The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2018

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

the-top-30-of-2018

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks in advance for reading. Here we go:

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

30. The Skull, The Endless Road Turns Dark

The Skull The Endless Road Turns Dark

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Sept. 12.

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

29. Foghound, Awaken to Destroy

foghound awaken to destroy

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Nov. 21.

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

28. Orange Goblin, The Wolf Bites Back

orange goblin the wolf bites back

Released by Spinefarm Records. Reviewed June 13.

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

27. Fu Manchu, Clone of the Universe

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

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

26. Witch Mountain, Witch Mountain

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

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

25. Windhand, Eternal Return

windhand eternal return

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed Oct. 3.

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

24. Sun Voyager, Seismic Vibes

Sun Voyager Seismic Vibes

Released by King Pizza Records. Reviewed April 18.

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

23. Forming the Void, Rift

forming the void rift

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed July 27.

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

22. Spaceslug, Eye the Tide

spaceslug eye the tide

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

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

21. Conan, Existential Void Guardian

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

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

20. Pale Divine, Pale Divine

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

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

19. Mos Generator, Shadowlands

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

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

18a. Stoned Jesus, Pilgrims

STONED JESUS PILGRIMS

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 5.

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

18. Backwoods Payback, Future Slum

backwoods payback future slum

Self-released. Reviewed Aug. 15.

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

17. Corrosion of Conformity, No Cross No Crown

corrosion of conformity no cross no crown

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Jan. 3

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

16. Naxatras, III

naxatras iii

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 14.

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

15. Clutch, Book of Bad Decisions

clutch book of bad decisions

Released by Weathermaker Music. Reviewed Aug. 27.

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

14. Ancestors, Suspended in Reflections

Ancestors Suspended in Reflections

Released by Pelagic Records. Reviewed Aug. 3.

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

13. High on Fire, Electric Messiah

high on fire electric messiah

Released by eOne Heavy. Reviewed Sept. 28.

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

12. Yawning Man, The Revolt Against Tired Noises

yawning man the revolt against tired noises

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed July 2.

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

11. Greenleaf, Hear the Rivers

greenleaf hear the rivers

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Nov. 26.

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

10. Gozu, Equilibrium

gozu equilibrium

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

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

9. Monster Magnet, Mindfucker

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

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

8. Apostle of Solitude, From Gold to Ash

Apostle of Solitude From Gold to Ash

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

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

7. Holy Grove, Holy Grove II

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

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

6. All Them Witches, ATW

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

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

5. YOB, Our Raw Heart

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

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

4. Brant Bjork, Mankind Woman

brant bjork mankind woman

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Sept. 13.

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

3. Earthless, Black Heaven

earthless black heaven

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed March 15.

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

2. King Buffalo, Longing to Be the Mountain

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

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

1. Sleep, The Sciences

sleep the sciences

Released by Third Man Records. Reviewed May 1.

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

The Next 20

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

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

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

Honorable Mention

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

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

Special Note

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

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

Best Short Release of the Year

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

  • Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard & Slomatics, Totems Split

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

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

Looking Forward

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

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

Okay, That’s It

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

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

So thanks.

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

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

Everybody have a great and safe 2019.

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Mansion, First Death of the Lutheran: Sinners’ Fate

Posted in Reviews on December 18th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

mansion first death of the lutheran

What one didn’t necessarily expect from Mansion’s debut album was how much it would convey its rigidity in tone as well as in its theme. First Death of the Lutheran has been a long time in the making, as the Turku, Finland, outfit started in 2013 by self-releasing their We Shall Live EP (review here), which was soon picked up by Nine Records, and certainly they’ve covered a swath of styles since then with the subsequent The Mansion Congregation Hymns Vol. 1 single (discussed here) and the Uncreation EP (review here) in 2014, 2015’s Altar Sermon (review here) or their comporting-with-sinners 2017 split with Cardinal Wyrm, but still, the five-track/42-minute offering through I Hate Records is a surprise in its general sound. Where their earlier work had more of a retro feel, not quite boogie rock but not shy in its shuffle either, First Death of the Lutheran seeks to and succeeds in conveying the severity of its lyrical basis by sharpening its guitar tones and the production overall.

