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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Short Releases of 2016

Posted in Features on December 30th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

the obelisk top 20 short releases

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 2016 to that, please do.

Yeah, I know I said as much when the Top 20 Debut Albums of 2016 went up, but I take it back: this is the hardest list to put together. And to be honest, there’s a part of me that’s hesitant even to post it because I know as soon as I do someone’s going to be like, “No way you dick your entire existence is shit because you forgot Release X,” and very likely they’ll be right. Up to the very moment this post is going live, I’ve been making changes, and I expect I’ll continue to do so for a while after it’s out there.

So what’s a “short release?” That’s another issue. Pretty much anything that’s not an album. Singles, digital or physical, as well as EPs, splits, demos, and so on. The category becomes nebulous, but my general rule is if it’s not a full-length, it qualifies as a short release. Sounds simple until you get into things like, “Here’s a track I threw up on Bandcamp,” and “This only came out as a bonus included as a separate LP with the deluxe edition of our album.” I’m telling you, I’ve had a difficult time.

Maybe that’s just me trying to protect myself from impending wrath. This year’s Top 30 albums list provoked some vehement — and, if I may, prickishly-worded — responses, so I might be a bit gunshy here, but on the other hand, I think these outings are worth highlighting, so we’re going forward anyway. If you have something to add, please use the comments below, but remember we’re all friends here and there’s a human being on the other end reading what’s posted. Thanks in advance for that.

And since this is the last list of The Obelisk’s Best-of-2016 coverage, I’ll say thanks for reading as well. More to come in the New Year, of course.

Here we go:

scissorfight chaos county

The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Short Releases of 2016

1. Scissorfight, Chaos County EP
2. Earthless / Harsh Toke, Split
3. Mars Red Sky, Providence EP
4. Mos Generator, The Firmament
5. Soldati, Soldati
6. Monolord, Lord of Suffering / Die in Haze EP
7. Wren, Host EP
8. Goya, The Enemy EP
9. The Sweet Heat, Demo
10. River Cult, Demo
11. Stinkeye, Llantera Demos
12. Megaritual, Eclipse EP
13. Ragged Barracudas / Pushy, Split
14. Mindkult, Witchs’ Oath EP
15. Iron Jawed Guru, Mata Hari EP
16. Brume, Donkey
17. Bison Machine / Wild Savages / SLO, Sweet Leaves Vol. 1 Split
18. BoneHawk / Kingnomad, The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter Three Split
19. Wicked Gypsy, EP
20. Love Gang, Love Gang EP

Honorable Mention

An expansive category as ever. In addition to what’s above, the following stood out and no doubt more will be added over the course of the next few days. If you feel something is missing, please let me know.

Presented alphabetically:

Cambrian Explosion, The Moon EP
Candlemass, Death Thy Lover EP
Cultist, Cultist EP
Danava, At Midnight You Die 7″
Dos Malés, Dos Malés EP
Druglord, Deepest Regrets EP
Fu Manchu, Slow Ride 7″
Geezer, A Flagrant Disregard for Happiness 12″
Gorilla vs. Grifter, Split
Holy Smoke, Holy Smoke! It’s a Demo!
Karma to Burn, Mountain Czar
LSD and the Search for God, Heaven is a Place EP
Pallbearer, Fear and Fury
Reign of Zaius, Planet Of…
Sea of Bones / Ramlord, Split
Shallows, The Moon Rises
The Skull, EP
Snowy Dunes, “Atlantis Part I” digital single
Sun Voyager / The Mad Doctors, Split
Valborg, Werwolf 7″

Notes

Was it just the raw joy of having Scissorfight back? No, but that was for sure part of it. It was also the brazenness with which the New Hampshire outfit let go of their past, particularly frontman Christopher “Ironlung” Shurtleff, and moved forward unwilling to compromise what they wanted to do that made their Chaos County so respectable in my eyes. Having always flourished in the form, they delivered an EP of classic Scissorfight tunes and issued a stiff middle finger to anyone who would dare call them otherwise. They couldn’t have been more themselves no matter who was in the band.

At the same time, it was a hard choice between that and the Earthless / Harsh Toke split for the top spot. I mean, seriously. It’s Earthless — who at this point are the godfathers of West Coast jamadelica — and Harsh Toke, who are among the style’s most engaging upstart purveyors, each stretching out over a huge and encompassing single track. I couldn’t stop listening to that one if I wanted to, and as the year went on, I found I never wanted to.

I was glad when Mars Red Sky included the title-track of the Providence EP as a bonus cut on their subsequent album, Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul), both because it tied the two releases together even further and because it gave me another opportunity to hear it every time I listened to the record. Their short releases have always shown significant character apart from their full-lengths, and this was no exception. I still tear up when I hear “Sapphire Vessel.”

To bounce around a bit: Had to get Mos Generator on the list for the progressive expansion of the live-recorded The Firmament. Stickman was right to put that out on vinyl. Both Monolord and Goya provided quick outings of huge riffs to sate their respective and growing followings, while Megaritual’s Eclipse basked in drone serenity and the debut release from Sergio Ch.’s Soldati provided hard-driving heavy rock with the particular nuance for which the former Los Natas frontman is known. It’s the highest among a slew of first/early outings — see also The Sweet Heat, Wren (Host was their second EP), River Cult’s demo, Stinkeye, Mindkult, Iron Jawed Guru, Brume, Wicked Gypsy and Love Gang.

Ultimately, there were fewer splits on the list this year than last year, but I’ll credit that to happenstance more than any emergent bias against the form or lack of quality in terms of what actually came out. The BoneHawk and Kingnomad release, the Ragged Barracudas and Pushy split, and that heavy rocking onslaught from Bison Machine and company were all certainly welcome by me, and I’ll mention Gorilla vs. Grifter there too again, just because it was awesome.

One more time, thank you for reading, and if you have something to add, please do so in the comments below. Your civility in that regard is appreciated.

This is the last of my lists for 2016, but the Readers Poll results are out Jan. 1 and the New Year hits next week and that brings a whole new round of looking-forward coverage, so stay tuned.

As always, there’s much more to come.

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2016

Posted in Features on December 20th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

the obelisk top 30

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 2016 to that, please do.

I say this every year: These are my picks. If you’re unfamiliar with this site, or you don’t come here that often, or if you do and just normally don’t give a crap — all of which is cool — you should know it’s all run by one person. One human being. Me. My name is JJ, and this is a list of what I think are the best albums that were released in 2016.

Since before 2016 began, I’ve kept a running list of releases. My criteria for what gets included in this list is largely unchanged — it’s a balance between what I feel are important records on the level of what they achieve, what I listened to most, what held some other personal appeal, and what I think did the best job of meeting the goals it set for itself. Pretty vague, right? That’s the idea.

The nature of worldwide heavy has become so broad that to encompass it all under some universal standard is laughable. Judging psychedelia, garage rock, heavy psych, doom, sludge and so on by the same measure makes no sense, and as genres continue to splinter and remake themselves as we’ve seen them doing all year and over the last several years, one must be malleable in one’s own taste. We’ve seen a new generation of heavy rock bands emerge in the last three-plus years. It’s been amazing, and there are a few pivotal second and third records that came out in 2016 to affirm that movement underway. Look for it to continue into 2017 and beyond.

This year more than any other seemed to want to bring the different sides together. A laudable goal. Thick riffing marked with flourish of psychedelia. Spacious doom bred against folk impulses. There’s been experimentation around melds that have led to considerable triumphs, and it just doesn’t seem to me that rigid standards can apply. It’s why I don’t grade reviews and never did.

Sound is evolving now as it always has been and as it will keep doing, but like any year, 2016 had a full share of landmarks to offer as a part of that process. As universal development hopefully remains ongoing, it’s only right that we celebrate the accomplishments helping to push it along its winding and sometimes divergent-seeming paths.

