Monster Magnet, Spine of God & TAB: Quintessential

Posted in Reviews on September 18th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

monster-magnet-spine-of-god

Simply put, Monster Magnet‘s 1991 debut, Spine of God, stands among the best heavy psych records ever made. It might be the single greatest achievement of sonic lysergism the East Coast has ever produced, and even if not, it’s superlative enough that, while it’s on, I can’t think of another to match it. It is an album that could be reissued every year and would still be worth buying, and it earns every bit of hyperbole that can be heaped upon it (and has; previously discussed here). Together with its space-rocking freakout companion-piece, the TAB EP (also often written as 25… Tab, Tab 25 and numerous other variations thereon; the band’s official discography lists it as you see in all-caps), it is a landmark that when originally released through Caroline and Glitterhouse Records helped set in motion not only the stoner rock scene in Monster Magnet‘s native New Jersey that continues to this day and has resulted in groups current and past like CoreSolaceThe Atomic BitchwaxSolarizedHalfway to GoneInfernal Overdrive, and so on.

A full 26 years after its initial release, Spine of God‘s nine original tracks and TAB‘s three still resonate their sleaze and druggy haze — Monster Magnet frontman/founder Dave Wyndorf has said since getting clean he never wrote a song while under the influence, but he’s also the guy who gave the world the line, “It’s a Satanic drug thing — you wouldn’t understand,” so there’s a grain of salt to be taken there — on the new Napalm Records reissue editions, pressed to vinyl and CD. Going by the artwork, general sound of the remasters and inclusion of the “Ozium (Demo)” and “Spine of God (Live)” bonus tracks on Spine of God and TAB, respectively, these are the same versions of the two outings that SPV/Steamhammer issued in 2006, but even that was 11 years ago at this point and, again, it would be hard to consider such a rate of refresher overkill given the quality of the albums themselves. More of a public service.

Roughly concurrent, it’s a matter of some varying opinion which was recorded and released first — then you get into released first where, which is a whole different issue between various labels in the US and Europe — but it’s proper to take TAB and Spine of God together in any case, and one generally thinks of Spine of God as the band’s debut full-length following their 1990 self-titled EP and the earlier demos that would be compiled and released as Love Monster (discussed here) in 2001, as well as other odds-and-ends single-type releases. From the raw, swirling drums effects and dirt-coated fuzz of “Pill Shovel” onward, it is a launch point for an era of Monster Magnet for which much of their fanbase still pines — Wyndorf joined by guitarist John McBain, bassist Joe Calandra, drummer Jon Kleinman and Tim Cronin, who also played bass on TAB and contributed to the group in various other ways and on various instruments — and as the opener, it sets the band adrift on a sea of acid, that will solidify and reliquefy throughout the intense push of “Medicine” and the longer “Nod Scene” and “Black Mastermind,” both jammy freakouts marked by vague spoken word parts buried under scorching, layered leads from McBain and a wash of effects, the sounds of inhaled smoke and seemingly whatever else Wyndorf and company could think to throw into the mix.

monster magnet tab

A later cover of Grand Funk Railroad‘s “Sin’s a Good Man’s Brother” is indelibly made Monster Magnet‘s own, but it’s cuts like the subdued, late-’60s melancholia of “Zodiac Lung” and the addled, arrogant threat of the title-track of Spine of God that truly bring to light both the enduring appeal of the band’s rawness at this stage in their development and the accomplishment of songwriting that this record actually is. At over 50 minutes in its original edition (this one is longer, obviously, with the “Ozium” demo included), Spine of God is definitely of the CD era, and its immersion works very much in linear fashion, pushing through “Pill Shovel” and “Medicine” through “Nod Scene” and “Black Mastermind” en route to its moment of arrival in “Zodiac Lung” and “Spine of God” before a back-to-earth, aggressive aftermath of “Snake Dance” and the aforementioned Grand Funk cover lead the way into the closer “Ozium” and the final moment of glorious psych worship of that last cut’s hook. It’s not a minor trip, but another aspect of its execution that keeps Spine of God so relevant is the band’s immediate sense of reach and dynamic. To think of it even this many years later as a first full-length makes it all the more staggering, and it’s one of those rare releases that lives up to the cliché of hearing something new in it each time it’s put on. All the more justification for a reissue.

Though it’s not much shorter in topping 50 minutes, TAB is generally considered an EP, and fair enough, though one might argue that its 33-minute title-track is a long-player unto itself. A massive, swirl-and-churn space rock jam, it unfolds languid and broad over its time, with added percussion, cursing speech and other psychedelic weirdo elements one finds playing out across the likes of “Black Mastermind” and “Nod Scene” as well, and eventually devolves into a wash of stoned-out noise before the 13-minute “25/Longhair,” instrumental apart from what may or may not be some effected vocalizations and rawer in its sound, takes hold as the side B complement. The break between the two parts is clear and happens shortly after eight minutes in, but there’s just about no interrupting the flow at that point, and while “Lord 13” is clearer and more straightforward — and shorter at just over four minutes — it retains the vibe oozed forth by the preceding slabs and holds court as a buried treasure of this era of Monster Magnet still satisfying to those who dig in far enough to find it. It doesn’t have the same kind of thrust as “Medicine” or the fullness of attack of “Snake Dance,” but there’s an underlying tension in its rhythm that satisfying all the same, and with the live version of “Spine of God” tacked on, TAB ties directly to that album even further and emphasizes how well they fit together as one consuming work.

As a setup for what Monster Magnet would go on to do with 1993’s Superjudge and 1995’s Dopes to Infinity before the true takeoff of their commercial ascent with the singles-driven Powertrip in 1998 and God Says No in 2001, never mind the greater impact they had outside the band and the greater impact they continue to have in influencing now multiple generations of bands the world over, Spine of God and TAB are essential works of heavy psychedelia that still manage to excite when engaged despite being more or less burned into the consciousness of the style itself. Spine of God itself nigh on unparalleled, and with TAB in company, the picture it paints becomes even deeper and more complete. There should ultimately be little about either or both of them that needs to be said beyond that, and they should be considered required reading for newcomer listeners to the style and those who’ve perhaps followed Monster Magnet‘s more recent output without truly digging into their past, as well as anybody who’s ever wanted to have their mind blown out through their ears because, yeah, that will happen. It’s hard to overstate how pivotal they are and hard to recommend them vehemently enough.

Monster Magnet, Spine of God (1991)

Monster Magnet, Tab (1991)

Monster Magnet website

Monster Magnet on Thee Facebooks

Monster Magnet on Instagram

Monster Magnet at Napalm Records website

Monster Magnet at Napalm Records webshop

Napalm Records on Thee Facebooks

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Monster Magnet, Brant Bjork, Sasquatch & Lo-Pan to Play Ozzfest Meets Knotfest Preshow

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 1st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

With the prior announcement that Orange Goblin would open the Main Stage as their only US appearance for 2017 and word that High on Fire, Kyng and Tombs would take part on the Second Stage, Ozzfest Meets Knotfest offers a bit of intrigue beyond the sheer commercial enterprise. The initial PR wire release called it “the biggest metal festival in North America ever,” which simply isn’t true either in scope or the audience it’s likely to bring in, but along with others like Psycho Las Vegas, it is emblematic that the growth of US fest culture doesn’t just mean eight or 12 bands getting on stage the same day. These are genuine events coming together and with underground heavy as a part of that — even a minor part, as with Ozzfest Meets Knotfest — I’m intrigued to find out what the next few years bring.

Today’s kickass news? It’s right there in the headline: Monster MagnetBrant BjorkSasquatch and Lo-Pan are playing a special free preshow for Ozzfest Meets Knotfest campers on Nov. 3 before the fest proper starts on Nov. 4. Forgive me for saying so, but as I see it, that’s a stronger lineup than either day of the fest itself offers on the Main Stage — much as I love Orange Goblin. But then, I’ve never been much for Eighteen Visions. In any case, good for Sasquatch and Lo-Pan particularly. I hope all parties involved kick ass and make a lot of money on t-shirt sales.

Just in from the PR wire:

ozzfest-meets-knotfest-kickoff-show

OZZFEST MEETS KNOTFEST

WEEKEND KICKS OFF WITH FREE FRIDAY PRE-EVENT CONCERT FOR ALL WEEKEND CAMPERS

SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 4 (OZZFEST) AND SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 5 (KNOTFEST) AT GLEN HELEN AMPHITHEATER AND FESTIVAL GROUNDS IN SAN BERNARDINO, CA

This year’s OZZFEST MEETS KNOTFEST–Saturday, November 4 (OZZFEST) and Sunday, November 5 (KNOTFEST) at Glen Helen Amphitheater And Festival Grounds in San Bernardino, CA–will once again kick off with a special campers only pre-event concert. The exclusive free Friday, November 3 camping kick-off concert will give campers early access to the campsite, allowing them time to prepare for a night of performances from Monster Magnet, Brant Bjork, Sasquatch, and Lo-Pan. VIP camping lines open at 4:00 PM, general camping load in begins at 5:00 PM. Doors to the Friday night camping kick-off party open at 7:00 PM with live music set to kick off at 8:00 PM.

In addition, beginning Tuesday, August 1 at 10:00 AM (PT) a $99 all in bundle two ticket, two day ticket price is available through Saturday, August 5 at 12:59 PM (PT) for the multi-stage, two-day weekend camping event that will include more than 40 acts.

The OZZFEST MEETS KNOTFEST line-up (as of August 1) is as follows:

OZZFEST
SATURDAY, NOVEMBER 4

MAIN STAGE
Ozzy Osbourne
Prophets of Rage
Deftones
Children of Bodom
Orange Goblin

SECOND STAGES
Kreator
Baroness
High on Fire
Iron Reagan
1349
Havok
Kyng
Tombs
Night Demon
Thrown Into Exile

NUCLEAR BLAST EXTREME STAGE
Possessed
Suffocation
Fallujah
Rings of Saturn

KNOTFEST
SUNDAY, NOVEMBER 5

MAIN STAGE
Rob Zombie
Marilyn Manson
Stone Sour
Eighteen Visions
Prayers

SECOND STAGES
Testament
Life of Agony
Black Dahlia Murder
Upon a Burning Body
Goatwhore
Death Angel
Code Orange
ONI
Stitched Up Heart
DED

NUCLEAR BLAST EXTREME STAGE
Repulsion
Exhumed
Warbringer
Ghoul

www.Ozzfest.com
www.facebook.com/ozzfestofficial
www.knotfest.com
https://www.facebook.com/KNOTFEST/

Lo-Pan, In Tensions (2017)

Tags: , , , , , ,

Monster Magnet to Release New Album; Spine of God & Tab Reissues Due in Sept. 1

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 30th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

New Jersey legends Monster Magnet will issue a new album before the end of 2017 on Napalm Records. Their next full-length will follow two redux releases that reworked prior material — 2015’s Cobras and Fire (review here), which took on 2010’s Mastermind (review here) and 2014’s Milking the Stars (review here), which expanded on the impulses behind 2013’s triumphant return to weirdness, Last Patrol (review here) — and will be the band’s fifth and reportedly final offering through Napalm.

