Mars Red Sky Post “The Proving Grounds” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 29th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

mars red sky (Photo by Rod Maurice)

Today is Thursday. This past Monday, I posted a streaming interview with Mars Red Sky wherein among the subjects covered was the castle in the south of their native France in which the band wrote and recorded for their new album, The Task Eternal, set to release Sept. 27 through Listenable Records. Their new video for “The Proving Grounds,” the expansive opening track of that record, was filmed in presumably around that same space, as we can see the band in the kind of parlor room from whence prior album updates were made, lit by spotlights intended to evoke almost a fireplace kind of feel, playing up a sense of organic surroundings, rock walls, open fields, and so on. There is a character who makes his way to the roof of the structure and sends up a flare, attracting the attention of an awesome disco-ball of a spaceship, which would seem to beam him aboard as the song reaches its melodic wash of a culmination. To call it apropos of how the track itself leads into the rest of The Task Eternal would be underselling it.

One thing I didn’t realize about “The Proving Grounds” until seeing the lyrics printed on the YouTube page with the video itself was the defiant stance of the hook. To wit, “We’ll prove you wrong/And carry on/We’ll carry on/You’re going down now/We’ll prove you wrong/And carry on/On proving grounds/You’re going down.” Those are hardcore lyrics! Mars Red Sky sound like they’re looking for a fight. It’s a somewhat unexpected perspective of confrontationalism from the Bordeaux trio, but still carried across in their trademark melodic heavy psychedelic and progressive fashion. I guess once you’re dug into that vibe, you can do with it as you will, but the edge is still something new from them. I have to wonder what the song is actually about specifically, if there’s one thing to which it’s responding or more of a general statement of purpose pitched in this manner. Too bad the interview already happened.

Still about a month away from the release of this one, but I’m comfortable just the same calling The Task Eternal one of the year’s best records, so if you do the preorder thing, I can only advise it, though that’s pretty much been my stance on these guys all along. Points for consistency.

Enjoy the clip:

Mars Red Sky, “The Proving Grounds” official video

Tidal waves of wounded egos
Crashed in unison
Spreading coast to coast
Now the season has begun

‘The Proving Grounds’ video was shot in the castle of Monteton (FR) and directed by Seb Antoine. The track is taken off our new album “The Task Eternal”, due out September 27 on Listenable Records.

Directed By Seb Antoine
Starring Grégory Dreyfus
Lights: Geoffrey Torres
Visual Effects : Original Cosmic – Romain Marchetti
Filmed In Monteton Castle – Thanks to the local crew
Special Thanks to Manu Feramus, Mathieu Disson, Jean Godet & Pierre-Gérard David.

Recorded and mixed by Benjamin Mandeau at Cryogene Studio, mastered by Pierre Etchandy.

‘The Proving Grounds’ is where Michael Connelly’s character Mickey Haller makes his case before “The Gods Of Guilt”. In this song we are alternately the jury and the accused. Hence the temptation of reaching out to the skies, board a spacecraft and take off, or travel in time to fix what can be fixed.

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Streaming: Interview with Julien Pras & Jimmy Kinast of Mars Red Sky

Posted in audiObelisk, Features on August 26th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

mars red sky

On Sept. 27, the fourth full-length from Mars Red Sky, titled The Task Eternal, will be released through Listenable Records. The label has been their home since their second long-player, 2014’s Stranded in Arcadia (review here), which followed their 2011 self-titled debut (review here) and set the band on a road of progression that The Task Eternal seems only to continue. In answering back the expansive forward steps of 2016’s Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul) (review here), the new album retains the Bordeaux-based trio’s penchant for songwriting that’s been so central to their purposes since the start, while drifting even further into otherworldly and psychedelic expanses. It is a colorful swirl throughout The Task Eternal, and I won’t tell you how to listen to it, but as much fun as it might be to get lost in the experience, there’s a good chance you’ll retain more than you think afterward, whether that’s from the fading lines of opener “The Proving Grounds” or the hooks of tracks like the marching “Hollow King” or “Collector.”

