Mos Generator, Spontaneous Combustions: All in a Day’s Work

Posted in Reviews on November 14th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

mos generator Spontaneous Combustions

Issued just a month after the Exiles collection of outtakes and covers, the four-song, Kozmik Artifactz-released Spontaneous Combustions LP is a sort of conceptual one-off from Port Orchard, Washington, heavy rockers Mos Generator. The narrative — blessings and peace upon it — is that the Tony Reed-led three-piece had an opportunity to get together and rehearse and record at a rental house before new tenants moved in and Reed, bassist Sean Booth and drummer Jono Garrett began a US tour the following day. One assumes they started fairly early in the morning. Even so, for a group whose material is historically so structured and well put-together, it hardly seems like the the ideal circumstance for making an album. And one assumes that is precisely why they did it in such a manner.

The title Spontaneous Combustions, then, refers to the tracks themselves as being the result of improvisational jams; the trio setting up a few mics and hitting it with an eight-track recorder rolling to capture whatever came out. Mos Generator stepped back from the road this year, but between 2013 and 2018, they toured heavily with the Reed/Booth/Garrett lineup, and thereby developed the sort of chemistry that might, say, allow them to make an album in a single day’s time. But though the inclusions are plenty jammy and each one hovers somewhere around 10 minutes long — the exception is second track “Things to Unremember,” at 9:14 — the tracks aren’t just jams in the sense of the raw instrumentalist exploration proffered by some outfits. While opener “Bonehenge (Parts 1 & 2)” speaks to the urgency of its making in a kind of manic guitar line and sans-vocal approach, “Things to Unremember” and especially the subsequent “Who Goes There?” have vocals over top, and layered vocals in the case of the latter, meaning that at some point after the initial instrumental bed was laid down — even if it was on the same day — it was further developed.

Mos Generator, and Reed particularly, almost can’t help but write songs. The rule under which he worked was that things could be added to the basic track but not removed or changed, and indeed, “Who Goes There?” was an earlier piece they finished as a part of the session. So maybe Spontaneous Combustions-plus? However one wants to draw that line of distinction, the fact remains that one of American heavy rock’s most powerful power trios took a bold step in making a record like this, and after nearly two decades mostly-together in one form or another, the simple fact that they would push themselves to try something new at all is testament to the admirable nature of their creativity. The impulse — conceptual and in terms of the execution in these songs — bears fruit, whether it’s in the long, quiet stretch that opens “Who Goes There?” or the keyboard-added smooth jam at the beginning of closer “Age Zero,” also the longest song at 10:34.

And sure, one can hear a hiccup here and there on a probably-too-close inspection. Maybe that’s a hesitation because Garrett is wondering if there’s a change coming. Maybe that’s Reed pulling a bum note. Whatever it is, it’s to Spontaneous Combustions‘ credit that it’s left in. That might be the biggest departure Mos Generator make here, since while they’ve certainly done warts-and-all live releases in the past — the past year, that is — recent studio outings like 2018’s Shadowlands (review here), 2016’s Abyssinia (review here) and 2014’s Electric Mountain Majesty (review here) have been clean and increasingly progressive affairs. “Who Goes There?” has shades of that, certainly, but the first impression with “Bonehenge (Parts 1 & 2)” and the last impression with “Age Zero” that Spontaneous Combustions makes is one of taking a far more open and naturalist approach. While I don’t doubt that time felt like a crunch with one day to work on all the material and get a usable take, etc., it’s just as likely it was a relief to record live, since once the song was down, that was it. The rules were set, and they required that the band be free from hammering out all the rougher spots in the material. It’s an intense process, but it throws open a range of possibilities as well.

mos generator spontaneous combustions

To be sure, the three-piece take advantage. “Things to Unremember” moves from its shreddy march into a more drifting verse, bluesy licks from Reed and a steady bass from Booth seemingly led by the plodding drums of Garrett. An Iommic riff emerges — as it would almost have to given the jam setting and the tempo — and “Things” threatens to come apart just before six and a half minutes in, but Reed‘s solo holds its course and the trio builds back up around it, eventually finishing with a last rendition of the semi-hook to give just a hint of how organically a sense of structure comes to Mos Generator. The song, as an idea and ideal, is always there. Even with just a matter of hours to put together an album. Why would they even try to get away from it?

