SonicBlast Moledo 2017: Colour Haze, Acid King, Black Bombaim & Bar de Monjas Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 31st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

sonicblast-moledo-2017-banner

If you had a two-band festival, and those two bands were Colour Haze and Acid King — and that’s it — no one else — I’d still call it an awesome time. Accordingly, kudos to SonicBlast Moledo 2017 for signing up both acts and setting my mind immediately adrift on a daydreaming course of Portuguese wonders that could be had. Of course, Colour Haze and Acid King aren’t the only bands playing — see also Elder, Sasquatch, The Machine, Monolord, Death Alley, Blaak Heat, Orange Goblin, Kadavar, and so on — but yeah, that’s a special couple days right there when you can get those groups together. “Kudos” is probably an understatement.

The PR wire has the latest:

sonicblast moledo 2017 colour haze

SonicBlast Moledo 2017 | Haze of acid in sight!

With the dates settled for August 11th and 12th, the seventh edition of SonicBlast Moledo closes the two-day lineup with Colour Haze, Acid King, Black Bombaim, Stone Dead, It Was the Elf, Ana Paris and Bar de Monjas !

They’ll be joining the previously confirmed Orange Goblin, Kadavar, Elder, Sasquatch, Kikagaku Moyo/?????, Dead Witches, Monolord, The Machine, Yuri Gagarin, The Well, Death Alley, Blaak Heat, Toxic Shock, Löbo, Vinnum Sabbathi and Holy Mushroom!

Now heading to its seventh edition, the festival located at the small beach village of Moledo, North of Portugal, includes two stages (the smaller one with a pool), free camping (to ticket holders) right by the beach and an amazing ambient for any heavy rock, psych, doom or stoner fan.

Colour Haze

With more than twenty years on the road, almost twenty studio records and a relentless will to keep going, it’s more than comprehensible that Colour Haze are easily considered one of the highest exponents within the European Psychedelic Stoner culture. On their course, they count with innumerable presences throughout all Europe and also on USA, although, they never had the chance to debut on Lusitanian territory. Following the release of their newest full-length album “In Her Garden”, the German trio embraces themselves to descend upon Portuguese lands for the first time ever in their career, received with all the enthusiasm for this seventh edition of SonicBlast Moledo.

Acid King

Formed by the charismatic Lori S. during the year of 1993, Acid King are, without any doubt, one of the classic acts of the Stoner Doom’s genre. Their intense and powerful sound, turn them into one of the most influential band within this musical circuit, only having passed through Portugal once. On 2017, they make their debut on Moledo and we can only wait for a triumphant presence.

Bar de Monjas

The Mexican / German duo Bar de Monjas promises a thunderous discharge of agitated rhythms, always heavy and filled with fuzz. On the road since 2010, they already count with one full-length studio record, two EP’s and an amazing split, released in collaboration with the already confirmed Vinnum Sabbathi.

Black Bombaim

After being obliged to cancel their presence at the last edition, Black Bombaim are ready to return to Moledo to spread their contagious psychotropic Rock.

We also receive the fresh Rock n Roll of Stone Dead, as well as the energetic Stoner Metal of It was the Elf and the return of Ana Parisw ith their characteristic Stoner Rock force.

Tickets Price:
2nd pre-sale : 42€ | From 01/03/17 to 30/06/17
3rd pre-sale : 48€ | From 01/07/17 to 31/07/17
4th pre-sale: 55€ | From 01/08/17 to the event’s final

https://sonicblastmoledo.bol.pt/
https://www.facebook.com/SonicBlast-Moledo-242619262427066/
https://www.facebook.com/events/1818493011695737/
https://sonicblastmoledo.wordpress.com/

Colour Haze, In Her Garden (2017)

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Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard Post “Y Proffwyd Dwyll” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 27th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

mammoth weed wizard bastard

Over the next couple months, ethereal Welsh doomers Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard will take part in a slew of festivals across the UK and Europe, from Desertfest London in April to Germany’s Stoned from the Underground in July to Portugal’s SonicBlast Moledo in August. All the while, the now-fivesome from Wrexham continue to rightly reap acclaim for their 2016 New Heavy Sounds full-length, Y Proffwyd Dwyll (review here). From their attention-grabbing moniker to their floatingly melodic and keyboard-infused semi-cosmic doom, the band would seem to have struck a chord amid the crowded UK underground, and as one checks out the video for Y Proffwyd Dwyll‘s title-track below, the reasons why should be that much clearer.

Where much of the UK scene at this point is given to straight-ahead heavy rock riffing and booze-laden post-Orange Goblin riffing, Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard manage to find a niche in doom that’s neither that, nor playing at Electric Wizard-style cultistry, nor Uncle Acid‘s garage psychedelia. Yet they bask in heavy riffs, a ritualized sensibility and psychedelic overtones — they’re just taking all of them and putting them to use in their own direction. Doesn’t seem like something that should be a novelty, but in the context of Y Proffwyd Dwyll, it’s an engagement made all the more striking by the memorable nature of cuts like “Valmasque” and “Y Proffwyd Dwyll” itself, and Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard set a deceptive balance between hypnosis-via-atmospherics and songwriting that even if it wasn’t so outwardly grooving would still likely earn nods.

Particularly coming from their already-impressive 2015 debut, Noeth Ac Anoeth (review here), Y Proffwyd Dwyll is a significant forward step for the band, and given that they’re beginning to expand beyond their own borders and explore wider touring, one can only hope that progression will hold strong leading to whatever comes next from them. We’ve probably got a while to go before we get there — at least another year, I’d think — but in the meantime, they keep their momentum rolling with the video for “Y Proffwyd Dwyll” and the potential for more tour and festival dates still to be announced.

I’m not exactly sure what’s happening narrative-wise in the clip, but you can see it for yourself below, courtesy of the Vevo stream, followed by the credits and copious links for further digging.

Please enjoy:

Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, “Y Proffwyd Dwyll” official video

Last year filmaker Dimitris Kotselis decided to make a piece featuring Y Proffwyd Dwyll starring actress Penelope Tsillika and Mwwb’s own Jessica Ball. Here it is.

Artists: Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard
Directed By: Dimitris Kotselis
Composers: Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard
Producers: Maria Repousi
New Heavy Sounds

Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard on Thee Facebooks

Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard on Bandcamp

New Heavy Sounds on Thee Facebooks

New Heavy Sounds on Bandcamp

New Heavy Sounds website

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Magnetic Eye Records Adds Greenleaf, Mars Red Sky, Pallbearer, Yawning Man, ASG, Ruby the Hatchet, Sasquatch and More to The Wall [Redux]

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 2nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

The clock is ticking on the crowdfunding campaign to support the making and release of Magnetic Eye Records‘ upcoming Pink Floyd tribute, The Wall [Redux], and the NY-based label has broken out some big guns in terms of confirmations for who will take part. Greenleaf, Mars Red Sky, Pallbearer, Ruby the Hatchet, ASG, Yawning Man, Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic and Sasquatch, as well as the likes of Swedish crushers Domkraft, L.A.’s LowFlyingHawks and Ghastly Sound from the label’s own roster — along with the previously-announced Summoner — would seem to only bolster the offering as a whole, for which preorders are being taken directly through the Kickstarter. This is the third of these projects Magnetic Eye has done, and as ever, the scope of the thing is massive and the logistics seem, frankly, nightmarish.

You don’t need me to sell you on shit and you already know this is a cause worthy of your support, so I’ll spare you all that it’s-an-emergency-you-gotta-help-out whatnot, but suffice it to say that this thing happening only makes the world a better place. So there you go.