The latter also serves as the title-track of a newly issued EP intended as a lead-in for the LP to come. Collector bundles two versions of itself with two versions of “Soldier On,” also the penultimate cut on The Task Eternal, including a demo with mars red sky the task eternalguitarist/vocalist Julien Pras as a multi-instrumentalist, and a guest appearance from Igor Sidorenko of Stoned Jesus, the album versions, etc. It’s a welcome piece perhaps aimed at the people who might fit the description of its title, but most importantly, it introduces the listener to the atmosphere that The Task Eternal broadens in songs like “Recast” and “Reacts,” “Crazy Hearth” and even the instrumental closer “A Far Cry,” which, when it’s done, just might be where you feel like you are in relation to from where you started. All told, the album is 49 minutes across eight songs that is unmistakably the work of Mars Red Sky — Pras, bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast, drummer Matieu “Matgaz” Gazeau — and yet works to further the reach of that very definition. Like what’s come before it, it is the output of a constantly-refining creative unfolding.

At some point before the release date, I’ll put up a review, which I guess will probably just say that in wordier fashion, but among the topics I wanted to discuss with Pras and Kinast in this interview was the notion of The Task Eternal being the band’s creativity itself: that constant hunt for an ideal vision that’s a moving target from release to release as the band develops. In addition to that, the fact of Mars Red Sky‘s heavy touring and upcoming Fall European run (including shows with Kadavar) had me wondering if they might make it back to the US anytime soon — you might recall they were here in 2016 to play Psycho Las Vegas and made a stop at The Obelisk All-Dayer in Brooklyn beforehand (video here). They let it drop that they’ve got some stuff in the works, and indeed talked about the process of working with a different recording engineer each time out in an effort to capture different sounds, and how the change itself is a part of chasing that ideal. We also spent a good amount of time talking about the castle where they jammed, finished writing and started recording The Task Eternal, which, really, had to be done, when you think about it.

Interview follows here on the player below.

Enjoy:

Interview with Julien Pras & Jimmy Kinast

 

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio Playlist: Episode 20

Posted in Radio on August 2nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk show banner

Doing something different this time. In the past, I’ve posted playlists after the show airs, as recaps. This time, it’s before, in case, you know, you actually want to listen to the thing.

Do so at 1PM Eastern here: http://gimmeradio.com.

It’s a good show, and kind of back to normal as regards general methodology. A lot of new music, which makes me happy, and some Acrimony for a classic track, which I feel like I may have done before but seemed relevant to me anyway for reasons that will become clear over the next however long — ooh, intrigue! — and the title-tracks from new High on Fire and Mars Red Sky EPs. Had to get that High on Fire in there in light of Des leaving the band. Still really curious to see what they’re like without him.

A lot of this stuff has been covered around here lately — Horseburner, Pale Grey Lore, Monarch, Wolf Blood, The Ivory Elephant, Dead Feathers — but there’s more that I haven’t yet had the chance to properly write about in bands like Glacier, Sibyl, the new Book of Wyrms and Merlin releases, etc., so I think it’s a cool balance of stuff overall, and the tracks rule. And if you listen to the show, I kind of nerd out a bit about the new Mars Red Sky record, which is always enjoyable. For me, mostly, I suspect. But still.

Fun show. Glad I made it, and it’s the 20th one, which is a genuine surprise. If I was Gimme, I would’ve shitcanned me long ago.

Anyway, check it out if you can, and thanks.

Here’s the full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 08.02.19

Pale Grey Lore Before the Fall Eschatology*
Horseburner Drowning Bird The Thief*
High on Fire Bat Salad Bat Salad*
BREAK
Mars Red Sky Collector Collector*
The Ivory Elephant Stoneface Stoneface*
Dead Feathers Horse and Sands All is Lost*
Merlin Chaos Blade The Mortal*
Hippie Death Cult Breeder’s Curse 111*
BREAK
Acrimony Hymns to the Stone Tumuli Shroomaroom (1997)
Sibyl Pendulums The Magic Isn’t Real*
Wolf Blood Slaughterhouse II*
Monarch Counterpart Beyond the Blue Sky*
Book of Wyrms Spirit Drifter Remythologizer*
BREAK
Glacier O! World! I Remain No Longer Here No Light Ever*
Frozen Planet….1969 Rollback Meltdown on the Horizon*

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio airs every other Friday at 1PM Eastern, with replays every Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next show is Aug. 16. Thanks for listening if you do.

