The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2018

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

the-top-30-of-2018

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks in advance for reading. Here we go:

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

30. The Skull, The Endless Road Turns Dark

The Skull The Endless Road Turns Dark

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Sept. 12.

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

29. Foghound, Awaken to Destroy

foghound awaken to destroy

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Nov. 21.

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

28. Orange Goblin, The Wolf Bites Back

orange goblin the wolf bites back

Released by Spinefarm Records. Reviewed June 13.

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

27. Fu Manchu, Clone of the Universe

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

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

26. Witch Mountain, Witch Mountain

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

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

25. Windhand, Eternal Return

windhand eternal return

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed Oct. 3.

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

24. Sun Voyager, Seismic Vibes

Sun Voyager Seismic Vibes

Released by King Pizza Records. Reviewed April 18.

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

23. Forming the Void, Rift

forming the void rift

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed July 27.

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

22. Spaceslug, Eye the Tide

spaceslug eye the tide

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

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

21. Conan, Existential Void Guardian

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

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

20. Pale Divine, Pale Divine

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

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

19. Mos Generator, Shadowlands

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

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

18a. Stoned Jesus, Pilgrims

STONED JESUS PILGRIMS

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 5.

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

18. Backwoods Payback, Future Slum

backwoods payback future slum

Self-released. Reviewed Aug. 15.

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

17. Corrosion of Conformity, No Cross No Crown

corrosion of conformity no cross no crown

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Jan. 3

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

16. Naxatras, III

naxatras iii

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 14.

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

15. Clutch, Book of Bad Decisions

clutch book of bad decisions

Released by Weathermaker Music. Reviewed Aug. 27.

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

14. Ancestors, Suspended in Reflections

Ancestors Suspended in Reflections

Released by Pelagic Records. Reviewed Aug. 3.

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

13. High on Fire, Electric Messiah

high on fire electric messiah

Released by eOne Heavy. Reviewed Sept. 28.

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

12. Yawning Man, The Revolt Against Tired Noises

yawning man the revolt against tired noises

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed July 2.

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

11. Greenleaf, Hear the Rivers

greenleaf hear the rivers

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Nov. 26.

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

10. Gozu, Equilibrium

gozu equilibrium

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

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

9. Monster Magnet, Mindfucker

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

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

8. Apostle of Solitude, From Gold to Ash

Apostle of Solitude From Gold to Ash

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

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

7. Holy Grove, Holy Grove II

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

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

6. All Them Witches, ATW

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

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

5. YOB, Our Raw Heart

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

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

4. Brant Bjork, Mankind Woman

brant bjork mankind woman

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Sept. 13.

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

3. Earthless, Black Heaven

earthless black heaven

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed March 15.

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

2. King Buffalo, Longing to Be the Mountain

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

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

1. Sleep, The Sciences

sleep the sciences

Released by Third Man Records. Reviewed May 1.

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

The Next 20

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

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

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

Honorable Mention

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

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

Special Note

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

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

Best Short Release of the Year

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

  • Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard & Slomatics, Totems Split

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

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

Looking Forward

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

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

Okay, That’s It

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

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

So thanks.

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

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

Everybody have a great and safe 2019.

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Live Review: Høstsabbat 2018 Night One in Oslo, Norway, 10.05.18

Posted in Reviews on October 6th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

hostsabbat 2018 poster

I can’t remember the last time I went 24 hours without coffee, but here in Oslo, the morning after the first night of Høstsabbat 2018, I’m pretty sure I’m at that mark. Thursday evening I flew out of Boston, got into Copenhagen yesterday morning, connected to Norway and took the Flytoget train into Oslo Central Station and walked from there to the Anker Hotel where I’m staying, about a block and a half away from the Kulturkirken Jakob, where the fest is being held. All that time, no caffeine. Haven’t really had five minutes to get any. I don’t know if there’s coffee at the show. I was too busy yesterday to ask.

Two years ago, I was fortunate enough to be invited to Høstsabbat at the Vulkan Arena. That was crazy. This is another level. Kulturkirken Jakob is literally a church — it is accurately-enough depicted on the festival poster that I recognized it looking out the window of the hotel room — and a large one at that with high ceilings, big altar, a raised pulpit, wood floors, etc. And downstairs, a basement that’s essentially the opposite: low ceiling, cobwebs, concrete supports for the massive structure overhead. And the fest is both aware of and reveling in the difference. With a stage upstairs and a stage downstairs, they’re playing to both ends of the spectrum between grandiosity and no frills volume-assault basement gigs, and with the mix of bands across a range of styles, it totally works. I spoke to fest organizers Ole C. Helstad and Jens Andreas Storaker yesterday, and they both seemed really pleased with how everything has turned out. As well they should be.

It was eight bands, four on each stage rotating back and forth between them. Downstairs, upstairs, downstairs, upstairs, and so on. No crossovers in the lineup though, so if you wanted to, you could see everything. That was my goal and I’m happy to say it worked out. It went like this:

hostsabbat art

SÂVER

Saver (Photo by JJ Koczan)

The all-caps post-noise sludgers SÂVER announced earlier this week that they will issue their debut LP, They Came with Sunlight, early next year on Pelagic Records. It was far away from a release party, then, but their set in the basement — the Crypt Stage, as it’s being called — was kind of a preview of what’s in store. In the tight space downstairs, the Oslo-native trio unfurled the first of the night’s several genuine volume blasts, a crunch and lurch and Neurosis-style tension cut through only by Markus Støle‘s drums and the shouts of bassist Ole C. Helstad and guitarist Ole Ulvik Rokseth. They were loud enough to shake the floor and packed enough low-end punch to vibrate the plugs in your ears, but there was a cohesive sense of atmosphere as well, and that extends to the album as well. They could be and often were brutally heavy, but there was a depth to that heft as well, so that it wasn’t an all out assault without purpose. It was an early start at 5PM on a workday, but the room was still decently packed, and they gave all present a reason to look out for They Came with Sunlight‘s impending release. I know I will, anyhow.

Hällas

Hallas (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Høstsabbat‘s throwing the doors open as regards vibe was evident from the moment Sweden’s Hällas took the stage. Glammed-out to the point of bassist/vocalist Tommy Alexandersson wearing a cape and metallic-shining boots, the five-piece nonetheless brought classic progressive-edged boogie to life in a way that immediately answered any and all questions about the vitality of retroism in heavy rock. Alexandersson, guitarists Alexander Moraitis and Marcus Pettersson and drummer Kasper Eriksson played down on the stage while keyboardist Nicklas Malmqvist took to the raised pulpit and even worked in a little ultra-appropriate church organ to the proceedings. They came supporting their 2018 full-length, Excerpts from a Future Past, and handled the big stage like absolute professionals. Lush as their sound was, it was an immediate contrast to the rawness of SÂVER back downstairs, and as the evening went on, that only more clearly came into focus as being precisely the intent. Heavy isn’t just dark, or catchy, or loud. Hällas opened the upstairs stage with uptempo kick, danceable groove and a classic feel that seems to become all the more crucial as time goes on.