In defiance of what has become the standard for cult rock in Europe and elsewhere, it is not a warm-sounding album, with sing-songy lyrics about worshiping the devil or whatever else. Mansion‘s perspective has always been on another level. Now their sound matches that idea. They are, as of now, inseparable from their conceptual foundation, born out of the idea of not just singing about a thing, but becoming the thing itself. And specificity. I don’t know how much of general Finnish history covers the endtime-obsessed Kartanoist sect and their strict belief in the Christian Bible, celibacy, and the notion that after World War I in Europe, Jesus was returning to punish sinners, but the band and appointed lyricist Mikael have certainly dug into the history.

Mansion vocalist Alma takes her name from Alma Kartano, who led the group, and sure enough is joined by a congregation, with fellow vocalist Osmo, guitarists Jaakob and Veikko-Tapio, bassist Immanuel, drummer Atami, organist Matti-Juhani, as well as a range of guests appearing on First Death of the Lutheran, including Sami Albert Hynninen (ex-Reverend Bizarre) on “The Eternal,” as well as saxophonist Toivo on closer “First Death,” Antti-Mikael on percussion, Kimmo on violin and trumpet, Ivan on hurdy-gurdy, and so on. All of these arrangement elements are put to work toward the singular if varied purpose of embodying the harshness of dedicated dogmatic idolatry. The snare in opener “Wretched Hope” (premiered here) evokes flagellation. The effects-laden condemnations of “Lutheran” — of which even the single-word title seems accusatory — lumbering low end and far-back piano line and emergent mournful violin add an air of authoritarianism to Alma‘s highlighted vocals, Hynninen-led testimony of “The Eternal,” choral apex of “1933” and darkly psychedelic cacophony that closes in the 12-minute stretch of “First Death”: it all feeds into the centrality of the point of view.

promo_mansion5 pic by ulla kudjoi-1000

They do not waver. There is no relenting, and particularly in the call and response between Alma and Osmo on “First Death” or in the chorus of “Wretched Hope,” or even as Alma relinquishes the forward position on the centerpiece, there is an underlying sexual tension that speaks to the corrupt nature of religious fanaticism. Tempt and condemn. This trait has always been in Mansion‘s approach, but on First Death of the Lutheran, especially in the vocal trades and amid the increased experimentalism of the instrumental side and production, it’s all the more resonant, and it adds to the sinister nature of the material itself. Certainly the summary hook in “Wretched Hope” of “Hear my warning/The lord is calling/Do you see the signs?/It’s the end of times,” and the doomly march to which they set it is made all the stronger for it, and likewise the bleak swirl that follows in “Lutheran.” And as the album unfolds, it only grows bolder and broader in its encompassing stylization, such that by the time “First Death” starts with its combination of earthbound rhythm and airier guitars in the initial, trumpet-inclusive forward progression and steps into alignment around the riff that holds sway for its first half, the sense is that Mansion have set themselves up to go anywhere.

There’s less of an expectation as the record plays through, then, for songs to sound the same or to carry a similar approach to their making, because already the band have worked diligently — and again, successfully — to undermine any. At the same time they do this, though, it’s the theme that unites the album on the whole, so that as far as Mansion range considering where they started from half a decade ago, they never lose sight of what it is bringing their songs together, the underlying purpose of expression. So the theme not only proves strong enough to maintain itself lyrically throughout the five tracks, but to help present First Death of the Lutheran as a singular work, however varied its sound might ultimately be. The production has a role in this as well, of course, but as noted, even that ties into the band’s adoption of the tenets of Kartanoism. As “First Death” makes its way into its second half around the winding vocal lines that resolve themselves with the final assessment, “You’re a sinner,” it’s a culmination on every level through which that song and those before it have functioned.

