Arbouretum Stream “A Prism in Reverse”; Let it All In Due March 20

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 27th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Arbouretum (photo by Noel Conrad)

I added three albums to my budding best-of-2020 list this past weekend, and Arbouretum‘s Let it All In was one of them. The Baltimore psych-folk stalwarts will issue the follow-up to 2017’s Song of the Rose (review here) on March 20 through Thrill Jockey Records and I’m not even going to pretend I don’t love it. They bliss out motorik space rock. They dive in mellow wash. They even honky-tonk a little bit. And it’s all cool, and it’s all them. They’ve got a single streaming now called “A Prism in Reverse” — as you maybe read in the headline above — and it’s a decent lead-in to their style, but what they do is so rich here that I don’t think any one song could really do it justice.

Fanboy ranting? Most definitely. No regrets. More of that to come, I’m sure.

Art, info, preorder link and track from the PR wire:

Arbouretum Let it All In

Arbouretum announce the transportive new album Let It All In Out on March 20th

On March 20th, Arbouretum will release their transportive album Let It All In. The album’s first single “A Prism In Reverse” encapsulate’s guitarist/vocalist Dave Heumann’s deep sense of spirituality and command of storytelling through myth and metaphor. Arbouretum has always centered around Heumann’s remarkable voice and songwriting, and his skill as a vocalist and guitar player have led to playing with artists such as Cass McCombs, Will Oldham, and many others. Heumann’s songs are transportive and decidedly album-oriented, and Let It All In is an invitation to jump into an album rich with timeless elegance.

Arbouretum’s mystic folk-rock collapses a continuum of 20th century music into decidedly classic song structures. English folk, country blues, Americana and 70s psychedelia all serve as touchpoints in their singular and distinctive sound. The Baltimore-based band have perfected the craft of storytelling using the delicate interplay of melodies and prosaic lyrics to tell vivid stories that engage the listener and transport them the way an immersive novel would. Recorded at Wrightway Studios with Steve Wright and featuring guests such as Hans Chew and David Bergander, each song is a vivid scene or tale; meticulously detailed and crafted, transporting the listener to another world and time.

Listen to Let It All In single “A Prism In Reverse”: https://arbouretum.bandcamp.com/track/a-prism-in-reverse

Arbouretum – Let It All In tracklist
1. How Deep It Goes
2. A Prism In Reverse
3. No Sanctuary Blues
4. Night Theme
5. Headwaters II
6. Buffeted By Wind
7. Let It All In
8. High Water Song

Pre-order Arbouretum’s Let It All In: http://thrilljockey.com/products/let-it-all-in

https://www.facebook.com/ArbouretumBand/
https://arbouretum.bandcamp.com/
http://thrilljockey.com/
https://www.facebook.com/ThrillJockey/

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Dirt Woman Set March 13 Release for The Glass Cliff; Premiere “Lady of the Dunes”

Posted in audiObelisk, Whathaveyou on January 21st, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Dirt-Woman_Photo-by-Kira-Solomon

Ocean City, Maryland, four-piece Dirt Woman make their full-length debut through Grimoire Records on March 13 with the five-track collection The Glass Cliff. Riffs? Hell’s bells, it’s like they live in a riffy valley between two riff mountains cut by a river of riffs where they subsist on riffy agriculture and have enough left over to make a tidy living exporting them to other, less riffy regions. The nod runs strong throughout their massive, Noel Mueller-captured grooves, with guitarist/vocalist Zoe Koch and guitarist Gabe Solomon at the forefront of the surging tonal tide, pushed forward by the tectonic lumber of Kearny Mallon‘s bass and Avery Mallon‘s steady rolling drums. Shades of Acid King riding the electric machine and just a touch of Windhand-style foggy atmospherics make themselves felt throughout cuts like “Lady of the Dunes” and the joyously plodding “Creator” — one of the three cuts to top 13 minutes in length, along with the closing duo of “Demagogue” (13:30) and “Starhawk” (13:45) — which also finds Avery‘s drums in its later reaches looking to the rays of the red sun that was Chris Hakius‘ work in Sleep. In other words, it’s a all a big fuck yes in my book.

Amid Koch‘s cavernous vocals come tales of modern disparities and the disaffection one might also see portrayed on the cover art for The Glass Cliff by Hayden Hall, which turns wealth inequality into the stuff of science-fiction without really departing the truth of our age. Songs like “Fades to Greed,” the eight-minute centerpiece, find Dirt Woman exploring these ideas lyrically, but the power of their presentation is such that should one be seeking escape and/or hypnotic immersion, that’s certainly a route available. That is, there’s no sacrifice of modus to message, and the band is more than a vehicle for political editorializing — though, frankly, the heavy underground is pretty content to disengage a lot of the time and maybe some editorializing would do it some good — while still addressing the concerns of those inheriting a planet that’s pretty much screwed on multiple levels. But hey, at least… it’s… easy to buy stuff? Sorry y’all.

The Glass Cliff has the honor of being my first entry on what throughout the next 12 months will become my list of 2020’s best debut albums, and while those familiar with either Mueller‘s production work or the outlet for it that Grimoire Records is shouldn’t be the least bit surprised at the organic fuzz molasses that oozes from the bass in “Demagogue,” that does nothing to make it less glorious. For a record that runs 56 minutes long and borders on unmanageable, it holds the listener rapt as “Starhawk” rounds out in bounding fashion, its central riff touching on Witch-y bounce as Koch layers vocals effectively in such a way as to make one already look forward to what Dirt Woman do next two months before their first album actually comes out. Yeah, I’m gonna have to see this band live. Gonna have to get this CD. I might need to buy a t-shirt. They got me on this one. Count me in.

Along with the album announcement, which you’ll find below courtesy of the PR wire, you’ll find the premiere of “Lady of the Dunes” at the bottom of this post. Please consider it strongly suggested that you dig in.

And, of course, that you enjoy:

dirt woman the glass cliff

DIRT WOMAN: Maryland Psychedelic Doom Bringers To Release The Glass Cliff Via Grimoire Records; New Track Streaming + Preorders Available

Maryland psychedelic doom bringers DIRT WOMAN will release their The Glass Cliff debut full-length this March via Grimoire Records.

Recorded, mixed, and mastered in the fall of 2019 by Noel Mueller at the Tiny Castle in Baltimore, The Glass Cliff’s five tracks bulge with gargantuan riffs, thundering rhythms, and lyrics speaking directly to the cries of today’s youth; a fittingly titled record that’s equal parts enraged and dejected by a world whose once great promise has been decimated by the pursuit of power and material wealth.

DIRT WOMAN’s The Glass Cliff comes swathed in the trippy cover renderings of Hayden Hall and will be released on limited edition CD and digital formats March 13th. For preorders, go to THIS LOCATION.

Forged in Ocean City, Maryland in the summer of 2017 as a duo featuring vocalist/guitarist Zoe Koch and drummer Gabe Solomon, DIRT WOMAN is named in honor of the late Donnie Corker. Better known as Dirtwoman, Corker was a cross-dresser living in Richmond, Virginia known for involvement in Richmond politics, arts, music, and food banks as well as being the human floral arrangement of the annual Hamaganza holiday rock ‘n’ roll charity benefit show that, for twenty-years had paired Dirtwoman with a revolving cast of politicians, luminaries, and journalists.

“His story was truly inspiring to us,” notes Koch. “His charitable work and activism make him forever an icon in our eyes.” Koch and Solomon wrote casually and played sporadic shows. By the spring of 2018, they expanded their lineup to include bassist Kearny Mallon and his twin brother, drummer Avery Mallon, shifting Solomon to guitar. With the twin rhythm section and a dual guitar attack, their thick, quaking sound had truly begun to shape itself into what would become The Glass Cliff.

“The Glass Cliff” was recorded between October and December of 2019 by Noel Mueller in the Tiny Castle. Mixed and mastered by Noel Mueller. Cover art by Hayden Hall. © 2020 Grimoire Records.

“The Glass Cliff” is released via limited edition CD and digital download through Grimoire Records on 3/13/20.

1. Lady of the Dunes – 07:23
2. Creator – 13:08
3. Fades to Greed – 08:25
4. Demagogue – 13:30
5. Starhawk – 13:45

DIRT WOMAN:
Avery Mallon – drums
Kearny Mallon – the big guitar
Zoe Koch – guitar, vocals
Gabe Solomon- guitar

https://www.facebook.com/dirtwoman.band/
https://www.instagram.com/dirt_woman.band/
https://dirtwoman.bandcamp.com/
http://www.grimoirerecords.com
http://grimoirerecords.bandcamp.com
http://www.facebook.com/GrimoireRecords
https://www.instagram.com/grimoirerecords/

Dirt Woman, “Lady of the Dunes” official premiere

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Darsombra Post Video for Entire Transmission LP; Tour Dates Announced

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 13th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

darsombra

This shit is insane. Do I really think you’re going to sit and watch all 43 minutes of Darsombra‘s video for the title-track and only-track from their 2019 LP, Transmission (review here)? Well, when you put it like that, no, I don’t, because who the hell has 43 minutes to do anything ever, but whether it’s the frenetic, full-body-suit-clad fire-dancing ritual followed by a bit of shoulder boogie near the halfway point or some more serene nature shots of waterfalls, mountains, animals, caves and so on captured during the two-piece’s many adventures hither and yon on this silly planet, I’m really glad the clip for the entirety of “Transmission” exists. Put together by Ann Everton, whose visuals have become an essential component of Darsombra‘s live presentation yet inherently go underrepresented when it comes to their studio work, the video makes its interpretive aspects plain to follow as “Transmission” shifts between parts and moods, as her own various instrumentation and Brian Daniloski‘s guitar intertwine with a fluidity that, frankly, to call it drone would be underselling its complexity and psychedelic nuance.

