All Them Witches Announce Lineup Change; Band to Continue as Trio

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 29th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Well, every All Them Witches record has been different from the one before it, and no matter what else happens, that’s bound to be the case with their next one as well. In an announcement posted over the weekend, the Nashville heavy-psych blues forerunners made public the departure of keyboardist Jonathan Draper. Draper was, of course, their second organist, taking the place of founding member Allan Van Cleave, who left the band prior to the recording of their latest album, ATW (review here). The stated intention is to carry on as the core three-piece, though if you have Rhodes and will travel, I wouldn’t not hit them up, since as bassist/vocalist Charles Michael Parks, Jr. says in the statement below, it’s an “indefinite” change. That hardly means forever.

Parks, guitarist Ben McLeod and drummer Robby Staebler certainly want for nothing as regards chemistry between them, so while that dynamic will inherently change without a fourth member, one expects they’ll come through. It might be an album or two getting settled, but the fact that they tour so hard invariably means that if there’s something to figure out musically or in terms of their presentation, they’ll have plenty of opportunity to do so. These guys have earned a good amount of trust in my book at this point.

Here’s what Parks had to say:

all them witches (Photo by Ryan Musick)

Hi there, time to talk about change!

Robby, Ben and I have been making music together for 6 years, and since then we have had an insane array of friends and family come and go through our musical life. We love all of them, we cherish all of them and their time, and talent. We want to celebrate the time we have spent together. Since our formation, the one goal I have had for this band is to be open, vulnerable, and willing to love and adapt to change as it presents itself.

That being said, we have decided to proceed in our musical experience as a 3 piece band, indefinitely. The power trio has been a huge part of rock tradition, and we are happy to join the ranks. I know this may be disappointing to some of you who have known us for awhile, and I fully understand the hesitation when the “known” becomes “unknown.” But what I want to say is, we love music, and there would be no reason for us to go on the road or endure what we endure if not for the transformative power of music. It is an ancient pull, and I don’t know exactly where it comes from, but we are knee deep and wading out.

Sincerely, thank you for supporting and trusting us. We have all rooted ourselves into the lives of each other, us to you, and in kind, you to us. There is no way to describe sharing the band/fan connection every night, but we are overjoyed to experience it with you.

-Parks ATW

http://allthemwitches.bandcamp.com/
http://www.facebook.com/allthemwitches
https://www.instagram.com/allthemwitchesband/
https://twitter.com/allthemwitches
http://www.allthemwitches.org/

All Them Witches, ATW (2018)

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All Them Witches, ATW: When the Process of Becoming Becomes the Process

Posted in Reviews on September 18th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

all them witches atw

It’s been a quick turnaround to get All Them Witches to their fifth album. Based in Nashville, Tennessee, the four-piece have barely held still since the release of their 2012 debut, Our Mother Electricity (review here), issuing what would become a landmark in their second album, 2013’s Lightning at the Door (review here), and then becoming a touring band, signing to New West Records and continuing to press forward to bigger rooms, longer tours and an ever-present slew of digital one-off EP — the latest of which, the Lost and Found EP (review here), arrived earlier this year — singles, live recordings, and so on. Following up 2015’s predominantly mellow and melancholy Dying Surfer Meets His Maker (review here), the band broke with their LP-per-year tradition and released their fourth full-length in last year’s Sleeping Through the War (review here). Though signature elements have been retained — the restless drumming of Robby Staebler, the bluesy jams led by guitarist Ben McLeod, the strong use of Rhodes piano and other keys, the creative basslines and increasingly confident vocals of Charles Michael Parks, Jr. — no two All Them Witches records have sounded alike, and Sleeping Through the War was again a departure.

Produced by Dave Cobb, it was an elaborate production involving background singers, guest instrumentation, and a broader scope than anything the band had yet produced. In their fifth long-player, the 56-minute ATW, they have offered a willful contradiction. McLeod takes the helm as producer — Grant Husselman recorded and Rob Schnapf mixed — and the eight resultant tracks are a distinct pivot toward a more stripped-down, naturalist approach. They eschew choral vibes in favor of the raw boogie of “Fishbelly 86 Onions,” launching the album with a couple telling seconds of show’s-about-to-start noise before kicking into the song itself. Indeed, most of what follows, from the winding turns of “1st vs. 2nd” into the dreamy and jammy reaches of the closing salvo “Harvest Feast,” “HTJC” and “Rob’s Dream,” feels built for the stage, whether it’s uptempo and relatively straightforward like “Half-Tongue” or the memorable and Western-slide-tinged second track “Workhorse,” All Them Witches still manage to cast a varied atmospheric impression while pulling the arrangements back to ground.