And yet the crescendo is still to come. That takes hold as the back end of “First Death” builds into its final wash, Alma cutting through all the while in last moments of preach, with a long-held sax note — excruciatingly tense by the time it lets go — as the final element sacrificed. The level of achievement here isn’t to be understated. Not only have Mansion stretched their conceptual designs out over the course of a full-length, which is something that, frankly, they’ve been ready to do for a while, but with that full-length, they’ve actively worked against what was expected from them, while moving forward in craft overall, greatly increasing their scope and carving out a sonic niche beyond microgenre that is immediately their own and, more importantly, immediately under their command. It is a powerful, awaited debut that moves beyond what one could have even hoped for it, and it not only puts Mansion on their own echelon of cultistry, but realizes their righteousness in a new form that feels like a grim future made flesh.

Mansion, First Death of the Lutheran (2018)

Mansion on Thee Facebooks

Mansion on Bandcamp

I Hate Records website

I Hate Records on Bandcamp

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Six Dumb Questions & Full Album Stream: Mansion

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on December 5th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Mansion (Photo by Ulla Kudjoi)

You’ll see Turku, Finland’s Mansion referred to as ‘cult rock’ a lot. It’s kind of true the way abbreviations stand in for words. The truth of what Mansion do and have done since their 2014 premiere EP, We Shall Live EP (review here), and its soon-after follow-up, Uncreation  (review here), is much more complex. Their awaited debut album, First Death of the Lutheran, is out this week on I Hate Records, and it pushes to new ground in both the conceptual framework and actual songwriting approach on the part of the band. As 12-minute summary/closer “First Death” starts out with psychedelic flourish and effects en route to a sax-inclusive tumult of experimentalist noise, it is as affecting in atmosphere as in impact, and though I’ll have a review of the album in the coming weeks, I was given the opportunity to ask the band some questions, and it wasn’t one I was going to pass up.

For those who didn’t hear Uncreation, 2015’s Altar Sermon (review here), or any of the other short releases they’ve had out along the way, Mansion follow a theme not just of vague, generalized occultmansion first death of the lutheran thematics, but actually take on Kartanoism as their working foundation. The doomsday-obsessed post-WWI breakaway Protestant group followed leader Alma Kartano and her strict interpretations of the Bible and rules for everyday life. That kind of severity shows up in every whip-crack of the snare drum on opener “Wretched Hope” (premiered here) and in the grueling forward march and unremitting low-light claustrophobia of “Lutheran” and “The Eternal,” which follow. With mysterious “1933” ahead of the finale, First Death of the Lutheran is an appropriate endgame for the style of cult heavy as a whole, but at the same time, it works against genre convention in its sound and the overarching harshness of its production. Not raw — it’s clear-sounding — but sharp.

I’ll have a proper review of the album up in the coming weeks, but on the occasion of the release, I’m flat-out honored to host the premiere of its entirety below. It’s one I’ve been waiting a while for, and its reach only exceeds what I imagined they’d come up with for it.

Please enjoy the stream and the following Six Dumb Questions:

Six Dumb Questions with Mansion

It’s been five years since We Shall Live was released and First Death of the Lutheran is the band’s debut album. How do you see Mansion as having grown in that time? Were there specific goals you wanted to accomplish with the LP?

Our musical expression has progressed from a traditional retro approach to a more experimental direction. With time the congregation has grown both spiritually and in number. The album was released as a reminder for the sorrowless that the endgame has begun. For the most of them salvation is out of reach.

Tell me about writing First Death of the Lutheran. Over how long a period were the songs put together? Was it a different frame of mind writing for an album instead of an EP or a single? Beyond their theme, how do the songs fit together for the band? How much of the song placement and the progression of the record was mapped out before you went into the studio?

The first song on the album, “Wretched Hope,” was written right after We Shall Live EP was released, while the last song, First Death was written during the recordings of the debut album. The songs on the album might span over several years but it doesn’t mean that those were the only ones we have written so far. We have songs ready or half-ready for at least three albums. The songs you hear on First Death of the Lutheran are picked from our vault based on how they fit together. We recorded seven songs but decided to cut two as they didn’t fit in with the others.

The Uncreation EP was supposed to be our debut album. Due to some technical issues we had to cut two tracks off the album. Those were re-recorded later and released as the Altar Sermon EP.

The whole album seems to lead to “First Death.” Did you know in writing that song that it would be the finale? What is happening there to summarize the album?