Not to mention, Transmission is active. It’s not bouncing to a catchy, danceable drumbeat — or any drumbeat at all, mind you — but it is a work of pointed exploration and movement. Darsombra‘s pieces have certainly done their share of adventuring in the past, real-world and ethereal as some of the footage captured while driving through various landscape portrays, but the will to push these impulses further to new places can be heard even as parts loop around and are manipulated by various effects and added layers of synth, maybe-vocals, definitely-vocals, and so on. The video goes so far as to involve the viewer, turning white letters of its later chanting yellow in follow-along fashion — only the bouncing ball is missing. And it’s fitting that what began with birds flying under the sun and a spinning moon should close with a solar eclipse and that same returned moon, which appears over silence as the song itself has ended. For those who stick it out or those who skim, the resonance goes well beyond the tonal.

As ever, Darsombra will tour. They’ll do a Northeast weekender this weekend, then head to the West Coast for shows in Tijuana and CA ahead of an appearance next month at Shadow Frost in Maryland. Then in Spring it’s off to the UK and Europe alternately alongside fellow Exile on Mainstream types Conny Ochs and Kristian Harting. They’ll stop at Roadburn in April, where I look forward to seeing them.

Dates follow courtesy of the PR wire.

Enjoy:

Darsombra, “Transmission” official video

Following the release of their sprawling fifth album, Transmission, Baltimore, Maryland’s audiovisual progressive/psychedelic duo DARSOMBRA has digitally released a film, to accompany the entire record. In addition, the band is expanding their upcoming tour itinerary with new North American and European dates booked in support of the record.

Released independently by the band last summer, Transmission consists of one continuous forty-one-minute flood of DARSOMBRA’s sprawling, mind-expanding, musical exploration. Ranging from relentless, charged, and cinematic, to ephemeral, transcendent, and delicate, the song embraces its many qualities as it wraps itself into a thematic, uncompromising saga with a million different interpretations available to the listener. The band’s filmmaker, Ann Everton, directed, shot, and edited the new film accompanying the album, backing the entire song with a visual experience as vivid, vast, and harrowingly psychedelic as the music itself.

DARSOMBRA Tour Dates:
1/17/2020 Sacred Root – Ithaca, NY w/ Ruckzuck, Dead Nettles, Shaawano
1/18/2020 Honey Room – Buffalo, NY w/ Circular Logic, Pam Swarts, Different Planets, Cacklmancy, Lala Funstar, Magisole, Isometrics, God Hates This Band, Djinn, American Raga
1/23/2020 Lyncanthro Pub – Tijuana, BC w/ Astral Azif
1/24/2020 Til-Two Club – San Diego, CA w/ Amerikan Bear, Soul Juice, Infinity Eyes
1/25/2020 The Paramount – Los Angeles, CA w/ All Souls, CFM, Biblical Proof of UFOs, DJ Dale Crover
1/26/2020 Golden Heart Space – Santa Barbara, CA
2/22/2020 Shadow Frost Music & Arts Festival – Frederick, MD
4/02/2020 West Street Live – Sheffield, UK w/ Conny Ochs
4/03/2020 Conroy’s Basement – Dundee, UK w/ Conny Ochs
4/04/2020 Tooth & Claw – Inverness, UK w/ Conny Ochs
4/07/2020 The Cellar – Aberdeen, UK w/ Conny Ochs
4/08/2020 BLOC+ – Glasgow, UK w/ Conny Ochs
4/09/2020 Henry’s Cellar – Edinburgh. UK w/ Conny Ochs
4/10/2020 Cluny 2 – Newcastle, UK w/ Conny Ochs
4/11/2020 The Exchange Basement – Bristol, UK w/ Conny Ochs
4/14/2020 The Underdog – London, UK w/ Conny Ochs
4/18/2020 Roadburn Festival – Tilburg, NL
4/22/2020 VEB – Siegen, DE w/ Kristian Harting
4/23/2020 UT Connewitz – Leipzig, DE w/ Kristian Harting
4/24/2020 Zukunft am Ostkreuz – Berlin, DE w/ Kristian Harting
4/25/2020 Chemiefabrik – Dresden, DE w/ Kristian Harting
4/30/2020 Punctum – Prague, CZ w/ Kristian Harting
5/02/2020 Soul Kostel – Verné?ovice, CZ w/ Kristian Harting
5/03/2020 Kapu – Linz, AT w/ Jarboe, Kristian Harting
5/04/2020 Grillx – Vienna, AT w/ Kristian Harting
5/06/2020 Galerie Kur – Zürich, CH w/ Kristian Harting
5/10/2020 MCP Apache – Fontaine-l’Évêque, BE w/ Kristian Harting

Darsombra on Thee Facebooks

Darsombra on Instagram

Darsombra on Bandcamp

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Doom Hawg Day 2020: Galactic Cross, Faith in Jane, Bailjack & More to Play

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 2nd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

maryland doom fest doom hawg day 2020 logo

Just what the hell is a Doom Hawg? Show up in Frederick for Doom Hawg Day 2020 and find out. Plus see a bunch of bands. So, win all around.

The burgeoning February one-dayer was started last year by the same crew that puts together Maryland Doom Fest, headed by Knoxxville‘s own JB Matson, and it very much carries the MDDF feel. For one thing, it’s in the same place. Also, it’s got a few of the same bands. Bailjack, Faith in Jane, Knoxxville and The Age of Truth are veterans of the venerable June event, and Strange Highways, Cavern, Galactic Cross and Wrath of Typhon have been announced for the 2020 lineup — so yes, very much on-brand for Maryland Doom Fest. One expects that will lead to a big ol’ zero amount of complaints, however. Loyalty runs deep in Frederick, and a fest like this becomes as much of a family gathering as it does a rock show. The fact that you don’t necessarily have to have been to them since the beginning of time to become a part of that family is a considerable appeal unto itself. Especially, I’d expect, for first-timers.

And compared to MDDF proper, which is expanding again this year with the addition of Old Mother Brewing Company taking the place of Guidos Speakeasy as a second venue — it looks like a bigger room, so that’s a plus — Doom Hawg Day 2020 is downright manageable. Starts at four, probably ends late, but whatever. It’s one night and killer bands. Kind of a no-brainer.

Worth noting that Bailjack and Galactic Cross will both have new records out by the time February rolls around as well, which is bound to add to the celebratory vibe that will surely counteract the six more weeks of winter decreed by that shitheel marmot in Pennsylvania.

From the social medias:

maryland doom fest doom hawg day 2020

MDDF Doom Hawg Day 2020

Saturday, February 1, 2020 at 4 PM
Cafe 611
611 N Market St, Frederick, Maryland

We are pleased to present the MDDF DOOM HAWG DAY 2020 lineup!!!

Artwork by our very own Bill Kole!!

Faith in Jane
Bailjack
Galactic Cross
Wrath of Typhon
Cavern
Knoxxville
Strange Highways
The Age of Truth
Et Mors

https://www.facebook.com/events/509386783257850/
https://www.facebook.com/MdDoomFest/
https://www.instagram.com/marylanddoomfest/
www.marylanddoomfest.com

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Live Review: Clutch’s ClutchMas at Starland Ballroom in New Jersey, Dec. 30, 2019

Posted in Reviews on December 31st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Clutch (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Saw a high-speed chase between a sedan of some sort and a NJ State Trooper on my way to the show, and the guy actually got away, so it seemed fated that Clutch would play “Crucial Velocity.” Clutch are, of course, an institution. Clutch at Starland Ballroom, likewise, and that’s actually an institution that pre-dates the Sayreville venue itself, going back to the Birch Hill Night Club in Old Bridge. I suspect I wasn’t the only one thinking of those days last night as the Maryland groove overlords broke out “Passive Restraints” at the start of their set and followed up later with other nods to their pre-turn-of-the-century catalog in “A Shogun Named Marcus” from 1993’s debut album, Transnational Speedway League: Anthems, Anecdotes and Undeniable Truths, “Escape From the Prison Planet,” “Spacegrass” and “Texan Book of the Dead” from their landmark 1995 self-titled, and the title-track and “The Soapmakers” from 1998’s third LP, The Elephant Riders.

Spliced in among these and the aforementioned “Crucial Velocity,” from the more recent Earth Rocker (review here), were “The Wolfman Kindly Requests” and “Earth Rocker” from that same 2013 album — which I think it’s fair to say at this point defined their sound for this decade — and “X-Ray Visions,” “Firebirds,” “A Quick Death in Texas” from its 2015 follow-up, Psychic Warfare (review here), “Willie Nelson,” which appeared on 2003’s Slow Hole to China, “Burning Beard” from 2005’s Robot Hive/Exodus (reissue review here), the just-about-have-to-play-at-every-show “Electric Worry” from 2007’s From Beale Street to Oblivion (reissue review here). The older material was welcome, and the crowd, likewise older, was certainly able to keep up as drummer Jean-Paul Gaster, bassist “Crucial” Dan Maines (who doesn’t actually have that nickname, but nonetheless deserves it), guitarist Tim Sult and vocalist Neil Fallon bounced around their discography. But 2018’s Book of Bad Decisions (review here) was given some representation as well in “H.B. is in Control,” though perhaps that full-length was edged out in favor of 2019 singles “Evil” and “Fortunate Son” — covers of Willie Dixon and Creedence Clearwater Revival, respectively — the latter of which finished the set after “Electric Worry” in the encore and was listed as “John Fogerty’s Mosh Pit,” because, well, you’re in Central Jersey. That’s gonna happen.