No doubt at least a portion of the credit — a fourth, maybe? — for that goes to new keyboardist Jonathan Draper, who here steps into the role formerly occupied by Allan Van Cleave. Those are not minor shoes to fill. In addition to having been a founding member, Van Cleave‘s Rhodes melodies added to the dreamy psychedelic stretches of All Them Witches‘ jams and made their blues all the more resonant. Even more to his credit, Draper lives up to the task, and from the wildman organ in “Fishbelly 86 Onions” and the subtle background tone of “Workhorse,” he makes his presence felt as an essential component alongside Parks, McLeod and Staebler in a fashion that makes the familiar aspect his own. The personality in his playing can be heard in “Half-Tongue” and the post-midsection sprawl of “Harvest Feast,” which tops 11 minutes and follows the moody highlight “Diamond” in order to lead into the back end of the record, and though there’s a sense of his integration still being in-process — that is, one gets the feeling that he’ll have even more to say in the arrangements next time around — he steps into a collection of tracks that stand on the strength of their songwriting and performance and plays a crucial role in letting them do just that.

all them witches

From everyone in the band, there’s a gleeful sense of defiance here. All Them Witches have always enjoyed contradiction — Lightning at the Door was heavy, so Dying Surfer Meets His Maker wasn’t, etc. — but ATW might be their most purposeful one to-date. It is the band reclaiming their identity. No coincidence McLeod is producer on it. After their more elaborate production to-date, they’re keeping it in-house, holding firm to the approach that’s gotten them to where they are and, through these songs, making a statement of what they want to be as a band and how they want their material to function. Granted, that’s an awful lot of narrative to read into it, and it’s not like they have a song called “We’re All Them Witches and You Can Kiss Our Collective Ass” or anything like that, but through the focus on their performance and the sheer will with which they execute “1st vs. 2nd,” “Diamond,” the experimental-feeling “HTJC” — which for much of its run is just Parks‘ vocals in folkish form backed by bass and a gradual, acoustic-laced build — it’s not a stretch to hear that All Them Witches, either consciously or not, are doing the work of regrounding themselves, reaffirming their methods and their desire to play not just in a certain style or styles, but however they want, whenever they want, wherever they want.

In the interest of full disclosure, I was hired to write the bio for the album and spoke to Parks as a part of that process about the songwriting and recording process. But even so, in listening, I keep going back to “Fishbelly 86 Onions.” It’s not like anything else the band brings to ATW, and inarguably their most active moment on the record. As the opener, it’s also an outlier, but in the howl leading into Draper‘s organ solo before the song hits the two-minute mark, there’s so much revelry in the spirit of the track that it’s almost like a breaking out. They’ve busted through whatever confines they were in and are running full sprint toward, what, themselves? I don’t know, but hearing Parks count from one to 20 as part of the lyrics, the fuzz in McLeod‘s guitar and the jazzy swing in Staebler‘s cymbals, there’s a torrential feeling of chaosmaking that’s just so much fun-as-a-statement that it affects everything that follows. The rim-ticks of “Workhorse,” the aggression at root in “1st vs. 2nd,” the storytelling in “Half-Tongue,” the progressive tension in “Diamond,” bluesy range of “Harvest Feast,” glorious wash in the payoff of “HTJC” and meld of psychedelia and classic heavy rocking starts and stops in “Rob’s Dream” — they all seem to draw from the plentiful energetic well of “Fishbelly 86 Onions,” and there’s enough left by the final moments of “Rob’s Dream” that All Them Witches jam their way through an upbeat payoff that finds all four members of the band at the height of their powers, still not overstated, but playing through with the deceptive class and chemistry that, as much as anything else, has become a hallmark of their sound.

Even unto its title, ATW is indicative of the intent on the part of the band to stake their claim on who they are. And it’s not even a full self-titled. It’s the acronym. Nothing extra, nothing more than it wants to be. Of course, they’re still a deeply nuanced band as they’ve always been, and there’s growth in their craft and in their performance, as there’s always been, but that’s all part of what makes All Them Witches who they are. I don’t know whether McLeod will produce their sixth offering or if they’ll once again look to someone outside themselves, if that record will expand on what’s here or draw even further back. One thing it’s never been safe to do is predict where All Them Witches will end up, because while they’ve never stopped moving forward, that “forward” is a path that seems likewise to veer in multiple directions at once. The passion that drives them is not only evident in ATW but key to the album’s overall success, and it’s refreshing to hear a band who, five records deep into their tenure, can sound both mature as a unit and like they’re still only beginning their exploration.

