Conan Add More Dates to North American Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 13th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

conan

UK trio Conan have been chipping away at the West Coast since the latter part of last month, and they’ll wrap up that run at SXSW ahead of heading out once more in April, this time in the company of The Atomic Bitchwax and Black Label Society for a tour that will end in May. THEN they’ll be back in the US AGAIN in June to play more dates around their stop headlining at Maryland Doom Fest 2019. That is a significant amount of touring and, unless they’ve opened up a US headquarters and I didn’t know about it — could happen — a significant amount of travel across the Atlantic to do it.

All of this is set to precede the arrival of their next studio album, which, if it was going to be out this Spring would most likely already have seen its release date announced. Maybe summer? Maybe fall? I don’t know, but Conan are for sure keeping busy as they head toward the release, which of course one looks forward to in that special way that one anticipates Conan records like a boot to the skull. Which is to say, yes, very much.

From the social medias:

conan updated poster

CONAN – NEW US DATES

Check out our dates during April / May / June / July…….

See you in the pit (or to one side with your arms folded, nodding your head).

CONAN Live:
March 12: Taos, NM @ Taos Mesa Brewery Mothership
March 13: El Paso, TX @ Rockhouse
March 15: Austin, TX SXSW @ Lost Well

Apr 24 Denver, CO – Oriental Theater #*
Apr 25 Denver, CO – Oriental Theater #*
Apr 27 Dallas, TX – Canton Hall #*
Apr 28 Dallas, TX – Canton Hall #*
Apr 30 Chicago, IL – Concord Music Hall #*
May 01 Chicago, IL – Concord Music Hall #*
May 02 Lexington, KY – Cosmic Charlie’s *
May 03 Chattanooga, TN – The Signal #*
May 04 Asheville, NC – Odditorium *
May 06 New York, NY – Bowery Ballroom #*
May 07 New York, NY – Bowery Ballroom #*
May 08 Hampton Beach, NH – Hampton Beach Casino #*
May 12 Richmond, VA – The National #*
May 13 Baltimore, MD – Ram’s Head Live #*
May 14 Toronto, ON – Opera House #*
May 15 Toronto, ON – Opera House #*
May 22 Los Angeles, CA – El Rey Theater #*
May 23 Los Angeles, CA – El Rey Theater #*
# = w/Black Label Society
* = w/Atomic Bitchwax

June 23 Frederick, MD – Maryland Doom Fest
June 27 Portland, ME – Geno’s ^
June 28 Montreal, QC – Turbo Haus ^
June 30 Cleveland, OH – Now That’s Class ^
July 01 Columbus, OH – Ace of Cups ^
July 02 Indianapolis, IN – Black Circle ^
July 05 Omaha, NE – Slowdown
July 06 Rapid City, SD – Haycamp Brewery
^ = w/Witchkiss

Lineup:
Jon Davis – vocals, guitar (2006-present)
Chris Fielding – bass (2013-present)
Johnny King – drums (2017-present)

http://www.hailconan.com/
https://www.facebook.com/hailconan/
https://www.instagram.com/hailconan/
https://conan-conan.bandcamp.com/
https://twitter.com/hailconan
http://label.napalmrecords.com/

Conan, “Volt Thrower” official video

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Candlemass, The Door to Doom: Welcome Company

Posted in Reviews on February 22nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

candlemass the door to doom

It’s not that having Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath do a guest spot on guitar with Candlemass isn’t a big deal. And the solo he donates to “Astorolus (The Great Octopus)” is true to form in its multiple layers and ensuing doomly vibe. He’s Tony Iommi, and if his presence turns heads to The Door to Doom, which is Candlemass‘ 12th studio full-length and second for Napalm Records, then all the better. But as the Swedish epic doom progenitors return with their first LP since 2012’s Psalms for the Dead (review here) — though they’ve also had live outings out since and two EPs in last year’s House of Doom (discussed here) and 2016’s Death Thy Lover (review here) — the focus on that one guitar solo takes away from the real lead of the record when it comes to narrative, which is the return of vocalist Johan Längquist to the fold.