A release date, title, art, tracks, etc., for the new outing have all yet to be revealed, but hopefully that will be coming soon, and in the interim, Napalm has announced it will also put its stamp on the remasters of Spine of God and Tab that were originally put out during the band’s time on SPV. I recall when those came out they weren’t particularly well received, but I never had any complaints either way. Frankly, any opportunity to go out and buy another copy of Spine of God and I’m a happy man. I can think of few better uses for money than that.

The PR wire brings confirmation of the new record and info on the reissues, which are available to preorder now, vinyl and CD:

 

Monster Magnet release re-issues of “Tab” and “Spine Of God”

1989 marks the year of birth of New Jersey’s spacerock legends MONSTER MAGNET. Three years after their first EP on Glitterhouse, the band released their official debut album “Spine Of God” on Caroline Records, which became a full on genre classic literally in an instant. The original debut album “Tab” was recorded a year earlier then “Spine of God”, but only saw the light of day because of the overwhelming success of its actual successor. The drug hazed heavy sound of both releases helped in cementing MONSTER MAGNET’s reputation of being the only legit descendants of the likes of psychedelic and stoner rock Godfathers Hawkwind, Black Sabbath, and their electrifying punk siblings in MC5. Following those groundbreaking records, the band centered around charismatic master mind Dave Wyndorf went on to issue their first major label release “Superjudge”, followed by critically acclaimed albums “Dopes To Infinity” and “Powertrip”. That’s how MONSTER MAGNET transformed themselves into the Olympus of modern power rock and became legends themselves. The rest is history…

Napalm Records now proudly presents the re-issues of those legendary musical beginnings of this incredible band that no doubt can be considered the founding fathers of Stoner Rock. Both classic albums “Tab” and “Spine Of God” will be released on September 1 worldwide and can be pre-ordered HERE! The albums will be available on vinyl and CD!

MONSTER MAGNET will also release a brand new studio album later this year, so stay tuned for more info!

“Tab” track listing:
1 Tab
2 25
3 Longhair
4 Lord 13

“Spine Of God” track listing:
1 Pill Shovel
2 Medicine
3 Nod Scene
4 Black Mastermind
5 Zodiac Lung
6 Spine Of God
7 Snake Dance
8 Sin’s A Good Man’s Brother
9 Ozium
10 Ozium (Demo Version)

http://www.zodiaclung.com
https://www.facebook.com/monstermagnet
http://www.napalmrecordsamerica.com/store/monstermagnet
https://www.instagram.com/monstermagnetofficial/

Monster Magnet, Spine of God (1991)

Monster Magnet, Tab (1991)

Tags: , , , , , , ,

Tomorrow’s Dream: 200+ of 2017’s Most Anticipated Releases

Posted in Features on January 23rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

tomorrow's dream 2017

Looks like it’s going to be another busy 12 months ahead. It’s been a busy better-part-of-a-month already, so that stands to reason, but you should know that of the several years now that I’ve done these ‘Tomorrow’s Dream’ posts, this is the biggest one yet, with over 150 upcoming releases that — one hopes — will be out between today and the end of 2017.

Actually, at last count, the list tops 180. Do I really expect you to listen to all of them? Nope. Will I? Well, it would be nice. But what I’ve done is gone through and highlighted 35 picks and then built lists off that in order of likelihood of arrival. You’ll note the categories are ‘Gonna Happen and/or Likely Candidates,’ ‘Definitely Could Happen’ and ‘Would be Awfully Nice.’

Beyond that last one, anything else just seems like speculation — one might as well go “new Sabbath this year!” with zero info backing it up. The idea here is that no matter where a given band is placed, there has been some talk of a new release. In some cases, it’s been years, but I think they’re still worth keeping in mind.

Another caveat: You can expect additions to this list over the next week — probably album titles, band names people (fingers crossed) suggest in the comments, and so on — so it will grow. It always does. The idea is to build as complete a document as possible, not to get it all nailed down immediately, so please, if you have something to contribute and you’re able to do so in a non-prickish, “You didn’t include Band X and therefore don’t deserve to breathe the same air as me,” kind of way, please contribute.

Other than that, I think it’s pretty straightforward what’s going on here and I’ll explain the category parameters as we go, so by all means, let’s jump in.

— Tomorrow’s Dream 2017 —

Presented Alphabetically

1. Abrahma, TBA

Late last year, Paris heavy progressives Abrahma announced a new lineup and third full-length in progress. No reason to think it won’t come to fruition, and a follow-up to 2015’s Reflections in the Bowels of a Bird (review here) is an easy pick to look forward to. Even with the shift in personnel, it seems likely the band will continue their creative development, driven as they are by founding guitarist Seb Bismuth.

2. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War

all them witches sleeping through the warIf 2017 ended today, Sleeping Through the War would be my Album of the Year. Of course, there’s a lot of year to go, but for now, Nashville’s All Them Witches have set the standard with their second album for New West Records behind 2015’s Dying Surfer Meets His Maker (review here) and fourth overall outing. They’ve got videos up so far for “3-5-7” (posted here) and “Bruce Lee” (posted here). Both are most definitely worth your time. Out Feb. 24. Full review should be later this week.

3. Alunah, Solennial

Seems like UK forest riffers Alunah are on this list every year. Wishful thinking on my part. Nonetheless, their fourth LP and Svart Records debut, Solennial, is out March 17, and if the tease they gave already with the clip for “Fire of Thornborough Henge” (posted here) is anything to go from, its Chris Fielding-produced expanses might just be Alunah‘s most immersive yet.

4. Arbouretum, TBA

I asked the Baltimore folk fuzzers a while back on Thee Facebooks if they had a new record coming in 2017 and they said yes, so that’s what I’m going on here. The last Arbouretum album was 2013’s Coming out of the Fog (review here), and even with frontman Dave Heumann‘s 2015 solo outing, Here in the Deep (review here), factored in, you’d have to say they’re due. Keep an eye on Thrill Jockey for word and I’ll do the same.

5. Atavismo, Inerte

This is another one that already has a spot reserved for it on my Best-of-2017 year-end list. Spanish heavy psych rockers Atavismo up the progressive bliss level with their second full-length, Inerte, without losing the depth of style that made 2014’s Desintegración (review here) so utterly glorious. It probably won’t have the biggest marketing budget of 2017, but if you let Atavismo fly under your radar, you are 100 percent missing out on something special.

6. Bison Machine, TBA

In addition to the video for new track “Cloak and Bones” that premiered here, when Michigan raucousness-purveyors Bison Machine put out the dates for their fall 2016 tour, they included further hints of new material in progress. As much as I dug their earlier-2016 split with SLO and Wild Savages (review here) and 2015’s Hoarfrost (review here), that’s more than enough for me to include them on this list. Killer next-gen heavy rock.

7. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, TBA

News of a follow-up to Brothers of the Sonic Cloth‘s 2015 Neurot Recordings self-titled debut (review here) came through in October, and it remains some of the best news I’ve heard about 2017 doings. Took them a while to get the first record out, so we’ll see what happens, but it kind of feels like looking forward to a comet about to smash into the planet and cause a mass extinction, and by that I mean awesome. Can’t get here soon enough.

8. Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kosmic Dust

cloud catcher trails of kosmic dustOkay, so maybe I jumped the gun and did a super-early review of Denver trio Cloud Catcher‘s second long-player and Totem Cat Records debut, Trails of Kosmic Dust, but hell, no regrets. Some albums require an early-warning system. Their 2015 debut, Enlightened Beyond Existence (discussed here), was a gem as well, but this is a band in the process of upping their game on every level, and the songwriting and momentum they hone isn’t to be missed.

9. Colour Haze, TBA

I’ve gotten some details on the upcoming full-length from Colour Haze. They do not include a title, artwork, audio, song titles or general direction. Less details, I guess, than word that the CD version of this answer to 2015’s To the Highest Gods We Know (review here) is set to come out next month, as ever, on Elektrohasch. That puts it out in time for Colour Haze‘s upcoming tour with My Sleeping Karma (announced here). Fingers crossed it happens. Colour Haze are perpetual top-albums candidates in my book.

10. Corrosion of Conformity, TBA

Signed to Nuclear Blast after being rejoined by guitarist/vocalist Pepper Keenan, North Carolina’s C.O.C. have been in the studio since last year. The lineup of Keenan, bassist/vocalist Mike Dean and guitarist Woody Weatherman and Reed Mullin on drums is the stuff of legend and last worked together on 2000’s America’s Volume Dealer, so no question this reunion makes for one of 2017’s most anticipated heavy rock records. They nailed the nostalgia factor on tour. Can they now add to their legacy?

11. Elder, TBA

I was incredibly fortunate about a month ago to visit progressive heavy rockers Elder at Sonelab in Easthampton, MA, during the recording process for their upcoming fourth album. I heard a couple of the tracks, and of course it was all raw form, but the movement forward from 2015’s Lore (review here) was palpable. That LP (on Stickman) brought them to a wider audience, and I expect no less from this one as well, since the farther out Elder go sound-wise, the deeper the level of connection with their listeners they seem to engage.

12. Electric Wizard, TBA

Could happen, could not happen. That’s how it goes. Announced for last Halloween. That date came and went. Word of trouble building their own studio surfaced somewhere along the line. That was the last I heard. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if it showed up tomorrow, if it showed up in 2018, or if the band broke up and never put it out. They’re Electric Wizard. Anything’s possible.

13. John Garcia, The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues

Out Jan. 28 on NapalmThe Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues (review here) is the first-ever acoustic album from former Kyuss frontman John Garcia, also of Unida, the reunited Slo BurnHermanoVista ChinoZun, etc. — basically the voice of desert rock. He does a couple Kyuss classics for good measure, but shines as well on the new/original tracks, and while it’s a piece for fans more than newcomers — that is, it helps if you know the original version of “Green Machine” — his presence remains as powerful as ever despite this new context.

14. Goya, Harvester of Bongloads

Riffs, dude. Goya seem to have them to spare. The Arizona-based wizard doomers have set a pretty prolific clip for themselves at this point, with at least two short releases out in 2016, one a 7″ of Nirvana covers (review here), and the The Enemy EP (review here). Set for a March 3 release through their own Opoponax Records imprint, Harvester of Bongloads continues the march into the abyss that 2015’s Obelisk (review here) and 2013’s 777 set in motion, finding the band coming more into their own as well. Creative growth — and bongloads! The best of both worlds.

15. Ides of Gemini, TBA

Ides of Gemini are set to record their yet-untitled third album with Sanford Parker early this year, and it will also mark their debut on Rise Above Records upon its release. They’ve also got a new lineup around vocalist Sera Timms and guitarist J. Bennett, so as they look to move forward from 2014’s Old World New Wave (review here), one can’t help but wonder what to expect, but to be honest, not knowing is part of the appeal, especially from a band who so readily specialize in the ethereal.