I have no doubt you know what I mean. Let’s get to the list:

30. Talmud Beach, Chief

talmud beach chief

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed Feb. 10.

Seems only fair to start with a record I couldn’t put down. Finnish trio Talmud Beach‘s second album and Svart debut, Chief, hit on just the right blend of laid back, semi-acoustic groove-blues, psychedelia and classic progressive folk rock, but with the exception of its sprawling dreamscape title-track (a welcome arrival at the finale), it also kept the songwriting simple, resulting in a natural, pastoral feel that only highlighted their melodic range in songs like “Mountain Man” and “Snow Snow Snow.” I think it flew under a lot of people’s radar, but I’ve kept going back to it over the course of the year and I see no reason to stop.

29. Comet Control, Center of the Maze

comet control center of the maze

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed June 22.

Space is still the place. I’ve already highlighted closer “Artificial Light” from Comet Control‘s sophomore LP, Center of the Maze as my favorite song of 2016, so I’ll spare you the longwinded treatise on its languid cosmic glories — this time — but consider this a reminder that that song was by no means the limit of what the eight-track release had to offer in terms of breadth. From the opening push of “Dig out Your Head” to the dream-drift of “Sick in Space,” it unfolded tonal presence and a melodic depth that engaged a gorgeous, multifaceted sonic wash as it moved onward toward that landmark conclusion.

28. Droids Attack, Sci-Fi or Die

droids attack sci-fi or die

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 17.

There was not a level on which Madison, Wisconsin’s Droids Attack didn’t make it clear they were going all-out, all-in on Sci-Fi or Die. Even the title speaks to the stakes involved. And sure enough, the trio executed their fourth album with a sense of urgency and professionalism in songcraft, production, artwork (discussed here) and nuance of presentation that managed to make even a song called “Clawhammer Suicide” a classy affair. As guitarist/vocalist Brad Van said on the hidden title-track, “Death to false stoner thrash.” Droids Attack brought that ethic and more to life across the entire record.

27. Beelzefuzz, The Righteous Bloom

beelzefuzz the righteous bloom

Released by Restricted Release and The Church Within. Reviewed Aug. 2.

A winding road brought Beelzefuzz around to following up their 2013 self-titled debut (review here), and as The Righteous Bloom brought guitarist/vocalist Dana Ortt and drummer Darin McCloskey together with bassist Bert Hall and lead guitarist Greg Diener, it found their songwriting more expansive, more progressive and dug further into their own particular oddball sense of grandeur. I’ve said on multiple occasions that no one out there is doing what Beelzefuzz are doing and that continues to be true. Even as a first offering from a new lineup of the band, The Righteous Bloom took bold and exciting forward steps.

26. Foghound, The World Unseen

foghound the world unseen

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed July 6.

Down to business. Immediately. Not a moment to spare. Taking part in what can only be considered a landmark year for Ripple Music, Baltimore’s Foghound issued The World Unseen as an answer to their 2013 debut, Quick, Dirty and High (review here), and upped their game across the board. From the intensity in the hooks of “Message in the Sky” and Rockin’ and Rollin'” to the quiet interlude of “Bridge of Stonebows” and the mid-paced heavy rock nod of “Never Return,” they made a strong case for themselves among their label’s foremost acts and found individualism in the growth of their songwriting. It was a kick in the ass you weren’t going to forget.

25a. Egypt, Endless Flight

egypt endless flight

Released by Doomentia Records. Reviewed Dec. 11, 2015.

Put out by the band digitally in Dec. 2015 and issued on vinyl in 2016, Egypt‘s second LP, Endless Flight may be somewhat debatable in terms of when it actually landed (hence “25a.,” above), but the quality of the six-tracker more than warrants inclusion anyway. Rolling dense, massively-fuzzed groove, its nine-minute opening title-track set the course for the Fargo, North Dakota, three-piece, and they only grew the heavy revelry from there, as heard on the penultimate “Black Words,” which seemed to be chewing on rocks even as it played back and forth in tempo, build and push. The converted never had it so good.

25. 1000mods, Repeated Exposure To…

1000mods repeated exposure to

Released by Ouga Booga and the Mighty Oug Recordings. Reviewed Sept. 20.

There seems to be no stopping the Chiliomodi-based 1000mods, who with their third album have stepped to the forefront of Greece’s populous and vibrant heavy rock underground. Progressed well beyond where even 2014’s impressive Vultures (review here) found them, they seemed to hit a stride with Repeated Exposure To… thanks in part to road time and the ability to bring that energy directly into songs like the eight-minute roller “Loose” and the sizable crashes of “Groundhog Day.” Momentum working in their favor could be heard front-to-back from “Above 179” to “Into the Spell,” moving them toward something ever-more crucial and marking a considerable achievement along that path. 2017 might be a good time for them to test the waters with initial US shows.

24. Black Rainbows, Stellar Prophecy

black rainbows stellar prophecy

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed April 11.

Quick turnaround from Roman heavy psych magnate Gabriele Fiori (guitar/vocals) and company, but though it hit just about 13 months after their fourth full-length, Hawkdope (review here), Black Rainbows, Stellar Prophecy wholly succeeded in making an impact of its own, cuts like the oozing, organ-laced “Woman” and 11-minute jam-out triumph “Golden Widow” showcasing an approach in a continuous state of refinement that seems to get rawer as it goes, shifting like a rogue planetoid toward some maddening cosmic realization. How something can seem both so frenetic and so blissful is still a mystery, and perhaps that’s part of what makes Stellar Prophecy resonate as it does, but either way, Black Rainbows brought together some of the year’s most efficient psychedelic immersion.

23. Borracho, Atacama

borracho atacama

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed Nov. 14.

Borracho don’t seem to release an album until they have something to say. That was to their credit on Atacama, their third LP and label debut for Kozmik Artifactz debut. Also their second collection issued as a trio behind 2013’s Oculus (review here), it distinguished itself from its predecessor in its sense of overarching flow, shifting between the ahead-thrust of “Gold from Sand” into the 10-minute sample-laden jam “Overload” to start out with such ease that the listener had little choice but to follow along. With an expanded scope on “Drifted away from the Sun” and the lightly-strummed memento mori “Flower,” Borracho found new avenues of expression to complement their well established dense, heavy riffing, and took obvious care in crafting their most realized LP yet.

22. The Golden Grass, Coming Back Again

the golden grass coming back again

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed April 26.

Nothing Brooklyn’s The Golden Grass does feels like happenstance, and though their classic-styled boogie is imbued with a vibrant, friendly positive energy, there’s an underlying meticulousness in their arrangements and in their songwriting that came further into focus on Coming Back Again, their sophomore release 2014’s self-titled debut (review here). A more progressive take showed itself in “Reflections” and “Down the Line,” and taken in combination with the bookends “Get it Together” and “See it Through,” the three-piece stood on ground that was even more their own than on the first record, striking a careful balance between the willful exploration of new elements and the outright need for tracks to directly engage their listeners with catchy hooks and upbeat vibes. They did it. Expect continued growth.

21. Curse the Son, Isolator

curse the son isolator

Released by Snake Charmer Coalition and The Company Records. Reviewed March 1.

For something so awash in fuzz, so nodding in its rhythms, so let’s-push-the-vocals-back-under-this-huge-awesome-fucking-riff, Curse the Son‘s Isolator was also remarkably clearheaded in its purposes. With the added vocal harmonies of “Callous Unemotional Traits,” the far-off spaces of “Hull Crush Depth” and the stoner metal despair of “Aislamiento,” the Connecticut three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Ron Vanacore, capital-‘d’ Drummer Michael Petrucci and newcomer bassist Brendan Keefe drew a direct, intentional line to sometimes-grueling (hello, “Sleepwalker Wakes”) weighted tonality and found justification for their largesse in its own being. Like 2012’s Psychache (review here), I expect to be returning to Isolator over a longer term than this single year of release.