The room was filled with familiar faces, from the Clutch crew to the longtime denizens in the crowd, and even the bright-eyed kids from WSOU — still too young and perennially bright-eyed to sue their dogshit host university for decades of discrimination and mismanagement — knew that they were in for a good night, whether it was their first experience seeing the band or not. As regards rock shows, you’re going to have a hard time getting better than Clutch, in any case, and the traditional holiday tour, which wraps tonight in Philly for New Year’s Eve, was given a special subsection this year called ‘ClutchMas.’ Three shows in Washington, D.C., New Jersey and Philadelphia, with three sets and no repeat songs between them — with the presumed exception of “Electric Worry,” which, again, they play at just about every gig. With a backlog of records as deep as Clutch have amassed over the better part of the last 30 years, I have a hard time imagining it was even really a challenge for them to put three such setlists together for 54 total songs, but a holiday celebration is a holiday celebration. You go and you celebrate. If you’re feeling saucy, as I was, you buy the t-shirt with the crab on it.

It was something of a long haul to get to the point where Clutch actually took the stage, with local openers Bound Alive, who played a style I can best describe as “Jersey metal,” followed by Damon Johnson, who under the stage lights kind of looked like an alternate reality healthy-living version of Matt Pike and went out of his way on stage to explain that he toured with Clutch as a part of Thin Lizzy and, in addition to his solo work, was in Brother Cane in the long, long ago. Those two were followed by Nashville’s The Steel Woods, whose twangy country rock stylings made their Allman Bros. cover — was it “Whipping Post?” well of course it was — seem somewhat inevitable. A smorgasbord of not-my-thing, and I was reminded that last year at this time, Clutch were touring with The Obsessed and Devin Townsend. My fault for moving back to New Jersey too late to take advantage of that, but I’ll take what I can get.

And the goal of the night was seeing Clutch, so you know, worthy cause and whatnot. There was a bit of a stumble as “Firebirds” got going, but they smoothed it out, and though I’m always a little surprised at how fast they play “Spacegrass” on the occasions they do it live, I’m also always surprised when I listen to the self-titled and it’s more uptempo than when I hear it in my head. I have a tendency to slow things down. I chalk it up to being old and more than a bit slow myself. But I recall the last time I was at a Clutch holiday show at Starland was maybe 2008, and it was a much different vibe than that, the band having morphed out of their organ-laced blues-heavy leanings in favor of a more pointed and rocking approach on the whole — more a balance shifted than the abandonment of the blues altogether, certainly — and they simply dig what they do, which is offer an utterly essential vision of what heavy rock and roll can and should be on a professional level, marked by classic songcraft and righteous performances that, in terms of playing the game they play, there isn’t another act out there to match them. Clutch do their own thing, on their own terms, and their accomplishments over the course of their career speak for themselves. All you have to do is show up to listen to them do that.

I left Starland fat and happy as one should be after a good holiday meal and made my way back north on wet roads that before climate change would’ve probably been frozen, “The Soapmakers” still reeling on the mental jukebox. Especially for a Monday night, they made it a party, and there was never a doubt it would be anything but. It’s Clutch, being Clutch. I dare you to find me a better way to cap a year than that.

Thanks for reading.

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Shadow Frost Music & Arts Festival 2020 Updates Lineup

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

shadowfrost 2020 banner

A wintry companion to each autumn’s Shadow Woods fest, the inaugural Shadow Frost Music & Arts Festival is set to take place not in the forest — probably a practical choice, given, you know, winter and all — but at the Clarion Inn Frederick Event Center in Frederick, Maryland, on Feb. 21 and 22. And let’s be honest, that’s not as romantic or as kvlt an idea as having a party out in the woods in the waning days of summer, but from where I sit, it’s also kind of awesome. Think of it this way: Here’s an all-ages festival infiltrating an otherwise normal, unassuming space that, instead of a campground, gives you on-site hotel amenities. Of all the fests you’ve ever been to, how many have listed “free breakfast” and “Saturday morning yoga” — which I’m going to assume will be led by Darsombra, who are also playing, and if that’s not true I don’t want to know — among its resources? Imagine going for a swim before you see some “pizza-themed punk/grind.” This could be your life.

Like Shadow Woods, the lineup for Shadow Frost 2020 carries a rich and admirable sense of curation, loyal to its Chesapeake home, but unafraid as well to branch out in multiple directions, as festival director Mary Spiro continues to proliferate her vision of an underground that transcends genre barriers and unites communities who probably have more in common than they think.

Awesome project, especially for a first run. I hope it goes off without a hitch:

SHADOW FROST MUSIC & ARTS FESTIVAL: Frederick, Maryland’s Exclusive Indoor Winter Gathering Announces Updated Lineup + Merch Presales

SHADOW FROST MUSIC & ARTS FESTIVAL, Frederick, Maryland’s exclusive indoor winter gathering, will take place February 21st and 22nd, 2020.

Produced by Shadow Woods Productions, LLC, this inaugural, hotel-based gala will feature Oakland’s crushing Vastum with a special set from their guitarist/ambient industrialist Leila Abdul-Rauf. The lineup rounds out with East Coast cult thrashers Deceased, Vermont’s thunderous Barishi, Boston traditional metallers Magic Circle, and Houston’s Doomstress. Also performing are heavy psych throwbacks Alms and the otherworldly Darsombra (both from Baltimore), Detroit black metalists Fell Ruin, and up-and-coming doom maestros from Maryland’s Eastern Shore, Yatra. Tickets and the full daily lineups can be found here at THIS LOCATION.

Exclusive SHADOW FROST merch has also been released for presale until February 1st. Designed by Legerdemain’s Brian Sheehan, Wailing Wizard’s Rebecca Magar, and Art Noir’s Yuriy Seroff, these phenomenal creations all evoke the chilling winter months. Merch can be found HERE.

SHADOW FROST is heavily focused on Maryland-based artists including Alms, Darsombra, Spiral Grave, Radamanthys, and Yatra and is geared toward those who want to step outside their comfort zone and explore. “There is so much great music being created that totally flies under the radar in the music scene, even among people who seem to know a lot about music trends,” said SHADOW FROST producer M A Spiro. “I am not trying to host bands that you can see at a lot of other festivals, but I want to showcase a few of the best that that underground music has to offer. That has been my philosophy with every event I have done, and I don’t plan to change that.”

While previous Shadow Woods fests have been outdoors, the hotel setting provides attendees with unique opportunities to mingle. Hotel amenities include an indoor pool and game room, tavern serving traditional pub fare, and free breakfast every morning. Festivities will occur in the ballroom and pre-function area of the event center, which is attached via an indoor corridor to the hotel. No need to step outside in the cold! SHADOW FROST will also host arts and music vendors, workshops, Saturday morning yoga, table games, and other fun activities. The fest will have the feel of an event such as a horror or comic convention.

Friday – February 21st:
Barishi — Vermont prog-psych rock
Leila Abdul-Rauf — Oakland dark ambient multi-instrumentalist
Doomstress — Texas heavy rock
Alms — Baltimore proto-metal
Fell Ruin — Detroit blackened sludge
Capitalist — New Jersey crust grind
Infinite Pizza — Baltimore pizza-themed punk/grind

Saturday – February 22nd:
Vastum — Oakland death metal
Deceased — East Coast death metal legends
Darsombra — Baltimore trans-apocalyptic galaxy rock
Arsantiqva — New York black metal
Magic Circle — Boston traditional heavy metal
Frost Giant — Philadelphia viking metal
Volur — Toronto ambient doom
Spiral Grave — Maryland/Virginia heavy metal
Witching — Philadelphia blackened sludge
Yatra — Maryland death doom
Mo’ynoq — Raleigh DSBM
Polemicist — Philadelphia blackened death
Radamanthys — Maryland tech death

SHADOW FROST is an all ages event, however, children’s tickets (ages 5-17) will be available at the door with a PAID parent or guardian on-premises. Children under 5 get in for FREE with a paid parent or guardian.

Tickets: http://www.eventbrite.com/e/shadow-frost-music-and-arts-festival-tickets-85987128817
** Please note tickets do NOT include hotel reservations. **

Hotel reservations can be made separately at: http://ow.ly/VWzY50xCrMw

http://shadowwoodsproductions.com
http://shadowwoodsproductions.bigcartel.com
http://www.facebook.com/events/319480581997089
http://www.instagram.com/shadow.woods.metal.fest/

Shadow Frost 2020 YouTube Playlist

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The Obelisk Presents: THE BEST OF 2019

Posted in Features on December 24th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk best of 2019

[PLEASE NOTE: These are not the results of the year-end poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t contributed your list to the cause yet, please do so here.]

Make no mistake, my friends. 2019 was the year it went off the rails.

Every 12-month period brings a lot of records, and they all seem overwhelming, but this was the first year I’ve ever felt quite so helpless when it came time to sit down and actually make my list. Of course, I keep running notes all year long, but even so, ordering everything, bringing it all together? What a mess.

