Desertfest Belgium 2015: Mars Red Sky, Harsh Toke, Black Bone and Vandal X Added to Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 20th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

desertfest belgium 2015

Desertfest Belgium 2015 continues to add to its enviable lineup. As in, I’m envious that I probably won’t get to go. Harsh Toke will hit it up as part of their just-announced European tour, and French heavy psych mavens Mars Red Sky are most certainly welcome on any lineup I’m writing about. Black Bone and Vandal X also join the bill, which hey, just for fun, let’s remind that it already featured fucking Goatsnake, Orange Goblin, Fatso Jetson, Ufomammut, Dozer, Greenleaf and Bongzilla.

That list of bands was only going to be like three long and then I kept seeing more. I could’ve kept going. The full list is below. It’s insane:

desertfest belgium 2015 poster

Mars Red Sky, Harsh Toke, Black Bone and Vandal X confirmed for DESERTFEST BELGIUM

European heavy/stoner/doom gathering DESERTFEST BELGIUM has a few more announcements coming this summer, and we’re happy to bring four more bands to the 2015 bill today: France’s finest heavy psych trio MARS RED SKY, San Diego’s cosmic jammers HARSH TOKE, some straightforward rock’n’roll with Eindhoven’s BLACK-BONE, and last but not least, German prog noise duo VANDAL X. Antwerp is set to be borne away by a whirl of fuzz-drenched rock and psychedelia in October!

Bands already confirmed are: Goatsnake, Orange Goblin, Bongzilla Fatso Jetson, Dozer, Moon Duo, Greenleaf, Valient Thorr, Ufomammut, Causa Sui, Siena Root, Monolord, Mars Red Sky, Sourvein, Glowsun, Carlton Melton, Monomyth, Child, Harsh Toke, Planet Of Zeus, Vandal X, Tangled Horns, Psychonaut, The Progerians, Wheel Of Smoke, Sunder, Fever Dog, Black-Bone and 3rd Ear Experience.

More acts to be announced soon…

On the other hand, we are sorry to announce the cancellation of Philly’s psych act Ruby The Hatchet, who won’t be touring Europe this fall due to personal reasons.

DESERTFEST BELGIUM 2015
October 9-11th at Trix Muziekcentrum – Antwerp
3 day tickets (96€) on sale HERE

More infos at www.desertfest.be

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

Mars Red Sky, “The Light Beyond” official video

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Friday Full-Length: Mars Red Sky, Mars Red Sky

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 17th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

Mars Red Sky, Mars Red Sky (2011)

[Please note: For consistency’s sake, I’ve used a YouTube embed above. The album is also available on Bandcamp here.]

The 2011 self-titled debut from French heavy psych rockers Mars Red Sky has remained special to me for the last four years since it was released. Easily one of my top five albums of the last half-decade, its arrival with well-hewn tonal warmth, gorgeous melodies, easy-rolling grooves and memorable songwriting made it a perfect summer offering, and I’ve spent many nights since with it on during the warm weather, the hooks of “Strong Reflection” and “Curse” giving way to the spacious jam in “Falls,” guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras, bassist Jimmy Kinast (also vocals on “Marble Sky”) and then-drummer Benoit Busser crafting a presence that would send ripples through the heavy rock underground. It’s also a particular standout for me, because it coincided so much with Hurricane Irene in 2011. In fact, the day I reviewed it — Aug. 29, 2011 — was the day after the storm hit the northeastern part of the US.

New Jersey had been slammed, the power and water was out, and The Patient Mrs. and I wound up at a packed-out Panera Bread to work for the afternoon. I brought the CD with me, its thick-stock digipak and silver lettering no less lush than the sonics contained within, and reviewed it there, post-storm chaos all around me in downed trees, a crowded mall parking lot, people shoving past each other to get lousy sandwiches and/or halfway decent coffee. “Way to Rome,” “Strong Reflection,” “Saddle Point,” the swinging “Marble Sky,” and the quiet closer “Up the Stairs” were my escape from that, and they’ve remained an escape ever since.

I have no problem saying that Mars Red Sky — now Pras, Kinast and drummer Matgaz — outdid their self-titled with their second album, 2014’s Stranded in Arcadia (review here), which was also their debut on Listenable Records, but that doesn’t make the debut any less of a landmark on its own level. I’ve heard rumblings about a new LP in the works for 2016 and that’s one I’ll very much look forward to, but in the meantime the trio continue to support the second offering, this very weekend playing festivals in Belgium and the Netherlands, as well as a gig in their native France that, with the time difference between the US and Europe, is probably already winding down.

So be it. I could’ve dipped back and found something from the heavy ’70s to close out the week, or another older offering of one sort or another, but that Best Songs of the Last Five Years post had me thinking about Mars Red Sky‘s Mars Red Sky again, and with the beautiful weather around, it seemed high time for a revisit. I very much hope you enjoy.

Well, I made it. I’m back on the East Coast. I left the conference I was at in San Francisco for work yesterday afternoon and went to SFO airport, pretty much to sit around for a few hours, get most of today’s writing done (everything except this post) and essentially have a chance to be quiet and not have to socialize for a while, which, after the last couple days, was about as good as “sitting at the airport” gets. SFO, though, is very much in need of the revamping that is apparently in progress. Still, they had coffee, which was what I wanted. My flight was 10:50PM Pacific time, and I got in at 7:30AM Eastern. Bumpy ride. I did not sleep on the plane at all.

That was kind of a bummer in itself, but really I was too busy counting down the minutes until I landed and waiting for the aircraft to jolt and drop out of the sky, plunging us all to our fiery death, to get any substantial shuteye. I nodded off here and there, but snapped back to consciousness quickly each time.

The Patient Mrs. picked me up at Boston Logan — we came in swooping around Boston and its harbor in the morning sunlight, which was not unpleasant — and drove us both down to Connecticut, where we are for the weekend. I would’ve done a post to close out the trip, but it wasn’t really a music thing in the first place, and it seemed like if I wasn’t record shopping, it didn’t really matter what state I was in. Yesterday, I was in Cali. Today I’m in CT. I slept for about two hours this afternoon but I expect I will crash pretty hard tonight when the time comes.