In that way, “Who Goes There?” is an emphatic highlight, even if something of an outlier on Spontaneous Combustions for having been to some degree prior-composed. One can quibble with that if so inclined — as a fan of the band, I tend to think Mos Generator have earned the trust that they know what’s best for their own albums — but in its hypnotic beginning, emergent depth of groove and absolute standout melody it brings together the best of their more progressive recent work with this offering’s sonic reach, essentially tying the two sides together before “Age Zero” bookends with another instrumental push, mellower on the whole than that of “Bonehenge (Parts 1 & 2),” which maybe toys subconsciously with some Earthless influence, but still sweeping up at the end to finish in raucous fashion.

Time has proven Mos Generator can go where they please when they please and still retain their identity. They’ve done hardcore punk, they’ve done psychedelia, they’ve done prog, and they’ve done a whole lot of heavy rock and roll. It has come to a point where it’s almost shocking to think of them as still being a relatively straightforward act, but it’s always the songcraft that comes through no matter how it’s being put to use. In putting that to the side even somewhat, Spontaneous Combustions feels particularly brave on the part of ReedBooth and Garrett, but that’s nothing new for them either, and they demonstrate not only the roots of their process here, but the clarity of vision that underscores their material even at its foundations. I won’t attempt to predict what they might do next — their every-two-years pace for a proper studio release has one due in 2020, if they intend to hold to it — but I do hope this isn’t the last time Mos Generator take on a project like this. The possibilities are as vast as they want them to be.

Mos Generator, “Shadowlands” live in Cleveland, OH, 2018

Mos Generator on Thee Facebooks

Mos Generator on Instagram

Mos Generator on Bandcamp

Kozmik Artifactz website

Kozmik Artifactz on Thee Facebooks

Tags: , , , , ,

Mos Generator Release Remastered The Late Great Planet Earth Suite; Live Shows This Week

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 8th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

mos generator

Heavy rockers who wear that designation like the badge of honor that it is Mos Generator have reissued their 2005 album The Late Great Planet Earth in remastered and, as they put it, “newly restored” form. I wasn’t sure what that means in this context, but founding guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed was kind enough to offer some clarification, which you’ll see below. Billed as The Late Great Planet Earth Suite: Parts I-XII, the new version all the more highlights the flow and conceptual narrative at the heart of the original. It’s out now digital through Bandcamp with eventual hope of doing it up as a deluxe 3LP/2CD/DVD boxed set that, frankly, kind of seems like it would rule. Party on, Mos Generator. Make that shit happen.

Though the Port Orchard trio have had a couple offerings out new and archival in 2019 as they will in any given year these days, they’ve stepped back touring considerably from what they were doing since about 2014 when founding guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed revamped the lineup with an eye specifically toward taking the band on the road. Well, their four shows slated for 2019 start on Oct. 10 and go through Oct. 13, which just happens to be this week/weekend. They’re playing with Teepee Creeper, Clutch and Red Fang, among others, and will no doubt have more news of one kind or another soon.

Here’s what’s up until then:

mos generator shows

Mos Generator “The Late Great Planet Earth Suite parts 1-12” is a newly restored and remastered version of our second album, first released on vinyl only in October 2005. This digital version features the 12 part 43 minute suite as one track rather than 12 movements broken up into separate tracks thus giving the listener the full experience as originally intended.

Says Tony, “The restored part is about being able to separate all 12 movements, master each song separately and then re-assemble it as one long song. I thought I had lost all of the songs as stand alone tracks so every pressing (on 3 different labels) over the years has been from the same source that I wasn’t completely happy with. I’m a little more satisfied now.”