Here’s the latest update, courtesy of the label:

the wall redux

Magnetic Eye’s ambitious homage to Pink Floyd, THE WALL [REDUX], has gained some serious momentum in the final week of its preorder/crowdfunding campaign. The confirmation of several higher-profile artists, including Greenleaf, Pallbearer, Mars Red Sky, Yawning Man, Sasquatch and Noveller all signing on to bring their distinct voices to the project has prompted the MER to add an exclusive “Best of Pink Floyd” companion LP for Kickstarter backers. This complement to the main THE WALL [REDUX] will feature a range of cuts from throughout the Floyd catalog by even more fantastic artists from the scene and beyond.

There are still a few days left to support the project by pre-ordering one of several versions of the record, all of which will reflect Magnetic Eye’s well-documented aesthetic and penchant for gorgeous vinyl. This also means there’s still time for a final few hush-hush conversations to potentially yield even more intriguing artist confirmations.

To see what an undertaking this has been (and what an amazing spectacle the finished albums will surely be), here’s a quick review of the latest list of confirmed bands and an exclusive first reveal of some tracks, with numerous more still to be announced:

ASG, “Mother”
Domkraft
Ghastly Sound
Greenleaf
Mos Generator
Low Flying Hawks (feat. Dale Crover of The Melvins)
Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard
Mars Red Sky, “Comfortably Numb”
Pallbearer, “Run Like Hell”
Ruby the Hatchet, “Pigs” (The Best of Pink Floyd)
Sasquatch
Sergeant Thunderhoof
The Slim Kings (feat. drummer Liberty DeVitto)
Solace, “In the Flesh”
Summoner
The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic (feat. Ed Mundell of Monster Magnet)
WhiteNails
Worshipper
Yawning Man
Year of the Cobra

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/magneticeye/the-wall-2
store.merhq.com
http://magneticeyerecords.com/
https://www.facebook.com/MagneticEyeRecords

Mars Red Sky, Alien Grounds short film

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Desertfest London 2017: Individual Day Schedules Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 30th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

I have no problem admitting to feeling overwhelmed looking at the full lineup and individual day splits for Desertfest London 2017. I mean, seriously. Look at that poster. What a way to spend a weekend.

Likewise, I have few grand reflections to offer in light of that overwhelming feeling, except perhaps to take a step back and be massively impressed at how much this event has grown in just six incarnations. Along with Desertfest Berlin, the London edition has become an anchor not only for the UK heavy rock underground — which is well represented here as ever in Elephant TreeBlack SpidersStubbVodunPigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs PigsTerminal CheesecakeChubby Thunderous Bad Kush MastersMammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, and so on — but for bands from abroad as well. You’ll note the three headliners: two American, one Norwegian, and the next line down on the poster is two Swedish, one American. Desertfest London 2017’s reach feels wider than ever. Staring at the final lineup, it’s clear just how much of a big fucking deal this festival has become.

Wish I could be there to see it.

Here’s the announcement of the individual day lineups from their website:

desertfest london 2017

DESERTFEST 2017 DAY SPLITS AND DAY TICKETS ARE HERE!

Finally, the Desertfest 2017 day and stage splits are here, along with individual day tickets. It’s the point of the year where you can start planning the weekend, you can imagine the sets in your head and you can curse those god damned clashes.

Last things first, let’s get straight to that insane Sunday main-stage. To celebrate The Roundhouse joining the Desertfest family, we made their debut appearance something special. Not only will stoner doom icons Sleep be topping the bill, but the Roundhouse hosts a full bill of huge acts. Candlemass, with over three decades of underground acclaim to their name, bring the epic doom metal. USA’s Wolves in the Throne Room bring the atmospheric black metal. Traditional doom metal stalwarts Saint Vitus bring the classic riffs. And how about this for a ‘curtain jerker’? Bongzilla bring the raw weed metal for their second show of the weekend; more on the first later.

It’s not just about the Sunday though. Friday’s stage at the Electric Ballroom is headlined by returning heroes Slo Burn whose short run in the mid 90s furthered the then fledgling stoner rock scene. One band they surely had an impact on is Lowrider, who play Europe’s finest stoner rock alongside them. Ukraine’s Stoned Jesus celebrate their resonant album Seven Thunders Roar, and 1000Mods and Pontiak round up the main stage on the Friday.

The Electric Ballroom on Saturday will be swarming with Turbojugends as death-punk grandmasters Turbonegro turn Camden into party central. John Garcia sticks around for a solo show, sure to feature classics from his years of nonstop mastery in the stoner rock scene. Sheffield’s rock and roll five piece Black Spiders visit London for one last time on their farewell tour, with Satan’s Satyrs and Avon rounding up the main stage.

As ever though, it doesn’t stop at the main stages. Our regular partners have delivered three stages with diverse lineups. Human_Disease_Promo and When Planets Collide take over The Underworld on Saturday in a bill headlined by Bongzilla with a special set celebrating the band’s early work. The Quietus stage is led by synth wavers Zombi, and Nightshift Promotions bring an eclectic mix led by Hungary’s Apey & the Pea. To be honest, just stick a pin in the lineup poster and you’re guaranteed a good time.

For those who can’t make the full weekend, we have a limited number of individual day tickets. Priced at £40 for Friday tickets, £40 for Saturday tickets and £45 for Sunday tickets, links are below.

So there we have it. Our final lineup for Desertfest 2017. We hope you’re as excited as we are to get back to Camden this April and riff London to the ground.

DESERTFEST LONDON 2017 Final Lineup:
SLEEP
SLO BURN
TURBONEGRO
CANDLEMASS
WOLVES IN THE THRONE ROOM
SAINT VITUS
JOHN GARCIA BAND
BONGZILLA
LOWRIDER
SCISSORFIGHT
BLACK SPIDERS
SAMSARA BLUES EXPERIMENT
THE PICTUREBOOKS
STONED JESUS
SATAN’S SATYRS
INTER ARMA
WEAR YOUR WOUNDS
1000MODS
STEAK
AVON
DEATH ALLEY
DEAD LORD
BOSS KELOID
PONTIAK
YURI GAGARIN
HARK
VODUN
CHRON GOBLIN
PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS PIGS
THE WELL
MAMMOTH STORM
CELESTE
STUBB
MONOLITHIAN
WUCAN
VENOMOUS MAXIMUS
BRUME
APEY & THE PEA
ELEPHANT TREE
GRAVE LINES
IRON WITCH
EARTH SHIP
BACKWOODS PAYBACK
WIZARD FIGHT
BRULE
CLOSET DISCO QUEEN
GRAND MAMMOTH
CHUBBY THUNDEROUS BAD KUSH MASTERS
MAMMOTH WEED WIZARD BASTARD
SAMAVAYO
WELCOME BACK DELTA
DEAD LETTUCE
MONSTERTONE
LEDFOOT
ZOMBI
TERMINAL CHEESECAKE
KHÜNNT
BASK
BRUXA MARIA

http://www.desertfest.co.uk/#tickets-section
https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/desertfest-2017-tickets-27305267791
http://www.desertfest.co.uk/
https://www.facebook.com/DesertfestLondon
https://twitter.com/DesertFest
https://www.instagram.com/desertfest_london/

Dead Lettuce, Booze and Blues EP (2015)

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SonicBlast Moledo 2017: Orange Goblin, Kadavar, Sasquatch, The Well, Yuri Gargarin and Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard Added

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

Portuguese-based summer fest SonicBlast Moledo 2017 came out swinging last month with its first round of lineup announcements, and the second round finds them no less ambitious in their reach. I’ve yet to hear of Kadavar showing up anyplace and being unwelcome, and anywhere Orange Goblin go is of note. I wouldn’t be surprised if by the time August hits, either or both hit Moledo as part of a European tour — maybe even supporting or advancing the arrival of new albums? — and one can’t help but be encouraged by the inclusion of Los Angeles trio Sasquatch here as well. Good to know they’ll be making a return trip to Europe in 2017. Again, one looks forward to more info on that to come. Ditto for The Well.