On Monday, look out for a full-album stream of Sacri Monti‘s self-titled debut. It’s out next Friday, July 24, on Tee Pee and it’s killer, so that will be a blast. Then on Tuesday, another full-album stream, this one for Goya‘s new record, which just so happens to be called Obelisk and is coming out on STB Records Aug. 1. Wednesday will bring a track premiere from Kaleidobolt and Thursday one from Sweat Lodge, so there’s a lot of really cool stuff in the works. I’ll have reviews with those and one somewhere in there for T.G. Olson‘s vinyl of The Rough Embrace as well. I think I’ll try and get some Radio Adds done too, as it’s been a while, and somewhere in there I’ll have a ticket giveaway for Portland’s North West Hesh Fest, which I’m thrilled to be involved in sponsoring. But of course we’ll see how it all comes together. I’m already behind on news too, so that’s always a constant.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Please check out the forum and the radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Mars Red Sky Explore “The Light Beyond” in New Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 20th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

mars red sky

In just under a week’s time, Bordeaux heavy psych rollers Mars Red Sky will make a return trip to South America for shows in Argentina and Brazil. The latter, of course, is where they wound up recording their second album and Listenable Records debut, Stranded in Arcadia (review here), after their original plan to track in the California desert was scrapped by US customs in what I’ve since considered an embarrassing international incident caused by the ignorance of my countrymen to quality fuzz. No doubt somebody went home that day and thought they’d done a good job. Wrong-o, chief.

Those issues are easy enough to put aside because Stranded in Arcadia, which was recorded at Estúdio Superfuzz by Gabriel Zander, turned out so well. The trio of guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras, bassist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Matgaz crafted not only a progressive step froward from their 2011 self-titled debut (review here), but a highly individualized blend of sonic weight and psychedelia, the melodies, the riffs and heft all their own. It was a gorgeous record, whatever the circumstances of its making, and even as they’ve recently announced intentions toward a third album, they’re still supporting Stranded in Arcadia both on the road — that stopover in South America will be followed by another European tour — and with a new video, this one for the opening cut “The Light Beyond.”

It’s one of the most singularly gorgeous tracks on Stranded in Arcadia and the video is their most elaborate production to date. They’re known for sort of compiling clips through manipulated footage, maybe blending live shots with old movie clips and things like that, but “The Light Beyond” is a more traditional music video approach, the band staged on a sandbar as a giant manta ray made of shadow flies over head and a mysterious shaman wanders the desert. Fun note: From what I hear, the drone used for filming the band actually crashed in that lake. Hazards of working with robots, I guess.

As always, hope you enjoy:

Mars Red Sky, “The Light Beyond” official video

Taken from 2014’s critically acclaimed ‘Stranded In Arcadia’ album, the gallic power trio rockers stay true to their roots. Shot on location in France and Australia, ‘The Light Beyond’ features downtuned fuzzed up guitars, blues soaked doom laden riffage, wandering shaman, flying manta rays and deserts as far as the eye can see. 

The band will be off for a their « Soviet Attack tour » in South America next week, which will be quickly followed by a full European tour, including a special guest slot in London with Eyehategod at Desertscene Festival, among other nice events this summer:

26.05 BUENOS AIRES (Ar) Uniclub
27.05 PORTO ALLEGRE (Br) Signos Pub
28.05 SANTA MARIA (Br) Boteco do Rosário
29.05 PETROPOLIS (Br) Gypsy Bar
30.05 RIO DE JANEIRO (Br) Rio Rock & Blues
31.05 SAO PAULO (Br) Inferno Club
25.06 CARDIFF (UK) Moon Club
26.06 MILTON KEYNES (UK) Crauford Arms
27.06 LONDON (UK) The Dome (w/ Eyehategod)
28.06 PARIS – Deep #2 – Péniche Antipode
03.07 BRESCIA (It) Somen Fest
04.07 JESI (It) Field Fest
05.07 ROMA (It) Sinister Noise
17.07 MIRAMONT DE GUYENNE (47) Abracada’Sons
18.07 DOUR (Bel) Dour Festival
19.07 NIJMEGEN (NL) Valkhof Festival
29.07 KIEV (Ukr) Open Air
14.08 SAINT NOLFF (56) Motocultor Festival
15.08 VERDUN (55) Musiques & Terrasses
29.08 THONES (74) Backwoods Festival
25.09 SAINT PETERSBURG (RU) Zoccolo 2.0
26.09 MOSCOW (RU) Depressive Fest – Volta

Mars Red Sky on Thee Facebooks

Mars Red Sky’s Bandcamp

Listenable Records

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Mars Red Sky Announce South American and European Tours; New Album Plans

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 8th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

mars red sky (Photo by Geoffrey Torres)

Before Mars Red Sky hit the studio in August to record their third full-length in their native Bordeaux, the trio will embark on tours of South America — shows in Brazil and Argentina — and crisscrossing Europe for festival appearances. Brazil of course is where they wound up tracking their second record, last year’s stellar Stranded in Arcadia (review here), which also served as their debut on Listenable Records, and even as they begin to move past that album to work on the next, they’ll be releasing a new video from Stranded in Arcadia this coming week, for the song “The Light Beyond,” the engrossing eight-minute opener.

Something to look forward to there. Also will be interesting to see whether the new outing will surface later in 2015 or early in 2016. Could go either way recording in August depending on how long the mixing and mastering takes and what else they encounter along the way. Presumably recording in their hometown in a familiar setting with a friend at the helm is at least in part an effort to avoid some of the fraught experience that led to Stranded in Arcadia — the album’s title being a reference to the fact that they were supposed to record in the California desert but were ultimately denied entrance and had to scramble to find a spot in Brazil — though one was hardly inclined to argue with the results of that scramble.

From the PR wire:

mars red sky soviet attack tour

MARS RED SKY: Spring and Summer news!

May 12th – New video release “The Light Beyond”
The band will unveil their brand new video for “The Light Beyond” (directed by Sébastien Antoine), this May 12th.

May 26th – South American tour
One year after the remarkable release of their second album “Stranded In Arcadia”, French heavy trio MARS RED SKY will be back where it all started, with six shows across Argentina and Brazil.

“Soviet Attack” Tour 2015 / South America
26/05 BUENOS AIRES (Ar) Uniclub
27/05 PORTO ALEGRE (Br) Signos Pub
28/05 SANTA MARIA (Br) Boteco Do Rosário
29/05 PETROPOLIS (Br) Gypsy Bar
30/05 RIO DE JANEIRO (Br) Rio Rock & Blues Club
31/05 SAO PAULO (Br) Inferno Club

August 2015 – New album recording
Shortly after this sonic odyssey across Europe and the new continent, MARS RED SKY will take a well deserved break to focus on their upcoming full-length, to be recorded in their hometown Bordeaux with their friend and producer Gabriel Zander.