20. Neurosis, Fires Within Fires

neurosis fires within fires

Released by Neurot Recordings. Reviewed Sept. 21.

I feel like I need to explain myself here. Make no mistake, NeurosisFires Within Fires is among the year’s most accomplished offerings. There’s just about no way it wouldn’t be. So why not top 10? Top five? It’s a question of timing. With the long-running post-metal progenitors, it’s always a longer digestion period. It was about two years before 2012’s Honor Found in Decay (review here) really sunk in, and I expect Fires Within Fires will work similarly over the greater term. Maybe a little guilt on my part for the disparity between its quality and its placement, but rest assured, Neurosis remain among the most imperative bands walking the earth, and as they took on the full brunt of 30 years of unmitigated progression through Fires Within Fires, they were no less brazen in pushing themselves creatively than they’ve ever been.

19. Conan, Revengeance

conan revengeance

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Jan. 19.

Though the narrative of Conan has remained largely unchanged since their inception — hack, slash, kill, riff — and they still bask in nigh-on-unmatched tonal slaughter, their third full-length brings a few key developments. Perhaps most notable from opener “Throne of Fire” onward is the vocal interplay between guitarist/founder Jon Davis and bassist/longtime-engineer Chris Fielding, who joined after 2014’s Blood Eagle (review here). Adding Fielding‘s deeper growls allowed Davis to subtly move into a cleaner shout, and the emergent dynamic between them made Revengeance a decidedly expanded affair compared to Conan‘s past work. Adding drummer Rich Lewis to the mix was no minor shift either, and as much as Conan had already established their sheer dominance, they also sounded refreshed and set themselves up to keep growing.

18. Baby Woodrose, Freedom

baby woodrose freedom

Released by Bad Afro Records. Reviewed Aug. 18.

Some records just feel like gifts, and though many of its lyrical positions were cynical — “Reality,” “21st Century Slave,” “Mind Control Machine,” “Red the Sign Post,” etc. — Freedom marked the 15th anniversary of Danish garage-psych rockers Baby Woodrose with dripping lysergic aplomb, reminding some four years after their last LP, 2012’s Third Eye Surgery (review here), that bandleader Lorenzo Woodrose is unparalleled when it comes to manifesting his take on the psychedelic victories of 13th Floor Elevators and classic-era Hawkwind — firmly at home levitating on the edge of time. Its swirl and underlying foundation of songwriting, its Richie Havens cover title-track, and its sprawling interstellar “Termination” were like a welcome check-in from another dimension, and I only hope it’s not four years before Woodrose sends the next signal. Earth needs this band.

17. Geezer, Geezer

geezer geezer

Released by Ripple Music and STB Records. Reviewed Nov. 10.

I’m not going to discount the shuffle of “Sunday Speed Demon” or sleeze of “Sunday Speed Demon,” but where Geezer‘s self-titled third full-length really showed how far the New York heavy blues-psych trio have come was in its extended midsection jams, “Sun Gods,” “Bi-Polar Vortex” and “Dust,” each of which showed a distinct approach while feeding into an engaging flow between them, offering a blend of trailmarker hooks as they drifted into realms of organic chemistry previously uncharted by the band. The slow-motion swing of “Hangnail Crisis,” raucous push of “Superjam Maximus” and concluding bounce of “Stoney Pony” brought them back down to earth to finish out with a symmetry to the album’s opening, but Geezer kept a collective hand on the controls the whole voyage and when they landed, it was an arrival indeed, and very much what their two previous records were building toward.

16. EYE, Vision and the Ageless Light

eye vision and the ageless light

Released by The Laser’s Edge. Reviewed Nov. 17.

Beautifully experimental with its 27-minute finisher “As Sure as the Sun,” EYE‘s Vision and the Ageless Light seemed throughout its whole 46-minute run to be executing a cohesive vision in its synth-soaked progressive textures. Between the intro “Book of the Dead” and the subsequent “Kill the Slavemaster,” “Searching,” “Dweller of the Twilight Void” and the already-noted closer, each piece had something different to offer that added to the full impact of the whole, and with guitarist Jon Finely and bassist Michael Sliclen joining founding drummer/vocalist Brandon Smith and synth/Mellotron/Moog-ist Lisa Bella Donna (also vocals and acoustic guitar), EYE added to the scope of 2013’s Second Sight (review here) and found a place for themselves where prog complexity didn’t need to come at the expense of memorable songwriting and spaced-out vibes. An absolute joy, front to back.

15. Fatso Jetson, Idle Hands

fatso jetson idle hands

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Oct. 3.

Even Fatso Jetson themselves would probably have to admit that six years — even a six years that saw several splits, singles, etc. — was too long between albums. Fortunately, Idle Hands saw the desert rock forebears in top form as regards their quirk-fueled songwriting, angular approach to punk and inimitable groove. Following 2010’s Archaic Volumes (review here) was no easy task, but with additional depth to the material from the contributions of guitarist Dino von Lalli — son of founding guitarist/vocalist Mario Lalli and nephew of founding bassist Larry Lalli — guest spots from his sister Olive Lalli as well as Sean Wheeler (the latter moves second cut “Portuguese Dream” into high-echelon strangeness) and the ever-propulsive drumming of Tony Tornay, Fatso Jetson were both all over the place and right at the core of where they most ought to be sonically. At 56 minutes, it hardly seemed long enough.

14. Hexvessel, When We are Death

hexvessel when we are death

Released by Century Media. Reviewed Feb. 5.

Each song was like a different persona the band adopted momentarily, whether it was the Bowie-goes-proto-goth-prog of organ-ic opener “Transparent Eyeball” or the grim pastoralia of “Mirror Boy” and the condemnations/proclamations of “Drugged up on the Universe,” but wherever Hexvessel went on their third full-length and Century Media debut, When We are Death, that unifying theme went with them. Death. It was everywhere in the Finland-based genre-benders’ deeply varied approach, though its presence made their material in no way off-putting, and in the case of cuts like “Cosmic Truth” or the later “Mushroom Spirit Doors,” not even dark, and as it drew the tracks together despite working in different sounds and style, it became apparent that When We are Death worked because of a universal quality in songwriting and presentation allowing for such drastic shifts without any risk of losing the audience.

13. Zun, Burial Sunrise

zun burial sunrise

Released by Small Stone Records. Reviewed Feb. 16.

Yawning Man guitarist Gary Arce — a key figure in the development of desert rock and a player of unmatched tone, period — had quite a year, between Zun‘s Burial Sunrise, his main outfit and his collaboration with Fatso Jetson vs. HifiKlub, but it was the dreamscape drift of songs like “Come Through the Water” and “All that You Say I Am” as well as the subtle hooks of “Into the Wasteland” and “All for Nothing” that, for me, made this the highlight. Sure, bringing in vocalists Sera Timms (Ides of Gemini, Black Mare) and John Garcia (ex-Kyuss, Slo Burn, Vista Chino, etc.) and having them swap back and forth between the tracks didn’t hurt either, but the wash of ethereal presence in Arce‘s guitar was an excellent showcase for his patience and improvisational sensibilities, and the spaces Burial Sunrise covered seemed to have an infinite horizon all their own. Will hope for a follow-up, will hope Garcia and Timms return, and will hope for a duet.

12. Elephant Tree, Elephant Tree

elephant tree elephant tree

Released by Magnetic Eye Records. Reviewed Jan. 29.