Yuri Gargarin have made a name for themselves over the last couple years across numerous fest appearances — they keep popping up here and there — but Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard out of the UK would be newer on the circuit. They’ll hit SonicBlast Moledo 2017 behind last year’s Y Proffwyd Dwyll (review here), which continues to resonate with its ethereal and cosmic doom.

Fest announcements follow:

ORANGE GOBLIN SONICBLAST MOLEDO 2017

SONICBLAST MOLEDO 2017 – NEW ANNOUNCEMENTS

With more than 20 years on the road, Orange Goblin are certainly one of the most cherished and distinguished heavy stoner rock bands of the world. Their impeccable union between heavy metal, stoner rock and many psychedelic influences won’t leave no one indifferent! Bang your head!

After their apotheotic show at SonicBlast Moledo’s third edition back in 2013, the German rockers KADAVAR return with their greatly acclaimed latest album “Berlin”, the second one released under Nuclear Blast!

Austin based The Well are also confirmed to invade Moledo with their singular compositions, gifted with a sound which blends psychedelic rock, heavy blues and sinister melodies!

From Los Angeles, California, we announce the comeback of Sasquatch to Portuguese lands, a notable band within the stoner rock movement, who has been relentlessly practicing it since the beginning of the century!

Hailing from Sweden, we welcome for the first time ever in Portugal the psychedelic space rock of Yuri Gagarin, the cosmic quintet whose approach to each musical theme corresponds to an authentic trip through time and space!

Directly from Wales, we cast the musical druidism of Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, exemplary practitioners of their own Doom Metal’s kind!

* Orange Goblin (uk) + Kadavar (ger) + Elder (usa) + Sasquatch (usa) + Monolord (se) + Kikagaku Moyo (jp) + Yuri Gagarin (sue) + The Well (usa) + Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard (uk) +++ and many more to come +++

Artwork: Pedro Guardao | Till the Grave tattoo

https://sonicblastmoledo.bol.pt/
https://www.facebook.com/SonicBlast-Moledo-242619262427066/
https://www.facebook.com/events/1818493011695737/
https://sonicblastmoledo.wordpress.com/

Orange Goblin, “Red Tide Rising” official video

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audiObelisk Transmission 060

Posted in Podcasts on December 22nd, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk podcast 60

Click Here to Download

 

Consider this your usual disclaimer that, like any of this site’s coverage of year-end whatnottery, this podcast is by no means attempting to capture all of 2016’s best tracks. It is, however, over four hours long, and frankly that seems like enough to ask. If you decide to take it on and sample what I found to be some of the best material to come down the line over the last 12 months, please know you have my thanks in advance. For what it’s worth, it was a lot of fun to put together, and that’s not always the case with these.

But about the length. I’ve done double-sized year-end specials for a while now. It’s always just seemed a fair way to go. And the last few at least have been posted the week of the Xmas holiday as well, which for me is of dual significance since it just so happens four hours is right about what it takes to drive from where I live to where my family lives, so when I look at this massive slew of 34 acts, from the riff-led righteousness of Wo Fat and Curse the Son to the crush of Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard and SubRosa to the psychedelic reaches of Zun and Øresund Space Collective (who probably show up in podcasts more than anyone, oddly enough), I also think of going to see my family, which has become my favorite part of the holidays.

Whatever associations you might draw with it, I very much hope you enjoy listening. Thanks for taking the time.

Track details follow:

First Hour:

0:00:00 Wo Fat, “There’s Something Sinister in the Wind” from Midnight Cometh
0:09:35 Greenleaf, “Howl” from Rise Above the Meadow
0:14:57 Elephant Tree, “Aphotic Blues” from Elephant Tree
0:20:49 Brant Bjork, “The Gree Heen” from Tao of the Devil
0:26:27 Sergio Ch., “El Herrero” from Aurora
0:29:44 Child, “Blue Side of the Collar” from Blueside
0:35:31 Geezer, “Bi-Polar Vortex” from Geezer
0:43:59 Zun, “Come Through the Water” from Burial Sunrise
0:49:27 Baby Woodrose, “Mind Control Machine” from Freedom
0:54:11 Curse the Son, “Hull Crush Depth” from Isolator
0:59:31 Borracho, “Shot down, Banged up, Fade Away” from Atacama

Second Hour:

1:05:50 Scissorfight, “Nature’s Cruelest Mistake” from Chaos County
1:09:19 Truckfighters, “The Contract” from V
1:16:30 Spidergawd, “El Corazon del Sol” from III
1:21:24 Fatso Jetson, “Royal Family” from Idle Hands
1:26:13 Worshipper, “Step Behind” from Shadow Hymns
1:30:57 Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, “Y Proffwyd Dwyll” from Y Proffwyd Dwyll
1:39:42 Druglord, “Regret to Dismember” from Deepest Regrets
1:46:34 Moon Coven, “New Season” from Moon Coven
1:52:03 Gozu, “Tin Chicken” from Revival
1:59:49 Year of the Cobra, “Vision of Three” from …In the Shadows Below

Third Hour:

2:06:53 The Munsens, “Abbey Rose” from Abbey Rose
2:14:56 Lamp of the Universe, “Mu” from Hidden Knowledge
2:21:26 1000mods, “On a Stone” from Repeated Exposure To…
2:26:45 Church of the Cosmic Skull, “Watch it Grow” from Is Satan Real?
2:30:43 Vokonis, “Acid Pilgrim” from Olde One Ascending
2:37:35 Slomatics, “Electric Breath” from Future Echo Returns
2:43:02 Droids Attack, “Sci-Fi or Die” from Sci-Fi or Die
2:47:20 King Buffalo, “Drinking from the River Rising” from Orion
2:56:51 Comet Control, “Artificial Light” from Center of the Maze

Fourth Hour:

3:06:37 Øresund Space Collective, “Above the Corner” from Visions Of…
3:22:51 Naxatras, “Garden of the Senses” from II
3:33:14 SubRosa, “Black Majesty” from For this We Fought the Battle of Ages
3:48:23 Seedy Jeezus with Isaiah Mitchell, “Escape Through the Rift” from Tranquonauts

Total running time: 4:07:32

 

Thank you for listening.

Download audiObelisk Transmission 060

 

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2016

Posted in Features on December 20th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk top 30

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

I say this every year: These are my picks. If you’re unfamiliar with this site, or you don’t come here that often, or if you do and just normally don’t give a crap — all of which is cool — you should know it’s all run by one person. One human being. Me. My name is JJ, and this is a list of what I think are the best albums that were released in 2016.

Since before 2016 began, I’ve kept a running list of releases. My criteria for what gets included in this list is largely unchanged — it’s a balance between what I feel are important records on the level of what they achieve, what I listened to most, what held some other personal appeal, and what I think did the best job of meeting the goals it set for itself. Pretty vague, right? That’s the idea.

The nature of worldwide heavy has become so broad that to encompass it all under some universal standard is laughable. Judging psychedelia, garage rock, heavy psych, doom, sludge and so on by the same measure makes no sense, and as genres continue to splinter and remake themselves as we’ve seen them doing all year and over the last several years, one must be malleable in one’s own taste. We’ve seen a new generation of heavy rock bands emerge in the last three-plus years. It’s been amazing, and there are a few pivotal second and third records that came out in 2016 to affirm that movement underway. Look for it to continue into 2017 and beyond.