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Mars Red Sky Premiere “Collector” Video; EP out June 19

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 14th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

mars red sky (Photo by Rod Maurice)

Welcome to the next era of Mars Red Sky. With the coming release of the Collector EP, which will have a limited cassette pressing of 300 copies available at Hellfest on June 19 — and hopefully on the interwebs afterwards if there are leftovers — the Bordeaux, France, heavy psych rock three-piece begin the march toward their fourth album, The Task Eternal. That full-length will be out Sept. 27 on Listenable Records, and a preview EP is standard practice for Mars Red Sky going back to 2013’s Be My Guide EP (review here) which followed their 2011 self-titled debut (review here) and preceded 2014’s Stranded in Arcadia (review here). Likewise, before they issued Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul) (review here) in 2016, they offered up the Providence EP (review here), and if you want to go all the way back, they had a 7″ single out before the first record as well. So yes, bouncing between shorter and longer offerings is very much in-character for Mars Red Sky.

Today marks the premiere of “Collector,” the title-track and single from the EP, and the video below, and it finds the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras, bassist/sometimes vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Matieu “Matgaz” Gazeau locked as ever into an irresistible rolling groove, filled out as much through low-end tonality in the guitar and bass as by Pras‘ echoing, floating melodic vocals over top. This dichotomy has been at the heart of Mars Red Sky since their outset — it’s essential to what they mars red sky collectordo — but over time they’ve grown more complex as well, as the 2017 17-minute instrumental single Myramid (discussed here) demonstrated and as one can hear in a fluid thread of progression across all their releases. At just over four minutes long, “Collector” itself is of a more straight-ahead verse/chorus style, but even in its depth of melody and the feeling of space conjured by the recording, one can hear Mars Red Sky moving past even the accomplishments of their last LP and toward those of The Task Eternal.

On the EP, “Collector” appears twice — the other version featuring a solo from Stoned Jesus‘ Igor Sidorenko — and comes complemented on each side by “Soldier On,” a longer and more lumbering cut with an expansive hook and a hypnotic break in its midsection held together by Gazeau on drums as the guitar builds dramatically back toward the plodding verse and the even-bigger-sounding finish. It is hard to know ultimately how much the material on Collector — the second version of “Soldier On” is a demo — will represent what’s to come on The Task Eternal. With ProvidenceMars Red Sky essentially set the atmosphere of Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul). That may be what’s happening again, or it could be something else entirely. The story at this point is just starting to be told.

You can see the premiere of the “Collector” video below, with live footage of the band spliced in with archival clips of people playing some kind of competitive frisbee game and a surprising amount of American iconography, culminating in a kind of cannon shooting out hamburgers, hot dogs, baseballs, televisions and cars. Fair enough for a song about someone collecting souls — my country rarely comes into unearned criticism — but one has to wonder as well if Mars Red Sky are taking a more direct and socially-conscious stance going into the LP. Or it could just be a one-off. Again, won’t know till we get there. But it’s fun to speculate.

Video is by Sebastien Antoine with live footage from Paris filmed by Rod Maurice. The music was recorded and mixed by Benjamin Mandeau at Studio Cryogene in Bègles, France, just south of Bordeaux proper and on the banks of the River Garonne, and mastered by Pierre Etchandy.

PR wire info, comment from the band and copious tour dates follow.

Enjoy:

Mars Red Sky, “Collector” official video premiere

French heavy psychedelic masters MARS RED SKY release their new digital single entitled ‘Collector’ today! The song is taken from their upcoming fourth album ‘The Task Eternal’, due for release this year on September 27th on Listenable Records.

The band comments: “Collector is quite a straightforward track that may recall the ‘Mindreader’ vibe from our previous album ‘Apex III (Praise for the burning soul)’ in its structure and delivery. Lyrics deal with a soul collector, an evil being who announces his return to the city with the intention of terrorizing the population.”

The single is taken from new album ‘The Task Eternal’ due out September 27th on Listenable Records. The limited edition ‘Collector’ cassette EP will also present an exclusive version of the song with Stoned Jesus frontman Igor Sydorenko on guitar solo, as well as two special renditions of ‘Soldier On’ (also appearing on the album). With a total of four tracks, the ‘Collector’ EP is a perfect taster and yet another highly collectible item for any MARS RED SKY fan.

