The Top 20 of 2018 Year-End Poll — RESULTS!

Posted in Features on January 1st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

derp

If you’re reading this, congratulations on making it all the way through the existential rollercoaster that was 2018.

I hope you celebrated that year’s end and this year’s beginning in riotous fashion if that’s your thing, and if you’re more the stay-at-home-and-don’t-break-stuff type, I hope that was fun too.

Over the last month, best-of lists have been collected from all around the world and as we move into 2019, it’s time to do the results of the Year-End Poll for 2018.

What a year. As I look back on the lists submitted, of course I can’t help but think how absolutely incredible 2018 was for music. With the world crumbling around, creativity surged, and the quality of output was off the charts. I published my own list last week and was quickly inundated with stuff I forgot or that I missed owing to being robbed earlier this year — I guess I didn’t even realize until the post went up just how much that screwed me — and I’m sure there’s more still out there from what everyone turned in. It’s infinite. It keeps going. Trends change. Sounds change. People change. Creativity flourishes.

But I think if you’re reading this, you know why we’re here. We wound up with somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,000 discrete releases submitted. That’s more than five for every day of the year. And they came from 547 people, which is amazing. Accordingly, there should be plenty here to keep you busy for a while.

Not exactly suspenseful as to which was the album of the year, but it’s still interesting to see where stuff landed. Just to remind, there are two lists, one of the raw votes, and one in which a 1-4 ranking is worth five points, 5-8 worth four, 9-12 worth three, 13-16 worth two and 17-20 worth one. Thanks as always to Slevin for the help in setting up the back end functionality and compilation scripts.

Let’s go:

Top 20 of 2018 — Weighted Results

sleep the sciences

1. Sleep, The Sciences (1,087 points)
2. YOB, Our Raw Heart (721)
3. High on Fire, Electric Messiah (478)
4. Earthless, Black Heaven (413)
5. King Buffalo, Longing to Be the Mountain (408)
6. Windhand, Eternal Return (387)
7. All Them Witches, ATW (373)
8. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Wasteland (354)
9. Clutch, Book of Bad Decisions (323)
10. Fu Manchu, Clone of the Universe (315)
11. Greenleaf, Hear the Rivers (285)
12. Holy Grove, Holy Grove II (274)
13. Graveyard, Peace (225)
14. Brant Bjork, Mankind Woman (222)
15. Weedpecker, III (212)
16. Corrosion of Conformity, No Cross No Crown (197)
17. Monster Magnet, Mindfucker (189)
18. Conan, Existential Void Guardian (188)
19. The Skull, The Endless Road Turns Dark (167)
20. ASG, Survive Sunrise (164)

Honorable Mention:
Messa, Feast for Water (150)
Gozu, Equilibrium (148)
Judas Priest, Firepower (148)
Naxatras, III (148)
Forming the Void, Rift (146)

I’m not saying everyone had to love the Sleep record, but there’s no way it wasn’t the biggest underground heavy release of the year. That top spot was established the first day the poll went up and while YOB caught up as both neared 100 votes, there was no doubt how it would ultimately shake out. It was pretty clear early on what people were passionate about, but there are some interesting differences between the raw vote and the weighted results even high on the list, as you’ll see below.

Top 20 of 2018 — Raw Votes

sleep the sciences

1. Sleep, The Sciences (263 votes)
2. YOB, Our Raw Heart (185)
3. High on Fire, Electric Messiah (141)
4. Windhand, Eternal Return (115)
5. Earthless, Black Heaven (109)
6. King Buffalo, Longing to Be the Mountain (102)
7. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Wasteland (101)
8. All Them Witches, ATW (95)
8. Clutch, Book of Bad Decisions (95)
9. Fu Manchu, Clone of the Universe (93)
10. Greenleaf, Hear the Rivers (77)
10. Holy Grove, Holy Grove II (77)
11. Graveyard, Peace (69)
12. Brant Bjork, Mankind Woman (67)
13. Weedpecker, III (63)
14. Monster Magnet, Mindfucker (57)
14. Conan, Existential Void Guardian (57)
15. Corrosion of Conformity, No Cross No Crown (54)
16. The Skull, The Endless Road Turns Dark (50)
17. ASG, Survive Sunrise (48)
18. Gozu, Equilibrium (46)
19. Forming the Void, Rift (45)
20. Judas Priest, Firepower (43)
20. Khemmis, Bloodletting (43)
20. Mos Generator, Shadowlands (43)
20. Orange Goblin, The Wolf Bites Back (43)

Honorable Mention:
Messa, Feast for Water (41)
Domkraft, Flood (40)
Naxatras, III (40)
Thou, Magus (40)

Everything else got fewer than 40 raw votes. Why cap it at 40? I don’t know. Good a place as any. And when a top 20 has 26 releases on it, I don’t imagine there will be too many complaints about not enough stuff being included. One can hope, anyhow. You can see the difference between Sleep and everyone else here as well, a pretty precipitous drop after both them and YOB, and YOB and High on Fire — the top three being well ahead of everyone else in terms of general agreement.

The ‘Respect the Hustle’ Award

Somewhere around the middle of the month, I noticed a massive surge of votes for a band called Entropía and their debut album, Invisible. A bunch of people with lists of 20 just including Entropía. I’ve included them below, you can see them. I didn’t know what was up, whether it was the band spamming the vote or what, so I sent them a message. Turns out they had sent the link to their email list and asked for votes, and that’s how they all got in. Well, okay.

They wound up with well over 750 raw votes (to remind, Sleep got 263), and it didn’t feel representative to have them be album of the year, but hey, I respect the hustle, so they get the award accordingly. Nicely done, folks. I’ve been doing Year-End Polls since like 2010 and that’s never happened before. Their totals were 2,367 points and 777 votes.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading. Whether this is the only post you’ve seen this year or you click ‘Like’ on everything that comes across your Facebook feed, your support is tremendously appreciated. This is the only post that will go up today, but we’ll be back to business as usual tomorrow, and in the meantime, you’ll find everybody’s list included after the jump.

All the best for 2019.

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2018

Posted in Features on December 20th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

the-top-30-of-2018

Please note: This post is not culled in any way from the Year-End Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2018 to that, please do.

It just wouldn’t be a year if it wasn’t completely overwhelming, right?

2018 has certainly met that standard and then some. The swath of output, whether it’s a new generation adopting and adapting established methods or out and out reinventing the stylistic wheel and then pushing it uphill on a seemingly endless barrage of tours, has been staggering, and it’s still happening. There’s a little more than a week to go in the year. You think a band isn’t putting something out today? Of course they are. It’s every day. It’s all the time.

But this year wasn’t just about quantity either. I think one of my biggest struggles in writing about albums in 2018 — and with the last Quarterly Review and various premieres and video posts that were basically album reviews in disguise, let’s estimate we’re somewhere past 300 records reviewed one way or another — was in conveying just how killer so much of the stuff coming through was. How many times can you say the word “awesome?” Well, I’m sure we’ll see it a few more times before this list is over, so there you go.

I say something like this every time I do a list, but please keep in mind these are my picks and I’m one person. But I am a person. I know there’s the whole internet-anonymity thing, but I assure you, I’m a human being (more of a cave troll, really) typing these words. I’m all for everyone sharing their own picks in the comments, and all for passionate advocating, but please, let’s keep it civil and respectful. These things can spiral out of control quickly, but let’s remember that we’re all human beings and worth of basic courtesy, even if some of us are dead wrong about a good many things. You should definitely punch nazis, though.

Thanks in advance for reading. Here we go:

[UPDATE: You’ll notice the inclusion of an ’18a.’ I had Stoned Jesus in my notes as number 18 initially and they got dropped as I was adjusting things along the way. I’ve added them back in, but it didn’t seem fair to bump everyone else down after the post had already been published. That was the best I could come up with for a solution. If you’re pissed about one more killer record being added, please feel free to email me and tell me all about it.]

30. The Skull, The Endless Road Turns Dark

The Skull The Endless Road Turns Dark

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Sept. 12.

Chicago’s The Skull had no small task before them in following up their 2014 debut, For Those Which are Asleep (review here) — let alone living up to their pedigree — but their second album demonstrated a creative growth that sacrificed nothing of memorability when it came to songs like “Breathing Underwater” and “All that Remains (Is True).” They got down to work and got the job done, which is what a working band does. 2018 was by any measure a fantastic year for doom, and The Skull were a big part of why.