Krokofant

Krokofant (Photo by JJ Koczan)

And if Hällas made the point, Krokofant only confirmed it with their go-anywhere doom jazz. With Jørgen Mathisen on saxophone, clarinet and keys, Tom Hasslan on guitar and Axel Skalstad on drums, the well-named trio were a gleeful excursion into the outer reaches of weird. There were moments where they reminded my East Coast US ears of Stinking Lizaveta for their ability to keep an overarching groove locked in while also running circles around it in intricate scales, but Krokofant were by and large more angular and mathy-sounding, giving the feeling they were crunching numbers as much as riffs, and still being an awful lot of fun. Whether it was Skalstad looking like his drumkit was his favorite playground or Hasslan every now and again stepping to the fore with a spacious lead, they were an outlier who served that necessary function well, giving yet another definition of “heavy” for the fest’s ongoing creative statement on the subject. I knew nothing about them going into the set and still had fun watching them play, and I was by no means the only one.

Lonely Kamel

Lonely Kamel (Photo by JJ Koczan)

If you can see Lonely Kamel, do it. That’s the message plain and simple of their live set. I had a feeling Lonely Kamel were going to kick ass, and they did. Four years after putting out Shit City via Napalm Records, the Oslo heavy rockers took the altar supporting this year’s Death’s Head-Hawkmoth (review here) on Stickman, and in so doing gave a reminder that sometimes all you need is songwriting and performance. I don’t mean to make that sound easy, because it isn’t — though Lonely Kamel made it look that way — but it’s true. They’re not a niche band. They’re not really trying to innovate in terms of aesthetics. But they’re excellent at what they do, and they’re tight enough that anything else they did would seem superfluous anyway. They don’t need it. They have songs and they have performance. “Evil Man” from 2011’s Dust Devil (review here) was a highlight, and the hook of “Inebriated” from the new record was recognizable as soon as they hit into it, while “Fascist Bastard” brought an edgier groove to the set. They were locked in, on fire, and whatever other cliche you’d want to put to it, and they too were a lot of fun, but you could also hear their experience in how they played. Their straightforward approach was an excellent grounding point for the rest of the night to come, but also, another distinguishing factor that made them different from everyone else who played. It was that kind of night. Right on.

Domkraft

Domkraft (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Stand and watch and hear Domkraft play for any given three minutes of their set and you might come away with a completely different impression of what they do. Over here, the Swedish trio are digging into post-Monolord nod-of-riff largesse, over there they’re pulling off a Hawkwindian push through the cosmos, and even further on, they’re shouting out aggro noise-laced heavy rock. The key aspect of all of it is that they tie it together. It’s fluid. They make it all theirs. That’s true even more on their impending second record, Flood, which is out Oct. 19 on Blues Funeral Recordings as the follow-up to 2016’s The End of Electricity (review here), which was issued by Magnetic Eye Records, though “Sandwalker” and “Dead Skies Red Eyes” from the new album matched up pretty well down in the Kulturkirken Jakob basement with the punch of “Meltdown of the Orb” and “The Rift” from its predecessor. The three-piece capped off with “The Watchers” and “Landslide,” a reverse ordering of the opening salvo of Flood, and demonstrated all the more their progressive will and encompassing vision of heavy, which they matched with a fervently aggressive lumber and depth of fuzz. They had been one of the bands I was most looking forward to on the night’s bill, and they absolutely delivered.

Spurv

Spurv (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Not going to claim to know what night two of the festival will bring or anything, but there’s a good chance that Spurv had the entire weekend’s only trombone. Even Krokofant didn’t have one, jazzy as they were, but as Oslo instrumentalist post-rockers Spurv were playing earlier 2018’s Myra LP in full, trombone and the violin on the other side of the stage were both essential along with the three guitars, bass and drums. There was some kind of metallic underpinning to the material — especially in the drums — but my bottom line in watching their set was there’s very little in this world that can make you want an album you don’t have as much as seeing that album played live. As Spurv ran through their tracks, their energy made so much of post-rock seem silly, as though they were asking, “why would I be gazing at my shoes when I’m making such cool sounds?,” and I found I had no answer for that question. With more than a hint of prog and post-black metal wash, Spurv engulfed the church with a fitting spaciousness and seemed to be ecclesiastic in just the right way for the setting. It was gorgeous. I already regret not buying the record when they finished.

Eagle Twin

Eagle Twin (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Certainly the loudest band in the basement. Upstairs was working on a different scale, but I think if you took volume in per-capita measure, they were probably the loudest band of the night overall. I also didn’t realize just how much blues there is in Eagle Twin‘s sound. Their 2018 album, The Thundering Heard (Songs of Hoof and Horn) review here, is the occasion for their being in Europe for the next couple weeks, and as they hop from fest to fest to fest, they left no shortage of footprint in Oslo. Even before they started, drummer Tyler Smith‘s line-checking his snare drum required earplugs just to take it, and guitarist/vocalist Gentry Densley plugged into every amp and cabinet in the downstairs backline, so yes, much volume there as well. And it’s easy to lose in all that volume, in the riffing and throat-singing and crash, but year, there’s an awful lot of blues to what they do. It was a welcome discovery for one such as myself, who is years late on seeing Eagle Twin live, and I feel like finally doing so has genuinely helped me better understand where their albums are coming from. Time for a revisit to The Thundering Heard, I think.

Toner Low

Toner Low (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I have no problem admitting that by the time Toner Low went on, I felt beat to hell. It had been a long day of travel and riffs, and I had one of those ultra-tired headaches that neither water nor riffs was going to cure. Still, how are you not going to watch Toner Low? The most stoned of the stoner bands, hailing from the Netherlands, essentially played in the dark, as is their wont, and what light there was was tinted weedian green to match their hyperdense riffing and overarching plod. I said it on on the social medias, but it bears repeating: All your tone worship, amp worship, riff worship bands: Toner Low destroys them all and they’ve been doing it for a long time now. I’ve been fortunate enough to see them live before, so I wasn’t entirely unfamiliar with what was coming, but to hear that low end bounce off the vaulted ceiling was more than its fair share of incredible, and even exhausted as I was, Toner Low made themselves absolutely indispensable with their chest-rattling lumber and ultra-languid flow. I’ll go ahead and take a new album whenever it’s ready, please. The sooner the better.

Can’t even tell you how much I’ve been falling asleep while putting this together. Because I’ve been too unconscious to know. Sorry for typos, wrong or missing words, etc.

Night two kicks off in a few hours, so I’m going to crash back out and see if I can revive myself at least enough to open both eyes at the same time.

