The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2015

Posted in Features on December 22nd, 2015 by JJ Koczan

top 30 albums of 2015 1

Please note: This list is not culled in any way from the Readers Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2015 to that, please do.

It’s damn near impossible to start one of these posts without some derivation of, “Whew! What a year it’s been!” The truth is that, since 2014, I’ve been keeping a list of the best releases of 2015, and the list has just grown and grown and grown over the last 12 months. Could have been a top 40, easy. Could have been a top 50, 60, whatever. It was complete inundation.

If you’ve been checking in on any of the lists that have gone up so far, you might notice that some of these records have appeared elsewhere, and possibly in a different order. How does an album end up ahead of another on one list and not on another? Different criteria. Different basis of judgment. As always, the big year-end list (this one) is derived both from what I think are the most important offerings of the year plus what I listened to the most, because while I believe deeply in the critical value of a given work, I also believe there’s value in the kind of record you just can’t put down.

Basically, I believe records have value. Stay tuned for more daring adventures in understatement.

A few emergent factors for 2015 to note: The increasing expansion of subgenres. Psychedelia and what I’ve come to call the heavy ’10s sound finding further root as prominent styles of the day, as well as a budding of emotive doom in the post-Pallbearer vein. At the same time, a more straightforward heavy rock is also making a return, and look for that to continue as new listeners discover past landmarks and modern plays thereupon. Everything is cyclical, and I’m interested to see what the next two or three years bring, both as Millennials hit 30 (and beyond) and as younger kids come up and fuzz out.

But that’s a conversation for a different time, and before we get there, it’s time to take a look back at the best full-lengths of 2015. I hope if I’ve left something out, you’ll let me know about it in the comments, but until then, here we go:

30. High on Fire, Luminiferous

high on fire luminiferous

Released by eOne Heavy. Reviewed June 15.

Going by some of the results I’ve seen from the Readers Poll, I’m guessing there will be some disagreement on the placement of High on Fire‘s seventh full-length, third for eOne and second to be produced by Kurt Ballou behind 2012’s De Vermiis Mysteriis (review here), but for me it came down to what I went back to more. The brilliant “The Falconist” would be enough on its own for Luminiferous to be included on this list, and taken as a whole, the record affirmed the trio as pivotal heavy metal marauders, an act whose devastation is undulled by the wear they’ve put on it touring the world over and again.

29. CHRCH, Unanswered Hymns

chrch unanswered hymns

Released by Battleground Records. Reviewed June 30.

Undaunted by a name change from Church to CHRCH, the Sacramento five-piece unleashed rare doom extremity on their debut album, but peppered that with a stylistic nuance that many in the pummel-pummel-pummel game cast off, whether it was psychedelic flourish in the guitar or some eerie atmospheric. Among the post potential-filled debut offerings of the year, that’s not a guarantee they’ll find future success on the same level, but it does mean that if you didn’t hear the 19-minute “Dawning,” you missed out.

28. Golden Void, Berkana

golden void berkana

Released by Thrill Jockey Records. Reviewed Sept. 22.

Coherent bliss. The second full-length from the four-piece Golden Void was a logical step forward from the band’s 2012 self-titled debut (review here), but that was precisely what it needed to be. With an emerging dynamic of dual vocals between guitarist Isaiah Mitchell (also Earthless) and keyboardist Camilla Saufley-Mitchell on cuts like “Astral Plane” and “Silent Season,” Berkana was less adherent to space rock overall than its predecessor, but gave a more individualized take and was all the richer for it.

27. Stoned Jesus, The Harvest

stoned jesus the harvest

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 20.

Probably should have a higher number. Part of the enduring appeal for The Harvest for me is not only how Ukrainian three-piece Stoned Jesus so absolutely pushed back from the album before it, 2012’s sophomore outing, Seven Thunders Roar (review here), but how much reasoning they put behind the moves they made on the six included tracks. Each song had its purpose and place in the overarching flow, and The Harvest continues to deliver something new on thoroughly-earned repeat listens. Perhaps most encouraging of all, I have no idea what they’ll do next.

26. Graveyard, Innocence and Decadence

graveyard innocence and decadence

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Oct. 7.

Swedish retro forerunners are hands-down one of the most influential European heavy rock acts of their generation. The ’70s revivalism they helped spearhead on their first, second and third LPs has given them rich ground to develop, and they still managed to bring something new to their sound with the soulfulness of Innocence and Decadence, as well as increasing command and diversity in the vocals. Drummer Axel Sjöberg turned in a career performance, and although there are heaps upon heaps of bands out there indulging in post-Graveyard boogie, they showed once again that they’re able to stand both out from the crowd and well above it. Plus, any swing-rocking album that dares to break out soul-singer backing vocals and blastbeats, and pull both off without blinking deserves respect, no matter what else it might have going on.

25. Death Hawks, Sun Future Moon

death hawks sun future moon

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed Nov. 3

It felt so good to put on Death HawksSun Future Moon for the first time and be completely blindsided by its serene psychedelic ritualizing. The Finnish four-piece reveled in classic progressive methods, and where it would’ve been so easy for songs like “Hey Ya Sun Ra” or “Dream Life, Waking Life” to come across as pretentious, the naturalism in the recording gave the band’s third album such a liquefied flow that it was impossible not to be swept up by it until, at last, “Friend of Joy” launched into and beyond a peaceful stratosphere in spaced-out ambience. My first exposure to the group and their first outing for Svart, it’s a record so textural and so graceful that it seems to unfurl itself more each time through.

24. Spidergawd, II

spidergawd ii

Released by Stickman Records and Crispin Glover Records. Reviewed Jan. 5.

A quick and strong turnaround from this Norwegian sax-inclusive foursome, who might seem to come out of nowhere were it not for the pedigree of Kenneth Kapstad and Bent Sæther in long-running progressives Motorpsycho. Together with Per Borten and Rolf Martin Snustad, Spidergawd spoke to more primal rock instincts — their two LPs to-date and soon to be three are testaments to the ability of music to move, to shove, and to shake; or as they put it, “Get Physical” — but as there is breadth as well, as the psychedelic “Caereulean Caribou” demonstrated. Anchored by the hook of “Fixing to Die Blues,” Spidergawd‘s second wandered far and wide, but welcomed listeners along for each step of the journey.

23. The Midnight Ghost Train, Cold was the Ground

the midnight ghost train cold was the ground

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Feb. 26.

As the title promised, The Midnight Ghost Train‘s third offering and Napalm Records debut delivered harsh truths. They came at breakneck speed and delivered with stage-hewn chemistry by the Midwestern power trio, whose years of road-dogging were brought to bear in the gruff, gravel-throated voice of guitarist Steve Moss, who led drummer Brandon Burghart and newcomer bassist Mike Boyne across nigh-unparalled riff torrents, with all the boogie of any number of ’70s-style sidewinders, but also with a tonal thickness that seemed a miracle it could move at all. Not without its adventurous side in the quieter “The Little Sparrow,” Cold was the Ground brimmed with intensity that brought the band to new levels in every conceivable fashion.

22. Leeches of Lore, Motel of Infinity

leeches of lore motel of infinity

Released by Lorchestral Recording Company. Reviewed Sept. 15.