This year more than any other seemed to want to bring the different sides together. A laudable goal. Thick riffing marked with flourish of psychedelia. Spacious doom bred against folk impulses. There’s been experimentation around melds that have led to considerable triumphs, and it just doesn’t seem to me that rigid standards can apply. It’s why I don’t grade reviews and never did.

Sound is evolving now as it always has been and as it will keep doing, but like any year, 2016 had a full share of landmarks to offer as a part of that process. As universal development hopefully remains ongoing, it’s only right that we celebrate the accomplishments helping to push it along its winding and sometimes divergent-seeming paths.

I have no doubt you know what I mean. Let’s get to the list:

30. Talmud Beach, Chief

talmud beach chief

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed Feb. 10.

Seems only fair to start with a record I couldn’t put down. Finnish trio Talmud Beach‘s second album and Svart debut, Chief, hit on just the right blend of laid back, semi-acoustic groove-blues, psychedelia and classic progressive folk rock, but with the exception of its sprawling dreamscape title-track (a welcome arrival at the finale), it also kept the songwriting simple, resulting in a natural, pastoral feel that only highlighted their melodic range in songs like “Mountain Man” and “Snow Snow Snow.” I think it flew under a lot of people’s radar, but I’ve kept going back to it over the course of the year and I see no reason to stop.

29. Comet Control, Center of the Maze

comet control center of the maze

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed June 22.

Space is still the place. I’ve already highlighted closer “Artificial Light” from Comet Control‘s sophomore LP, Center of the Maze as my favorite song of 2016, so I’ll spare you the longwinded treatise on its languid cosmic glories — this time — but consider this a reminder that that song was by no means the limit of what the eight-track release had to offer in terms of breadth. From the opening push of “Dig out Your Head” to the dream-drift of “Sick in Space,” it unfolded tonal presence and a melodic depth that engaged a gorgeous, multifaceted sonic wash as it moved onward toward that landmark conclusion.

28. Droids Attack, Sci-Fi or Die

droids attack sci-fi or die

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 17.

There was not a level on which Madison, Wisconsin’s Droids Attack didn’t make it clear they were going all-out, all-in on Sci-Fi or Die. Even the title speaks to the stakes involved. And sure enough, the trio executed their fourth album with a sense of urgency and professionalism in songcraft, production, artwork (discussed here) and nuance of presentation that managed to make even a song called “Clawhammer Suicide” a classy affair. As guitarist/vocalist Brad Van said on the hidden title-track, “Death to false stoner thrash.” Droids Attack brought that ethic and more to life across the entire record.

27. Beelzefuzz, The Righteous Bloom

beelzefuzz the righteous bloom

Released by Restricted Release and The Church Within. Reviewed Aug. 2.

A winding road brought Beelzefuzz around to following up their 2013 self-titled debut (review here), and as The Righteous Bloom brought guitarist/vocalist Dana Ortt and drummer Darin McCloskey together with bassist Bert Hall and lead guitarist Greg Diener, it found their songwriting more expansive, more progressive and dug further into their own particular oddball sense of grandeur. I’ve said on multiple occasions that no one out there is doing what Beelzefuzz are doing and that continues to be true. Even as a first offering from a new lineup of the band, The Righteous Bloom took bold and exciting forward steps.

26. Foghound, The World Unseen

foghound the world unseen

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed July 6.

Down to business. Immediately. Not a moment to spare. Taking part in what can only be considered a landmark year for Ripple Music, Baltimore’s Foghound issued The World Unseen as an answer to their 2013 debut, Quick, Dirty and High (review here), and upped their game across the board. From the intensity in the hooks of “Message in the Sky” and Rockin’ and Rollin'” to the quiet interlude of “Bridge of Stonebows” and the mid-paced heavy rock nod of “Never Return,” they made a strong case for themselves among their label’s foremost acts and found individualism in the growth of their songwriting. It was a kick in the ass you weren’t going to forget.

25a. Egypt, Endless Flight

egypt endless flight

Released by Doomentia Records. Reviewed Dec. 11, 2015.

Put out by the band digitally in Dec. 2015 and issued on vinyl in 2016, Egypt‘s second LP, Endless Flight may be somewhat debatable in terms of when it actually landed (hence “25a.,” above), but the quality of the six-tracker more than warrants inclusion anyway. Rolling dense, massively-fuzzed groove, its nine-minute opening title-track set the course for the Fargo, North Dakota, three-piece, and they only grew the heavy revelry from there, as heard on the penultimate “Black Words,” which seemed to be chewing on rocks even as it played back and forth in tempo, build and push. The converted never had it so good.

25. 1000mods, Repeated Exposure To…

1000mods repeated exposure to

Released by Ouga Booga and the Mighty Oug Recordings. Reviewed Sept. 20.

There seems to be no stopping the Chiliomodi-based 1000mods, who with their third album have stepped to the forefront of Greece’s populous and vibrant heavy rock underground. Progressed well beyond where even 2014’s impressive Vultures (review here) found them, they seemed to hit a stride with Repeated Exposure To… thanks in part to road time and the ability to bring that energy directly into songs like the eight-minute roller “Loose” and the sizable crashes of “Groundhog Day.” Momentum working in their favor could be heard front-to-back from “Above 179” to “Into the Spell,” moving them toward something ever-more crucial and marking a considerable achievement along that path. 2017 might be a good time for them to test the waters with initial US shows.

24. Black Rainbows, Stellar Prophecy

black rainbows stellar prophecy

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed April 11.

Quick turnaround from Roman heavy psych magnate Gabriele Fiori (guitar/vocals) and company, but though it hit just about 13 months after their fourth full-length, Hawkdope (review here), Black Rainbows, Stellar Prophecy wholly succeeded in making an impact of its own, cuts like the oozing, organ-laced “Woman” and 11-minute jam-out triumph “Golden Widow” showcasing an approach in a continuous state of refinement that seems to get rawer as it goes, shifting like a rogue planetoid toward some maddening cosmic realization. How something can seem both so frenetic and so blissful is still a mystery, and perhaps that’s part of what makes Stellar Prophecy resonate as it does, but either way, Black Rainbows brought together some of the year’s most efficient psychedelic immersion.

23. Borracho, Atacama

borracho atacama

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed Nov. 14.

Borracho don’t seem to release an album until they have something to say. That was to their credit on Atacama, their third LP and label debut for Kozmik Artifactz debut. Also their second collection issued as a trio behind 2013’s Oculus (review here), it distinguished itself from its predecessor in its sense of overarching flow, shifting between the ahead-thrust of “Gold from Sand” into the 10-minute sample-laden jam “Overload” to start out with such ease that the listener had little choice but to follow along. With an expanded scope on “Drifted away from the Sun” and the lightly-strummed memento mori “Flower,” Borracho found new avenues of expression to complement their well established dense, heavy riffing, and took obvious care in crafting their most realized LP yet.

22. The Golden Grass, Coming Back Again

the golden grass coming back again

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed April 26.

Nothing Brooklyn’s The Golden Grass does feels like happenstance, and though their classic-styled boogie is imbued with a vibrant, friendly positive energy, there’s an underlying meticulousness in their arrangements and in their songwriting that came further into focus on Coming Back Again, their sophomore release 2014’s self-titled debut (review here). A more progressive take showed itself in “Reflections” and “Down the Line,” and taken in combination with the bookends “Get it Together” and “See it Through,” the three-piece stood on ground that was even more their own than on the first record, striking a careful balance between the willful exploration of new elements and the outright need for tracks to directly engage their listeners with catchy hooks and upbeat vibes. They did it. Expect continued growth.