One had reasonably high expectations for the debut full-length from London’s Elephant Tree after their 2014 EP Theia (review here) so deftly blended spacious, sitar-laced heavy psychedelic rock with more visceral sludge impulses — a difficult mix to pull off — but I think it would’ve been impossible to see the quality of this self-titled outing coming in any substantive way. Gone were the screams, in was a depth of tone and nigh-on-perfect tempo — see “Dawn” and “Aphotic Blues,” as well as the acoustic “Circles” between them — and where some first albums have a kind of tentative, feeling-it-out vibe, guitarist/vocalist Jack Townley (interview here), bassist/vocalist Peter Holland, drummer Sam Hart and sitarist/vocalist/engineer Riley MacIntyre took utter command of the proceedings. They won’t have the element of surprise working for them next time, but as Elephant Tree made perfectly clear in its biggest surprise of all, neither do they need it.

11. Mos Generator, Abyssinia

mos generator abyssinia

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed July 12.

If you were to ask me to summarize in one word the last four-plus years of Mos Generator‘s tenure, since their reactivation with 2012’s Nomads (review here) and the subsequent lineup changes and hard-touring that followed 2014’s Electric Mountain Majesty (review here), I’d say “go.” I might say it three times: Go-go-go. One of three LP-ish offerings out this year, the studio album Abyssinia embodied this ethic as it started with immediate momentum on “Strangest Times” and “You’ve Got a Right” and seemed to push itself into new ground as it went. Guitarist/vocalist/founder Tony Reed brought heavy boogie to bear at a frenetic clip, but Abyssinia offset its early mania with later progressive stylization on “There’s No Return from Nowhere,” “Time and Other Thieves” and harmonized closer “Outlander,” so that in addition to representing their furious creativity, it also brought them to places they’ve never been before in sound.

10. Slomatics, Future Echo Returns

slomatics future echo returns

Released by Black Bow Records. Reviewed June 29.

In some ways, Future Echo Returns was simply picking up where Belfast’s Slomatics left off with 2014’s Estron (review here), as heard on the riff of lead-in track “Estronomicon,” but as the third in a purported trilogy following that record and 2012’s A Hocht, it also brought the tonecrushing three-piece to Skyhammer Studio to work with producer Chris Fielding (Conan) and presented a linear storyline that, while rife with standout moments in cuts like “Electric Breath,” the ambient “Ritual Beginnings” and ultra-catchy “Supernothing,” found a genuine sense of resolution in the finale “Into the Eternal” that spoke to the scope the entire work was meant to represent — not just itself, but an entirety spanning three albums. Not a minor feat, but what also made Future Echo Returns so resonant was how well the material stood on its own, so that even without the narrative context, it was immersive, hypnotic and unbridled in its heft.

9. Wo Fat, Midnight Cometh

wo fat midnight cometh

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed April 21.

After two landmarks issued by Small Stone in 2014’s The Conjuring (review here) and 2012’s The Black Code (reviews here and here), Texas forerunners of riff Wo Fat gave a concise rundown of their appeal in the six-track Ripple debut and sixth LP overall, Midnight Cometh. Their ongoing development as found them bringing together a two-sided personality of memorable songs and open, fluid jams, and cuts like “There’s Something Sinister in the Wind,” “Of Smoke and Fog,” “Three Minutes to Midnight” and “Nightcomer” emphasized the next stage of this process, while the shuffling “Riffborn” and swaggering blues rock of “La Dilleme de Detenu” gave listeners a chance to touch ground every now and again. Over the last two-plus years, Wo Fat have become a point of influence for other, particularly American, acts — see labelmates Geezer — and Midnight Cometh assured that will be the case going forward too; a status well-earned.

8. King Buffalo, Orion

king buffalo orion

Released by Stickman Records. Reviewed July 29.

Offered up this summer as a limited self-release and picked up by no less than Stickman Records (Motorpsycho, Elder), Orion might be the most molten inclusion on this list. It’s also my pick for 2016 Debut of the Year, and to hear cuts like “She Sleeps on a Vine,” “Kerosene,” the sprawling closer “Drinking from the River Rising,” or even just to take the whole record front-to-back, which was clearly how the band intended it be experienced, there’s just about no competition in that regard that stands up. The Rochester, NY, three-piece showed marked promise on their 2013 demo (review here) and 2015 split with Lé Betre (review here), but the listenability of Orion — which earned every single one of its repeat visits — made it a triumph on a different level entirely, and distinguished King Buffalo as a formidable presence in the sphere of US heavy psychedelia, fostering a sound no less soulful for its outward cosmic reach and to-be-measured-in-lightyears scale of potential.

7. Wight, Love is Not Only What You Know

wight love is not only what you know

Released by Fat and Holy Records, Kozmik Artifactz, Import Export Music and SPV. Reviewed Sept. 7.

German outfit Wight answered significant anticipation on their third album, Love is Not Only What You Know, some four years after 2012’s Through the Woods into Deep Water (review here) and undertook a significant evolution in sound. A transition from a trio to a four-piece and adding a strong current of funk to their heavy psych groove and boogie resulted in cuts like “The Muse and the Mule,” the jammed-out “Kelele” and “The Love for Life Leads to Reincarnation,” which were as danceable as they were nod-ready, and when complemented by shorter classic rockers like “Helicopter Mama” and “I Wanna Know What You Feel” (still plenty funky) and the Eastern-tinged interlude “Three Quarters,” gave Love is Not Only What You Know scope to match its ass-shaking encouragement. It was a spirit unto itself among 2016 releases, but ultimately, the key to understanding the record was right there in the title: It was all about love, and wherever Wight went in a given track, they never lost sight of that.

6. Greenleaf, Rise Above the Meadow

greenleaf rise above the meadow

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Feb. 18.

A decade and a half after 2001’s Revolution Rock (discussed here), Sweden’s Greenleaf most embodied that ethic with Rise Above the Meadow, their sixth long-player and Napalm Records debut. 2014’s Trails and Passes (review here) represented the key step of founding guitarist Tommi Holappa (interview here) bringing vocalist Arvid Johnsson into the lineup, but Rise Above the Meadow built exponentially on what that album achieved, bolstered by work as a touring band and a revitalized songwriting process heard in “Howl,” “A Million Fireflies,” “You’re Gonna be My Ruin,” the stomping “Golden Throne” and “Tyrants Tongue,” among others. I refuse to discount the quality of Trails and Passes, 2012’s Nest of Vipers (review here) or 2007’s landmark Agents of Ahriman (review here), but as Greenleaf shifted toward a style more reminiscent of Holappa‘s later output with Dozer, they also seemed to stake their claim on the forefront of European heavy rock and roll, which was just waiting for them to do so.

5. Brant Bjork, Tao of the Devil

brant bjork tao of the devil

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 15.

Perhaps the most believable lyric of 2016 was the opening line of leadoff cut “The Gree Heen” from Brant Bjork‘s Tao of the Devil: “I got all that I need. I got the gree-heen.” From the prominent pot leaf on the cover to that single clause — which set the tone for that song’s mega-nod as much as everything that followed in the boogie of “Humble Pie” and “Stackt,” the so-laid-back-it’s-almost-unconscious title-track and the longer-form explorations of “Dave’s War” and the wah’ed-out “Evening Jam” — the inimitable Bjork seems to have embraced the role of stoner guru and the Godfather of Desert Rock. Tao of the Devil was his second release through Napalm behind 2014’s Black Power Flower (review here), which introduced the Low Desert Punk Band, and far from hanging its hat on the man’s historical accomplishments from his days in KyussFu ManchuCheVista Chino, etc., the 50-minute eight-tracker came fueled by the soul most typified in Bjork‘s solo catalog, which it’s increasingly easy to argue is his greatest contribution to the desert aesthetic. Definitely in his wheelhouse, but what a wheelhouse.

4. Asteroid, III

asteroid iii

Released by Fuzzorama Records. Reviewed Oct. 21.