Blessed art the weirdos, whose records might be few and far between, who might not tour, but whose bold fits and starts span genres easily and whose work truly stands alone. Leeches of Lore‘s Toshi Kasai-produced Motel of Infinity was a godsend in the enduring battle against normality. It was a grinding, grooving anti-punk stampede, at times frenetic and at other times whatever the opposite of frenetic is, and to-date, it’s the Albuquirky outit’s masterpiece, from the low-end buzzsaw, gang-shout and falsetto of “Don’t Open Till Doomsday” through the bass and organ bounce of “Noah’s Soul (is Burning).” They have been and still are a band unto themselves, and the we-do-this-every-day confidence of their execution across Motel of Infinity‘s run only emphasizes how utterly necessary they are.

21. With the Dead, With the Dead

with the dead self titled

Released by Rise Above Records. Reviewed Nov. 11.

With the Dead vocalist Lee Dorrian (also head of Rise Above Records, also ex-Cathedral) basically laid it all out there in the interview here when he said, “We wanted to make the most skull-crushing record we possibly could.” That’s precisely what With the Dead‘s self-titled debut is. It’s as heavy as possible, as filthy as possible, all the way through. In some ways very much the sum of its elements with Dorrian on vocals, Tim Bagshaw on guitar/bass and Mark Greening on drums (both ex-Ramesses), it was also of course more than just that, and while so much of their story has yet to be told as they move into their initial live appearances in 2016, their opening salvo was nothing if not as destructive as its intent.

20. Clutch, Psychic Warfare

clutch psychic warfare

Released by Weathermaker Music. Reviewed Oct. 6.

How could anyone possibly have even remotely reasonable expectations for a Clutch record after 2013’s Earth Rocker (review here). I won’t say the Maryland stalwarts didn’t deliver with Psychic Warfare, and I doubt any fan of the band who’s dug into “X-Ray Visions,” “A Quick Death in Texas” or “Noble Savage” would, but their returning to producer Machine for the second time in a row made it almost too easy to compare Clutch‘s 10th and 11th long-players. Four years between albums was shortened to just two, and that may have had something to do with it as well, but while the songs were there and I’ve no doubt that Psychic Warfare will endure over the long term — ask me sometime how long it took me to get into Pure Rock Fury — in the moment of its release, Psychic Warfare seemed to stand in the shadow of its predecessor rather than in its own light.

19. Mondo Drag, Mondo Drag

mondo drag self-titled

Released by Kozmik Artifactz and RidingEasy Records. Reviewed Jan. 8.

An awaited return for Midwestern-turned-West-Coast psychedelic rockers Mondo Drag, their self-titled sophomore outing had three years between its recording and release, and was made in 2012 with a shortlived incarnation of the band with bassist Zack Anderson and drummer Cory Berry, both formerly of Radio Moscow and then-soon to be of Blues Pills. Unsurprisingly, the grooves were tight, but even better, Mondo Drag blew past the peaceful headtrippery of their 2010 debut, New Rituals (review here), toward more expansive and proggy fare. They’ll look to continue that thread on their third outing, The Occultation of Light, in 2016, but the self-titled captured a special moment worthy of celebration, still rife with the classic-minded ethereal spirit of the first outing, but clearly bent on defining its own sonic dogma in hooks and synthy vibes.

18. Lamp of the Universe, The Inner Light of Revelation

lamp of the universe the inner light of revelation

Released by Clostridium Records and Astral Projection. Reviewed April 27.

At the risk of sounding biased, just about any new release from New Zealand tantric psych outfit Lamp of the Universe is going to be welcome by me. Comprised solely of Craig Williamson (also Arc of Ascent), the long-running project nonetheless casts out gorgeously textured meditative psychedelia, at times delving into drone or Eastern folk, but always marking out its own sonic space, whether in the more rock-minded groove of “God of One” or the drumless acoustic swirl of “Ancient Path.” Lamp of the Universe is a rare band — as much as it is a band — that covers a swath of ground stylistically and manages to sound like nothing but itself as it does so, and Williamson‘s commitment to his cosmic mantras remains firm and creatively fertile as the seeds he planted early on continue to bear fruit in complex arrangements that never distract from the central, spiritual purpose of the music.

17. Mammatus, Sparkling Waters

mammatus sparkling waters

Released by Spiritual Pajamas. Reviewed Nov. 9.

Even with its title-track broken into two 20-plus-minute side-consuming halves, it was abundantly plain to hear that Sparkling Waters was the most realized Mammatus outing yet. The four-song, 75-minute offering brimmed with a clarity that even their late-2013 third album, Heady Mental (review here), could only partially claim, leaving behind the fuzz and fog of their earlier work almost entirely while remaining open to employing sonic heft when suitable to their more complex motives. Most effective about Mammatus at this stage was the way they eased into and through varied parts while tying together a coherent whole piece, the builds and cascades of “Sparkling Waters Part One” setting up an expectation of fluidity that held firm even through the more jagged buzz in the early going of closer “Ornia,” the grand finale of which resonates as a cacophony without letting itself actually lose control.

16. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, The Night Creeper

uncle acid the night creeper

Released by Rise Above Records. Reviewed Sept. 3.

UK ladykillers Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats have emerged as one of the most essential bands of the ’10s. The Night Creeper is their fourth album and it takes the defining eeriness of their melodies and roughs it up with a mostly-live recording job — something which, now that they’re a touring act, they can do — for their grittiest, dirtiest-sounding offering yet. Songs like “Melody Lane,” “Pusher Man” and opener “Waiting for Blood” speak to what’s let their methodology spread so widely in the first place, the VHS grain of their guitars and vocals resting over classic swing and proliferating maddening hooks with lethal intent. Between the nine-minute gruel of “Slow Death” and the hidden acoustic track “Black Motorcade,” The Night Creeper wasn’t without its element of sonic progress, but with Uncle Acid, it’s still the combination of threat, swing and memorable songwriting that brings listeners back to their dark alleyways for another taste.

15. Death Alley, Black Magick Boogieland

death alley black magick boogieland

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed June 8.

Easily one of 2015’s most encouraging debuts. Making its opening salvo with the propulsion of Motörhead-derived heavy rock in songs like “Over Under” and “Black Magick Boogieland,” the first outing from Amsterdam-based foursome Death Alley touched on classic ideals without going retro on “Bewildered Eyes,” nodded toward psychedelic melodicism and more patient intentions in “Golden Fields of Love,” and portrayed its punker roots in “Dead Man’s Bones” — all before the 12:40 space rock extravaganza that took hold with closer “Supernatural Predator.” It was a lot of territory to cover, but Death Alley not only made it sound cohesive, they made it rock and they made it a good time. In just about 41 minutes, Black Magick Boogieland was not only a voyage well worth taking, it was a potential-filled, headbang-worthy ripper of an album from an outfit who deserves every bit of attention they seem to be shouting for. Hope they don’t wait long for a follow-up.

14. The Machine, Offblast!

the machine offblast

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed May 28.

