Lumbar Post “Day Six” Video; The First and Last Days of Unwelcome Reissue out Now

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 15th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

lumbar

It’s not been over half a decade since Lumbar‘s lone full-length, The First and Last Days of Unwelcome (review here), was issued by Southern Lord in 2013. Argonauta Records has a CD/LP reissue out with new artwork as of this past Friday, and time has done little to dull its visceral impact, the seven-song/25-minute full-length chronicling the claustrophobic-in-body madness born by multi-instrumentalist Aaron Edge (of far too many projects to list, among them Bible Black Tyrant) being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis earlier this decade.

Edge got together with Mike Scheidt of YOB and Tad Doyle of frickin’ TAD and Brothers of the Sonic Cloth to arrange and record The First and Last Days of Unwelcome, and with its tracks put together in a list as “Day One” through “Day Seven,” the chaos and raw emotional scathe continue to resonate from its Meatsmoke tones, lumbering rhythms and tortured vocals, the latter provided by all three involved parties.

The above photo, from 2013, is so far as I know the only promo pic of the trio. They were in Doyle‘s Witch Ape Studio together to make the album and then done — it was always more “project” than “band,” and it became clear soon enough it was a one-off. But I note it because in the tape version of the reissue, which is offered through Anima Recordings, that same photo appears on the inside liner of the j-card. You can see it here:

lumbar tape

Clearly the same shot. Fine. Again, I’m pretty sure there’s just the one, and it’s beside the point anyway. The point is that Edge put this art together himself. He worked as a graphic designer for a long time, for Southern Lord and others, and look how the photo is arranged. Scheidt has a panel, Doyle has a panel, and Edge has the fold. The creases run right through his face. Think about a person fractured. Think about someone’s body betraying them. This is exactly what The First and Last Days of Unwelcome was always intended to convey.

In so many ways, Edge is at the center of this record — he wrote the songs and the lyrics about his experience, recorded the guitar and programmed the drums, and added his own vocals to those of Scheidt and Doyle — and sure enough, in this new version of the album, we see him broken in precisely the fashion brought out through the material itself. I won’t take away from the CD or LP editions — in fact I haven’t seen them to take away from them — but just as a visual metaphor, the tape alone wholly justifies the reissue.

“Day Six” argues for itself as the most melodically resonant inclusion on the album, and Chariot of Black Moth has made a new video for it featuring suitably raging seas and harsh storms that speak to the emotion at its core. If you’re sensitive to flashing lights, be careful — I’m not trying to give anyone a headache — but otherwise, you’ll find the video below, followed by more info on the new pressings for The First and Last Days of Unwelcome, which remains an absolute standout piece on any level you might want to consider it.

Please enjoy:

Lumbar, “Day Six” official video

First & Last Days of Unwelcome’ was originally released in 2013 by Southern Lord Recordings, now available via Argonauta Records and Anima Recordings with a new design by band member, Aaron Edge. Release date is January 11th 2019.

Orders are now available here:
LP: http://smarturl.it/LumbarLP
CD: http://smarturl.it/LumbarCD
Cassette: https://thelumbarendeavor.bandcamp.com

Originally released 11/12/2013 on Southern Lord Records (LORD186):
• 1st pressing: 1500 on black vinyl.
• 2nd pressing: 777 on orange/white swirl vinyl.

Re-released on Argonauta Records (ARGXXX):
• 1st pressing: 300 hand-numbered ox blood vinyl.
• 1st run: 300 CDs.

Re-released on Anima Recordings (ANIMA-017).
• 1st run: 50 high-quality orange cassettes.

Lumbar
Mike Scheidt (Yob, Middian, VHÖL)
Tad Doyle (TAD, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth)
Aaron Edge (Ramprasad, Bible Black Tyrant, iamthethorn)

Lumbar on Bandcamp

Lumbar on Thee Facebooks

Argonauta Records website

Argonauta Records on Thee Facebooks

Argonauta Records on Twitter

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Lumbar to Reissue The First and Last Days of Unwelcome on Argonauta Records

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 26th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

lumbar

It’s been five years since Lumbar released The First and Last Days of Unwelcome (review here) on Southern Lord, and that time doesn’t seem to have dulled its impact whatsoever. Reeling from his MS diagnosis the year prior, prolific guitarist Aaron D.C. Edge composed the seven-track album on his laptop and got together with YOB‘s Mike Scheidt and the one and only Tad Doyle to complete it vocally — the band discussed the process here — and The First and Last Days of Unwelcome was an excruciatingly heavy chronicling of Edge‘s mindset, aurally punishing and oppressive in such a way as to put zero distance between the listener and the experience being conveyed. It was and remains a powerful, affecting listen.

Argonauta Records, which has worked with Edge already this year on Bible Black Tyrant, will reissue Lumbar‘s first and only offering on LP and CD Jan. 11, with tapes on Anima Recordings.

The PR wire brings the details:

lumbar the first and last days of unwelcome

LUMBAR TO RE-RELEASE CULT ALBUM WITH ARGONAUTA RECORDS!

Feat. Aaron Edge, Yob’s Mike Scheidt and Tad Doyle!

‘The First and Last Days of Unwelcome’ to be re-released on January 11th 2019!

It’s been a tragedy for the world of metal, when the remarkable debut album ‘The First and Last Days of Unwelcome’ has been likely proved to be the first and last work of Lumbar. The trio of metal veterans Aaron Edge (Ramprasad / Bible Black Tyrant / Rote Hexe / Iamthethorn / Roareth / Phemüt), Yob’s Mike Scheidt and Tad Doyle (Brothers of the Sonic Cloth / TAD) released their highly acclaimed debut album back in 2013, when the life of band mastermind and multi-instrumentalist Edge has already changed forever.

Lumbar is Edge’s unique collaboration with the two vocalists — Yob’s Mike Scheidt and Tad Doyle. Edge wrote and recorded the music and penned the lyrics, during one long weekend in Seattle, and they added their voices. At this point, Edge had been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.