The Late Great Planet Earth Suite:
I. On the Eve (including: The Midnight Sun)
II: Crematorium
III: Six Billion People Dead
IV: Opium Skies
V: The Myopic
VI: Closed Casket
VII: Fall of Megiddo
VIII: Zero to Infinity
IX: The Late Great Planet Earth
X: Golden Chariots
XI: Exit the Atomic Age
XII: The World Set Free

This is part of a continuing effort to do a super deluxe release of this album. Our hope is for a set containing 3 Lps, 2 Cds, 1 DVD, extended download, 12″x12″ booklet and an assortment of other memorabilia from the 2004-2005 era.

Mos Generator was:
Tony Reed: Guitar/Vocals/Keyboards
Shawn Johnson: Drums
Scooter Haslip: Bass

We’re only playing 4 shows this year. Here they are.

10/10 Little Devil’s – Port Angeles WA (w/ Teepee Creeper)
10/11 Manette Saloon – Bremerton WA (w/ Thylacine – Corrosive Company)
10/12 Midtown Bend – Bend OR (w/ Clutch – Red Fang)
10/13 McDonald Theater – Eugene OR (w/ Clutch – Red Fang)

Mos Generator is:
Tony Reed: guitar, vocals
Jono Garrett: drums
Sean Booth: bass

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

Mos Generator, The Late Great Planet Earth Suite: Parts I-XII (2019)

Tags: , , , , ,

Mos Generator Announce Spontaneous Combustions Release Details

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 19th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

mos generator

Comprised of four songs pressed up under the banner of Kozmik Artifactz, the next Mos Generator LP will be a collection of jams titled Spontaneous Combustions. It’s the band’s second outing of 2019 behind the Night of the Lords live album (discussed here) and it follows their 2018 studio offering, Shadowlands (review here), which likewise found the Tony Reed-fronted trio pushing into new avenues of progressive expression. That’s kind of Mos Generator‘s thing at this point, and while the core of the band remains in their foundation of songwriting, they’ve particularly over the last few years taken on a willingness to go places they haven’t before. It suits them.

This release was initially discussed here last month in an interview with Reed, and as you can see in that piece, it’s far from the only thing going on in that camp.

Still, here are the details as posted on thee social medias:

mos generator spontaneous combustions

We have a new album coming out on Kozmik Artifactz later this year. Here’s a few words about it and a work in progress mock up of the cover.

Mos Generator “Spontaneous Combustions”.

Production notes:
With a working title of “rental jams”, the idea to do these recordings came from the fact that long time tenants had moved out of our rental house and it was empty for a while before the next ones would move in. We had a one day window to work with, which meant we had to record as much improvised material as possible and also have a proper rehearsal to prepare for the U.S. tour that was starting the next day. To make things as easy as possible, I recorded using only an eight track machine with a very minimal microphone setup. All music had to be captured live with mistakes and all. I would be able to add additional instruments to what we did but would not be able to take away anything that was recorded live. Three of the four songs recorded that day were written at the moment they were recorded. “Who Goes There” was conceived and partially recorded about a year earlier and finished up during these sessions. Although we use this technique to do demos, we have never made a complete record of freeform jams.

Reed – August 2019

http://www.facebook.com/MosGenerator
http://www.instagram.com/mos_generator
https://mosgenerator.bandcamp.com/
http://kozmik-artifactz.com/
https://www.facebook.com/kozmikartifactz

Mos Generator, Night of the Lords (2019)

Tags: , , , , ,

Six Dumb Questions with Tony Reed of Mos Generator

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on July 10th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

tony reed

The mantle of being the hardest working person in show business has been worn by many over the last century-plus, perhaps most notably James Brown, but if we’re talking about heavy rock and roll, Port Orchard, Washington’s Tony Reed makes a strong case for himself. The frontman of the long-running Mos Generator is also near ubiquitous in his studio work on the production side, recording, mixing and mastering bands far and wide. He’s taking part alongside Bob Balch of Fu Manchu and Gary Arce of Yawning Man in the reincarnated Big Scenic Nowhere, and he’s just recorded the first Saint Vitus LP to feature Scott Reagers in over two decades. In August, he’ll tour for the second time in Europe playing bass for Melbourne’s Seedy Jeezus, whom he’s also recorded.