Five records in, Dutch trio The Machine have found a niche for themselves between heavy psych rock, desert fuzz and exploratory jamming. Offblast!, with a title that seemed more reminiscent of Europunker speed rock, was as spacious as it was driving, and whether it was the more structured material like “Dry End” or “Coda Sun” or the two extended cuts, 16-minute opener ““Chrysalis (J.A.M.)” and 12-minute closer “Come to Light,” their dynamic remained natural and held firm to a spontaneous sensibility, like at any turn, any part might take off for an eight-minute ride to who knows where. That that didn’t always happen only made Offblast! a richer listening experience, its varied ideas coming through consistent tonality to affect a more than satisfying front-to-back flow that toyed with momentum even as it built more and more of it. Was a while in the making, coming three years after 2012’s Calmer than You Are (review here), but easily worth the wait.

13. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth

brothers of the sonic cloth self titled

Released by Neurot Recordings. Reviewed March 3.

There were moments where the self-titled debut from Brothers of the Sonic Cloth was almost too much to take in one sitting. By the time the Tad Doyle-led trio got around to the 11-minute “La Mano Poderosa,” sometimes I felt like I needed a second to catch my breath before diving further, always further, into the smoldering abyss their tones, growls and lurch seemed to create. Six years after their demo (review here) served notice like a tectonic rumble in the distance, the album arrived with comet-into-planet heft, and its oppression was as much about atmosphere as it was sheer aural assault. Imagine an arm reaching down your throat, grabbing your lungs, and forcibly deflating them one at a time. Is that hyperbole? Absolutely, and well earned. Every bit the debut of the year.

12. Kind, Rocket Science

kind rocket science

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Dec. 2.

No, Boston supergroup Kind aren’t so high on this list just because they called a song “Pastrami Blaster.” Granted, that didn’t hurt, but ultimately it was the blend of cavernous psychedelics and heavy rumble that made Rocket Science so infectious. Comprised of vocalist Craig Riggs (Roadsaw), guitarist Darryl Shepard (Milligram, The Scimitar, etc.), bassist Tom Corino (Rozamov) and drummer Matt Couto (Elder), Kind earned immediate interest for their pedigree, but it was more the breadth of jams like “Hordeolum” and “The Angry Undertaker” that defined their first outing, various impulses toward structure and open-endedness not so much pushing against each other as working in tandem to craft something that drew from the best of both mindsets. Obviously these are busy guys, but hopefully Kind doesn’t all by the wayside for other ongoing projects. Rocket Science was unmistakable in its demonstration that they have much to offer.

11. Bloodcow, Crystals and Lasers

bloodcow crystals and lasers

Self-released. Reviewed Aug. 4.

Iowa five-piece Bloodcow hadn’t put out a record since 2007’s Bloodcow III: Hail Xenu, but that didn’t stop Crystals and Lasers from being their best work yet. As much punk as metal as heavy rock, it wasn’t for everybody, but it was most definitely for me. With a constant thread of satire in songs like “Ultra Super Sexual,” “Sock,” “Dick for Days” and the oh-shit-I’m-middle-aged-how-the-fuck-did-this-happen (not saying I relate or anything, but holy shit I can relate) “After Party,” it was nonetheless a stylistically varied and universally professional-sounding 13-track collection, offering weirdo quirk in “Blood and Guts,” “Exploding Head” and “Little Chromosome” and finding room for a bit of scathing social commentary in its title-track and “HIVampyre.” If they’re working at an eight-year pace, I don’t know that we’ll get another Bloodcow record, but they very clearly put everything they had into Crystals and Lasers and the result was a defining statement.

10. Kadavar, Berlin

kadavar berlin

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed July 7.

After two wallops in the form of 2013’s Abra Kadavar (review here) and 2012’s self-titled debut (discussed here), German trio Kadavar continued to prove the effectiveness of their songwriting on Berlin, a return that front-to-back brimmed with vitality and bounce rare enough for heavy rock generally more content to be downtrodden or attempting to feign bluesy substance. Unabashedly poppy at times, Berlin was the party that brought everyone along who was up for taking the ride, and whether it was the hook of “Lord of the Sky” showing how just a tiny melodic turn could make a track infectious or cuts like “Thousand Miles Away from Home,” “Filthy Illusion,” “Stolen Dreams,” “Spanish Wild Rose,” “See the World with Your Own Eyes” — all of them, really — working their way into the consciousness, Berlin felt like it was primed to be the soundtrack of many summers to come. They moved away from the retro style of their first two outings, but in so doing took fuller command of their sound and put it to remarkable use.

9. Goatsnake, Black Age Blues

goatsnake black age blues

Released by Southern Lord. Reviewed May 19.

Picking up right where Flower of Disease closer “The River” left off with “Another River to Cross,” Goatsnake‘s third full-length arrived a full 15 years after its predecessor, and as one might expect that brought some considerable changes in the band’s sound. Oh, they still rolled the hell out of a riff, guitarist Greg Anderson (he of SunnO))) and Southern Lord Recordings) very much at the fore tonally, but a bluesy inflection from vocalist Pete Stahl (also earthlings?) and some well-placed backing vocals added personality in a daring and unexpected fashion. Songs like “Jimi’s Gone,” “Elevated Man” and “Grandpa Jones” sat comfortably in the band’s influential pantheon of heft, but it was how Black Age Blues pushed beyond what Goatsnake did in their initial run that made it so satisfying. For a record that arrived five years after they got back together, it could have easily been disaster, but Black Age Blues built on what Goatsnake was without detracting from the legacy that has influenced a generation of heavy rock.

8. Kings Destroy, Kings Destroy

kings destroy self titled

Released by War Crime Recordings. Reviewed April 15.

I’m proud to call the members of Kings Destroy friends and I won’t attempt to feign impartiality when it comes to considering their work as a band, but I felt in listening to their self-titled third LP that they had finally gotten to the point where they were bringing the onstage confrontationalism of their live show to the studio. Yeah, “Mr. O” was upbeat and catchy and gave side A some thrust, but even in chugging opener “Smokey Robinson” or the moody “Mytho” and “Embers,” Kings Destroy not only came further into their own in terms of style, building on the anti-genre defiant stance of 2013’s A Time of Hunting (review here), but did so with a clearheaded progressivism, a better sense of who they are musically and what they want the band to be. I wouldn’t trade seeing them play “Embers” or “W2” as many times as I have for anything, but even unto the gang-shout half-speed hardcore of “Time for War,” Kings Destroy‘s Kings Destroy made no bones about how it wound up with the eponymous title. It’s them through and through.

7. Cigale, Cigale

cigale self titled

Self-released. Reviewed May 4.

It may never be possible to listen to the self-titled debut from Cigale outside the context of the death of guitarist/vocalist Rutger Smeets (ex-Sungrazer). That loss casts a dark shadow over a collection that otherwise radiates colorful sweetness and serenity, the peaceful depth beginning with “Grey Owl” and only broadening as it turns and weaves through “Steeplechase,” “Feel the Heat,” “Harvest Begun” and so on, but the record remains a gorgeous, engrossing wash of resonant melody and underlying presence. Not without its moments of melancholy, the more overarching impression was of beauty not tied to any notion of playing to genre or style, and while I don’t know what the future will hold for the band, if they’ll keep moving forward or not or if they’re even in a place yet to consider such things, they helped broaden the context of European heavy psychedelia with their first album, and that is no minor achievement.