Available from June 19th, the ‘Collector’ cassette EP will be limited to 300 copies and exclusively available from MRS Red Sound web store, Listenable booth at Hellfest Metal Market and on all upcoming shows. It will also see a digital release via Mars Red Sky’s Bandcamp and Mad Reed Studio Bandcamp.

New single Collector available on all streaming platforms now

https://ampl.ink/W45Qk

https://marsredsky.bandcamp.com/

Limited edition cassette EP available June 19th via MRS Red Sound

https://marsredsky.bigcartel.com/product/ep-cassette-collector

TRACK LISTING:
Side A
1. Collector
2. Soldier On #A
Side B
1. Collector (feat. Igor Sydorenko)
2. Soldier On (demo version)

All tracks on the EP were recorded and mixed by Benjamin Mandeau at Cryogene Studio, except for “Soldier On (Demo)” which was performed, recorded and mixed by Julien Pras at Mad Reed Studio. Artwork designed by Carlos Olmo.
MARS RED SKY also announce a series of live shows in support of new album ‘The Task Eternal’, to be continued in 2020 and beyond:

08.06.19 MONTAIGU (FR) Crumble Fest
15.06.19 PORT SAINT LOUIS DU RHONE (13) Camargue Sessions
18.07.19 BILBAO (SP) Kafe Antzokia
19.07.19 BRAGA (PT) Rodellus Festival
03.08.19 CHEVANCEAUX (17) Laryrock
10.08.19 BAGNES (CH) Rocklette Palp festival
16.08.19 SAINT-NOLFF (FR) Motocultor Festival
27.09.19 ANGOULEME (FR) La Nef
11.10.10 BELFORT (FR) La Poudrière
12.10.19 STRASBOURG (FR) La Laiterie
17.10.19 SAINT BRIEUC (FR) Carnavalorock
25.10.19 VENDOME (FR) Les Rockomotives
26.10.19 GRENOBLE (FR) L’Ampérage
27.10.19 MONTHEY (CH) Pont Rouge
29.10.19 ZÜRICH (CH) Rote Fabrik
30.10.19 BRUSSEL (BE) Les Halles
31.10.19 DIKSMUIDE (BE) 4AD
01.11.19 COLOGNE (DE) Helios 37
02.11.19 AMSTERDAM (NL) Melkweg
03.11.19 WIESBADEN (DE) Schlachthof
04.11.19 MUNICH (DE) Feierwerk
05.11.19 VIENNA (AT) Arena
06.11.19 LEIPZIG (DE) Werk2
07.11.19 BERLIN (DE) Cassiopeia
08.11.19 HAMBURG (DE) Hafenklang
09.11.19 KRAKOW (PL) Soulstone Gathering
20.11.19 CLERMONT-FERRAND (FR) La Coopérative de Mai
14.12.19 MONTPELLIER (FR) Black Sheep
04.03.20 PARIS (FR) La Maroquinerie
05.03.20 TOURS (FR) Le Temps Machine
06.03.20 TOULOUSE (FR) Le Metronum
13.03.20 DIJON (FR) La Vapeur
14.03.20 ORLEANS (FR) L’Astrolabe
28.03.20 GERARDMER (FR) Maison de la Culture

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Mars Red Sky to Tour Europe This Fall Supporting The Task Eternal

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 6th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

MARS RED SKY

Last time they checked in Bordeaux, France, heavy psych exports Mars Red Sky were announcing the Sept. 27 release of their fourth album, The Task Eternal. That was over a month ago and it’s been pretty quiet from them since then, at least as far as the PR wire is concerned, but in addition to a few dates this month, the three-piece have newly unveiled tour plans for this Fall that will find them back on the road throughout October and into November following the album’s release.

They were due to unveil a new song at the end of last month, and an EP, Collector, was said to be coming June 14 through their own Mars Red Sound imprint. I’d imagine that’s still the case, though I haven’t seen any further word on that either since the initial press release.

Still, Sound of Liberation posted the tour dates thusly:

mars red sky tour

To promote their upcoming album “The Task Eternal” (which will be released via Listenable Records on September 27th), Mars Red Sky will hit the road next fall!!

They also have a bunch of festivals booked for the summer, where you may hear some new tunes.