16. Kind, TBA

Three-fourths of Kind feature elsewhere on this list. Bassist Tom Corino plays in Rozamov. Drummer Matt Couto is in Elder. Vocalist Craig Riggs is in Roadsaw. And for what it’s worth, guitarist Darryl Shepherd has a new band coming together called Test Meat. How likely does that make Kind to release a second LP in 2017? I don’t know, but their 2015 Ripple Music debut, Rocket Science (review here), deserves a follow-up, and I know they’ve demoed some new songs. If it happens, great. If it’s 2018, at least these dudes will be plenty busy besides.

17. Lo-Pan, In Tensions

lo-pan in tensionsYes, Lo-Pan‘s In Tensions (review here) has already been released — CD/LP with an artbook on Aqualamb. It’s out. Limited numbers. You can get it now. Why include it on a list of most anticipated releases? Because that’s how strongly I feel about your need to hear it. The fruit of a shortlived lineup with guitarist Adrian Zambrano, it distinguishes itself from everything they’ve done before in style while still keeping to the core righteousness that one hopes the Ohio outfit will continue to carry forward. It’s more than a stopgap between albums. Listen to it.

18. The Midnight Ghost Train, TBA

It seems to have been a rough ride for hard-boogie specialists The Midnight Ghost Train since their 2015 Napalm debut and third album overall, Cold was the Ground (review here). They’ve never taken it easy on the road or in terms of physicality on stage, and between injuries and who knows what else, their intensity at this point veers toward the directly confrontational. Nonetheless, they’ve been writing for album number four, may or may not have started the recording process, and I expect that confrontationalism to suit them well in their new material.

19. Monster Magnet, TBA

I have it on decent authority that NJ heavy psych innovators Monster Magnet were in the studio this past autumn. I’ve seen no concrete word of a new album in progress from Dave Wyndorf and company, and I wouldn’t necessarily expect to until it was time to start hyping the release, but after their two redux releases, 2015’s Cobras and Fire (review here) and 2014’s Milking the Stars (review here), their range feels broader than ever and I can’t wait to hear what they come up with next.

20. Mothership, High Strangeness

A pivotal moment for Mothership arrives with High Strangeness, and the heavy-touring, heavy-riffing Texas power trio seem to know it. Their third record on Ripple Music pushes into new avenues of expression and keeps the energy of 2014’s Mothership II (review here) and 2012’s Mothership (review here), but thus far into their career, it’s been about their potential and what they might accomplish going forward. 2017 might be the year for Mothership to declare a definitive place in the sphere of American heavy rock.

21. The Obsessed, Sacred

On Halloween 2016, founding The Obsessed guitarist/vocalist and doom icon Scott “Wino” Weinrich announced a new lineup for the band, with his former The Hidden Hand bandmate Bruce Falkinburg on bass/vocals, Sara Seraphim on guitar and Brian Costantino continuing on drums. A genuine surprise. Their first album since 1994, Sacred (due on Relapse) was tracked as the trio of WeinrichCostantino and bassist/vocalist Dave Sherman, but clearly they’ve moved into a new era already. Wouldn’t even guess what the future holds, but hopefully Sacred still comes out.

22. Orange Goblin, TBA

When it was announced that London’s Orange Goblin were picked up by Spinefarm as part of that label’s acquisition of Candlelight Records last Spring, the subheadline from the PR wire was “Working on Ninth Studio Album.” I haven’t heard much since then, but even as 2014’s Back from the Abyss (review here) pushed them deeper into metallic territory than ever before, their songs retained the character that’s made the band the institution they are. Always look forward to new Orange Goblin.

23. Pallbearer, Heartless

pallbearer heartlessDoomers, this is your whole year right here. I haven’t heard Pallbearer‘s third album, Heartless (out March 24 on Profound Lore), but I have to think even those who haven’t yet been won over by the Arkansas four-piece’s emotive, deep-running style have to be curious about what they’ve come up with this time around. I know I am. These guys have been making a mark on the genre since their 2012 debut, Sorrow and Extinction (review here), and there’s little doubt Heartless will continue that thread upon its arrival.

24. Radio Moscow, TBA

Fact: Radio Moscow stand among the best classic heavy rock live acts in the US. They’re the kind of band you can watch upwards of 15 gigs in a row — I’ve done it — and find them putting on a better show night after night, in defiance of science, logic and sobriety. Word of their signing to Century Media came just this past week and brought with it confirmation of a follow-up to 2014’s stellar Magical Dirt (review here), and for me to say hell yes, I’m absolutely on board, seems like the no-brainer to end all no-brainers. Can’t wait.

25. Roadsaw, TBA

Nearly six full years later, it’s only fair to call Boston scene godfathers Roadsaw due for a follow-up to their 2011 self-titled (review here). Granted, members have been busy in KindWhite Dynomite, and other projects, but still. Their upcoming outing finds them on Ripple Music after years under the banner of Small Stone Records, and though I haven’t seen a solid release date yet, my understanding is they hit Mad Oak Studio in Allston, MA, this past fall to track it, so seems likely for sooner or later. Sooner, preferably.

26. Rozamov, This Mortal Road

Speaking of albums by Boston bands a while in the making, This Mortal Road (out March 3 on Battleground Records and Dullest Records) is the debut full-length from Boston atmospheric extremists Rozamov. Haven’t heard it yet, but I got a taste of some of the material when I visited the band at New Alliance Audio in Aug. 2015, and the bleak expanses of what I heard seem primed to turn heads. I’m a fan of these guys, but in addition, they’ve found a niche for themselves sound-wise and I’m curious to hear how they bring it to fruition.

27. Samsara Blues Experiment, TBA

It’s been a pleasure over the last couple months to watch a resurgence of Berlin heavy psych trio Samsara Blues Experiment take shape, first with the announcement of a fourth album in October, then with subsequent confirmations for DesertfestRiff Ritual in Barcelona, and a South American tour. Reportedly due in Spring, which fits with the timing on shows, etc., the record will follow 2013’s righteous Waiting for the Flood (review here) and as much as I’m looking forward to hearing it, I’m kind of just glad to have these guys back.

28. Seedy Jeezus, TBA

Work finished earlier this month on Melbourne trio Seedy Jeezus‘ second full-length. As with their 2015 self-titled debut, the band brought Tony Reed of Mos Generator to Australia to produce, and after their blissed-out 2016 collaboration with Earthless guitarist Isaiah MitchellTranquonauts (review here), it’s hard not to wonder what experimentalist tendencies might show in the trio’s style this time out, and likewise difficult not to anticipate what guitarist Lex “Mr. Frumpy” Wattereus comes up with for the cover art.

29. Shroud Eater, Strike the Sun

Not to spoil the surprise, but Feb. 1 I’ll host a track premiere from Florida’s Shroud Eater that finds them working in a different context from everything we’ve heard from them to this point in their rightly-celebrated tenure. They also recently had a split out with Dead Hand, and their second long-player, Strike the Sun, will be their debut through STB Records. It’s been since 2011’s ThunderNoise (review here) that we last got a Shroud Eater album, so you bet your ass I’m dying to know what the last six years have wrought.

30. Sleep, TBA

If Sleep were any other band, they’d probably be in the “Would be Awfully Nice” category. But they’re Sleep, so even the thought of a new record is enough to put them here. The lords of all things coated in THC are reissuing their 2014 single, The Clarity (review here), on Southern Lord next month, but rumors have been swirling about a proper album, which of course would be their first since the now-legendary Dopesmoker. If it happens, it’ll automatically be a heavy underground landmark for 2017, but it’s one I’m going to have in my ears before I really believe it.

31. Stoned Jesus, TBA

Even as they tour playing their second album, 2012’s Seven Thunders Roar (review here), to mark its fifth anniversary and continued impact, Ukrainian trio Stoned Jesus are forging ahead with a fourth record behind 2015’s The Harvest (review here). The capital-‘q’ Question is whether or not looking back at Seven Thunders Roar and engaging that big-riffing side of their sound will have an impact on the new material, and if so, how it will meld with the push of The Harvest. Won’t speculate, but look forward to finding out.

32. Stubb, TBA

Since reveling in the soul of 2015’s Cry of the Ocean (review here) on Ripple, London trio Stubb have swapped out bassists, and they were in Skyhammer Studio this month recording a single that may be an extended psychedelic jam. I’ll take that happily, but I’m even more intrigued at the prospect of a third LP and what guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson, bassist/vocalist Tom Hobson and drummer Tom Fyfe might have in store as the band moves forward on multiple levels. Might be 2017, might not.

33. Sun Blood Stories, It Runs Around the Room with Us

sun blood stories it runs around the room with usIt Runs around the Room with Us seems to find peace in its resonant experimentalist drones, loops, open, subdued spaces, but there’s always some underlying sense of foreboding to its drift, as if Boise’s Sun Blood Stories could anticipate the moment before it happened. Toward the end of the follow-up to 2015’s Twilight Midnight Morning (review here), they execute the 90-second assault “Burn” and turn serenity to ash. Look for it in April and look for it again on my best of 2017 list in December.

34. Ufomammut, TBA

Any new offering from the Italian cosmic doom magnates is worth looking forward to, and while Ufomammut have left the 15-year mark behind, they’ve never stopped progressing in style and form. To wit, 2015’s Ecate (review here) was a stunner after 2012’s two-part LP, Oro (review here and review here), tightening the approach but assuring the vibe was no less expansive than ever. They started recording last summer, finished mixing in November, so I’m hoping for word of a release date soon.

35. Vokonis, The Sunken Djinn

Born out of Creedsmen Arise, whose 2015 demo, Temple (review here), offered formative thrills, Swedish trio Vokonis debuted with last year’s Olde One Ascending (review here) and proved there’s still life in post-Sleep riffing when it’s wielded properly. They signed to Ripple in November and confirmed the title of their sophomore effort as The Sunken Djinn, as well as a reissue for the first album, which will probably arrive first. I don’t know how that will affect the timing on this one, but keep an eye out anyway.

Gonna Happen and/or Likely Candidates

Obviously some of these are more likely than others. Some have solidified, announced release dates — Dopelord‘s out this month, Demon Head‘s out in April, etc. — and others come from social media posts of bands in studios and hints at upcoming releases and so on. A big tell is whether or not a band has an album title with their listing, but even some of those without have their new albums done, like Atala and Royal Thunder, so it’s not necessarily absolute.