6. Sun Blood Stories, Twilight Midnight Morning

sun blood stories twilight midnight morning

Self-released. Reviewed June 19.

Another one that just kind of smacked me in the face. Idahoan heavy psych explorers Sun Blood Stories‘ second album, Twilight Midnight Morning was soaked in vibe and moved fluidly between experimentalist noisemaking and patient, memorable songwriting. Tracks like “West the Sun,” “Witch Wind” and “Found Reasons Found Out” never raged, exactly, but had enough weight to their rhythm to let you know they were there and interested in groove, while later pieces “Time Like Smoke,” “Moon Song: Waxing” and “Misery is Nebulous” drew exponentially from earlier freakout impulses and shifted into a dronier and more ambient approach. The combination of the two — semi-structure up front, open expansion in the back — made the three-part Twilight Midnight Morning engaging and hypnotic in kind, and though I hope they get weirder and experiment and develop the atmospheric side of their sound, I’ve also got my fingers crossed they hold firm to their more grounded aspects, since its the range between the two that gives their sophomore outing its defining fluidity.

5a. Colour Haze, To the Highest Gods We Know

colour haze to the highest gods we know

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed Jan. 6.

I’ll cite precedent in last year’s list for including a “5a.” The intent in doing so is to convey the idea that Colour Haze‘s latest outing, To the Highest Gods We Know, is worthy of top five consideration, but its release date was split between 2014 (CD) and 2015 (LP), so it was a little unclear where to put it. As the album is basically a year old at this point, it seems fair to say it’s held up, drawing back from the grandiose vision of 2012’s She Said (review here) without losing sight of the progressive elements that have taken root in the German trio’s sound. Their work has been and remains essential to the development of heavy psychedelic rock in Europe and beyond, and even though To the Highest Gods We Know felt like something of a reset — a stripping down of arrangements in places and getting back to a trio-in-a-room feel — it still stepped forward in its title-track and in songs like “Überall” and “Call” and showed that even when it seems Colour Haze have pushed their approach as far as it can go, there’s always new ground to explore, and their pull to do so is undiminished.

5. The Atomic Bitchwax, Gravitron

the atomic bitchwax gravitron

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed April 20.

Doesn’t exactly seem like giving away state secrets to note that a record with songs like “Sexecutioner” and “Fuck Face” is aggressive, but it’s particularly interesting in light of the past work of New Jersey trio The Atomic Bitchwax, who I don’t think sounded as barn-burning as they do on Gravitron even in their earliest going. The trio of bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik, guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan and drummer Bob Pantella kept their signature winding riff style intact — demonstrated most expansively over 2011’s single-song full-length instrumental The Local Fuzz (review here) — but while their turns were as blinding as ever, their tones were more pointed and Pantella‘s snare more upfront on the beat, which gave Gravitron a newfound sense of urgency. It worked. Even poppier songs like “Roseland” or the closing “Ice Age Hey Baby” benefited from the additional thrust, and the album overall felt lean, mean and ready to be taken on the road, which of course is exactly what they did with it. Six albums in, The Atomic Bitchwax were at their most vital yet.

4. All Them Witches, Dying Surfer Meets His Maker

all them witches dying surfer meets his maker

Released by New West Records. Reviewed Oct. 20.

Nashville four-piece All Them Witches probably could’ve gone into the studio, churned out a record of crunchy riffs with a quiet part or two for flavor and positioned themselves at the forefront of American heavy rock with their New West Records debut and third full-length overall, Dying Surfer Meets His Maker. Instead, they defied expectation boldly and brought their growing audience into the room with them and producer Mikey Allred as they captured the album, which finds its most affecting moments not in tonal weight, but emotional resonance, the melody at the midpoint of “Talisman” or the string arrangement gracefully tucked into “Open Passageways.” There’s still the push of “Dirt Preachers,” and entrancing closer “Blood and Sand – Milk and Endless Waters” has its heft as well, but All Them Witches‘ success ultimately came from being the album they wanted to make, built from the dynamic that’s developed on stage between bassist/vocalist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeodAllan Van Cleave on Fender Rhodes/strings, and drummer Robby Staebler, and alive in its feeling of exploration. I won’t predict what they might do from here, but I’m willing to say outright it’ll be worth hearing one way or another.

3. Snail, Feral

snail feral

Released by Small Stone Records. Reviewed Oct. 13.

My expectations for Snail‘s third post-reunion full-length and Small Stone label debut, Feral, were pretty high. Not unreasonably so, though. Their 2012 outing, Terminus (review here), built on the blend of heavy psych riffs, laid back roll and melodicism that 2009’s Blood (review here) established as the band’s working modus, but Feral was going to be a different beast from the start because it was the West Coast outfit’s first full-length as a trio since they made their self-titled debut (reissue review here) in 1993 before splitting up the next year. Whatever my expectations were, however, Snail shattered them almost immediately. In the progression of their songwriting as shown across the strong opening salvo of “Building a Haunted House,” “Smoke the Deathless” and “A Mustard Seed” through one of the year’s best songs in the expansive and crushing “Thou Art That,” the three-piece showcased a breadth unlike anything they’d conjured before, and it only continued through “Born in Captivity,” the catchy “Derail,” “Psilocybe” and the soul-infused wah leads that peppered the pleading closer “Come Home.” Where Terminus offered intensity, Feral offered patience in its execution, and the atmosphere it created suited the band’s sound as well as the Seldon Hunt cover art seemed to summarize the alternate reality in which the music took place. Everything about how it came together worked just right, and even as a fan of the band’s work since they got together again, I was taken aback by the unflinching quality of Feral front to back.

2. Acid King, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere

acid king middle of nowhere center of everywhere

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 19.

Ten years is a long, long time. Especially in music. The prospect of a fourth Acid King record has been tossed around for at least the last six of those 10 years, but to finally have it realized was something else entirely. Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere was without a doubt my most-listened-to album of the year, and its combination of tonal haze, low-end heft and spacious atmosphere was perfect. There’s just no other way to say it. It was perfect. From “Silent Pictures” and “Coming down from Outer Space” through “Red River,” “Infinite Skies” and the sprawling “Center of Everywhere” itself, guitarist/vocalist Lori S., bassist Mark Lamb and drummer Joey Osbourne crafted an absolutely perfect heavy psych record. How many bands walking the earth could even get away with calling a track “Laser Headlights,” let alone make it kick ass? Yeah, Goatsnake came back this year, and that was great, but for me, the return of Acid King to their throne of nod was even more the story of the year. Together with producer Billy Anderson, they offered a depth of tone that was simply unmatched, and without an ounce of pretense, they unveiled a roll that continues to resound. I’m a big fan of getting lost in a record, and Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere eased the listener in with its “Intro,” pulled reality apart from with “Silent Pictures” and set about doing the universe a favor by remaking the cosmos as the kind of place where one might find a wizard riding a tiger past the craters of the moon, until, at last, it deposited you back where you started. Best trip of 2015, no question.

1. Elder, Lore

elder lore

Released by Armageddon Shop and Stickman Records. Reviewed Feb. 19.

