Gozu Announce Beer Release; Live Shows with Kings Destroy & Forming the Void

Posted in The Obelisk Presents, Whathaveyou on February 25th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

gozu

Ahead of a previously announced appearance at Denver’s Electric Funeral Fest IV, Boston heavy rockers Gozu will head out this coming weekend for a three-pack of shows alongside Kings Destroy — who are celebrating their new album release on a tour co-presented by The Obelisk — and Forming the Void. The targets are Geno’s in Portland, Maine, Middle East in Boston and Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn, and at the latter gig, as part of NYC Beer Week, they’ll be unveiling a new, limited edition Gozu beer in collaboration with Alewife Brewing.

The cans, as you can see below, use the cover art from Gozu‘s 2018 album, Equilibrium (review here), and while I’ll admit I don’t know much about the particulars of what makes a Gose a Gose when it comes to brewing — coriander? — but a Gozu Gose could hardly be more appropriate, and it looks pretty awesome with the can art, so mark it a win. Gozu will also be touring to later this year in conjunction with the trip out to Colorado. Dates on that will be along in good time. The fest is in June, so we’ve got a minute.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen these cats, and I’ll be at the latter two of these shows, so I’m looking forward to it:

gozu gose beer

We are excited to rage with our homies in Kings Destroy and Forming The Void!!

2/28 Portland ME, Geno’s
3/01 Cambridge MA, Middle East
3/02 Brooklyn NY, St Vitus

The pre show for the Kings Destroy Saint Vitus album release show with Clamfight and Forming The Void is pretty banging!! We will have a special edition Gozu “Gose” on hand with a collaboration with Alewife Brewing!! The Six Most Metal Breweries Presents:
NYC Beer Week Bangover!

Saturday, March 2nd @ Saint Vitus Bar

Unlimited pours from 6-8pm with Kings County Brewers Collective, Barrier Brewing, Finback Brewery, Nightmare Brewing, Sing Sing Kill Brewery and the most metal Gozu collaboration beer by Alewife Brewing. So stop by!!

https://www.facebook.com/GOZU666
http://gozu.bandcamp.com
instagram.com/gozu666
https://twitter.com/GOZU666

Gozu, “They Probably Know Karate” official video

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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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Gozu Post “They Probably Know Karate” Video; Join Metal Alliance Tour This Weekend

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 12th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

gozu

This fucking band rocks, man. I don’t know how else to put it or really what more you could ask from Gozu at this point that they haven’t delivered. Dudes have locked in their lineup and realized the potential of their sound in a hard-hitting, soulful, ace-songwriting execution that’s only grown more intense with time. They’re a decade removed from their first, self-titled offering (someday, in some Boston record shop, I’ll find that CD), and this year’s Equilibrium (review here) is both their nastiest boogie yet and their highest-profile release yet, issued through Metal Blade subsidiary Blacklight Media after stints on essential US underground imprints Ripple Music and Small Stone Records. Gozu have done nothing but kill it, constantly. And really, since Gaff and Doug nailed down the lineup with Joe Grotto on bass and Mike Hubbard on drums, they’ve been the best Boston has to offer in heavy rock and roll. If there’s a tour coming through and they’re not the local support, it’s mostly because they’re busy that night doing something else.

They’ve already been back and forth to Europe in the last couple years and I’m hearing murmurs in that direction again for 2019, but this week the four-piece hook up with the Metal Alliance Tour — and if you’ve never tried High River Sauces, the presenter of the run, you should probably get on that; I’ve jazzed up many a roasted chicken thereby — for a stint that takes them to the end of the month and through the Midwest and into Canada. They’ll be on the road with Black Tusk, Goatwhore, The Casualties and Great American Ghost, so it’s a little bit of something for everybody, and it’s easy enough to expect packed houses along the way. The more aggressive edge of the material on Equilibrium and 2016’s Revival (review here) will suit them well on the tour, and to mark the occasion, they’ve got a new video for “They Probably Know Karate,” which, if you’re familiar with the band, you already know has nothing to do with karate or whatever delightful obscurity the title is referencing. Instead, it’s a somewhat apocalyptic imagery the lyrics evoke — “In the end a pale horse will ride,” etc. — and I’m not really sure what’s going on with the plague beaks and Ouija-board conjuration in the video, but hey folks, it’s heavy metal, so you know. Plague beaks and Ouija boards. It’s part of the culture of thing.