08.06.2019 – Montaigu – Crumble Fest (FR)
15.06.2019 – Port Saint Louis – Camargue Sessions (FR)
18.07.2019 – Bilbao – Kafe Antzokia (SP)
19.07.2019 – Braga – Rodellus Festival (PT)
03.08.2019 – Chevanceaux – Laryrock (FR)
10.08.2019 – Bagnes – Rocklette Palp Festival (CH)
16.08.2019 – Saint Nolff – Motocultor Festival (FR)
27.09.2019 – Angoulème – La Nef (FR)
11.10.2019 – Belfort – La Poudrière (FR)
12.10.2019 – Strasbourg – La Laiterie (FR)
17.10.2019 – Saint Brieuc – Carnavalorock (FR)
25.10.2019 – Vendome – Les Rockomotives (FR)
26.10.2019 – Grenoble – L’Ampérage (FR)
27.10.2019 – Monthey – Pont Rouge (CH)
29.10.2019 – Zürich – Rote Fabrik (CH)
30.10.2019 – Brussels – Les Halles (B)
31.10.2019 – Diksmuide – 4AD (B)
01.11.2019 – Cologne – Helios 37 (D)
02.11.2019 – Amsterdam – Melkweg (NL)
03.11.2019 – Wiesbaden – Schlachthof (D)
04.11.2019 – Munich – Feierwerk (D)
05.11.2019 – Vienna – Arena (A)
06.11.2019 – Leipzig – Werk2 (D)
07.11.2019 – Berlin – Cassiopeia (D)
08.11.2019 – Hamburg – Hafenklang (D)
09.11.2019 – Krakow – Soulstone Gathering (PL)
20.11.2019 – Clermont-Ferrand – Coopérative de Mai (FR)
14.12.2019 – Montpellier – Le Black Sheep (FR)

http://www.facebook.com/marsredskyband/
http://www.marsredsky.net
http://www.listenable.net
http://www.facebook.com/listenablerecs

Mars Red Sky, The Task Eternal teaser

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Mars Red Sky to Release The Task Eternal Sept. 27; Teaser Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 30th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

What will otherwise be known as “the one they wrote in the castle,” Mars Red Sky‘s impending fourth album, The Task Eternal, is set to release on Sept. 27 through Listenable Records. The Bordeaux three-piece will have a limited-run self-released EP out in June as a precursor to the full-length’s release — which is standard practice for them — and have tour dates and festival appearances set into the Fall with likely many more to follow. They got some good mileage out of steady touring for 2016’s Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul) (review here) and subsequent vinyl-only EP, Myramyd (discussed here), but they’ve always been a band to move forward, and they’re poised to do exactly that with the new record.

I already sent my email begging to hear the album early, and I think once you see the teaser clip at the bottom of this post it’ll be clear why. I have been and remain a sucker for this band, and the realization of a new album from them is just-made-my-week kind of news. I hope you feel the same.

Info follows from the PR wire:

MARS RED SKY (Photo by Julien Dupeyron)

MARS RED SKY: new album “The Task Eternal” coming September 27th on Listenable Records

French heavy psychedelic rockers MARS RED SKY announce the release of their fourth full-length “The Task Eternal” on September 27th via Listenable Records, and share an exclusive teaser today.

Three years after the “Apex III (Praise For The Burning Soul)” odyssey, French heavy psych torchbearers MARS RED SKY are ready to add a new cornerstone to the pharaonic sonic monument they’ve been building for over a decade. Written in a medieval castle in 2018, “The Task Eternal” is set for a September 27th release via Listenable Records. The band will debut the first single off the new album on May 29th, with more info being unveiled very soon!

Says the band, “In 2018, we spent much time to rehearse in a medieval castle. Today, we are beyond happy to announce the release of our fourth full-length “The Task Eternal” on September 27th via Listenable Records. As an appetizer, we are sharing an exclusive teaser!!! Teaser directed by Seb Antoine.”

“We will unleash an exclusive EP K7 entitled “Collector” in June 14th on MRS Red Sound!!! This limited edition contains a track from “The Task Eternal” album also called “Collector”! This particular song will be on any good streaming platforms on May 29th.”