Until then, enjoy the pics after the jump below:

Read more »

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Høstsabbat 2018 Announces Amenra to Headline, Adds Eagle Twin & Lonely Kamel to Bill; Lineup Complete

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 25th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

I was pretty down the the level of variety Høstsabbat 2018 had running in its lineup before, but if you want to see a spectrum of heavy, just take a look at the last three bands added to complete the lineup. Amenra, the Belgian outfit who I think are inarguably the foremost European post-metal band at the moment, will headline. Oslo’s own heavy rockers Lonely Kamel will play, bringing classic heavy vibes and an unabashed, unashamed good time. Oh, and then there’s the two-piece Eagle Twin from Utah who blend doom and psychedelia and throatsinging and stories about mythical birds and beasts and whatnot. So, you know, a little something for everyone.

Plus Electric Moon are playing. That’s excuse enough to show up right there, frankly.

But yeah, it’s a killer way for Høstsabbat 2018 to finish unveiling its lineup, and one imagines the massive strobe setup Amenra bring to the proceedings will be the unholiest thing ever seen in the Church JAKOB, where Høstsabbat is being held.

Dig it:

Amenra: Please welcome the headliner of Høstsabbat 2018!

When we first landed Church JAKOB as this years’ venue, a couple of bands came to mind as the perfect bookings..

And it is with massive pride we are able to announce our first choice, the legends in the Belgian five piece, Amenra . What could possibly be a more fitting closure to this years event than the founders of the Church of RA-collective?

To witness Amenra from a stage is something you won’t forget. It’s cleansing, ritualistic, nihilistic, scary, painful and in the most accurate sense of the word; mindblowing. Their attention to detail in performance, riffs and visuals can hardly be described as anything but spellbinding, and to have this complete package in a church, downtown Oslo.. well what to say?

On top of this, their recent masterpiece “MASS VI”, put Amenra in a different league all together, as the Neurot Records release was hailed as one of the absolute best metal records of 2017. Also bringing them onboard two massive US-tours alongside label bosses Neurosis and Converge.

On October 6th they grace Church JAKOB with their presence. Are you in?

Lonely Kamel

Touring Europe as we speak, the re-invented five piece version of Oslo’s stoner legends Lonely Kamel will make a joyful return to Høstsabbat, as they deserve.

Their new album “Death’s-Head Hawkmoth” was released about a month ago on the stellar Stickman Records, putting the Kamel’s in the top shelf of European underground rock.

Lonely Kamel have played more or less every underground festival there is, on the European continent, from Duna Jam, to Roadburn, to Desertfest, to Up in Smoke..you name it, and they have toured massively for years, making them an easy act to love.

We’re eager to welcome these blues and boozehounds back, as should you!

Eagle Twin

We are extremely proud to present the two-headed beast that is Eagle Twin (US). Probably one of the best live acts around, and a huge favorite in our camp. Being somewhat of a benchmark for what two guys can make out of their instruments and hands, we will bow to their wall of sound.

The guys from Utah just released their new album “The Thundering Heard” to massive praise, and will set out for a short span of shows in Europe in October. After trying to have Eagle Twin over for several years, we are stoked to tell they will start their Euro run at Høstsabbat Friday October 5th.

What else to say, than the Eagle has landed.

LINE-UP
Amenra
Electric Moon
Asteroid
Toner Low
Lonely Kamel
Brutus
Eagle Twin
Elephant Tree
Hällas
Spurv
The Moth Gatherer
Domkraft
DWAAL
Krokofant
Taiga Woods
SÂVER

https://www.facebook.com/hostsabbat/
https://www.facebook.com/events/1394090067384672/

Amenra, Mass VI (2017)


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Lonely Kamel Premiere “Fascist Bastard” from New Album Death’s-Head Hawkmoth

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on February 9th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

lonely kamel

We live in an age of hyperspecialization. If a band isn’t playing vintage-style proto-progresssive boogie, they’re delving into semi-psychedelic heavy space doom with traditionalist metal elements. Microgenres emerge and disappear as quickly as hashtags and Bandcamp trends will allow, and while in many ways this signals a greater creative flux and that’s not something I’m about to disparage, every now and then it’s nice to be reminded that there was already a single sound that could be all of these things and more besides. It’s called rock and roll, and that’s kind of been the point of the thing all along.

Oslo’s Lonely Kamel play rock and roll, and in the decade since they released their self-titled debut, they’ve played plenty of it. With their fifth long-player, Death’s-Head Hawkmoth, the Oslo fivesome make their debut on Stickman Records after two records on Napalm, and from the opening gong and thickened fuzz sing-along hook of “Fascist Bastard” to the stomping forward thrust of “Inside,” the bouncing verses and later drift in “Psychedelic Warfare” and the start-stop blues of “The Day I’m Gone” that hits after the album’s mega-hook in “Inebriated,” they recall the best of turn of the century European heavy rock and roll: one foot in the heavy ’70s in terms of their influences,Lonely Kamel Deaths Head Hawkmoth and the other firmly engaged in the business of kicking their audience’s collective ass.

It’s been four years since Lonely Kamel released their last album, Shit City, and as one might guess from the title, all was not well with the band. They’ve swapped out lead guitarists for Death’s-Head Hawkmoth, and if there are any residual doubts about Vegard Strand Holthe‘s contributions to the record, one need only listen to the extended instrumental build and solo-topped payoff off of “The Day I’m Gone” to get it. It ain’t hard to see where they’re coming from. Nor should it be. The prevailing lack of pretense is one of Death’s-Head Hawkmoth‘s great strengths, and it goes hand in hand with the classic-style frontman presence of vocalist/guitarist Thomas Brenna, the guiding riffs of guitarist Jøran Normann and the rhythm section of bassist Stian Helle and drummer Espen Nesset, which proves unshakable unless we’re talking about dancing.

And if we are talking about dancing, well, there’s the jangle early in the rolling verse of “Fascist Bastard,” or the almost-a-freakout space rock push of “Inside” that follows the positive-self-talk interlude of “Move On,” or the post-Queens of the Stone Age stutter-shuffle in the second half of “More Weed Less Hate,” Death’s-Head Hawkmoth isn’t exactly short on opportunities for it. Whatever statements Lonely Kamel may or may not be making about aesthetic specificity in the digital age — something in “Inebriated” tells me they have better things to think about — their bluesy core becomes just one of the means by which they pull the listener along with them on a journey varied and distinct enough to earn at least a couple of its own hashtags but which would seem to have little use for them in comparison to a solid, primary and overarching groove. The very sound of doing it right.

Lonely Kamel release Death’s-Head Hawkmoth March 23 via Stickman Records. Below, you can hear the premiere of “Fascist Bastard” and check out some background courtesy of Helle on how the album came together.

Please enjoy:

Stian Helle on Death’s-Head Hawkmoth:

Death’s-Head Hawkmoth was written over a relatively long period, due to various reasons. I remember Thomas brought a six-song demo tape back in April-May 2015, and four of these ideas were initially recorded during the Hawkmoth sessions, while only three of them ended up on the record. We were in a different place back then, so maybe that’s why it took a long time to finish them. Our previous record, Shit City, kind of summed it all up at the time.

One of these demo tunes was actually from way back in the days. The opening riff and chorus on “Psychedelic Warfare” was used as a middle part of a song we called “All Star Veteran.” We have a few rehearsal takes from 2007 with this riff in a totally different setting. The song was never released though.