Since the band’s reunion from the abyss of hiatus 14 years ago with their self-titled eighth album, they’ve worked with three frontmen. On that outing was Messiah Marcolin, a frontman’s frontman, whose voice helped propel Candlemass to their legendary status in the late ’80s. He didn’t last. By the time the follow-up came around, it was Robert Lowe of Solitude Aeturnus in the singer role, fronting the hurried-but-righteous King of the Grey Islands in 2007 and 2009’s Death Magic Doom (review here), which was positioned at the time as the band’s last album.

It wasn’t. Lowe split circa 2012 and on Death Thy Lover it was journeyman vocalist Mats Levén — who’d been in the running for the job when Lowe came aboard in the first place — taking on the role. However — and that’s a big “however” — Candlemass in celebration of the 25th anniversary of their debut album, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, reunited with Längquist for a one-off show playing the LP in full at Roadburn in the Netherlands. The set was later released on vinyl through Svart as Epicus Doomicus Metallicus: Live at Roadburn 2011 (review here). I was there. It was a glorious show, with Lowe starting out on some newer stuff and then Längquist arriving to take over, and no disrespect to Lowe — whose voice is of Dio-esque caliber; not a compliment I hand out lightly — but Längquist was such a perfect fit with the rest of the band that the obvious question even as they were playing was, “Why the hell isn’t this guy in this band?”

Well, with The Door to Doom, he is. Steering Candlemass, as always, is Leif Edling. The band’s founding bassist and principle songwriter, he’s responsible over the course of more than 30 years for some of doom’s most resilient landmarks. He’s the reason they’ve survived so much tumult as regards frontmen, and his craft is on high display here, from opener “Splendor Demon Majesty” through the final lumber of “The Omega Circle.” And the story of The Door to Doom, even more than the 60 seconds dominated by Iommi, is the reunion between Längquist and Edling.

That’s not to take away from the contributions of guitarists Mats “Mappe” Björkman (rhythm) and Lars “Lasse” Johansson (lead) or drummer Jan Lindh — all of whom have been in the band at least three decades for as much as there’s been a band to be in — but the performance Längquist gives atop the grand riffing of “Under the Ocean” or the quiet and moody “Bridge of the Blind,” which provides a comedown moment coming out of the appropriately massive “Astorolus (The Great Octopus),” is nothing if not the standout it’s intended to be, and Edling‘s songwriting also seems to rise to the occasion, be that in the catchy side B launch “Death’s Wheel” or “Splendor Demon Majesty” at the outset or “House of Doom,” repurposed here (and re-recorded, obviously) from the EP of the same name to serve as the penultimate, organ-topped nodder ahead of “The Omega Circle,” which rounds out.

candlemass (photo Anders Palsson)

And not for nothing, but the solos Johansson adds to “House of Doom,” “Death’s Wheel” and the particularly Dehumanizer-esque “Black Trinity” go toe-to-toe with that on “Astorolus (The Great Octopus),” and I know there’s only one Tony Iommi, but there’s only one Candlemass as well, and they’re absolutely on fire in these tracks. The Door to Doom sounds revitalized and fully charged, and even as the cover art ties it directly to Epicus Doomicus Metallicus with its iconic impaled devil-skull design, the band seems only ready to move forward.

They’re not trying to recapture 1986 — and they don’t need to. They’re relishing their position as overlords of what doom has become in their wake. They take their time through the quiet intros to “Under the Ocean” or “The Omega Circle,” knowing their own strength in setting a mood for the epic riffing to come, and when that closer hits, it’s about not even about Edling or Längquist, but about the entire band. There’s a reason why the cliché is “firing on all cylinders,” and The Door to Doom gives a fervent example of what that sounds like. It has the poise and stately feel of Candlemass‘ experience and long-since-attained maturity of approach, but even as it taps into classic styles, dipping to acoustic in the midsection of “The Omega Circle” to mirror “Bridge of the Blind” at the end of side A in summary of the album as a whole, its overarching feel is refreshed and refreshing in kind. No question that when 2019 is done, The Door to Doom will stand among its finest doom albums.