European tour and summer festivals
A full European and UK tour is to start soon, with a few shows in Italy. This summer, the band will hit renowned festivals such as Dour Festival (Belgium), Motocultor Fest (France), Valkholf Fest (Holland) and Depressive Fest in Moscow. Tour list is as follows:

07.05 TROYES (10) Chapelle Argence
08.05 TILBURG (NL) Little Devil
12.05 ROUEN (76) Les Trois Pièces
13.05 VILLENEUVE D’ASQ (59) La Ferme d’en Haut
14.05 UTRECHT (NL) dB’s
15.05 AMIENS (80) La Lune des Pirates
16.05 MAGSTADT (D) Wall Of Rock
26.05 BUENOS AIRES (Ar) Uniclub
27.05 PORTO ALLEGRE (Br) Signos Pub
28.05 SANTA MARIA (Br) Boteco do Rosário
29.05 PETROPOLIS (Br) Gypsy Bar
30.05 RIO DE JANEIRO (Br) Rio Rock & Blues
31.05 SAO PAULO (Br) Inferno Club
25.06 CARDIFF (UK) Moon Club
26.06 MILTON KEYNES (UK) The Crauford Arms
27.06 LONDON (UK) TBA
28.06 PARIS – Deep #2 – Péniche Antipode
03.07 OME – BRESCIA (It) Somen Fest
04.07 JESI (It) Field Fest
05.07 ROMA (It) Sinister Noise
17.07 MIRAMONT DE GUYENNE (47) Abracada’Sons
18.07 DOUR (Bel) Dour Festival
19.07 NIJMEGEN (NL) Valkhof Festival
14.08 SAINT NOLFF (56) Motocultor Festival
15.08 VERDUN (55) Musiques et Terrasses
29.08 THONES (74) Backwoods Festival
25.09 SAINT PETERSBURG (RU) Zoccolo 2.0
26.09 MOSCOW (RU) Depressive Fest – Volta

facebook.com/marsredskyband
marsredsky.bandcamp.com
marsredsky.bigcartel.com
youtube.com/marsredsky
twitter.com/marsredsky1
listenable.net

Mars Red Sky & Friends, Live in Bordeaux, Dec. 18, 2014

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Mars Red Sky Winter Tour Starts this Week; “Circles” Video Released

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 19th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

mars red sky

While I’m consistently bummed Mars Red Sky haven’t made it to the US yet in support of 2014’s righteous Stranded in Arcadia (review here), the release of their new video for “Circles” at least gives me an excuse to revisit the album this afternoon, and for that I’m grateful. The Bordeaux heavy psych rock trio offered one of last year’s most engaging listens with their second full-length, and this week they’ll hit the road in Europe to hand-deliver warm tones and memorable hooks to what I’ve no doubt will be a thankful audience.

The tour is broken up into different sections and really takes hold in March, but there are five dates this week, and that’s not nothing, especially with the new video accompanying. Whatever. Anytime I get to write about Mars Red Sky is a win.

Here’s this off the PR wire:

mars red sky winter tour 2015

MARS RED SKY European takeover continues; new video for “Circles” unveiled

That’s a fact: MARS RED SKY love being on the road, to such an extent that touring has become their second nature. Once again, the French trio is set to drag even more audiences into their oniric stoner rock trip with a full winter tour across France and Europe. On the occasion of this recent addition, the band also released a hypnotizing video for “Circles”.

“Circles” is a song taken off MARS RED SKY’s sophomore album “Stranded In Arcadia” (listen here), released on April 28th through French music label Listenable Records. The video was created and edited by Geoffrey Torres, and features images from Kazumasa Nagai’s and German movie director Oskar Fischinger’s work.

MARS RED SKY’s winter tour is kicking off this week, more Spring dates and festivals will be announced later. As usual, you can contact me for guest list spots and interview requests.

UPCOMING SHOWS:
21.01 – ZARAGOZA (Sp) La Ley Seca
22.01 – MADRID (Sp) Maravillas Club
23.01 – BARCELONE (Sp) Rocksound
24.01 – LE FARE (13) L’Humus
25.01 – MONTPELLIER (34) Secret Place
20.02 – BRUXELLES (Be) Psych Fest – Le Magazin 4
21.02 – GERARDMER (88) Festival Gérardm’Electric
22.02 – GENEVE (CH) Kalvingrad
27.02 – NEVERS (58) Le Café Charbon
05.03 – BORDEAUX (33) “Help Kampuchea” – I.Boat
09.03 – MUNICH (D) Feierwerk w/ Colour Haze & Radio Moscow
10.03 – KÖLN (D) Underground
11.03 – LEIPZIG (D) UT Connewitz
12.03 – BERLIN (D) Zukunft am Ostkreuz / Theatersall
13.03 – DRESDEN (D) Chemiefabrik
14.03 – WROCLAW (PL) Sound Depot
15.03 – WARSAW (PL) Klub Hydrozagadka
16.03 – GDANSK (PL) Wydzial Remontowy
17.03 – COPENHAGEN (DK) KB18
18.03 – SWEDEN TBA
19.03 – SWEDEN TBA
20.03 – OSLO (Nor) Vulkan Arena
21.03 – AALBORG (DK) 1000Fryd
22.03 – BREMEN (D) Römer
23.03 – TILBURG (NL) Little Devil
23.03 – TILBURG (NL) Little Devil
24.03 – UTRECHT (NL) DB’s Club
25.03 – DUNKERQUE (59) L’Entrepôt
26.03 – VILLENEUVE D’ASQ (59) La Ferme d’en Haut
15.08 – SAINT NOLFF (56) Motocultor Festival
Artwork by Markel Urrutia / Smoke Signals

“Stranded in Arcadia” is still available worldwide
as well as on marsredsky.bigcartel.com

www.facebook.com/marsredskyband
www.marsredsky.bandcamp.com
www.youtube.com/marsredsky
www.twitter.com/marsredsky1
www.listenable.net

Mars Red Sky, “Circles” official video

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The Top 20 of 2014 Readers Poll — RESULTS!

Posted in Features on January 2nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

top-20-of-2014-readers-poll-RESULTS-etching-by-maxime-lalanne

It was close for a long time, but in the last week or so, one record pulled ahead to stake a definitive claim on the top spot. Even so, more than the 2013 poll, this was a fun one to watch, three albums duking it out, trading back and forth in the raw votes depending on who happened to submit a list at any given time. In the end, 355 people participated in this year’s poll, which is an average of over 11 per day — there was a significant push at the end — and up from 2013, which now that it’s 2015 will no doubt soon feel like ancient history.

To that end, Happy New Year and huge, huge thanks to everyone who took the time to contribute a list to the poll. Even if it was one or two records, the simple fact that you felt it was worth your time to type out the names of bands and albums and take part in this thing is unbelievably gratifying to me. I do a lot of the talking around here, apart from comments and the forum, so to have your participation in this really means a lot to me. It’s nice knowing you give enough of a crap to take part.

You’ll find two lists below. The first, measured in points, is the weighted tally. A 1-4 ranking is worth five points, 5-8 worth four, 9-12 worth three, 13-16 worth two and 17-20 worth one. After that comes the raw votes, a measure of what caught the most attention along the way.

After the jump, you’ll also find all the lists contributed to the poll — including my own, which seemed fair since I do a lot of reading on this site, mostly to experience shame at the typos and correct them hoping no one else noticed — presented in the order in which they were received. Thank you all again.