All Them Witches, “Diamond” official video

All Them Witches on Thee Facebooks

All Them Witches on Bandcamp

All Them Witches on Instagram

New West Records website

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Here’s the Bio I Wrote for All Them Witches’ ATW

Posted in Features on August 1st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

all them witches

A couple months back, I had the distinct pleasure of being asked to write the bio for the next All Them Witches album. Titled simply ATW, it’s a marked shift in approach from the preceding Sleeping Through the War (review here) not only in that it marks the introduction of Jonathan Draper on keys, but also in terms of overall production. Helmed by guitarist Ben McLeod, it’s the first time the Nashville four-piece have recorded themselves for a full-length offering. It pulls back on some of its predecessor’s more elaborate, “produced” feel and instead captures the natural interplay between the four members of the band. In short, it’s a more live-sounding, stage-ready album. And obviously I jumped at the chance to write the bio for it.

ATW is out Sept. 28 on New West Records. You can stream the opening track “Fishbelly 86 Onions” at the bottom of this post, and thanks for reading:

all them witches atw

All Them Witches – ATW

By most bands’ fifth LP, the sound is pretty set. Parameters established. Refinement dissipated in favor of formulaic execution of what’s worked in the past. Fair enough. All Them Witches take a harder route.

In 2017, the Nashville four-piece offered what might’ve otherwise become their own template in their fourth album, Sleeping Through The War. Their second for New West Records following 2015’s mellow-vibing Dying Surfer Meets His Maker, Sleeping brought larger production value to dug-in heavy psych blues jamming with oversight from producer Dave Cobb (Jason Isbell, Sturgill Simpson).

After exploring new ground on 2013’s Lightning At The Door and 2012’s Our Mother Electricity as well as Dying Surfer, with Sleeping the band had arrived at something new, something sprawling, and grander-feeling than anything before it.

So naturally, in a year’s time they’ve thrown that all to the Appalachian wind, turned the process completely on its head and reversed paths: recording in a cabin in Kingston Springs, about 20 miles outside of Nashville on I-40, with guitarist Ben McLeod at the helm. Take that, expectation.

The result, mixed by Rob Schnapf (Beck, Elliott Smith, Kurt Vile), is the most intimate, human-sounding album All Them Witches have ever recorded and another redefinition of the band. Introducing keyboardist/percussionist Jonathan Draper to the fold with McLeod, bassist/vocalist Charles Michael Parks, Jr., and drummer/graphic artist Robby Staebler, the new eponymous record isn’t self-titled by mistake. It’s the band confirming and continuing to develop their approach, in the shuffle of “Fishbelly 86 Onions,” the organ-laced groove of “Half-Tongue,” the tense build of “HJTC” and the fluid jam in closer “Rob’s Dream.”

It’s a reaction to being a “bigger” band. To playing bigger shows, bigger tours, etc. From the sustained consonants in Parks’ vocals to McLeod’s commanding slide in “Workhorse” and drifting melancholy at the outset of “Harvest Feast,” All Them Witches is there laying claim to the essential facets of their identity. And the urgency of these tracks – fast pushers and sleepy jams alike – is among their greatest strengths.

It’s a rawer delivery, as stage-ready as the band itself, and as ever, it captures All Them Witches in this moment. Is it who they’ll be tomorrow? Who the hell knows? Check back in and we’ll all find out together. That’s the whole idea.

TRACKLIST:
Fishbelly 86 Onions
Workhorse
1st vs. 2nd
Half-Tongue
Diamond
Harvest Feast
HJTC
Rob’s Dream

All Them Witches is:
Charles Michael Parks, Jr
Ben McLeod
Robby Staebler
Jonathan Draper

http://allthemwitches.bandcamp.com/
http://www.facebook.com/allthemwitches
https://www.instagram.com/allthemwitchesband/
https://twitter.com/allthemwitches
http://www.allthemwitches.org/

All Them Witches, ATW (2018)

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All Them Witches Finish Recording New Album; Tour Starts May 3

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 16th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

In less than a month’s time, All Them Witches will head out on their summer tour supporting Primus and Mastodon. The time crunch would seem to be on for the Nashville four-piece to put the finishing touches on their next album for New West Records by then — you know, little things like mixing and mastering, etc. — but the band has announced that they’ve completed the basic tracking process for the record, which is untitled as of now, and moved on at least to the mixing stage. I don’t know the timing on the release, so whether it gets out around September or sometime early next year, I suppose it could go either way, but after last year’s spectacular Sleeping Through the War (review here), you can bet I’m keeping an eye out.