If they’re hitting somewhere you’re going to be, go see Gozu and tell them I said hi. It’s been a while since I last caught them and I miss these cats.

Dig:

Gozu, “They Probably Know Karate” official video

Boston’s rock/metal outfit Gozu will join the Metal Alliance tour, featuring Goatwhore, The Casualties, Black Tusk, and Great American Ghost. In anticipation of these upcoming shows, the band has now launched a new video for “They Probably Know Karate” (directed by Tony Simone at Zenbeast Media).

Gozu comments: “We are super excited about our new video! Tony is a super talented up and coming video director and knocked this out the park! This is also a great jump off point to the Metal Alliance Tour coming up next week!! Goatwhore, The Casualties, Black Tusk, Great American Ghost…What’s not to like?? We get to tour with bands we’re actually fans of!”

See below for all dates!

Metal Alliance Tour w/ Gozu
Featuring Goatwhore, The Casualties, Black Tusk, Great American Ghost
Nov. 18 – Aftershock – Merriam, KS
Nov. 20 – Turf Club – St. Paul, MN
Nov. 21 – Reggie’s Rock Club – Chicago, IL
Nov. 23 – Magic Stick – Detroit, MI
Nov. 24 – Overtime Sports Bar – Kingston, ON
Nov. 25 – Salle Multi Du Complex Meduse – Quebec City, QC
Nov. 26 – Les Foufounes Electriques – Montreal, QC
Nov. 28 – Gramercy Theater – New York, NY
Nov. 29 – Montage Music Hall – Rochester, NY
Nov. 30 – One Centre Square – Easton, PA

Gozu line-up:
Marc Gaffney – guitar and vocals
Joe Grotto – bass
Mike Hubbard – drums
Doug Sherman – lead guitar and sounds

Gozu on Thee Facebooks

Gozu on Bandcamp

Gozu on Instagram

Gozu on Twitter

Blacklight Media website

Blacklight Media on Thee Facebooks

Metal Blade Records website

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Gozu Added to Metal Alliance Tour 2018 for Nov. 18-30

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 5th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

gozu

Earlier this year, Boston four-piece Gozu made their debut on Metal Blade offshoot Blacklight Media with their fifth full-length overall, Equilibrium (review here). Now a few years removed from cementing their lineup with bassist Joe Grotto and drummer Mike Hubbard alongside founding guitarists Marc Gaffney (also vocals) and Doug Sherman, it found Gozu thoroughly in command of a sound that’s only continued to grow more aggressive following 2016’s Revival (review here) on Ripple Music, which was their first collaboration with New Hampshire-based producer Dean Baltulonis; a relationship that was renewed on the 2018 outing as well.

They’ve toured intermittently over the last few years, East Coast, West Coast, in between, Europe, fests, etc., and the new announcement is that Gozu have joined the ranks of the Metal Alliance Tour, which will be headlined by Goatwhore with The Casualties, Black Tusk and Great American Ghost also on the bill. Gozu will appear from Nov. 18 in Kansas City through the end of the tour Nov. 30 in Easton, PA, which is a run that will take them into Canada as well as through major markets like Chicago, Detroit and New York. Good gig to get, and all the better since it will no doubt introduce Gozu to an audience outside the confines of genre. All the best to them on the trip.

They put word out on the social medias and it looked like this, only with less blue in the text:

metal alliance tour 2018

We are so excited to announce that we’ve been added to the Metal Alliance tour with GOATWHORE, The Casualties, Black Tusk & Great American Ghost!

These are the specific dates we are playing and would love to y’all!! Come out and say hi!!

?Nov 18 – Kansas City, MO – Aftershock?
?Nov 20 – Minneapolis, MN – Turf Club?
?Nov 21 – Chicago, IL – Reggies Rock Club?
?Nov 23 – Detroit, MI – The Magic Stick?
?Nov 24 – Kingston, ON – Overtime Sports Bar?
?Nov 25 – Quebec City, QC – Salle Multi DU Complex Meduse?
?Nov 26 – Montreal, QC – Les Foufones?
?Nov 28 – New York, NY – Gramercy Theater?
?Nov 29 – Rochester, NY – Montage Music Hall?
?Nov 30 – Easton, PA – One Centre Square?.