Top 20 of 2014 — Weighted Results

yob-clearing-the-path-to-ascend

1. YOB, Clearing the Path to Ascend (560 points)
2. Wo Fat, The Conjuring (404)
3. Electric Wizard, Time to Die (367)
4. Pallbearer, Foundations of Burden (334)
5. Conan, Blood Eagle (275)
6. Orange Goblin, Back from the Abyss (254)
7. Greenleaf, Trails and Passes (240)
8. Truckfighters, Universe (237)
9. Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, Black Power Flower (235)
10. Earth, Primitive and Deadly (230)
11. Fu Manchu, Gigantoid (225)
12. Blues Pills, Blues Pills (211)
13. Lo-Pan, Colossus (202)
14. Eyehategod, Eyehategod (198)
15. Monolord, Empress Rising (190)
16. Mastodon, Once More ‘Round the Sun (188)
17. Mars Red Sky, Stranded in Arcadia (161)
18. John Garcia, John Garcia (156)
19. Bongripper, Miserable (141)
20. Radio Moscow, Magical Dirt (127)

Honorable mention to:
Goat, Commune (126)
Swans, To be Kind (117)
Monster Magnet, Milking the Stars (116)
Blood Farmers, Headless Eyes (105)
Floor, Oblation (104)
Mothership, II (104)

Stubb, Elephant Tree, Thou and plenty of others also did very well in the voting, but everything else I could find was less than 100 points. Again, it was close for a while between Wo Fat, Electric Wizard and YOB — and Pallbearer wasn’t so far behind them, either — but YOB pulled it out in the end and jumped way in front of everyone else. A lot of number-one votes for Clearing the Path to Ascend, which I can understand completely, since I happened to agree with the position.

On to the raw votes:

Top 20 of 2014 — Raw Votes

yob-clearing-the-path-to-ascend

1. YOB, Clearing the Path to Ascend (138 votes)
2. Wo Fat, The Conjuring (111)
3. Electric Wizard, Time to Die (104)
4. Pallbearer, Foundations of Burden (89)
5. Orange Goblin, Back from the Abyss (78)
6. Conan, Blood Eagle (72)
7. Fu Manchu, Gigantoid (71)
8. Truckfighters, Universe (66)
9. Earth, Primitive and Deadly (65)
10. Greenleaf, Trails and Passes (64)
11. Blues Pills, Blues Pills (63)
12. Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, Black Power Flower (60)
13. Lo-Pan, Colossus (58)
14. Eyehategod, Eyehategod (55)
15. Monolord, Empress Rising (52)
16. Mars Red Sky, Stranded in Arcadia (48)
16. Mastodon, Once More ‘Round the Sun (48)
17. John Garcia, John Garcia (47)
18. Bongripper, Miserable (41)
18. Radio Moscow, Magical Dirt (41)
19. Goat, Commune (37)
19. Mothership, II (37)
20. Swans, To be Kind (32)

And some honorable mentions:
Dwellers, Pagan Fruit (31)
Floor, Oblation (31)
Monster Magnet, Milking the Stars (31)
Mos Generator, Electric Mountain Majesty (30)
Thou, Heathen (30)
The Well, Samsara (30)

A couple ties here make the raw votes list a little more inclusive, and since it’s not like we’re giving out olympic medals, it didn’t seem fair to count out ties and sacrifice other numbers. The top 20 has 23 entries? Yeah, sounds about right. Again, not much mystery ultimately to who came out on top, but it was a more thrilling race than the final numbers might suggest. Cool to see some differences in placement emerge between the two lists as well, Greenleaf and Brant Bjork doing really well in the weighted results since they obviously inspire some strong support, and a couple of others working their way into the raw votes top 20. I’m not really a numbers guy, but it’s been cool putting this together.

About not being a numbers guy: All the lists that came in appear after the jump below. If you find some glaring error in my math, or something seems like it really got enough votes to be included in one or the other, it’s possible I just missed it. I hope you’ll point it out in the comments so that if there is a mistake, I can get on correcting it as soon as possible. Your vigilance is sincerely appreciated.

And thank you again so much for being a part of this readers poll. It’s been a really great experience and I look forward to doing it again come Dec. 2015.

Please find everybody’s list after the jump, and have fun browsing:

Read more »

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audiObelisk Transmission 043

Posted in Podcasts on December 23rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Click Here to Download

 

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

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

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

And once again, hope you dig it:

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

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

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

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

Total running time: 4:02:57

 

Thank you for listening.

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 30 of 2014

Posted in Features on December 22nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

the-obelisk-top-30-of-2014

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

This was a hard list to put together. The top three have been set in my mind for probably the last month, but trying to work my way backwards from there was a real challenge — what’s a top 10 record, a top 20 record, a top 30, honorable mentions and all the rest. I’ve never done a full top 30 before, always 20, but the truth is there was just too much this year to not expand.

I’m still juggling numbers even as I put together this post, and I’m sure that by the time I’m done several records will have switched places. That’s always how it seems to go. What I’m confident that I have is a list accurately representing critique and my own habits, both what I gravitated toward in listening throughout the year and what I feel is noteworthy on a critical level. This site has always been a blend of those two impulses. It’s only fair this list should be as well.

Before we dig in, you should note this is full-length albums only. I’ll have a list of short releases (EPs, singles, demos) to come, as well as a special list of debut releases, since it seemed to be a particularly good year for them. And since I’m only one person, I couldn’t hear everything, much as I tried.

Okay. Here we go:

30. Orange Goblin, Back from the Abyss

orange-goblin-back-from-the-abyss

Released by Candlelight Records. Reviewed on Nov. 17.

The kings of London’s heavy scene offered more powerhouse heavy rock with their eighth album and second for Candlelight, and their rabid and ever-growing fanbase ate it up. Back from the Abyss proved yet again that few can attain the kind of vicious force that seems to come so natural to Orange Goblin, and made it clear their domination shows no signs of losing momentum.

 

29. Mos Generator, Electric Mountain Majesty

mos-generator-electric-mountain-majesty

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed on March 14.

A darker affair from Port Orchard, Washington’s Mos GeneratorElectric Mountain Majesty still found its core in the songwriting led by guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed. They’re a band with some changes on the horizon, and I’ll be interested to hear what hindsight does to these songs. As it was, the hooks and downer vibes may have been in conceptual conflict, but the execution was inarguable.

 

28. Pilgrim, II: Void Worship

pilgrim-ii-void-worship

Released by Metal Blade Records. Reviewed on April 15.

Richer in the listening than 2012’s Misery Wizard debut, Pilgrim‘s II: Void Worship nonetheless held firm to the doomly spirit that’s made the Rhode Island outfit such a sensation these last couple years. Its longer songs, “Master’s Chamber,” “Void Worship” and the emotionally weighted “Away from Here,” were particularly immersive, and they remain a bright spot in doom’s future.

 

27. John Garcia, John Garcia

john-garcia-john-garcia

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed on July 7.