Most of the new songs were potentially good ideas but we struggled to nail them… Our new single, “Fascist Bastard,” was the first one to come alive. We toured Europe for 10 days in June 2016, and played this live on that tour. When our former lead guitarist quit we started playing with a friend of ours, Vegard Strand Holthe. This was just three or four weeks before we would go on tour again in October 2016. We didn’t play much of these new songs on that tour but continued to do “Fascist Bastard” live, and were ‘shaping’ it each night. So it’s a fresh version of the song that finally ended up on the new album.

Vegard continued to play with us after the tour and we started working more focused on the other new songs as well. And he was a big influence on a lot of the songs and how they ended up on the record. All songs were and written and arranged by Lonely Kamel and Vegard, who eventually became a part of the band. Another addition to the Kamel family is Jøran Normann who recorded parts of the album. He played some guitar on the record and toured with us in 2017, stepping in, doing the lead guitar live while Vegard was occupied with other projects. From January 2018, Lonely Kamel is officially a five-piece.

We recorded totally nine songs for Death’s-Head Hawkmoth, or 10, depending on how you see it. Songs three and four on the new record, “Move On” and “Inside” — are actually one song, we just divided it into two during the mix. “Inebriated,” “More Weed Less Hate” and “The Day I’m Gone” are new songs, written the last couple of months before recording. Even though it’s written over a period of time the album feels like an entity. Thomas did the all lyrics so I leave that it to him.

Death’s-Head Hawkmoth was recorded at Schumann Lydbureau in oSlo, February 2017, by Jo Schumann and Jørann Normann. Mixed by Ruben Willem in June & mastered by Brian Gardner in November same year.

Thomas Brenna – vocals & guitar
Espen Nesset – drums & backing vox
Stian Helle – bass & backing vox
Vegard Strand Holthe – guitar & backing vox
Jøran Normann – guitar & backing vox

Lonely Kamel on Thee Facebooks

Lonely Kamel on Instagram

Lonely Kamel on Bandcamp

Stickman Records on Thee Facebooks

Stickman Records website

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Lonely Kamel Sign to Stickman Records; New LP in 2018

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

As they move into 2018 and mark a decade since the arrival of their self-titled debut, Oslo-based heavy rockers Lonely Kamel have been announced as signing to Stickman Records for their impending and yet-untitled fifth offering. It will be the first for the four-piece since 2014’s Shit City (discussed here) came out via Napalm Records and by releasing through Stickman, it continues the impressive pedigree the band has built over their time together, having achieved veteran status through performances over the last several years at Freak Valley, Desertfest Belgium, Roadburn and so on.

With Sound of Liberation behind them for booking and Stickman helming the release, I don’t at all imagine this will be the last time we hear from Lonely Kamel heading toward the New Year, and that’s just fine as far as I’m concerned. With an early 2018 tentative arrival date for the record, I wouldn’t be surprised to see their name pop up on a Spring festival or two, but of course, we’ll have to wait and see when we get there.

In the meantime, Stickman announced the partnership thusly:

lonely kamel

STICKMAN RECORDS NEW SIGNING: LONELY KAMEL

Just before the close of the year we’re ecstatic to welcome another band to our fold: Lonely Kamel from Oslo will be releasing their 5th full-length album early next year on Stickman! The band’s melange of smokey blues, hard rock and stoner riffs have caught our ears for a while and we’re glad to be home to their next album. More details on this soon!

This camel is certainly not a lone voice in the wilderness. Especially since LONELY KAMEL indeed sound like a desert, but in truth come from Norway. And obviously traditional Hard Rock can be produced quite exquisitely between fjords and endless forests, which sound nice, meaty and dry. On their fourth album the Norwegians act in the tension between Hard Rock from the seventies, Stoner Rock, Blues, Psychedelic and a dash of Doom.

https://www.facebook.com/lonelykamel
https://www.soundofliberation.com/lonely-kamel
https://www.stickman-records.com/

Lonely Kamel, “Shit City” lyric video

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Desertfest Belgium 2016: Goat to Headline; The Atomic Bitchwax, Monkey3, Lonely Kamel, 1000mods and Salem’s Pot Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 12th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

I guess I kind of thought Uncle AcidYOBPentagramJohn Garcia, etc. were among the headliners at Desertfest Belgium 2016. Apparently not. The Antwerpen-based extension team of the Desertfest brand has raised the stakes by only now announcing the first of its three headliners in the form of Swedish Afrobeat psych ritualists Goat. As to who might join them at the top of the bill, I haven’t the foggiest. Like I said, I thought the headliners were already announced.

In addition to Goat, Desertfest Belgium 2016 has also added New Jersey’s own The Atomic Bitchwax, Swiss instrumentalists Monkey3, Swedish creepers Salem’s Pot, Norwegian heavy rockers Lonely Kamel and Greek forerunners-of-riff 1000mods, thereby making an already packed bill even more packed.

Dig it:

desertfest belgium 2016 poster goat

GOAT WILL HEADLINE DESERTFEST BELGIUM 2016, Atomic Bitchwax & Monkey 3 also confirmed

We promised you a trio of headliners for the summer, and today the first one gets revealed. It is with great pleasure we announce that the Swedish powerhouse GOAT will be part of the 2016 Antwerp Desertfest line-up. Their eclectic approach to rock and dance grooves and their blinding stageshow are right in tune with the open-minded vibe we want to bring to our festival, and we’re confident it will be one of the highlights of DF Antwerp 2016.

But of course, that’s not all! We have some more heavy hitters to disclose, with Atomic Bitchwax and Monkey3 both confirmed for the festival. And to round off this epic set, how about the blues jams of Lonely Kamel, the rising stars of the scene Salem’s Pot, and the killer stoner from Greece 1000mods!

You can now set your sights on the last week of July… when we drop the second headliner name, as well as a bunch of other goodies.
Until then, spread the word and the good vibes!

GOAT

Hailing from the small remote village of Korpolombolo, GOAT has managed to take the world by storm with an exuberant voodoo-inflected rock sound that is as funky as it is psychedelic. No need to introduce them at this point, and no need to tell you this will be a sweaty, dazzling, rump-shaking and genre-busting highlight of the 2016 DF festival!

THE ATOMIC BITCHWAX

The legendary true “Super Stoner Rock” band has been going at it since 1993, but still shows no sign of wear’n’tear! Last year’s album ‘Gravitron’ was another exuberant slab of hard & psych rock, and their incessant touring has made Atomic Bitchwax a much-respected darling of the stoner community. So it is an honour to announce them for the 2016 Desertfest edition!

MONKEY3

With a fifteen-year career in cosmic and psychedelic instrumental jams, Monkey3 has become a household name for every stoner rock fan who likes a little space travel now and then. The band’s now preparing the release of their next full album ‘Astrasymmetry’ in the fall, so expect them to demo new material in their live set – which effectively means: “expect everything, and nothing”.