Make no mistake, 2015 was Elder‘s year. We were all just living in it. Truth be told, I’ve been back and forth between Elder and Acid King in the top spot for the last couple months (you might recall in July they were reversed), but when it finally came to it, there was no way I could feasibly call anything other than Lore the album of the year. From the gorgeous Adrian Dexter artwork (discussed here), through the progressive clarion of “Compendium”‘s noodling guitar line and into the massive scope of the title-track (discussed here), Lore was the moment in which Elder — guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto — tore down the walls of genre, whether it was heavy rock, psychedelia or anything else, and emerged with their own approach and complex, varied modus of songwriting. They’ve been turning heads since their self-titled debut arrived in 2008, but with 2011’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here), they began to demonstrate the potential for really adding something to the patchwork of underground heavy. In moving forward by making clarity a hallmark both of their sound and of their purpose, Elder came into their own with these five tracks, and do not at all be surprised a couple years from now when bands start showing up aping DiSalvo‘s style of riffing, since such a bold and successful foray of individualism can only be influential in the longer run. At nearly an hour long, Lore was not a minor undertaking, but each song seemed to set up its own atmosphere, feeding not only its own singular focus, but that of the album overall. Its turns blinding, its impact forceful and its affect drawing from the best of the sonic personalities of all three players, Elder‘s Lore reaped wide acclaim and earned it every step of the way. Its progressive vision has only begun to be digested.

Honorable Mention

Killer Boogie, Detroit – Impressive debut from the retro-minded offshoot of Black Rainbows brought ’70s boogie to Italy. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had a quick turnaround, but either way, their first outing knew its audience and spoke directly to it.

My Sleeping Karma, Moksha – This one was on various incarnations of the list. Very interested to see where the German heavy prog outfit wind up in terms of expanding their arrangements, but Moksha was a satisfying step forward in that process.

Egypt, Endless Flight – Should probably have a number, but the fact is it’s only been out for like two weeks, so it hasn’t really been given the test of time at this point. Still, Egypt always deliver and this was no exception.

Valkyrie, Shadows – An awaited third full-length from Virginia’s Valkyrie and also their Relapse Records debut offered enough blazing guitar work to meet any quota, and was a welcome return after a long absence.

Magic Circle, Journey’s End – The second LP from this Massachusetts outfit pushed beyond doomly confines into more traditional metallurgy but held its eerie atmospherics intact, and the combination suited them remarkably well.

Monolord, Vænir – This was my go-to for 2015 when nothing else seemed quite crushing enough. The Swedish trio have very quickly stomped their way into the hearts and minds of the international underground, and rightfully so.

Freedom Hawk, Into Your Mind – After making a transition from a four-piece to a trio, this Virginian outfit proceeded to take a few stylistic risks on their second Small Stone long-player, and they paid off.

TombstonesVargariis – Fourth full-length from this Norwegian trio pushed them outside of doom’s confines into a darker and more extreme version of heaviness that pulled from death and black metals in addition to its sludgy underpinnings. The meld was punishing and lost nothing of its groove, wherever it went at any given moment.

Faces of Bayon, Ash and Dust Have no Dominion – I guess my only hesitation with including Faces of Bayon‘s second outing in any kind of year-end fare is I’m not sure if the album has actually been released yet. Even if not, they’re easily worth a mention.

Ice Dragon, A Beacon on the Barrow – Kind of a down year from Ice Dragon in terms of overall productivity, but if the quantity was down compared to some, A Beacon on the Barrow was quality enough to carry them through. In a way, I think the album actually benefited from the band giving listeners time to take it in.

Arenna, Given to Emptiness – Ah, so good. The Spanish heavy psych troupe dug in deep on Given to Emptiness and conjured sonic and emotional resonance on their second full-length. It’s one that still gets repeat listens.

Monster Magnet, Cobras and Fire – The long-running New Jersey outfit’s reworking of their 2010 album Mastermind was excellent, don’t get me wrong, but it didn’t seem fair to list it when they’re working mostly from already-released source material. But still, if you haven’t heard it, go find it.

Various Artists, Electric Ladyland [Redux] – Even if the results hadn’t been so spectacular, Electric Ladyland [Redux] would deserve a mention for the sheer scope and logistical nightmare that the project must have been. Kudos to Magnetic Eye Records all around.

There are so many others: Abrahma, GoyaSun and Sail Club, DevilleSacri MontiDirty StreetsUfomammutWo Fat‘s live album, Mirror Queen, PentagramTorcheSumacGarden of WormBlack RainbowsHoly SerpentMinskBaronWeedpeckerElectric MoonFuzzBell WitchWindhand, Niche, We Lost the SeaSeremoniaSunderDomovoyd, The Heavy EyesDemon HeadFoggStars that MoveEnslavedRuby the Hatchet, on and on and on. That’s not even to mention the stuff I didn’t hear — Baroness will be on many people’s lists, no doubt, as well as Mutoid Man, Ghost and Kylesa — so yeah, I could pretty much keep going ad infinitum.

I, however, cannot. It’s been an absolute pleasure trying to keep up with 2015’s barrage the last 12 months, and I expect 2016 will only bring more. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading or that you’re able to get some use out of this post, whatever that might mean, and I thank you deeply, from the bottom of my heart, for your time and for reading. It means more to me than I can say that you might check out even any portion of this site or be involved, whether it’s sharing a link, leaving a comment to let me know who I forgot to mention or correct my spelling, signing up for the forum, listening to the radio, whatever it might be.

Thank you for an amazing 2015. And please stay tuned, because of course, there’s much more to come.

 

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Mammatus, Sparkling Waters: Crisp, Clear and Refreshing

Posted in Reviews on November 9th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

mammatus-sparkling-waters

A quicker turnaround for Coastal Cali psych rockers Mammatus brings their fourth album, Sparkling Waters (on Spiritual Pajamas), just two years after their third, Heady Mental (review here). Reasonable by any stretch of the imagination, but it was six years between Heady Mental and its 2007 predecessor, The Coast Explodes, so worth noting. The Coast Explodes also featured a beach scene on its cover, though one tinted yellow either by sunset or manipulation, and had a cast of characters. True to the music on its four extended tracks — one per side on a 2LP — Sparkling Waters is more clearheaded.

Mammatus‘ latest work builds on the progressive turn they showcased on Heady Mental, but the trio of guitarist Nicholas Emmert, bassist Chris Freels and drummer Aaron Emmert still have undertones of the psychedelia that populated The Coast Explodes and their 2006 self-titled debut, though on “Sparkling Waters Part One” (22:04), it comes through not in lysergic jamming, but in a hypnotic repetition of Nicholas‘ guitar lead, sweetly melodic and captured with the utmost clarity by Phil Manley (Trans Am), who mixed Heady Mental and was brought in this time to produce. Since that clarity becomes such a defining feature of Mammatus‘ sound this time through, it seems only fair to tag the 74-minute Sparkling Waters as more prog than psych. In everything they do across these four pieces, there is a sense of poise and reason, from the aural sunrise at the beginning of “Sparkling Waters Part One” to the explosive finish of the fuzzier “Ornia,” which closes.