The danger, of course, is that it’s Candlemass‘ last. That’s always the danger with Candlemass, and sometimes it happens. It’s worth nothing that the break between full-lengths between Psalms for the Dead and The Door to Doom, at seven years, is longer than when they “broke up” after 1999’s From the 13th Sun and didn’t put out another LP until Candlemass in 2005. Change has long been a factor for the band, but that’s all the more reason to enjoy the triumph that is The Door to Doom — because it might not last. It might be a one-off with Längquist, and it might be more than half a decade before they put out another record, if they do at all. Something about the idea of “coming full circle” and reuniting with their first singer seems very much in Edling‘s wheelhouse in bringing the band to close.

Listening to these songs, one only hopes that’s not how it plays out, and Candlemass continue to explore the doomed reaches with their original frontman, adding an essential and unexpected chapter to their story that they’ve given such a righteous beginning here. Recommended.

Candlemass, The Door to Doom (2019)

Candlemass on Thee Facebooks

Candlemass on Instagram

Candlemass website

Napalm Records website

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Monkey3: New Album Sphere Available to Preorder

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 4th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

monkey3

It was announced this past Fall that Swiss progressive heavy instrumentalists Monkey3 would hit the road with Samsara Blues Experiment this March, and now we know a little bit more about why. Their new album, Sphere, is set to release April 12 through Napalm Records and is up for preorder now. For a band who are more than 15 years removed from their debut album, they continue to be something of a well kept secret of Europe’s heavy underground — at least to those outside of it — but their last full-length, 2016’s Astra Symmetry (review here), was easily their most progressive outing yet, and they followed it with the 2017 Live at Freak Valley offering, so between that and the ample touring they’ve done all the while, they head into Sphere with some solid momentum behind them. One hopes they continue to build on their litany of accomplishments over the better part of this decade.

The PR wire brought album details and the preorder link:

monkey3 sphere

MONKEY3 To Release New Album “Sphere” April 12th via Napalm Records

Pre-Orders Available Now

Heavy Psych-Rock from Outer Space
Your Mind-Blowing Trip to the Universe

Instrumental rockers MONKEY3 have buckled up for their next interstellar journey. After the success of the 2016 album “Astra Symmetry,” the Swiss four piece continues its cosmic journey of space rock, psychedelic, stoner and progressive on their 6th full length studio album “Sphere”.

MONKEY3 describes the new album:
“Spiraling out of a majestic landscape & its untamed environment, ‘Sphere’ stands for an abstract interpretation of nature’s phenomenons, their geometric patterns, and colorful elements.

The backbone of MONKEY3’s new album is a solid axis around which revolves a multitude of distinct atmospheres – like a wild journey along a winding road – sometimes brutal, sometimes sublime. Here the instrumental roots of the band refract in a prismatic soundscape where each musical beam finds its own space; and yet at the same time they all come together to weave a massive wall of sound. Moreover a feminine & graceful touch enhances the overall artwork, allowing the audience to travel through a wide panel – from the depths of Death Valley to the magnitude of Mount Ida – like a cosmic trip through a meditative canal. And whatever this opus might be, “Sphere” could be reminiscent of an ellipsis in which one omits part of what is being said in order for the listener to fill in the blanks with one’s own imagination, and make it its own.”

Today, MONKEY3 unveils the album cover and the tracklist.

Pre Order “Sphere” HERE!