As soon as the song was starting to find its form we knew that it would be the finale. In ”First Death” we simply state that there is a difference between us and you. We will be saved and you will burn in the everlasting fires of hell while we bathe in glory in the Kingdom of Heaven by His side. Pretty much what we want to say with the whole album.

What were the circumstances of the recording? There’s so much a blend of harsh noise and melody throughout, and it seems real attention was paid to the details of tone and effects. How long were you in the studio?

We recorded most of the album at our secret cottage in Huittinen. That only took a week. The mixing, though, was a different story. We had to change the mixing engineer after the first version of the album was done. There were too many details that got buried in the mix and so we had to start all over again to get it right.

How would you explain the central philosophy of Kartanoism? What’s the significance specifically of the year 1933?

We believe that most of the sorrowless wretches roaming the earth haven’t got a clue how mighty God is and how powerful his wrath is. Judgement Day will be a merciless slaughter of man and only the chosen few will be saved for eternal agony in the afterlife. We believe sex is a mortal sin and that there should not be an organisation between man and God.

Blasphemous churches will fall, mark our words. We in Finland are surrounded by Lutherans, whose way of life is hypocritical and untrue. They have lost their connection to the Lord Almighty tempted by greed and their vain egos. They will be surprised when their days are done. 1933 is the year when these losers released a sacrilegious translation of the Holy Bible.

Will Mansion tour in 2019 to support the release? Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

We have live sermons and festivals booked for 2019. Book us. Today!

Merry Christmas!

Mansion on Thee Facebooks

Mansion on Bandcamp

I Hate Records website

I Hate Records on Bandcamp

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Mansion Premiere “Wretched Hope”; Debut Album First Death of the Lutheran Due Nov. 16

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 17th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

mansion

Like the dogmatic end-time apocalypse from whence it takes its central theme, Mansion‘s first long-player has seen many delays. It’s been half a decade since their We Shall Live EP (review here) established the Finnish outfit as high-grade practitioners of cultistry and darkly atmospheric heavy rock, lurching at a creep or seething with righteous fury at a moment’s notice amid memorable songcraft given presence through the lurking melodies of vocalist Alma; her stage moniker taken from cult leader Alma Kartano around whose congregation the band is based. They’ve had other offerings along the way, whether it’s 2014’s Uncreation EP (review here) or 2015’s Altar Sermon (review here), or their split last year with Cardinal Wyrm, but are well due a full-length, and Nov. 16 (vinyl later), I Hate Records will issue First Death of the Lutheran, their awaited debut album.

I haven’t heard the record yet, but for those of us who are unworthy — which is everyone — Mansion are giving an enticing first taste with a mansion first death of the lutherannew video for opening track “Wretched Hope.” It has the band’s signature all over it in terms of ambience, the progressive complexity of its arrangement and its grounded hook: “Hear my warning/The Lord is calling/Do you see the signs/It’s the end of times.” This arrives amid vocals shared between Alma and fellow-singer Osmo, a plodding rhythm and a vivid conveyance of the ceremony at hand. Like the best of Mansion‘s work to-date, it surpasses in concept and realization those who watch horror movies and call it cult rock to instead don a prophecy-minded belief system that comes through the song at hand. It’s theatrical, as they have been all along, but there’s no denying the effectiveness of the display. Indeed, it is an execution ready for worship.

Those sensitive to flashing lights will find harsh penance in the clip itself, but as you listen, take special note of the interweaving layers of guitar, the organ that fills out the melody and adds to the song-as-mass feel of the track itself, the buzzsaw-tone solo in the second half and the arrangement of vocals in call and response and in the chaos that ends. I won’t claim to know how the rest of First Death of the Lutheran plays out subsequent to “Wretched Hope,” but there is a feeling of mood being set throughout “Wretched Hope,” and these are dark times indeed. You can repent if you want. Won’t do you any good.

First Death of the Lutheran is out Nov. 16. I’ll hope to have more to come on it before then. In the meantime, video and comment follow.

Enjoy:

Mansion, “Wretched Hope” official video premiere

OUR FAITHFUL CONGREGATION,

”First Death of the Lutheran” represents the end of the insidious sinners’ earthly serpentine path as their life ends and they pass on to face the Final Judgement of the Lord Almighty. No doubt in our minds that they will end up horrified by their fate.