LONELY KAMEL

Inspired by the heavy blues-legends, the Norwegian Lonely Kamel churns out classic hard rock with a distinctive touch of the blues – although you can definitely hear a myriad of other influences from ’60s and ’70s rock in their heady stew. Don’t call it retro – these are music lovers paying their respect to all their great heroes, and finding their own exciting sound along the way!

SALEM’S POT

With a name like that, there really should be no question what the band’s aesthetic is all about: doom doom doom with a side of freakshow horror and some mindbending psychedelics. Hailing from Sweden, the band has been steadily releasing tapes and vinyl to a steady growing crowd of enthusiasts. There’s shades of Electric Wizard riffage, but Salem’s Pot manage to make the sound unmistakably their own.

1000 MODS

Heavy rock from Chiliomodi, Greece with a dedication to vintage equipment, a thick and heavy analog sound and remarkably passionate stage performances. Over their career they have played over 200 live shows with bands like The Black Keys, Graveyard, and Brant Bjork, as well as recording with the almighty Billy Anderson.

https://www.facebook.com/desertfestbelgium/
https://twitter.com/desertfestBE
https://www.facebook.com/events/488174281372335/
http://www.desertfest.be/tickets

The Atomic Bitchwax, “Ice Age (Hey Baby)” official video

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Freak Valley 2016: Lonely Kamel Added to Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 2nd, 2015 by JJ Koczan

freak-valley-2016

Number three! I can’t imagine I’ll keep count the whole way leading up to next May — though it might be fun to try — but Norwegian heavy rockers Lonely Kamel are the third band to join the ranks of Freak Valley 2016, preceded by Rotor and Monolord. The Oslo foursome released their latest album, Shit City, late last year on Napalm Records and haven’t looked back since. This month and into next, they’ll support Thulsa Doom — you might recall their 2000 EP, She Fucks Me — for shows around Norway, and they spent a good portion of the summer kicking around festivals in the north and west of Europe. As one will.

Freak Valley announced their addition as follows:

lonely kamel freak valley 2016

*** FREAK VALLEY 2016 BAND ANNOUNCEMENT ***

Ahoy Freaks!!

We are totally thrilled to announce that our buddies LONELY KAMEL will be part of FREAK VALLEY FESTIVAL 2016!!

Hailing from Oslo, Norway, LONELY KAMEL is a rare mish-mash of different influences. Inspired by heavy blues-legends, this hard hitting quartet produces a fine blend of bluesy stoner doom sludge : listenning to Lonely Kamel is a journey that starts in blues territory slipping into stoner rock then an intense sludge assault before reverting back to more blues veined rock sounds and with a good dose of classic rock inspiration.

The Kamels have become a household name not just in stoner rock insighter circles but literally throughout the Rock and Metal world.

Live the band is ballbreaking hard, loud and tight, so look out!!

We are flashed about the mindblowing poster by Headbang Design – Killer!!

Freak Valley Festival – 26th-27th-28th May 2016
www.freakvalley.de www.rockfreaks.de

FVF 3-day tickets – only 69€ incl. camping!!

Tickets are selling like Earthless vinlys already – take care to get your’s in time!

FREAK VALLEY FESTIVAL: No Fillers – Just Killers

Line-up 2016:
Lonely Kamel [Napalm Records] – Heavy Blues, Hardrock & Stoner
Rotor [Noisolution] – Instrumental StonerRock/Psychedelic
Monolord [RidingEasy Records] – Doom/Sludge
…more tba very soon

www.freakvalley.de
https://www.facebook.com/freakvalley
https://twitter.com/FreakValley
https://shop.ticketscript.com/channel/web2/start-order/rid/LYSQRABJ/language/en

Lonely Kamel, “Shit City”

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30 Before ’15: Records Not to Miss Before the New Year Hits

Posted in Features on July 8th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Before I even start, let’s get one thing out of the way. I want a new Sleep album too. My not including them on this list isn’t due to the fact that I don’t think a new Sleep album is a good idea, but just because I haven’t seen anything about it being recorded or released in the next five-plus months. If it hits on Jan. 1, 2015, I’ll be the happiest Baby New Year you ever saw, but that’s a different list altogether.

Ditto that Om and High on Fire. The latter were writing as of May, and I know Om did some recording way back in January, but I’ve yet to see solid word of new records at all, let alone before the end of the year. Either or both or all three may happen, but until I see some hint of it, all I can go on is the info I can find.

Seriously though, how badass would it be if all three put out albums before the New Year? That excitement is kind of what this list is about. Some of these records I’ve heard, but most I haven’t, so it’s just basic speculation about what I think could be some of the best releases in the next couple months. You’ll note that while there are plenty of dates TBA, nothing listed arrives in November, so as 2014 winds down, there’s bound to be even more quality stuff than appears here.

In fact, I struggled to take things out to get it down to 30. And it still goes to 31! I figured no one would mind. They’re numbered, but the list is in alphabetical order.

If I left something out you’re dying to hear, please let me know in the comments.

Thanks in advance for reading:

 

1. Alunah, TBA (Sept.)


Birmingham’s Alunah, like several others below, are a holdover from the Most Anticipated Albums list back at the start of the year. The difference between now and then is that, while its title still hasn’t been revealed so far as I know, their Napalm Records debut has been recorded, mixed and mastered, the latter by Tony Reed, the former by Greg Chandler of Esoteric, and given a September release date. Two years after Alunah made riffy doom sound easy on their sophomore outing, White Hoarhound (review here), I look forward to hearing how they’ve grown and shifted in their approach to warm-sounding tones and memorable hooks. They’ve set a pretty high standard for themselves. Alunah on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.

2. Apostle of Solitude, Of Woe and Wounds (Oct.)


These guys. I don’t mind telling you it was a thrill when Indianapolis doomers Apostle of Solitude were announced as having signed to Cruz del Sur to release their third album, Of Woe and Wounds, this fall. Their second outing, 2010’s Last Sunrise (review here), didn’t get the attention it deserved, but the handful of songs they’ve made public since have shown much promise, and as the first Apostle of Solitude full-length to feature guitarist/vocalist Steve Janiak (also Devil to Pay) in harmony with guitarist/vocalist Chuck Brown — the band is completed by bassist Dan Davidson and drummer Corey Webb — this is definitely going to make for a doomly autumn. Apostle of Solitude on Thee Facebooks, Cruz del Sur Music.

3. Blackwolfgoat, Drone Maintenance (Aug. 26)


Recorded late last year at Amps vs. Ohms in Boston, the third album from Maple Forum alum Blackwolfgoat — the prog-drone alter ego of guitarist Darryl Shepard (Milligram, Black Pyramid, The Scimitar, Roadsaw, etc.) — is the project’s most expansive outing yet, and it seems Shepard is moving more in a song-based direction, rather than some of the building loops of the past two offerings. Of course, there will be plenty of those as well, but watch out for some acoustic guitar, and deep-in-the-mix vocals, as they could easily hint of things to come. Or Darryl could turn it on its head and do a calypso record. Either way, I’m on board with no pretense of impartiality. Blackwolfgoat on Bandcamp, Small Stone’s Bandcamp.