Tracklist:
1. Spirals
2. Axis
3. Prism
4. Mass (feat. Bumblefoot)
5. Ida
6. Ellipsis

“Sphere” will be available in the following formats:
-4 Page Digipack
-2LP Gatefold
-LP Deluxe Box, including Double-LP Gatefold + 1 LP Bonus LP Gatefold + Slipmat
-Digital Album

In March, MONKEY3 will hit the road together with Samsara Blues Experiment:
w/ Samsara Blues Experiment
29.03.19 DE – Cologne / Helios 37
30.03.19 BE – Antwerp / Zappa
31.03.19 NL – Nijmegen / Doornroosje
01.04.19 FR – Paris / Petit Bain
03.04.19 FR – Toulouse / Rex
05.04.19 DE – Stuttgart / JH Hallschlag
06.04.19 DE – Jena / F-Haus
07.04.19 DE – Dresden / Beatpol
08.04.19 DE – Munich / Feierwerk
09.04.19 CH – Zuerich / Rote Fabrik
10.04.19 AT – Vienna / Arena
11.04.19 CH- Budapest / A38
12.04.19 AT – Salzburg / Rockhouse
13.04.19 DE – Aschaffenburg / Colos-Saal

30.04.19 CH – Pratteln / Z7 Konzertfabrik
10.05.19 FR – Guéret / Metal Culture(s) Festival
02.08.19 FR – Monestier-de-Clermont / Stade Régis Perrin
03.08.19 FR – Saint-Maurice-de-Gourdans / Sylak Open Air
10.08.19 DE – Balve / German Kultrock Festival

MONKEY3 are:
Walter – drums
Kevin – bass
Boris – guitar
dB – keys

https://www.facebook.com/monkey3band/
http://www.napalmrecordsamerica.com/store/monkey3
http://label.napalmrecords.com/
https://www.facebook.com/napalmrecords

Monkey3, Live at Freak Valley (2017)

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John Garcia and the Band of Gold, John Garcia and the Band of Gold: Kentucky and Beyond

Posted in Reviews on January 8th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

john garcia and the band of gold self titled

The 2014 self-titled solo debut from John Garcia (review here) was at least 15 years in the making. He followed it in 2017 with the mostly acoustic The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues (review here), and with the self-titled LP from John Garcia and the Band of Gold, he completes a cycle of three records in five years that he has already hinted will mark his last run. That in itself gives the 11-song/40-minute John Garcia and the Band of Gold a different context, but it’s also worth noting that as he’s made his way through these offerings — the latest of which would presumably complete a three-album deal with Napalm Records — he’s also presented a different side of himself each time out. True, the first and third LPs share plenty of aesthetic commonalities, but Garcia stepping into more of a bandleader role with The Band of Gold behind him comprised of guitarist Ehren Groban (War Drum), bassist Mike Pygmie (Mondo GeneratorYou Know Who) and drummer Greg Saenz (The DwarvesYou Know Who) is a distinguishing factor.

Much has been made as well of the involvement of producer Chris Goss, the frontman of Masters of Reality who once upon a time helmed the Kyuss recordings that would help solidify desert rock in the mid-’90s. That’s not a minor consideration, and if there’s an effect of Goss‘ contributions here — which, as I understand it, came after the basic tracks were recorded — perhaps it can be heard in the extra heft of a track like the rushing “Popcorn (Hit Me When You Can)” or the low-end push behind Garcia‘s crooning in the quieter parts of second cut “Jim’s Whiskers” earlier on. That’s speculation, but even the association between the two parties should be a draw for fans, who might also note the similarity in cover art between John Garcia and the Band of Gold and Vista Chino‘s 2013 outing, Peace (review here; discussed here), both done in a graffiti-on-concrete style. If there’s an intended relationship between those two LPs, I don’t know, but in addition to having appeared on The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues as “Give Me 250ml,” “Kentucky II” would seem to be a sequel in title to “Kentucky” from Hermano‘s 2007 full-length, …Into the Exam Room. One way or another, there is plenty throughout John Garcia and the Band of Gold for longtime fans to dig into.