I almost thought of breaking it down into smaller lists in addition to the big one, subgrouped by style. But then, where does doom end and sludge begin? What about psych and heavy rock? Should prog get its own list? And what the hell counts as prog?

In the end, that didn’t seem like it would be doing me any favors, so we’ll stick with the one big list and then others for debut releases and another for EPs, splits, demos and so on. You know, the usual.

Pretty sure I say this every year too, but it bears repeating: if you read any of the below — and thanks if you do — and have a response, be nice. If I’ve forgotten something — and yes, I have; I’m sure of it — that you think needs to be included, and you want to leave a comment that says so, please, by all means. But keep it civil. I know people are passionate about this stuff and so am I, but consider there are probably over 200 offerings covered here by the time you get through all the lists and honorable mentions, and I’m one person. I’m doing my best, and though I try not to, I tend to take being called a dumbass personally. So yeah, chill out and please be constructive in calling me a dumbass. Words matter.

A few hard choices here, most especially for album of the year. I was back and forth with each of the top three in the top spot for a good long while, and it might change again between now and when this post goes up. But it’s been that kind of year. In 2018, there was no question. It was Sleep all the way. The question was what came after that. This year has been different without that kind of duh, punch-in-the-face obvious pick. Relative parity isn’t a bad thing though.

Enough delay. The usual parameters apply. These are a combo of my personal listening habits and what I think are the most important records/achievements of the year, critical importance, etc.

Here we go:

The Top 50 Albums of 2019

#50-31

50. Hazemaze, Hymns of the Damned
49. Lightning Born, Lightning Born
48. Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree, Grandmother
47. PH, Osiris Hayden
46. Thunderbird Divine, Magnasonic
45. Abrahma, In Time for the Last Rays of Light
44. Uffe Lorenzen, Triprapport
43. Swallow the Sun, When a Shadow is Forced into the Light
42. Caustic Casanova, God How I Envy the Deaf
41. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, Tre
40. SÂVER, They Came With Sunlight
39. Ogre, Thrice as Strong
38. Lamp of the Universe, Align in the Fourth Dimension
37. Vokonis, Grasping Time
36. Sacri Monti, Waiting Room for the Magic Hour
35. Across Tundras, The Rugged Ranges of Curbs and Broken Minds
34. Duel, Valley of Shadows
33. Orodruin, Ruins of Eternity
32. Zaum, Divination
31. Inter Arma, Sulphur English

Notes: Honestly, if this had been the top 20 of the year, I’d still call 2019 a win. Aside from the fact that I somehow thought Caustic Casanova would enjoy coming in a number 42, the sheer quality of this stuff should tell you what kind of year 2019 was. Inter Arma’s Sulphur English was a significant achievement in genre melding, and Orodruin’s return after more than a decade since their last LP was a masterclass in doom worship. Debut albums from SÂVER and Thunderbird Divine and Lightning Born showed marked promise of things to come — and there’s more on them below as well — while Zaum’s, Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree’s and Lamp of the Universe’s meditations, Vokonis’ noise, Abrahma’s emotive progressivisim, Swallow the Sun’s melodic melancholy, Sacri Monti’s boogie, and whatever the hell PH were doing on Osiris Hayden remind just how much the word “heavy” can encompass. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, Duel and Uffe Lorenzen and Hazemaze were musts here, and Ogre are perennial favorites whose work always brings a doomly grin. Don’t sleep on any of it.

30. Sun Blood Stories, Haunt Yourself

sun blood stories haunt yourself

Self-released. Reviewed Sept. 6.

Until they put out a complementary follow-up record of such fare, one might’ve accused Idaho three-piece Sun Blood Stories of becoming less experimentalist/droned-out/noisy on Haunt Yourself, but they seem to have met their quota one way or the other with the Oct. 2019 advent of Static Sessions Vol. 1. Still, it’s melody, heavy post-rock/psychedelic drift and emotive soul that rule the day on the crushing and enriching Haunt Yourself, and no complaints from me on that.

29. Church of the Cosmic Skull, Everybody’s Going to Die

Church of the Cosmic Skull Everybodys Going to Die

Released by Septaphonic Records. Reviewed Dec. 10.

I don’t have to do anything more than read the name of the album to have the chorus of the title-track stuck in my head, and it’s a reminder that although the Nottingham troupe put so much into their progressive style and vocal harmonies and arrangements, and a more conceptual theme in the case of Everybody’s Going to Die — their answer to 2018’s excellent Science Fiction (review here) — their roots are in songcraft, and it’s the foundation of songcraft that lets them soar. Would be higher on the list if it weren’t so new.

28. Devil to Pay, Forever, Never or Whenever

devil to pay forever never or whenever

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Nov. 4.

With their sixth album, Indianapolis’ Devil to Pay collect 10 tracks of unpretentious-almost-to-a-fault of straightforward heavy rock songwriting that continues to be woefully underappreciated. They have become utterly reliable in that regard — you know, to a certain extent, what’s coming — but the vocals of guitarist Steve Janiak (also Apostle of Solitude) and some more metallic turns to the riffing give Forever, Never or Whenever a subtlety that holds up all the more on repeat visits. I don’t know if Devil to Pay will ever get their due, but suffice it to say, they’re due.

27. Howling Giant, The Space Between Worlds

howling giant the space between worlds

Released by Blues Funeral Recordings. Reviewed Oct. 11.

If you’re of a certain age, you remember when the first Playstation came out and everyone looked around at their Nintendos and Segas like, “What the hell am I messing around with Mario Golf for? I could be playing Resident Evil!” That’s kind of what Howling Giant are as compared to “regular” rock bands. They’re the Playstation of heavy: that next progressive step forward carrying an inhuman amount of swagger and personality while still delivering a stepped-up product from their would-be peers. The scariest thing about The Space Between Worlds is it’s their first LP. One looks forward to the next generation.

26. Saint Vitus, Saint Vitus

saint vitus saint vitus

Released by Season of Mist. Reviewed March 19.

I know for a fact that bassist Pat Bruders and drummer Henry Vasquez had a hand in writing some of the material on Saint Vitus’ second self-titled LP, and yet the album so much bears the indelible mark of guitarist Dave Chandler that it’s hard not to think of it all as his. The album marked their first release with original singer Scott Reagers since 1995’s Die Healing (discussed here) and featured among their trademark low-tuned slog, an actual punk song, which showed the grinning glee that underlies all they do. Four decades on, Saint Vitus sound like they’re having fun. How is that not a win?

25. Ealdor Bealu, Spirit of the Lonely Places

ealdor bealu spirit of the lonely places

Self-released. Reviewed July 10.

Woodsy Rocky Mountain psychedelia abounded on Boise foursome Ealdor Bealu’s second full-length, and their blend of landscape meditations and grounded heavy progressive melodicism made Spirit of the Lonely Places as much about impact as about space, though of course the real joy was the experience of the entirety. Very much a sophomore album, it learned lessons from 2017’s Dark Water at the Foot of the Mountain (review here) that one only hopes the band will continue to push forward in scope as they so gracefully did here.

24. Yatra, Death Ritual

yatra death ritual

Released through Grimoire Records. Discussed Nov. 13, 2018..

Though hard- and to-date quick-working Maryland trio Yatra have already moved on and are looking ahead to releasing their second album, Blood of the Night (review here), their Grimoire-delivered debut, Death Ritual, is impossible to ignore for the impact it had on reminding listeners of the impact that primeval extreme sludge can have. Another couple tours and some bigger label — Relapse, Prosthetic, eOne, Season of Mist, whoever — will decide they’re “ready,” whatever that means, and then sign them and I won’t be cool enough to do track premieres for them anymore, but as far as accolades go, Yatra earn whatever they get and Death Ritual stands among 2019’s most landmark debuts. They’ve already outdone it, but it’s a stunner just the same.

23. Ecstatic Vision, For the Masses

ecstatic vision for the masses

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Sept. 17.

Ecstatic Vision frontman Doug Sabolik has cast himself in the mold of Arthur Brown or Dave Wyndorf or probably seven or eight dudes who were in Hawkwind at some point as a manic-but-stoned space rock preacher with as he and his band behind him plunge headfirst-or-feetfirst-it-doesn’t-matter-because-your-body-is-an-illusion-man into the molten multicolor void. For the Masses. The ‘masses,’ such as they are, should be so lucky, but the double-meaning is the real tell for where the Philly unit are coming from. Their shows are the masses — gatherings of spirit and song to give praise to the willful expansion of mind. If you can’t get behind that, you might as well go get a job or something. This ain’t no lightweight party for squares and dabblers. This is a high-potency happening for werewolves on motorcycles and freaks of all stripes. Get weird stay weird. Ecstatic Vision are one mostly-mellow 15-minute “Spine of God”-style psych-epic away from perfection.

22. Beastwars, IV

beastwars iv

Released by Destroy Records. Reviewed June 27.

But for the circumstances that brought it about — i.e. Beastwars vocalist Matt Hyde’s cancer — the unexpected fourth installment in the Beastwars trilogy was nothing if not welcome. An grand-feeling sense of largesse was nothing new to the New Zealand four-piece, but after breaking up and getting back together to make the album, the grim sincerity with which they presented this exploration of mortality and betrayal by one’s own body was no less palpable than the undulating riffs that threatened, as ever, to consume all in their path. I don’t know their future plans in terms of continuing to write and/or record, but there are reports of touring beyond Aus/NZ for 2020, so one way or another, stay tuned for more from them. Whether or not they do anything else, IV was a triumph in spirit and execution.