His long-awaited solo debut, John Garcia‘s John Garcia offered memorable tracks culled from years of songwriting from the former Kyuss, Slo Burn, Unida and Hermano frontman, performed in the classic desert rock style he helped define. I’m not sure it was worth trading a second Vista Chino record for, but it was hard to argue with “The Blvd” and “All These Walls.”

 

26. Swans, To be Kind

swans-to-be-kind

Released by Mute/Young God Records. Reviewed on May 9.

An overwhelming two-disc barrage from a relentless creativity that, more than 30 years on from its first public incarnation, is still to be considered avant garde. I’m not sure planet earth realizes how lucky it is to have Swans running around unleashing all this chaos, but I hope they don’t stop anytime soon. To be Kind was brutal and beautiful in like measure.

 

25. Alunah, Awakening the Forest

alunah awakening the forest

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Oct. 14.

I initially made this list without Alunah‘s excellent third album and Napalm Records, but when it came down to it, not having the UK four-piece on here haunted me to the point where I had to come back in and swap them out with somebody else. Just couldn’t live with myself for not giving this record its due, which, to be frank, I’m still not since it should be higher on the list than it is. At least it’s here though, so the mistake is somewhat corrected.

 

24. Greenleaf, Trails and Passes

greenleaf-trails-and-passes

Released by Small Stone Records. Reviewed on April 25.

The follow-up to Greenleaf‘s stellar 2012 outing Nest of Vipers (review here) brought lineup changes and stripped away many of the textural elements of the band’s sound — guest appearances, arrangement flourishes — in order to get back to a classic heavy rock sound and translate better to the stage. With guitarist Tommi Holappa‘s songwriting ever at the core, it would be unfair to call the process anything but a success.

 

23. Earth, Primitive and Deadly

earth-primitive-and-deadly

Released by Southern Lord Recordings. Reviewed on Sept. 9.

Most of the headlines went to the fact that Primitive and Deadly had vocals, where the generally-instrumental Earth had avoided singers for 18 years prior, but even putting aside Mark Lanegan and Rabi Shabeen Qazi, whose performance on “From the Zodiacal Light” was the high point of the record, presented Earth‘s always progressive tensions in a rawer, heavier production, and was a joy for longtime fans.

 

22. Ogre, The Last Neanderthal

ogre-the-last-neanderthal

Released by Minotauro Records. Reviewed on March 10.

Six years and one breakup later, Portland, Maine, doom trio Ogre returned with The Last Neanderthal, neither afraid to revel in Sabbathian traditionalism or rock out a more upbeat cut like opener “Nine Princes in Amber.” For bassist/vocalist Ed Cunningham, guitarist Ross Markonish and drummer Will Broadbent, it was a welcome resurgence of pretense-free heavy riffs and grooves.

 

21. The Wounded Kings, Consolamentum

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Released by Candlelight Records. Reviewed on Jan. 30.

Of course, at the time we didn’t know it would be the final outing from this lineup of UK doomers The Wounded Kings, whose guitarist/founder Steve Mills has now reunited with original vocalist George Birch, but Consolamentum was a hell of a closing statement anyway for this era of the band, showcasing their murky, increasingly progressive style still waiting for wider appreciation.

 

20. Floor, Oblation

floor-oblation

Released by Season of Mist. Reviewed on April 22.

Wasn’t sure where to put Floor‘s reunion offering, Oblation, on this list at first, since I kind of fell off listening to it as the year went on, but I’ve gone back to it over the last couple weeks and it has held up to the revisit, whether it’s songs like the extended “Sign of Aeth” or shorter, catchy pummelers like “Rocinante” or “War Party.” Floor‘s 2002 self-titled holds an untouchable legacy in heavy rock, but I think the years will prove Oblation a worthy successor. Nobody knew what they had with Floor at the time either.

 

19. Druglord, Enter Venus

druglord-enter-venus

Released by STB Records. Reviewed on Feb. 14.

Little on 2011’s Motherfucker Rising (review here) or their 2010 demo (review here) prepared for the kind of assault that Druglord‘s Enter Venus brought to bear. Four stomp-laden slabs of tectonic crash and distortion, vocals buried under and calling up from the amp-bred fog. The Virginian trio were in and out on the 27-minute 12″ release, but had enough heavy for a record twice as long, and the tinges of darkened psychedelia made their songs like a lurking presence just on the edge of consciousness, a threat waiting to be unleashed.

 

18. Ararat, Cabalgata Hacia la Luz

ararat-cabalgata-hacia-la-luz

Released by Oui Oui Records. Reviewed on April 4.

For the sheer variety of Ararat‘s third album in rockers like “Nicotina y Destrucción,” “El Hijo de Ignacio,” the experimentalism of “El Arca” and the piano-driven “Los Viajes” and the acoustic closer “Atalayah,” and the assured, flowing manner in which the Argentina trio pulled it all off, Cabalgata Hacia la Luz should be higher on this list than it is. Part of that might be my frustration at my apparent inability to buy a copy, but don’t let that take away from the quality of the material here, which is wonderfully chaotic, memorable and engaging, rushing in some places and stopping to weep in others.

 

17. Radio Moscow, Magical Dirt

radio-moscow-magical-dirt

Released by Alive Naturalsound. Reviewed on May 29.

You won’t hear me deny that Radio Moscow‘s primary impact is as a live band, but their fifth album, Magical Dirt, managed to bring forth much of their psychedelic blues presence in “Death of a Queen,” “Before it Burns” and “Gypsy Fast Woman,” the blinding rhythmic turns and wah-soaked guitar supremacy of Parker Griggs front and center throughout. Together with bassist Anthony Meier (also Sacri Monti) and drummer Paul Marrone (also Astra and Psicomagia), Radio Moscow are hitting their stride as one of heavy rock’s most powerful power trios. One never knows what to expect, but hopefully they keep going the way they are.

 

16. Apostle of Solitude, Of Woe and Wounds

apostle-of-solitude-of-woe-and-wounds

Released by Cruz del Sur. Reviewed on Nov. 6.

Four years isn’t the longest time I’ve ever waited for a record to come out, but in the case of Indianapolis’ Apostle of Solitude, it felt like an especially long stretch. Their third full-length and first for Cruz del Sur, Of Woe and Wounds followed the anticipation-building Demo 2012 (review here) and a couple splits and brought aboard bassist Dan Dividson and guitarist/vocalist Steve Janiak (also Devil to Pay), who fit well with drummer Corey Webb and guitarist/vocalist Chuck Brown to result in a payoff worthy and indicative of the time that went into its making. Hands down one of the finest acts in American doom.

 

15. Stubb, Cry of the Ocean

stubb-cry-of-the-ocean

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed on Nov. 24.