Gozu is:
marc gaffney- vox/guitar
mike hubbard-drums
doug sherman- guitar
joe grotto- Bass

https://www.facebook.com/GOZU666
http://gozu.bandcamp.com
instagram.com/gozu666
https://twitter.com/GOZU666

Gozu, Equilibrium (2018)

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Quarterly Review: Primordial, Dead Meadow, Taarna, MaidaVale, Black Willows, Craang, Fuzz Lord, Marijannah, Cosmic Fall, Owl

Posted in Reviews on April 9th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Quarterly-Review-Spring-2018

Okay, so this is it. The Quarterly Review definitely ends today. I’m not sneaking in a seventh day tomorrow or anything like that. This is it. The last batch of 10, bringing us to a grand total of 60 records reviewed between last Monday and now. That’s not too bad, if you think about it. Me, I’m a little done thinking about it, and if you’ll pardon me, I’m going to enjoy the time between now and late June/early July, in which for the most part I’ll be writing about one record at a time. The thought feels like a luxury after this week.

But hey, we made it. Thanks for reading along the way.

Quarterly Review #51-60:

Primordial, Exile Amongst the Ruins

primordial exile amongst the ruins

Primordial’s flair for the epic has not at all abated over the years. The Irish post-black-metal forerunners follow-up 2014’s Where Greater Men Have Fallen with Exile Amongst the Ruins (on Metal Blade), and though there’s plenty of charge in “To Hell or the Hangman,” “Sunken Lungs” or “Upon Our Spiritual Deathbed,” with frontman Alan Averill proselytizing declarations as grandly as ever, one might read a certain amount of fatigue into the lyrics of songs like “Stolen Years” and the 10-minute closer “Last Call.” Granted, Exile Amongst the Ruins is 65 minutes long, so I don’t think the band has run out of things to say, but could it be that the cycle of writing, recording and touring is starting to wear on them some 25 years after their founding? I wouldn’t know or speculate, and like I said, Exile Amongst the Ruins retains plenty of its sonic force, the layering of the title-track and the preceding “Where Lie the Gods” offering a depth of sound to complement the complexity of their themes.

Primordial on Thee Facebooks

Primordial at Metal Blade website

 

Dead Meadow, The Nothing They Need

dead meadow The Nothing They Need

Utter masters of their domain, Los Angeles’ Dead Meadow – comprised of guitarist/vocalist Jason Simon, bassist Steve Kille and drummer Juan Londono – mark 20 years of the band with the eight songs of The Nothing They Need (on Xemu Records), bringing in former members for guest spots mostly on drums but also guitar across a rich tapestry of moods, all of which happen to be distinctly Dead Meadow’s own. The ramble in opener “Keep Your Head” or “I’m So Glad” is unmistakable, and the fuzz of the six-minute “Nobody Home” bounces with a heavy psychedelic groove that should be nothing less than a joy to the converted. Recorded in their rehearsal space, released on their own label and presented with their own particularly blend of indie pulse, psych dreamscaping and more weighted tone, a song like the swaying eight-minute “The Light” is a reminder of everything righteous Dead Meadow have accomplished in their two decades, and of the vast spread their influence has taken on in that time. Perhaps the greatest lesson of all is that no matter who’s involved, Dead Meadow sound like Dead Meadow, which is about the highest compliment I can think of to pay them.

Dead Meadow on Thee Facebooks

Xemu Records website

 

Taarna, Sanguine Ash

taarna sanguine ash

It’s not entirely clear what’s happening at the start of Taarna’s 29-minute single-song EP, Sanguine Ash, but the samples are vague and violent sounding and the noise behind them is abrasive. A strum and build takes hold as the Portland, Oregon, black metallers, who feature former members of Godhunter in their ranks, continue in the first couple minutes to develop a suicidal thematic, and six minutes in, a wash of static takes hold with drums behind it only to give way, in turn, to lush-sounding keys or guitar (could go either way) that patiently leads to a rumbling, roiling lurch of blacksludge. Cavern-vocals echo and cut through molasses tones and Taarna ride that malicious groove for the next several minutes until, at around 18:30, samples start again. This leads to more quiet guitar, resonant blackened thrust, noise, noise, more noise and a final emergent wash of caustic anti-metal that couldn’t possibly be clearer in its mission to challenge, repel and come across as completely fucked as it can. Done and done, you scathing bastards.