That said, one never really knows what to expect from All Them Witches, and if you heard Sleeping Through the War and the preceding 2015 LP, Dying Surfer Meets His Maker (review here), back to back, I’m sure you know what I mean. So while I wouldn’t try to predict what’s coming in terms of sound or vibe, the fact that All Them Witches are coming up on their fifth full-length and the fact that no matter what they’ve done so far they haven’t delivered a clunker yet makes me inclined to believe the band when they say, “Have a feeling you guys will like this one” in their brief announcement that the recording is complete.

Find that below, followed by the upcoming tour dates, because one likes to be thorough:

all them witches parks

new album is tracked and headed to mixing! Have a feeling you guys will like this one…stand by

ALL THEM WITCHES Tour Dates:
MAY 3 • Rose Music Hall • COLUMBIA, MO
MAY 4 • Slowdown • OMAHA, NE
MAY 6 • Red Rocks Amphitheater • MORRISON, CO ^
MAY 8 • The Criterion • OKLAHOMA CITY, OK ^
MAY 10 • South Side Ballroom • DALLAS, TX ^
MAY 11 • Austin 360 Amphitheatre • DEL VALLE, TX ^
MAY 12 • Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion • ROGERS, AR ^
MAY 14 • BJCC Concert Hall • BIRMINGHAM, AL ^
MAY 15 • Nashville Municipal Auditorium • NASHVILLE, TN ^
MAY 16 • Fox Theatre • ATLANTA, GA ^
MAY 18 • Portsmouth Pavilion • PORTSMOUTH, VA ^
MAY 19 • Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheater • CHARLOTTE, NC ^
MAY 20 • Red Hat Amphitheater • RALEIGH, NC ^
MAY 22 • Diamond Credit Union Theatre • READING, PA ^
MAY 23 • Artpark Amphitheater • LEWISTON, NY ^
MAY 25 • Cool Insuring Arena • GLENS FALLS, NY ^
MAY 26 • Bold Point Park • EAST PROVIDENCE, RI ^
MAY 27 • Maine State Pier • PORTLAND, ME ^
MAY 29 • Blue Hills Bank Pavilion • BOSTON, MA ^
MAY 30 • Penn’s Landing – Festival Pier • PHILADELPHIA, PA ^
JUN 1 • Stone Pony Summerstage • ASBURY PARK, NJ ^
JUN 2 • Pier Six Pavilion • BALTIMORE, MD ^
JUN 3 • Ford Amphitheater at Coney Island Boardwalk • BROOKLYN, NY ^
^ w/ Primus and Mastodon

All Them Witches is:
Charles Michael Parks, Jr. – Vocals, Bass, Guitar, Mellotron, Percussion
Ben McLeod – Guitar, Bass, Mellotron, Percussion
Robby Staebler – Drums, Percussion
Allan Van Cleave – Rhodes, Organ, Piano, Mellotron

http://allthemwitches.bandcamp.com/
http://www.facebook.com/allthemwitches
https://www.instagram.com/allthemwitchesband/
https://twitter.com/allthemwitches
http://www.allthemwitches.org/

All Them Witches, Lost and Found (2018)

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All Them Witches Release Lost and Found EP; New Album to be Recorded this Spring

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

Nashville’s All Them Witches have released a new free download digital EP and announced they’ll record their next full-length in April. As far as good news goes, it’s hard to fuck with that. Of course, the heavy psych/blues rockers have a long track record of dropping digital outings with little warning — hell, before they signed to New West ahead of 2015’s Dying Surfer Meets His Maker (review here), it was their primary method of release — and over the years, they’ve kept in steady touch with their audience via outings like A Sweet Release (review here), the “George ‘Dubya’ Kush” single (discussed here), their cover of “Born Under a Bad Sign” (discussed here), the Effervescent EP (review here) that later wound up on vinyl, and numerous other live outings and one-offs.

The aspect all these releases share in common? Eventually they go away. That means that if you want the just-released four-tracker Lost and Found — which sees the foursome revisit a couple of the tracks from Dying Surfer Meets His Maker with an alternate version of that album’s opener “Call Me Star” and a dub redux of “Open Passageways,” as well as covering Fleetwood Mac with “Before the Beginning” and putting their stamp on the traditional folk song “Hares on the Mountain” — then you want it now. Because if you wait, it might not be there the next time you look.