Stubb‘s second long-player, also their debut on Ripple, gets a nod for the sense of progression it brought in answering the potential of the trio’s 2012 self-titled debut (review here), guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson, bassist Peter Holland and new drummer Tom Fyfe expanding the scope to include more heavy psych influence and soul along with the fuzz riffs and steady rolling while giving no ground in terms of the level of craft at work. Cry of the Ocean has become one of those albums where all I have to do is look at a title, be it “Cry of the Ocean Pt. I” or “Sail Forever” or “Heartbreaker,” and the song is immediately stuck in my head. With these tracks, that’s not at all a complaint.

 

14. Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, Black Power Flower

brant-bjork-and-the-low-desert-punk-band-black-power-flower

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed on Nov. 10.

Brant Bjork has worn many hats, literal and figurative, over the years, whether it’s drummer in Kyuss or Fu Manchu, producer, solo artist or bandleader. With Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, he steps once again into the latter role, and with guitarist Bubba DuPree, bassist Dave Dinsmore and drummer Tony Tornay, presents not only on his heaviest record to date, but what could easily begin a sustainable full-band progression that can go just about anywhere his songwriting wants to take it. “Stokely up Now,” “That’s a Fact Jack,” “Controllers Denied” and “Boogie Woogie on Your Brain” made for some of 2014’s best in desert rock, and Black Power Flower was an stellar return for Bjork to his “solo” work.

 

13. Dwellers, Pagan Fruit

dwellers-pagan-fruit

Released by Small Stone. Reviewed on May 22.

An earlier version of this list had Pagan Fruit at a lower number, but I couldn’t live with it not being closer to the top 10. Salt Lake City’s Dwellers pushed deeper into laid back psych and blues on their second album, and in doing so, crafted an atmosphere entirely their own. From “Creature Comfort” down to “Call of the Hollowed Horn,” with triumphs along the way like “Rare Eagle,” “Totem Crawler” (“Ohh, my queen… To whom, I crawl…) and “Son of Raven,” Pagan Fruit became a staple of my 2014, building off their 2012 debut, Good Morning Harakiri (review here), but presenting their stylistic growth with a confidence and poise that can only come from a band who’ve figured out what they want to be doing and how they want to do it. Front to back, Pagan Fruit sounds like an arrival.

 

12. The Golden Grass, The Golden Grass

the-golden-grass-the-golden-grass

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed on March 25.

What made Brooklyn trio The Golden Grass‘ self-titled debut such a special released wasn’t just that it was heavy, or that the tracks were catchy, or that guitarist Michael Rafalowich and drummer Adam Kriney could harmonize over Joe Noval‘s warm-toned basslines. That was all great, don’t get me wrong, but what really stood out about The Golden Grass was its irony-free positivity, the way it was able to capture an upbeat, sunshiny feel without having to smirk about it on the other side of its mouth. It was self-aware, to be sure — knew what it was doing — but the way I see it, consciousness only makes the stylistic choices more impressive. Add to that the nuance they brought to ’70s revivalism, and all that stuff about catchiness and the harmonies, and there just wasn’t a level on which the album didn’t work.

 

11. The Well, Samsara

the-well-samsara

Released by RidingEasy Records. Reviewed on Sept. 22.

My appreciation continues to grow for The Well‘s Samsara, which successfully pulled together influences from garage doom and heavy psychedelia while crafting an identity for the Austin, Texas, three-piece at once raw and melodically accomplished, guitarist Ian Graham and bassist Lisa Alley sharing vocals to classic effect on “Refuge” while otherwise trading off lead position to bolster variety in the material. The high point might’ve been the eight-minute “Eternal Well,” on which GrahamAlley and drummer Jason Sullivvan conjured some of their grooviest demons, but the hooks of “Mortal Bones,” “Trespass” and the attitude-laced “Dragon Snort” were no less engaging. One of many strong releases from their label this year — Slow SeasonThe Picturebooks, etc. — they seemed to come ready to serve notice of a stylistic movement underway.

 

10. Montibus Communitas, The Pilgrim to the Absolute

montibus-communitas-the-pilgrim-to-the-absolute

Released by Beyond Beyond is Beyond. Reviewed on Dec. 4.

Peruvian psych adventurers Montibus Communitas more or less blew my mind when I heard their late-2013 offering, Harvest Times earlier this year, and the narrative, conceptual 2014 release, The Pilgrim to the Absolute, is even more of an achievement in its portrayal of improvised exploration, sonic ritualism and open creativity. The weaving of longer pieces against shorter ones with the various steps along the path as presented in the titles, some journeying, some arriving, some descriptive, almost all accompanied by nature in one form or another, gives The Pilgrim to the Absolute an almost impressionistic quality, so that even as you listen to it, you engage it as much as it carries you along its vibrant, breathtaking progression en route to the closing title-track, which is a destination every bit worthy of the journey. This is the most recently reviewed inclusion on this list, but Montibus Communitas‘ latest readily earns its place in the top 10. It is unique in its surroundings.

 

9. Fu Manchu, Gigantoid

fu-manchu-gigantoid

Released by At the Dojo Records. Reviewed on May 14.

Looking back at the last two Fu Manchu records, 2007’s We Must Obey and 2009’s Signs of Infinite Power, it seemed reasonable to expect the groundbreaking SoCal fuzz foursome to put out another collection of big-sounding riffs in a big-sounding production. Nothing to complain about, but probably not a landmark. By going the other way completely — stripping their buzzed-out riffing down to its punkish core thanks in no small part to recording with Moab‘s Andrew GiacumakisFu Manchu served up a raw reminder both of where they came from and how top notch their songwriting remains. Reissuing their earliest work and being on their own label might’ve had something to do with it, but whatever it was, the 35 minutes of Gigantoid was as efficient a heavy rock outing as one could hope from an already legendary band, whether it was the hook-prone opening salvo of “Dimension Shifter,” “Invaders on My Back,” “Anxiety Reducer” and “Radio Source Sagittarius” or the righteous ending jam “The Last Question.”

 

8. The Skull, For Those Which are Asleep

the-skull-for-those-which-are-asleep

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed on Nov. 5.

Given the origins of The Skull — ex-Trouble members Eric Wagner, Jeff “Oly” Olson and Ron Holzner joining with Lothar Keller and a series of other guitarists, finally Matt Goldsborough, working essentially as a tribute band to their former outfit — I think not only did the quality of the material and performance on For Those Which are Asleep surprise, as well as the classically doomed feel that resonates throughout the album, but the sheer heartfelt nature of songs like “Sick of it All,” “Send Judas Down” and the title-track itself. This wasn’t a cynical attempt to make a go of an already set legacy. It was an expression of appreciation both for what they accomplished as Trouble and a desire to continue that work. The Skull‘s whole thing has been that they’re “more Trouble than Trouble,” and in their lineup that’s been true since they brought Olson on board. For Those Which are Asleep demonstrated that the classic spirit of that band is alive and well, its address has just changed. Moreover, it’s the beginning of a new progression for that spirit, and I hope it continues.