4. Blues Pills, Blues Pills (Aug. 5)


The much-heralded Swedish/French/American psych-blues conglomeration Blues Pills will make their self-titled debut (short review here) next month, and while it’s probably going to be a bigger deal in Europe than in the States — at least until Nuclear Blast brings them over here for a tour, then the country is going to go apeshit for them — the songwriting and soulful execution of their tracks justifies the hype. There’s a bit of retro posturing to what they do, some Graveyard shuffle (it feels inevitable at this point with a ’70s-influenced band), but the grooves are easy to dig into and the potential is basically limitless for where they want to go. It’s scary to keep in mind, but this is just the beginning. Blues Pills on Thee Facebooks, Nuclear Blast.

5. Bongripper, Miserable (July 7)


You may notice something strange about the date above for a list of upcoming albums in that July 7 was yesterday. Well, Chicago’s Bongripper posted their new three-track full-length monster Miserable on their Bandcamp for stream and download ahead of the vinyl’s arrival, and it was just too righteous to leave out. Those seeking landmark riffing need look no further than the 19-minute centerpiece “Descent,” which meters out stomp enough that future “scientists” will study its footprint, and closer “Into Ruin” (28:25) is guaranteed to be the heaviest half-hour you’ll spend today. Miserable feels like a no-brainer, but maybe that’s just because Bongripper have such a propensity for pounding skulls into mush. Bongripper on Thee Facebooks, Miserable on Bandcamp.

6. Botanist, VI: Flora (Aug. 11)


I feel like I missed a couple numbers from San Francisco-based environmentalist black metal unit Botanist along the way, but they’ll nonetheless issue VI: Flora on The Flenser next month, furthering their marriage of destruction and beauty and insistent percussive expression. The spaces Botanist — a one-man project from Robert Martinelli — create feel ritualistic without the dramatic posturing that pervades much of the genre, and sound, somewhere between raging and mournful, is hypnotic. Whatever your expectation might be, Martinelli seems pleased to use it to their advantage, and ultimately, defy it. Post-human, hammered dulcimer-laden black metal. It would be harder for Botanist to not be unique. Botanist on Thee Facebooks, The Flenser.

7. Brant Bjork, TBA (TBA)


When Brant Bjork‘s next album might show up, I don’t know. I know he’s signed to Napalm, and I know the photo above was snapped as he finished some vocals before going on tour with his Low Desert Punk band that includes guitarist Bubba DuPree, bassist Dave Dinsmore and drummer Tony Tornay, but whether or not the album they made is the funk-inspired Jakoozi that’s been in the offing for a while, or another collection of songs, and if Napalm will get it out before the end of the year remain a mystery. I do find it interesting that for his first “solo” outing post-Vista Chino (that band being on hiatus), Bjork has assembled a new band to work with rather than record multiple instruments himself, but no matter who’s involved, when it’s Brant Bjork writing the songs, it’s gonna be high rock from the low desert. Can’t wait to dig into whatever comes. Brant Bjork on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.

8. Earth, Primitive and Deadly (Sept.)


The headline for Earth‘s new album is it’s the one where they experimented with vocalists. And hey, if you’re going to toy around with the idea, you might as well get Mark Lanegan involved. The former Screaming Trees frontman is one of several singers appearing on Primitive and Deadly, due in September on Southern Lord, and it would appear that Earth‘s sound — always evolving, always somehow changing — is about to take another considerable turn. Fortunately, the Seattle band, led by guitarist Dylan Carlson and now approaching their 25th year, have long since proven worthy of trusting with their own direction. Earth will never be huge, by the simple nature of what they do, but their influence resounds and the quality of their output is unmatched. Earth on Thee Facebooks, Southern Lord Recordings.

9. Electric Wizard, Time to Die (Sept.)


“Wake up baby/It’s time to die.” So goes the title-track hook of Electric Wizard‘s new album and Spinefarm Records debut, Time to Die. As ever, it’s simple, hateful, drenched-in-fuzz misanthropy, and Electric Wizard revel in it accordingly. Their witchcult continues to grow in their native UK and abroad, and while their last two records have divided some listeners, they’ve invariably gained more ground than they’ve lost. A legal dispute with Rise Above finds them on the new label, and if there’s even the slightest chance that change will bring them to the US for a tour, I’ll take it. Expect 66 minutes of glorious filth. Electric Wizard on Thee Facebooks, Spinefarm Records.

10. Fever Dog, Second Wind (TBA)


Palm Desert youngsters Fever Dog have been kicking around the last few years finding their sound in varying elements of heavy rock and psychedelic experimentation. Most recently, they impressed with the single “Iroquois” (review here) taken from their new album Second Wind, and in looking forward to the full-length, I’m eager to learn how their style has solidified and what sort of vibes they conjure over its course. They’ve shown plenty of propensity for jamming in their prior work, so hopefully there’s a bit of that on hand as well. I’ve said before they’re a trio of marked potential, and nothing I’ve yet heard has dissuaded me from that impression. Fever Dog on Thee Facebooks, Fever Dog on Bandcamp.

11. Goat, Commune (Sept. 23)


Somehow, a band from Sweden who dress up in tribal costumes (problematic) and play Afrobeat psychedelia became a very, very big deal. I couldn’t explain it if I wanted to, and I won’t try, but I know that when Sub Pop releases Goat‘s second album, Commune, it’s going to be to a flurry of hype and heaps of critical fawning. It would be tempting to call Goat a novelty act, but their 2012 debut, World Music (discussed here), showcased a legitimately creative musical approach to go with the visual aspects of their presentation, and I find the fact that I have no idea what to expect from Commune to be refreshing. Goat on Thee Facebooks, Sub Pop Records.

12. Grifter, The Return of the Bearded Brethren (Aug. 11)


UK heavy rockers Grifter will make a welcome resurgence on Ripple Music with The Return of the Bearded Brethren, an album that builds on the straightforward, catchy sounds of their 2011 self-titled label debut (review here) and takes their infectiousness to new places lyrically, such as exploring issues of aging via an ode to Princess Leia from Star Wars. That particular brand of humor and is writ large on Grifter‘s second Ripple outing, and the trio set to work refining their take without losing the engaging feel of their self-titled. It feels like a long three years since that record hit, and I’ll be glad to have a follow-up in-hand. Grifter on Thee Facebooks, Ripple Music.

13. Ice Dragon and Space Mushroom Fuzz, New Blue Horizon/A Peak into the Future (TBA)


Unclear at this point whether Boston outfits Ice Dragon and Space Mushroom Fuzz collaborated on New Blue Horizon/A Peak into the Future, or if it’s a split. Either way, the prolific acts make a sound pairing. Both are vehemently creative and exploratory, psychedelic and progressive each in their way, and if what’s presumably a single finds them working together, all the better, but even if not, new material from either is nothing to balk at, particularly when topped off by such gorgeous artwork. Neither act is ever long from putting something out, so to have them come together one way or another makes a weird brand of sense, which I’m relatively sure the songs will as well. Ice Dragon on Thee Facebooks, Space Mushroom Fuzz on Thee Facebooks.