“It’s been five years since I wrote and recorded the Lumbar endeavor (in GarageBand, no less) and that time really did pass quickly.” Edge explains. “It has also been six years since my Multiple Sclerosis diagnosis, but that time has gone by much too slowly. The pain has not ceased, nor the frustration, and certainly not the fear. But, there are some positive things to focus on: my meds are now dulling some of the nerve trouble, I’m able to play music regularly again, and two labels share my excitement in the re-release of “The First and Last Days of Unwelcome” as hand-numbered 12″ vinyl on Argonauta Records and hand-numbered cassettes on Anima Recordings.

The five year agreement and music license that was held between myself and Greg Anderson, of Southern Lord, ended this month, releasing the control of the recording back into my hands. I’d like to thank Greg, for his belief in the vision and importance of Lumbar for me. He has always shown true friendship, guidance and support and I won’t forget that.

There is a difference in the first release, back in 2013, and the re-release for January 2019; there was first an urgency and now there is a reminder.

The urgency tore me and my marriage apart, it changed my life forever, the MS diagnosis was (at the time) a bleak future. And, to be honest, I’m not optimistic about how my life with the disease will change and morph as I grow older. But, I’m still here. I made it this far. The urgency of the first release of these seven tracks is now a reminder of change… it is inevitable and uncontrollable. Nature does what nature does, she can not be restrained.

I can not thank enough, then and now, the donation of friendship and talent from both Mike Scheidt and Tad Doyle: there’s only a small handful of people on the planet that I know—that I would feel comfortable having them tell my story—and these guys were at the top of the list. I love you two men.

Thank you to Gero of Argonauta and David of Anima for reminding all of us about creative energy, about storytelling. I do hope you all reading this and listening in appreciate the recording, as heavy and dark in subject matter as it truly is, all over again.”

With seven tracks and a runtime of less than 25 minutes, ‘The First and Last Days of Unwelcome’ is a relentless trek through doom metal featuring Scheidt and Doyle, the screamer and singer, who perfectly round up this epos. On January 11th 2019, Argonauta Records will re-release the cult album on Vinyl by a project that has been truly missed in the heavy music scene.

Coming with a re-designed album artwork, ‘The First and Last Days of Unwelcome’ will be available on CD (for the first time ever) and an exciting color LP edition of 300 hand numbered copies.

Pre-Orders are now available at:
LP: http://smarturl.it/LumbarLP
CD: http://smarturl.it/LumbarCD
Bundles: http://smarturl.it/LumbarBundle

Says Gero Lucisano, CEO of Argonauta Records:
“It’s been a year ago when I’ve been lucky enough to team up with Aaron Edge for his new project Bible Black Tyrant, we released on Argonauta in early 2018. A massive sludge blast I’m totally proud of. With Aaron, a hard working musician, I got the chance to speak about many music endeavours and thanks to his positive and propositive attitude it is a pleasure and a honor to work the official reissue of the legendary LUMBAR album. This is not only an impressive work, emotional and intensive, this beast also features the line-up Mike Scheidt (YOB) and Tad Doyle (of legendary TAD), basically my hero of today’s scene and the hero of my youth. Argonauta Records is stoked to welcome the band and album within its range.”

The track list reads as follows:
Day One
Day Two
Day Three
Day Four
Day Five
Day Six
Day Seven

www.facebook.com/thelumbarendeavor
www.argonautarecords.com
www.facebook.com/ArgonautaRecords

Lumbar, “Day One”

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Debut of the Year: Lumbar, The First and Last Days of Unwelcome

Posted in Features on December 23rd, 2013 by JJ Koczan

I know, I know. There’s been a pretty fair amount said about Lumbar‘s The First and Last Days of Unwelcome around here, from the announcement to the interview, album review, and best of list, and I can’t really promise this’ll be the last of it, but a few words and then I’ll leave it alone for a while. There were plenty of other contenders for the best debut of 2013, whether it was reinvigorated veterans in Vista Chino or newcomer innovators like Beelzefuzz, but in the end, I had to go with what’s more likely than not a one-off from (left to right above) Mike Scheidt (YOB), Tad Doyle (TAD, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth), and Aaron Edge (Roareth, Iamthethorn, etc.) for two reasons: Urgency and the moment.

Urgency because of the music itself — the overlaid screams and moans that top the thunderous descending progression of “Day Two,” the lost-in-a-fog feel of “Day Four,” the weeping guitar chaos of “Day Three.” The First and Last Days of Unwelcome packed an entire discography’s worth of heavy into a 24-minute release, and even at its nadir of volume in the droning and far-off vocal tunnel of “Day Five,” was intense beyond the point of exhaustion, Edge working through the trauma of being diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in the best way he knew how: By recording an album. The urgency comes through in the complete immersion of an emotional state, in the turbulence that bleeds from every second of these seven songs, and in the un-concluded feel of the last, which machine-drones itself to a finish as if to indicate the utter lack of an ending to Edge‘s ongoing story.

And the moment. Yes, it’s awesome that Scheidt, Doyle and Edge came together to all work on an album, but more than that, it’s how they came together and that the result was this album. The story of Edge recording the instrumental parts while laid up in bed, in real, physical pain, is excruciating, but it’s how that is translated into the songs that gives them such power. To be able to hone that, and then bring Scheidt and Doyle into the fold and make The First and Last Days of Unwelcome complete is capturing an entirely different kind of moment; the special nature of the collaboration in concept and execution is undersold by any “supergroup” tag you might want to instill. Lumbar proved to be beyond that, a fleeting and daringly honest slice of life that didn’t want pity or sympathy or anything other than to search out some meaning in what seemed void outstretched.

To call it a “debut” implies there might be a follow-up, and it seems unlikely at this point that there will, but even so, no first outing crashed quite as hard into the consciousness in 2013 as Lumbar‘s The First and Last Days of Unwelcome, and if it’s a call that never gets its answer, there’s no doubt in my mind its echo will last a long, long time.

Now I’ll shut up about it.