21. Curse the Son, Isolator

curse the son isolator

Released by Snake Charmer Coalition and The Company Records. Reviewed March 1.

For something so awash in fuzz, so nodding in its rhythms, so let’s-push-the-vocals-back-under-this-huge-awesome-fucking-riff, Curse the Son‘s Isolator was also remarkably clearheaded in its purposes. With the added vocal harmonies of “Callous Unemotional Traits,” the far-off spaces of “Hull Crush Depth” and the stoner metal despair of “Aislamiento,” the Connecticut three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Ron Vanacore, capital-‘d’ Drummer Michael Petrucci and newcomer bassist Brendan Keefe drew a direct, intentional line to sometimes-grueling (hello, “Sleepwalker Wakes”) weighted tonality and found justification for their largesse in its own being. Like 2012’s Psychache (review here), I expect to be returning to Isolator over a longer term than this single year of release.

20. Neurosis, Fires Within Fires

neurosis fires within fires

Released by Neurot Recordings. Reviewed Sept. 21.

I feel like I need to explain myself here. Make no mistake, NeurosisFires Within Fires is among the year’s most accomplished offerings. There’s just about no way it wouldn’t be. So why not top 10? Top five? It’s a question of timing. With the long-running post-metal progenitors, it’s always a longer digestion period. It was about two years before 2012’s Honor Found in Decay (review here) really sunk in, and I expect Fires Within Fires will work similarly over the greater term. Maybe a little guilt on my part for the disparity between its quality and its placement, but rest assured, Neurosis remain among the most imperative bands walking the earth, and as they took on the full brunt of 30 years of unmitigated progression through Fires Within Fires, they were no less brazen in pushing themselves creatively than they’ve ever been.

19. Conan, Revengeance

conan revengeance

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Jan. 19.

Though the narrative of Conan has remained largely unchanged since their inception — hack, slash, kill, riff — and they still bask in nigh-on-unmatched tonal slaughter, their third full-length brings a few key developments. Perhaps most notable from opener “Throne of Fire” onward is the vocal interplay between guitarist/founder Jon Davis and bassist/longtime-engineer Chris Fielding, who joined after 2014’s Blood Eagle (review here). Adding Fielding‘s deeper growls allowed Davis to subtly move into a cleaner shout, and the emergent dynamic between them made Revengeance a decidedly expanded affair compared to Conan‘s past work. Adding drummer Rich Lewis to the mix was no minor shift either, and as much as Conan had already established their sheer dominance, they also sounded refreshed and set themselves up to keep growing.

18. Baby Woodrose, Freedom

baby woodrose freedom

Released by Bad Afro Records. Reviewed Aug. 18.

Some records just feel like gifts, and though many of its lyrical positions were cynical — “Reality,” “21st Century Slave,” “Mind Control Machine,” “Red the Sign Post,” etc. — Freedom marked the 15th anniversary of Danish garage-psych rockers Baby Woodrose with dripping lysergic aplomb, reminding some four years after their last LP, 2012’s Third Eye Surgery (review here), that bandleader Lorenzo Woodrose is unparalleled when it comes to manifesting his take on the psychedelic victories of 13th Floor Elevators and classic-era Hawkwind — firmly at home levitating on the edge of time. Its swirl and underlying foundation of songwriting, its Richie Havens cover title-track, and its sprawling interstellar “Termination” were like a welcome check-in from another dimension, and I only hope it’s not four years before Woodrose sends the next signal. Earth needs this band.

17. Geezer, Geezer

geezer geezer

Released by Ripple Music and STB Records. Reviewed Nov. 10.

I’m not going to discount the shuffle of “Sunday Speed Demon” or sleeze of “Sunday Speed Demon,” but where Geezer‘s self-titled third full-length really showed how far the New York heavy blues-psych trio have come was in its extended midsection jams, “Sun Gods,” “Bi-Polar Vortex” and “Dust,” each of which showed a distinct approach while feeding into an engaging flow between them, offering a blend of trailmarker hooks as they drifted into realms of organic chemistry previously uncharted by the band. The slow-motion swing of “Hangnail Crisis,” raucous push of “Superjam Maximus” and concluding bounce of “Stoney Pony” brought them back down to earth to finish out with a symmetry to the album’s opening, but Geezer kept a collective hand on the controls the whole voyage and when they landed, it was an arrival indeed, and very much what their two previous records were building toward.

16. EYE, Vision and the Ageless Light

eye vision and the ageless light

Released by The Laser’s Edge. Reviewed Nov. 17.

Beautifully experimental with its 27-minute finisher “As Sure as the Sun,” EYE‘s Vision and the Ageless Light seemed throughout its whole 46-minute run to be executing a cohesive vision in its synth-soaked progressive textures. Between the intro “Book of the Dead” and the subsequent “Kill the Slavemaster,” “Searching,” “Dweller of the Twilight Void” and the already-noted closer, each piece had something different to offer that added to the full impact of the whole, and with guitarist Jon Finely and bassist Michael Sliclen joining founding drummer/vocalist Brandon Smith and synth/Mellotron/Moog-ist Lisa Bella Donna (also vocals and acoustic guitar), EYE added to the scope of 2013’s Second Sight (review here) and found a place for themselves where prog complexity didn’t need to come at the expense of memorable songwriting and spaced-out vibes. An absolute joy, front to back.

15. Fatso Jetson, Idle Hands

fatso jetson idle hands

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Oct. 3.

Even Fatso Jetson themselves would probably have to admit that six years — even a six years that saw several splits, singles, etc. — was too long between albums. Fortunately, Idle Hands saw the desert rock forebears in top form as regards their quirk-fueled songwriting, angular approach to punk and inimitable groove. Following 2010’s Archaic Volumes (review here) was no easy task, but with additional depth to the material from the contributions of guitarist Dino von Lalli — son of founding guitarist/vocalist Mario Lalli and nephew of founding bassist Larry Lalli — guest spots from his sister Olive Lalli as well as Sean Wheeler (the latter moves second cut “Portuguese Dream” into high-echelon strangeness) and the ever-propulsive drumming of Tony Tornay, Fatso Jetson were both all over the place and right at the core of where they most ought to be sonically. At 56 minutes, it hardly seemed long enough.

14. Hexvessel, When We are Death

hexvessel when we are death

Released by Century Media. Reviewed Feb. 5.

Each song was like a different persona the band adopted momentarily, whether it was the Bowie-goes-proto-goth-prog of organ-ic opener “Transparent Eyeball” or the grim pastoralia of “Mirror Boy” and the condemnations/proclamations of “Drugged up on the Universe,” but wherever Hexvessel went on their third full-length and Century Media debut, When We are Death, that unifying theme went with them. Death. It was everywhere in the Finland-based genre-benders’ deeply varied approach, though its presence made their material in no way off-putting, and in the case of cuts like “Cosmic Truth” or the later “Mushroom Spirit Doors,” not even dark, and as it drew the tracks together despite working in different sounds and style, it became apparent that When We are Death worked because of a universal quality in songwriting and presentation allowing for such drastic shifts without any risk of losing the audience.

13. Zun, Burial Sunrise

zun burial sunrise

Released by Small Stone Records. Reviewed Feb. 16.

Yawning Man guitarist Gary Arce — a key figure in the development of desert rock and a player of unmatched tone, period — had quite a year, between Zun‘s Burial Sunrise, his main outfit and his collaboration with Fatso Jetson vs. HifiKlub, but it was the dreamscape drift of songs like “Come Through the Water” and “All that You Say I Am” as well as the subtle hooks of “Into the Wasteland” and “All for Nothing” that, for me, made this the highlight. Sure, bringing in vocalists Sera Timms (Ides of Gemini, Black Mare) and John Garcia (ex-Kyuss, Slo Burn, Vista Chino, etc.) and having them swap back and forth between the tracks didn’t hurt either, but the wash of ethereal presence in Arce‘s guitar was an excellent showcase for his patience and improvisational sensibilities, and the spaces Burial Sunrise covered seemed to have an infinite horizon all their own. Will hope for a follow-up, will hope Garcia and Timms return, and will hope for a duet.