Between and including those two, Sparkling Waters is more joyous pilgrimage than slog by a wide margin, the Emmerts and Freels bringing the listener through a complex but naturalist wash much bolstered and fleshed out with synth that adds to the melodies of the guitar and fills some of the spaces cast open by the drums, which, along with Freels‘ bass tone, are themselves a highlight for the energy they bring to what in many hands would be simple repetition. “Sparkling Waters Part One” is both opener and longest track (immediate points) and it breaks roughly in half, its second linear build even more satisfying than the first for the context the first gives it. A foundation of keys and quiet drums swells in dreamy fashion as it moves ahead, and as they approach 15 minutes in even vocals seem to arrive (!) as part of the crashing cymbal waves, and finally, at about 16:40, the guitar stuns like a type-2 phaser shot and bolts outward to consume much of the track’s remaining five minutes with increasingly unhinged noodling.

mammatus

I half expected “Sparkling Waters Part Two” (20:30) to pick up right where “Part One” finished, but while it has the same sampled ocean sounds, it fades in even on the digital version, marking a clear change in side that’s matched with a shift in intent as “Part Two” unfolds. Synth textures weave in and out of the first 12-plus minutes, Mammatus‘ otherworldly vibe taking various shapes across a trance-enducing span that, in the end — and by “the end,” I mean “with eight minutes still to go in the song” — is consumed by the arrival of a standalone guitar line. They finish with odd-time chugging, a long, long way from whence they came, even after the guitar started, but by the time they’ve gotten there, the conventions of songwriting are so far gone they’re easily forgotten. As it is technology I don’t understand, I have no choice but to call it magic.

Certainly the two-part title-track(s) should be a focal point in listening, but “The Elkhorn” (15:00) and “Ornia” (17:20) are an album unto themselves and showcase how willing Mammatus is to play to one side or another within their sound. “The Elkorn” is more intense initially than the bulk of the first or second part of “Sparkling Waters” and so brings Heady Mental to mind, since a major distinguishing factor between the newer material and the older is it’s more patient. An opening run of guitar and synth, bass and drums lead into more synthly travels, the keys taking hold as a major driving force before the halfway mark and, amid crowd noise, pushes into a more temperate movement of well-punctuated drums, lyric-less vocals, thicker distortion and slow-motion space rock. With about four minutes to go, the song essentially ends, and keys pick up and cap the track in a complete wash, gorgeous if somewhat unexpected.

There isn’t much left by the time they get to the last fade, but as ever, it’s getting there that’s the trip. And to finish out, “Ornia” more or less offers a summary not only of what Mammatus have done to this point on Sparkling Waters, but also to this point in their career. It’s graceful in how it plays out, and plenty progressive, but they also dig into thicker distortion, doomier rolling, vocals following the guitar, synth minimalism and, finally, a tap into the jammier style of their early work which, though definitely plotted, is an engaging final statement for Mammatus to make. Not only does it highlight their growth as a unit that they’ve shown all across these pieces, but that they haven’t forgotten where they started out sonically either. Its grand finish winds up making Sparkling Waters feel all the more refreshing, and that seems to be precisely what Mammatus had in mind. I wouldn’t speculate where they’ll go from here or when their next outing will arrive, but on Sparkling WatersMammatus sound like a band who want to keep moving forward, and hopefully they do.

Mammatus, Sparkling Waters (2015)

Mammatus on Thee Facebooks

Mammatus on Bandcamp

Mammatus website

Spiritual Pajamas

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audiObelisk Transmission 053

Posted in Podcasts on October 19th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

Click Here to Download

 

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

Yeah, it hasn’t been that long since the last podcast, I know, but my thinking on it was like this: Doesn’t matter. First off, not like anybody’s keeping tabs to see how long it’s been between one and the next. Second, I had the time to do it and I never really know these days when that’s going to happen, so I figured better to take advantage while I could. Third, screw it, it’s music. Who’s gonna complain?

I won’t say I never know what to expect when I put a podcast together like this, but sometimes these things take unexpected turns, and that definitely happened this time. Things got pretty heavy, pretty quickly, and while there are a couple sharp cuts between sounds, I kind of wanted to make that happen to offset how far things got. Noisy, thrashy, doomy, and that’s really all in the first hour, because in the second, it’s pretty much all space. I very much enjoy the second-hour-is-psych-as-hell thing, and I gotta say, this might be the best one I’ve arranged. I’m willing to wager that as you make your way through you won’t be able to tell where one song ends and the next one starts without looking at the time stamps below. Obviously, that’s the whole idea.

Enjoy:

First Hour:
0:00:00 Gentlemans Pistols, “Time Wasters” from Hustler’s Row
0:05:46 Irata, “March by Tens” from Sweet Loris
0:10:25 Skraeckoedlan, “Gigantos” from Sagor
0:17:47 Tombstones, “Barren Fields” from Vargariis
0:27:05 With the Dead, “Crown of Burning Stars” from With the Dead
0:33:23 All Them Witches, “Open Passageways” from Dying Surfer Meets His Maker
0:36:35 Vhöl, “Red Chaos” from Deeper than Sky
0:41:37 Saviours, “Hell’s Floor” from Palace of Vision
0:45:49 Jess and the Ancient Ones, “In Levitating Secret Dreams” from Second Psychedelic Coming: The Aquarius Tapes
0:49:01 King Dead, “The Firmament of Heaven Opened, and the Flood Waters Were upon Them,” from Woe and Judgment
0:57:35 Dave Heumann, “Switchback” from Here in the Deep

Second Hour:
1:01:26 Mammatus, “Sparkling Waters Pt. One” from Sparkling Waters
1:23:19 Valley, “Picture Puzzle Pattern Door” from Sunburst
1:33:16 Humulus, “Red Star, Winter Orbit” from Electric Walrus
1:44:29 Shabda, “Pharmakos” from Pharmakon/Pharmakos

Total running time: 2:04:54

 

Thank you for listening.

Download audiObelisk Transmission 053

 

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Mammatus 2LP Sparkling Waters Available to Preorder

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 16th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

mammatus

Oh fuck, it’s new Mammatus. Is your consciousness properly expanded? Have you been doing your breathing exercises? I ask because I’m listening to the 22-minute album opener from their upcoming 2LP fourth album, Sparkling Waters, as I write this, and you’re definitely going to want to make sure your inner being is rightly aligned before you take this kind of thing on. I know this sounds like I’m being sarcastic, but I’m not. Get your shit in a suitable headspace and then hit play. Close your eyes for a minute when the guitar lead line kicks in, you’ll thank me later.

When’s it out? Not that time matters when you’re listening to this band, but Nov. 20 is the release date, and like 2013’s Heady Mental (review here), it will be out on Spiritual Pajamas. I think the real question here is, of the expanding plethora of Cali psych these days, are Mammatus the most underrated band of the bunch? It is distinctly possible.

I don’t care if this record is 400 minutes long. Count me in.

Bonus points to whoever from the band or label wrote the promo copy below for referencing Risa. It’s gonna suck when the powers that be do a “gritty” TNG reboot:

mammatus sparkling waters

Mammatus :: Sparkling Waters :: Spiritual016

Spiritual Pajamas is thrilled to announce the release of the new Mammatus double LP, “Sparkling Waters”. Pre-order available at: https://mammatus.bandcamp.com/album/sparkling-waters

Heavy space rock outsiders Mammatus return with their fourth album, and their most ambitious to date. Sparkling Waters is a double LP featuring four multi-movement pieces, each designed to recalibrate the shanga array in your mind. In order to achieve the highest levels of sensatory clarity, the group enlisted Phil Manley (Trans Am, Life Coach) as their guiding light throughout the studio production. As a result these tracks shimmer with a far out, casual glow, like an aural reflection of a Risan steam pool.