What a relief it was to have Asteroid back, and what a relief it was to have III arrive some six years after II (review here) and find the Örebro, Sweden, trio’s certified-organic chemistry undulled by that long stretch. The songs — “Pale Moon,” “Last Days,” “Til Dawn,” “Wolf and Snake,” “Silver and Gold,” “Them Calling,” “Mr. Strange” — there wasn’t a miss in the bunch, and in addition to the reignited craftsmanship, III made clear a progression as players and the intent to move forward from guitarist/vocalist Robin Hirse, bassist/vocalist Johannes Nilsson and drummer Elvis Campbell (since replaced by Jimmi Kolscheen), so that the material didn’t just let listeners know Asteroid was a band again after having unceremoniously faded out for a half-decade, but gave a signal that perhaps they were just getting started. One can only hope that turns out to be the case, but either way, III felt like a reward dolled out to their fanbase after a long absent stretch, and one that, like II and their 2007 self-titled debut (discussed here) before it, will reverberate its echoes for years to come. Hands down 2016’s most welcome return.

3. Gozu, Revival

gozu revival

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed May 19.

Though it would carry the context of its scorching opener “Nature Boy” with it for the duration and, accordingly, hit with a more intense feel than its 2013 predecessor, The Fury of a Patient Man (review here), Gozu‘s fourth album overall and Ripple label debut was a kick in the ass on more than just that one level. It found the Boston foursome with the finally-solidified lineup of vocalist/guitarist Marc Gaffney, guitarist Doug Sherman, bassist Joe Grotto and drummer Mike Hubbard, and while one could argue they still wound up under the banner of a heavy rock band, that became happenstance to the songs themselves. That is, even more than The Fury of a Patient Man or 2010’s Locust Season (review here), Gozu came across as writing not to style, but to their own impulses, as demonstrated in “Big Casino,” the echoing soul of “Tin Chicken” and shuffle-thrust of “Oldie,” and as they moved beyond their initial swath of influence into this individualized sonic persona, they reaped the benefits of the locked-in lineup and a process of craft that never sounded so purposeful. Revival was indeed typified by its vitality, but it was also the sound of a band maturing as a unit, becoming who they were meant to be, and there is almost nothing more exciting than that for a single album to represent. Plus, it had a song called “By Mennen,” and, you know, references.

2. Mars Red Sky, Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul)

mars red sky apex iii praise for the burning soul

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed Feb. 24.

It was unreasonable to expect the third full-length from Bordeaux, France, trio Mars Red Sky to surpass 2014’s Stranded in Arcadia (review here) and the progressive crux that album brought to the warm tones and sweet melodicism of their 2011 self-titled debut (review here), but Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul) reinforced the elements that worked so well on previous outings while pushing inarguably onto what the band seemed to know was “Alien Ground” if the title of their intro was anything to go by. More over, it did so with a natural fluidity and poise that were as striking as they were encompassing in sound. Tying to earlier 2016’s Providence EP (review here) in concept and execution through that intro and the title-track following it, Apex III presented the to-date pinnacle of Mars Red Sky‘s growth in songs like “The Whinery,” “Mindreader,” the tear-inducing “Under the Hood,” the swing-happy “Friendly Fire,” the willful atmospheric crash of closer “Prodigal Sun” — each one a crucial advancing step from the trio of guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras, bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Mathieu “Matgaz” Gazeau — and brilliantly fed them one into the other, so that in addition to the standout impressions of each, there developed a personality to the whole span of the album; a world of Mars Red Sky‘s own creation, where they dwelt for what seemed too short a time before returning to earth and on from here to who knows where next.

1. SubRosa, For this We Fought the Battle of Ages

subrosa for this we fought the battle of ages

Released by Profound Lore. Reviewed Aug. 26.

Most of all, For this We Fought the Battle of Ages was fearless. For their fourth album, Salt Lake City’s SubRosa adapted themes from 1924’s We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, which laid out a futuristic dystopia wherein all identity is subsumed to the state and even love is outlawed when not properly sanctioned. This framework, obscure if influential, gave guitarist/vocalist Rebecca Vernon, violinist/vocalist Sarah Pendleton, violinist/backing vocalist Kim Pack, bassist/vocalist Levi Hanna, drummer/engineer Andy Patterson (formerly of Iota, among others), and a range of other contributors, a space in which to explore gender and LGBT issues across the six included tracks, and from the opening build and crush of the chorus to “Despair is a Siren” through the depiction of privilege in “Wound of the Warden,” the 97-second Italian-language ballad “Il Cappio” (translated: “the noose”) and into the gut-wrenching finale of “Troubled Cells,” their musical accomplishment was no less stunning than lyrics like, “Isn’t it good to be acquainted with darkness?/To caress it gently/To slit its throat,” from “Black Majesty.” Tense in its quiet stretches, harmonized vocally, given orchestral presence through its use of strings, flute, French horn, and so on, For this We Fought the Battle of Ages worked fluidly in what for most acts would be a contradictory modus of careful, meticulous arrangements and raw, emotional realism. No matter how deep it dove — and by the time identity was being erased and the state was taking control of the body on “Killing Rapture,” it was diving pretty deep — SubRosa never lost their sense of poise, so that the defiance in the last movement of “Troubled Cells” in which Heaven itself is rejected with the clearest of justifications, “Paradise is a lie if you’re not by my side,” the band seemed to stand as straight and tall as their multi-tiered righteousness would warrant. But even if one took For this We Fought the Battle of Ages with politics aside, its achievement in marrying post-metallic structures, gothic texture and progressive atmospherics was on a plane of its own making, operating under its own rules and in its own definitive space. Albums like it do not happen every year, and forward motion for genre as a whole is rarely so visible as it was in this special offering, which seems only fair to regard as a landmark for the band and anyone whose ears and hearts it touched.

The Next 20

Like any good Top 30, mine goes to 50. Here is the next batch:

31. Blaak Heat, Shifting Mirrors
32. Truckfighters, V
33. West, Space & Love, Vol. II
34. Seedy Jeezus with Isaiah Mitchell, Tranquonauts
35. Yawning Man, Historical Graffiti
36. Causa Sui, Return to Sky
37. Vokonis, Olde One Ascending
38. Hotel Wrecking City Traders, Phantomonium
39. The Wounded Kings, Visions in Bone
40. It’s Not Night: It’s Space, Our Birth is but a Sleep and a Forgetting
41. Beastwars, The Death of all Things
42. Naxatras, II
43. Holy Grove, Holy Grove
44. Worshipper, Shadow Hymns
45. Wretch, Wretch
46. Colour Haze, Live Vol. I: Europa Tournee 2015
47. Zaum, Eidolon
48. Bellringer, Jettison
49. Young Hunter, Young Hunter
50. Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Y Proffwyd Dwyll

From the kinetic desert artistry of Blaak Heat to Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard’s ethereal synth-laden doom, there are more than a few essentials here. I’ve never before done a year-end list that had so many releases on it, but my motivation in doing so this time around couldn’t have been simpler: They were simply too good and had too much to offer to leave out. It would’ve been an oversight to do so.