Taarna on Thee Facebooks

Taarna on Bandcamp

 

MaidaVale, Madness is Too Pure

maidavale madness is too pure

I already discussed a lot of what is working so well on MaidaVale’s second album, Madness is Too Pure (The Sign Records), when I put up the video for “Oh Hysteria!” (posted here), but it’s worth reemphasizing the sonic leap the Swedish four-piece have made between their 2016 debut, the bluesy and well-crafted Tales of the Wicked West (review here) and this nine-song offering, which stretches far outside the realm of blues rock and encompasses psychedelic jamming, spontaneous-sounding explorations, brazen but not at all caustic vibes, and an overarching energy of delivery that reminds both of a live presentation and, on a song like “Gold Mine,” of what Death Alley have been able to revitalize in space-punk. Memorable progressions like that of “Walk in Silence” and the freaked out “Dark Clouds” offer standout moments, but really, it’s the whole album itself that’s the standout, and if the debut showed MaidaVale’s potential, Madness is Too Pure ups that factor significantly.

MaidaVale on Thee Facebooks

The Sign Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Black Willows, Bliss

black willows bliss

About a year and a half after releasing their 2016 sophomore outing, Samsara (review here), Swiss post-doomers Black Willows return with a 19-minute single-song EP they’ve dubbed Bliss. It is utterly hypnotic. The sonic equivalent of watching a bonfire take hold of dry wood. It consumes with its dense heft of riff and then lulls the listener with stretches of minimalism and ambience, the first of which provides the intro to the piece itself. Black Willows are no strangers to working with longform material, and as Bliss also appears as the band’s half of a Bloodrock Records split with Craneium, it’s understandable they’d want to bring their best, but the weight of their groove feels unexpected even in terms of having heard their past work. So they’ve gotten heavier? Yeah, maybe. What really matters is how they wield that weight, and on Bliss, they put it to use as much as an atmospheric table-setter as in a display of sheer force. Beware the noise wash at the end. That’s all I’ll say.

Black Willows on Thee Facebooks

Black Willows on Bandcamp

 

Craang, Shine

craang shine

Greek heavy psych rockers Craang set up a dynamic quickly on their new two-song full-length, Shine (also stylized as S H IN E) that both encourages and rewards patience and trust on the part of the listener. They begin 24:52 opener and longest track (immediate points) “Horizon – Tempest” quietly and commence to unfold through ebbs and flows, clean vocals and shouts, open spaces and dense(r) riffing. There is a break near and at the halfway point that presumably is the shift between one part of “Horizon – Tempest” and the other, and the second half follows that lead with a more active presentation. The accompanying “Ocean – Cellular” (19:41) launches with a bed of synth that fades as the bass, drums and guitar enter and begin a linear build that retains a progressive edge, dropping off at about eight minutes in perhaps as another transition into “Cellular,” which indeed follows a more winding, intricate path. One can only say Craang are clear in their representation of what they want to convey, and because of that, Shine is all the more of an engaging experience, the listener essentially following the band on this journey from place to place, idea to idea.

Craang on Thee Facebooks

Craang on Bandcamp

 

Fuzz Lord, Fuzz Lord

Fuzz Lord fuzz lord

We start at “The Gates of Hell” and end up in “Infamous Evil,” so one might say Ohio trio Fuzz Lord – guitarist Steven “Fuzz Lord” joined by bassist/vocalist “Stoner” Dan Riley and drummer/vocalist Lawrence “Lord Buzz” – have their thematic well set on their eight-track self-titled debut (on Fuzzdoom Records). Likewise, their tones and the sense of space in the echoing vocals of “Kronos Visions Arise” and the later, extra-Sabbathian “World Collide” seem to know precisely where they’re headed. Riley recorded the 39-minute outing, while Justin Pizzoferrato (Elder, Dinosaur Jr., many others) mixed, and the resulting conjuration is earthbound in its low end while allowing the guitar to either roll out riffy largesse or take an airier approach. The uptempo “The Lord of the Underground” speaks to a punker underpinning, while the preceding “The Warriors Who Reign” seems to have a more classic metal take, and “Infamous Evil,” also the longest track at 7:51, peppers in layered guitar leads amid a doomier, Luciferian vibe and fervent hook.