Lumbar, The First and Last Days of Unwelcome (2013)

Lumbar on Bandcamp

Lumbar on Thee Facebooks

Aaron Edge’s Hellvetika project on Bandcamp

Southern Lord Recordings

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 of 2013

Posted in Features on December 16th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

Please note:  These are my picks, not the results of the Readers Poll, which is still going on. If you haven’t added your list yet, please do.

It’s always strange to think of something so utterly arbitrary as also being really, really difficult, but I think 2013 posed the biggest challenge yet in terms of getting together a final list of my favorite records. As ever, I had a post-it note on my office wall (when I moved, it moved with me) and I did my best to keep track of everything that resonated throughout the year. I wound up with over 40 picks and had to start putting them in order to whittle the list down.

I wound up with a top 20 that, even though it feels somewhat incomplete, I’ve found that I can at very least live with. That’s what I’ve done for the last week: Just lived with it. Even up to this morning, I was making changes, but in general, I think this gives some scope about what hit me hard in 2013. Of course, these are just my picks, and while things like my own critical appreciation factor in because that affects how I ultimately listen to a record, sometimes it just comes down to what was stuck in my head most often or what I kept putting on over and over.

That’s a simple formula to apply, but still, 2013 didn’t make it easy. Please note as you go through that there are some real gems in the honorable mentions. I thought about expanding the list to 30 this year, but the thought made my skull start to cave in, so I reconsidered.

Anyway, it only comes around once a year, so let’s do this thing. Thanks in advance for reading:

 

20. All Them Witches, Lightning at the Door

Self-released.

Traditionally, I’ve reserved #20 for a sentimental pick. An album that’s hard to place numerically because of some personal or emotional connection. This year wasn’t short on those, but when it came to it, I knew I couldn’t make this list without Lightning at the Door included, and since it was released just last month as the follow-up to the earlier-2013 Elektrohasch reissue of the Nashville, Tennessee, outfit’s 2012 debut, Our Mother Electricity (review here), I didn’t feel like I’ve had enough time with it to really put it anywhere else. It needed to be here, and so it is, and though I’ve listened to it plenty in the month since its release, I still feel like I’m getting to know Lightning at the Door, and exploring its open-spaced blues rocking grooves. All Them Witches are hands down one of the best bands I heard for the first time this year, and I’m looking forward to following their work as they continue to progress.

19. Queens of the Stone Age, …Like Clockwork

Released by Matador Records. Reviewed June 4.

For a while after I first heard …Like Clockwork and around the time I reviewed it, I sweated it pretty hard. By mid-June, I had it as one of the year’s best without a doubt in my mind. Then I put it away. I don’t know if I burnt myself out on it or what, but I still haven’t really gone back to it, and while the brilliance of cuts like “Kalopsia” and “Fairweather Friends” and “I Appear Missing” still stands out and puts Josh Homme‘s songwriting as some of the most accomplished I encountered in 2013, that hasn’t been enough to make me take it off the shelf. I doubt Queens of the Stone Age will cry about it as they tour arenas and get nominated for Grammy awards, but there it is. I wouldn’t have expected …Like Clockwork to be so low on the list, certainly not when I was listening to “My God is the Sun” six times in a row just to try and get my head around the chorus.

18. I are Droid, The Winter Ward

Released by Razzia Records. Reviewed Sept. 19.

Gorgeously produced and impeccably textured, The Winter Ward by Stockholm-based I are Droid aren’t generally the kind of thing I’d reach for, but the quality of the craft in songs like “Constrict Contract” and “Feathers and Dust” made it essential. Bits and pieces within harkened back to frontman Peder Bergstrand‘s tenure in Lowrider, but ultimately The Winter Ward emerged with a varied and rich personality all its own, and that became the basis for the appeal. As the weather has gotten colder and it’s gotten dark earlier, I’ve returned to The Winter Ward for repeat visits, and as much as I’ve got my fingers crossed for another Lowrider album in 2014, I hope I are Droid continue to run parallel, since the progressive take on alternative influences they managed to concoct was carried across with proportionate accessibility. It was as audience friendly and satisfying a listen as it was complex and ripe for active engagement.

17. Magic Circle, Magic Circle


Released by Armageddon Shop. Reviewed Feb. 18.

There was just nothing to argue about when it came to the self-titled debut from Massachusetts-based doomers Magic Circle, but what worked best about the album was that although the songs were strong on their own and seemed to have lurching hooks to spare, everything throughout fed into an overarching atmosphere that was denser than the straightforwardness of the structures might lead the listener to initially believe. It was a record worth going back to, worth getting lost in the nod of, and as the members are experienced players in a variety of New England acts from The Rival Mob to Doomriders, it should be interesting to find out what demons they may conjure in following-up Magic Circle, if they’ll continue down the path of deceptively subversive “traditionalism” or expand their sound into more progressive reaches. Either way they may choose, the material on their first outing showed an ability to craft an enigmatic, individualized sonic persona that never veered into cultish caricature.

16. Iron Man, South of the Earth

Released by Rise Above/Metal Blade Records. Reviewed Oct. 14.

If you’re into doom and you have a soul, I don’t know how you could not be rooting for Iron Man in 2013. Produced by Frank Marchand and the first full-length from the long-running Maryland doomers to feature vocalist Dee Calhoun and drummer Jason “Mot” Waldmann alongside guitarist/founder “Iron” Al Morris III (interview here) and longtime bassist Louis Strachan. The difference in South of the Earth was palpable even in comparison to 2009’s I Have Returned (review here). With more professional production, excellent performances all around in the lineup, memorable songs like “Hail to the Haze” and “The Worst and Longest Day,” and the considerable endorsement of a release through Rise Above/Metal Blade behind them, the four-piece sounded like the statesmen they are in the Maryland scene and showed themselves every bit worthy of inclusion in the discussion of America’s finest in traditional, Sabbathian doom. May they continue to get their due.

15. Sasquatch, IV


Released by Small Stone Records. Reviewed Sept. 16.