“Kentucky II” is one of three songs shared between the last album and this one, actually, with “Kylie,” on that showing up as the penultimate “Cheyletiella” on this and “The Hollingsworth Session” revamped in fully-plugged fashion as “Don’t Even Think About It.” There’s something to be said for the continuity tying the two releases together, but highlights of John Garcia and the Band of Gold like “My Everything” and “Lillianna” are both new and help comprise the central impression of the tracklist as a whole, which is fresh in performance and cognizant of the desert it’s inhabiting, whether it’s through the introductory spaciousness that rolls out in “Space Vato” before that 2:44 instrumental kicks into higher gear and moves quickly into the bouncing groove of “Jim’s Whiskers,” or “Softer Side,” which finds Garcia singing quietly over a wide landscape of psychedelic guitar somewhat reminiscent of his work alongside Yawning Man‘s Gary Arce in Zun.

john garcia and the band of gold

His voice — naturally a central feature on an album that bears his name — has always been well suited to that ultra-laid back vibe, but neither can one take away from the power in his delivery of “My Everything” or the successful middle ground built up in “Chicken Delight,” a sense of tension coming to a head that the swinging “Kentucky II” pays off in its righteous and familiar shuffle. “Popcorn (Hit Me When You Can)” arguably provides the hardest thrust of John Garcia and the Band of Gold, but “Apache Junction,” which immediately follows, is both the heaviest and the most intriguing as regards arrangement, with guitars echoing out late after slamming out a central riff that’s replete with sonic detailing, bass chugging away beneath effects-laced background vocal layers between lyric lines, and the balance of the mix such that Garcia‘s voice is given an opportunity to cut through the tonal presence surrounding, something that he’s been doing in oft-imitated fashion for over two decades. Unsurprisingly, he nails it.

So will John Garcia and the Band of Gold really be his last record? Yeah, probably not. Even if it’s his last “solo” album for some time, he’s proven restless enough in the past that it’s easy to think maybe he’d work again with Dave Angstrom in Hermano or follow-up on the several reunion gigs Slo Burn did in 2017 with more there. Of the litany of projects he’s been involved in throughout his career, new material would be welcome from just about any of them — which isn’t to mention the perpetually-unfinished business with Unida, a band once stifled by contract woes from releasing what would’ve been their breakthrough album. If John Garcia is going to run out the thread on tour for this release and call it a career, though, what a career to call it. It probably doesn’t help pay the mortgage, but the guy’s legitimately a legend who’s influence has thus far spanned two generations, and John Garcia and the Band of Gold finds him in top form, arguably in better control of his craft than he was when Vista Chino made Peace for the intervening years of writing, touring and singing.

If it’s how he wants to go out, he certainly doesn’t owe anyone anything. But the question, ultimately, is a distraction, and a negative one if it takes anything away from appreciating John Garcia and the Band of Gold on its own level. Among the most crucial statements Garcia makes with the third LP under his name comes from that change in identity. He’s still searching. He’s still trying to find just that right place to inhabit that’s not only his own, but as much about the future as about his storied past. If fronting John Garcia and the Band of Gold is what lets him do that, fine. It worked for his one-time bandmate Brant Bjork for a while when he led Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, also on Napalm Records. And if John Garcia and the Band of Gold does make that happen, it’s even less likely this self-titled will be their last outing. But, just like how at any second his voice might punch the listener upside the head with belted-out desert grit, his future is wholly unpredictable.

John Garcia, “My Everything”

John Garcia on Thee Facebooks

John Garcia on Twitter

Napalm Records webstore

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Conan Announce New Album for 2019; North American Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 26th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Conan make an early play for 2019 tour poster of the year with their 8-bit action that immediately sends the mind reeling with video game possibilities. Imagine an Altered Beast-style Conan game where you become The Sentinel and have to fight the Agoniser on your way to dominating the infinite. Or something. I don’t know. Battle axes would be involved and it would be sweet. I’d break out my USB Super Nintendo-knockoff controller for that. All the way.