Honorable Mentions

Even a Top 50 fails to grasp the full scope of what 2016 brought about musically, so here are even more, alphabetically:

Ancient Warlocks, II
Black Moon Circle, Sea of Clouds
Sergio Ch., Aurora
Lamp of the Universe, Hidden Knowledge
Mondo Drag, The Occultation of Light
Øresund Space Collective, Visions Of…
-(16)-, Lifespan of a Moth
Spidergawd, III
The Well, Pagan Science
Wovenhand, Star Treatment

And if that’s still not enough, here are 60-plus more names who shouldn’t be left out of the discussion, also alphabetically:

Akris, Atala, Atomikylä, Backwoods Payback, Beastmaker, BigPig, Black Cobra, Black Lung, Blood Ceremony, Blues Pills, Bright Curse, Bus, Dee Calhoun, Captain Crimson, Child, La Chinga, Church of Misery, Conclave, Cough, Devil to Pay, Domkraft, Dot Legacy, Electric Citizen, Estoner, Eternal Elysium, Fatso Jetson & Gary Arce vs. Hifiklub, Fox 45, Goatess, Goblin Cock, Graves at Sea, Heavy Temple (they’ll be back on next year’s list), High Fighter, Holy Serpent, Hotel Wrecking City Traders, Inter Arma, Joy, Kaleidobolt, Khemmis, King Dead, Lord, Lord Vicar, Merchant, Mirrors for Psychic Warfare, Helen Money, Monkey3, Moon Coven, Mother Mooch, Necro, New Keepers of the Water Towers, T.G. Olson, Oranssi Pazuzu, Pooty Owldom, Russian Circles, Salem’s Pot, Samavayo, Seremonia, Skuggsjá, Sourvein, Spirit Adrift, Stone Machine Electric, Suma, Surya Kris Peters, Swans, Throttlerod, Virus, Wasted Theory, Wretch, and Zaum.

Thank You

In case none of the above has made it clear, I’ll just say flat out that 2016 has been an amazing year for music, and that every time I feel like maybe underground heavy has hit a wall and there’s nowhere left for it to go, sure enough about three minutes later another record shows up that slaps me in the face with a reminder of just how wrong that notion is.

If you’re still reading — how could you be? — thank you so much for your incredible support throughout 2016 and all the years The Obelisk has been in progress. I already know that 2017 is going to bring some incredible music as well, but that’s another list for another time, so I’ll just say again how much I appreciate your being a part of this ongoing project, how much it means to me to have you here. Thank you, thank you, and thank you.

And please, if there’s anything I forgot, got wrong, misspelled, or if you just think I used the word “breadth” too many times, please let me know about it in the comments.

One more time: Thank you.

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audiObelisk Transmission 059

Posted in Podcasts on November 23rd, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Click Here to Download

 

I’ve listened to it front to back and I can honestly say this is the best podcast I’ve made in the last five months. Truth be told, I know there are plenty of people who do podcasts as their primary outlet, talk on them and whatnot (hey, I tried it once and reserve the right to do it again at some point), but if it’s between crossfading feedback from one song to another and writing a review of a new record, well, crossfading falls into the same category as just about everything else: Write first.

Fortunately, a longer span of time between casts makes it that much easier to pick tracks. Existence does not hand you a 45-minute Øresund Space Collective jam every day, so I thought that was worth featuring, and I just got Megaritual’s new vinyl for review, so I thought featuring their more recent single-song EP would work well too.

I’m happy with the blend overall, and with Asteroid setting the tone. Be patient with it. Let it unfold. Even with a rocking start, it gets pretty psychedelic pretty quickly, and only continues to move further out. My advice is go with it and see where you end up.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

Track details follow:

First Hour:

0:00:00 Asteroid, “Them Calling” from III
0:05:02 Stinkeye, “Orange Man” from Llantera Demos
0:08:31 Hornss, “Prince of a Thousand Enemies” from Telepath
0:11:36 Ice Dragon, “Broken Life” from Broken Life
0:16:08 Wasted Theory, “Odyssey of the Electric Warlock” from Defenders of the Riff
0:20:59 Pelander, “True Colour” from Time
0:29:41 The Freeks, “Blow Time Away” from Shattered
0:34:26 Baby Woodrose, “Freedom” from Freedom
0:37:27 Comacozer, “The Mind that Feeds the Eye” from Astra Planeta
0:45:21 Mos Generator, “Outlander” from The Firmament
0:51:13 Megaritual, “Eclipse” from Eclipse

Second Hour:

1:16:25 Øresund Space Collective, “Visions Of…” from Visions Of…

Total running time: 1:58:36

 

Thank you for listening.

Download audiObelisk Transmission 059

 

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Mos Genenerator Announce West Coast Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 9th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

So, are Mos Generator back yet from their first-ever European headlining tour? [Does a quick check of the dates.] No they are not. That, however, has not stopped the Port Orchard, Washington, heavy rock specialists from announcing a follow-up stint along the West Coast. They play their last show abroad in Barcelona, Spain, on Nov. 19, and as you can see below, they kick off the next tour less than a week later on Nov. 25 in Seattle alongside Castle and Ancient Warlocks. And in the six days between? Probably some jetlag. Maybe a good meal. Knowing Mos Generator guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed, they’ll probably record a new album.

Mos Generator are on the road supporting three 2016 releases: the full-length Abyssinia (review here) on Listenable Records, and the two EPs The Firmament and Lies of Liberty ’87 (review here), the first of which is out on vinyl through Stickman and the second of which has secured an impending cassette issue through Red Cobra Records on a suitably crimson tape.

Here’s the latest from the PR wire:

mos-generator

MOS GENERATOR ANNOUNCES ADDITIONAL USA 2016 TOUR DATES!

Mos Generator has just announced additional 2016 USA West Coast tour dates in support of their two brand new EP releases, “The Firmament” (Stickman Records) and “Lies of Liberty ‘87” (Self released digital download), as well as their latest studio LP release, “Abyssinia” (Listenable Records).

The band will start the tour off in Seattle with a show alongside Castle & Ancient Warlocks, and then continue with the entire US West Coast, as well as Phoenix & Las Vegas, ending the tour in Tacoma with Year of the Cobra & Ancient Warlocks. This tour will include ten show dates with Castle, and six dates with ‘Year of the Cobra’.

San Francisco’s Castle, consisting of Liz Blackwell (vocals/bass), Mat Davis (guitar/vocals), and Al McCartney (drums), has maintained a relentless touring schedule since the release of “Under Siege” in 2014 with multiple expeditions throughout the US, Europe, and Canada. Castle will be headlining ten of the shows on this Mos Generator tour schedule!

Seattle’s Year of the Cobra, consisting of Amy Tung Barrysmith (vocals/bass) and Jon Barrysmith (drums) hit the ground running in 2015 with their EP release “The Black Sun”. They currently just released their debut LP, “In the Shadows Below”, with STB Records, and have announced touring plans for the US and Europe in 2016 & 2017. Year of the Cobra will be joining the bill on six dates during this Mos Generator tour!

Mos Generator USA Fall 2016 West Coast Tour Dates;
November 25th – Seattle, WA @ The Funhouse (w/ Castle & Ancient Warlocks)
November 26th – Bellingham, WA @ The Shakedown (w/ Castle & Year of the Cobra)
November 27th – Olympia, WA @ The Obsidian (w/ Castle & Year of the Cobra)
November 28th – Portland, OR @ The Raven (w/ Castle)
November 29th – Eugene, OR @ Old Nick’s Pub (w/ Castle)
November 30th – Grants Pass, OR @ The G Street Bar and Grill (w/ Castle)
December 1st – San Francisco, CA @ Thee Parkside (w/ Castle)
December 2nd – Santa Cruz, CA @ The Blue Lagoon (w/ Castle)
December 3rd – Ventura, CA @ The Garage (w/ Castle)
December 4th – Glendale, CA @ The Complex (w/ Castle)
December 5th – San Diego CA @ The Merrow
December 6th – Phoenix AZ @ TBA
December 7th – Las Vegas NV @ The Dive Bar
December 8th – Sacramento CA @ The Starlite Lounge (w/ Year of the Cobra)
December 9th – Arcata CA @ The Alibi (w/ Year of the Cobra)
December 10th – Medford OR @ Johnny B’s (w/ Year of the Cobra)
December 11th – Tacoma WA @ The Valley (w/ Year of the Cobra & Ancient Warlocks)

https://www.facebook.com/MosGenerator
https://mosgenerator.bandcamp.com/
http://heavyheadsuperstore.storenvy.com/

Mos Generator, “Catspaw” official video

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Mos Generator, Lies of Liberty ’87 & The Firmament: Direction of Years

Posted in Reviews on October 27th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

mos-generator-lies-of-liberty-87

mos-generator-the-firmament

It’s not often that a band issues their most forward-thinking and backward-looking releases back-to-back, let alone within a month of each other, but for Port Orchard, Washington, three-piece, there’s very little that’s out of their reach at this point. Lest we forget, the outfit led by its perpetually restless founder, guitarist/vocalist/engineer Tony Reed, already also issued a new studio full-length, Abyssinia (review here), earlier this year on Listenable Records.