21. Eternal Black, Slow Burn Suicide

eternal black slow burn suicide

Self-released. Reviewed June 7.

With the nine songs of Slow Burn Suicide, Brooklyn’s Eternal Black began to unveil the true depth of their project. Their 2017 debut, Bleed the Days (review here), was well received, and rightly so, but operated more in a straight-ahead doom sphere. The second outing, by contrast, delved into a particular vision of the style informed by the crunch of peak-era New York noise and crossover hardcore, and it succeeded not just because it did this, but because it did so around a conjuration of memorable riffs and tracks building on accomplishments carried over from its predecessor. Is this an awaited arrival of next-generation ‘New York doom’? Will theirs be a blueprint others will follow? It’s impossible to know now, and their next album will be telling either way, but the course they’ve set is significant.

20. Candlemass, The Door to Doom

candlemass the door to doom

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Feb. 22.

It may have been the Tony Iommi guest appearance that got Swedish doom legends Candlemass — the world’s earliest and foremost purveyors of doom both classic and epic — their recent Grammy nomination, but it was the long-overdue reunion with original vocalist Johan Längquist that made the album as a whole as powerful as it was. Pairing Längquist’s theatrical and vital approach with founding bassist Leif Edling’s second-to-none doomcraft, The Door to Doom was a catapult not to the bygone days of the band’s landmark debut, 1986’s Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, but an inspired look at not just what might’ve been had Längquist remained with the band longer, but what might still be if he does this time around. Candlemass have been through their share of singers, but as fresh as The Door to Doom sounded, it’s hard not to hope for something more than a one-off with he who got there first. The songs, the spirit, the sheer heart poured into Candlemass’ doom some 35 years past the band’s start only emphasizes how special they have always been.

19. Nebula, Holy Shit

nebula holy shit

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed June 13.

Anyone who might’ve predicted Nebula getting into the studio and making a new album was either in the room when it happened or talking out their ass. And speaking of, was Nebula’s Holy Shit named for the shock one might’ve felt at its existence, or the surprise at how good it actually sounded when you put it on? I don’t know. I probably won’t ever know. It was the best title I saw all year, but more than that, it was a Nebula record, fueled by the classic riffing and unmitigated desert punk soul of founding/guitarist Eddie Glass, whose absence from the heavy underground for the last decade left a void only too many others whiffed on filling. Holy Shit showed just how singular a player Glass was and is, and how much character there is in his style, particularly in solos, but also in rhythmic changes, and so on. I won’t discount the work of bassist Tom Davies and drummer Mike Amster in making Nebula what they are in this incarnation — they’re essential, obviously — but there’s simply no denying that presence at the band’s core.

18. Valley of the Sun, Old Gods

valley of the sun old gods

Released by Fuzzorama Records. Reviewed May 21.

This was a heavy rock record that had everything. Everything. It had songs, style, ups, down, purples, greens, ins, outs, all kinds of whathaveyou. Riffs forever. Valley of the Sun should keep their eyes on Sasquatch, because if they want it, that path is theirs. I know the Cincinnati outfit have had trouble keeping lineups together, but if they can hold onto one, and maybe after their next record start touring more, domestically and abroad — not at all a minor ask, I know — then people will catch on. Old Gods is evidence of the fact that they genuinely have something to offer, and frankly, it’s not at all the first such effective case they’ve made in their career. But they’ve never put anything out that wasn’t a step forward, and yet they’ve never lost sight of the roots of their initial inspiration. And they’ve never sacrificed the song for the riff, which so many do. They’ve only ever gotten better. Let Old Gods be a step toward them getting attention they’ve long since deserved.

17. Kadavar, For the Dead Travel Fast

Kadavar For the Dead Travel Fast

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Oct. 28.

In style and production, For the Dead Travel Fast is the most vintage-sounding offering Berlin trio Kadavar have made in over a half decade, yet neither is it looking backward wistfully toward 2013’s Abra Kadavar (review here) or giving up the modern clarity of 2017’s Rough Times (review here) or 2015’s Berlin (review here). Instead, it strikes a balance with a more sinister edge à la Uncle Acid in songs like “Children of the Night” and “Demons in My Mind” — both singles — and makes a home for itself between proto-metal and garage doom. Whatever genre tag you want to give it — and that might vary from track to track, mind you — it’s unmistakably Kadavar, with the signature hooks and memorable craftsmanship that have made them one of the decade’s most pivotal heavy bands. The real challenge at this point in their career is not to take for granted that Kadavar will produce material of such quality, because, frankly, that’s all they’ve ever done.

16. Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Yn Ol I Annwn

mammoth weed wizard bastard yn ol i annwn

Released by New Heavy Sounds. Reviewed Feb. 7.

Welsh sci-fi cosmic doomers Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard billed Yn Ol I Annwn as the final installment of a trilogy that includes their two prior LPs, 2015’s Noeth Ac Anoeth (review here) and 2016’s Y Proffwyd Dwyll (review here), and while that may be true thematically, there’s also no question the third is a marked step forward from anything they’ve done before. They’re one foot out of the airlock and into space as their synth-laden longform riffing and melodies take them to places they’ve not yet gone, explorations of sight as much as sound, aural translation of colors humans aren’t gifted to see. Their songs across the 65-minute span unfold with the grace of a gravity spiral, pulling the listener deeper into the proceedings with each new phase that emerges until, what, obliteration? Stellar genesis? I’m not sure. They’ve reportedly got one more record to make and then they’re done. If that’s true, they’ll be missed then they’re gone.

15. Magic Circle, Departed Souls

magic circle departed souls

Released by 20 Buck Spin. Reviewed April 3.

They’ve found their way to die, and it’s upon an altar of classic metal and doom. And honestly, they make a pretty good case for it. Departed Souls is the third full-length from the Boston unit and their most stylistically realized work yet, with vocalist Brendan Radigan giving a standout performance alongside the guitars of Chris Corry and Renato Montenegro, the bass of Justin DeTore and Michael “Q” Quartulli’s drums, as the entire band taps into vibes from mid-’70s Black Sabbath and brings them to bear with an energy that is unlike anything in Magic Circle’s history. 2015’s Journey Blind (review here) brought in NWOBHM flash in the guitar work, sure enough, but Departed Souls doesn’t so much carry the torch of classic metal as it does use it to burn down the whole village and rebuild it in the five-piece’s image. From their doomed beginnings on their 2013 self-titled debut (review here) to now, they’re an act who’ve genuinely earned cult status. If you can find a backpatch, buy it.

14. Spaceslug, Reign of the Orion

Spaceslug Reign of the Orion cover

Released by BSFD Records. Reviewed Nov. 22.

Controversy! Drama! Well, probably not, but at very least some respectful disagreement on my part. You see, Poland’s Spaceslug have stated publicly that their latest release, the late-2019 surprise Reign of the Orion is an EP. Their albums regularly top 50 minutes, and at 36 minutes, I guess relative to that, you can see where they’re coming from. However, with the flow of these five songs and the ease with which they carry the listener from front-to-back through the listening experience, I’m sticking to my guns and calling Reign of the Orion an album. Sorry guys. True, it’s shorter than the other full-lengths, but it’s got everything you could ask an album to have in terms of how tracks like “Spacerunner” and the shouty “Half-Moon Burns” play into each other, and the fluidity of the outing on the whole is inarguable. An LP by any other name? Whatever you or they want to call it, there’s no question in my mind Reign of the Orion is one of 2019’s best records. If they insist on it being an EP, then it’s the best one of the year, but I still say it belongs in another category altogether, so here it is.

13. Green Lung, Woodland Rites

green lung woodland rites

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed Jan. 28.

As hyper-crowded as London is with bands at this moment in history, there continue to be acts who sneak through with an individualized and intriguing perspective on doom and heavy rock, and Green Lung are a perfect example, learning from fellow Brits like Alunah and Elephant Tree and incorporating folk and forest goth vibes to their debut album, Woodland Rites. Laced with organ and stuck-in-the-head choruses like “Let the Devil In” and the creeper “Templar Dawn,” the record also pushed into drifting verses on “Into the Wild,” setting up future experimentation with atmospheric variety and genre manipulation. If part of any first album’s appeal is the potential it represents, Green Lung’s offers plenty, but wherever their subsequent course may or may not take them, their accomplishments here shouldn’t be overlooked. Woodland Rites is nothing less than the heavy rock debut album of the year, and though they emerge from a packed field, the work they do to stand themselves out already carries their mark and an apparent will toward progression. They’re on their way.

12. Lo-Pan, Subtle

lo-pan subtle

Released by Aqualamb Records. Reviewed May 9.

My head immediately goes to the hooks of “Ten Days” and “Ascension Day” and “Savage Heart,” but the up-down surges of guitar in “Old News/New Fire” and the midtempo soulfulness in “A Thousand Miles” are no less resonant when it comes to the actual listening experience of the fifth Lo-Pan LP. Subtle, when it came to living up to its name, as much wasn’t as it was. Flourishes of harmony in the vocals of Jeff Martin, the pops in Jesse Bartz’s snare punctuating and propelling in kind, turns in Scott Thompson’s bass work twisting around the guitar of Chris Thompson, a relative newcomer to the fold making his debut with the band and showing no apparent trouble fitting in. I don’t imagine Lo-Pan is an easy band to join, especially at this point. They thrive on personality clash and, through years of touring, have a chemistry they’ve built between them that comes through even on their recordings. Nonetheless, Subtle is their clearest, sharpest-edged work yet, and as tight as their songwriting has become, they still groove and groove mightily. They are a treasure of American heavy rock and roll. Believe it.