Whether it was what the lyrics were talking about or not, the message of “The Message” was clear: Never count out a catchy chorus. Now in operation for a decade, Sasquatch practice an arcane artistry with their songwriting. Void of pretense, heavy on boogie, they are as genuine a modern extension of classic heavy rock as you’re likely to find. The Los Angeles power trio outdid themselves with IV, veering boldly into psychedelia on “Smoke Signal” and honing their craft over various moods and themes on “Sweet Lady,” “Me and You” and “Eye of the Storm.” They remain one of American heavy rock’s key and consistently underestimated components, and the three years since the release of their third album, III (review here), seemed like an eternity once the quality grooves of “Money” and “Drawing Flies” got moving, the former an insistent rush and the latter open, dreamy and atmospheric, but both executed with precision and confidence born of Sasquatch‘s familiarity with the methods and means of kicking ass.

14. Black Pyramid, Adversarial

Released by Hydro-Phonic Records. Reviewed April 12.

It was hard to know what to expect from Black Pyramid‘s Adversarial, their first release with guitarist/vocalist Darryl Shepard at the fore with bassist Dave Gein and drummer/engineer Clay Neely, but the Massachusetts outfit flourished on tracks like “Swing the Scimitar,” incorporating a heavy jamming sensibility with marauding riffs and grooves carried over from the style of their first two albums. Adversarial took the band to Hellfest in France this past summer, where they shared a stage with Neurosis and Sleep, and whether it was the raging chorus of “Bleed Out” or the clarion guitar line of “Aphelion,” the band showed their war ensemble could not be stopped. Their future is uncertain with Neely having relocated and Gein having an impending move of his own, but if Adversarial is to stand as the final Black Pyramid outing, they will at very least have claimed enough heads in their time to line fence-posts for miles. Still, hopefully they can find some way to continue to make it work.

13. Across Tundras, Electric Relics

Released by Electric Relics Records. Reviewed July 11.

Even the interlude “Seasick Serenade,” just over a minute and a half long, was haunting. Electric Relics marked the first full-length from Nashville’s Across Tundras to be released on their own label and the first since they issued Sage through Neurot in 2011 (review here), and as rolling and exploratory as its vibe was, songs like “Solar Ark,” “Pining for the Gravel Roads” and “Den of Poison Snakes” also represented a solidification of Across Tundras‘ sound, another step in their development that refined their blend of rural landscapes and heavy tones. Issued in April, it’s been an album that throughout the course of the year I’ve returned to time and again, and the more I’ve sat with it and the more comfortable it’s become, the more its songs have come to feel like home, which it’s easy to read as being their intent all along. Guitarist/vocalist Tanner Olson (read his questionnaire answers here), bassist/vocalist Mikey Allred and drummer Casey Perry hit on something special in these tracks, and one gets the sense their influence is just beginning to be felt.

12. Borracho, Oculus

Released by Strange Magic/No Balls/AM Records. Reviewed July 26.

Initially a digital self-release by the Washington, D.C. riff purveyors, Oculus just this month got a tri-color, tri-label and tri-continental vinyl issue, and the fanfare with which it arrived was well earned by the five songs contained on the two sides. Borracho‘s second album behind 2011’s Splitting Sky (review here) also marked a lineup shift in the band that saw them go from a four-piece to a trio, with guitarist Steve Fisher (interview here) stepping to the fore as vocalist in the new incarnation with Tim Martin on bass and Mario Trubiano on drums. The results in songs like “Know the Score” and closer “I’ve Come for it All” were in line stylistically with the straightforward approach they showed on their first offering, but tighter overall in their presentation, and Fisher‘s voice was a natural fit with the band’s stated ethic of “repetitive heavy grooves” — a neat summary, if perhaps underselling their appeal somewhat. Oculus showed both that the appeal of Splitting Sky was no fluke and that Borracho with four members or three was not a band to be taken lightly.

11. Ice Dragon, Born a Heavy Morning

Released by Navalorama Records. Reviewed Aug. 14.

Like the bulk of Ice Dragon‘s work to date, Born a Heavy Morning was put out first digitally, for free or pay-what-you-want download. A CD version would follow soon enough on Navalorama, with intricate packaging to match the album’s understated achievements, taking the Boston genre-crossers into and through heavy psychedelic atmospheres added to and played off in longer pieces like “The Past Plus the Future is Present” and the gorgeously ethereal “Square Triangle” by thematic slice-of-life set-pieces like “In Which a Man Daydreams about a Girl from His Youth” and “In Which a Man Ends His Workweek with a Great Carouse” that only enriched the listening experience and furthered Ice Dragon‘s experimental appeal. Ever-prolific, Born a Heavy Morning wasn’t the only Ice Dragon outing this year, physical or digital, but it stood in a place of its own within their constantly-expanding catalog and showcased a stylistic fearlessness that can only be an asset in their favor as they continue to chase down whatever the hell it is they’re after in their songs and make genuine originality sound so natural.

10. Devil to Pay, Fate is Your Muse

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed March 19.

It seemed like no matter where I turned in 2013, Devil to Pay‘s Fate is Your Muse was there. Not that it was the highest-profile release of the year or bolstered by some consciousness-invading viral campaign or anything, just that once the songs locked into my head, there was no removing them, and whether it was straightforward rockers like “This Train Won’t Stop,” “Savonarola” and “Tie One On,” the moodier “Black Black Heart” or the charm-soaked “Ten Lizardmen and One Pocketknife” — which might also be the best song title I came across this year — it was a pretty safe bet that something from the Indianapolis four-piece was going to make a showing on the mental jukebox if not in the actual player (it showed up plenty there as well). Devil to Pay‘s first album since 2009, first for Ripple and fourth overall, Fate is Your Muse was a grower listen whose appeal only deepened over the months after its release, the layered vocals of guitarist Steve Janiak (interview here) adaptable to the varying vibes of “Wearin’ You Down” and “Already Dead” and soulful in classic fashion. They’ve been underrated as a live act for some time, and Fate is Your Muse translated well their light-on-frills, heavy-on-riffs appeal to a studio setting.

9. Beast in the Field, The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below

Released by Saw Her Ghost Records. Reviewed May 30.