Either way, while I’m spending your money, you might want to look into:

36. Against the Grain
37. Amenra
38. Atala
39. Attalla, Glacial Rule
40. Ayahuasca Dark Trip, II
41. Beastmaker
42. Beaten Back to Pure
43. Blackout
44. Bretus
45. Buried Feather, Mind of the Swarm
46. The Clamps
47. Cold Stares
48. Coltsblood, Ascending into the Shimmering Darkness
49. Come to Grief, The Worst of Times EP
50. Cortez
51. Cruthu, The Angle of Eternity
52. The Dead-End Alley Band, Storms
53. Dead Witches, Dead Witches
54. Dealer
55. Death Alley, Live at Roadburn
56. Demon Head, Thunder on the Fields
57. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, II
58. Devil Electric
59. Doctor Cyclops, Local Dogs
60. Dool, Here Now There Then
61. Dopelord, Children of the Haze
62. Doublestone, Devil’s Own/Djævlens Egn
63. Dread Sovereign, For Doom the Bell Tolls
64. Drive by Wire
65. Elbrus, Elbrus
66. Electric Age
67. Electric Moon, Stardust Rituals
68. Endless Floods, II
69. Five Horse Johnson
70. Forming the Void, Relic
71. Funeral Horse
72. Greenbeard
73. Green Desert Water
74. Greenleaf
75. Grifter / Suns of Thunder, Split
76. Hair of the Dog, This World Turns
77. Heavy Temple, Chassit
78. Here Lies Man, Here Lies Man
79. Hollow Leg, Murder EP
80. Holy Mount, The Drought
81. Hooded Menace
82. Horisont, About Time
83. Hymn, Perish
84. Lecherous Gaze
85. Magnet, Feel Your Fire
86. Mastodon
87. Merlin, The Wizard
88. Merchant
89. Mindkult, Lucifer’s Dream
90. Mirror Queen
91. Moonbow, War Bear
92. Mos Generator
93. The Moth
94. MotherSloth
95. Mouth, Vortex
96. My Sleeping Karma, Mela Ananda – Live
97. Orango
98. Papir
99. PH, Eternal Hayden
100. Psychedelic Witchcraft, Magick Rites and Spells
101. Royal Thunder
102. Saturn, Beyond Spectra
103. Season of Arrows, Give it to the Mountain
104. Siena Root
105. Six Organs of Admittance, Burning the Threshold
106. Six Sigma, Tuxedo Brown
107. Sólstafir
108. The Sonic Dawn, Into the Long Night
109. Spelljammer
110. Spidergawd, IV
111. Steak
112. Stinking Lizaveta, Journey to the Underworld
113. Sula Bassana, Organ Accumulator
114. Summoner
115. Sun Voyager, Sun Voyager
116. Sweat Lodge, Tokens for Hell EP
117. Thera Roya, Stone and Skin
118. Toke
119. Troubled Horse, Revelation on Repeat
120. VA, Brown Acid The Third Trip
121. Weedpecker
122. Youngblood Supercult, The Great American Death Rattle

Definitely Could Happen

Maybe a recording process is upcoming (Gozu, Cities of Mars, YOB), or a band is looking for a label (The Flying Eyes), or they’ve said new stuff is in the works but the circumstances of an actual release aren’t known (Arc of Ascent, Dead Meadow, High on Fire), or I’ve just seen rumors of their hitting the studio (Freedom Hawk, La Chinga, Ruby the Hatchet). We’ve entered the realm of the entirely possible but not 100 percent.

So, you know, life.

Dig it:

123. The Age of Truth
124. Ape Machine
125. Arc of Ascent
126. At Devil Dirt
127. Bantoriak
128. Bask
129. BCAD
130. BoneHawk
131. La Chinga
132. Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters
133. Cities of Mars
134. Crypt Sermon
135. Dead Meadow
136. Death Alley (Studio LP)
137. Dee Calhoun
138. Destroyer of Light
139. Devil
140. Devil Worshipper
141. Duel
142. Dustrider
143. Egypt
144. Electric Moon
145. Elephant Tree
146. Farflung
147. The Flying Eyes
148. Freedom Hawk
149. Gozu
150. The Great Electric Quest
151. Green Meteor, Consumed by a Dying Sun
152. High on Fire
153. Horrendous
154. Insect Ark
155. In the Company of Serpents
156. Iron Monkey
157. Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus
158. The Judge
159. Killer Boogie
160. King Dead
161. The Kings of Frog Island
162. Lords of Beacon House, Recreational Sorcery
163. Mangoo
164. Mondo Drag
165. Monolord
166. Mountain God
167. The Munsens
168. Naxatras
169. Never Got Caught
170. Ommadon
171. Orchid
172. Ordos
173. Pilgrim
174. Poseidon
175. Purple Hill Witch
176. Ruby the Hatchet
177. Sasquatch
178. Satan’s Satyrs
179. Serpents of Secrecy
180. Shabda
181. Shooting Guns
182. Sleepy Sun
183. Slow Season
184. Snowy Dunes, Atlantis
185. Spectral Haze
186. The Sweet Heat
187. Switchblade Jesus
188. Superchief
189. Tÿburn
190. YOB
191. Zone Six

Would be Awfully Nice

This last category is basically as close as I’m willing to come to rampant speculation. Endless Boogie have hinted at new material, and Queens of the Stone Age have talked about hitting the studio for the last two years. There were rumors about Om, and though Kings Destroy just put out an EP, they have new songs as well, though I doubt we’ll hear them before the end of 2017. I’ll admit that Across Tundras, Fever Dog, Lord Fowl, Lowrider and Hour of 13 are just wishful thinking on my part. A boy can hope:

192. Across Tundras
193. Eggnogg
194. Elephant Tree
195. Endless Boogie
196. Fever Dog
197. Fu Manchu
198. Halfway to Gone
199. Hour of 13
200. Kadavar
201. Kings Destroy
202. Lord Fowl
203. Lowrider
204. Masters of Reality
205. Om
206. Orodruin
207. Queens of the Stone Age

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading. Whatever this year brings, I hope it’s been great so far for you and I hope it continues to be so as we proceed inexorably to 2018 and all the also-futuristic-sounding numbers thereafter. At least we know we’ll have plenty of good music to keep us company on that voyage.

As always, comments section is open if there’s anything I’ve left out. I’m happy to add, adjust, etc., as need be, so really, have at it, and thanks in advance.

All the best.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Friday Full-Length: Monster Magnet, Dopes to Infinity

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 26th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Monster Magnet, Dopes to Infinity (1995)

Have you looked to your orb lately? Of all the warning systems ever designed by humanity, orb-based is probably the most crucially overlooked. Nonetheless, Dopes to Infinity, Monster Magnet‘s third album, is 21 years old. In its and the band’s home state of New Jersey, it could drink legally, though something about cuts like “Dopes to Infinity,” “Negasonic Teenage Warhead,” “Third Alternative,” “Blow ’em Off” and “King of Mars” makes me suspect the record wouldn’t have waited until now to imbibe. Even more than two decades later, Dopes to Infinity is still way more the snotty 14-year-old kid in a way-too-big leather jacket in the woods with a bottle of his dad’s Whatever teasing anyone in the vicinity who sips and is surprised at the taste. I was fortunate enough to see the band perform this album live — though the songs weren’t in the same order, as I recall — in Brooklyn in 2012 with Naam and Quest for Fire on the bill, either of whom could easily be considered an acolyte on some level, and nearly five years after that, the resonant impression remains that this was the moment where the band’s early freakout impulses really began to meet with a more straightforward hard rock style that the band would develop to wider commercial success. Don’t get me wrong, their 1991 Spine of God debut should be considered among the finest East Coast psychedelic records ever tracked — we’re talking Velvet Underground-style pedestal-putting, in a perfect world — but even as “All Friends and Kingdom Come” tripped out, it also kept a sense of hook, and in the years to come, it was that impulse which more fully took hold.

What’s fortunate about that is that Monster Magnet — then Dave Wyndorf on vocals, guitar, bass, percussion, theremin, production, etc., Ed Mundell on guitar and bass, Joe Calandra on guitar and bass, and Jon Kleiman on drums and bass — had the songwriting chops to make landmark choruses seem like tossoffs, like something thrown together over the course of an afternoon. And maybe they were, I don’t know. The point is that although Monster Magnet would eventually become a much different band and be a much different band for a long time on 1998’s Powertrip, 2001’s God Says No and 2004’s Monolithic Baby!, Dopes to Infinity catches a crucial transitional moment in action coming off Spine of God and its 1993 follow-up, Superjudge, also essential. Of course, after 2010’s Mastermind (review here), the band — Wyndorf as the last original member still present — made a stylistic pivot back toward a more psychedelic vibe with 2013’s Last Patrol (review here) and would continue to develop their rediscovered weirdo impulses over the course of two revisionist works, 2014’s Milking the Stars (review here) and 2015’s Cobras and Fire (review here), revisiting Last Patrol and Mastermind, respectively. But even as they made that sonic shift, Dopes to Infinity could easily be said to be the model being followed more even than the two records before it, precisely because of that memorable songcraft one hears coming to the fore on “I Control, I Fly” and the brilliant lyrical proclamations of “King of Mars.”

Monster Magnet toured Europe this Spring “celebrating the A&M years” — A&M Records having released their work between 1993-2001 — and that’s fair enough, but as relevant as Dopes to Infinity still is, Monster Magnet keep moving forward even when looking back on older material. I don’t know what they’ll do at this point other than to say it’s a safe bet they won’t be touring the US anytime soon, but one hopes their progression will continue going into their next record. And I hope they keep getting weirder. We’ll see when we get there.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

Total comedown this week from the first-ever The Obelisk All-Dayer (wrap here) at Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn last Saturday. A return to real life that found me working at about 30 percent consciousness until, well, I’ll be generous and say Wednesday. Plenty of good music to help me keep my head up, but yeah. The week dragged and was a drag.

One more time, thank you if you came out to the Vitus Bar for making the day so special. The day had its ups and downs, but in the end it was exactly the vibe I was hoping to capture. I hope I remember it for as long as I can remember anything.

As I write this it’s early Friday morning and the sun is just rising. I can still hear nighttime crickets. It’s nearly 6AM now; I’ve been up since about four. I’ve been going to bed early at night and getting up early to write reviews and posts like this on weekdays, and it’s helped me keep sane during the work week and try to balance job things and Obelisk things in a way that might otherwise prevent my head from exploding. Doesn’t do much for my ability to get to shows generally — I’m 34 years old and can’t wait for that midlife crisis to kick in so I can start going out again to non-fest gigs — but I’m doing what I can to write as much as possible. That’s what matters to me.

The Patient Mrs. is going south to Connecticut this weekend. I am not. Aside from the fact that it’s August and that’s not exactly my idea of beach weather — I recognize this does not apply to the rest of humanity — I think a quiet Saturday in the air conditioning will go a long way toward continued recovery from last weekend and this week. Plus there’s laundry to do. It just seemed like the way to go. So yeah, I’ll be around. I’m sure by Saturday night/Sunday morning I’ll be so bored out of my head I won’t know what to do with myself. That’s the hope, anyway.