12. Elephant Tree, Elephant Tree

elephant tree elephant tree

Released by Magnetic Eye Records. Reviewed Jan. 29.

One had reasonably high expectations for the debut full-length from London’s Elephant Tree after their 2014 EP Theia (review here) so deftly blended spacious, sitar-laced heavy psychedelic rock with more visceral sludge impulses — a difficult mix to pull off — but I think it would’ve been impossible to see the quality of this self-titled outing coming in any substantive way. Gone were the screams, in was a depth of tone and nigh-on-perfect tempo — see “Dawn” and “Aphotic Blues,” as well as the acoustic “Circles” between them — and where some first albums have a kind of tentative, feeling-it-out vibe, guitarist/vocalist Jack Townley (interview here), bassist/vocalist Peter Holland, drummer Sam Hart and sitarist/vocalist/engineer Riley MacIntyre took utter command of the proceedings. They won’t have the element of surprise working for them next time, but as Elephant Tree made perfectly clear in its biggest surprise of all, neither do they need it.

11. Mos Generator, Abyssinia

mos generator abyssinia

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed July 12.

If you were to ask me to summarize in one word the last four-plus years of Mos Generator‘s tenure, since their reactivation with 2012’s Nomads (review here) and the subsequent lineup changes and hard-touring that followed 2014’s Electric Mountain Majesty (review here), I’d say “go.” I might say it three times: Go-go-go. One of three LP-ish offerings out this year, the studio album Abyssinia embodied this ethic as it started with immediate momentum on “Strangest Times” and “You’ve Got a Right” and seemed to push itself into new ground as it went. Guitarist/vocalist/founder Tony Reed brought heavy boogie to bear at a frenetic clip, but Abyssinia offset its early mania with later progressive stylization on “There’s No Return from Nowhere,” “Time and Other Thieves” and harmonized closer “Outlander,” so that in addition to representing their furious creativity, it also brought them to places they’ve never been before in sound.

10. Slomatics, Future Echo Returns

slomatics future echo returns

Released by Black Bow Records. Reviewed June 29.

In some ways, Future Echo Returns was simply picking up where Belfast’s Slomatics left off with 2014’s Estron (review here), as heard on the riff of lead-in track “Estronomicon,” but as the third in a purported trilogy following that record and 2012’s A Hocht, it also brought the tonecrushing three-piece to Skyhammer Studio to work with producer Chris Fielding (Conan) and presented a linear storyline that, while rife with standout moments in cuts like “Electric Breath,” the ambient “Ritual Beginnings” and ultra-catchy “Supernothing,” found a genuine sense of resolution in the finale “Into the Eternal” that spoke to the scope the entire work was meant to represent — not just itself, but an entirety spanning three albums. Not a minor feat, but what also made Future Echo Returns so resonant was how well the material stood on its own, so that even without the narrative context, it was immersive, hypnotic and unbridled in its heft.

9. Wo Fat, Midnight Cometh

wo fat midnight cometh

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed April 21.

After two landmarks issued by Small Stone in 2014’s The Conjuring (review here) and 2012’s The Black Code (reviews here and here), Texas forerunners of riff Wo Fat gave a concise rundown of their appeal in the six-track Ripple debut and sixth LP overall, Midnight Cometh. Their ongoing development as found them bringing together a two-sided personality of memorable songs and open, fluid jams, and cuts like “There’s Something Sinister in the Wind,” “Of Smoke and Fog,” “Three Minutes to Midnight” and “Nightcomer” emphasized the next stage of this process, while the shuffling “Riffborn” and swaggering blues rock of “La Dilleme de Detenu” gave listeners a chance to touch ground every now and again. Over the last two-plus years, Wo Fat have become a point of influence for other, particularly American, acts — see labelmates Geezer — and Midnight Cometh assured that will be the case going forward too; a status well-earned.

8. King Buffalo, Orion

king buffalo orion

Released by Stickman Records. Reviewed July 29.

Offered up this summer as a limited self-release and picked up by no less than Stickman Records (Motorpsycho, Elder), Orion might be the most molten inclusion on this list. It’s also my pick for 2016 Debut of the Year, and to hear cuts like “She Sleeps on a Vine,” “Kerosene,” the sprawling closer “Drinking from the River Rising,” or even just to take the whole record front-to-back, which was clearly how the band intended it be experienced, there’s just about no competition in that regard that stands up. The Rochester, NY, three-piece showed marked promise on their 2013 demo (review here) and 2015 split with Lé Betre (review here), but the listenability of Orion — which earned every single one of its repeat visits — made it a triumph on a different level entirely, and distinguished King Buffalo as a formidable presence in the sphere of US heavy psychedelia, fostering a sound no less soulful for its outward cosmic reach and to-be-measured-in-lightyears scale of potential.

7. Wight, Love is Not Only What You Know

wight love is not only what you know

Released by Fat and Holy Records, Kozmik Artifactz, Import Export Music and SPV. Reviewed Sept. 7.

German outfit Wight answered significant anticipation on their third album, Love is Not Only What You Know, some four years after 2012’s Through the Woods into Deep Water (review here) and undertook a significant evolution in sound. A transition from a trio to a four-piece and adding a strong current of funk to their heavy psych groove and boogie resulted in cuts like “The Muse and the Mule,” the jammed-out “Kelele” and “The Love for Life Leads to Reincarnation,” which were as danceable as they were nod-ready, and when complemented by shorter classic rockers like “Helicopter Mama” and “I Wanna Know What You Feel” (still plenty funky) and the Eastern-tinged interlude “Three Quarters,” gave Love is Not Only What You Know scope to match its ass-shaking encouragement. It was a spirit unto itself among 2016 releases, but ultimately, the key to understanding the record was right there in the title: It was all about love, and wherever Wight went in a given track, they never lost sight of that.

6. Greenleaf, Rise Above the Meadow

greenleaf rise above the meadow

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Feb. 18.

A decade and a half after 2001’s Revolution Rock (discussed here), Sweden’s Greenleaf most embodied that ethic with Rise Above the Meadow, their sixth long-player and Napalm Records debut. 2014’s Trails and Passes (review here) represented the key step of founding guitarist Tommi Holappa (interview here) bringing vocalist Arvid Johnsson into the lineup, but Rise Above the Meadow built exponentially on what that album achieved, bolstered by work as a touring band and a revitalized songwriting process heard in “Howl,” “A Million Fireflies,” “You’re Gonna be My Ruin,” the stomping “Golden Throne” and “Tyrants Tongue,” among others. I refuse to discount the quality of Trails and Passes, 2012’s Nest of Vipers (review here) or 2007’s landmark Agents of Ahriman (review here), but as Greenleaf shifted toward a style more reminiscent of Holappa‘s later output with Dozer, they also seemed to stake their claim on the forefront of European heavy rock and roll, which was just waiting for them to do so.

5. Brant Bjork, Tao of the Devil

brant bjork tao of the devil

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 15.