The Lutheran hypocrites have wasted their lives following their deceitful priests, blinded by their drivel. And these perverted wretches of the cloth have diluted the Word to serve their own greedy and lustful needs. May these priests be impaled by
the claws of their true master, the accuser, Satan. And may the Lutheran churches fall in the name of the Lord Almighty, for they do not honour Him, but organised human evil. For His is the Glory now and eternally.

”You think you are on your way to heaven
as the reverend promised you.
Sheep to the slaughter in the name of satan.”
– Alma Kartano

Mikael (lyricist) on First Death of the Lutheran:

I Hate Records is trying to reconcile in the eyes of the Lord Almighty after releasing despicable titles, which promote devil worship and sinful ways of life, by publishing the debut full lenght First Death of the Lutheran by the righteous Finnish musical talent Mansion. Good luck to them for He may not be that forgiving.

Video directed and edited by Tommi Hoffrén. On set director and camera by Anssi Ikonen.

Tracklisting:
1. WRETCHED HOPE
2. LUTHERAN
3. THE ETERNAL
4. 1933
5. FIRST DEATH

Lineup:
ALMA – VOCALS
OSMO – VOCALS
ATAMI – DRUMS
VEIKKO-TAPIO – GUITAR
JAAKOB – GUITAR
IMMANUEL – BASS
MATTI-JUHANI – ORGAN
MIKAEL – LYRICS

Mansion on Thee Facebooks

Mansion on Bandcamp

I Hate Records website

I Hate Records on Bandcamp

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Mansion and Cardinal Wyrm Release Split Single

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 16th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Finnish narrative cultists Mansion offered up a couple remixes of their 2015 single Altar Sermon (review here) late last year, and together with their new split with Cardinal Wyrm, the intention seems to be to keep momentum going leading into their awaited debut full-length, which I hear is in progress. That can only be good news after the band’s 2013 We Shall Live (review here) and 2014 Uncreation (review here) EPs, and the new single — which, hey, is limited to 50 copies, released on Valentine’s Day, and streaming nowhere — pairs them with their doomly Californian labelmates working on a theme of both bands covering Joy DivisionMansion taking on “The Eternal” while Cardinal Wyrm lead off the release with “Exercise One.”

Cardinal Wyrm had their Cast Away Souls full-length out late last year on Svart, and that’s streaming in full below, as well as the aforementioned Mansion remixes. I haven’t heard the covers yet, but will hope I get to before the platters are gone, if they’re not already. Pressing is by their pressed by collaborative RR Records imprint, and it’s available only from the bands directly via their Thee Facebooks/Bandcamp pages.

Info and buy links follow, as sent along the PR wire:

mansion

cardinal wyrm

Mansion / Cardinal Wyrm split 7″

Californian epic doom wanderers Cardinal Wyrm and Finland’s doomed congregation Mansion collaborate on this unique transmission of heart and soul. Released on the day of the lords 2017, this split 7” offers insight into the shadowplay of dead souls wandering the interzone, a perfect candidate for that one record you’d play as the new dawn fades into the wilderness of isolation.

The bands have neither walked in line nor rendered these songs as a means to an end, instead interpreting each track as its own ceremony, the sound of music as firm and brittle as glass, bringing them to the brink at which something must break into the realm of disorder. The only mistake you could make would be to passover this limited-issue 7” – pick it up while it lasts!

Cardinal Wyrm – Exercise One
Mansion – The Eternal

In a recent, depressing recording session we produced our version of the Joy Division song Eternal with guest vocals by brother Albert. We leave the year 2016 behind on this bleak note. Repent.