29. Foghound, Awaken to Destroy

foghound awaken to destroy

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Nov. 21.

The Dec. 2017 murder of Rev. Jim Forrester was tragic. No other way to say it. Foghound, who were in the midst of making Awaken to Destroy at the time, put together an album that not only features Forrester‘s last recorded performance, but pays respect to his memory while the wound is still raw and manages to kick ass all the while. It’s a record that can’t ever be divorced from its circumstances — just can’t — and so it can be a heavy listen in more than just its tones, but it’s basically Foghound proving they’re unstoppable. And so they are.

28. Orange Goblin, The Wolf Bites Back

orange goblin the wolf bites back

Released by Spinefarm Records. Reviewed June 13.

Who among us here today is not a sucker for Orange Goblin? Come forward an be judged. I mean, really. Nine records deep, the London sceneforgers are nothing less than an institution, beloved by boozehounds, riffhounds, doomhounds, and really, a wide variety of hounds the world over. Also dudes. With its essential title-track hook and highlight cuts in “Ghosts of the Primitives” and “Burn the Ships” — or, you know, any of them — they added to one of heavy’s most unshakable legacies with an album as furious as it is welcoming to its generations-spanning fanbase.

27. Fu Manchu, Clone of the Universe

fu manchu clone of the universe
Released by At the Dojo Records. Reviewed Feb. 15.

There are two kinds of people in this world, and they’re both Fu Manchu fans. Clone of the Universe turned heads with a guest appearance from Rush‘s Alex Lifeson on the 18-minute side-B-consuming “Il Mostro Atomico,” but really to focus on that instead of “Intelligent Worship,” “(I’ve Been) Hexed,” “Don’t Panic,” “Slower than Light,” etc., is only seeing half the point of the album in the first place. The long-running lords of fuzz hit a new stride with 2014’s Gigantoid (review here), and Clone of the Universe was in every way a worthy successor.

26. Witch Mountain, Witch Mountain

Witch-Mountain-Witch-Mountain
Released by Svart Records. Reviewed May 16.

It was an unenviable task before Witch Mountain in replacing vocalist Uta Plotkin, but founding guitarist Rob Wrong and drummer Nathan Carson found the right voice in Kayla Dixon and solidified the lineup with her and bassist Justin Brown enough to make a declarative statement in Witch Mountain‘s self-titled LP. That’s the story of it. They pulled it off. Met with what was unquestionably a bummer circumstance, they pushed through and moved their sound forward through a new beginning — and not their first one. Watch out when their next record hits.

25. Windhand, Eternal Return

windhand eternal return

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed Oct. 3.

Richmond, Virginia, doomers Windhand‘s second collaboration with producer Jack Endino produced a marked and purposeful expansion of their sound, encompassing classic grunge influences and a heavy psychedelic swirl that added color their previously-greyscale sonic haze. Resonant in tone and emotionalism, Eternal Return readjusted Windhand‘s trajectory in such a manner that, where one might’ve thought they knew where the band were headed in terms of their progression, they’ve made themselves a less predictable outfit on the whole. For that alone, it’s a triumph. Then you have the songs.

24. Sun Voyager, Seismic Vibes

Sun Voyager Seismic Vibes

Released by King Pizza Records. Reviewed April 18.

I don’t even want to admit how long I was waiting for Sun Voyager‘s first long-player to show up, but when it finally did, the New York trio did not disappoint. Catchy, energetic, fuzzed-out tunes with driving rhythms and a heavy psych flourish, they tapped into shoegaze and desert vibes without losing any sense of themselves in the process, and if the extra wait was so they could be so remarkably coherent in their expression on their full-length, then I wouldn’t want it to have shown up any sooner. An easy pick to stand among 2018’s best debut albums. Now to wait for the next one.

23. Forming the Void, Rift

forming the void rift

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed July 27.

It should tell you something that after working quickly to produce three albums, Louisiana’s Forming the Void are still defined by their potential. If I had my druthers, I’d put the recent Ripple signees on tour for the bulk of 2019, across the US and in Europe for festivals and support-slot club shows, really give them an opportunity to hammer out who they are as a band and then hit the studio for LP four. I don’t know if that’ll happen, but they’d only be doing the universe a favor by kicking into that gear. As it stands, their progression is palpable in their material and they stand absolutely ready for whatever the next level might be for them.

22. Spaceslug, Eye the Tide

spaceslug eye the tide

Released by BSFD Records and Oak Island Records. Reviewed June 29.

Aside from the speed at which Spaceslug have turned around offerings — with Eye the Tide following 2017’s Mountains and Reminiscence EP (review here) and Time Travel Dilemma (review here) full-length and their 2016 debut, Lemanis (review here) — the Polish outfit have undertaken significant progression in their sound, moving from pure heavy psychedelic warmth to incorporating elements out of extreme metal as they did on Eye the Tide. Adding to the latest record’s accomplishment is the smoothness with which they brought seemingly opposing sides together, only adding depth to an approach already worthy of oceanic comparison.

21. Conan, Existential Void Guardian

Conan Existential Void Guardian
Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 14.

Conan‘s reign of terror has been unfolding for more than a decade now, and each of their albums has become a kind of step along a path of incremental growth. Consider the melody creeping into the shouts of founding guitarist Jon Davis, or the emergence of bassist Chris Fielding as a vocal presence alongside, the two sharing a frontman role more than ever before while welcoming drummer Johnny King to the fold of destructive tonality and doomly extremism. Existential Void Guardian may end up just being another stomp-print on their way to the next thing, but it affirmed the fact that as much as Conan grow each time out, their central violence continues to hold sway.

20. Pale Divine, Pale Divine

PALE DIVINE S/T
Released by Shadow Kingdom Records. Reviewed Nov. 21.

Look. A new Pale Divine record doesn’t come along every day, so yeah, their self-titled was probably going to be on my list one way or the other, but it definitely helps that not only was it their first outing in six years since 2012’s Painted Windows Black (review here), but it had the songs to live up to a half-decade-plus of anticipation. It marked the first studio appearance from bassist/backing vocalist Ron “Fezz” McGinnis alongside guitarist Greg Diener and drummer Darin McCloskey — now both of Beelzefuzz as well — and made a strong argument for how much Pale Divine deserve more than 20 years on from their initial demo to be considered classic American doom.

19. Mos Generator, Shadowlands

mos generator shadowlands
Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed May 11.

The return and rise to prominence of Washington pure heavy rockers Mos Generator might be the underground’s feelgood story of the decade, but it hasn’t by any means been easily won. In addition to rebuilding the band however many albums ago, guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed has put in innumerable hours on tour and worked to actually develop the group creatively in addition to in terms of stage presence. This is shown throughout some of the classic prog elements making their way onto Shadowlands, and perhaps some of the collection’s moodier aspects are born of the aforementioned road time as well. Hard for that kind of thing not to be a slog after a while, but at least they have killer tunes to play.

18a. Stoned Jesus, Pilgrims

STONED JESUS PILGRIMS

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 5.

The only safe bet about Stoned Jesus‘ fourth long-player, Pilgrims, was that it was going to sound different than the third. That 2015 outing, The Harvest (review here), preceded the band touring to celebrate the fifth anniversary and after-the-fact success of 2012’s Seven Thunders Roar (review here), but Pilgrims defied narrative in that instead of incorporating elements from the second record in more of a heavy psych or jam sound, Stoned Jesus instead showcased a tighter, more sureheaded sense of craft than they’ve ever displayed before, and arrived on Napalm Records with a collection of songs that demonstrated the growth and sense of creative will that drives them. While one can take a look at their moniker and think immediately they know what’s coming, Stoned Jesus have made themselves one of the least predictable bands in heavy rock.

18. Backwoods Payback, Future Slum

backwoods payback future slum

Self-released. Reviewed Aug. 15.

“Pirate Smile.” “Lines.” “Whatever.” “It Ain’t Right.” “Threes.” “Cinderella.” “Generals.” “Big Enough.” “Alone.” “Lucky. Mike Cummings, Jessica Baker, Erik Larson. Every player, every song, every minute. If you want to know what heart-on-sleeve sounds like, it fucking sounds like Backwoods Payback. In their line from hardcore punk to grunge to heavy rock, they encompass experiences and emotionalism that are both shown in raw form throughout Future Slum, and build all the while on the chemistry they set out in developing with 2016’s Fire Not Reason (review here), when they welcomed Larson to the lineup on drums and revitalized their mission. Also worth noting, they were the best live band I saw this year. Anywhere.