Note that the Conan tour set for the earlier part of 2019 wraps up at SXSW. I would expect more plans for Austin to emerge — or not to emerge, if they’re secret plans as sometimes it goes with SXSW — between now and March. It’s been over a decade since I’ve been down that way, but at least the last time I was there, bands rarely showed up, played one gig, and split. Especially those who traveled some distance for it. If you’re going to SXSW, keep an eye out, is all I’m saying.

And of course, Conan have a DIY UK tour set for January as well that The Obelisk is co-presenting with Jon Davis‘ own Blackskull Services, and that’s more than nifty, so as they continue to support 2018’s Existential Void Guardian (review here), I don’t for one second imagine this will be the last tour they announce for the New Year — especially with a new album announced for release sometime in the next 12 months.

Shows are presented by Nanotear:

conan tour

**NEW ALBUM COMING IN 2019** Merry Xmas to all of you. Thanks for an awesome 2018, and here is to a great 2019. January 2019 is an important month for us because we start working on a follow up to Existential Void Guardian. SLAY EVERYONE.

We are delighted to work with Nanotear once more. Behold our US tour dates for Feb and March 2019.

ALL HAIL VOLT THROWER

02.21 Denver CO Hi-Dive
02.22 Salt Lake City UT Soundwell
02.23 Bozeman MT Zebra Lounge
02.25 Edmonton AB Temple
02.26 Calgary AB Palomino
02.28 Vancouver BC Astoria
03.01 Seattle WA Substation*
03.02 Portland OR High Water Mark*
03.03 Eugene OR Old Nick’s
03.04 Sacramento CA Blue Lamp*
03.05 San Francisco CA Parkside*
03.07 Los Angeles CA Catch One*
03.08 San Diego CA Brick by Brick*
03.09 Phoenix AZ Pub Rock
03.10 Albuquerque NM Sister Bar
03.13 El Paso TX Rockhouse
03.15 Austin SXSW Lost Well

Lineup:
Jon Davis – vocals, guitar (2006-present)
Chris Fielding – bass (2013-present)
Johnny King – drums (2017-present)

http://www.hailconan.com/
https://www.facebook.com/hailconan/
https://www.instagram.com/hailconan/
https://conan-conan.bandcamp.com/
https://twitter.com/hailconan
http://label.napalmrecords.com/

Conan, “Volt Thrower” official video

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2018

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

the-top-30-of-2018

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks in advance for reading. Here we go:

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

30. The Skull, The Endless Road Turns Dark

The Skull The Endless Road Turns Dark

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Sept. 12.

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

29. Foghound, Awaken to Destroy

foghound awaken to destroy

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Nov. 21.

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

28. Orange Goblin, The Wolf Bites Back

orange goblin the wolf bites back

Released by Spinefarm Records. Reviewed June 13.

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

27. Fu Manchu, Clone of the Universe

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

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

26. Witch Mountain, Witch Mountain

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

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

25. Windhand, Eternal Return

windhand eternal return

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed Oct. 3.

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

24. Sun Voyager, Seismic Vibes

Sun Voyager Seismic Vibes

Released by King Pizza Records. Reviewed April 18.

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

23. Forming the Void, Rift

forming the void rift

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed July 27.

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

22. Spaceslug, Eye the Tide

spaceslug eye the tide

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

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

21. Conan, Existential Void Guardian

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

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

20. Pale Divine, Pale Divine

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

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

19. Mos Generator, Shadowlands

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

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

18a. Stoned Jesus, Pilgrims

STONED JESUS PILGRIMS

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 5.

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

18. Backwoods Payback, Future Slum

backwoods payback future slum

Self-released. Reviewed Aug. 15.

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

17. Corrosion of Conformity, No Cross No Crown

corrosion of conformity no cross no crown

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Jan. 3

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

16. Naxatras, III

naxatras iii

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 14.