Oh, and for having what he calls a “mellow year,” Mos Generator have already released a hand-assembled live album through Devil’s Child Records and have a collection of studio jams on the way through Kozmik Artifactz. Reed is also learning to cut his own records, so expect much more to come. Like maybe that country rock project he’s got, Hot Spring Water! They’d be perfect for a cut 12″. He’s also been kicking around doing some reunion shows with Twelve Thirty Dreamtime, his band before Mos.

Clearly the man cannot be stopped.

Reed sent a raven recently with details on all of the above and a bunch more and, frankly, it was staggering. I didn’t even know where to start, but we went back and forth and what made the most sense to me was to get an interview together — as always, it took me forever to actually write out the questions — and give him the chance to talk about what’s going on with each of these things, say what he can say at this point and roll like that. With so much going on, some he can talk about and some he can’t, it was really the only way. Expect more news on a lot of this stuff as it continues to develop — the Big Scenic Nowhere LP, the Mos Generator jams release, record cutting, etc. — but the point is that, in all seriousness and all sincerity, I find Reed‘s singular level of passion to be deeply inspiring. He is relentlessly creative, and he doesn’t know how else to be. That kind of person is rare and with the consistent level of his output across such a wide variety of contexts, it’s only all the more impressive.

He talks about Mos Generator touring Australia with The Atomic Bitchwax early next year. I look forward to inviting myself on that run. I’d write a whole book about it.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

Six Dumb Questions with Tony Reed

First up, what’s up with Mos Generator for the rest of this year?

It’s been a pretty mellow year for the band. We’ve spent a lot of time on the road over the last four years and thought we would kick back for a bit. It looks like we will only play four shows this year. Two of them are with Red Fang and Clutch so we will be able to reach a new audience with the touring. Early 2020 we will be going over to Australia to tour with The Atomic Bitchwax. We’ve been out with them before so that was great news to hear we would be doing our first Aus tour with them.

In May Devil’s Child Records released a live album called Night of the Lords recorded in Manchester, England, in 2017 and later this year, Kozmik Artifactz out of Germany will release an album of freeform jams called Spontaneous Combustions. I just submitted the masters so hopefully it will be out by Fall. Like The Firmament and Lies of Liberty, Spontaneous Combustions is very different from our usual studio albums. I really enjoy adding new textures to the band and although we usually do a freeform jam section in our live shows, this is a whole album of them. All recorded in a six-hour time period.

You’re involved with Bob Balch and Gary Arce’s Big Scenic Nowhere project. You toured with Fu Manchu of course, and Gary is Gary, but how did you end up getting involved there, and will you continue to be a member of that band?

Bob contacted me to work on a song with him and I’m pretty sure it was a mix of touring with Fu Manchu and my contributions to his site PlayThisRiff that gave him the idea to contact me. We got along well on the road and we both work very hard at our craft.

After I finished the first song he just started sending more to see if I was inspired. I ended up doing vocals on quite a bit of the songs across the EP and the full-length. I also added Mellotron and synths to a few songs. A song I wrote has me on drums/vocals, Bob on guitar and my son Kylen on bass. How cool is that?

Bob, Gary and I have been talking about being the core lineup and continue to have guests come in. There are some really cool musicians playing on this that I am totally honored to be associated with. I’ve also started to call on people I know and respect to participate and everybody has been really cool. Musically there doesn’t seem to be any boundaries and that is great.

You’re also playing bass on tour again with Seedy Jeezus in Europe. How was that experience last time and how does being in the band differ from recording them?

I really enjoy hanging out with Lex and Mark. They know each other so well. They will have these massive blowup arguments that you feel might end the tour and right at its zenith, then it will be like ,“so where are we gonna eat mate?” like nothing ever happened. Total entertainment. I’ve got some great audio and video clips on my phone.

After recording two albums with them and doing the tour last year I feel like I’m part of the band. It was like that from the first time we met. Easy to get along with. I’ll be back over there to record the next Seedy full-length right before the Mos boys fly over for the tour.