17. Corrosion of Conformity, No Cross No Crown

corrosion of conformity no cross no crown

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Jan. 3

No question the excitement of C.O.C. putting out their first record with frontman Pepper Keenan involved since 2005’s In the Arms of God was one of this year’s top stories in heavy. And No Cross No Crown tapped directly into the spirit of 1994’s Deliverance (discussed here) and 1996’s Wiseblood (discussed here) in terms of direction, while updating the band’s style with a four-part 2LP in mind. In some ways, it’ll be their next album that really gives listeners a sense of where they’re at and where they might be headed, but as welcome returns go, having Keenan alongside Mike DeanWoody Weatherman and Reed Mullin is in no way to be understated, and neither is the quality of their output together, then and now.

16. Naxatras, III

naxatras iii

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 14.

It is no simple feat to hypnotize an audience and convey serenity while at the same time holding attention with songcraft, so that the listener isn’t actually so much unconscious as malleable of mood and spirit in such a direction as the band suggests. Greek trio Naxatras have worked quickly to become experts at this, and their third full-length fosters tonal warmth and jammy progressions with an overarching naturalism that finds them so committed to analog recording that one can buy direct transfers of the tape master of III. Some acts take classic-style practices as an aesthetic choice. With Naxatras, it seems to be the stuff of life, yet their sound is only vibrant and human in a way that, at least one hopes, is even more representative of the future than the past.

15. Clutch, Book of Bad Decisions

clutch book of bad decisions

Released by Weathermaker Music. Reviewed Aug. 27.

It was time for Clutch to make a change in producers, and the Maryland overlords of groove seemed to know it. Known as a live band, they went with Vance Powell, who’s known a live band producer. The results on Book of Bad Decisions might not have been so earth-shatteringly different from 2015’s Psychic Warfare (review here), which was the too-soon follow-up to 2013’s Earth Rocker (review here) — both helmed by Machine — but the inimitable four-piece indeed succeeded in capturing the electricity of their stage performance and, as ever, treated fans to a collection of songs bearing Clutch‘s unmistakable hallmarks of quirky lyrics, funky rhythms and heavy roll. They may always be a live band, but Clutch‘s studio work is in no way to be discounted, ever, as this record reaffirmed. Plus, crab cakes.

14. Ancestors, Suspended in Reflections

Ancestors Suspended in Reflections

Released by Pelagic Records. Reviewed Aug. 3.

After 2012’s In Dreams and Time (review here), I wasn’t sure Ancestors were going to put out another record. They kicked around word of one for a while, but it wasn’t until the end of last year that it really seemed to congeal into a possibility. And by then, who the hell knew what they might get up to on a full-length? With Suspended in Reflections, in some says, they picked up where they left off in terms of finding a niche for themselves in progressive and melodic heavy, but I think the time showed in the poise of their execution and the control of the material. Suspended in Reflections can’t help but be six years more mature than its predecessor, and that suits its contemplative feel. In tracks like “Gone,” and “The Warm Glow,” they tempered their expansive sound with an efficiency that can only be had with time.

13. High on Fire, Electric Messiah

high on fire electric messiah

Released by eOne Heavy. Reviewed Sept. 28.

The narrative here was hard to beat. Matt Pike spending an album cycle talking about Lemmy Kilmister and paying homage to his dirt-rock forebear and the gods of old? It doesn’t get much more perfect than that. Electric Messiah was the third collaboration between High on Fire and producer Kurt Ballou behind 2015’s Luminiferous (review here) and 2012’s De Vermiis Mysteriis (review here), and while it seemed after the last record that the formula might be getting stale, the band only sounded more and more lethal throughout the latest offering. Even putting aside their contributions to underground heavy, they’ve become one of the most essential metal bands of their generation. Metal, period. Doesn’t matter what subgenre you’re talking about it. If you’re listening to High on Fire, you know it. Usually because you’ve just been decapitated.

12. Yawning Man, The Revolt Against Tired Noises

yawning man the revolt against tired noises

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed July 2.

You know, if you take the time to separate Yawning Man from their 30-plus-year history and their legacy as one of the foundational acts of what later became desert rock, and you listen to The Revolt Against Tired Noises, you’re still left with basically a dream of an album. Mostly instrumental, as is their wont, they nonetheless had bassist Mario Lalli (also Fatso Jetson) sing this time around on a version of the previously-unreleased “Catamaran,” which Kyuss covered once upon a whenever although Yawning Man had never officially put it to tape. But really, that and all other novelty aside, guitarist Gary Arce, Lalli and drummer Bill Stinson are a chemistry unto themselves. I don’t know if they’ll ever be as huge as they should be, but every bit of acclaim they get, they’ve earned, and if The Revolt Against Tired Noises helps them get it, all the more so.

11. Greenleaf, Hear the Rivers

greenleaf hear the rivers

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Nov. 26.

Swedish heavy rock mavens Greenleaf have become an entirely different band than they once were. No longer a Dozer side-project from guitarist Tommi Holappa with a rotating cast of players, they’re a solidified, road-tested, powerhouse unit, and Hear the Rivers bleeds soul as a result. Holappa, frontman Arvid Hällagård, bassist Hans Fröhlich and drummer Sebastian Olsson sound like they’re absolutely on fire in the album’s tracks, and far from being staid or formulaic as one might expect a sixth long-player to be, Hear the Rivers built on what the band accomplished with 2016’s Rise Above the Meadow (review here) and came across as all the more vital and nearly frenetic in their energy. I won’t say Greenleaf has seen their last lineup change, because one never knows, but the band as they are today is the realization of potential I don’t think even Greenleaf knew was there.

10. Gozu, Equilibrium

gozu equilibrium

Released by Blacklight Media / Metal Blade Records. Reviewed April 4.

Five records deep into a career into its second decade, Gozu haven’t had a miss yet. Admittedly, some of their early work can seem formative considering where they are now, but still. And after the 2016 rager, Revival (review here), to have the band return to the same studio — Wild Arctic in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where strides producer Dean Baltulonis — for the follow-up allows for the four-piece to directly show how their sound has grown more encompassing in the last couple years. And it has. Equilibrium is a rich and varied listen that holds true to Gozu‘s well-established penchant for soulful vibes and crunching, hard-hitting riffs and groove, but while it shares the directness of approach with Revival, it makes moves that a band could only make moving from one record to the next. I expect nothing less their next time out as well, because a decade later, that’s Gozu‘s proven track record.

9. Monster Magnet, Mindfucker

monster magnet mindfucker
Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Feb. 23.

The battle for the best album title of 2018 ended early when New Jersey everything-rockers Monster Magnet announced the release of Mindfucker. And what else to call a Monster Magnet LP at this point? They’ve stopped writing to genre. They’re driven by the creative mania of frontman/founder Dave Wyndorf, and they’ve seen psychedelic expanses and commercial success the likes of which would serve the tenure of four lesser bands. What’s left to do but whatever the hell you want? So that’s what Monster Magnet are doing. It just so happens that while they’re doing it, they’re still basically outclassing the entirety of the former planet earth as songwriters. As Monster Magnet fan in 2018, there was nothing more I could’ve asked than what Mindfucker delivered. And if you’re still trying to get your brain around it however many months later, you’re not alone. I think that’s the idea.

8. Apostle of Solitude, From Gold to Ash

Apostle of Solitude From Gold to Ash

Released by Cruz del Sur Music. Reviewed Feb. 20.

Best doom album of 2018. The combination of craft and passion behind the delivery. The way the dark tones fed into the emotions so clearly on display and sheer presence of it in listening to songs like “Keeping the Lighthouse,” “Ruination by Thy Name” and “My Heart is Leaving Here.” Apostle of Solitude never seem to be the highest profile band out there, but their work seems never to be anything less than outstanding, and I refuse to accept them as anything less than among the most pivotal American acts out there making traditional doom. And not just making it, but making it their own, with a sense of new pursuits and individualism that extends to playing style as well as atmosphere. I know doom isn’t exactly in short supply these days — figuratively or literally — but if you miss out on what Apostle of Solitude are doing with it, you’ll only regret it later. I’ll say it one more time: Best doom album of 2018.