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

15. Clutch, Book of Bad Decisions

clutch book of bad decisions

Released by Weathermaker Music. Reviewed Aug. 27.

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

14. Ancestors, Suspended in Reflections

Ancestors Suspended in Reflections

Released by Pelagic Records. Reviewed Aug. 3.

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

13. High on Fire, Electric Messiah

high on fire electric messiah

Released by eOne Heavy. Reviewed Sept. 28.

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

12. Yawning Man, The Revolt Against Tired Noises

yawning man the revolt against tired noises

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed July 2.

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

11. Greenleaf, Hear the Rivers

greenleaf hear the rivers

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Nov. 26.

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

10. Gozu, Equilibrium

gozu equilibrium

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

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

9. Monster Magnet, Mindfucker

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

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

8. Apostle of Solitude, From Gold to Ash

Apostle of Solitude From Gold to Ash

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

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

7. Holy Grove, Holy Grove II

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

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

6. All Them Witches, ATW

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

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

5. YOB, Our Raw Heart

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

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

4. Brant Bjork, Mankind Woman

brant bjork mankind woman

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Sept. 13.

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

3. Earthless, Black Heaven

earthless black heaven

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed March 15.

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

2. King Buffalo, Longing to Be the Mountain

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

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

1. Sleep, The Sciences

sleep the sciences

Released by Third Man Records. Reviewed May 1.

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

The Next 20

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

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

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

Honorable Mention

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

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

Special Note

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

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

Best Short Release of the Year

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

  • Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard & Slomatics, Totems Split

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

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

Looking Forward

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

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

Okay, That’s It

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

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

So thanks.

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

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

Everybody have a great and safe 2019.

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Stoned Jesus Announce Spring 2019 European Tour Dates

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

STONED JESUS

You’ll note immediately that there are a couple empty dates in the otherwise mostly-full schedule of Stoned Jesus‘ newly-announced Spring 2019 tour that follow a previously announced slot at Desertfest London. That two days off in a row is enough to make me think that they’ll be making the trip over to Desertfest Berlin 2019 as well and it just hasn’t been announced yet, so maybe there are more shows to come all around then. I don’t know how it works announcing one fest and then the other, but it’s been pretty well coordinated in the past to allow each fest to develop their identity, so when or even if for sure Stoned Jesus will be added to Berlin, I couldn’t say.

Either way, Stoned Jesus head out on ‘The Pilgrimage Tour’ suitably enough in support of their 2018 album, Pilgrims (review here), on Napalm Records. And no, this isn’t the last time this week I’ll be talking about that record, so keep an eye out.

From the PR wire:

stoned jesus tour poster

Stoned Jesus will be back on the road next spring, to support “Pilgrims”, their latest album which came out 3 months ago!

The “Pilgrimage Tour 2019” will feature The Devil And The Almighty Blues (*) as support for 3 shows, and Samavayo (++) for the last 6!

20.03.19 (PL) Wroclaw | Pralnia
21.03.19 (PL) Krakow | Zet Pe Te
22.03.19 (PL) Gdynia | Ucho
23.03.19 (PL) Warsaw | Hybrydy
24.03.19 (PL) Poznan | U Bazyla
19.04.19 (LT) Vilnius | Loftas
20.04.19 (LV) Riga | Melna Piektdiena
21.04.19 (EE) Tallinn | Von Khral
22.04.19 (FIN) Helsinki | Elmun Baari
24.04.19 (SWE) Stockholm | Debaser
25.04.19 (NOR) Oslo | Bla
26.04.19 (DK) Copenhagen | Loppen
28.04.19 (D) Hamburg | Knust (*)
29.04.19 (NL) Groningen | Vera (*)
30.04.19 (D) Dresden | Beatpol (*)
01.05.19 (D) Dortmund | Junkyard
02.05.19 (NL) Rotterdam | Baroeg
03.05.19 (NL) Diksmuide | 4AD
04.05.19 (UK) London | Desertfest
07.05.19 (CH) Zürich | Rote Fabrik (++)
08.05.19 (D) Saarbrücken | Garage (++)
09.05.19 (D) Hannover | Lux (++)
10.05.19 (D) Nürnberg | MUZ (++)
11.05.19 (D) Marburg | KFZ (++)
12.05.19 (CZ) Prague | Underdog’s (++)