Perhaps the most believable lyric of 2016 was the opening line of leadoff cut “The Gree Heen” from Brant Bjork‘s Tao of the Devil: “I got all that I need. I got the gree-heen.” From the prominent pot leaf on the cover to that single clause — which set the tone for that song’s mega-nod as much as everything that followed in the boogie of “Humble Pie” and “Stackt,” the so-laid-back-it’s-almost-unconscious title-track and the longer-form explorations of “Dave’s War” and the wah’ed-out “Evening Jam” — the inimitable Bjork seems to have embraced the role of stoner guru and the Godfather of Desert Rock. Tao of the Devil was his second release through Napalm behind 2014’s Black Power Flower (review here), which introduced the Low Desert Punk Band, and far from hanging its hat on the man’s historical accomplishments from his days in KyussFu ManchuCheVista Chino, etc., the 50-minute eight-tracker came fueled by the soul most typified in Bjork‘s solo catalog, which it’s increasingly easy to argue is his greatest contribution to the desert aesthetic. Definitely in his wheelhouse, but what a wheelhouse.

4. Asteroid, III

asteroid iii

Released by Fuzzorama Records. Reviewed Oct. 21.

What a relief it was to have Asteroid back, and what a relief it was to have III arrive some six years after II (review here) and find the Örebro, Sweden, trio’s certified-organic chemistry undulled by that long stretch. The songs — “Pale Moon,” “Last Days,” “Til Dawn,” “Wolf and Snake,” “Silver and Gold,” “Them Calling,” “Mr. Strange” — there wasn’t a miss in the bunch, and in addition to the reignited craftsmanship, III made clear a progression as players and the intent to move forward from guitarist/vocalist Robin Hirse, bassist/vocalist Johannes Nilsson and drummer Elvis Campbell (since replaced by Jimmi Kolscheen), so that the material didn’t just let listeners know Asteroid was a band again after having unceremoniously faded out for a half-decade, but gave a signal that perhaps they were just getting started. One can only hope that turns out to be the case, but either way, III felt like a reward dolled out to their fanbase after a long absent stretch, and one that, like II and their 2007 self-titled debut (discussed here) before it, will reverberate its echoes for years to come. Hands down 2016’s most welcome return.

3. Gozu, Revival

gozu revival

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed May 19.

Though it would carry the context of its scorching opener “Nature Boy” with it for the duration and, accordingly, hit with a more intense feel than its 2013 predecessor, The Fury of a Patient Man (review here), Gozu‘s fourth album overall and Ripple label debut was a kick in the ass on more than just that one level. It found the Boston foursome with the finally-solidified lineup of vocalist/guitarist Marc Gaffney, guitarist Doug Sherman, bassist Joe Grotto and drummer Mike Hubbard, and while one could argue they still wound up under the banner of a heavy rock band, that became happenstance to the songs themselves. That is, even more than The Fury of a Patient Man or 2010’s Locust Season (review here), Gozu came across as writing not to style, but to their own impulses, as demonstrated in “Big Casino,” the echoing soul of “Tin Chicken” and shuffle-thrust of “Oldie,” and as they moved beyond their initial swath of influence into this individualized sonic persona, they reaped the benefits of the locked-in lineup and a process of craft that never sounded so purposeful. Revival was indeed typified by its vitality, but it was also the sound of a band maturing as a unit, becoming who they were meant to be, and there is almost nothing more exciting than that for a single album to represent. Plus, it had a song called “By Mennen,” and, you know, references.

2. Mars Red Sky, Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul)

mars red sky apex iii praise for the burning soul

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed Feb. 24.

It was unreasonable to expect the third full-length from Bordeaux, France, trio Mars Red Sky to surpass 2014’s Stranded in Arcadia (review here) and the progressive crux that album brought to the warm tones and sweet melodicism of their 2011 self-titled debut (review here), but Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul) reinforced the elements that worked so well on previous outings while pushing inarguably onto what the band seemed to know was “Alien Ground” if the title of their intro was anything to go by. More over, it did so with a natural fluidity and poise that were as striking as they were encompassing in sound. Tying to earlier 2016’s Providence EP (review here) in concept and execution through that intro and the title-track following it, Apex III presented the to-date pinnacle of Mars Red Sky‘s growth in songs like “The Whinery,” “Mindreader,” the tear-inducing “Under the Hood,” the swing-happy “Friendly Fire,” the willful atmospheric crash of closer “Prodigal Sun” — each one a crucial advancing step from the trio of guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras, bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Mathieu “Matgaz” Gazeau — and brilliantly fed them one into the other, so that in addition to the standout impressions of each, there developed a personality to the whole span of the album; a world of Mars Red Sky‘s own creation, where they dwelt for what seemed too short a time before returning to earth and on from here to who knows where next.

1. SubRosa, For this We Fought the Battle of Ages

subrosa for this we fought the battle of ages

Released by Profound Lore. Reviewed Aug. 26.

Most of all, For this We Fought the Battle of Ages was fearless. For their fourth album, Salt Lake City’s SubRosa adapted themes from 1924’s We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, which laid out a futuristic dystopia wherein all identity is subsumed to the state and even love is outlawed when not properly sanctioned. This framework, obscure if influential, gave guitarist/vocalist Rebecca Vernon, violinist/vocalist Sarah Pendleton, violinist/backing vocalist Kim Pack, bassist/vocalist Levi Hanna, drummer/engineer Andy Patterson (formerly of Iota, among others), and a range of other contributors, a space in which to explore gender and LGBT issues across the six included tracks, and from the opening build and crush of the chorus to “Despair is a Siren” through the depiction of privilege in “Wound of the Warden,” the 97-second Italian-language ballad “Il Cappio” (translated: “the noose”) and into the gut-wrenching finale of “Troubled Cells,” their musical accomplishment was no less stunning than lyrics like, “Isn’t it good to be acquainted with darkness?/To caress it gently/To slit its throat,” from “Black Majesty.” Tense in its quiet stretches, harmonized vocally, given orchestral presence through its use of strings, flute, French horn, and so on, For this We Fought the Battle of Ages worked fluidly in what for most acts would be a contradictory modus of careful, meticulous arrangements and raw, emotional realism. No matter how deep it dove — and by the time identity was being erased and the state was taking control of the body on “Killing Rapture,” it was diving pretty deep — SubRosa never lost their sense of poise, so that the defiance in the last movement of “Troubled Cells” in which Heaven itself is rejected with the clearest of justifications, “Paradise is a lie if you’re not by my side,” the band seemed to stand as straight and tall as their multi-tiered righteousness would warrant. But even if one took For this We Fought the Battle of Ages with politics aside, its achievement in marrying post-metallic structures, gothic texture and progressive atmospherics was on a plane of its own making, operating under its own rules and in its own definitive space. Albums like it do not happen every year, and forward motion for genre as a whole is rarely so visible as it was in this special offering, which seems only fair to regard as a landmark for the band and anyone whose ears and hearts it touched.

The Next 20

Like any good Top 30, mine goes to 50. Here is the next batch:

31. Blaak Heat, Shifting Mirrors
32. Truckfighters, V
33. West, Space & Love, Vol. II
34. Seedy Jeezus with Isaiah Mitchell, Tranquonauts
35. Yawning Man, Historical Graffiti
36. Causa Sui, Return to Sky
37. Vokonis, Olde One Ascending
38. Hotel Wrecking City Traders, Phantomonium
39. The Wounded Kings, Visions in Bone
40. It’s Not Night: It’s Space, Our Birth is but a Sleep and a Forgetting
41. Beastwars, The Death of all Things
42. Naxatras, II
43. Holy Grove, Holy Grove
44. Worshipper, Shadow Hymns
45. Wretch, Wretch
46. Colour Haze, Live Vol. I: Europa Tournee 2015
47. Zaum, Eidolon
48. Bellringer, Jettison
49. Young Hunter, Young Hunter
50. Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Y Proffwyd Dwyll

From the kinetic desert artistry of Blaak Heat to Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard’s ethereal synth-laden doom, there are more than a few essentials here. I’ve never before done a year-end list that had so many releases on it, but my motivation in doing so this time around couldn’t have been simpler: They were simply too good and had too much to offer to leave out. It would’ve been an oversight to do so.