7. Holy Grove, Holy Grove II

holy grove ii
Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Oct. 31.

Every now and again, anticipating the crap of an album really pays off, and such was the case with Holy Grove II, the Ripple Music debut from the Portland outfit whose 2016 self-titled (review here) seemed like such a herald of excellence to come while also, you know, being killer. Holy Grove II brought the four-piece of vocalist Andrea Vidal, guitarist Trent Jacobs, bassist Gregg Emley and drummer Eben Travis to entirely new levels of composition and execution. In songs like “Blade Born,” the shorter, sharper “Aurora,” the patiently rolling “Valley of the Mystics,” “Solaris” and closer “Cosmos,” which boasted a not-really-necessary-but-definitely-welcome guest vocal appearance from YOB‘s Mike Scheidt, — and oh wait, that’s all of the tracks — Holy Grove entered a different echelon. Anticipation will likewise be high for Holy Grove III, but it’ll be hard to complain with this record to keep company in the meantime.

6. All Them Witches, ATW

all them witches atw
Released by New West Records. Reviewed Sept. 18.

Over five All Them Witches albums, the Nashville four-piece have gone from a nascent heavy Americana jam band to one of the most distinct acts in the US underground. Their development in sound is chemistry-driven, so it was a risk when the founding trio of bassist/vocalist Charles Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod (who also produced) and drummer Robby Staebler welcomed new keyboardist Jonathan Draper into the lineup to take the place of Allan van Cleave. Amid a more naturalist production than that of 2017’s Sleeping Through the War (review here), the revamped four-piece flourished in terms of songwriting and conveying their stage-born sonic personae. From the gleeful fuckery of opener “Fishbelly 86 Onions” to the memorable moodiness of “Diamond” and the back-end jam “Harvest Feast” en route to the stretched-out end of “Rob’s Dream,” All Them Witches essentially confirmed they could do whatever they wanted and make it work.

5. YOB, Our Raw Heart

yob our raw heart
Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed June 7.

Actually, if you want a sample of YOB‘s raw heart, the place to go is probably 2014’s Clearing the Path to Ascend (review here), but whatever the Eugene, Oregon, shapers of cosmic doom might’ve lacked in titular accuracy on their eighth long-player, they made up for in a new, statesman-like posture. Their approach was mature, hammered out to a professionalism working completely on its own terms, and they never sounded so sure of who they are as a band or as confident of their direction. In extended cuts “Beauty in Falling Leaves” and “Our Raw Heart,” they explored new and progressive textures and melodies, and managed to reaffirm their core aspects while finding room for conveying emotion that came across as nothing but ultimately sincere. They have been and still are one of a kind, and as they continue to move forward, they remain a band that makes one feel lucky to be alive to witness their work. Our Raw Heart was perhaps more refined than it let on, but the heart was there for sure, as always.

4. Brant Bjork, Mankind Woman

brant bjork mankind woman

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Sept. 13.

I’m not going to say I wasn’t a fan of the (relatively) harder-hitting approach Brant Bjork and his Low Desert Punk Band took on 2014’s Black Power Flower (review here) and 2016’s Tao of the Devil (review here), but Mankind Woman brought in some more of his soul influences, and whether it was the subtly subversive funk of “Chocolatize” and “Brand New Old Times” or the callout “1968” and laid back vibes of the title-track and “Swagger and Sway,” Bjork — working with guitarist Bubba DuPree on songwriting and production — offered a definitive look at what has made his 20-year solo career so special and demonstrates not only his longevity and his legacy, but his will to continue to progress as an artist honing his craft. His discography is well populated by now to be sure, but Mankind Woman represents a turn from the last couple records, and if it’s in any way portentous of things to come, it bodes well. Bjork is right at home nestled into classic-style grooves, and his legacy as one of the principal architects of desert rock is continually reaffirmed.

3. Earthless, Black Heaven

earthless black heaven

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed March 15.

They’ve been great, not just good, for a long time now, and as forerunners of the San Diego heavy scene, they’re godfathers to an up and coming generation of bands taking their influence — let alone acts from the rest of the world — but Black Heaven is a special moment for them because of its departure. No, it wasn’t not the first time guitarist Isaiah Mitchell sang on an Earthless recording, but it did represent a tip of the balance in that direction for the band on a studio full-length, and that resulted in a special moment. Album opener “Gifted by the Wind” was one of the best songs I heard this year, and while “End to End” and the all-thrust “Volt Rush” affirmed that more traditional songwriting was well within the grasp of Mitchell, bassist Mike Eginton and drummer Mario Rubalcaba, they still found space for a sprawling jam or two, keeping their claim on the instrumentalism that’s (largely) fueled their tenure to date. Earthless don’t want for acclaim, but every bit of it is earned, and while their primary impact has always been live, Black Heaven saw them construct a traditional-style LP that still bore the hallmarks of their collective personality. It was the best of all worlds.

2. King Buffalo, Longing to Be the Mountain

king buffalo longing to be the mountain
Self-released/released by Stickman Records. Reviewed Sept. 27.

In the dark early hours of 2018, the Rochester, New York, trio of guitarist/vocalist Sean McVay, bassist Dan Reynolds and drummer Scott Donaldson issued the Repeater EP (review here) as a follow-up to their 2016 debut, Orion (review here), so Longing to Be the Mountain didn’t exactly come out of nowhere, but even with Repeater preceding its arrival, I don’t think anyone necessary expected King Buffalo‘s second album to have such a scope or to be so engrossing with it. In its melody, patience, atmosphere and heft, it was an absolute joy to behold. Its songs were memorable at the same time they were far-reaching, and while Orion was already my pick for the best debut of 2016, Longing to Be the Mountain realized even more potential than that record had hinted toward. It could be intimate or majestic at its whim, and its dynamic set an individual characterization of heavy psychedelia and blues-style sprawl that the band wholly owned. With production by Ben McLeod of All Them Witches behind them, they worked to serve notice of a progression undertaken the results of which are already staggering and still seem to be looking ahead to the next stage, literally and figuratively. One of the principal standards I use in constructing this list every year is what I listen to most. That’s this record.

1. Sleep, The Sciences

sleep the sciences

Released by Third Man Records. Reviewed May 1.

Obviously, right? To some extent, when Sleep surprise-announced on April 19 they’d release their first album in 15 years the next day, and then did, they took ownership of 2018. Even with records still to come at that point from YOB and Sleep guitarist Matt Pike‘s own High on Fire, there was no way that when the end of the year came around, it wasn’t going to be defined by the advent of a new Sleep record. And even if it sucked, it would probably still be Album of the Year, but fortunately, as Pike, bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros (also Om) and drummer Jason Roeder (also Neurosis) took their long-running stage reunion to the studio, they brought material that highlighted the best elements from all players. Pike‘s wild soloing, Cisneros‘ meditative vocals and Roeder‘s intricate but smooth style of roll all came together in older pieces like “Antarcticans Thawed” and “Sonic Titan” and newer highlights “Giza Butler” and “Marijuanaut’s Theme,” and aside from the excitement at their existence, they showed the mastery of form that Sleep had been demonstrating live since 2009 and which they hinted toward in the 2014 single, The Clarity (review here). A new Sleep full-length was something long-discussed, long-rumored and long-considered, but when it finally happened, I think the results vaporized expectation in a way no one could’ve anticipated. There’s a reason Sleep are Sleep. Having The Sciences as a reminder of that brought about the defining moment of 2018.

The Next 20

Indeed, it wouldn’t be much of a Top 30 at all if it didn’t go to 50. Don’t try to make sense of it, just look at the records.

31. Atavismo, Valdeinfierno
32. Grayceon, IV
33. Clamfight, III
34. Seedy Jeezus, Polaris Oblique
35. Megaton Leviathan, Mage
36. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Wasteland
37. Arcadian Child, Superfonica
38. Freedom Hawk, Beast Remains
39. The Machine, Faceshift
40. Messa, Feast for Water
41. Black Rainbows, Pandaemonium
42. Church of the Cosmic Skull, Science Fiction
43. Domkraft, Flood
44. Träden, Träden
45. Mythic Sunship, Another Shape of Psychedelic Music
46. Samavayo, Vatan
47. Foehammer, Second Sight
48. Bongripper, Terminal
49. Mansion, First Death of the Lutheran
50. Sunnata, Outlands
51. Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters, Come and Chutney

Believe me when I tell you, I sweated over this section more than I did the actual top 30. Mansion should be higher. So should Chubby Thunderous, though something in me thought they might like being #50 on a list of 30. Church of the Cosmic Skull, Clamfight, Black Rainbows, Foehammer, Seedy Jeezus, Messa, Domkraft. All of these were fucking awesome. And there are more (we’ll get there). Eventually numbers add up. I won’t say a bad word about any of these. That’s it.