On Sparkling Waters, Mammatus expand upon the astral grooves and heady riffs of their previous compositions and set a course for the furthest horizon. Celestial arpeggiations of electric guitar ricochet infinitely across vast expanses of cosmic debris. Heavy riffs thunder with a rhythmic groove, like the exploding coast of Ornia spoken of in days past. Pastoral passages of mellow, slow burning psychedelia give way to Native American flute melodies and the chanting of spiritual incantations filtered through canyons of delay. Heavenly dual guitar leads soar like a hawk gliding over a mountainside redwood canopy. Radiant synthesizers harmonize to create a shape shifting formation of ambient space that envelops the rock and in some places completely takes over.

Sparkling Waters is bound to appeal to a wide range of discerning listeners, as it incorporates elements of heavy riff rock, prog, and breath metal while it also features the enhancing sonic textures of kosmische sound coloration, soaring synth leads, and astral voyages through deep space. This amalgamation of tones is presented in a way that is wholly original, casting Mammatus as the solitary practitioners of a unique sound that was invented with the express purpose of making you feel…..shanga. So breathe deeply, strap on those headphones, drop the needle, and get far out.

The “sparkling waters” clear double LP, digipak CD and digital download will be released on November 20th, 2015.

https://www.facebook.com/Mammatus-78621323321/
https://mammatus.bandcamp.com/album/sparkling-waters
http://www.spiritualpajamas.com/
https://www.facebook.com/spiritualpajamas

Mammatus, “Sparkling Waters Pt. 1”

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Sleep, Pentagram and Cult of Luna to Headline Psycho California 2015

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 15th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

True to their word, it’s Jan. 15 and Psycho California 2015 has announced the headliners for what looks like the best American festival lineup I’ve seen since the days of Emissions from the Monolith. That’s not to take away from the hard work anyone else is doing, but just look at the list of bands. It’s unreal. You’d want to be everywhere at the same time to see all of it. Absolutely wild.

Sleep and Pentagram were pretty clear choices to headline. Not only for being legends in the heavy underground, but for also being just about two of the only bands left. Sweden’s Cult of Luna were something of a surprise, but for a festival already showing a European reach in bringing aboard the likes of Samsara Blues Experiment and Stoned Jesus, they make sense. Hell of a bill. Kudos to anyone who actually gets to go to the thing.

Announcement follows, courtesy of the PR wire:

PSYCHO-CALIFORNIA-2015-POSTER-1400

PSYCHO CALIFORNIA ANNOUNCES HEADLINERS: SLEEP, PENTAGRAM AND CULT OF LUNA

WEST COAST METAL FESTIVAL HAPPENING MAY 15, 16 & 17 AT THE OBSERVATORY IN SANTA ANA

FIRST WAVE OF ARTISTS ANNOUNCED INCLUDED KYLESA, EARTH, OM AND RUSSIAN CIRCLES

Psycho California, the west coast’s first annual metal festival and a must see for fans of doom, heavy psych and sludge, has announced the headliners for this year’s event: Cult of Luna (May 15), Sleep (May 16) and Pentagram, who will perform First Daze Here in its entirety (May 17).

“2015 is going to be a slow year for Cult of Luna. However as much as we are musicians we are also fans,” said Cult of Luna’s Johannes Persson. “Evaluating if the offer to play Psycho California was worth dusting off our instruments was not hard after looking on the line-up. Being on the same bill as Pentagram, Sleep and a festival packed with the best bands around is a privilege in itself and we’ll try to live up to that honor.”

The lineup for Psycho California is: Sleep, Pentagram, Cult of Luna, Kylesa, OM, Earth, Russian Circles, Bedemon, Conan, Wrench, Eyehategod, Indian, Earthless, Pallbearer, Stoned Jesus, Old Man Gloom, Cave In, Acid Witch, Truckfighters, Tombs, Bang, Electric Citizen, Coffinworm, SubRosa, Eagle Twin, Mammatus, True Widow, Anciients, Bellwitch, Dead Meadow, Lord Dying, Death By Stereo, Radio Moscow, Ancient Altar, Samsara Blues Experiment, Atriarch, Elder, Mothership, The Well, Deathkings, Wo Fat, Rozamov, Destroyer of Light, Highlands, Bloodmoon, Slow Season, Goatsnake, Crypt Trip, Wrench, Lords of Beacon House, Tumbleweed Dealer, Sinister Haze, Blackout, Red Wizard, Banquet and Loom.

Festival interludes will be provided by Housecore Records’ artist Author & Punisher and vinyl DJ set from Bob Lugowe (Relapse Records) and Sean Pellet (Last Daze Here).

Previously announced early bird tickets sold out immediately. Tickets for the festival are on-sale this morning with both a 3-day pass ($149.50) and a 3-day VIP pass available ($256.66)

VIP packages include a 3-day festival pass, a signed screen print concert poster by David D’Andrea, express entry via artist check-in booth, access to artist VIP lounge, a limited edition Thief X Obey festival tee, a Psycho record bag and patch as well as access to a complimentary craft tequila bar, premium microbrews and artisan snacks.

www.psychoca.com
www.facebook.com/psychocalifornia
https://www.facebook.com/Thiefpresents

Sleep, “The Clarity/Dragonaut” Live in Chicago, Aug. 28, 2014

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audiObelisk Transmission 043

Posted in Podcasts on December 23rd, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Click Here to Download

 

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

Since I don’t do theme podcasts or anything, the thoroughly unofficial subtitle of this latest one is “SOME of the Best of 2014.” Truth be told, it’s four hours long and I feel like I barely scratched the surface, so definitely the emphasis should be on “some.” By no means is it meant to be comprehensive, or am I claiming that it’s all the best and the rest sucked or anything like that. But some of the best stuff is here, so, you know, I hope you enjoy.

My intent was to make it three hours long, and then I got there and it just didn’t feel done without another hour’s worth of extended psych jams. That’s an odd habit to have. Could be worse. For what it’s worth, I was thinking of this as a companion for some of the year-end coverage that’s already been posted and is still to come. Some of this was inspired by picks from the Readers Poll, the submissions for which are still open. If you haven’t added your list yet, I’d greatly appreciate it.