Honorable Mentions

Even a Top 50 fails to grasp the full scope of what 2016 brought about musically, so here are even more, alphabetically:

Ancient Warlocks, II
Black Moon Circle, Sea of Clouds
Sergio Ch., Aurora
Lamp of the Universe, Hidden Knowledge
Mondo Drag, The Occultation of Light
Øresund Space Collective, Visions Of…
-(16)-, Lifespan of a Moth
Spidergawd, III
The Well, Pagan Science
Wovenhand, Star Treatment

And if that’s still not enough, here are 60-plus more names who shouldn’t be left out of the discussion, also alphabetically:

Akris, Atala, Atomikylä, Backwoods Payback, Beastmaker, BigPig, Black Cobra, Black Lung, Blood Ceremony, Blues Pills, Bright Curse, Bus, Dee Calhoun, Captain Crimson, Child, La Chinga, Church of Misery, Conclave, Cough, Devil to Pay, Domkraft, Dot Legacy, Electric Citizen, Estoner, Eternal Elysium, Fatso Jetson & Gary Arce vs. Hifiklub, Fox 45, Goatess, Goblin Cock, Graves at Sea, Heavy Temple (they’ll be back on next year’s list), High Fighter, Holy Serpent, Hotel Wrecking City Traders, Inter Arma, Joy, Kaleidobolt, Khemmis, King Dead, Lord, Lord Vicar, Merchant, Mirrors for Psychic Warfare, Helen Money, Monkey3, Moon Coven, Mother Mooch, Necro, New Keepers of the Water Towers, T.G. Olson, Oranssi Pazuzu, Pooty Owldom, Russian Circles, Salem’s Pot, Samavayo, Seremonia, Skuggsjá, Sourvein, Spirit Adrift, Stone Machine Electric, Suma, Surya Kris Peters, Swans, Throttlerod, Virus, Wasted Theory, Wretch, and Zaum.

Thank You

In case none of the above has made it clear, I’ll just say flat out that 2016 has been an amazing year for music, and that every time I feel like maybe underground heavy has hit a wall and there’s nowhere left for it to go, sure enough about three minutes later another record shows up that slaps me in the face with a reminder of just how wrong that notion is.

If you’re still reading — how could you be? — thank you so much for your incredible support throughout 2016 and all the years The Obelisk has been in progress. I already know that 2017 is going to bring some incredible music as well, but that’s another list for another time, so I’ll just say again how much I appreciate your being a part of this ongoing project, how much it means to me to have you here. Thank you, thank you, and thank you.

And please, if there’s anything I forgot, got wrong, misspelled, or if you just think I used the word “breadth” too many times, please let me know about it in the comments.

One more time: Thank you.

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Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Y Proffwyd Dwyll: Crushing Ether

Posted in Reviews on November 2nd, 2016 by JJ Koczan

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It is almost too easy to get caught up in the surface-level presentation of Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard. One sees their name — and by now, even the band were inclined, it’s probably too late to change that; a side-effect of actually being good and gaining some measure of recognition for it — and hears the dominant murk in the guitars of Paul Michael Davies and Wez Leon and the bass of Jessica Ball set to the roll of James “Carrat” Carrington‘s drums and thinks it’s easy to figure out. But even with the ultra-dense production provided by Conan‘s Chris Fielding at Skyhammer Studios, the Wrexham, UK, four-piece have more to offer on their second LP, Y Proffwyd Dwyll (“false prophets”) than tonal excess and post-Electric Wizard nod.

When New Heavy Sounds released the band’s 2015 debut, Noeth Ac Anoeth (review here), they referred to Jessica Ball as the group’s “secret weapon” because of the melodic resonance her vocals brought to their material. Not sure how one can be a secret while fronting the band, but the point is taken. I’d argue that on the follow-up LP, if there’s a weapon that shines in Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard‘s arsenal, it’s the songwriting. That’s also where one finds the greatest evidence of creative progression coming off Noeth Ac Anoeth and the 30-minute Nachthexen single (review here) before it. At six tracks/48 minutes, Y Proffwyd Dwyll is shorter on the whole and in its individual pieces than anything on its predecessor, opening with its longest cut (immediate points) “Valmasque” at 9:40 and giving an immediate sense of memorability to the flow that follows.

Second perhaps to the overarching growth in craftsmanship, the atmospheric elements at play throughout Y Proffwyd Dwyll are important to note. All four members of the band, BallDaviesLeon and Carrington, contribute synth at one point or another, and it has a great effect on the sound and mood, and not just on a cut like instrumental side A closer “Gallego.” One can hear space rock-style swirl in the title-track and beneath the guitar of “Testudo,” fleshing out the mix and distinguishing Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard from the likes of Windhand. Amid the chug and crash of “Valmasque” and the march that emerges in the second half of the subsequent title-track, this experimental edge serves to bolster the songs, and in combination with the layers of Ball‘s vocals and the aforementioned tonal onslaught, it makes Y Proffwyd Dwyll a richer listen entirely.

Taken in combination with the added sense of structure that, admittedly, began to show itself on Noeth Ac Anoeth but was perhaps obscured by the inclusion there of the half-hour-long “Nachthexen,” Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard come across throughout as a band who’ve found their sound and are ready to take on the task of moving forward and refining it. Already that process seems to be in motion as “Testudo,” “Osirian” and “Cithuula” comprise the album’s second half, rolling out with patience and doom-charged grandiosity — looking at you, “Osirian” — as tempo shifts, breaks, feedback and dramatic layering are all put to skilled use.

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Again, one could listen to those songs or “Valmasque,” “Y Proffwyd Dwyll” and “Gallego” and simply be wowed by the bludgeoning at hand — I’m not even sure that would be a wrong way to hear it — but it would mean missing at least half the point of what Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard are doing and ignoring the development they’ve clearly undertaken.

An even more telling moment of arrival takes place with “Cithuula.” After “Testudo” and “Osirian” confirm and build on what “Valmasque” and “Y Proffwyd Dwyll” accomplished on side A, the closer is all the more a standout because of its length, its pace and the fact that unlike “Gallego,” it’s not instrumental. Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard have galloped before — that’s not necessarily new for them — but as they build into the last push of “Cithuula” are beating out a couple verses, cut short and are led into the payoff by Ball‘s vocals, they bring about their most engaging stretch to-date what feels like the most forward-thinking and hook they’ve yet realized. Almost like they’re giving a glimpse at what comes next.

Of course, that may or may not actually be the case. I don’t know when one song was written as opposed to the others and time doesn’t always matter in those instances, but as Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard make ready to return their audience to a reality not comprised of ethereal moodiness and air thrust through cabinets driven by burning tube amps, they do so with a progressive edge that only 18 months ago seemed like a remote possibility. Like the emphasis on synth across the board helping to construct an atmospheric personality, the closer broadens the context of the tracks surrounding, making Y Proffwyd Dwyll a more complete experience front to back.

Yes, they have a silly moniker, and yes, when played loud, their songs have headbang-worthy groove and a crush to rival anyone you might want to situate in their path. These things are true. But if Y Proffwyd Dwyll demonstrates anything it’s that the story of Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard isn’t necessarily defined by either of them alone as so many bands are, and that they’re working quickly on a development that’s just beginning to mark out the terms of its true potential.

Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Y Proffwyd Dwyll (2016)

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