Honorable Mention

This section always winds up expanded as other people point out things I missed and so on, but here’s what I’ve got in the immediate, alphabetically:

  • Alms, Act One
  • Ape Machine, Darker Seas
  • Belzebong, Light the Dankness
  • Black Moon Circle, Psychedelic Spacelord
  • Blackwater Holylight, Blackwater Holylight
  • Bong, Thought and Existence
  • Carpet, About Rooms and Elephants
  • Churchburn, None Shall Live… The Hymns of Misery
  • Deadbird, III: The Forest Within the Tree
  • Dead Meadow, The Nothing They Need
  • Death Alley, Superbia
  • Drug Cult, Drug Cult
  • Dunbarrow, II
  • Electric Citizen, Helltown
  • Eagle Twin, The Thundering Heard: Songs of Hoof and Horn
  • Evoken, Hypnagogia
  • Funeral Horse, Psalms for the Mourning
  • Fuzz Evil, High on You
  • Graven, Heirs of Discord
  • Graveyard, Peace
  • Green Dragon, Green Dragon
  • Green Druid, Ashen Blood
  • Here Lies Man, You Will Know Nothing
  • High Priestess, High Priestess
  • Horehound, Holocene
  • IAH, II
  • JIRM, Surge ex Monumentis
  • Killer Boogie, Acid Cream
  • Lonely Kamel, Death’s Head Hawkmoth
  • MaidaVale, Madness is Too Pure
  • Moab, Trough
  • Mountain Dust, Seven Storms
  • Mouth, Floating
  • Mr. Plow, Maintain Radio Silence
  • T.G. Olson, Earthen Pyramid
  • Onségen Ensemble, Duel
  • Orango, Evergreen
  • Owl, Nights in Distortion
  • Pushy, Hard Wish
  • Rifflord, 7 Cremation Ground/Meditation
  • River Cult, Halcyon Daze
  • Rotor, Sechs
  • Somali Yacht Club, The Sea
  • Sumac, Love in Shadow
  • Sundrifter, Visitations
  • Svvamp, Svvamp II
  • Thou, Magus
  • Thunder Horse, Thunder Horse
  • Weedpecker, III

Special Note

Somehow it didn’t seem appropriate to include these in the list proper because they’re not really underground releases, but there were two more records I especially wanted to highlight for their quality:

  • Alice in Chains, Rainier Fog
  • Judas Priest, Firepower

Best Short Release of the Year

Normally I’d do this as a separate post, but as a result of being robbed earlier this year, I feel like my list is woefully incomplete. If you have any demos, EPs, splits, singles, etc., to add to it, please feel free to do so in the comments below. Still, the top pick was clear:

  • Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard & Slomatics, Totems Split

Rarely do two bands work in such coherent tandem to their mutual benefit. Here are a few other essential short releases for 2018, alphabetically:

  • All Them Witches, Lost and Found
  • Alunah, Amber & Gold
  • Canyon, Mk II
  • Demon Head, The Resistence
  • Destroyer of Light, Hopeless
  • Ecstatic Vision, Under the Influence
  • Godmaker & Somnuri, Split
  • Holy Mushroom, Blood and Soul
  • King Buffalo, Repeater
  • Minsk & Zatokrev, Split
  • Sleep, Leagues Beneath
  • Stonus, Lunar Eclipse
  • Sundecay, Gale

Looking Forward

A good many albums have already been announced or hinted at for 2019. I in no way claim this to be a complete roundup of what’s coming, but here’s what I have in my notes so far, in absolutely no order:

Kings Destroy, Lo-Pan, Cities of Mars, Heavy Temple, Mr. Peter Hayden, Curse the Son, High Fighter, Destroyer of Light, Year of the Cobra, Buffalo Fuzz, Zaum, The Sonic Dawn, Alunah, Candlemass, Elepharmers, Grandier, Dorre, Abrahma, Mars Red Sky, Eternal Black, Elephant Tree, Atala, No Man’s Valley, Sun Blood Stories, Crypt Sermon, The Riven, Hibrido, Snail, Red Beard Wall, 11Paranoias, Dead Witches, Monte Luna, Captain Caravan (LP), Swallow the Sun, Oreyeon, Motorpsycho, Vokonis, Hexvessel, Saint Vitus, Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Kind, Mastiff, Shadow Witch, Om.

Okay, That’s It

Yeah, no, I’m serious. List is done. Everybody go back to your lives. Your families miss you.

Really though, while this is by no means my last post of 2018, I can’t let it pass without saying thank you so much to everyone for checking out the site this year, or for just digging into this, or for sending me music, or hitting me up on social media, sharing a link, anything. Thank you. Thank you. I could never have imagined when it started out where it would be now. Or that I’d still be doing it. Your support means more to me than I can say, and I thank you so much for being a part of this with me.

So thanks.

If you have something to add to the list, please do so by leaving a comment below, but keep in mind as well the above note requesting civility. Please don’t make me feel stupid because I forgot your favorite record. I forgot a lot of people’s favorite records. I’m one dude. I’m doing my best.

And please keep in mind if you’ve got a list together that the Year-End Poll is open and results will be out Jan. 1.

Everybody have a great and safe 2019.

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio Recap: Episode 06

Posted in Radio on December 18th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

gimme radio logo

Okay, so I guess the first thing you should know if you don’t know is I sort of have a radio show. It’s called The Obelisk Show. I’ve been in league with the good peoples at Gimme Radio for a couple months now, and it seems like it’s sticking, which is nice. They’ve been kind enough to give me a forum through which to share music, and I’m happy for the opportunity. I’ve guested with Diane Farris (also now on Gimme) on WFMU a few times over the years, but haven’t hosted a show since I was in college at WSOU in New Jersey, so it’s been a thrill to do so again. I had missed it more than I realized.

Since it doesn’t look like I’m about to be immediately shitcanned by Gimme on account of general suckdom — can’t help but feel like I’m getting away with something there — I wanted to get an archive going of playlists on here, basically so I can refer to it later and know what I’ve already played and when. Otherwise, I’ll just do the same stuff all the time, because I’m kind of a doof generally. So here we are.

The latest episode — the sixth — was a wrap-up of what I thought were some of the best tracks from 2018. You can see the playlist below in the kind oldschool-looking spreadsheet form. Ignore the asterisks by the album titles; they just mean something that came out this year. Which, in the case of this episode, was everything.

If you didn’t get to hear it the first time around or want to dig into other episodes, Gimme has an archive available on the cheap, and they reair the show as well. Thanks either way if you get to check it out.

I thought this was a decent one. Here’s the playlist:

The Obelisk Show Ep. 06 – 12.16.18

Gozu Ricky “The Dragon” Steamboat Equilibrium* 0:06:24
Mos Generator The Destroyer Shadowlands* 0:04:27
BREAK
Traden Hymn Traden* 0:07:20
Sandrider Hollowed Armada* 0:06:06
Grayceon Let it Go IV* 0:06:22
Sunnata Outlands Outlands* 0:07:37
BREAK
Monster Magnet When the Hammer Comes Down Mindfucker* 0:05:42
Fu Manchu Don’t Panic Clone of the Universe* 0:02:04
Foghound Known Wolves Awaken to Destroy* 0:03:59
Naxatras You Won’t be Left Alone III* 0:11:17
King Buffalo Morning Song Longing to be the Mountain* 0:09:49
Weedpecker Liquid Sky III* 0:06:33
Black Rainbows Riding Fast Till the End of Time Pandaemonium* 0:04:07
Witch Mountain Burn You Down Witch Mountain* 0:07:40
BREAK
Sleep Sonic Titan The Sciences* 0:12:27
YOB Ablaze Our Raw Heart* 0:10:13

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio airs every other Sunday night at 7PM Eastern, with replays the following Tuesday at 9AM. Next show is Jan. 13. Thanks for listening if you do.