11. Roadsaw, Tinnitus the Night

roadsaw tinnitus the night

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed June 12.

While members of Roadsaw have spent the intervening years in projects like Kind, White Dynomite, Sasquatch and Murcielago, the Boston heavy rock kingpins have indeed been missed, and Tinnitus the Night works quickly to show why. It’s been well over 20 years since their first LP — hell, it’s been eight since they put out their 2011 self-titled (review here) — but their craft is at its own level, and Tinnitus the Night comes barreling through with “Shake” and “Along for the Ride” and “Final Phase” before opening up to broader fare on side B with “Find What You Need,” “Under the Devil’s Thumb” and “Midazolam” ahead of the subdued finale “Silence,” and the result is nothing less than a classic heavy rock LP structure as befitting what is itself a classic heavy rock LP. What’s Roadsaw’s future? I don’t know. It took them the better part of a decade to make this one happen, so take from that what you will, but to me, all it says is there’s even more reason to be grateful they got it done and out. To say the songs deserve that is putting it mildly.

10. Worshipper, Light in the Wire

worshipper light in the wire

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed April 24.

I’m not doing a ‘song of the year’ post, but if I was, Worshipper’s “Coming Through” might be it. The opening track from the Boston four-piece’s second album, Light in the Wire, marries classic pop drama in its melody with careening progressive riffing, and sets the tone for a record that is of both future and past, twistingly complex and yet immediately accessible, immersive as an entirety and still comprised of standout moments. These aren’t contradictions in Worshipper’s skillful hands, but the stuff of what’s already becoming their own take on rock. Tied together through melody, skillful rhythmic intricacy and solid structural foundations, “Light in the Wires,” “Visions from Beyond,” “Wither on the Vine” and others throughout post their own triumphs en route to enhancing the album as a whole, while “Nobody Else” and closer “Arise” underscore the emotive basis from which the perspective of the whole LP emanates. There are a lot of “next-gen” heavy rock bands out there weaving prog elements and traditional riffing together to some degree or other. Few, if any, can write a song like Worshipper can. I mean it. This band is something special.

9. Solace, The Brink

solace the brink

Released by Blues Funeral Recordings. Reviewed Nov. 21.

What is there to say about Solace? A band who, nine years after revealing the expectation-slaughtering masterpiece A.D. (review here), return with three-fifths of a swapped-out lineup and simply do it again? This band is explosive. Really. Like, they might explode at any minute. It’s a miracle The Brink ever happened. I’ll be honest, I had my doubts. But Solace are a force like nothing else I’ve ever encountered in music. They take metallic aggression, hardcore’s sense of self-righteousness and heavy rock’s groove, set it all to a doomly swing and they play it in such a way as to leave you utterly dumbfounded by what you just experienced. Here’s a challenge though, for the band personally. From me to them. Do another one. Go ahead. Put out another album. You don’t even have to do it in 2020. Do it 2021. Write the songs and give me a no-holds-barred 45-minute LP of the tightest, meanest shit you’ve ever written. Because massive as the accomplishments are on The Brink, it’s the potential to build from them that resonates most here. So do it, guys. Step up and take advantage of the moment. Call me greedy if you want, I don’t care. Give me another Solace record. I dare you.

8. Brume, Rabbits

brume rabbits

Released by Doom Stew Records & DHU Records. Reviewed Nov. 6.

Simply a case of a band wildly outdoing themselves. Easy story, yeah? In some ways, maybe, but the truth of what Brume achieve on Rabbits. Their second long-player behind 2017’s Rooster (review here), the five-track offering sees the San Francisco three-piece of vocalist/bassist Susie McMullan, guitarist/vocalist Jamie McCathie and drummer Jordan Perkins-Lewis working with producer Billy Anderson to bring theatricality and emotionalism together in a flowing post-heavy context that’s neither derivative nor working at cross purposes. Instead, it is a gorgeous and blooming undertaking across its 43-minute span, working in its own light/dark spectrum and bringing not just the sense of trapped fragility evoked by the cover art, but a corresponding sureness of intent to its ascendant heavy surges. Like Rooster before it, it is loaded with potential, but in “Scurry” and “Lament” and “Despondence” and “Blue Jay and “Autocrat’s Fool,” there’s a patience and command that absolutely does not waver. So yes, a band outdoing themselves. But so much more too.

7. Mars Red Sky, The Task Eternal

mars red sky the task eternal

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed Sept. 20.

This may forever be known as the Mars Red Sky album they wrote in a cave, but the Bordeaux three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras and bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Matieu “Matgaz” Gazeau nonetheless plunged forward along the progressive course they charted back on 2014’s sophomore outing, Stranded in Arcadia (review here), and continued to manifest in 2016’s Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul) (review here). Their blend of melody and tonal heft has become a hallmark of their work to this stage in their career, but The Task Eternal continues to add a sense of breadth to the proceedings, giving their sound a full three-dimensional pull that feels tailor-made for headphones and is consuming in its entirety. With experiments in structure like the pairing of “Recast” and “Reacts,” and the rushing sweep of melody in “Hollow King,” Mars Red Sky’s latest is, as ever, their finest. Outdoing themselves would seem to be the task from which the record derives its title. Fine. Just keep going. Please.

6. Kings Destroy, Fantasma Nera

Kings Destroy Fantasma Nera

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 15.

Every time I think I understand where Kings Destroy want to go as a band, they pull the rug out. That’s what Fantasma Nera is. After their 2015 self-titled (review here) third LP seemed to declare them once and for all in a space between doom and noise rooted in their respective hardcore pasts, the Brooklynite five-piece hooked up with producer David Bottrill (Tool, etc.) and composed a rock album. A real live rock album! With progressive undertones in the guitar work and the most accomplished melodicism of their career, Kings Destroy put everything they had into making Fantasma Nera and one need look no further than the title-track to hear the result of that monumental effort. It is the realization of a band challenging themselves to go so far out of their comfort zone as to be only recognizable in the most rudimentary of ways, and to say it as plainly as I can, “Dead Before” on its own is enough of an accomplishment — and enough of a full-length, at all of 4:25 — to make this list on its own, whatever surrounds it. Song of the year. I’ll say every time I’m a Kings Destroy fan, but I’ve never been gladder to say it than I am in talking about Fantasma Nera.

5. Colour Haze, We Are

colour haze we are

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed Dec. 3.

If you’re saying to yourself, “Ah come on, Colour Haze are always on the list when they put out records,” I have two answers. One, you’re right, and two, if you have a problem with that, blow it out your ass. The Munich forefathers of the European heavy psychedelic underground — yup — marked their 25th anniversary this year, and did so not just by putting out an album, but by putting out We Are, which introduces a full-fledged fourth member to what’s been a three-piece since 1998. Granted, it’s not the first time guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek, bassist Philipp Rasthofer and drummer Manfred Merwald have worked with organist/keyboardist/synthesist Jan Faszbender, but never has the presence of keys been so integral to their work, and never has the dynamic between players shifted in the way it does on tracks like “The Real” and “Life” and “I’m With You,” with keys fleshing out melodies and enriching the bass and guitar. Add to that the Spanish-style guitar on centerpiece “Material Drive” or the operatic flash in the penultimate “Be With Me,” and it’s one more example of one of the best bands on earth refusing to rest on their laurels. Which, as it happens, is why they’re one of the best bands on earth. So hell yes, they’re on all my lists. Fact is my lists are lucky to have them.

4. Blackwater Holylight, Veils of Winter

blackwater holylight veils of winter

Released by RidingEasy Records. Reviewed Sept. 26.

Like nothing else I heard in 2019, Veils of Winter had repeat listenability. It was the album that, most often, when I was choosing something I actually wanted to hear, I went back to time and again. Its dark, moody psychedelic and heavy vibe stands alone among the year’s releases, and is a stylistic milestone that one only hopes other artists will pick up on. Toying with pop melodies on tracks like “Death Realms” and bringing hypnosis and clarity in kind to the subtly traditionalist winding riff of “Moonlit” — would it have been out of place on the first Witchcraft LP? — the Portland, Oregon, five-piece worked on a speedy turnaround and squashed even the significant expectations I had after their self-titled debut (review here) last year. They’ve begun to tour, so I don’t know if another full-length is in the works for 2020, but their craft is enviable in its flow and their songs are shimmering in tone and cohesion alike. Given how bold a step forward Veils of Winter is, I hear nothing in their material to this point to make me think their momentum won’t continue to carry them forward. But, you know, if not, I’d also take about six or seven records just like this one. That’d be fine too. Whatever they want, really.

3. Slomatics, Canyons

Slomatics Canyons

Released by Black Bow Records. Reviewed May 15.