14. Ides of Gemini, Old World New Wave (Sept. 16)


Ides of Gemini‘s 2012 Neurot Recordings debut, Constantinople (discussed here), established the three-piece as freely inhabiting either side of the imaginary line between ambience and heaviness, J. Bennett and Kelly Johnston providing sometimes minimal, sometimes consuming foundations for vocalist Sera Timms (ex-Black Math Horseman, also Black Mare) to cast ethereal melodies. What Old World New Wave will hold sound-wise, I don’t yet know, but Ides of Gemini‘s otherworldly resonance and ultra-patient approach makes it well worth finding out. Ides of Gemini on Thee Facebooks, Neurot Recordings.

15. John Gallow, Violet Dreams (Aug. 4)


Frontman of Blizaro and Orodruin guitarist John James Gallo adds a ‘w’ to his last name and steps out solo on the I, Voidhanger Records release, Violet Dreams, the title hinting at some of his on-his-sleeve affinity for Italian psych-doom master Paul Chain and Swedish legends Candlemass. Gallo‘s work in Blizaro has a tendency to lean toward the progressive and cinematic, but as John Gallow, the focus is more on classic doom riffing and darkened metallurgy. As one would expect, he’s well in his element on the hour-long album, and I hope he decides to call the next one Ancient Theatre. Also note the incredible artwork of Costin Chioreanu. John Gallo on Thee Facebooks, I, Voidhanger Records.

16. John Garcia, John Garcia (Aug. 5)


A long-discussed solo debut for the former Kyuss frontman following a stint alongside Brant Bjork in Vista Chino, John Garcia‘s John Garcia (review here) finds the singer right in his comfort zone, topping desert rock riffs with his trademark guttural vocals. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I’d trade a second Vista Chino outing for it if given the choice — that band seemed to be on course for a sound of its own, separate from Kyuss‘ legacy, and that struck me as worth pursuing — but these songs have a similar enough production style that it’s easy to think of the one as an offshoot of the other, and of course Garcia calls his shots well throughout. John Garcia on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.

17. King Buffalo, TBA (TBA)


Including King Buffalo here was pretty speculative on my part, but I dig the Rochester, NY, outfit and didn’t want to leave the prospect of their STB Records debut long-player out. It probably won’t land until 2015 — the future! — but their demo (review here) still gets regular plays around these parts, and I’m very much looking forward to catching them with similarly-minded Nashville blues rockers All Them Witches when they tour together next month. Whatever King Buffalo‘s recording/release plans might be, they’re definitely one to keep an eye on in the back half of this year. King Buffalo on Thee Facebooks, STB Records.

18. Kings Destroy, Kings Destroy (TBA)


Love these guys, love this band. I make no bones about it. Their third record, self-titled and produced as the last two were by Sanford Parker, is as close as they’ve yet come to capturing their live sound, and while they’ve yet to nail down an exact release date, they have a couple very cool tours in the works for this fall, including dates next month with Eric Wagner‘s Blackfinger, that will make a fitting lead-in to their best outing yet. I’ve heard this and had the chance to see some of the material live, and they’ve outdone themselves again, which, considering the esteem in which I continue to hold their 2013 sophomore full-length, A Time of Hunting, is really saying something. Kings Destroy on Thee Facebooks, War Crime Recordings.

19. The Kings of Frog Island, V (Fall)


Easily one of the LPs I’m most eager to hear over the next few months, and specifically on vinyl. The Kings of Frog Island have shown themselves to be so dedicated to the format that their early-2013 album, IV (review here), was presented as two bundled sides even digitally. They recently gave a taste of what their fifth album will in-part hold via a video for “Sunburn” and I’m told more jamminess ensues elsewhere to complement that track’s easygoing flow and platter-ready hook. All the better. The Kings of Frog Island on Thee Facebooks, The Kings of Frog Island on YouTube.

20. Lonely Kamel, Shit City (Sept. 9)


I’d be lying if I said part of my immediate interest in Oslo heavy rockers Lonely Kamel‘s fourth record wasn’t due to the cheeky title, but it’s been three years since the Napalm Records four-piece released their last album, Dust (track stream here), and as they’ve put in plenty of road-time, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to go into this time around with elevated anticipation. I’m not sure you could get away with calling an album Shit City unless you meant business. Got my fingers crossed that’s precisely the case with Lonely Kamel. Lonely Kamel on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.

21. Lo-Pan, Colossus (Oct. 7)


Fucking a. Doing the research for this list was the first I’d seen the Jason Alexander Byers cover art for Lo-Pan‘s fourth album, Colossus, or its Oct. 7 Small Stone release date. I haven’t heard the tracks yet — they recorded in Brooklyn back in March, and while I got 2012’s Salvador (review here) pretty early, the Columbus four-piece seem to be keeping a tighter lid on the follow-up — and I can’t help but feel like that’s my loss. Judging by what I’ve heard of the material live, Lo-Pan have dug further into their individual brand of riff-led soulful heavy, and I’ve got a high wager that a few months from now, Lo-Pan‘s latest will make an appearance on another list. More to come. Lo-Pan on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.

22. Novembers Doom, Bled White (July 15)


One of doom’s most fascinating and largely ignored progressions is that of Chicago melancholists Novembers Doom, who, when they started out 25 years ago, did so largely as a death metal band, and then moved on to pioneer an American interpretation of what’s commonly thought of as European doom, until, over their last several records, as they’ve started to move back to a more extreme, double-kick-drummed style. Bled White, on The End Records, continues along this path, but especially in the cleaner vocals of frontman Paul Kuhr there remain shades of the morose emotionality that typified what’s now become their mid-period doom idolatry. Unheralded, Novembers Doom keep exploring deeper, darker terrain. Novembers Doom on Thee Facebooks, The End Records.

23. Pallbearer, Foundations of Burden (Aug. 19)


Foundations of Burden is unquestionably among the second half of 2014’s most anticipated albums. Arkansas-based doom four-piece Pallbearer will mark its release with extensive European and North American tours, and where their 2012 Profound Lore debut, Sorrow and Extinction (review here), came out and caught listeners off-guard with its unabashed emotional core, their sophomore outing finds them positioned at the forefront of American doom. Already the hype machine is rolling out the red carpet for the Billy Anderson-produced Foundations of Burden, but no one can say these guys haven’t put their work in, and the record is indeed one to look forward to. Pallbearer on Thee Facebooks, Profound Lore Records.

24. The Skull, TBA (TBA)


For The Skull to put out an album of original material is a unique challenge. Their earlier-2014 first single (stream/review here) found them standing up to it on the new song “Sometime Yesterday Mourning,” but at least half the point of the band since its inception has been to pay homage to legendary doomers Trouble, from whence vocalist Eric Wagner, bassist Ron Holzner and drummer Jeff “Oly” Olson come. For their Tee Pee Records debut full-length — yet untitled and hopefully out before 2015 — it’ll be most interesting to see how guitarists Matt Goldsborough (ex-Pentagram) and Lothar Keller (Sacred Dawn) rise to the occasion of building off some of doom metal’s most celebrated tones. Fingers crossed on this one. The Skull on Thee Facebooks, Tee Pee Records.