Fuzz Lord on Thee Facebooks

Fuzzdoom Records on Thee Facebooks

 

Marijannah, Till Marijannah

Marijannah till marijannah

Comprised of members of Wormrot and The Caulfield Cult, Singapore-based newcomers Marijannah execute four tracks of blown-out tones and psychedelic cavernousness with their Pink Tank Records debut release, Till Marijannah. Touches of garage swing make their way into opener “1974,” and second cut “Snakecharmer” blazes and scorches with wah-drenched solos around crunching rhythms and melodic vocalizations. A march emerges on the nine-minute “Bride of Mine” and only gets more fervent as the track makes its way forward, and driving finale “All Hollow’s Eve” presents a cacophonous but controlled take from Marijannah that reinforces the notion of nothing on their first outing happening by accident. Impressive and just a bit frenetic, it leaves one wondering what further ground the band might look to explore from here, whether they’ve set their sonic course and will look to refine their processes along these lines or whether this is just the beginning of a wider stylistic melding, and their next offering might sound completely different than Till Marijannah. The one seems as likely as the other, and that’s incredibly refreshing.

Marijannah on Thee Facebooks

Pink Tank Records website

 

Cosmic Fall, In Search of Outer Space

cosmic fall in search of outer space

Immediate points to Berlin jammers Cosmic Fall for opening their six-song/43-minute third album, In Search of Outer Space, with the 11-minute longest track “Jabberwocky.” The three-piece introduced new guitarist Marcin Marowski last year on Jams for Free (review here), and as bassist Klaus Friedrich steps up to take the vocalist role and drummer Daniel Sax continues to hold together impossible spaciousness with a fluidity of groove, Marowski seems right at home wah-noodling in the open reaches of “Jabberwocky” and soldering shred and swirl together on the later “Lumberjam.” Some of In Search of Outer Space’s most effective moments are its quietest, as on “Purification” or second cut “Narcotic Vortex,” but neither will I decry the bass fuzz that takes hold near the finish there or the molten churn that bookends closer “Icarus,” but as “Spacejam” hits into the vastness, it seems Cosmic Fall as just as apt to float as to rocket their way out of the atmosphere. In either case, they most certainly get there.

Cosmic Fall on Thee Facebooks

Cosmic Fall on Bandcamp

 

Owl, Orion Fenix

owl orion fenix

The solo-project of Christian Kolf of avant death-crunchers Valborg, Owl issues the 22-minute single-song EP Orion Fenix – with its chanting repetitions of “reborn in fire” – as a precursor to the upcoming LP, Nights in Distortion. Like Owl’s last EP, 2015’s wondrously dark Aeon Cult (review here), Orion Fenix is both intense churn and slow-rolling melancholy, bridging a gap between classic doom (that lead 15 minutes in) and post-doom rhythms and atmosphere. If the project’s purpose is to find beauty in darkness, Orion Fenix accomplishes this quickly enough, but the track’s runtime and lush layering allow Kolf to lend a sense of exploration to what is no doubt a meticulous creative process, since he’s handling all the instruments and vocals himself. Either way, Orion Fenix, as a herald, bodes remarkably well for forward progress on Nights in Distortion to come, and is a remarkable accomplishment on its own in both heft and spaciousness.

Owl on Thee Facebooks

Owl on Bandcamp

 

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Review & Track Premiere: Gozu, Equilibrium

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on April 4th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

gozu equilibrium

[Click play above to stream Gozu’s ‘Manimal.’ Equilibrium is out April 13 on Blacklight Media and available to preorder here.]