Belfast, Northern Ireland, three-piece Slomatics — guitarists David Marjury and Chris Couzens and drummer/vocalist/synthesist Marty Harvey — finished a narrative trilogy with 2016’s Future Echo Returns (review here), and though the storyline was always vague throughout that and the preceding two offerings, the question of how they would proceed nonetheless hung over Canyons prior to its release. The answer is in the songs themselves. From the sci-fi majesty of lumbering, rolling groove in opener and longest track “Gears of Despair” — oh, they grind — through the mega-stomp of “Telemachus, My Son” and the righteously synth-laden wash that consumes “Mind Fortresses on Theia,” Slomatics bring together concept and execution with a readiness that highlights the fact of their 15th anniversary. They are mature in their approach, yes, but the fact is their approach is so much their own and so given to their particular mode of progression that it almost can’t help but feel fresh. How could something so utterly crushing also feel rejuvenating? As they plod through finale “Organic Caverns II” ending with more waves of synth and tectonic guitar — no bass, remember — they are as restorative as they are punishing, and they stand astride that duality with neither mercy nor pretense. Canyons, whether it’s setting up a new story, building from the old, or doing something completely different, stands on its own.

2. Year of the Cobra, Ash and Dust

year of the cobra ash and dust

Released by Prophecy Productions. Reviewed Oct. 24.

My anticipation for and expectations of Year of the Cobra’s second long-player were high most especially after 2017’s Burn Your Dead EP (review here), which along with the dead, set alight the notion that the Seattle duo of bassist/vocalist Amy Tung Barrysmith and drummer Jon Barrysmith were simply a heavy/doom band. With elements of post-punk, psych wash, minimalist stretches and propulsive gallop, Ash and Dust cast itself out over an aesthetic range that set a new standard not just for Year of the Cobra, but for anyone who’d dare match them at their own game — and that list will grow with time, absolutely. As their first outing through Prophecy Productions, Ash and Dust threw itself into the very melting pot of its own ambition and emerged with songs that didn’t just bring together disparate ideas, but made them flourish and engage and challenge the listener while still proving consistent in tone and underlying groove. For a two-person, two-instrument outfit (not counting voice, though I should), they proved more malleable than many with more than twice the number of hands on deck, and pushed the notion of what heavy rock is and does forward without stopping to look back or ask for permission. They just did it, and maybe Ash and Dust is the aftermath of all that burning.

2019 Album of the Year

1. Monolord, No Comfort

monolord no comfort

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed Sept. 12.

Look back over the course of this list, and you will find no shortage of bands and releases that surpassed the group in question’s past work. With Gothenburg, Sweden’s Monolord, it wasn’t just about No Comfort — their debut on Relapse, fourth full-length overall — being better than 2017’s Rust (review here), because that was pretty jolly gosh darn enjoyable, but about the band reaching a moment of transcendence to which Rust and all their prior work across 2015’s Vænir (review here) and 2014’s Empress Rising has been leading. With the six tracks of No Comfort, guitarist/vocalist Thomas Jäger, bassist Mika Häkki and drummer Esben Willems not only overcome the influences that launched them — taking full ownership of their sound and defending that claim with the sheer quality of their songwriting — and they not only become as identifiable as those influences themselves, but they overcome themselves. No Comfort means no comfort. Monolord take the simplicity that once fueled their riffing, the willful primitivism of their earliest work, and with songs like “Larvae” and “The Bastard Son” and the closing title-track use it as the foundation it was apparently always intended to be. Monolord have toured plenty and certainly their studio output has shown an increasing complexity from one LP to the next, so progression isn’t unexpected, but the manner in which Monolord have executed that progression has been. Even on “The Last Leaf,” which is arguably the most straightforward fare on the album, one hears it as them rather than the manifestation of the acts that inspired them. The same holds for “Skywards” later on, and for the immersion that takes hold as the mournful “Alone Together” plays into “No Comfort” itself. Monolord take their place among the best bands on the planet, and deliver an Album of the Year for 2019 that, like the absolute best, will have an impact lasting much longer than any period of 12 months might convey.

The Top 50 Albums of 2019: Honorable Mention

You didn’t think we’d stop at 50, did you? Come on. You know me better than that. The fact is that the list itself, humongous as it is, is just the start of the tip of an iceberg attached to a glacier that’s somewhere on an entire planet constructed of ice.

Honorable mentions, you say? Yeah, a few. Here they are in no order whatsoever:

Lord Vicar, Goatess, The Lord Weird Slough Feg, Zone Six, Lykantropi, Earth, White Manna, Atala, Tia Carrera, Merlin, WEEED, Híbrido, Cities of Mars, Stone Machine Electric, Bretus, Blackwolfgoat, The Black Wizards, Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, Alunah, V, Pale Grey Lore, Leeds Point, Sons of Alpha Centauri, Spidergawd, Bus, Death Hawks, BBF, Vessel of Light, Crypt Trip, The Pilgrim, Uffe Lorenzen, Brant Bjork, Doomstress, Black Lung, Kandodo3, Monkey3, Bask, Horseburner, Zed, Bright Curse, Spillage, Sigils, Papir, Dune Sea, Destroyer of Light, Mastiff, Warp, Centrum, Varego, Lord Dying, Volcano, Saint Karloff, Firebreather, High Reeper, Bible of the Devil, Obsidian Sea, Torche, Motorpsycho, Sunn O))), Deadbird, Russian Circles, El Supremo, Pyramidal, Holy Serpent, Elizabeth Colour Wheel, Demon Head, Red Beard Wall, Onhou, Kamchatka, Iguana, Arrowhead, The Whims of the Great Magnet, Serial Hawk, Scissorfight, Monte Luna, Lingua Ignota, Valborg, Sageness, Ruff Majik, The Giraffes, High Fighter, Comacozer, Burning Gloom, Swan Valley Heights, Mark Deutrom, Cable, AVER, Superlynx, The Munsens, No Man’s Valley, Old Mexico, Skraeckoedlan, Godsleep, Øresund Space Collective Meets Black Moon Circle.

Seems cruel to leave it to you to sort through those, but I’m tempted to do just that. You might notice some bigger names there in bands like Earth, Russian Circles, Torche and Sunn O))). Nothing against those bands, but I think we’re seeing a moment where a different group of artists are taking point in terms of innovating heavy styles across an entire swath of microgenres. Either way it’s not a slight that something is here instead of above. And of course, there are plenty of up and coming groups here as well, with Ruff Majik, Elizabeth Colour Wheel — who I’m sure would be a top 30 if I knew the record better than I do — Pale Grey Lore, Monte Luna, Papir, Destroyer of Light, The Munsens, No Man’s Valley, Skraeckoedlan, and so on, but hell’s bells, there’s already a list of 50 and I’m only one man. How high is the list supposed to go and still be a list?

Bottom line: Music is as endless as space and has as much beauty in it for those willing to hear. Do more digging.

The Top 20 Debut Albums of 2019

green lung woodland rites

1. Green Lung, Woodland Rites
2. Yatra, Death Ritual
3. Howling Giant, The Space Between Worlds
4. Thunderbird Divine, Magnasonic
5. SÂVER, They Came with Sunlight
6. Lightning Born, Lightning Born
7. Elizabeth Colour Wheel, Nocebo
8. The Pilgrim, Walking into the Forest
9. Sigils, You Build the Altar You Lit the Leaves
10. E-L-R, Maenad
11. Hey Zeus, X
12. Bellrope, You Must Relax
13. Asthma Castle, Mount Crushmore
14. Thronehammer, Usurper of Oaken Throne
15. Inner Altar, Vol. III
16. Infinity Forms of Yellow Remember, Infinity Forms of Yellow Remember
17. Hippie Death Cult, 111
18. Faerie Ring, The Clearing
19. Gone Cosmic, Sideways in Time
20. Haze Mage, Chronicles

Honorable Mention: Warp, Pelegrin, Lucy in Blue, Volcano, The Sabbathian, Red Eye Tales, Dune Sea, Dury Dava, Pharlee, Giant Dwarf, Ghost:Hello, Surya, Workshed, Children of the Sün, Burning Gloom, Temple of the Fuzz Witch.

Notes: As ever, I consider a band’s debut album something unique and separate from everything else they’ll ever do, and so worthy of highlighting in its own category. It’s a different standard in my mind, one that takes into account what a group might accomplish going forward as well as what they do on the record itself. Plus, putting out an album is hard. Getting two, three, four, five or more people to agree on anything is an accomplishment. Making a cohesive album? Come on. So yes. We see some crossover from the main list above, but I want to draw attention to Howling Giant, Thunderbird Divine and SÂVER particularly here. There’s a swath of genres represented and I feel like a couple of these releases — Sigils, Bellrope, Thronehammer, Inner Altar, Faerie Ring, Infinity Forms of Yellow Remember — didn’t get their due attention. It’s a busy year, I get it. But if you’re skimming through looking for stuff to check out, DON’T IGNORE THIS LIST. Aside from whatever line about the best of tomorrow you want to trot out, there’s important work being done by these acts today. As somebody who’s constantly behind the times, I urge you not to

The Top 20 Short Releases of 2019

geezer spiral fires

1. Geezer, Spiral Fires
2. Ufomammut, XX
3. All Them Witches, 1×1
4. Mount Saturn, Mount Saturn
5. Dopelord, Weedpecker, Major Kong & Spaceslug, 4-Way Split
6. Horehound, Weight
7. Molasses, Mourning Haze
8. Saint Karloff & Devil’s Witches, Split
9. Here Lies Man, No Ground to Walk Upon
10. The Golden Grass, 100 Arrows
11. Mount Atlas, Mistress
12. Midas, Solid Gold Heavy Metal
13. Glory in the Shadows, Glory in the Shadows
14. Hot Breath, Hot Breath
15. Crystal Spiders, Demo
16. Red Wizard, Ogami
17. Thermic Boogie, Fracture
18. Pinto Graham, Dos
19. High Priest, Sanctum
20. Set Fire, Traya
21. Seedium, Awake

Honorable Mention: Love Gang & Smokey Mirror Split, Forebode, Land Mammal, Very Paranoia, Plague of Carcosa, Daal Dazed, Komodor, Mourn the Light & Oxblood Forge Split, High on Fire, Mount Soma.