– Mikael / Mansion

https://cardinalwyrm.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/Cardinal-Wyrm-157603967620024/
https://weshalllive.bandcamp.com/album/mansion-cardinal-wyrm-split-7
https://www.facebook.com/mansionalma/

Mansion, Altar Sermon Remix 2016

Cardinal Wyrm, Cast Away Souls (2016)

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Mansion Premiere “Traitor’s Dirge”; Altar Sermon EP out Today

Posted in audiObelisk on October 23rd, 2015 by JJ Koczan

mansion (Photo by Ulla Kudjoi)

Continuing to proselytize dogmatic severity, Finnish conceptual cult rockers Mansion today release their new two-song, limited-to-500-copies EP, Altar Sermon, via Svart Records. It is the latest in a series of short releases from the thematically-specific outfit — who base their lyrical themes and presentation on the Kartanoist movement that took hold in Finland between the 1920s and 1950s — and follows the expanding scope as shown on late-2014’s Uncreation (review here) and 2013’s We Shall Live (review here) while showcasing not quite the same amount of color (perish the thought!) as last year’s The Mansion Congregation Hymns Vol. 1 7″, but still a touch of swirl, varied tones of grey as it may be. The included tracks, “Altar Sermon” (video posted here) and “Traitor’s Dirge,” essentially pick up where Uncreation left off, finding the Turku-based outfit working in extended runtimes and a balance between atmospheric, organ-laced classic heavy rock and doom, distinguished through clenched-jaw theatrics and, of course, the fact that at least some of what they’re talking about actually happened.

Altar Sermon further stands out from their past output through the inclusion of a notable guest performance by Mat McNerney, known most recently for his work in Hexvessel and Beastmilk but whose pedigree extends much further back. Listed as the “traveling preacher Matteus,” McNerney joins Mansion‘s vocalist Alma Mansion (who takes her name from Kartanoism’s mansion-altar-sermonfounder, Alma Kartano), for a duet on “Altar Sermon.” One of the founding tenets of Kartanoism being an aversion to all sex, Mansion toy with ritualized violence lyrically while the backing lineup of guitarists Jaakob and Vilkko-Tapio, keyboardist Martti-Juhani, bassist Immanuel and drummer Antani support an impression of classic gothic doom repurposed through varied movements of eerie atmospheres topped by call and response leading to a melodic wash over a final crawl. Its sex-as-punishment is more justification than condemnation — though there’s plenty of that too — but “Traitor’s Dirge” is where the wicked are truly cast down. The traitor in question is Kartanoism co-founder Matilda “Tilda” Reunanen, who according to Alma has turned on the lord, the fold, the truth, and perhaps worst of all, the Mansion itself.

It’s a catchy hook even if it does lead to a descriptive image of Reunanen on her deathbed with her eyes eaten out by rats, and its righteousness of purpose in the early verses is mirrored by a classic metal chug and lead interplay and a rich melodic crux that breaks shortly before the halfway point to whispered vocals, ping ride, organ and far-back guitar to set the foundation for a build to come. The chorus comes back around, but is reshaped skillfully to suit the song’s progression and layered voices lead the way into a solo-topped underworld as the track and the EP come to a close. Mansion‘s strength as their project has taken shape over the last couple years has been their ability to portray their theme coherently while balancing that atop memorable songwriting — they’ve built their own stage, in other words, and the drama plays out with sure footing. Honestly, they were ready for their first album after Uncreation, so Altar Sermon doesn’t necessarily have that to prove, but its 18 minutes do leave me convinced that Mansion will have no trouble holding character over the course of a full-length while also being able to demonstrate varied craftsmanship across a broadening stylistic reach. Makes me look forward to the record, in other words. Whenever it might arrive and whatever sinister form it might ultimately take.

I’m thrilled today to host the premiere of “Traitor’s Dirge” in honor of the EP’s release. Please find it below, followed by more info from the PR wire, and enjoy:

To date, Mansion have released two EPs, 2013’s We Shall Live – which featured the video “Slumber Sermon” – and Uncreation the following year, which musically illustrated the mansionites journeying further on their crusade against the mundane and sinful with frightening conviction. With Altar Sermon and the title track’s new video, Mansion present their most harrowing vision yet: in their own words, “the cinematic re-enactment of a mansionite ritual known as the Altar Sermon. Mansion’s score for the captured moments includes a duet with Alma and traveling preacher Matteus. The soundtrack will be released bearing the title Altar Sermon on October 23rd. The flip-side of the release contains the song ‘Traitor’s Dirge.’ In the song, the treacherous Tilda Reunanen regrets her involvement in our cause and is sentenced to the everlasting fires of Hell.”