Gimme Radio website

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Friday Full-Length: Monster Magnet, Superjudge

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 14th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Monster Magnet, Superjudge (1993)

Lest we forget that as the West Coast was laying the groundwork for what would become the signature desert style over the next several years, back east, Monster Magnet were kissing the mouth of the scorpion with some of the finest drug rock ever created. Superjudge, released 25 years ago in 1993, was the New Jersey-based band’s second full-length, arriving behind Spine of God (discussed here; reissue review here), which saw its US release the previous year. That album is a classic and I’m not about to take anything away from it, or the Tab…25 EP (reissue review here; discussed here) that came out after, but Superjudge was a moment of several milestones and pivotal moves for the group, who by then were already working distinctly under the direction of frontman and principle songwriter Dave Wyndorf.

First, it was their debut outing for A&M Records, a major label. Their earliest non-demo releases came out through Glitterhouse in Europe and Caroline in the US, but signing to a major would not only bring them to a wider sphere of listeners, but turned attention to a heavy underground boom taking shape in Central Jersey at the time. Second, it was the band’s first album with Ed Mundell on lead guitar, which was a position he would hold until 2010. Mundell took the spot previously held by John McBain (also brilliant), and his arrival would help solidify Monster Magnet‘s burgeoning approach to songcraft and his playing became an essential facet in not only the absolutely molten feel of Superjudge tracks like “Dinosaur Vacume,” “Twin Earth,” “Superjudge” and the effects-soaked Hawkwind cover “Brainstorm,” but in the developing persona of the band on subsequent offerings Dopes to Infinity (discussed here) in 1995, Powertrip in 1998, God Says No in 2001, 2004’s Monolithic Baby!, 2007’s 4-Way Diablo and 2010’s Mastermind (review here). During this era, his presence in the group would be second only to that of Wyndorf in terms of defining who Monster Magnet were and what they were about.

In 1993, they were about freaking the fuck out. They broke out some sitar on closer “Black Balloon,” and backed by the rhythm section of bassist Joe Calandra and drummer Jon Kleiman, captured fuzzy forward drive on “Twin Earth” with a swing that even a quarter-century after the fact bleeds its swagger from the speakers. The power of Superjudge isn’t just in its atmosphere — though there’s plenty of that in the layers of effects and kitchen-sink instrumentation used — it’s in the band. With Spine of God, the record’s brilliant. Utterly brilliant. For the title-track alone, it should be taught in middle schools across the planet as to how you rock and roll in order to expand minds. What Superjudge did was to take that studio vibe and show how it could be sustainable, monster magnet superjudgeshow how it could be done on stage, and begin to solidify it as a developing creative process. As much of a haze seemed to surround the title-track, or the watery acoustics in “Cage Around the Sun,” which followed, with its percussion, Eastern inflection and sitar drone, there was a straightforward, structured undercurrent to the material. That was true on some of Spine of God as well, but Superjudge moved the balance ever so slightly. In its aforementioned cover of Hawkwind and take on Howlin’ Wolf-via-Cactus in “Evil,” it drew a line directly to ’70s vibes in a way that was an aberration for the era, and even in the subsequent blowout “Stadium” or the ultra-hairy “Face Down,” it demonstrated the songwriting modus that would become Monster Magnet‘s own all the more over time.

But Superjudge is more than a bridge from Spine of God to Dopes to Infinity, and its 11 tracks hold up brilliantly to the passage of time. The backbeat of “Brainstorm.” The swirl and cosmic declarations of “Elephant Bell.” The raw tonality of “Twin Earth.” Superjudge continues to read like a blueprint for how to do heavy psychedelia and make it rock. Like if The MC5 and The Stooges decided they wanted to go Beyond the Valley of the Dolls. Maybe the cover art tells the whole story. If you look at the background, it’s trippy and colorful and the logo and title are all “I’m gonna eat a mountain of pills,” but then you look at that picture of the band’s kinda-mascot, the Bullgod. He’s pissed. There’s an aggression there. It’s mean. Superjudge has that intense side to it. It’s not always what’s up front, because the record is still dynamic and it goes any number of places in its songs, but that clenched-teeth, ring-through-the-septum immediacy can’t be faked. It’s either in there or not, and one of the most powerful aspects of Superjudge is that at any given moment, it might absolutely explode in your face. I don’t care how laid back “Cyclops Revolution” sounds at the outset, it still caps with the line, “I’ve got mine, fuck you.”

That component in Monster Magnet would help them for years be wrongly classified as so many were as a metal band. True enough they were heavy — still are — but metal? Come on. Even Mastermind, which was about as big-of-tone as they’ve been interested in getting to-date, wasn’t really metal. On Superjudge, they’re a psychedelic heavy rock band. They’d move on from the lysergic elements over the course of Powertrip and God Says No, but in the change from Mastermind to 2013’s Last Patrol (review here), they brought back some of those weirdo impulses, and pushed them further in the screw-around-with-past-work of 2014 and 2015’s Milking the Stars (review here) and Cobras and Fire (review here) — redux versions of Last Patrol and Mastermind, respectively, that only emphasized Monster Magnet‘s ability and willingness to do whatever the hell they wanted at any given time. See also 2018’s Mindfucker (review here), which, in case you missed it, was called Mindfucker. Take that.

Aside from their hailing from my beloved Garden State and being the stewards of the Mid-Atlantic heavy underground in a way that New York — nifty though it is — was always too punk rock to be, Monster Magnet went a long way toward defining themselves on Superjudge, and it remains an album that shows just how on their own plane they were at the time. Fortunately, that is something that has continued to be the case throughout their career.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

Okay. We’re there. Next week my top 30 of the year goes up. Blamo. This weekend on Gimme Radio, ‘The Obelisk Show’ also has a kind-of-sort-of-some-of-the-best-of-2018 thing going. Really, that’s what it’s called. Monster Magnet are on it. You should listen. Sunday, 7PM Eastern. On the internet.

Also next week, a review of the Mansion album, which rules. I guess that’s the short version. Stay tuned for the long one. Also Deep Space Destructors, a couple snazzy video premieres, a bunch of news I need to catch up on, and all that good stuff.

Thanks for reading that 100-album Quarterly Review if you did. My desktop still has a bunch of records on it, but it was good to get through that stuff. Some of it had been waiting a while. I hope you found something you dug. I did.

I’d love to stick around and bum everyone out by bitching about whatever, but the truth is I’ve got a fucking ton of writing to do — a lineup announcement for Freak Valley that will have already been posted by the time this is and liner notes for the Elder PostWax release — so you’ll pardon me if I check out and get to it. I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Please don’t forget the forum and radio stream and merch and year-end poll.

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Monster Magnet Post “When the Hammer Comes Down Video; Announce 2019 European Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 10th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

monster magnet (photo jeremy saffer)

Since Sept. 28, NJ’s Monster Magnet have been out on a US tour supporting their latest album, Mindfucker (review here). You can’t accuse them of not getting out. While their last couple records have seen the long-running stalwarts of heavy psych and rock mostly focus on Europe, their current run started out in Toronto as they quickly made their way to the West Coast and throughout this month, they’ll continue to work back eastward, finishing in Boston on Oct. 28. To follow-up, they’ve got a second run of Europe announced for January, and I can’t help but think either another US tour or a trip to Australia or South America (paging Abraxas) could be in the works thereafter. That is, they don’t seem like they’re done.

Which, as a fan, is only all the better. Mindfucker is their last outing in their contract for Napalm Records. I won’t claim to know the future of the band, but either they’re doing it up for a blowout or they’re showing other labels they’re interested in putting in the work of promoting what they do. Could go either way, I guess, but what it rounds out to in any case is the same: Go see Monster Magnet. I’d love to get to one of these shows and I don’t know that I will, but wherever you are, if that’s where they are, then that’s where you should be. Simple math.