Such devastation. Even now, every time I put on Beast in the Field‘s The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below, it makes me want to hang my head and wonder at the horror of it all like Marlon Brando hiding out in a cave. If anything at all, there wasn’t much I heard in 2013 that hit harder than the Michigan duo’s fifth long-player, released on CD in March through Saw Her Ghost with vinyl reportedly on the way now. Toward the middle of the year, it got to the point where I wanted to go door to door and say to people, “Uh excuse me, but this is absurdly heavy and you should check it out.” I settled for streaming the album in full and it still feels like a compromise. I tried to interview the band, to no avail — sometimes instrumental acts just don’t want to talk about it — but what guitarist Jordan Pries and drummer Jamie Jahr were able to accomplish tonally, atmospherically and bombastically in expansive and overwhelmingly heavy cuts like the 22-minute “Oncoming Avalanche” or the noise-soaked riffing of “Hollow Horn” put The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below into a weight class that it had pretty much to itself this year. It’s a good thing they had no trouble filling that space. I still feel like I haven’t recommended the album enough and that more people need to be made aware of its existence.

8. Beelzefuzz, Beelzefuzz

Released by The Church Within Records. Reviewed Aug. 30.

When I finally listened to Beelzefuzz‘s self-titled debut, I was really, really glad I had seen the three-piece — its members based in Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania — play some of the material live. I don’t know if otherwise I’d have been able to distinguish between the progress elements of effects and looping and the live creation of layers and organ sounds through the guitar of Dana Ortt (interview here) and the simple humdrum of studio layering one finds all the time. I almost think for their next record they should track it live, just the three of them, and heavily advertise that fact to help get the point across that it’s actually just three players — Ortt, bassist Pug Kirby and drummer Darin McCloskey (also of Pale Divine) — creating the richness of sound on “All the Feeling Returns” and the eerie, gleefully weird progressive stomp on “Lonely Creatures.” The album became a morning go-to for me, and I don’t know how many times I’ve been through it at this point, but “Reborn” and “Hypnotize” and “Lotus Jam” continue to echo in my head even when it’s been a few days. That said, it’s rarely been a few days, because while I appreciate what the trio accomplish on their first record on an analytical level, the reason it is where it is on this list is because I can’t stop listening to the damn thing. Another one that more people should hear than have heard.

7. Samsara Blues Experiment, Waiting for the Flood

Released by World in Sound/Electric Magic Records. Reviewed Oct. 22.

One of the aspects of Samsara Blues Experiment‘s third offering that I most enjoyed was that it wasn’t the album I expected German four-piece to make. After their 2011 sophomore album, Revelation and Mystery (review here), shifted its focus away from the jam-minded heavy psychedelia of their 2009 debut, Long Distance Trip (review here), my thinking was that they would continue down that path and coalesce into a more straightforward brand of heavy rock. Instead, when the four extended tracks of Waiting for the Flood showed up with no shortage of swirl or sitar or open-ended expansion in their midst, it was a legitimate surprise. Repeat visits to “Shringara” and “Don’t Belong” show that actually it’s not so much that Samsara Blues Experiment turned around and were hell-bent on jamming out all the time, but that rather for their third, they took elements of what worked on their first two LPs and built lush movements on top of those ideas. As a happy bonus, this having grown more and more into their sound has helped push the band — guitarist/vocalist Christian Peters, guitarist Hans Eiselt, bassist Richard Behrens and drummer Thomas Vedder — into their own niche within the wider European heavy psych scene, and they’ve begun to emerge as one of its most enjoyable and consistent acts.

6. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Mind Control

Released by Rise Above/Metal Blade Records. Reviewed April 8.

Kind of inevitable that there would be a lot of comparisons made between Mind Control and the preceding Uncle Acid album, Blood Lust. Certainly the newer outing — their third and first for Rise Above/Metal Blade — is more psychedelic, more tripped out and less obscure feeling than its predecessor. It didn’t have the same kind of crunch to the guitar tone, or the same kind of horror-film atmosphere or psychosexual foreboding, but the thing was, it wasn’t supposed to. The UK outfit continue to prod cult mentality even as their own cult grows, and as I see it, Mind Control made a lot of sense coming off Blood Lust in terms of the band not wanting to repeat the same ideas over again, but grow from them and expand their sound. Of course, with the strut at the end of opener “Mt. Abraxas,” they’ve set a high standard on their albums for leadoff tracks, but where Mind Control really made its impression was in the hypnosis of cuts like the Beatlesian “Follow the Leader,” the lysergic “Valley of the Dolls” or the maddening “Devil’s Work.” The deeper you went into side B, the more the band had you in their grasp. It was a different kind of accomplishment than the preceding effort — though “Mind Crawler” kept a lot of that vibe alive — and it showed Uncle Acid had more in their arsenal than VHS ambience and garage doom malevolence while keeping the infectiousness that helped Blood Lust make such an impression.

5. Lumbar, The First and Last Days of Unwelcome

Released by Southern Lord. Reviewed Dec. 3.

Of the ones reviewed, Lumbar‘s The First and Last Days of Unwelcome was the most recent inclusion on this list. Having worked with Lumbar multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Aaron Edge (interview here) in the past with his band Roareth releasing what would be their only album on The Maple Forum, this was a project to which I felt an immediate connection given the circumstances of its creation: Being written almost in its entirety and recorded in everything but vocals during a bedridden period following Edge‘s diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. The contributions of YOB/Vhöl frontman Mike Scheidt and Tad Doyle of TAD and Brothers of the Sonic Cloth were what got a lot of people’s attention for Lumbar‘s The First and Last Days of Unwelcome, but with the situation are the core of the seven tracks named “Day One” through “Day Seven,” what stood out to me even more than those performances was the utter lack of distance and the level of rawness in the album’s presentation. It puts you there. What you get with Lumbar is the direct translation of a range of emotions from hopeful to hopeless, angry, sad, beaten down and wanting answers, wanting more. There’s no shield from it, and as much in concept as in its execution, there’s no other word for it than “heavy.” The intensity Edge packed into just 24 minutes — and not all of it loud or over the top doomed or anything more than atmospherics — was unmatched by anything else I heard this year.