Mansion on Thee Facebooks

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Mansion Get Even Creepier than Usual in “Altar Sermon” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 9th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

mansion (Photo by Ulla Kudjoi)

Kind of hard to determine where the line between sex and violence actually lays when it comes to Mansion‘s new video for “Altar Sermon,” never mind the song itself, which is set to serve as the title-track of the band’s new two-cut EP, due out Oct. 23 on Svart. I guess that’s probably the whole idea, and while any cult worthy of the name has some usually-pretty-troubling/kid-touchy abuse going on, the Finnish collective don’t take it quite that far. It’s more of a bondage/fetish thing, playing with power dynamics and so forth. Even Kartanoists need to get some in their strange, stoic, vaguely problematic kind of way.

But hey, let’s file that one under What-Would-I-Know and move right along. Mansion‘s last EP was Uncreation (review here), which was preceded by their 2013 debut EP, We Shall Live (review here), so Altar Sermon will be their third — they also had a 7″, The Mansion Congregation Hymns Vol. 1, out last year — but the new track finds them branching out farther still on their dark, thematically coherent and exploratory path. At over eight minutes, it takes some of the psychedelic leanings of the 7″ and incorporates them into the severe-sounding cultistries for which the band has become known, so that a tension is maintained even as they push deeper into a molten flow. It’s a weird balance, but one that suits them, as does the song’s duet format.

As to when Mansion might get around to putting out a full-length, your guess is as good as mine. They’ve done well telling their story over the course of short releases thus far, so I’m not actually sure what doing an LP as opposed to more EPs might actually accomplish. But it’s just one of those things you do after a while, and presumably they’ll get there sooner or later. In the meantime, the clip for “Altar Sermon” and PR wire info follows.

Enjoy:

Mansion, “Altar Sermon” official video

Psychedelic occult rockers Mansion premiere the new video “Altar Sermon.” The track hails from the band’s forthcoming EP, Altar Sermon, set for international release on October 23rd via Svart Records on 12″ vinyl and digital formats. As mysterious as it gets, Finland’s Mansion derive their moniker the local Christian apocalyptic “mansionite” cult of Kartanoism, which lived its glory days from the 1920s to the 1950s. Kartano is the Finnish word for mansion and is the surname of cult leader Alma Kartano. Fittingly, Mansion was brought together to create music strongly reflecting the life of the cult’s followers.

To date, Mansion have released two EPs, 2013’s We Shall Live – which featured the video “Slumber Sermon” – and Uncreation the following year, which musically illustrated the mansionites journeying further on their crusade against the mundane and sinful with frightening conviction. With Altar Sermon and the title track’s new video, Mansion present their most harrowing vision yet: in their own words, “the cinematic re-enactment of a mansionite ritual known as the Altar Sermon. Mansion’s score for the captured moments includes a duet with Alma and traveling preacher Matteus. The soundtrack will be released bearing the title Altar Sermon on October 23rd. The flip-side of the release contains the song ‘Traitor’s Dirge.’ In the song, the treacherous Tilda Reunanen regrets her involvement in our cause and is sentenced to the everlasting fires of Hell.”

Directed by Artturi Rostén, view the video for Mansion’s “Altar Sermon.” Preorder for Mansion’s Altar Sermon be found HERE.

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Mansion, Uncreation: Testimony of the Converted

Posted in On Wax on February 24th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