They’ve got a video up for “When the Hammer Comes Down” from the record that’s kind of a lyric video, kind of a regular video, and true enough to Monster Magnet in that it has little interest in being classified along the same lines as everyone else. You’ll find that at the bottom of this post. I don’t have any PR wire info for the newly-announced tour, but you’ll find the dates for that and the one they’re on now below. Here goes:

monster magnet euro tour 2019

Monster Magnet Tour Dates

Current US tour remaining dates:
10/10: Seattle, WA @ El Corazon
10/12: San Francisco, CA @ Thee Parkside
10/13: Sacramento, CA @ Aftershock Festival*
10/15: Santa Ana, CA @ The Observatory
10/16: San Diego, CA @ Brick By Brick
10/17: Phoenix, AZ @ Rebel Lounge
10/19: San Antonio, TX @ Paper Tiger
10/20: Dallas, TX @ Canton Hall
10/21: Houston, TX @ White Oak (Upstairs)
10/23: Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade
10/24: Nashville, TN @ Basement East
10/26: Baltimore, MD @ Baltimore Soundstage
10/27: New York, NY @ Gramercy Theater
10/28: Boston, MA @ The Sinclair

2019 European tour:
12.01.2019 NOR, Trondheim Byscenen
13.01.2019 NOR, Oslo Parkteatret
14.01.2019 DEN, Aarhus VoxHall
16.01.2019 GER, Hamburg Grosse Freiheit 36
17.01.2019 GER, Berlin Huxleys Neue Welt
18.01.2019 GER, Osnabrück Rosenhof
19.01.2019 SUI, Zürich Dynamo
21.01.2019 GER, Krefeld FuFa
22.01.2019 GER, Leipzig Conne Island
23.01.2019 GER, Hannover Capitol
24.01.2019 LUX, Esch-sur-Alzette Kulturfabrik
26.01.2019 BEL, Kortrijk Concertzaal de Kreun
27.01.2019 BEL, Hasselt Muziekodroom
28.01.2019 BEL, Sint-Niklaas Concertzaal de Casino
29.01.2019 GBR, London Electric Brixton
31.01.2019 GER, Karlsruhe Substage
01.02.2019 NED, Eindhoven Effenaar
02.02.2019 FRA, Magny Le Hongre File7
03.02.2019 GER, Frankfurt Batschkapp
05.02.2019 AUT, Dornbirn Conrad Sohm
06.02.2019 HUN, Budapest Durer Kert
07.02.2019 CRO, Zagreb Culture Factory

MONSTER MAGNET line up:
Dave Wyndorf (vocals, guitar)
Garrett Sweeny (guitar)
Phil Caivano (guitar)
Chris Kosnik (bass)
Bob Pantella (drums)

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

Monster Magnet, “When it all Comes Down” lyric video

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Monster Magnet Getting Ready to Mindfuck North America

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 20th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

monster magnet (photo jeremy saffer)

I really want to see Monster Magnet on this tour. Not just out of appreciation for their latest album, the gleefully-titled Mindfucker (review here) or of what they’ve done before, but because I think this tour — this one, with the dates below — is a special moment for the band. Yeah, it kind of looks like a standard major market North American run. Couple dates in Canada, shows spread across both US coasts, a stop at Aftershock Festival in Sacramento. Fair enough. But Monster Magnet‘s last US run was cut short when the band’s frontman, Dave Wyndorf, caught the flu, and though they’ve been to Europe a bunch of times, including just last month to make headlining stops at the Desertfests, a full American stint is rarer.

And with the lineup around Wyndorf of guitarists Garrett Sweeny and Phil Caivano, bassist Chris Kosnik and drummer Bob Pantella (the latter two both also of The Atomic Bitchwax), it just seems all the more like now’s the time to show up. So I’m going to do my best to absolutely do that.

Oh, and if you need another argument in favor, Electric Citizen are supporting. So right on.

Info from the PR wire:

monster magnet tour poster

MONSTER MAGNET Announces North American Tour

March of 2018 saw the release of the latest MONSTER MAGNET masterpiece “Mindfucker” (Order and Stream The Album) on Napalm Records. Following three exclusive Northeastern US shows, the band headed across the pond for a European headline tour. Now they are ready to return to North America for a full headline tour this Fall.

The band will hit the road in North America on September 28th in Toronto, ON. The tour will run through October 28th in Boston, MA. Support on the tour will come from Electric Citizen and Dark Sky Choir. A complete list of dates can be found below.

A message from MM frontman Dave Wyndorf:

“Can’t wait to hit North America with the MINDFUCKER tour! Warning: This is REAL ROCK music, made loud to be played loud! A Monster Magnet show is a face melting celebration of electric madness made all the better and fueled to peak intensity by the attendance of excitable human beings. Hope you’re part of that equation! See you soon!

Monster Magnet:
9/28: Toronto, ON @ Lee’s Palace
9/29: Pontiac, MI @ The Emerald Theatre
9/30: Louisville, KY @ Louder Than Life Festival*
10/2: Chicago, IL @ Bottom Lounge
10/3: Minneapolis, MN @ Cabooze
10/5: Denver, CO @ The Bluebird Theater
10/6: Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge
10/8: Portland, OR @ Hawthorne Theater
10/9: Vancouver, BC @ Commodore Ballroom
10/10: Seattle, WA @ El Corazon
10/12: San Francisco, CA @ Thee Parkside
10/13: Sacramento, CA @ Aftershock Festival*
10/15: Santa Ana, CA @ The Observatory
10/16: San Diego, CA @ Brick By Brick
10/17: Phoenix, AZ @ Rebel Lounge
10/19: San Antonio, TX @ Paper Tiger
10/20: Dallas, TX @ Canton Hall
10/21: Houston, TX @ White Oak (Upstairs)
10/23: Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade
10/24: Nashville, TN @ Basement East
10/26: Baltimore, MD @ Baltimore Soundstage
10/27: New York, NY @ Gramercy Theater
10/28: Boston, MA @ The Sinclair

*Festival Appearance

MONSTER MAGNET line up:
Dave Wyndorf (vocals, guitar)
Garrett Sweeny (guitar)
Phil Caivano (guitar)
Chris Kosnik (bass)
Bob Pantella (drums)

http://zodiaclung.com
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Monster Magnet, “Mindfucker” official video

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audiObelisk Transmission 065

Posted in Podcasts on February 26th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

aOT65

I recognize that saying so is the cliché equivalent to writing a song with the same bassline as ‘N.I.B.,’ but if this was December and not February and the year was about to end in a couple weeks’ time, would you really be able to complain about any lack of fantastic releases? It’s been two months and before the next one is out we will have seen and heard new offerings from Corrosion of Conformity, Monster Magnet, Earthless, Fu Manchu and literally hundreds of others. It’s been as awesome as it’s been impossible to keep up with.

This new podcast follows the same model as the last one, vis-a-vis using Spotify as the medium of conveyance. You can see the playlist in the player below, and you may accordingly wonder why I’ve bothered to type it out underneath as well. It’s because streaming sites disappear even quicker than they rise to dominance, and I’m not saying The Obelisk is going to outlast Spotify or anything, but just in case, I like to keep my own records. I appreciate the indulgence on your part.

Awesome mix this time around. No real theme other than it’s new stuff I’ve been listening to a lot and digging. I very much hope you enjoy it as well. 21 tracks. About two and a half hours long.

Thanks for listening and reading:

Track details:

Artist, Track, Album, Runtime
Earthless, “Black Heaven” from Black Heaven, 8:45
Sundrifter, “Targeted” from Visitations, 4:45
Psilocibina, “Acid Jam” from LSD / Acid Jam, 7:08
Blackwater Holylight, “Sunrise” from Blackwater Holylight, 4:51
Fu Manchu, “Clone of the Universe” from Clone of the Universe, 2:57
Green Lung, “Free the Witch” from Free the Witch, 5:55
Monster Magnet, “Mindfucker” from Mindfucker, 4:59
All Souls, “Never Know” from All Souls, 5:59
Red Lama, “Perfect Strangers” from Motions, 6:47
Blackwülf, “Sinister Sides” from Sinister Sides, 4:53
Fuzz Lord, “Worlds Collide” from Fuzz Lord, 6:58
Corrosion of Conformity, “Forgive Me” from No Cross No Crown, 4:06
Apostle of Solitude, “Ruination Be Thy Name” from From Gold to Ash, 6:37
Avon, “Space Native” from Dave’s Dungeon, 4:42
Psychic Lemon, “Exit to the Death Lane” from Frequency Rhythm Distortion Delay, 8:32
The Dry Mouths, “Catalonian Cream” from When the Water Smells of Sweat, 4:34
Insect Ark, “Windless” from Marrow Hymns, 8:38
Naxatras, “You Won’t Be Left Alone” from III, 11:17
Mythic Sunship, “Into Oblivion” from Upheaval, 13:56
King Buffalo, “Repeater” from Repeater, 13:40
Hound the Wolves, “Masquerade” from Camera Obscura, 13:10

If you’re interested, you can follow me on Spotify here.