No doubt that for many who take it on, Gozu‘s Equilibrium will be their first exposure to the band. Fair enough. The Boston four-piece are a decade removed from their debut self-titled demo, and depending on how one counts that release, the latest is either their fourth or fifth full-length. What matters more than how one accounts for it, however, is that Equilibrium represents the fruit of 10 years’ worth of upward and outward trajectory both in creativity and profile. That is, Gozu — the lineup of guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney, guitarist/backing vocalist Doug Sherman, bassist Joe Grotto and drummer Mike Hubbard (ex-Warhorse) — have never ceased to get either bigger or better from one offering to the next.

In 2016, they brought their game to a new level of clarity and aggression with Revival (review here), and looking back, one can only say that album built on 2013’s Small Stone-released The Fury of a Patient Man (review here) the same way that record built on 2010’s Locust Season (review here). Still, if Equilibrium — which finds issue through Metal Blade imprint Blacklight Media — is one’s first exposure to the band, there’s nothing to stop the process of getting on board. Their songs are melodic, varied, heavy, presented with a decade-built clarity of purpose and unmistakably their own. Its title evoking a sense of balance, Equilibrium‘s eight tracks and 49 minutes show a group of diverse but not conflicting intent and expert songcraft. Positioned at the forefront of an always-well-populated Boston underground, they have only ever taken forward steps, and this latest of them resonates from beginning to end.

By returning to Wild Arctic Studio in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, to work with producer Dean Baltulonis (HatebreedFreya, many others), they bring some sense of continuity from Revival in terms of tone, but hearing moments of flourish like the choral vocals on “Prison Elbows” or the progressive interweaving of guitar on “The People vs. Mr. T.,” they seem to be more comfortable in that setting the second time around and freer to expand arrangements vocal and instrumental. Another example of balance throughout Equilibrium, however, is that of live energy and studio polish. One wouldn’t necessarily expect Gozu to break out the spacious 11-minute closer “Ballad of ODB,” with its patient, ambient opening and pervasive atmospherics, on stage, but the showing of soul in Gaffney‘s vocals is inimitable and unquestionably his own, and even in the opening salvo of “Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat” and the aforementioned “The People vs. Mr. T.,” there’s a vitality that leads one to believe at least some of the basic tracks were captured live.

This, in addition to Hubbard‘s right-on-the-front-of-the-beat drumming style, makes the more uptempo material on Equilibrium soar, and as Sherman shreds out a forward-mixed solo in the second half of “Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat,” the question of what the band would do after their Revival is immediately answered in their living to the fullest. “King Cobra” calls to mind the best of classic grunge in its verse before turning through a more aggro mini-chorus and finally unveiling its actual hook, which is a standout companioned by that of the deeply-weighted “Manimal,” which holds to a slower pace but maintains its sense of roll and flows easily with its surroundings, picking up somewhat in its second half around a chug given all the more force by Grotto‘s bassline as Gaffney takes to falsetto during the fadeout. This would be a natural ending for side A — it may in fact be; I don’t know the vinyl breakdown — and it leads to the shortest inclusion on Equilibrium, “They Probably Know Karate.”

gozu

If indeed “They Probably Know Karate” is the start of side B, it would make sense for the uptick of energy it provides coming out of “Manimal” before it, which is more about impact than thrust. Some spoken backing vocals late provide a bit of curious detail late, but “They Probably Know Karate” is very much Gozu being Gozu, and again, if you’ve never heard them before, what that means is a blend of choice songwriting, rich melody, heavy rock groove and underlying metallurgy. They deliver with efficiency on the 4:17 cut, which is the shortest on Equilibrium, and move forward into the five-minute “Prison Elbows” without looking back or losing any of the momentum they’ve so quickly established. At about two minutes in, “Prison Elbows” cuts to a slower groove to set the stage for Sherman‘s solo, but the build that ensues after — a cymbal crash from Hubbard, a swirl of guitar effects over the sustained riff, the low end grounding the whole affair and keeping it from flying apart — is perhaps even more satisfying.