Next week, look out for a full stream and review of the Swans-related record from Quin Galavis that’s noisy and folky and bizarre in a lot of the right ways, as well as a review/video premiere (a rare one-two combo) of the new Monkey3 album, a review of the new and apparently final The Wounded Kings full-length, and a whole lot more. I’m also hoping to nail down my travel plans to Norway next month for Høstsabbat, and will keep you posted on how that goes.

In the meantime, thank you for reading. Please have a great and safe weekend and please check out the forum and the radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

Tags: , , , , ,

H42 Records Releasing Desertfest London Split with Monster Magnet and Raging Speedhorn

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 3rd, 2016 by JJ Koczan

Since it was first announced the other day, I’ve been squinting my eyes at what were purposefully-blurred out logos of the two bands taking part in H42 Records‘ second annual Desertfest London split single, but today I’m happy to announce that it will be UK sludge aggressors Raging Speedhorn and New Jersey heavy psych legends Monster Magnet teamed up for the release. Art is a switched up form of the cover for last year’s Sons of Alpha Centauri and Karma to Burn split by Alexander von Wieding, preorder info is still to come, and the release is out April 29, which also happens to be the night Desertfest London 2016 kicks off.

Long defunct, Raging Speedhorn will include the track “Halfway to Hell,” which was also released as their first 7″ since reuniting, and Monster Magnet contribute “Hallucination Bomb,” presumably the version that appeared on last year’s excellent Cobras and Fire (review here), though I don’t have confirmation of anything other than that the songs will be included in some form.

The 7″ will invariably be limited to some small number yet to be revealed, and it’ll be available exclusively at Desertfest. More info follows from the PR wire:

desertfest-split-monster-magnet-raging-speedhorn-cover

NEW DESERTFEST LONDON 7″-SINGLE 2016 ANNOUNCEMENT

In 2015 H42 Records started the cooperation with the DESERTFEST LONDON with the split single Six/66 by KARMA TO BURN and SONS OF ALPHA CENTAURI:

2016 Festival line-up is complete and just around the corner and H42 Records are working hard on the new Festival 7″ Part 2. To provide a unified art we choose the old art but a bit modified! Responsible for the art is once again the great Alexander von Wieding (www.Zeichentier.com).

Once again we were able to win two grandiose bands: The Saviours of British Metal meets a psych-rock whirlpool from the USA! The single will be released again in very limited quantities available at the DesertFest London and H42 Records!

Tracklisting:
Raging Speedhorn – Halfway to Hell
Monster Magnet – Hallucination Bomb

Release is 29th April (DesertFest London). Presale date and editions info coming later in February/March.

http://www.h42records.com/
http://www.h42records.8merch.com/services/store
https://h42records.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/H42Records
https://twitter.com/H42Records
https://www.instagram.com/j.b.h42records/

Raging Speedhorn, “Halfway to Hell”

Monster Magnet, “Hallucination Bomb”

Tags: , , , , , ,

The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2015

Posted in Features on December 22nd, 2015 by JJ Koczan

top 30 albums of 2015 1

Please note: This list is not culled in any way from the Readers Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2015 to that, please do.

It’s damn near impossible to start one of these posts without some derivation of, “Whew! What a year it’s been!” The truth is that, since 2014, I’ve been keeping a list of the best releases of 2015, and the list has just grown and grown and grown over the last 12 months. Could have been a top 40, easy. Could have been a top 50, 60, whatever. It was complete inundation.

If you’ve been checking in on any of the lists that have gone up so far, you might notice that some of these records have appeared elsewhere, and possibly in a different order. How does an album end up ahead of another on one list and not on another? Different criteria. Different basis of judgment. As always, the big year-end list (this one) is derived both from what I think are the most important offerings of the year plus what I listened to the most, because while I believe deeply in the critical value of a given work, I also believe there’s value in the kind of record you just can’t put down.

Basically, I believe records have value. Stay tuned for more daring adventures in understatement.

A few emergent factors for 2015 to note: The increasing expansion of subgenres. Psychedelia and what I’ve come to call the heavy ’10s sound finding further root as prominent styles of the day, as well as a budding of emotive doom in the post-Pallbearer vein. At the same time, a more straightforward heavy rock is also making a return, and look for that to continue as new listeners discover past landmarks and modern plays thereupon. Everything is cyclical, and I’m interested to see what the next two or three years bring, both as Millennials hit 30 (and beyond) and as younger kids come up and fuzz out.

But that’s a conversation for a different time, and before we get there, it’s time to take a look back at the best full-lengths of 2015. I hope if I’ve left something out, you’ll let me know about it in the comments, but until then, here we go:

30. High on Fire, Luminiferous

high on fire luminiferous

Released by eOne Heavy. Reviewed June 15.

Going by some of the results I’ve seen from the Readers Poll, I’m guessing there will be some disagreement on the placement of High on Fire‘s seventh full-length, third for eOne and second to be produced by Kurt Ballou behind 2012’s De Vermiis Mysteriis (review here), but for me it came down to what I went back to more. The brilliant “The Falconist” would be enough on its own for Luminiferous to be included on this list, and taken as a whole, the record affirmed the trio as pivotal heavy metal marauders, an act whose devastation is undulled by the wear they’ve put on it touring the world over and again.

29. CHRCH, Unanswered Hymns

chrch unanswered hymns

Released by Battleground Records. Reviewed June 30.

Undaunted by a name change from Church to CHRCH, the Sacramento five-piece unleashed rare doom extremity on their debut album, but peppered that with a stylistic nuance that many in the pummel-pummel-pummel game cast off, whether it was psychedelic flourish in the guitar or some eerie atmospheric. Among the post potential-filled debut offerings of the year, that’s not a guarantee they’ll find future success on the same level, but it does mean that if you didn’t hear the 19-minute “Dawning,” you missed out.

28. Golden Void, Berkana

golden void berkana

Released by Thrill Jockey Records. Reviewed Sept. 22.

Coherent bliss. The second full-length from the four-piece Golden Void was a logical step forward from the band’s 2012 self-titled debut (review here), but that was precisely what it needed to be. With an emerging dynamic of dual vocals between guitarist Isaiah Mitchell (also Earthless) and keyboardist Camilla Saufley-Mitchell on cuts like “Astral Plane” and “Silent Season,” Berkana was less adherent to space rock overall than its predecessor, but gave a more individualized take and was all the richer for it.

27. Stoned Jesus, The Harvest

stoned jesus the harvest

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 20.

Probably should have a higher number. Part of the enduring appeal for The Harvest for me is not only how Ukrainian three-piece Stoned Jesus so absolutely pushed back from the album before it, 2012’s sophomore outing, Seven Thunders Roar (review here), but how much reasoning they put behind the moves they made on the six included tracks. Each song had its purpose and place in the overarching flow, and The Harvest continues to deliver something new on thoroughly-earned repeat listens. Perhaps most encouraging of all, I have no idea what they’ll do next.

26. Graveyard, Innocence and Decadence

graveyard innocence and decadence

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Oct. 7.

Swedish retro forerunners are hands-down one of the most influential European heavy rock acts of their generation. The ’70s revivalism they helped spearhead on their first, second and third LPs has given them rich ground to develop, and they still managed to bring something new to their sound with the soulfulness of Innocence and Decadence, as well as increasing command and diversity in the vocals. Drummer Axel Sjöberg turned in a career performance, and although there are heaps upon heaps of bands out there indulging in post-Graveyard boogie, they showed once again that they’re able to stand both out from the crowd and well above it. Plus, any swing-rocking album that dares to break out soul-singer backing vocals and blastbeats, and pull both off without blinking deserves respect, no matter what else it might have going on.

25. Death Hawks, Sun Future Moon

death hawks sun future moon

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed Nov. 3

It felt so good to put on Death HawksSun Future Moon for the first time and be completely blindsided by its serene psychedelic ritualizing. The Finnish four-piece reveled in classic progressive methods, and where it would’ve been so easy for songs like “Hey Ya Sun Ra” or “Dream Life, Waking Life” to come across as pretentious, the naturalism in the recording gave the band’s third album such a liquefied flow that it was impossible not to be swept up by it until, at last, “Friend of Joy” launched into and beyond a peaceful stratosphere in spaced-out ambience. My first exposure to the group and their first outing for Svart, it’s a record so textural and so graceful that it seems to unfurl itself more each time through.

24. Spidergawd, II

spidergawd ii

Released by Stickman Records and Crispin Glover Records. Reviewed Jan. 5.

A quick and strong turnaround from this Norwegian sax-inclusive foursome, who might seem to come out of nowhere were it not for the pedigree of Kenneth Kapstad and Bent Sæther in long-running progressives Motorpsycho. Together with Per Borten and Rolf Martin Snustad, Spidergawd spoke to more primal rock instincts — their two LPs to-date and soon to be three are testaments to the ability of music to move, to shove, and to shake; or as they put it, “Get Physical” — but as there is breadth as well, as the psychedelic “Caereulean Caribou” demonstrated. Anchored by the hook of “Fixing to Die Blues,” Spidergawd‘s second wandered far and wide, but welcomed listeners along for each step of the journey.

23. The Midnight Ghost Train, Cold was the Ground

the midnight ghost train cold was the ground

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Feb. 26.

As the title promised, The Midnight Ghost Train‘s third offering and Napalm Records debut delivered harsh truths. They came at breakneck speed and delivered with stage-hewn chemistry by the Midwestern power trio, whose years of road-dogging were brought to bear in the gruff, gravel-throated voice of guitarist Steve Moss, who led drummer Brandon Burghart and newcomer bassist Mike Boyne across nigh-unparalled riff torrents, with all the boogie of any number of ’70s-style sidewinders, but also with a tonal thickness that seemed a miracle it could move at all. Not without its adventurous side in the quieter “The Little Sparrow,” Cold was the Ground brimmed with intensity that brought the band to new levels in every conceivable fashion.

22. Leeches of Lore, Motel of Infinity

leeches of lore motel of infinity

Released by Lorchestral Recording Company. Reviewed Sept. 15.

Blessed art the weirdos, whose records might be few and far between, who might not tour, but whose bold fits and starts span genres easily and whose work truly stands alone. Leeches of Lore‘s Toshi Kasai-produced Motel of Infinity was a godsend in the enduring battle against normality. It was a grinding, grooving anti-punk stampede, at times frenetic and at other times whatever the opposite of frenetic is, and to-date, it’s the Albuquirky outit’s masterpiece, from the low-end buzzsaw, gang-shout and falsetto of “Don’t Open Till Doomsday” through the bass and organ bounce of “Noah’s Soul (is Burning).” They have been and still are a band unto themselves, and the we-do-this-every-day confidence of their execution across Motel of Infinity‘s run only emphasizes how utterly necessary they are.

21. With the Dead, With the Dead

with the dead self titled

Released by Rise Above Records. Reviewed Nov. 11.