You recorded Saint Vitus’ new self-titled album. What was it like having them in the studio again? Did you get Dave Chandler to put any mids in his guitar this time?

They were less prepared this time but everybody really worked to make a great album that ended having classic Vitus elements and some new textures. Henry and Pat both contributed to the writing so that gave the album some diversity while still sitting in the spot the fans are used to. Also, Reagers is a stud. Great vocalist and one of the nicest dudes you’ll ever meet. Always positive and professional without being too serious. Chandler kept his classic EQ settings. :)

Tell me about the record cutting project.

Well… my buddy Jeremy Deede brought up the idea of buying a record lathe. We found a guy in Germany that builds them so we contacted him and he told us he won’t sell it to us if we don’t take the class so I flew over to Germany a few weeks ago and took the 15-hour one day crash course in record cutting. I did get to bring home my first few attempts at it and they sounded better than I thought they would. We should have the machine and a whole bunch of blanks next week and I’ll start to get grip on making some nice cuts. After I get comfortable with it we are going to launch a site where people can have one-off records cut. Needless to say I’ll be making records of everything I ever wanted on vinyl. Exciting stuff!!!

What keeps you going, Tony? Every year you seem to have your hand in so much and so much going on. What is it that lets you do that? Do you ever feel overwhelmed by the sheer amount of stuff happening at any given time?

I discovered that I had musical ability when I was around 12 and ever since then I pretty much haven’t stopped. I’ve written and recorded more music than I can even remember. I’ve been going through 40 years of tapes and other recorded media that I am cataloging and saving and I’m finding so much music I forgot I even made. From ideas recorded on a boombox in 1985 to complete songs from even just a few years ago. When I think about how much time I’ve spent next to some kind of recording device with a guitar in my hand or behind a drum kit it’s staggering. I have so many musical endeavors going on (including my job) that it is sometimes hard to finish stuff. My dry erase board in the studio always has scribblings all over it. I like it that way. Leaving a legacy has always been important to me and that along with not knowing, and not wanting to know, anything else in life is what keeps me going. I’ve always been very prolific. I often wonder if that will ever disappear.

Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

I’m putting a lot of time into a project called Hot Spring Water. It’s a country rock project in the style of early ’70s artists like Leon Russell, Graham Nash and Neil Young. Mykey and Mike were the rhythm section from Stone Axe and we actually started this project in 2011. A few months ago we added Bo Mcconaghie on guitar with me and started rehearsing for shows. We’ve played two shows and they have been really fun. It’s so much different than Mos Generator. Bo and I use six watt Fender Champ amplifiers so we have a six watt ceiling for live volume. It’s great! people can enjoy the show without getting their ears blasted. It’s also challenging because playing that clean and quite means your can hear every mistake. Challenges are good.

Tony Reed, Assembling Night of the Lords

Mos Generator on Thee Facebooks

Mos Generator on Instagram

HeavyHead webstore

Tags: , , , , , ,

Mos Generator Announce Night of the Lords Bootleg-Style Live Album

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 3rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

mos generator

I love bootlegs. I really do. I’ve got a bunch of old bootleg CDs and a couple LPs that I absolutely think of as treasure. Traditionally, bootlegs pretty much rip off the artist in question, but there’s no doubt that there are some bootlegs out there — looking at you, HendrixBeatles, etc. — that are as classic as any proper studio album. Black Sabbath at Asbury Park 1975? Shit, it’s the best live record they never bothered to release.

Given that Mos Generator do so much with a classic heavy rock influence, it makes sense they’d be the first in a new series of bootleg-style outings from Devil’s Child Records. Legally speaking, it all seems to be on the up and up — Tony Reed mixed and mastered, so it ought to be — which is nice, but the numbers available are limited and it’s a live recording from their UK tour in 2017, so maybe a fan-piece, but screw it, I’m a fan. Check out “Breaker” streaming at the bottom of this post, to get a sample of what it’s all about.