4. Vista Chino, Peace

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed July 30.

From just about any angle you want to view it, the situation that turned Kyuss Lives! into Vista Chino was unfortunate. However — and I know I’ve said this before — I really do believe that becoming Vista Chino, that furthering the distance from the Kyuss moniker, brand, legacy, and so on, was for the better of the band creatively. And not because the songs don’t stand up. I doubt it helped their draw much, but for vocalist John Garcia and drummer Brant Bjork (interview here), working as Vista Chino for the creation of Peace, and especially or Bjork working with guitarist Bruno Fevery for the first time in the writing process, it allowed them to step outside of what would’ve been insurmountable expectations for a “fifth Kyuss album” and create something honest, new, and ultimately, more true to the spirit of that now-legendary band. Let’s face it, you hear John Garcia, Brant Bjork and Nick Oliveri are working on a project together, you’re immediately comparing it to Kyuss anyway. At least with Vista Chino, they’ve given themselves the potential for growth beyond a preconceived idea of what Kyuss should sound like. Well what does Vista Chino sound like? It sounds like whatever the hell they want. On Peace, though many of the lyrics dealt with their legal battles over the Kyuss name, the vibe stayed true to a desert rock ethic of laid back heavy, and the round-out jam in “Acidize/The Gambling Moose” left Peace with the feeling that maybe that’s where they’ve ended up after all. Fingers crossed Mike Dean (of C.O.C. and the latest live incarnation of Vista Chino) winds up playing bass on the record, but other than that, wherever they want to go with it, as a fan, I’m happy to follow along.

3. Gozu, The Fury of a Patient Man

Released by Small Stone Records. Reviewed Jan. 24.

The second outing from Gozu on Small Stone, The Fury of a Patient Man tapped into so much of what made the Boston band’s 2010 Locust Season label debut (review here) work so right on and just did it better. Don’t get me wrong, I still dig on “Meat Charger,” but with tracks like “Snake Plissken,” “Bald Bull,” “Signed, Epstein’s Mom” (note: it was “signed, Epstein’s mother” on Welcome Back Kotter) and the thrashing “Charles Bronson Pinchot,” Gozu put forth a collection of some of 2013’s finest heavy rock and did so with not only their own soulful spin on the tropes of the genre, but a mature and varied approach that was no less comfortable giving High on Fire a run for their money than reveling in the grandiose chorus of “Ghost Wipe,” which was also one of the best hooks of the year, guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney (interview here) delivering lines in crisp, confident layers, perfectly mixed by Benny Grotto at Mad Oak Studios and cutting through the fray of his own and Doug Sherman‘s guitars, the bass of Paul Dallaire (who split duties with J. Canava; Joe Grotto has since taken over the position) and Barry Spillberg‘s drumming. What the future might hold for Gozu with the recent shift in lineup that replaced Spillberg with drummer Mike Hubbard (ex-Warhorse) and added third guitarist Jeff Fultz (Mellow Bravo) remains to be seen, but with European touring on the horizon for 2014 and appearances slated for Roadburn and Desertfest, the band seem to be looking only to expand their reach, and with the material from The Fury of a Patient Man as a foundation, they’ve got some major considerations acting in their favor. Another album from which I simply could not escape this year, and from which I didn’t want to.

2. Monster Magnet, Last Patrol

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 12.

Billed largely and at least in-part accurately as a return to the group’s psychedelic roots, Last Patrol was Monster Magnet‘s ninth full-length, their first in three years and their second for Napalm. The New Jersey outfit led by guitarist, vocalist, songwriter, founder and, in this case, co-producer Dave Wyndorf (interview here) did indeed delve into the space rock side of their sound more than they have in over a decade, and the effect that doing so had was like a great shaking-off of dust, as though the Bullgod in the John Sumrow cover art just woke up after a long slumber. Perhaps even more than tripping on the Donovan cover “Three Kingfishers” or on the more extended freakouts “Last Patrol” and “End of Time,” what really made Last Patrol such a complete experience was the depth of emotion. Wyndorf wasn’t just standing above an overproduced wall of distortion talking about how he’s the best lay in the galaxy or whatever — fun though that kind of stuff is and has been in the past — but songs like “I Live behind the Clouds,” “The Duke (of Supernature),” “Paradise” and “Stay Tuned” offered a humbler take, a spirit of melancholy that rested well alongside the unmitigated stomp of “Hallelujah” or the driving heavy rock of “Mindless Ones.” Even in its most riotous stretches, Last Patrol was a humbler affair, with a more honest vibe than their last four, maybe five albums. A Monster Magnet release would’ve been noteworthy no matter what it actually sounded like, because that’s the level of impact they’ve had on heavy psych and underground rock over the last two decades-plus. The difference with Last Patrol was that it was a refreshing change from what had started to sound like a formula going stale, and it was  just so damn good to have them be weird again.

1. Clutch, Earth Rocker

Released by Weathermaker Music. Reviewed Feb. 28.

Finally, an album that asked the question, “What it was I’m going to do I haven’t done?” I knew at the year’s halfway point that Clutch‘s Earth Rocker was going to be the one to beat, and that it wasn’t going to be easy for anyone else to top the Maryland kings of groove, who sounded so reinvigorated on songs like “Crucial Velocity,” “Book, Saddle and Go,” “Unto the Breach,” and “Cyborg Bette,” and on funkfied pushers like “D.C. Sound Attack!,” “The Wolfman Kindly Requests…” and “The Face.” They’d hardly been in hibernation since 2009’s Strange Cousins from the West, but four years was the longest they’d ever gone between albums, and it was past time for a new one. To have it arrive as such a boot to the ass just made it that much better, the band shifting away from some of the blues/jam influences that emerged over the course of 2005’s Robot Hive/Exodus and 2007’s From Beale Street to Oblivion — though those certainly showed up as well in the subdued “Gone Cold” and elsewhere — but thanks in no small part to the production of Machine, with whom the band last worked for 2004’s Blast Tyrant, Earth Rocker was huge where it wanted to be and that gave Clutch‘s faster, more active material all the more urgency, where although the songwriting was quality as always, Strange Cousins from the West languished a bit at a more relaxed pace. The difference made all the difference. Whether it was the hellhounds on your trail (what a pity!) in “D.C. Sound Attack!” or the Jazzmasters erupting from the bottom of the sea to take flight, Clutch‘s 10th album was brimming with live, vibrant, heavy on action and heavy on groove, and on a sheer song-by-song level, a classic in the making from a band who’ve already had a few. At very least, it’s a landmark in their discography, and though vocalist Neil Fallon (interview here), guitarist Tim Sult, bassist Dan Maines and drummer Jean-Paul Gaster always change from record, but it’s the unmistakable stamp they put on all their outings that have earned them such a loyal following, and that stamp is all over Earth Rocker. Front to back, it is a pure Clutch record, and while I’ll happily acknowledge that it’s an obvious pick for album of the year, I don’t see how I possibly could’ve chosen anything else. Like the best of the best, Earth Rocker will deliver for years to come.