 

7. Blood Farmers, Headless Eyes

blood-farmers-headless-eyes

Self-released on CD, LP on PATAC Records. Reviewed on March 24.

Nineteen years after releasing their self-titled debut, New York’s Blood Farmers contended for 2014’s comeback of the year with their sophomore outing, Headless Eyes — a morose, horror-obsessed six-track collection that on “Night of the Sorcerers” owed as much to Goblin as to Sabbath. The closing cover of David Hess‘ theme from The Last House on the Left, “The Road Leads to Nowhere,” was a late bit of melodic flourish to add depth, but how could the highlight be anything other than the 10-minute title-track itself, with its samples from the 1971 horror flick The Headless Eyes, bassist Eli Brown in a call and response with lyrics comprised of lines directly taken from the movie? That after playing shows the last several years, Blood Farmers managed to get a record out was impressive enough. That Headless Eyes turned out to be the year’s best traditional doom release was an entirely different level of surprise. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for their third, but Brown, guitarist David Szulkin and drummer Tad Leger gave plenty to chew on with Blood Farmers‘ second. It was better than would’ve been fair to expect.

 

6. Lo-Pan, Colossus

lo-pan-colossus

Released by Small Stone. Reviewed on Oct. 7.

A lot of what you need to know about Lo-Pan‘s fourth album you learn in the first five seconds of opener “Regulus.” There’s no fancy intro, no time wasted, nothing to take away from the directness of the song itself. Tones are crisp — the verse is already underway — and guitar, bass and drums are laser-focused in their forward movement. Even when vocalist Jeff Martin enters the song, roughly six seconds later, his arrival comes with no indulgence, no pomp. Colossus is easily Lo-Pan‘s most immediate work to date, and throughout, Martin, guitarist Brian Fristoe (since replaced by Adrian Zambrano), bassist Scott Thompson and drummer Jesse Bartz retain that focus no matter where the material takes them, delivering a clinic in how to kick as much ass as possible at any given moment on cuts like “Marathon Man” and “Eastern Seas,” or even bringing in guest vocalist Jason Alexander Byers, who also designed the album cover, for a spot on “Vox.” They had a hard task in following up 2011’s Salvador (review here), but the Columbus, Ohio, unit stood up to the challenge and met it and everyone else head-on.

 

5a. All Them Witches, Lightning at the Door

all-them-witches-lightning-at-the-door

Self-released. Reviewed on Sept. 25.

What to do with All Them Witches‘ Lightning at the Door? The Nashville four-piece released the album last fall digitally, but it wasn’t until this September that it saw a physical manifestation. In fact, if you go back, it was included on the Top 20 of 2013 as well. Which is the release date? I don’t know. What I know is that in terms of the sheer amount of time spent listening, I put on Lightning at the Door more than any other record this year. From where I sit, that alone gets it a place in the top five. Yeah, it might be a cop-out to do a “5a,” but sometimes exceptions have to be made, and All Them Witches have proved to be nothing if not exceptional in their still relatively brief, jam-laden history, the psych-blues dynamic between bassist/vocalist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod, Fender Rhodes specialist Allan van Cleave and drummer Robby Staebler pushing them quickly to the fore of American heavy rock’s innovators, their natural, improv-sounding material feeling brazen and exploratory while reshaping the elements of genre to suit their needs. One can only see this dynamic developing further as they continue to grow as a live band, so Lightning at the Door may just be the start, and that’s perhaps most exciting of all.

 

5. Witch Mountain, Mobile of Angels

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Released by Profound Lore. Reviewed on Aug. 20.

A beautiful, stunning work made even more powerful by the honesty driving it. Portland, Oregon’s Witch Mountain completed a trilogy with the Billy Anderson-produced Mobile of Angels that brought about some of the best doom of this young decade, their 2011 return from a years-long hiatus, South of Salem (review here) serving as the foundation for a stylistic progression that continued on the following year’s Cauldron of the Wild (review here) and onto Mobile of Angels itself as the four-piece’s most accomplished album to date. The reason it feels like such a concluding chapter is because of the departure of vocalist Uta Plotkin, whose voice helped establish Witch Mountain both on stage and in the studio, leaving founders Rob Wrong (guitar) and Nathan Carson (drums) with the sizable task of finding a replacement. That situation will be what it will be, but Mobile of Angels remains a gorgeous, lonely testament. Plotkin gives a landmark performance on “Can’t Settle” and “The Shape Truth Takes,” which in the context of what was happening in Witch Mountain at the time ring with a truth that’s rare in or out of doom, and she seems to have left the band just as they were hitting their finest hour. So it goes.

 

4. Conan, Blood Eagle

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Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed on Jan. 22.

In all of heavy, there is no assault so severe as Conan‘s. With their second full-length and debut on Napalm Records, the UK trio solidified the two sides of the preceding 2012 outing, Monnos (review here), in constructing material that, fast or slow, short or long, retained an epic feel melded with their ungodly tonality and memorable songwriting. Their first recording at guitarist/vocalist Jon DavisSkyhammer Studio, it affirmed Conan‘s will to conquer in its two massive bookends, “Crown of Talons” and “Altar of Grief,” and in the High on Fire-worthy gallop of “Foehammer” — a bludgeon commandingly wielded by Davis, bassist/vocalist Phil Coumbe and drummer Paul O’Neil, the latter to of whom have since left the band to be replaced by longtime-producer Chris Fielding and Rich Lewis, respectively. What effect the changes might have on the band — except apparently more touring, which isn’t a bad thing — have yet to be seen, but Conan are already in the process of writing a follow-up to Blood Eagle, so it doesn’t seem like it’ll be all that long until we find out. With Davis still steering the band in songwriting and overall direction, one severely doubts they’ll be fixing what obviously isn’t broken anytime soon. None heavier.

 

3. Wo Fat, The Conjuring

wo-fat-the-conjuring

Released by Small Stone Records. Reviewed on June 18.

Dallas riff-rockers Wo Fat have grown steadily over the course of their five albums, from the nascent heavy roll of 2006’s The Gathering Dark, to the hooks of 2008’s Psychedelonaut (review here), the jamming that started to surface on 2011’s Noche del Chupacabra (review here) and was pushed further on 2012’s The Black Code (review here). And their approach has been as steady as the frequency of their releases. In making The Conjuring, the three-piece were simply engaging the next step in their progression, but the material on the five-track/48-minute outing goes further than just that. Putting aside (momentarily) the 17-minute closer “Dreamwalker,” the other cuts, “The Conjuring,” “Read the Omens,” “Pale Rider from the Ice” and “Beggar’s Bargain” each found a place for themselves in pulling together jammed-sounding elements with a memorable construction, and when guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, bassist Tim Wilson and drummer Michael Walter did kick into “Dreamwalker,” they hit on not only their longest piece yet, but their most accomplished showcase of the chemistry that has developed between them. That song is a beast unto itself, but as has been the case with Wo Fat each time out so far in their career, there’s nothing on The Conjuring to give the impression the band can’t or won’t continue to keep going on the path that’s worked so well for them on this point. They’ve spent the last eight years on the right track and have yet to waiver. The Conjuring should be played at top volume for anyone who contends there’s no life left in heavy rock and roll.