Notes: This is probably the least complete of the lists, because it’s the hardest category for me to keep up with. EPs, singles, demos, splits and basically anything else that isn’t an album, all lumped together. Still, I stand by the picks here, and I don’t think anyone who takes on any of them will regret doing so, whether it’s All Them Witches’ surprisingly weighted first single as a trio, Mount Saturn’s debut release, or Geezer’s cosmic jams. Felt a little like cheating putting Ufomammut on there, since technically XX wasn’t new material so much as reworked stuff captured live, but if you want to call me out on it, my own listening habits also factor in, and I’ve spent plenty of time with those reimagined tracks. But anyway, I’m sure there’s a ton of stuff that hasn’t been included here, so please feel free to let me know in the comments and I’ll work accordingly.

Postwax

I haven’t felt comfortable with the idea of writing about it editorially, since I’ve been involved in discussions about it since before it came together and since I did the liner notes for each of the six releases (plus one to come), but I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the incredible work done on the Postwax vinyl subscription series by Blues Funeral Recordings. Label head Jadd Shickler and design specialist Peder Bergstrand (also of Lowrider) put together six offerings that came out in the span of this year and when you hold the LPs in your hand, you can feel the passion that went into making them, from the artists in question to those curating the series in the first place. I hear tell there’s going to be a Postwax Year Two, and I don’t know if I’ll be involved or not, but I’m proud of my miniscule part in the work that went into making these and wanted to bring them to your particular attention. They are something special for those who got to partake:

  • Elder, The Gold and Silver Sessions
  • Daxma, Ruins Upon Ruins
  • Besvärjelsen, Frost
  • Big Scenic Nowhere, Dying on the Mountain
  • Domkraft, Slow Fidelity
  • Lowrider, Refractions

And while we’re talking about projects I was proud to be involved with, I also did liner notes for Acrimony’s The Chronicles of Wode box set from Burning World Records and was honored to do so. Thanks to any and everyone in question for having me involved and dealing with me blowing past deadlines one after the next. It is humbling.

Looking Ahead to 2020

A few names and nothing more about what definitely is and/or might be in the works for next year. Woefully incomplete, so feel free to add to it:

1000mods, Wolves in the Throne Room, Deathwhite, Mondo Drag, Drug Cult, Ocean Chief, Soldati, Sergio Ch., Mitochondrial Sun, Geezer, Mirror Queen, Mondo Generator, The Otolith, Asteroid, Yatra, Vestal Claret, Farer, Ryte, Shadow Witch, Six Organs of Admittance, Naxatras, Wolftooth, Snail, Elder, Pale Divine, Grey Skies Fallen, Ruby the Hatchet, Yuri Gagarin, Sasquatch, Godthrymm, Wo Fat, Red Mesa, CB3, Onsegen Ensemble, Insect Ark, Acid Mammoth, Ritual King, Ulls, Om.

Thank You

Thank you for reading, and please, if you have a thought or something you want to share in the comments, please remember to be kind to each other. We are all human beings behind our phones and keyboards, and while we’ll disagree, often in some ways and some cases, a basic level of respect is always appreciated. At least by me.

I am not so deluded as to think anyone might still be reading, but I want it on record how much I appreciate you being a part of this site and a part of my experience in making it. I’ve been ruminating all year since marking the 10th anniversary back in January about how much The Obelisk has become a part of who I am, and it’s utterly essential to my every day. The way I continue to think about it — and myself, as it happens — is a work in progress, and that would not be possible without you. One more time. Thank you. Always. Always thank you. Thank you.

More to come.

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Review & Track Premiere: Yatra, Blood of the Night

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on December 20th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

yatra blood of the night

[Click play above to stream ‘Carrion’ from Yatra’s new album, Blood of the Night, out Jan. 31 digital and Feb. 1 vinyl through STB Records.]

A release in winter suits Maryland trio Yatra, for whom images of red splatter on snow, grey skies, dark nights and raging winds seem only too appropriate. Plus, perhaps, the occasional battle axe. Only a year after crashing the gate and plundering the greater consciousness of the sludge underground — such as it is — with their Grimoire Records debut album, Death Ritual (discussed here), and several US tours and an initial incursion to European shores later, the marauding three-piece return. Now signed to STB Records, they issue Blood of the Night in a host of limited vinyl editions in keeping with the label’s tradition, and thereby hone the bleak, violent, extreme metal-derived intensity of their sound to a new, even sharper focus. Blood of the Night runs for eight tracks and shows no interest in hiding its malevolent purpose, as Yatra careen and lumber between a post-High on Fire medieval deathbringing and neo-primitive riffs that tap into root, essential-in-the-sense-of-essence nod, stripped of unnecessary frills and brought to bear with the harsh-throated screams of guitarist Dana Helmuth.

Their plodding and slog comes through regardless of actual tempo, with bassist Maria Geisbert and drummer Sean Lafferty complementing Helmuth‘s riffs and searing incantations as well as establishing their own presence in the low end and the significant roll each song seems to elicit from the beginning of opener “Sorcerer” onward. Cuts like “The Howling” and “Blood Will Flow” aren’t nearly as slow-paced as some of their counterparts — looking at you, “After the Ravens” — and in some of that speedier material especially, Yatra reveal influences beyond doom and into other forms of perhaps more aggressive metals. I’ve said before that I can’t help but hear mid-’90s Carcass in their sound, and I stand by that. Yatra seem to have found the balance of heft and bite which so many complained Swansong lacked after 1993’s brilliant Heartwork, and as far as I’m concerned, if you’re putting out records that hold up to that standard, as Blood of the Night does, you’re doing something very, very right.

But put the emphasis on “bite.” Gnashing, really. And it’s not just Helmuth‘s vocals either. The guitar line in the chorus of “After the Ravens” — a standout in its hook and also as the longest inclusion at 7:39; Yatra‘s longest track to-date, though the penultimate “Three Moons” here also tops seven minutes — creeps along with an eerie threat, and in its tone, it is a perfect match to the nodule-building vocal delivery. The same can be said of the bass and drums, though for much of the album — recorded July 12-15, 2019, at Developing Nations in Baltimore by Kevin Bernsten and mastered by the esteemed James Plotkin — the riffs set the patterns followed by all. Still, in the mid-paced second track “Carrion” or in side B’s plundering “Burning Vision,” which veers in its second half into a layered solo that makes it something of a highlight for the sheer feeling of noise and chaos contained therein, it is very much a full-band impact being made, and as Blood of the Night progresses through its front-to-back run, that turns out to be the key component of it.

yatra

Yatra made an impressive debut, and the follow-up arrives on a quick turnaround all the more considering it’s not like those tracks were sitting around for years before they came out and the new one was essentially put to tape between tours, but if there’s urgency, they use it well. It feeds not only into the forwardness of their aesthetic — have I mentioned they’re not subtle? — and gives material like “The Howling” an extra edge of command, which with Helmuth‘s voice gurgling through a charging riff makes their take so much richer than a simple blend of black metal and sludge or of heavy tones and extreme metal vibe. Blood of the Night affirms what Death Ritual first heralded, which is that Yatra are a band interested in not just presenting these ideas to an audience — regularly, if their schedule is anything to go by — but also in taking the elements that inspire them and making them their own; in carving, or melding, or chipping away, or molding, chainsawing, machete-ing, or simply crafting them by whatever means necessary into what they want them to be. Blood of the Night accomplishes this at the same time it pushes Yatra‘s songwriting to a new level, and for that it feels even more significant.

This is another place where “After the Ravens” serves as example, and not just because of its chorus. It’s true of lurching, mega-nodding closer “Surrender” as well, and “The Howling” earlier and plenty of others throughout that Yatra show little interest in sacrificing song for style’s sake. That is, as much as Blood of the Night is an aesthetically sure work, it’s also a showcase of the progression in Yatra‘s ability to write memorable material. The structures underlying all that viciousness, all that sharpened-fang gnash, are firm enough to contain the madness that ensues, and that plays a large role in the album’s overall success. It’s the difference between Yatra being fully capable of wielding their sound like the weapon they do and floundering at the mercy of their own aggression. I don’t know if that’s a self-awareness they’ve purely gleaned from their time on the road, but they clearly have a sense of what works in their material, even if the standard they’re working with is “what feels right” for them.

As they claw their way through “Three Moons” ahead of “Surrender,” the risks they take are there beneath the surface, but their grip on their sound is unyielding, and their confidence is justified not only by what they’ve done to that point on the album, but what they’ll do on the subsequent finale. The story of Death Ritual was that of a band loaded with potential working hard to realize that. The story of Blood of the Night remains in some contexts to be written, but what’s without question is that it builds on the achievements of its predecessor and conveys in no uncertain terms that Yatra‘s intent to conquer is unwavering. I’ll say it as plainly as I can: if Relapse Records isn’t already eyeing them, they’re dropping the ball. What Yatra‘s impact on the heavy underground and the wider sphere of metal will be is still unknown, but the fact that they bridge that gap so organically on Blood of the Night makes them even more lethal than they already were. And if there’s a running theme for Yatra to this point in their career, “lethal” might be it.

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