Info from the PR wire:

mos generator night of the lords

MOS GENERATOR New Live Album ‘NIGHT OF THE LORDS’ (Manchester UK, October 4th 2017) via DEVIL’S CHILD RECORDS On May 3rd

Port Orchard, Washington’s MOS GENERATOR spent most of 2016 and 2017 on tour supporting their ‘Abyssinia’ album. During a special night on the tail end of the tour, an entire set was recorded at Rebellion, in Manchester England on October 4th, 2017.

Mixed and mastered at his HeavyHead Recording Company in January 2019, Tony Reed, guitarist and vocalist for MOS GENERATOR, tells the tale:

“Many months after the European leg of the Abyssinia Tour was over, I was cleaning out my guitar case and found a flash drive that I had forgotten about. Upon inspection, I realized it was a complete multi-tracked live performance, date and city unknown. After listening to some of the banter in between songs, I figured out that it was from Manchester, England. I distinctly remembered that show, because we played a Mahavishnu Orchestra/King Crimson medley that night and I think we only ever played it live three or four times.

That wasn’t the only interesting addition to the set list that night – “Easy Evil” was also a rarity in the set, along with the opener “Strangest Times.” “Shadowlands” (title track of the future 2018 album) was performed at the show as well, and we rarely played new songs before they were recorded and released. All in all, it was a blazing set that focused mainly on songs from ‘Abyssinia’, but also included a well-rounded collection of songs from our previous albums.

The album title is a play on “Day of the Lords”, a song by the band Joy Division from Manchester, England. The cover of this official “bootleg” release is a tribute to many of the unofficial records I have from the 70s on infamous labels like Trademark of Quality, The Amazing Kornyfone Record Label (TAKRL), and Wizardo. In the early days of bootleg vinyl, they just glued a photo copied piece of paper on a white jacket and called it good. The inspiration for this layout came from a David Bowie bootleg called “His Master’s Voice”, one of the first bootlegs I ever owned.

Most of the time when I (rarely) listen back to live recordings of the band, I find myself remembering our performance as being better in my head than it actually was. That is not the case with this show. The set list, energy, performance and the right amount of risk-taking make this a show we are excited is getting released.” – TR

‘Night Of The Lords’ Tracklist:

Side One:
Strangest Times
Lonely One Kenobi
Shadowlands
Easy Evil
There’s No Return From Nowhere
Dance of Maya / Red

Side Two:
Breaker
On The Eve
Catspaw
Step Up/Jam
Electric Mountain Majesty

Mos Generator’s ‘Night Of The Lords’ live album, the first release in the Devil’s Child Records ‘Bootleg Series’, was created in true bootleg fashion. Pure rock music captured in a live recording, issued in a limited run of 100 copies on black vinyl. Each record is hand-numbered with either a yellow or blue photo cover on primarily a hand-assembled package. A few test presses will also be available on release date. There are no pre-orders.

‘Night Of The Lords’ will be available on May 3, 2019, from Devil’s Child Records: https://devilschildrecords.bigcartel.com/

A few words from Rachel Williams, Overlord at Devil’s Child Records:

“Devil’s Child Records is elated to present the first record in our new ‘Bootleg Series’, Mos Generator, ‘Night of the Lords’. Bootleg records were created as a rebellious act of defiance all for the love of music. This series is all about our love of music, and pays a unique homage to the bootleg recordings from the 1970’s.

We are excited to be working with Mos Generator again for this release, with special thanks to Tony Reed in helping shape an idea into a reality for the Devil’s Child Bootleg Series.”

MOS GENERATOR are:
Sean Booth – Bass
Tony Reed – Guitar, Vocals, Other Instruments
Jono Garrett – Drums

http://www.facebook.com/MosGenerator
http://www.instagram.com/mos_generator
https://mosgenerator.bandcamp.com/
https://devilschildrecords.bigcartel.com/
https://www.facebook.com/DevilsChildRecords/
https://www.instagram.com/devils_child_records/

Mos Generator, “Breaker” from Night of the Lords (2019)

Tags: , , , , ,

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.

Read more »

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

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.

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

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

The Obelisk on Thee Facebooks

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