together two acts on a single LP, two bands in the earlier stages of their career but who each seem to be working toward making a stylistic mark.

Topped off as were the prior editions (and reportedly all those still to come) with artwork by Joseph Rudell and Carrie Olaje, this next installment in the ambitiously-titled run pairs Michigan heavy rockers BoneHawk and Swedish semi-cultist harmonizing newcomers Kingnomad, who represent the biggest geographic leap The Second Coming of Heavy has yet taken — they’re the first non-US band to be featured — and a coinciding stylistic shift, nestling as they do into a storytelling laid back fuzz never quite given to boogie rock, but definitely taking some cues from that scene as well as garage doom, finding a place between the two almost immediately and residing there comfortably until the jammy trip-out on closer “The Suicide King.” For them, this represents the first physical release they’ve had since getting together, and for BoneHawk, their four songs here provide a follow-up to their well-received 2014 debut LP, Albino Rhino, of which Ripple also did a pressing earlier this year.

The two bands share little in common tonally or conceptually apart from a basic affinity for riffs, but those who’ve followed The Second Coming of Heavy through its first two chapters with Geezer and Borracho (review here) and Supervoid and Red Desert (review here) should come into this matchup with fairly open expectations. Thus far, Ripple has done well in finding complementary but still distinct acts.

Prior to this, BoneHawk issued a Spring 2016  7″ honoring Thin Lizzy, and right at the start of their first track on side A, “The Scout,” that vibe comes through in the dual guitars Matt Helt (also vocals) and Chad Houts (also backing vocals), who are joined in the immediate bounce and shuffle by bassist Taylor Wallace and drummer/backing vocalist Jay Rylander, though their tones are of course thicker and more purposefully fuzzed, and they owe perhaps more of their raucous, party-style vibe to Red Fang. That’s an easy tag these days for upbeat heavy rock bands, and I think Red Fang‘s reach is still expanding, but it’s by no means the end of the story for BoneHawk, who cast their identity in the classic rock interplay of guitar and remind of the also-predatory-fowl-minded Virginian troupe Freedom Hawk on second cut “Fire in the Sky,” which slows the roll from the opener a bit in order to bask in a smooth nod that comes not at the expense of a hook, but rather to enhance it.

bonehawk kingnomad

In terms of tempo, they play this back and forth twice, and in doing so demonstrate a clear attention to presentation that I would imagine extends to their live show as well. Either way, “Los Vientos” — driven by Rylander‘s creative drumming — revives the forward momentum of the opener while stepping away a bit from the party vibe of the opener, the energy of which is maintained through pacing but not necessarily mood. “Aurora,” their six-minute finale, starts with an introductory bassline from Wallace and digs into a fluidity marked by toy piano flourish in its chorus and and a funky groove in the second half that gives way to double-guitar freakery deftly brought back to earth before the ending fade.

An aesthetic shift is quick to perceive as Kingnomad‘s “Lucifer is Dead” lurches to life with warm-toned fuzz, laid back roll and vocals one might be tempted to call shoegazing were they not so intricately harmonized. They craft a hook around the title-line, and the song, which the band — guitarist/vocalist Mr. Jay, bassist Maximilian, guitarist Marcus and drummer Mr. N — has stated was the first thing they wrote together, explores these textures somewhere between Dead Meadow and the eerie melodicism of Ghost, but brings something rawer to it as well in the shuffling second half of the track and on the trippier fuzz of “Sibylline Oracles” as well.

More developed in terms of the two guitars working together, “Sibylline Oracles” also brings in an organ and ends with acoustic strum, so the growing reach of the band becomes evident barely 10 minutes into their half of the split, which can only serve them well going forward. “God of Stone and Sand” revels in its spacious tonality and imbues a classic stoner riff with a sense of individualized personality thanks to more harmonies in the vocals, while “The Suicide King,” as noted, steps back to let a jammier, more psychedelic feel take hold. Like BoneHawk before them, Kingnomad have crafted an easy flow to their portion of the LP, and much to their credit as a new band, they don’t give into the cliche of having “The Suicide King” set up for a linear build, showing patience and a will to let their songs go where they want to go.

Easy to get why Ripple would include both bands as they seek to expand the definition of the “heavy” whose coming they’re heralding, and as The Second Coming of Heavy — Chapter Three rounds out, one looks forward even more to the next collection for the increase in scope this one represents. This second coming — and I’ve quibbled about the numerology in each of these reviews so far, so you’ll pardon me if I skip it this time — is only growing more multifaceted, like heavy rock itself.

BoneHawk & Kingnomad, The Second Coming of Heavy — Chapter Three (2016)

BoneHawk on Thee Facebooks

BoneHawk on Bandcamp

Kingnomad on Thee Facebooks

Kingnomad on Bandcamp

Ripple Music on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

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The Second Coming of Heavy — Chapter Three out June 24

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 16th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Ripple Music is keeping pace with its split series The Second Coming of Heavy. The second installment — or chapter, as it were — included cuts from Supervoid and Red Desert (review here), while the first paired Geezer and Borracho (review here). For the third, it’s Sweden’s Kingnomad and Michigan good-timers BoneHawk doing the honors, and the limited-run LP (300 copies) will be released June 24. I don’t know if Ripple‘s plan is one per year, two per year or “as often as we feel like,” but they’re working at a good clip to get through the series, which last I heard was going to have 10 installments, all of them already booked.

Info from the PR wire on The Second Coming of Heavy — Chapter Three follows, as well as tracks from Kingnomad (who I hadn’t heard before but sound awesome) and BoneHawk (less of a surprise, but still cool), which you can stream:

the second coming of heavy chapter iii kingnomad bonehawk

The return of Ripple Music’s The Second Coming Of Heavy; Chapter III | New split album from BoneHawk and Kingnomad

The Second Coming Of Heavy; Chapter III is released on vinyl on 24 June 2016

Already recognised as one of the world’s leading purveyors of Rock ‘n’ Roll, Stoner, Doom and Heavy Psych, Ripple Music upped the ante in 2015 with the arrival of one of the year’s most ambitious projects, The Second Coming Of Heavy.

Serving as an ongoing showcase for some of the best and heaviest bands emerging from the underground, each instalment shines a light on those worthy of your attention. Consisting of one, 12” slab of multicoloured vinyl with full colour sleeves and inserts, the series is designed to be saved and treasured, like a fine anthology of books. So much so, when the albums are filed next to each other, the complete collection of aligned spines forms a mind-blowing image direct from the underground.

Following on from the series’ first instalment released last summer featuring Geezer and Borracho, and February’s Chapter II’s split between Supervoid and Red Desert, the latest chapter, released this June offers up new music from hard hitting Michigan quartet BoneHawk and Sweden’s Kingnomad.

The Second Coming Of Heavy; Chapter III will get an official vinyl release on 24th June 2016 and is limited to 300 copies in three alternative versions (100 of each) – The Resurrection Edition, The Risen OBI and The Ascension Edition.

https://bonehawk.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/bonehawkkzoo/
https://www.instagram.com/bonehawk_band/
https://www.facebook.com/kingnomadofficial/
https://kingnomad.bandcamp.com/releases
https://www.instagram.com/kingnomadofficial/
http://www.ripple-music.com/
https://www.facebook.com/Ripple-Music-369610860064/
https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/

BoneHawk, “The Scout”

Kingnomad, “Lucifer is Dead”

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