With the Dead vocalist Lee Dorrian (also head of Rise Above Records, also ex-Cathedral) basically laid it all out there in the interview here when he said, “We wanted to make the most skull-crushing record we possibly could.” That’s precisely what With the Dead‘s self-titled debut is. It’s as heavy as possible, as filthy as possible, all the way through. In some ways very much the sum of its elements with Dorrian on vocals, Tim Bagshaw on guitar/bass and Mark Greening on drums (both ex-Ramesses), it was also of course more than just that, and while so much of their story has yet to be told as they move into their initial live appearances in 2016, their opening salvo was nothing if not as destructive as its intent.

20. Clutch, Psychic Warfare

clutch psychic warfare

Released by Weathermaker Music. Reviewed Oct. 6.

How could anyone possibly have even remotely reasonable expectations for a Clutch record after 2013’s Earth Rocker (review here). I won’t say the Maryland stalwarts didn’t deliver with Psychic Warfare, and I doubt any fan of the band who’s dug into “X-Ray Visions,” “A Quick Death in Texas” or “Noble Savage” would, but their returning to producer Machine for the second time in a row made it almost too easy to compare Clutch‘s 10th and 11th long-players. Four years between albums was shortened to just two, and that may have had something to do with it as well, but while the songs were there and I’ve no doubt that Psychic Warfare will endure over the long term — ask me sometime how long it took me to get into Pure Rock Fury — in the moment of its release, Psychic Warfare seemed to stand in the shadow of its predecessor rather than in its own light.

19. Mondo Drag, Mondo Drag

mondo drag self-titled

Released by Kozmik Artifactz and RidingEasy Records. Reviewed Jan. 8.

An awaited return for Midwestern-turned-West-Coast psychedelic rockers Mondo Drag, their self-titled sophomore outing had three years between its recording and release, and was made in 2012 with a shortlived incarnation of the band with bassist Zack Anderson and drummer Cory Berry, both formerly of Radio Moscow and then-soon to be of Blues Pills. Unsurprisingly, the grooves were tight, but even better, Mondo Drag blew past the peaceful headtrippery of their 2010 debut, New Rituals (review here), toward more expansive and proggy fare. They’ll look to continue that thread on their third outing, The Occultation of Light, in 2016, but the self-titled captured a special moment worthy of celebration, still rife with the classic-minded ethereal spirit of the first outing, but clearly bent on defining its own sonic dogma in hooks and synthy vibes.

18. Lamp of the Universe, The Inner Light of Revelation

lamp of the universe the inner light of revelation

Released by Clostridium Records and Astral Projection. Reviewed April 27.

At the risk of sounding biased, just about any new release from New Zealand tantric psych outfit Lamp of the Universe is going to be welcome by me. Comprised solely of Craig Williamson (also Arc of Ascent), the long-running project nonetheless casts out gorgeously textured meditative psychedelia, at times delving into drone or Eastern folk, but always marking out its own sonic space, whether in the more rock-minded groove of “God of One” or the drumless acoustic swirl of “Ancient Path.” Lamp of the Universe is a rare band — as much as it is a band — that covers a swath of ground stylistically and manages to sound like nothing but itself as it does so, and Williamson‘s commitment to his cosmic mantras remains firm and creatively fertile as the seeds he planted early on continue to bear fruit in complex arrangements that never distract from the central, spiritual purpose of the music.

17. Mammatus, Sparkling Waters

mammatus sparkling waters

Released by Spiritual Pajamas. Reviewed Nov. 9.

Even with its title-track broken into two 20-plus-minute side-consuming halves, it was abundantly plain to hear that Sparkling Waters was the most realized Mammatus outing yet. The four-song, 75-minute offering brimmed with a clarity that even their late-2013 third album, Heady Mental (review here), could only partially claim, leaving behind the fuzz and fog of their earlier work almost entirely while remaining open to employing sonic heft when suitable to their more complex motives. Most effective about Mammatus at this stage was the way they eased into and through varied parts while tying together a coherent whole piece, the builds and cascades of “Sparkling Waters Part One” setting up an expectation of fluidity that held firm even through the more jagged buzz in the early going of closer “Ornia,” the grand finale of which resonates as a cacophony without letting itself actually lose control.

16. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, The Night Creeper

uncle acid the night creeper

Released by Rise Above Records. Reviewed Sept. 3.

UK ladykillers Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats have emerged as one of the most essential bands of the ’10s. The Night Creeper is their fourth album and it takes the defining eeriness of their melodies and roughs it up with a mostly-live recording job — something which, now that they’re a touring act, they can do — for their grittiest, dirtiest-sounding offering yet. Songs like “Melody Lane,” “Pusher Man” and opener “Waiting for Blood” speak to what’s let their methodology spread so widely in the first place, the VHS grain of their guitars and vocals resting over classic swing and proliferating maddening hooks with lethal intent. Between the nine-minute gruel of “Slow Death” and the hidden acoustic track “Black Motorcade,” The Night Creeper wasn’t without its element of sonic progress, but with Uncle Acid, it’s still the combination of threat, swing and memorable songwriting that brings listeners back to their dark alleyways for another taste.

15. Death Alley, Black Magick Boogieland

death alley black magick boogieland

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed June 8.

Easily one of 2015’s most encouraging debuts. Making its opening salvo with the propulsion of Motörhead-derived heavy rock in songs like “Over Under” and “Black Magick Boogieland,” the first outing from Amsterdam-based foursome Death Alley touched on classic ideals without going retro on “Bewildered Eyes,” nodded toward psychedelic melodicism and more patient intentions in “Golden Fields of Love,” and portrayed its punker roots in “Dead Man’s Bones” — all before the 12:40 space rock extravaganza that took hold with closer “Supernatural Predator.” It was a lot of territory to cover, but Death Alley not only made it sound cohesive, they made it rock and they made it a good time. In just about 41 minutes, Black Magick Boogieland was not only a voyage well worth taking, it was a potential-filled, headbang-worthy ripper of an album from an outfit who deserves every bit of attention they seem to be shouting for. Hope they don’t wait long for a follow-up.

14. The Machine, Offblast!

the machine offblast

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed May 28.

Five records in, Dutch trio The Machine have found a niche for themselves between heavy psych rock, desert fuzz and exploratory jamming. Offblast!, with a title that seemed more reminiscent of Europunker speed rock, was as spacious as it was driving, and whether it was the more structured material like “Dry End” or “Coda Sun” or the two extended cuts, 16-minute opener ““Chrysalis (J.A.M.)” and 12-minute closer “Come to Light,” their dynamic remained natural and held firm to a spontaneous sensibility, like at any turn, any part might take off for an eight-minute ride to who knows where. That that didn’t always happen only made Offblast! a richer listening experience, its varied ideas coming through consistent tonality to affect a more than satisfying front-to-back flow that toyed with momentum even as it built more and more of it. Was a while in the making, coming three years after 2012’s Calmer than You Are (review here), but easily worth the wait.

13. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth

brothers of the sonic cloth self titled

Released by Neurot Recordings. Reviewed March 3.

There were moments where the self-titled debut from Brothers of the Sonic Cloth was almost too much to take in one sitting. By the time the Tad Doyle-led trio got around to the 11-minute “La Mano Poderosa,” sometimes I felt like I needed a second to catch my breath before diving further, always further, into the smoldering abyss their tones, growls and lurch seemed to create. Six years after their demo (review here) served notice like a tectonic rumble in the distance, the album arrived with comet-into-planet heft, and its oppression was as much about atmosphere as it was sheer aural assault. Imagine an arm reaching down your throat, grabbing your lungs, and forcibly deflating them one at a time. Is that hyperbole? Absolutely, and well earned. Every bit the debut of the year.

12. Kind, Rocket Science

kind rocket science

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Dec. 2.

No, Boston supergroup Kind aren’t so high on this list just because they called a song “Pastrami Blaster.” Granted, that didn’t hurt, but ultimately it was the blend of cavernous psychedelics and heavy rumble that made Rocket Science so infectious. Comprised of vocalist Craig Riggs (Roadsaw), guitarist Darryl Shepard (Milligram, The Scimitar, etc.), bassist Tom Corino (Rozamov) and drummer Matt Couto (Elder), Kind earned immediate interest for their pedigree, but it was more the breadth of jams like “Hordeolum” and “The Angry Undertaker” that defined their first outing, various impulses toward structure and open-endedness not so much pushing against each other as working in tandem to craft something that drew from the best of both mindsets. Obviously these are busy guys, but hopefully Kind doesn’t all by the wayside for other ongoing projects. Rocket Science was unmistakable in its demonstration that they have much to offer.

11. Bloodcow, Crystals and Lasers

bloodcow crystals and lasers

Self-released. Reviewed Aug. 4.

Iowa five-piece Bloodcow hadn’t put out a record since 2007’s Bloodcow III: Hail Xenu, but that didn’t stop Crystals and Lasers from being their best work yet. As much punk as metal as heavy rock, it wasn’t for everybody, but it was most definitely for me. With a constant thread of satire in songs like “Ultra Super Sexual,” “Sock,” “Dick for Days” and the oh-shit-I’m-middle-aged-how-the-fuck-did-this-happen (not saying I relate or anything, but holy shit I can relate) “After Party,” it was nonetheless a stylistically varied and universally professional-sounding 13-track collection, offering weirdo quirk in “Blood and Guts,” “Exploding Head” and “Little Chromosome” and finding room for a bit of scathing social commentary in its title-track and “HIVampyre.” If they’re working at an eight-year pace, I don’t know that we’ll get another Bloodcow record, but they very clearly put everything they had into Crystals and Lasers and the result was a defining statement.

10. Kadavar, Berlin

kadavar berlin

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed July 7.

After two wallops in the form of 2013’s Abra Kadavar (review here) and 2012’s self-titled debut (discussed here), German trio Kadavar continued to prove the effectiveness of their songwriting on Berlin, a return that front-to-back brimmed with vitality and bounce rare enough for heavy rock generally more content to be downtrodden or attempting to feign bluesy substance. Unabashedly poppy at times, Berlin was the party that brought everyone along who was up for taking the ride, and whether it was the hook of “Lord of the Sky” showing how just a tiny melodic turn could make a track infectious or cuts like “Thousand Miles Away from Home,” “Filthy Illusion,” “Stolen Dreams,” “Spanish Wild Rose,” “See the World with Your Own Eyes” — all of them, really — working their way into the consciousness, Berlin felt like it was primed to be the soundtrack of many summers to come. They moved away from the retro style of their first two outings, but in so doing took fuller command of their sound and put it to remarkable use.

9. Goatsnake, Black Age Blues

goatsnake black age blues

Released by Southern Lord. Reviewed May 19.