The Next 10 and Honorable Mentions

I said at the outset I had 40 picks. The reality was more than that, but here’s the next 10 anyway:

21. Blaak Heat Shujaa, The Edge of an Era
22. The Freeks, Full On
23. Luder, Adelphophagia
24. The Flying Eyes, Lowlands
25. Black Skies, Circadian Meditations
26. At Devil Dirt, Plan B: Sin Revolucion No Hay Evolucion
27. Kadavar, Abra Kadavar
28. Naam, Vow
29. Mühr, Messiah
30. Uzala, Tales of Blood and Fire

Further honorable mention has to go to Pelican, Endless Boogie, Earthless, Phantom Glue, Goatess, Windhand, GongaToner Low, Jesu and Sandrider.

Two More Special Records

I’d be unforgivably remiss if I didn’t note the release in 2013 of two albums that wound up being incredibly special to me personally: I vs. the Glacier by Clamfight and A Time of Hunting by Kings Destroy. Since it came out on this site’s in-house label, I didn’t consider the Clamfight eligible for list consideration and while I didn’t help put it out, the Kings Destroy I also felt very, very close to — probably as close as I’ve felt to a record I didn’t actually perform on — so it didn’t seem fair on a critical level, but I consider both of these to be records that in a large part helped define my year, as well as being exceptional in and of themselves, and they needed very much to be singled out as such. These are people whom I feel whatever-the-godless-heathen-equivalent-of-blessed-is to know.

Before I end this post, I want to say thank you for reading, this, anything else you may have caught this year, whatever it might be. To say it means a lot to me personally is understating it, but it’s true all the same. I’m not quite done wrapping up the year — I’ll have a list of the best album covers, another for EPs and singles and demos, and of course the albums I didn’t hear — so please stay tuned over the next couple weeks, but it seemed only fair to show my appreciation now as well. Thank you.

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Lumbar, The First and Last Days of Unwelcome: The Human Laid Bare

Posted in Reviews on December 3rd, 2013 by JJ Koczan

By now, the origin of Lumbar has quickly become legend. In its complete recording form, Lumbar is instrumentalist/vocalist Aaron Edge, who’s joined by Mike Scheidt and Tad Doyle on vocals and vocals/recording, respectively. These are names of considerable consequence to have attached to a project. Between Doyle‘s pedigree in TAD and the awaited Brothers of the Sonic Cloth and Scheidt standing as one of his generation’s most innovative luminaries in doom (doominaries?) for his tenure over the last decade-plus in YOB, even before you get to rattle off the long list of projects in which Edge has taken part — Iamthethorn, Harkonen, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, HimsaGrievous, Maple Forum alums Roareth, countless others, and even more when you factor in those to whom he’s contributed art or design work — it’s hard not to be sold beforehand on Lumbar‘s Southern Lord debut, The First and Last Days of Unwelcome. On personnel alone, it’s a landmark, but the real crux of the album isn’t in some supergroup amalgam of ego. It’s in the intensely personal nature of the material. As Edge explained in an interview here, most of The First and Last Days of Unwelcome came together during a period of immobility following his being diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. 40 days in bed. No stranger to self-recording, Edge programmed the drums, fired up a Verellen Skyhammer preamp pedal and transposed 24 minutes’ worth of visceral human experience into seven varied tracks that are at times hopeful, at times oppressive and defeated, but always essentially, deeply his own. After the parts were recorded, he brought them to Scheidt, who in turn suggested they track with Doyle at his Studio Witch Ape in Washington. The First and Last Days of Unwelcome is impossible to divorce from this context, because it is the context, and knowing how it happened, the raw circumstance of how it was made, the freshness of the wounds driving it, brings a level of admiration to the project with which even its lineup can’t hope to compete.

I won’t feign impartiality. Between having helped Roareth put out their first and only record through this site’s in-house label — it was the first release, actually, and my conversations with Edge are good memories that were pivotal in making it happen — and having been in touch over the years with Scheidt as well as being a fan of his and Doyle‘s work, there’s just no way I can pretend to approach Lumbar from neutral ground. Generally, I look at that as a drawback, but in the case of The First and Last Days of Unwelcome and how personal the nature of the album is, I think it actually helps. For years and years, Edge has bounced from one project to the next — even as I type this he’s looking for a band to sing for in Portland — but aside from being arguably the highest-profile, Lumbar might also be the most his own of everything he’s done. The expression in these songs, whether it’s the desperate cloying that begins centerpiece “Day Four” or the explosion of rage that emerges from it, is his. And the claustrophobia of “Day Five,” in which the world seems to be happening somewhere outside the echo chamber of the song itself, isn’t impartial. There’s no distance to Lumbar whatsoever, no moment where the artist responsible has stepped back and said, “I’m going to write about this experience.” That’s not what The First and Last Days of Unwelcome is. Instead, each of these pieces is a transcription of a moment or a stretch of this time. Some, like “Day One,” “Day Two” (the tracklisting corresponding with the days) and “Day Six,” are transposed as relatively complete song ideas — the vocal and instrumental arrangements satisfy as finished products — but not everything is designed to be so neat. The drumless “Day Three” works around a frantic guitar-as-fiddle progression that seethes with tension waiting to boil over as a low rumble rises beneath, Edge shouting, “Why are you here?” from within the morass. He’s low in the mix, overwhelmed at first, and comes forward only as the song itself works to an end of echoing heartbeats and droning, and the aforementioned “Day Five” is a postcard from some unspoken level of hell that conveys its agonies and is gone. No verses or choruses; atmospheres and impressions. Front to back, it is a brief — again, just 24 minutes — but haunting listen.