Working with the same rhythm section of bassist Sean Booth and drummer Jono Garrett, the two new EPs, The Firmament (vinyl on Stickman Records) and Lies of Liberty ’87 (as yet a digital-only self-release) show opposite-ends-of-the-spectrum mentalities and foster two very, very different sounds while still retaining character as Mos Generator. In a manner bold and frank, they push the boundaries of what that character means, and respectively give fans an at-least-partial look at where Mos Generator came from and where they might be going.

The timing couldn’t be more convenient for both to arrive, especially after Abyssinia found Reed and company delving into more progressive fare on its B-side, and thereby moving forcefully beyond the kind of heavy rock proffered on their last two full-lengths, 2014’s moodier Electric Mountain Majesty (review here) and their 2012 return album, Nomads (review here), that woke them from several years of hiatus — but to have Mos Generator dive headfirst into live-recorded hardcore songs from 30 years ago at basically the same time they bring in two guest members to play second guitar and Rhodes on a Joy Division cover and reworked original material, also tracked live?

I don’t know if Reed had a master plan or if it’s just serendipity, but it would be harder to conceive of a clearer demonstration that, now well past the 15-year mark and having emerged since 2014 as a significant touring presence, Mos Generator feel free to do just exactly whatever the hell they want. All the better.

The Firmament was released earlier (Sept. as opposed to Oct.), but since the material on Lies of Liberty ’87 dates back further, it seems fair to tackle that first. Taking its name from Reed‘s early hardcore band, Lies of Liberty, and culling songs from a period between 1986-’87, the 17:47 blaster comprises 11 songs that brim with the adolescent fervor that no doubt drove their creation at the time and in so doing make for the rawest material Mos Generator have ever released.

Maybe that’s not a fair comparison, since it’s not like they’ve ever taken on hardcore punk so directly before, but minute-long shots like “The Smell of Death,” “Social Termination” (actually the shortest track at 44 seconds long), “A Pig’s Job is Never Done,” “Gore Reality” and so on plow by, one after the other, as they no doubt did three decades ago in some local VFW hall, Reed and his Lies of Liberty bandmates giving their friends a valid excuse to lose their minds and worry their parents. As they’re recorded now, those cuts and longer pieces like “Bring it Forward” (1:42), “Push Comes to Shove” (2:42) and the slower closer “Holocaust America” (a sprawling 3:36) benefit greatly from having been tracked live.

Can’t help but wonder how much Reed rehearsed the songs with Booth and Garrett before rolling tape, since the performances are tight, but for the kind of aesthetic with which they’re working, they could easily run the risk of becoming too much so at the sacrifice to the intensity with which they were written. That is, one wouldn’t want them to sound too adult. Mos Generator strike a fitting balance in giving their audience a feel for where “World of Hate” or “Negative Change” come from without necessarily cleaning them up so that they lose their edge. It’s a quick shot, but one imagines Lies of Liberty ’87 surprising a lot of listeners who happen upon it without the context of knowing the origin of the tracks included. Likely that’s part of the fun for the band.

mos-generator

As you’ve probably already gathered, The Firmament is an altogether different beast. Recorded as the audio portion of a live video called Songs for the Firmament taped by Chris Mathews (now also of Ancient Warlocks) of Joonior Studios, the five-song outing spans a decade of Mos Generator‘s catalog (and beyond) but ultimately boasts a quieter, more melancholy feel.

ReedBooth and Garrett are joined by second guitarist Bo McConaghie and Rhodes pianist Andy Sorter to make what I’m reasonably certain is the first five-piece incarnation in the band’s history, and the songs they run through — “Fall of Megiddo” and “Zero to Infinity” from 2006’s The Late Great Planet Earth, “Wicked Willow” from Abyssinia, the Joy Division cover “Dead Souls,” and “Outlander,” also from Abyssinia — set an atmosphere that is as righteous in its patience as Lies of Liberty ’87 was in its furies.

In fact, it’s not until “Wicked Willow,” here presented with acoustic and electric guitar side by side, that Reed even steps forward with vocals, and by then the first 10 of The Firmament‘s 26 minutes have passed. The roll from the album version is recognizable, but the veneer has changed, and so too the context in which “Wicked Willow” is framed, so that even when the chorus kicks in it seems to be a gentler more wistful delivery, marked out by Booth‘s runs on bass, a final wash of crash, and a round of applause from those lucky enough to be at the recording.

“Dead Souls,” which children of the ’90s will recall Nine Inch Nails taking on for the soundtrack to The Crow, turns out to be the most active track of the bunch, pushed forward by Garrett‘s toms and the cyclical riffing that going along with them. Mos Generator‘s version might be a little faster than the original, but they settle into it fluidly, and the final comedown, followed by more applause, makes an easy transition into the Mellotron and Rhodes combo that begins “Outlander,” those and the harmonized vocals that accompany ensuring the finale is the highlight of the short set.

There’s room in the six minutes for a build into a fervent guitar solo to answer the Rhodes, and the last chorus’ gradual ending only seems to underscore the entire spectrum of stylistic development in Reed‘s songwriting over the last 30 years. That’s really what it’s all about. One release purposefully regressing, another brazenly embarking on new territory. Again, I doubt it was a conscious decision on Mos Generator‘s part to put Lies of Liberty ’87 and The Firmament out in such proximity to each other, but in so doing, they’ve not only given further evidence of the apparently ceaseless productivity that has become a defining aspect of their approach over the last half-decade or so, but shown creative range to match.

One usually feels pretty comfortable in one’s expectations when it comes to a Mos Generator release — they regularly deliver high-quality songcraft and crisp performances of traditionally-styled heavy rock — but after these two, I’m not sure I’d even dare to predict where they might go next. Reed played drums at one point in death metallers Woodrot, so who knows? Their future’s more open than it’s ever been.

Mos Generator, Lies of Liberty ’87 (2016)

Mos Generator, “Outlander” from Songs for the Firmament

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Mos Generator Post “Catspaw” Video; Release Live Album; Announce More Recording

Posted in Bootleg Theater on September 13th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

mos-generator

I’ve never used Prisma, but putting together 5,800 of any kind of image to make an animated video out of it that then has to synch up with an actual song being played sounds like a ridiculously complicated editing job. Again, I’ve never done it. Maybe there’s some fabulous modern technology that makes that not at all a pain in the ass, but however they got there, Mos Generator‘s new video for “Catspaw” from their 2016 Listenable Records album, Abyssinia (review here), looks pretty sweet.

The Port Orchard, Washington, trio led by founding guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed continue their multi-pronged, multi-tiered attack on heavy rock consciousness as we move into the waning months of 2016. In addition to Abyssinia, they’ve also just put out The Firmament via Stickman Records, which captures a live performance with an expanded lineup recorded by Chris Joonior — who as fate would have it also helmed the “Catspaw” clip and who also now handles guitar/vocals in Ancient Warlocks — and they’ve got another batch of recordings in the can at Reed‘s HeavyHead studio that dip back to a collection of old hardcore tunes from the late ’80s. Two are streaming on Soundcloud (linked below).