Teasing the psychedelia to come in the intro to “Ballad of ODB,” it nonetheless finishes in a quick return to ground before the penultimate “Stacy Keach” takes hold with further crunching riffery that opens into a broader verse that’s a vocal highlight from Gaffney ahead of the finish, shifting into a more aggressive riff in its midsection and playing back and forth throughout the second half between the verse/chorus and that meaner chug, on which it ends cold. The soft guitar, echoing ambience and distant drumming that opens “Ballad of ODB” is an immediate departure from “Stacy Keach,” and its soothing and hypnotic three and a half minutes offer a breather after the all the careening and turning that’s come before. A heavier, slower movement ensues, making “Manimal” a hindsight foreshadow, and layers of vocals retain an otherworldly atmosphere. Gozu have never been a psychedelic band, and Grotto‘s rumble underscoring “Ballad of ODB” is nothing if not grounded, but those elements are there, and they help in the final expansion of mood that the closer represents, the chorus flowing into a last, extended solo, and back to the chorus and a short wash of guitar noise to end out.

For fans of the band — I consider myself one — and those who’ve followed them for some portion of the last 10 years, Equilibrium should stand undeniably as the most exacting representation of who Gozu is as a band to-date. Their sound is fully their own and they are in full command of it. Their songwriting is natural and the performances here from all four players together only demonstrates how much the lineup has clicked after touring in the US and Europe to support Revival. These same factors are exactly what also makes Equilibrium such a viable point of entry for new listeners. There is nothing redundant about Equilibrium, and the sense of balance that pervades doesn’t come at the cost of vitality; Gozu sound exciting, fresh, and like one of the most individualized bands in American heavy rock — which, of course, is exactly what they’ve become.

Gozu on Thee Facebooks

Gozu on Bandcamp

Gozu on Instagram

Gozu on Twitter

Blacklight Media website

Blacklight Media on Thee Facebooks

Metal Blade Records website

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The Obelisk Presents: Sourvein 25th Anniversary European Tour

Posted in The Obelisk Presents on March 14th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

sourvein tour poster

You can put them up against anyone you want, past or present, but there’s just about nobody who does it nastier than Sourvein. The Cape Fear, North Carolina-based sludgers are hitting the quarter-century mark in 2018, and I couldn’t be more thrilled to have The Obelisk present their special 25th anniversary tour in collaboration with Wombat Booking and Highway Holidays.

Founded by inimitable frontman T-Roy Medlin in 1993, Sourvein‘s roots were dirty right from the start. Medlin had spent years operating tape samples for Buzzov*en, and his own outfit would prove even grittier, his own vicious screams cutting through dirt-caked Southern riffs in a style that would become widely influential as the years went on. Early splits with fellow pioneers like Grief, Negative Reaction, Bongzilla and indeed Buzzov*en would lead to later collaborations with the likes of Church of Misery and Rabies Caste, and their self-titled debut, Sourvein‘s Sourvein, arrived at the turn of the century via Game Two Records, tracks like “Dirty South” a clarion statement of intent that continue to resonate these many years later.

Will to Mangle followed a couple years later via Southern Lord, and then Sourvein really got down to business. Constant touring and constant shifts in the lineup have been the chaotic modus operandi for the band ever since. Those Church of Misery splits and other EPs would be landmarks, but it wasn’t until 2011 that Medlin and company put out another full-length, Black Fangs (review here), through Candlelight. Brutal as it was, it was also a clear signal that they wanted to do more stylistically than they ever had before.

At last, enter Aquatic Occult (review here). The fourth Sourvein full-length, produced by Mike Dean of C.O..C. and released in 2016, would be a pointed revamp of the band’s approach to their sound. Clean vocals, numerous guest spots, brooding atmospheres — all of these things let Sourvein show there was more to Southern sludge than the defiled grooves they’d always so gleefully proffered. But of course, there was plenty of that as well.

Once again, Sourvein hit the road. They’ve been back and forth in US and beyond since Aquatic Occult came out, and once again, as they embark on the “25 Years of Distortion” 2018 European tour, it’s an honor to have this site’s name attached to the proceedings.