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Lumbar Interview with Aaron Edge and Mike Scheidt (Plus Exclusive Track Stream)

Posted in audiObelisk, Features on October 23rd, 2013 by JJ Koczan

Lumbar, “Day Six” from The First and Last Days of Unwelcome

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

There’s nothing comfortable about listening to Lumbar‘s debut and quite possibly only outing, The First and Last Days of Unwelcome. A 24-minute full-length comprised of seven tracks of huge tones and fraught wails, screams and psychedelic helplessness, there’s a consuming darkness in the audio that bleeds through the atmosphere in layers of drones, lumbering riffs and varied vocals from the three component members of the project — Aaron Edge (Roareth, Rote Hexe, Hauler, etc.), Tad Doyle (TAD) and Mike Scheidt (YOB, Vhöl) — all of whose personalities are evident throughout the monumental proceedings.

Aaron Edge has spent years bouncing from band to band, new project to new project, as well as working as a graphic designer for Southern Lord (which is releasing Lumbar) and others in a sort of tornado of creativity. In all my dealings with him — Roareth‘s first and only CD came out on The Maple Forum — I’ve found him to be passionate, dedicated and exceedingly driven. The kind of person who’s already there by the time you’re ready to go. Relentless in his energy and will to create, he’s also a marathon runner, long-distance biker, vegan and straightedge. Someone for whom movement both conceptual and physical is the norm. Perhaps because of that it was all the more a shock early this year when he was diagnosed with MS.

Talking to him about it now, several months after the fact, Edge hardly remembers how he spent the 40 solid days in bed from the pain, but it was during this traumatic time that he wrote what would become Lumbar (and two other in-progress projects) once Scheidt and Doyle got involved. The name Lumbar derives from the medical procedure “lumbar puncture,” also known as a spinal tap, wherein a needle is inserted between the vertebrae of a person’s back and spinal fluid is collected for diagnosis. Edge has had a few at this point, and one could easily look at The First and Last Days of Unwelcome as the same kind of process.

Because where many might allow for some distance — that is, might wait until an experience is over and then write an album about it — in LumbarEdge thrusts listeners into the moment itself. The album’s seven tracks, broken down as “Day One,” “Day Two” and so on, are like a transcription of agony. There isn’t distance or the feeling of safety that distance might provide. With Scheidt and Doyle contributing to the vocal arrangements and recording, Edge tells a story through captured moments that’s haunting, tragic, beautiful, hopeful at times and incomplete in the way that life itself is incomplete and in the way that his story, his battle with this disease, is ongoing and continues to shape what has become his being.

In the interviews that follow, Edge discusses how Lumbar came together, working with Scheidt and recording with Doyle, the relationships he’s had with the two over the years, doing art for YOB and playing drums for a time in Doyle‘s band, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, as well as sharing the first listen to the finished product of The First and Last Days of Unwelcome with family and friends in a moment of communal support, while Scheidt — checking in from Idaho on a solo tour alongside Uzala — expands on his friendship with Edge, how he came to be involved in Lumbar and his feelings on how the album came out.

Because I spoke to Edge first, then Scheidt, that’s how I’ve chosen to present the Q&As. If you haven’t yet, check out “Day Six,” one of the album’s most exceedingly righteous stretches, on the player above.

The First and Last Days of Unwelcome will be released on LP and digital through Southern Lord on Nov. 26, with CD to follow from the band and a cassette through Holy Mountain.

As always, thanks for reading. Interviews are after the jump.

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Mike Scheidt, Tad Doyle and Aaron Edge Announce New Band Lumbar; Album to be Released on Southern Lord

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 10th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

So you’re telling me that there’s a band walking around that has Mike Scheidt from YOB, Tad frickin’ Doyle from TAD/Brothers of the Sonic Cloth and Roareth alum Aaron Edge playing as a trio? Right now? On this planet? Well I dare say then that this, indeed, is where it’s at.

Southern Lord Recordings is the lucky outlet who gets to issue Lumbar‘s debut LP, The First and Last Days of Unwelcome, in November. Pretty sure Tad recorded, and Brad Boatright of Audiosiege mastered the record. It’s done. It’s coming. This is a real thing. You should be excited about it.

To trace the connections — which I’m sure go back much farther than this — Edge played for a time with Doyle in Brothers of the Sonic Cloth,  and also designed the YOB logo and did the artwork for 2009’s we’re-back-and-we’re-pissed album, The Great Cessation (review here). Doyle also recorded Scheidt‘s solo album, Stay Awake. There’s probably much more to it than that, but what it all rounds out to is a Pacific Northwest stew of churning psychedelic worship and a full-length that plays to the strengths of all three involved. You know you’re getting something heavy and you’re right.

Expect more to come in the days that follow, but for now, check out the album art and the minimal announcement and then sweat it out until we can get some audio from this thing.

Lumbar — The First and Last Days of Unwelcome

A crushing sonic endeavor featuring:
Mike Scheidt + Tad Doyle + Aaron Edge

We (Tad, Mike and Aaron) are proud to announce that our new recording, “The First & Last Days of Unwelcome”, shall be released this November on Southern Lord Recordings. More news when more news is known. Thanx for the support and interest thus far.

Update: Says Scheidt of the project:

“Aaron Edge wrote all of the music and lyrics, I helped with arranging the vocals and also contributed vocals, Tad did vocals and mixed the album. For the most part, this beast is all Aaron Edge and it’s about his struggle with MS. Heavy shit indeed.”

https://www.facebook.com/thelumbarendeavor

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