mansion uncreation

The 12″ vinyl packaging of Mansion‘s second EP, Uncreation, is elaborate but not ostentatious. Ever-conscious of their pursed-lip, upright-postured aesthetic, the Turku, Finland, outfit present Uncreation in a screenprinted cardboard sleeve on black vinyl, but when one digs into the thing itself, there’s much more to the release. An application is included for those who would join Mansion‘s cult — based on the Kartanoist movement in Finland founded by Alma Kartano, after whom Alma Mansion, the band’s vocalist, takes her name — as well as a foldout liner that includes lineup info and the lyrics for the title-track, presented as a sort of missal. These seem like relatively small things, and indeed, it’s not like Mansion are doing blue swirl vinyl or green translucent platters or whatever, but if they were, it wouldn’t work. They might get away with red, but even that would pull away from the black-and-white of what they do, the high contrast of the front cover and how the visual side complements the audio of Uncreation‘s four songs, which aren’t lacking anything stylistically and aren’t minimal save perhaps for a brief stretch in “Uncreation” and the beginning of closer “Divining Rod,” but of which aesthetic and atmosphere is a huge part of the point. Mansion followed the devil and deviated from this form somewhat on last year’s psych-rocking The Mansion Congregation Hymns Vol. 1 7″, but Uncreation follows suit more with their 2013 breakout debut EP, We Shall Live (review here), and works along similar lines to cast out harsh judgments amid fire-and-brimstone progressions alternating between slow doom and classic metal, the latter showing itself particularly in the apex of opener “Child Preacher” and its side B counterpart, “I am the Mansion.”

Both Uncreation and We Shall Live are comprised of four songs, but it’s noteworthy that the newer release, at 36:42, is more than 10 minutes longer than its predecessor. The material, however, is by and large older. Listening to the slow churn of “Child Preacher” and the grand crashes of its chorus, the difference does not feel like happenstance. While just four tracks, Uncreation feels and flows more like an album, and like We Shall Live, it is strikingly cohesive and developed for a first full-length. Alma is joined by backing vocalist Aleksanteri in the chorus and verses of “Child Preacher,” and the keyboard work of the latter serves as an especially pivotal element in the opener and in the subsequent tracks as well, organ sounds and otherworldly keys greatly bolstering the ambience given life by guitarists Jaakob and Veikko-Tapio, bassist Immanuel, and drummer Mikael, who also contributes lyrics throughout, which also play a major role in the effectiveness of Mansion‘s aesthetic, the A/B scheme of “Uncreation” in lines like, “We have been rewarded/Unlike the foul and sordid,” reminding that part of what makes hymns so memorable is that in another context many are nursery rhymes. Church organ opens “Uncreation,” the longest inclusion at 12:51, and builds to a head before cutting short to music-box sounds and volume swell over which Alma soon begins the first verse. Drums and distorted guitar kick in after three minutes and a roll gets underway that continues as layers become more complex in the midsection, and around 6:40, a purely Sabbathian riff takes hold to lead into some spoken word over open-spaced atmosphere that sets up the echoing croon, “Come inside the mansion/Witness uncreation/Be among the righteous/Bathing in the brightness,” etc., which gets repeated over heavier guitar as choral layering mounts and organ steps back in to finish out side A.

Not every cult act has an actual cult on which to base their philosophies — it would be like a band in Texas in 30 years adopting the tenets of the Branch Davidians; honestly, I’ll be surprised if it takes that long — but Mansion have already proven their dedication to this mesh of sound and style, and Uncreation finds them engaged in a likewise satisfying sonic development. “I am the Mansion” leads side B with Alma at the fore, playing off charisma in the resonant hook in the chorus and the slow, subtly doomed progression behind, keys once again setting the tone, until in the second half the tempo picks up and the band moves toward the apex, marked out by the lines, “I am the mansion/Who are you?” not so much questioning as challenging. Punishment has proven a regular and fitting theme for Mansion to date, and “Divining Rod,” while still Iommic in its righteous plod, follows in the spirit of “We Shall Live”‘s proclaiming, “We hall live, you will die,” the cut and dry, black and white divide set up between the saved and damned. The lead guitar toward the halfway point is a standout, but even more than that, the closer seems to flog itself into deconstruction, the second half building to a head and then falling apart amid backwards guitar, vocal effects, keys, and the steady-but-slowing forward motion of the rhythm section, ending in echoes less either of rapture or devastation or maybe both. What that might mean for Mansion‘s cult, I don’t know — I didn’t even get time to get my application in — but somehow I doubt they’ve yet met their end and their apocalyptic preaching and endtimes doom will persist, distinct not only for its specificity, but for the restraint it shows musically and how well that translates to the mindset of asceticism that is such a huge part of what they do. Except for when they give in to temptation, of course.

Mansion, Uncreation (Dec. 2014)

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