Picking up right where Flower of Disease closer “The River” left off with “Another River to Cross,” Goatsnake‘s third full-length arrived a full 15 years after its predecessor, and as one might expect that brought some considerable changes in the band’s sound. Oh, they still rolled the hell out of a riff, guitarist Greg Anderson (he of SunnO))) and Southern Lord Recordings) very much at the fore tonally, but a bluesy inflection from vocalist Pete Stahl (also earthlings?) and some well-placed backing vocals added personality in a daring and unexpected fashion. Songs like “Jimi’s Gone,” “Elevated Man” and “Grandpa Jones” sat comfortably in the band’s influential pantheon of heft, but it was how Black Age Blues pushed beyond what Goatsnake did in their initial run that made it so satisfying. For a record that arrived five years after they got back together, it could have easily been disaster, but Black Age Blues built on what Goatsnake was without detracting from the legacy that has influenced a generation of heavy rock.

8. Kings Destroy, Kings Destroy

kings destroy self titled

Released by War Crime Recordings. Reviewed April 15.

I’m proud to call the members of Kings Destroy friends and I won’t attempt to feign impartiality when it comes to considering their work as a band, but I felt in listening to their self-titled third LP that they had finally gotten to the point where they were bringing the onstage confrontationalism of their live show to the studio. Yeah, “Mr. O” was upbeat and catchy and gave side A some thrust, but even in chugging opener “Smokey Robinson” or the moody “Mytho” and “Embers,” Kings Destroy not only came further into their own in terms of style, building on the anti-genre defiant stance of 2013’s A Time of Hunting (review here), but did so with a clearheaded progressivism, a better sense of who they are musically and what they want the band to be. I wouldn’t trade seeing them play “Embers” or “W2” as many times as I have for anything, but even unto the gang-shout half-speed hardcore of “Time for War,” Kings Destroy‘s Kings Destroy made no bones about how it wound up with the eponymous title. It’s them through and through.

7. Cigale, Cigale

cigale self titled

Self-released. Reviewed May 4.

It may never be possible to listen to the self-titled debut from Cigale outside the context of the death of guitarist/vocalist Rutger Smeets (ex-Sungrazer). That loss casts a dark shadow over a collection that otherwise radiates colorful sweetness and serenity, the peaceful depth beginning with “Grey Owl” and only broadening as it turns and weaves through “Steeplechase,” “Feel the Heat,” “Harvest Begun” and so on, but the record remains a gorgeous, engrossing wash of resonant melody and underlying presence. Not without its moments of melancholy, the more overarching impression was of beauty not tied to any notion of playing to genre or style, and while I don’t know what the future will hold for the band, if they’ll keep moving forward or not or if they’re even in a place yet to consider such things, they helped broaden the context of European heavy psychedelia with their first album, and that is no minor achievement.

6. Sun Blood Stories, Twilight Midnight Morning

sun blood stories twilight midnight morning

Self-released. Reviewed June 19.

Another one that just kind of smacked me in the face. Idahoan heavy psych explorers Sun Blood Stories‘ second album, Twilight Midnight Morning was soaked in vibe and moved fluidly between experimentalist noisemaking and patient, memorable songwriting. Tracks like “West the Sun,” “Witch Wind” and “Found Reasons Found Out” never raged, exactly, but had enough weight to their rhythm to let you know they were there and interested in groove, while later pieces “Time Like Smoke,” “Moon Song: Waxing” and “Misery is Nebulous” drew exponentially from earlier freakout impulses and shifted into a dronier and more ambient approach. The combination of the two — semi-structure up front, open expansion in the back — made the three-part Twilight Midnight Morning engaging and hypnotic in kind, and though I hope they get weirder and experiment and develop the atmospheric side of their sound, I’ve also got my fingers crossed they hold firm to their more grounded aspects, since its the range between the two that gives their sophomore outing its defining fluidity.

5a. Colour Haze, To the Highest Gods We Know

colour haze to the highest gods we know

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed Jan. 6.

I’ll cite precedent in last year’s list for including a “5a.” The intent in doing so is to convey the idea that Colour Haze‘s latest outing, To the Highest Gods We Know, is worthy of top five consideration, but its release date was split between 2014 (CD) and 2015 (LP), so it was a little unclear where to put it. As the album is basically a year old at this point, it seems fair to say it’s held up, drawing back from the grandiose vision of 2012’s She Said (review here) without losing sight of the progressive elements that have taken root in the German trio’s sound. Their work has been and remains essential to the development of heavy psychedelic rock in Europe and beyond, and even though To the Highest Gods We Know felt like something of a reset — a stripping down of arrangements in places and getting back to a trio-in-a-room feel — it still stepped forward in its title-track and in songs like “Überall” and “Call” and showed that even when it seems Colour Haze have pushed their approach as far as it can go, there’s always new ground to explore, and their pull to do so is undiminished.

5. The Atomic Bitchwax, Gravitron

the atomic bitchwax gravitron

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed April 20.

Doesn’t exactly seem like giving away state secrets to note that a record with songs like “Sexecutioner” and “Fuck Face” is aggressive, but it’s particularly interesting in light of the past work of New Jersey trio The Atomic Bitchwax, who I don’t think sounded as barn-burning as they do on Gravitron even in their earliest going. The trio of bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik, guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan and drummer Bob Pantella kept their signature winding riff style intact — demonstrated most expansively over 2011’s single-song full-length instrumental The Local Fuzz (review here) — but while their turns were as blinding as ever, their tones were more pointed and Pantella‘s snare more upfront on the beat, which gave Gravitron a newfound sense of urgency. It worked. Even poppier songs like “Roseland” or the closing “Ice Age Hey Baby” benefited from the additional thrust, and the album overall felt lean, mean and ready to be taken on the road, which of course is exactly what they did with it. Six albums in, The Atomic Bitchwax were at their most vital yet.

4. All Them Witches, Dying Surfer Meets His Maker

all them witches dying surfer meets his maker

Released by New West Records. Reviewed Oct. 20.

Nashville four-piece All Them Witches probably could’ve gone into the studio, churned out a record of crunchy riffs with a quiet part or two for flavor and positioned themselves at the forefront of American heavy rock with their New West Records debut and third full-length overall, Dying Surfer Meets His Maker. Instead, they defied expectation boldly and brought their growing audience into the room with them and producer Mikey Allred as they captured the album, which finds its most affecting moments not in tonal weight, but emotional resonance, the melody at the midpoint of “Talisman” or the string arrangement gracefully tucked into “Open Passageways.” There’s still the push of “Dirt Preachers,” and entrancing closer “Blood and Sand – Milk and Endless Waters” has its heft as well, but All Them Witches‘ success ultimately came from being the album they wanted to make, built from the dynamic that’s developed on stage between bassist/vocalist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeodAllan Van Cleave on Fender Rhodes/strings, and drummer Robby Staebler, and alive in its feeling of exploration. I won’t predict what they might do from here, but I’m willing to say outright it’ll be worth hearing one way or another.

3. Snail, Feral

snail feral

Released by Small Stone Records. Reviewed Oct. 13.

My expectations for Snail‘s third post-reunion full-length and Small Stone label debut, Feral, were pretty high. Not unreasonably so, though. Their 2012 outing, Terminus (review here), built on the blend of heavy psych riffs, laid back roll and melodicism that 2009’s Blood (review here) established as the band’s working modus, but Feral was going to be a different beast from the start because it was the West Coast outfit’s first full-length as a trio since they made their self-titled debut (reissue review here) in 1993 before splitting up the next year. Whatever my expectations were, however, Snail shattered them almost immediately. In the progression of their songwriting as shown across the strong opening salvo of “Building a Haunted House,” “Smoke the Deathless” and “A Mustard Seed” through one of the year’s best songs in the expansive and crushing “Thou Art That,” the three-piece showcased a breadth unlike anything they’d conjured before, and it only continued through “Born in Captivity,” the catchy “Derail,” “Psilocybe” and the soul-infused wah leads that peppered the pleading closer “Come Home.” Where Terminus offered intensity, Feral offered patience in its execution, and the atmosphere it created suited the band’s sound as well as the Seldon Hunt cover art seemed to summarize the alternate reality in which the music took place. Everything about how it came together worked just right, and even as a fan of the band’s work since they got together again, I was taken aback by the unflinching quality of Feral front to back.

2. Acid King, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere

acid king middle of nowhere center of everywhere

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 19.

Ten years is a long, long time. Especially in music. The prospect of a fourth Acid King record has been tossed around for at least the last six of those 10 years, but to finally have it realized was something else entirely. Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere was without a doubt my most-listened-to album of the year, and its combination of tonal haze, low-end heft and spacious atmosphere was perfect. There’s just no other way to say it. It was perfect. From “Silent Pictures” and “Coming down from Outer Space” through “Red River,” “Infinite Skies” and the sprawling “Center of Everywhere” itself, guitarist/vocalist Lori S., bassist Mark Lamb and drummer Joey Osbourne crafted an absolutely perfect heavy psych record. How many bands walking the earth could even get away with calling a track “Laser Headlights,” let alone make it kick ass? Yeah, Goatsnake came back this year, and that was great, but for me, the return of Acid King to their throne of nod was even more the story of the year. Together with producer Billy Anderson, they offered a depth of tone that was simply unmatched, and without an ounce of pretense, they unveiled a roll that continues to resound. I’m a big fan of getting lost in a record, and Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere eased the listener in with its “Intro,” pulled reality apart from with “Silent Pictures” and set about doing the universe a favor by remaking the cosmos as the kind of place where one might find a wizard riding a tiger past the craters of the moon, until, at last, it deposited you back where you started. Best trip of 2015, no question.

1. Elder, Lore

elder lore

Released by Armageddon Shop and Stickman Records. Reviewed Feb. 19.

Make no mistake, 2015 was Elder‘s year. We were all just living in it. Truth be told, I’ve been back and forth between Elder and Acid King in the top spot for the last couple months (you might recall in July they were reversed), but when it finally came to it, there was no way I could feasibly call anything other than Lore the album of the year. From the gorgeous Adrian Dexter artwork (discussed here), through the progressive clarion of “Compendium”‘s noodling guitar line and into the massive scope of the title-track (discussed here), Lore was the moment in which Elder — guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto — tore down the walls of genre, whether it was heavy rock, psychedelia or anything else, and emerged with their own approach and complex, varied modus of songwriting. They’ve been turning heads since their self-titled debut arrived in 2008, but with 2011’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here), they began to demonstrate the potential for really adding something to the patchwork of underground heavy. In moving forward by making clarity a hallmark both of their sound and of their purpose, Elder came into their own with these five tracks, and do not at all be surprised a couple years from now when bands start showing up aping DiSalvo‘s style of riffing, since such a bold and successful foray of individualism can only be influential in the longer run. At nearly an hour long, Lore was not a minor undertaking, but each song seemed to set up its own atmosphere, feeding not only its own singular focus, but that of the album overall. Its turns blinding, its impact forceful and its affect drawing from the best of the sonic personalities of all three players, Elder‘s Lore reaped wide acclaim and earned it every step of the way. Its progressive vision has only begun to be digested.