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Review & Track Premiere: Monster Magnet, Mindfucker

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on February 23rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

monster magnet mindfucker

[Click play above to stream the premiere of the Hawkwind cover ‘Ejection’ from Monster Magnet’s new LP, Mindfucker, out March 28 on Napalm Records.]

For about the first seven seconds of its opening track, Monster Magnet‘s Mindfucker is indistinguishable from a Ramones record. Over a howl of feedback, the drums count-in quickly and with the ringing-out of a first power chord and a “let’s go!” from founding frontman Dave Wyndorf, the 3:30 “Rocket Freak” is underway, almost immediately giving the forward position to the album’s stated mission of proto-punk simplicity meeting heavy rock drive. Wyndorf can’t resist an excursion or two into space — nor should he, frankly — as the ranging seven-minute “Drowning” shows, or the mid-paced warnings in closer “When the Hammer Comes Down,” but with a crux in impactful, forward-thrusting cuts like “Soul,” “Mindfucker,” the take on Hawkwind‘s “Ejection,” “Want Some” and “Brainwashed,” even the penultimate “All Day Midnight” balances its melancholia with stage-ready energy in its delivery, and even in comparison to the long-running New Jersey troupe’s recent output, 2013’s Last Patrol (review here), the two let’s-weird-’em-up redux specials — 2014’s Milking the Stars (review here), which took on Last Patrol, and 2015’s Cobras and Fire (review here), which did likewise for 2010’s Mastermind (review here) — Mindfucker sounds invigorated, genuinely rooted in the place where punk and heavy rock meet, and is of course rife with the lyrical nuance of Wyndorf‘s written and spoken voice as a keystone presence.

Yes, Monster Magnet sound like Monster Magnet. To expect otherwise 30-some years after the band began to take shape seems, frankly, like a ridiculous notion. But as ever, they’re also working to twist that meaning and expand their overarching context, so that even as they sound like themselves, with some drum contributions from producer Joe BarresiWyndorf and guitarist Phil Caivano worked largely alone in the studio — the live band is rounded out by guitarist Garrett Sweeny, drummer Bob Pantella and bassist Chris Kosnik (the latter two also of The Atomic Bitchwax) — to reshape, and for lack of a better phrase, fuck with that definition, expanding it in new and interesting dimensions.

Two items to note in the interest of full disclosure here. First, I’m a Monster Magnet fan. I grew up in New Jersey, and I’d admired the band’s work throughout the various stages of their career. Their albums aren’t always perfect, and there have been times when it’s seemed like they’ve put out records almost to antagonize the expectations of their fanbase — oh, you wanted Superjudge? well here’s 4-Way Diablo — but even that speaks to a creative will I find admirable. Second, I was hired by Napalm Records to help write the bio for Mindfucker, which I hope to post here sooner or later, and compensated for that effort. I don’t believe that affects my impartiality about Mindfucker‘s 10-track/49-minute run, because I don’t think I had any to start with, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t at least mention it. There. Now it’s out of the way.

Chiefly, what Mindfucker does is work toward a long-stated goal on the part of Wyndorf to tap into the raw ’70s power of bands like MC5 and The Stooges, the early punk of the aforementioned Ramones and others of a more garage-ly ilk. Its production remains modern — Milking the Stars and Cobras and Fire experimented with some true retro stylization, and it worked, but Mindfucker‘s are too high-energy to give up their aural clarity in such a way — but it’s interesting to note that Monster Magnet and long-running Danish garage acolytes Baby Woodrose have perhaps never sounded so similar from this end as they do on “Ejection,” “Brainwashed” or even the more melancholy “All Day Midnight,” which retain a character of performance less outwardly speeding-at-night-punked than “Rocket Freak” or the subsequent “Soul” at the outset, but prove no less memorable in their hooks, while songs like “I’m God” and “Mindfucker” itself continue the social commentary of Last Patrol, with Wyndorf positioning himself as the “living among the clouds” observer of the downward spiral that modernity seems perpetually to be riding.

“I’m God,” lyrically, imagines a new flood of sorts, while “Mindfucker” couches the totality of the daily news cycle in the standout hook of its chorus: “You’re a mindfucker baby, look what you done to my head/You’re a mindfucker baby, settin’ fire to my bed/Soul crushin’ love child, deep inside of my brain/You’re a mindfucker baby, beautiful and insane,” putting the world in which we live in the position of the proverbial crazy significant other. And fairly enough so.

monster magnet (photo jeremy saffer)

“Mindfucker” itself is maddeningly, almost unfortunately, catchy. This is an aspect it shares with “I’m God,” “Want Some” and “Ejection,” the latter of which is perhaps unsurprisingly about as pure a classic rocker as the band offers throughout. As the side B leadoff, it mirrors somewhat the push of “Rocket Freak” at the start of side A, but with even more choice lead guitar work, flourish of tripped-out effects and lyrics that, instead of celebrating the “Rocket Freak” — “She’s my rocket freak and it’s the end of the world” — see space as an inevitable place of escape from the woes of the day. I don’t want to paint Mindfucker as being overly political, since it’s not like Wyndorf is calling for legislation banning assault weapons or writing anti-Republican protest songs, but there’s an underlying awareness of the absurdity in which America, and indeed the world, exist on a day-to-day basis that seems to be the undercurrent lyrical theme tying the record together in the places where it does.

That comes through certainly in “Brainwashed,” which leads the way into the closing duo of “All Day Midnight” and “When the Hammer Comes Down,” which seem to break away a bit from some of the moves the rest of Mindfucker is making. Less so “All Day Midnight” the elevator of which gets off right at the 13th floor and knows exactly where it wants to head, but much as “Drowning” — the longest cut on the album at 7:21 — offered a melancholy and contemplative finish to side A, “When the Hammer Comes Down” at the very least makes no attempt to hide the dire nature of its point of view, which can be summarized in the final lines, “You tapped a supernova when you left the truth to drown/The universe will do you right, when the hammer comes down,” which, in the context of the earlier, “Karma’s a bitch, people/I hope you bought a nice bed,” would seem to leave little to question as to what Wyndorf sees as the direction in which humanity is headed.

However, much as the album isn’t overly political in an obvious way — you can put it on, rock out, and not think once about rising ocean levels, mass shootings, #metoo moments or the social media misadventures of a commander in chief culled from reality television — neither is it a downer. Quite the opposite. Though its lyrical skepticism is pervasive, and its very title — which I admit elicited a “really dude?” from me at first as well, as would seem to have been at least part of Wyndorf‘s intention toward his audience — is somewhat abrasive, Mindfucker‘s multifaceted tracks build significant momentum between them and the long-player as whole pushes forward with only a bare minimum of letup to allow for dynamics to play out.

It is continually satisfying to be unable to predict where Monster Magnet and Wyndorf as the auteur thereof will head on a given release — one still hopes for more go-back-and-screw-with-it revisionist works eventually for records like 2001’s Monolithic Baby! and the aforementioned 4-Way Diablo, let alone the potential to play up the bizarro aspects of these cuts — and Mindfucker indeed presents a sonic turn even from Last Patrol as it veers away from the psychedelic aspects on display there and toward more bare-bones structures and direct, stage-ready presentation. What’s unflinching, however, and wherever the band goes at any given point, is genuine lyrical genius, and a conceptual foundation that challenges its audience to actively engage with it even as the songs themselves are classic-pop catchy and unabashed in being centered around memorable hooks.

Any Monster Magnet release is going to provoke strong opinions on multiple sides of their now-multigenerational fanbase, and with a certain amount of confrontationalism even on the most superficial of levels, Mindfucker will be no different in that regard. But what remains true is that even as they approach the 30-year mark since their founding in 1989, they continue to be moved by an unrelenting creative spirit, and that seems unlikely to change anytime soon, regardless of the direction any individual release might take. As vast an influence as they’ve had, Monster Magnet are still one of a kind, and as Wyndorf asks the question in the title-track here, “Why you gotta fuck with my head?,” yeah, he’s summarizing the social strata in which we currently exist, but also he surely does so knowing that in the balance of the band’s years and decades, he’s given as good as he’s got in terms of mindfuckery.

Monster Magnet, “Mindfucker” official video

Monster Magnet website

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