 

2. Mars Red Sky, Stranded in Arcadia

mars-red-sky-stranded-in-arcadia

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed on March 11.

Mars Red Sky‘s second LP and first for Listenable, Stranded in Arcadia was originally supposed to be recorded in the California desert, but visa problems kept the French trio of guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras, bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Matgaz in Brazil, where they’d previously been touring. Thus, “stranded in Arcadia,” which is basically another way of saying “lost in paradise.” Can’t say the Bordeaux three-piece didn’t make the most of it, though. Songs like “The Light Beyond” and “Hovering Satellites” — not to mention the utter melodic bliss of “Join the Race” — took cues from their 2011 self-titled debut (review here) in terms of memorable songwriting and melodic craft, but added to that heft and tonal richness more of a psychedelic vibe, so that not only was there fuzz and wah, but a spacious world in which the songs took place. With Kinast on lead vocals, the sneaky boogie of “Holy Mondays” became a highlight, and the one-two swing ‘n’ stomp of “Circles” and “Seen a Ghost” were a perfect demonstration by the band of the various sides of their sound, particularly following after the dreamy instrumental “Arcadia,” an echoing jam distinguished by Pras‘ wistful guitar lead and coming before the closing “Beyond the Light,” which reprises the opener’s resonant unfolding. It probably wasn’t the record they intended to make, but Stranded in Arcadia became one of my go-to albums for 2014, and like the best of any given year’s output, I’ve no doubt it will transcend the passage of time and continue to deliver for years to come. Hell, I was barely done with the debut when this one came out.

 

1. YOB, Clearing the Path to Ascend

yob-clearing-the-path-to-ascend

Released by Neurot Recordings. Reviewed on Sept. 3.

“It’s time to wake up.”

Can’t imagine this is any great surprise. Not only did Clearing the Path to Ascend — YOB‘s seventh album and first for Neurot — produce my pick for song of the year in its sprawling, emotionally weighted 18-minute closer, “Marrow,” but in the three full-lengths the Eugene, Oregon, trio of drummer Travis Foster, bassist Aaron Rieseberg and guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt have released since the latter reformed the band after breaking it up following 2005’s The Unreal Never Lived, all three have been my album of the year. The Great Cessation was in 2009, and Atma was in 2011. Consistency aside, I’ll point out specifically that each of the same three records has earned that position, perhaps Clearing the Path to Ascend most of all for its progressive feel, moving past genre even at its most raging moment, second cut “Nothing to Win,” the chorus of which proved that among everything else YOB could be, they could be anthemic. The cosmic, spiritual questing that has always been present in their songs, that feeling of searching, showed up in opener “In Our Blood,” but even there, it was evident YOB were pushing themselves beyond what they’ve done before, rewriting their own formulas incorporating lessons from their past in among their other points of inspiration. “Unmask the Spectre” could have easily been an album closer itself, with its patient exploration and feverishly intense payoff, but with the melodic progressivism of “Marrow” and the soul poured into every second of that track, every verse and chorus, solo and build — including the Hammond added to the last of them by producer Billy Barnett — YOB created a landmark both for themselves and the increasing many working under their influence. I’ve said on several occasions (bordering on “many” at this point) that YOB are a once-in-a-generation band, and it feels truer in thinking of Clearing the Path to Ascend than it ever has. Without a doubt, album of the year and then some.

 

 

Honorable Mention

First, special note to Colour Haze‘s To the Highest Gods We Know. I’ve decided to count it as a 2015 release since the vinyl will be out in Spring, but otherwise surely it would earn a place on this list. Blackwolfgoat‘s Drone Maintenance also deserves note.

A few other honorable mentions:

MothershipMothership II — It’s hard to argue with a classic heavy rock power trio kicking ass. I won’t try.

Sólstafir, Ótta — They were originally on the list proper but had to be moved to make room for Alunah. I didn’t really get to know this record in 2014 anyway.

Ice DragonSeeds from a Dying Garden — Boston experimental psych/garage doomers continue to defy expectation. May their weirdness last forever and continue to produce material so satisfying.

TruckfightersUniverse — I thought at some point I’d go back to Universe again, but never really did. A problem with me more than the album.

SteakSlab City — An impressive debut following two strong EPs.

GodfleshA World Lit Only by Fire — I never got a review copy, so I never reviewed it. Its name is here because I’m a fan of the band and glad they’re back.

ThouHeathen — Just recently purchased this and am only getting to know it, but a ridiculously strong album.

Corrosion of ConformityIX — Everybody who gets a boner whenever Pepper Keenan is mentioned in connection with this band has missed out. This record and the self-titled kick ass.

SpidergawdSpidergawd — Holy shit they’re over here! No they’re over there! No wait over here again! Oh my god I’ve just gone blind!

Monster MagnetMilking the Stars — I wasn’t sure what to do with this since technically it’s not a new album, mostly reworked songs from the last one. I still listened to it a ton though, whatever it is.

SlomaticsEstron — Another one I’m just getting to know, but am very much digging.

Electric WizardTime to Die — People seem to do this thing where Electric Wizard puts out a record, everyone slathers over it for a few months and then spends the next two years talking about how it sucked. I guess I’ll be on the ground floor with not having been that into Time to Die.

PallbearerFoundations of Burden — Had to put their name somewhere on this list or someone would burn my house down. Album of the year for many.

The list goes on: Monolord, Comet Control, Mammatus, Triptykon, Eyehategod, Fever Dog, Moab, Karma to Burn, Atavismo, Grifter, 1000mods, Megaton Leviathan, Wovenhand, Mr. Peter Hayden, Primordial, and many more.

Before I check out and go sit in a corner somewhere to try and rebuild brain power after this massive dump of a purge, I want to sincerely thank you for reading. If you check in regularly, or if you’ve never been to the site before, if you don’t give a crap about lists or if you’re gonna go listen to even one band on here, it’s fantastic to me. Thank you so much for all the support this site receives, for your comments, for sharing links, retweeting, whatever it is. I am a real person — I’m sitting on my couch at this very moment — and being able to do this and have people see it and be a part of it with me is unbelievable. I realize how fortunate I am. So thank you. Thank you.

Thank you.

More to come as we close out 2014. I’ll have a list of short/split/demo releases, a year-end podcast, a list of the best debuts, a round up of the best live shows I saw, as much more as time allows. Please stay tuned.

And again, thank you. If I left anyone off the list, I hope you’ll let me know in the comments and contribute your own top albums, however many there are, to the Readers Poll.

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