Honorable Mention

Killer Boogie, Detroit – Impressive debut from the retro-minded offshoot of Black Rainbows brought ’70s boogie to Italy. I wouldn’t be surprised if they had a quick turnaround, but either way, their first outing knew its audience and spoke directly to it.

My Sleeping Karma, Moksha – This one was on various incarnations of the list. Very interested to see where the German heavy prog outfit wind up in terms of expanding their arrangements, but Moksha was a satisfying step forward in that process.

Egypt, Endless Flight – Should probably have a number, but the fact is it’s only been out for like two weeks, so it hasn’t really been given the test of time at this point. Still, Egypt always deliver and this was no exception.

Valkyrie, Shadows – An awaited third full-length from Virginia’s Valkyrie and also their Relapse Records debut offered enough blazing guitar work to meet any quota, and was a welcome return after a long absence.

Magic Circle, Journey’s End – The second LP from this Massachusetts outfit pushed beyond doomly confines into more traditional metallurgy but held its eerie atmospherics intact, and the combination suited them remarkably well.

Monolord, Vænir – This was my go-to for 2015 when nothing else seemed quite crushing enough. The Swedish trio have very quickly stomped their way into the hearts and minds of the international underground, and rightfully so.

Freedom Hawk, Into Your Mind – After making a transition from a four-piece to a trio, this Virginian outfit proceeded to take a few stylistic risks on their second Small Stone long-player, and they paid off.

TombstonesVargariis – Fourth full-length from this Norwegian trio pushed them outside of doom’s confines into a darker and more extreme version of heaviness that pulled from death and black metals in addition to its sludgy underpinnings. The meld was punishing and lost nothing of its groove, wherever it went at any given moment.

Faces of Bayon, Ash and Dust Have no Dominion – I guess my only hesitation with including Faces of Bayon‘s second outing in any kind of year-end fare is I’m not sure if the album has actually been released yet. Even if not, they’re easily worth a mention.

Ice Dragon, A Beacon on the Barrow – Kind of a down year from Ice Dragon in terms of overall productivity, but if the quantity was down compared to some, A Beacon on the Barrow was quality enough to carry them through. In a way, I think the album actually benefited from the band giving listeners time to take it in.

Arenna, Given to Emptiness – Ah, so good. The Spanish heavy psych troupe dug in deep on Given to Emptiness and conjured sonic and emotional resonance on their second full-length. It’s one that still gets repeat listens.

Monster Magnet, Cobras and Fire – The long-running New Jersey outfit’s reworking of their 2010 album Mastermind was excellent, don’t get me wrong, but it didn’t seem fair to list it when they’re working mostly from already-released source material. But still, if you haven’t heard it, go find it.

Various Artists, Electric Ladyland [Redux] – Even if the results hadn’t been so spectacular, Electric Ladyland [Redux] would deserve a mention for the sheer scope and logistical nightmare that the project must have been. Kudos to Magnetic Eye Records all around.

There are so many others: Abrahma, GoyaSun and Sail Club, DevilleSacri MontiDirty StreetsUfomammutWo Fat‘s live album, Mirror Queen, PentagramTorcheSumacGarden of WormBlack RainbowsHoly SerpentMinskBaronWeedpeckerElectric MoonFuzzBell WitchWindhand, Niche, We Lost the SeaSeremoniaSunderDomovoyd, The Heavy EyesDemon HeadFoggStars that MoveEnslavedRuby the Hatchet, on and on and on. That’s not even to mention the stuff I didn’t hear — Baroness will be on many people’s lists, no doubt, as well as Mutoid Man, Ghost and Kylesa — so yeah, I could pretty much keep going ad infinitum.

I, however, cannot. It’s been an absolute pleasure trying to keep up with 2015’s barrage the last 12 months, and I expect 2016 will only bring more. I hope you’ve enjoyed reading or that you’re able to get some use out of this post, whatever that might mean, and I thank you deeply, from the bottom of my heart, for your time and for reading. It means more to me than I can say that you might check out even any portion of this site or be involved, whether it’s sharing a link, leaving a comment to let me know who I forgot to mention or correct my spelling, signing up for the forum, listening to the radio, whatever it might be.

Thank you for an amazing 2015. And please stay tuned, because of course, there’s much more to come.

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Monster Magnet, Cobras and Fire: The Best Hallucinations

Posted in Reviews on October 15th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

monster-magnet-cobras-and-fire

Cobras and Fire is the second Monster Magnet release of its kind. In 2014, the stalwart New Jersey outfit, very much led by frontman Dave Wyndorf, issued Milking the Stars (review here), a collection of tracks reworked from their original incarnations on 2013’s Last Patrol (review here). “Reimagined” was how the extended title put it, and rightly enough. Subtitled The Mastermind Redux, Cobras and Fire fulfills a similar function in relation to 2010’s Mastermind (review here), taking some of its tracks and reinterpreting them into something new. The difference? The tracks from Mastermind had much further to go to get this weird. I’ll make no bones about not being much of a fan of Monster Magnet‘s original 2010 offering.

While what was their debut on Napalm Records was unarguably their biggest-sounding album, it was overpopulated with filler and played more to what had become the expectation for the band’s material — grandiose lyrical proclamations of cosmic supremacy met with driving hard rock riffing and just a nudge of classic rock influence. It grossly under-served a vision of Monster Magnet that was rooted not in commercial enterprise, but in being so much its own thing that one couldn’t help but buy in. Last Patrol marked a turn toward more psychedelic fare, not trying to recapture what made the band’s earliest work — Spine of God (1991), Superjudge (1993) and Dopes to Infinity (1995) — so pivotal as much as bringing that side of their approach forward for a modern update, and so Milking the Stars was more of an expansion along the same lines. In revisiting cuts from Mastermind and bringing them into the fold of where Monster Magnet are today stylistically as opposed to where they were five years ago, Wyndorf and his studio co-conspirator Phil Caivano (guitar, bass, etc.) basically had to work from the ground up.

Thus, a song like the sleaze-laden opener “She Digs that Hole” bares little resemblance to “Dig that Hole” from Mastermind, on which it’s based. The level of what’s-there-now to what-was-already-there varies throughout, and in the case of instrumentals “The Titan” and “Time Machine,” an essential function came in pulling vocals out entirely from the original tracks, the effect of the songs completely different in expanding a cinematic and atmospheric, emotional breadth, respectively, enriching the listening experience as a whole and deepening the cuts surrounding. But even that isn’t the entire story. Last Patrol was a humbler affair than Mastermind, and that worked much to the record’s benefit, so to find “Hallucination Bomb,” which was all bluster and crash, a nine-minute psychedelic exploration is duly refreshing.

On Cobras and Fire, it follows the organ-laced Baby Woodrose-style garage-rock bouncer “Watch Me Fade” (originally a bonus cut, if you want to talk about reshuffled priorities), which picks up the tempo from the attitude-laden “She Digs that Hole” and the revamped title-track, which is spacious without bring overbearing, and aside from being the point of delivery for the title line, it is a signature moment for the album and a marked triumph in its approach, drummer Bob Pantella (also of The Atomic Bitchwax) holding the rhythm steady as Wyndorf and Caivano space out on guitar and keys and other conjurations-of-swirl. It’s not the most space-rock inclusion — that’s still to come — but as a work of heavy psych it shows that not only can Monster Magnet tap into the lysergic intent that helped establish them as such an influential act worldwide, but that they can do so in a manner that sounds utterly current in its classicism. Calling up from the churn, Wyndorf gives a last-minute touch of humanity to a jam that sounds like it could shoot well over the 10-minute mark, though here it leads into a blissfully quiet rendering of “Gods and Punks,” stripped of its pseudo-anthemic trappings and resting only on the already-there strength of its songwriting.

monster magnet

A subtle build is enacted across “Gods and Punks,” and Wyndorf still takes what he takes because he wants what he wants in the chorus, rest assured, but there’s so much less performance of swagger that, in comparison, the original song seems forced. Here, “Gods and Punks” plays out spaciously over a quiet central guitar figure, casting echoes outward less not in chest-beating dudery but in cleverer turns and more intricate delivery. A fade brings about “The Titan,” the keys and strings of which are, perhaps, Cobras and Fire‘s most blustery moment, and with the thudding kick-drum that begins “When the Planes Fall from the Sky,” Monster Magnet signal a shift into more straightforward fare that does indeed play out, but even that plays out in an engagingly trippy fashion, reverb-soaked and added backing swirl resulting in an affect more nod and less headbang. While there’s no interruption to the overarching flow, “Ball of Confusion” presents another stylistic transition.

Playing off the original by The Temptations, it’s a moment of pure Hawkwindian space rock, the thrust full-on in the drums and bass as Wyndorf rides the forward wave and backs himself in the chorus en route to a freaked-out midsection that leads to an especially victorious final return, a long fade and stretch of sampled wind noise leading to a six-minute take on “Time Machine,” fleshed into piano and guitar interplay and, without vocals, given an introspective feel no less trance-inducing than was the expanse of “Hallucination Bomb.” That makes its quiet finish a perfect lead-in for the Joe Barresi-constructed “I Live Behind the Paradise Machine: Evil Joe Barresi’s Magnet Mash Vol. 1,” the cumbersomely-named mashup closer that takes parts of “I Live Behind the Clouds” and “Paradise” from Last Patrol and puts them together in a track that, even though it doesn’t necessarily draw from Mastermind — that said, there could very well be part of “Time Machine” in there — serves as a completely necessary final statement of just how far out Monster Magnet have gone from the comfortable space in which they resided half a decade ago.

The almost wistful feel of “I Live Behind the Clouds” in lines like “Nothing’s important yet everything is/There ain’t no picture, I just don’t exist” is turned into even more of a cultural critique with the complementary chorus, “Nobody saved no paradise for me,” handed-on gruffer and accompanied by a scathing wash of lead guitar. At nearly nine minutes, it’s second in length only to “Hallucination Bomb,” but no less essential, as noted above, both in the actual listening of Cobras and Fire front to back and in what it means in terms of how wide-open the answer to “What does Monster Magnet sound like?” has become.

One might criticize Cobras and Fire and/or Milking the Stars as revisionist history — and it’s worth noting that I have no idea if anything guitarist Ed Mundell played on the original version of Mastermind is still present in these tracks — but that seems to me to be missing the point. It’s not about rewriting what Monster Magnet has done before. Those records are out, period. It’s about taking something thought of as established and poking it, pushing it, reshaping it into something different. Fucking with it, in other words. It’s about fucking with it, and for an idea as sacrosanct as a finished full-length album, it suits Monster Magnet particularly well to go back and turn expectation on its head. That seems to be something of a specialty these days, and while it makes whatever might come next less predictable, it also makes it more anticipated.

Monster Magnet, “Watch Me Fade”

Monster Magnet on Thee Facebooks

Monster Magnet’s website

Monster Magnet at Napalm Records

Tags: , , , , ,