25. Snail, Feral (TBA)


Nothing has been formally announced yet, but on Small Stone Records‘ website, they list Snail‘s Feral among their upcoming releases. It would make a suitable pairing, the West Coast riffers having previously worked with MeteorCity on their 2009 post-reunion outing, Blood (review here), prior to independently releasing 2012’s Terminus (review here), and Small Stone seems like a good home for their fourth overall record and return to form as a trio, which was their original incarnation before their original dissolution circa 1994. How they expand on the heavier crunch of Terminus remains even more a point of fascination, and surely their cult following will be glad to find out. I know I will. Snail on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.

26. Steak, Slab City (Sept. 9)


After two strong EPs in 2012’s Disastronaught (review here) and 2013’s best-title-ever-boasting Corned Beef Colossus (review here), it’s time for London stoner rockers Steak to step up their game for their Napalm Records debut full-length. The four-piece headed to the Californian desert to record Slab City, and so it’s fair to think some of that atmosphere may have worked its way into the material. Would be an awfully long way to go, otherwise. In either case, Steak have showcased considerable songwriting chops already, now it’s just a matter of sustaining it for a full album’s runtime and keeping enough variety in their approach. I have no doubt they’re ready for this next step. Steak on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.

27. Stubb, Cry of the Ocean (TBA)


It is with simple, unabashed warm feelings that I look forward to hearing Cry of the Ocean, the second long-player and Ripple Music debut from UK riffers Stubb. They’ve traded out drummers since 2012’s self-titled (review here), bringing aboard Tom Fyfe with guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson and bassist/vocalist Peter Holland, but I’m excited to hear what changes and shifts in sound Cry of the Ocean might have in store to match its provocative title. Goes without saying the photo above isn’t the final artwork, but instead Tony Reed‘s mastering sheet from back in May when he worked on the tracks. No solid release date yet, but hopefully soon. Stubb on Thee Facebooks, Ripple Music.

28. Torche, TBA (TBA)


Torche‘s new album and Relapse Records debut was originally slated for the end of the summer. Given that no official word has come out about a title or anything like that and the members of the band have been busy with other projects, it seems unlikely as of now that they’ll hit that target, but after something of a break so frontman Steve Brooks could focus on the resurgent trio Floor, Torche are in fact getting going again, beginning with their first tour of Australia this fall. Maybe their LP will be out by the time they go and maybe it won’t, but word on the street is that whenever the thing arrives, it’s gonna be heavy, which I have no problem believing. Torche on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.

29. The Well, Monomyth (Late Summer)


I’ve been waiting since the March announcement that Austin trio The Well signed with RidingEasy Records for further word of their debut full-length, Monomyth (pretty sure that’s not the cover above), but thus far to no avail. Their 2012 single, Seven (review here), was a repeat-listen thriller, and anticipation abounds for what sort of psychedelic garage riffing they’ll conjure up for the album itself. It’s been a couple months at this point, and maybe it’ll be 2015 before Monomyth gets out, but screw it, a boy can hope. The Well on Thee Facebooks, RidingEasy Records.

30. Witch Mountain, Mobile of Angels (Sept.)

Please note: The original cover art with this post was not final and has been replaced with the above band photo.

Portland, Oregon’s Witch Mountain have spent much of the two years following their 2012 third LP, Cauldron of the Wild (review here) on tour in the US and abroad, playing fests, headlining, supporting, but generally putting in a lot of time. As such, Mobile of Angels, which will be out on Svart in Europe and Profound Lore in North America, comes as the end product of a considerable touring cycle. Has all that gigging worn Witch Mountain into the ground, or will they rise above it with metal-loving doom-blues supremacy? They’ve got a vinyl-ready 38 minutes on tap for September and if they’ve ever been in a position to make their case, it’s now. Watch out for the killer sway in “Can’t Settle,” the title of which seems a fitting theme for the band. Witch Mountain on Thee Facebooks, Profound Lore Records.

31. YOB, Clearing the Path to Ascend (Sept. 2)


Yet again — as was the case back in January — alphabetical order forces me to end with YOB, whose seventh full-length and Neurot debut might just be my most anticipated of all on this list. The recently-unveiled Orion Landau cover speaks to a brooding sentiment, and from the one time I was fortunate enough to hear it to-date, the four-track album from the Eugene, Oregon, natives corresponds to its visual side in being a more aggressive push than was 2011’s Atma (review here), but also more exploratory and contemplative in its approach. Now statesmen in American doom and the forebears of a cosmic-minded sound, YOB stand ready to showcase a creative progression that has yet to find its end point. YOB on Thee Facebooks, Neurot Recordings.

Other Notable Mentions

Just a couple of these I’d be remiss if I didn’t note. Some were carried over from earlier this year, others just come up along the way. Not sure on all the release dates, but these are worth keeping an ear out for:

Acid King — Were listed in January, but their record has a Feb. 2015 release date.

Bright Curse — Second album recorded at Skyhammer Studios.

Brothers of the Sonic Cloth — My understanding is the album is done and they’re waiting to secure a label. Seems like a good occasion for Southern Lord to step forward, if not Profound Lore or Neurot.

Eggnogg — Not sure if it’s their full-length, You’re all Invited, or something else that’s coming, but whatever. More stoner-funk riffing needs to be had.

40 Watt Sun — There was some word of this early in the year, but nothing since.

Godflesh — Their first in 15 years, A World Lit Only by Fire, will be out Oct. 7. A fuckup not including them on the list proper.

It’s Not Night: It’s Space — Eagerly awaiting the Small Stone debut from this instrumental outfit, but it might be next year.

Karma to Burn — New album, Arch Stanton, out in August. I emailed for a review promo and never heard back. Always a great feeling.

Larman Clamor — Solo-project from Alexander von Wieding has a new one in the can, but I’m not sure on the release schedule.

Lowrider — They’re working on it, but don’t hold your breath to have it out by December.

The Machine — Kind of a slow year for Elektrohasch, but the new one from these Dutch fuzzers would be a nice way end up.

NachtmystiumCentury Media releases their final album, The World We Left Behind, on Aug. 5.

Orange Goblin — Seriously debated putting them on the list, since I know they’ve recorded, but they seem to be promoting a recent reissue of 2007’s Healing through Fire and their upcoming European tour with Saint Vitus rather than their new album, so unless news comes out about it like this week from Candlelight, I wouldn’t expect it until early in 2015.

Pink Floyd — Believe it when I see it, but I honestly couldn’t care less either way if I tried.

Ruby the Hatchet — Their full-length Tee Pee debut is due sometime in the next couple months.

Sun Voyager — Upstate NY youngsters had hinted at new recordings.

Again, if I forgot anything — and I’m sure I did — please let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading.

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