Not sure if they’ll actually see release, but it wouldn’t at all surprise me if Reed pressed them up himself in some limited numbers, so keep an eye out. Mos GeneratorReed, bassist Sean Booth and drummer Jono Garrett — have also toured the country coast to coast to support the new album, including a recent stop in Alaska. If you ever wanted a yardstick by which to measure a band’s touring habit, consider “driving to Alaska for a show” a pretty good one to use. They also play Erosion Fest in Missoula, Montana, on Oct. 15.

Bottom line? Mos Generator are out there breaking their collective ass to bring as much rock and roll as possible to as many people as possible. Expect the pace to continue, and enjoy the “Catspaw” clip below followed by some PR wire info and comment from Reed on their latest doings:

Mos Generator, “Catspaw” official video

Directed and edited by Chris Mathews, Jr.
https://www.facebook.com/JooniorStudios/

‘Catspaw’ is from Mos Generator’s new full length album “Abyssinia” available via Listenable Records.

Created using Prisma, neural network artificial intelligence, and lots of other pieces of software. Special thanks to Brian Mathews for hours of moral and technical support.

We would like to extend a massive thank you to Chris and Brian Mathews for using extra terrestrial intelligence to figure out how to make a video from 5800 Prisma images. We know it took a lot of time and effort. We truly appreciate it.

Out on Stickman Records (Motorpsycho, Elder, Spidergawd). THE FIRMAMENT. The soundtrack LP of our performance in the concert film “Songs for the Firmament”. We brought in some extra players for this and got quite Psych with it. Shows yet another side of our catalog. Check it out!!!

On august 1st we recorded 12 songs in 4 hours. All of them were hardcore songs I wrote circa ’86/’87 with my hardcore band “Lies of Liberty”. Here is a double shot of 2 of the tunes we have been throwing into the live set here and there. All of the songs will all be released on vinyl as soon as the tracks have a final mix and we find a label to put it out. This has been a super fun project, it’s great to hear these tunes properly recorded after 30 years.

Mos Generator on Soundcloud

Mos Generator on Thee Facebooks

Mos Generator at Listenable Records

Listenable Records on Bandcamp

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Mos Generator European Tour Dates Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 24th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

By the time they get over there, the bulk of the jam-packed European fall festival season will be over, and I can’t help but think that works to Mos Generator‘s advantage. True, they’ll play at Heavy Psych Sounds Fest 3 with a considerable lineup that also includes Fatso Jetson and others, but I’d imagine rockers in a lot of the cities listed below will be hurting for a band they haven’t already just seen three times in the span of weeks, and so Mos Generator seem poised to make a standout impression.

They go supporting their upcoming EP, The Firmament, on Stickman Records and their new album, Abyssinia (review here), on Listenable Records, on which the songs benefit from the overall energy that the band has been able to harness from emerging over the last couple years as such a hard-touring act. Part of that was guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed rebuilding the trio from the ground up, but that too was a measure of sheer drive on his part that has ultimately worked to spread their classic-style boogie and groove, as their delivery of same is nigh on irresistible for anyone who’s ever dug into some riffs.

Heavy Psych Sounds, which is presenting the tour, had previously announced the run, but posted the dates accordingly with a few still TBA:

mos generator tour-700

This will be insane !!

HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS Records&Booking is proud to announce the European dates for ***Mos Generator*** tour

This will be supported by Black Bone from Netherland

New album Abyssinia is just been released on Listenable records

here the dates:
20.10.2016 IT Ravenna-Bronson*
21.10.2016 IT Torino-Blah Blah*
22.10.2016 IT Milano-Cox 18*
23.10.2016 IT Mantova-Hostaria*
24.10.2016 IT Bologna-Freak Out*
25.10.2016 IT Zerobranco-Altroquando*
26.10.2016 AT Salzburg-Rockhouse*
27.10.2016 IT Trieste tba*
28.10.2016 IT Parma-Mu/Hps fest Vol 3*
29.10.2016 DE Berlin-Cassiopeia*
30.10.2016 DE Radebeul-Barnyard Club*
31.10.2016 DE Hamburg tba*
01.11.2016 DE Munster-Rare Guitar Shop*
02.11.2016 DE Koln-Sonic Ballroom*
03.11.2016 DE Stuttgart-Keller Klub*
04.11.2016 CH Luzern-Bruch Bros*
05.11.2016 CH Winterthur-Gaswerk*
06.11.2016 DE Wiesbaden-Schlachthof*
07.11.2016 DE Mannheim-Tba*
08.11.2016 BE Bruxelles-Magasin 4*
09.11.2016 FR Nantes-La Scene Michelet
10.11.2016 FR Paris-Dr Feelgood Les Halles
11.11.2016 FR Lorient-Le Galion
12.11.2016 SP San Sebastian-Tba
13.11.2016 SP Zaragoza-Tba
14.11.2016 SP Gijon-Casino Acapulco
15.11.2016 PT Lisbon-Sabotage
16.11.2016 PT Porto-Cave 45
17.11.2016 SP Vigo-La Iguana Club
18.11.2016 SP Madrid-Tba
19.11.2016 SP Barcellona-Boveda
*date with Black Bone

https://www.facebook.com/MosGenerator/
http://heavyheadsuperstore.storenvy.com/
www.shop-listenable.net
www.heavypsychsounds.com

Mos Generator, Abyssinia (2016)

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Heavy Psych Sounds Fest Vol. III: Mos Generator, The Atomic Bitchwax, Isaak, Glowsun, Komatsu, Void of Sleep & Black Bone Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 21st, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

Based for the first time in Parma, Italy — the two prior editions had been held in Rome — Heavy Psych Sounds Fest Vol. III has announced a massive round of bands newly joined the proceedings, set for Oct. 28 and 29. The names have trickled out over the last couple weeks, but it seems a roundup is in order, considerable as the names are. In addition to The Atomic Bitchwax, who’ll be on the road with Pentagram at the time, and Fatso Jetson, whose slot was previously announced as part of their Heavy Psych Sounds-sponsored Italian tour, the likes of Mos GeneratorGlowsunIsaakKomatsuVoid of Sleep and Black Bone have joined on.

I’d expect that means Mos Generator are about to announce a European tour, but I don’t think they’ve done so yet. They’ll head abroad supporting their new album, the excellent Abyssinia (review here), while hopefully Fatso Jetson‘s upcoming LP will be out by then as well. More on that if/when I hear it.

I’ve noted more than a handful of times how crowded the European festival circuit is for this fall, but Heavy Psych Sounds continues to put Italy on the map for heavy rock, its reach extended both domestically and internationally more than ever before, as you can see:

heavy psych sounds fest vol iii new poster

HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS FEST VOL 3 with Atomic Bitchwax, Fatso Jetson, Mos Generator, Giobia, Glowsun, Isaak….

Here to announce the HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS FEST VOL 3.

The Festival will take place in Parma, Italy at Mu Club, 90 minutes down Milan or 45 minutes up Bologna, both are the good spot to arrive with airplane. The shows will be divided between 2 stages.

***Friday 28 October ticket 15 euro
**Saturday 29 October ticket 15 euro

*2 days ticket 25 euro only available at http://www.heavypsychsounds.com/fest/

Line Up:
THE ATOMIC BITCHWAX
FATSO JETSON
MOS GENERATOR
GLOWSUN
GIöBIA
ISAAK
FUZZ ORCHESTRA
DUEL
DEVILLE
KOMATSU
VOID OF SLEEP
BLACK BONE
……….More bands Tba…..

Artwork by Solo Macello.

WWW.HEAVYPSYCHSOUNDS.COM

MU CLUB:
www.muparma.club

www.heavypsychsounds.com/fest
https://www.facebook.com/HEAVYPSYCHSOUNDS/
https://twitter.com/heavypsychsound
heavypsychsoundsrecords.bandcamp.com

Mos Generator, “Outlander” from Songs for the Firmament

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