Line-up:
Ihor Sydorenko – Vocals & Guitars
Serhij Sljussar – Bass
Dmytro Zinchenko – Drums

https://twitter.com/stonedjesusband
https://www.facebook.com/stonedjesusband
https://www.instagram.com/stonedjesusband/
www.napalmrecords.com
www.facebook.com/napalmrecords

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Candlemass Set Feb. 22 Release for The Door to Doom; Tony Iommi Makes Guest Appearance

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

candlemass (photo Anders Palsson)

Have you ever been ridiculously happy on a personal level for someone you’ve never actually met? That’s how I feel for Candlemass bassist, founder and principle songwriter Leif Edling on the occasion of his band having Tony Iommi in for a guest spot on their new record. Candlemass — now past the 30-year mark — reunite with original vocalist Johan Langquist for The Door to Doom, which is out Feb. 22, and they’ve been worshiping Black Sabbath in one way or another pretty much the whole time, so yeah, it seems only fitting. Oh, and of course Iommi sits in on the song about the giant octopus. Because fucking a right he does.

A new record from Candlemass would’ve been a highlight of 2019 in doom anyway. But with Langquist fronting the band and Iommi adding guitar? Yeah, well, I mean, you know, uh, yeah.

From the PR wire:

candlemass the door to doom

CANDLEMASS – New Album The Door To Doom Out February 2019

CANDLEMASS have come full circle: their first singer Johan Langquist (who left the band after singing on the legendary 1986 debut Epicus Doomicus Metallicus) has returned!

Now, the epic doom metal veterans announce their 12th full length album The Door to Doom! The album will be released February 22nd via Napalm Records

The Door To Doom unsurprisingly follows the plotline mastermind, songwriter and bass player Leif Edling established in the past years: epic world class doom metal that relies on slow mammoth riffing. With Johan Langquist`s highly dramatic vocal style and the love for details, the band made this album to the next “Epicus”. This masterpiece is rounded off by a beautiful guest appearance by none other than Black Sabbath`s Tony Iommi on ‘Astorolus – The Great Octopus.’

Tony Iommi on his appearance:
“Candlemass are a major force in Scandinavian heavy rock and have always acknowledged the influence we had on their music. They asked if I’d contribute to a track which sounded pretty good so I thought ‘why not’ “.
Leif Edling states:

“We feel very honoured that Tony Iommi said yes to play the solo on ASTOROLUS. The song was sent to the management and amazingly enough, the master agreed to let his mighty SG sing on the track! For me personally this is a dream come true. Tony Iommi has always been my hero and guiding light when it comes to heavy music, so to hear that he likes the song and also would like to play on it, gave me chills down the spine! I’m still in shock! But kudos to him to be so cool to even listen to it. Hats off! Tony Iommi is and will always be God!”

The Door to Doom Tracklisting:
1. Splendor Demon Majesty
2. Under The Ocean
3. Astorolus – the Great Octopus
4. Bridge Of The Blind
5. Death´s Wheel
6. Black Trinity
7. House Of Doom
8. The Omega Circle

Candlemass are:
Leif Edling: Bass
Mats “Mappe” Björkman: Guitars
Jan Lindh: Drums
Lars “Lasse” Johansson: Guitars
Johan Langquist: Vocals

WWW.FACEBOOK.COM/CANDLEMASS
https://www.instagram.com/CANDLEMASS_SWEDEN/
http://www.candlemass.se/
WWW.NAPALMRECORDS.COM

Candlemass, Epicus Doomicus Metallicus (1986)

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