And once again, hope you dig it:

First Hour:
YOB, “Nothing to Win” from Clearing the Path to Ascend
Fu Manchu, “Radio Source Sagittarius” from Gigantoid
Radio Moscow, “Death of a Queen” from Magical Dirt
The Golden Grass, “Stuck on a Mountain” from The Golden Grass
Monster Magnet, “No Paradise for Me” from Milking the Stars: A Reimagining of Last Patrol
Pallbearer, “The Ghost I Used to Be” from Foundations of Burden
The Skull, “Sick of it All” from For Those Which are Asleep
Electric Wizard, “Time to Die” from Time to Die
Orange Goblin, “The Devil’s Whip” from Back from the Abyss
Moab, “No Soul” from Billow

Second Hour:
Sleep, “The Clarity” from The Clarity 12”
Mars Red Sky, “Hovering Satellites” from Stranded in Arcadia
Floor, “Rocinante” from Oblation
Slomatics, “And Yet it Moves” from Estron
Conan, “Foehammer” from Blood Eagle
Druglord, “Feast on the Eye” from Enter Venus
Apostle of Solitude, “Die Vicar Die” from Of Woe and Wounds
Pilgrim, “Away from Here” from II: Void Worship
Blood Farmers, “The Road Leads to Nowhere” from Headless Eyes

Third Hour:
Lo-Pan, “Regulus” from Colossus
Elephant Tree, “Vlaakith” from Theia
The Well, “Mortal Bones” from Samsara
Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds, “Counting Time” from The Shining One
Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, “Stokely up Now” from Black Power Flower
Joy, “Driving Me Insane” from Under the Spell of Joy
Greenleaf, “Depth of the Sun” from Trails and Passes
Mothership, “Priestess of the Moon” from Mothership II
Truckfighters, “Get Lifted” from Universe
Mos Generator, “Enter the Fire” from Electric Mountain Majesty
Mammatus, “Brain Drain” from Heady Mental

Fourth Hour:
Øresund Space Collective, “Beardlandia” from Music for Pogonologists
My Brother the Wind, “Garden of Delights” from Once There was a Time When Time and Space were One
The Cosmic Dead, “Fukahyoocastulah” from Split with Mugstar
Montibus Communitas, “The Pilgrim to the Absolute” from The Pilgrim to the Absolute

Total running time: 4:02:57

 

Thank you for listening.

Download audiObelisk Transmission 043

 

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Psycho California 2015 Announces Initial Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 15th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

The list of bands, quite frankly, is astonishing, but even more astonishing is the fact that  Thief Presents‘ Psycho California 2015 (formerly Psycho de Mayo) hasn’t announced its headliners yet, because these sure as shit look like headliners to me.

A three-day festival set to take place at The Observatory in Santa Ana, CA, Psycho California will feature the following acts:

psycho california

Here’s that list again: Kylesa, Om, Earth, Russian Circles, Orange Goblin, Bedemon, Conan, Indian, Pallbearer, Cave In, Old Man Gloom, Tombs, Earthless, Truckfighters, Bang, Eyehategod, Crowbar, SubRosa, Lord Dying, Acid Witch, Electric Citizen, Coffinworm, Eagle Twin, Stoned Jesus, Mammatus, True Widow, Bell Witch, Death by Stereo, Radio Moscow, Samsara Blues Experiment, Anciients, Elder, Mothership, Ancient Altar, The Well, Deathkings, Wo Fat, Rozamov, Destroyer of Light, Highlands, Bloodmoon, Slow Season, Crypt Trip, Lords of Beacon House, Tumbleweed Dealer, Sinister Haze, Blackout, Red Wizard, Banquet, Loom.

Plus interludes by Author and Punisher.

God damn.

Not only does it cover both coasts, huge bands, legends and up and comers, but the reach is international. Take special note of Conan, since their appearance means that Maryland Deathfest won’t be their only US date, and also Samsara Blues Experiment and Stoned Jesus — two killer European bands that you don’t even go after unless you know what the fuck you’re doing. That also hugely extends the possibilities for headlining acts. It’s an assemblage that’s beyond impressive, and if you haven’t already looked up flights to Southern California, I don’t know what to tell you. As I write this it’s after one in the morning on Sunday night, and you know I wouldn’t be doing that if my mind wasn’t leaking out of my ears at the thought of experiencing this thing.

Stay tuned for more to come, since as the poster says, headliners will be announced on Jan. 15. I’ll be looking forward to finding out who else is in store.

Psycho California on Thee Facebooks

Thief Presents on Twitter

Thief Presents on Thee Facebooks

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Mammatus, Heady Mental: Sign from Space

Posted in Reviews on January 23rd, 2014 by JJ Koczan

The third long-player from Santa Cruz County space rock three-piece Mammatus, Heady Mental, came as something of a surprise. Its November 2013 release came with little fanfare, not much promotion and hardly seemed to acknowledge how long it had been since the band were last heard from. It just beamed in, suddenly materialized. Their sophomore outing, The Coast Explodes, was issued in 2007, a year after they made their self-titled debut (both albums were on Holy Mountain), and was a triumph of raw West Coast heavy psychedelia, exploratory and progressive but still dirty and noisy when it needed to be. They toured with Acid Mothers Temple to support, and then, otherwise absent, they played a few shows in California over the stretch, and as early as Spring 2009 there was some discussion of a third full-length being recorded by the trio of guitarist Nicholas Emmert, bassist Chris Freels and drummer Aaron Emmert. Heady Mental is that album, reportedly written in 2007 and 2008, recorded in 2009 and mixed for release late last year on vinyl through Spiritual Pajamas with word that the band has returned and were once again at work on new material to follow the three tracks included here, “Brain Drain” (7:39), “Main Brain” (8:17) and “Brainbow/Brain Train” (16:39).

When and if that newer material will surface will have to remain to be seen, but it’s worth noting that although Heady Mental is older recordings — in case you were wondering, 2009 was half a decade ago — it’s still the band’s most recent output. It’s not like they recorded a bunch of newer songs and then went back and dug these three tracks up for a stopgap. What momentum they had coming off Mammatus and The Coast Explodes dissipated when they became so inactive, so it seems curious that Heady Mental would surface at all if they didn’t have any interest in releasing more new music. And though they’ve undoubtedly progressed in the time since it was recorded, Heady Mental‘s tracks show considerable growth from the first two albums. If we take it from their having started the songwriting process shortly after The Coast Explodes, it becomes even easier to read the “Brain”-centric trio presented on two basically evenly-split sides here as a purposeful shift in direction. Mammatus have always worked in extended forms, but the thematic switch between “Brain Drain” and “Main Brain” and the likes of the three-part “Dragon of the Deep” that carried across both of their first two outings is as palpable sonically as it is in the titles. They’ve jumped from fantasy to sci-fi.

True enough, the aural allusion to “heavy metal” in the title of the record is not lost in the scaly lead work of Nicholas Emmert‘s guitars throughout “Brain Drain” and “Brainbow/Brain Train,” but their classic metal influence meets with a wash of analog-sounding synth and pushes fast into a pulsating cosmos. “Main Brain” slows the engines a bit, and there’s a break between the parts of “Brainbow/Brain Train” that adds ambience to the neutron thrust, but the course of Heady Mental is set at a warp speed and the Emmerts and Freels have no problem keeping up as the stars stretch out before them. Heady Mental is the cleanest-sounding work Mammatus have yet released, and though vocals arrive buried on the opener in a host of effects, the human element is not lost. A short upward squeak that finds a downward companion following “Brainbow/Brain Train” opens “Brain Drain,” but they skip the countdown and launch immediately into heavy space rocking that takes varying forms across its span but never seems to lose sight of its central rush. Some thicker riffing arrives after the six-minute mark, but even this seems to move at a blinding rate, and soon it’s one more element in an ongoing melee as a noisy guitar solo comes to dominate the mix, leading to the quiet start of “Main Brain,” which again, begins slower.

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