Mars Red Sky live:
07.05 PARIS (75) La Maroquinerie w/ Earthless
15.06 PORT SAINT-LOUIS (13) Camargue Sessions
03.08 CHEVANCEAUX (17) Laryrock
16.08 SAINT-NOLF (56) Motocultor Festival
27.09 NEW ALBUM “THE TASK ETERNAL” OUT!
12.10 STRASBOURG (67) La Laiterie
17.10 SAINT BRIEUC (22) Carnavalorock
09.11 KRAKOW (PL) Soulstone Gathering festival

http://www.marsredsky.net/
http://www.facebook.com/marsredskyband/
http://www.marsredsky.net
http://www.twitter.com/MarsRedSky1
http://www.listenable.net
http://www.facebook.com/listenablerecs

Mars Red Sky, The Task Eternal teaser

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio Recap: Episode 08

Posted in Radio on January 21st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

gimme radio logo

This was my 2019 preview… of sorts. By which I mean that it in no way encompassed everything coming out this year and that some of it was basically me being like, “golly, it sure would be nice if BAND X put out a record in the next 12 months.” Still fun, but I think definitely well earning that “of sorts” tag.

I keep notes with a running list of things like albums coming out and best records of the year, artwork, EPs, etc., and in my notes for what’s coming out in 2019 I have over 50 bands listed so far. Here they are, cut and paste-style:

Cities of Mars, Mr. Peter Hayden, Curse the Son, High Fighter, No Man’s Valley, 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, Swallow the Sun, Oreyeon, Motorpsycho, Vokonis, Hexvessel, Saint Vitus, Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Kind, Mastiff, Shadow Witch, Kings Destroy, Lo-Pan, Samsara Blues Experiment, Papir, Conan, Green Lung, BUS, Worshipper, Volcano, Mos Generator, Earth, Nebula Drag, Elder, Daxma, Besvärjelsen, Bellrope, The Sabbathian,

Some of that has been officially announced, some hasn’t, and some is rampant speculation, but many of these, and there’s always the contingency that expected releases can be delayed owing to recording and tour schedules, pressing concerns, pianos falling on heads, and so on, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find a bunch of those records on my year-end list in December. Whoopee.

What’s more important to stress, however, is that this is by no means the be-all-end-all list of things coming out. It’s a long year, and it’s January right now. There will be offerings in September and October that no one knows now are even in the works, and still more that aren’t. That’s why the list ends with a comma and a space instead of a period. There’s more to be added.

That said, this is a damn good show and I stand by it. Some of the inclusions could/would/will be among the year’s best albums — the new Worshipper is fantastic, and the new Kings Destroy owns my soul — but I wanted to put some stuff in here that the Gimme audience, which I tend to think of as being more metal though I have absolutely nothing to base that on, isn’t familiar with. Curse the Son, Snail, Sun Blood Stories.

It’s fun to talk about new albums coming out — I had a particular blast mentioning how annoyed I am at the universe for there being a new Sun Blood Stories album and I haven’t heard it yet — and even if some of it is speculative, that’s a good time too.

If you missed the show last night, it’s on tomorrow at 9AM at: http://gimmeradio.com.

The Obelisk Show Ep. 08 – 01.20.19

 

Lowrider Lameneshma Ode to Io (Deluxe Edition) 0:04:57
Kings Destroy Smokey Robinson Kings Destroy 0:04:03
BREAK
Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard The Master and His Emissary Totems (Split w/Slomatics) 0:12:02
Snail Born in Captivity Feral 0:05:00
Motorpsycho The Tower The Tower 0:08:41
Mars Red Sky Friendly Fire Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul) 0:04:51
BREAK
Sun Blood Stories Step Softly Ghost It Runs Around the Room with Us 0:04:48
Elephant Tree Dawn Elephant Tree 0:04:12
Curse the Son Aislamiento Isolator 0:07:13
Alunah Awn Amber & Gold* 0:05:50
Worshipper Night Child (The Oath cover) Mirage Daze 0:04:19
Hexvessel Old Tree All Tree* 0:03:40
Vokonis Rapturous The Sunken Djinn 0:06:09
Mr. Peter Hayden We Fly High Eternal Hayden 0:07:13
BREAK
Kind Rabbit Astronaut Rocket Science 0:03:49
Om Haqq al-Yaqin Advaitic Songs 0:11:29
Samsara Blues Experiment One with the Universe One with the Universe 0:15:07

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio airs every other Sunday night at 7PM Eastern, with replays the following Tuesday at 9AM. Next show is Feb. 3. Thanks for listening if you do.

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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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