My understanding is more dates are forthcoming, but here’s an initial batch to get us started:

Sourvein – Aquatic Occult European Tour 2018 – 25 Years of Distortion
21.04 Brussels
27.04 SWR Barroselas Metal Fest
03.05 Geneva
05.05 Desertfest London
11.05 Gothenburg
24.05 Tilburg
25.05 Liege

Sourvein on Thee Facebooks

Sourvein on Bandcamp

Sourvein at Metal Blade Records website

Wombat Booking website

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Gozu Set April 13 Release for New Album Equilibrium; Preorders Available and New Video Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 22nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

gozu

If you haven’t been waiting for word on the new Gozu record, that’s only because you’ve been waiting for word on the new Gozu record and didn’t know it. The Boston-based four-piece will make their debut on Blacklight MediaMetal Blade Records with Equilibrium, which is set to release on April 13 as the follow-up to 2016’s resoundingly successful Revival (review here), which was issued through Ripple Music and found Gozu touring Europe, playing Psycho Las Vegas and much more in support.

The alliance between Gozu and Blacklight Media was announced late in 2016, and the foursome have been working on Equilibrium pretty much since then. They returned to New Hampshire to record with Dean Baltulonis, who also helmed Revival, and have expanded on both the melodic range and sonic impact that album presented in the new tracks. Not saying I’ve heard it yet or anything, but the record is a joy. If you’re still reading this, you’re gonna like it a lot.

Copious background comes from the PR wire, as it will:

gozu equilibrium

Gozu reveals details for new album, ‘Equilibrium’; launches video for first single, “Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat”, online

On April 13th, Boston’s rock/metal outfit Gozu will release their new album, Equilibrium, via Blacklight Media Records. For a first preview of Equilibrium, the video for the new single “Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat” (directed by Tony Simone at Zenbeast Audio / https://www.facebook.com/ZenBeastAudio) can be viewed now at: http://www.blacklightmediarecords.com/gozu – where the record can also be pre-ordered in the following formats:

–CD
–180g black vinyl + download card
–sky-blue marbled vinyl + download card (limited to 300 copies – USA exclusive)
–magenta marbled vinyl + download card (limited to 200 copies – USA exclusive)
–transparent petrol blue vinyl + download card (limited to 200 copies – EU exclusive)
–olive/black marbled vinyl + download card (limited to 200 copies – EU exclusive)
* exclusive bundles with a shirt, plus digital options are also available!

With roots in 60s psychedelia and classic rock, the fuzzy stoner riffs of the 70s, the grit of 90s grunge and the winning dirty rock n’ roll that has in recent years made a resurgence, Gozu has been churning out killer records since 2009. With 2016’s Revival they took their sound in a somewhat new and more aggressive direction, and in doing so, dropped the most compulsive, exciting and downright badass release of their career – and Equilibrium has only raised the stakes. “We wanted these songs to hit a nerve, make people shake their ass and enjoy simply being alive,” says vocalist/guitarist Marc “Gaff” Gaffney, who founded the band with lead guitarist Doug Sherman. Much of the record’s strength stems from the unit growing since Revival, the first full-length featuring drummer Mike Hubbard and bassist Joseph Grotto. Having also reunited with Revival producer Dean Baltulonis (Hatebreed/Goes Cube/The Hold Steady) at Wild Arctic Studio in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, the record is certainly the catchiest and most instant music dropped by the quartet, embracing their love of pop music but without compromising on any of the other vital elements of their sound.

Equilibrium track-listing:
1. Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat
2. The People vs. Mr. T
3. King Cobra
4. Manimal
5. They Probably Know Karate
6. Prison Elbows
7. Stacy Keach
8. Ballad of ODB

Gozu live:
Mar. 8 – Gramercy Theatre – New York, NY (Blacklight Media showcase with Candiria, Good Tiger, Mother Feather, Oni, Eyes Of The Sun)
March 15- Crowbar RI
March 31 Equilibrium Listening Party – Sonny’s Dover
April 21- Obriens with Birnum Wood – Eyes of the sun and Sundrifter
May 4th- Stonechurch Scissorfight
May 5th Lucky 13 Brooklyn

Gozu line-up:
Marc Gaffney – guitar and vocals
Joe Grotto – bass
Mike Hubbard – drums
Doug Sherman – lead guitar and sounds

https://www.facebook.com/GOZU666
http://gozu.bandcamp.com
instagram.com/gozu666
https://twitter.com/GOZU666

Gozu, “Ricky ‘The Dragon’ Steamboat” official video

Gozu, Revival (2016)

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