After All Them Witches are done in the studio this April, they’ll hit the road in May to tour with Primus and Mastodon. You’ll find those dates below along with their announcement of the new release, the recording info, and of course the thing itself, which you can download right from the Bandcamp player here if you’re so inclined.

And you should be so inclined.

Dig:

all them witches lost and found

Suprise, Suprise! It has been a year since we have released anything. Stoked on this. Enjoy these tunes for FREE.

ATW update, we are hitting the studio in April to record a new full length. Hope this EP holds you over till then.

Thank you for listening and please share. Produced By Ben McLeod. Mixed by Ben McLeod. “Dub Passageways” dubbed by Grant Husselman. Mastered by Mikey Allred at Dark Art Audio. Album art/layout: Robby Staebler. Courtesy of New West Records

Released February 26, 2018.

Tracklisting:
1. Hares On The Mountain 05:46
2. Before The Beginning (Fleetwood Mac) 03:42
3. Call Me Star 04:12
4. Dub Passageways 04:21

ALL THEM WITCHES Tour Dates:
MAY 3 • Rose Music Hall • COLUMBIA, MO
MAY 4 • Slowdown • OMAHA, NE
MAY 6 • Red Rocks Amphitheater • MORRISON, CO ^
MAY 8 • The Criterion • OKLAHOMA CITY, OK ^
MAY 10 • South Side Ballroom • DALLAS, TX ^
MAY 11 • Austin 360 Amphitheatre • DEL VALLE, TX ^
MAY 12 • Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion • ROGERS, AR ^
MAY 14 • BJCC Concert Hall • BIRMINGHAM, AL ^
MAY 15 • Nashville Municipal Auditorium • NASHVILLE, TN ^
MAY 16 • Fox Theatre • ATLANTA, GA ^
MAY 18 • Portsmouth Pavilion • PORTSMOUTH, VA ^
MAY 19 • Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheater • CHARLOTTE, NC ^
MAY 20 • Red Hat Amphitheater • RALEIGH, NC ^
MAY 22 • Diamond Credit Union Theatre • READING, PA ^
MAY 23 • Artpark Amphitheater • LEWISTON, NY ^
MAY 25 • Cool Insuring Arena • GLENS FALLS, NY ^
MAY 26 • Bold Point Park • EAST PROVIDENCE, RI ^
MAY 27 • Maine State Pier • PORTLAND, ME ^
MAY 29 • Blue Hills Bank Pavilion • BOSTON, MA ^
MAY 30 • Penn’s Landing – Festival Pier • PHILADELPHIA, PA ^
JUN 1 • Stone Pony Summerstage • ASBURY PARK, NJ ^
JUN 2 • Pier Six Pavilion • BALTIMORE, MD ^
JUN 3 • Ford Amphitheater at Coney Island Boardwalk • BROOKLYN, NY ^
^ w/ Primus and Mastodon

All Them Witches is:
Charles Michael Parks, Jr. – Vocals, Bass, Guitar, Mellotron, Percussion
Ben McLeod – Guitar, Bass, Mellotron, Percussion
Robby Staebler – Drums, Percussion
Allan Van Cleave – Rhodes, Organ, Piano, Mellotron

http://allthemwitches.bandcamp.com/
http://www.facebook.com/allthemwitches
https://www.instagram.com/allthemwitchesband/
https://twitter.com/allthemwitches
http://www.allthemwitches.org/

All Them Witches, Lost and Found (2018)

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All Them Witches to Tour with Primus and Mastodon

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 5th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

ALL THEM WITCHES

As Joe Biden once leaned over on mic and told Barack Obama: This is a big fucking deal.

Continuing to support what was my pick for 2017 album of the year in Sleeping Through the War (review here) on New West Records, Nashville four-piece All Them Witches head out beginning May 3 to pick up a few nights later and serve as the support slot for no less than Primus and Mastodon. Let’s be honest, this is a fucking incredible gig to get, and All Them Witches have been putting in their time the last couple years touring at home and abroad and releasing killer records all the while to make it happen, so all the best and nothing less to them. There isn’t a doubt in my mind they’ll absolutely kill it on this tour and turn a lot of heads among those who show up early to see either of the two acts above them on the bill, appealingly individualized and still heavy as their style is.

Yeah, I’m sorry. There’s just no way this doesn’t rule. I doubt they’ll see this but on the off-chance they do: congrats guys. Hope to catch you in Providence, Boston or NJ. Or, you know, maybe all three. Ha.

News came through the PR wire:

primus mastodon poster

ALL THEM WITCHES – Primus and Mastodon Tour Announced

We are going on tour with Primus AND Mastodon May 6th – June 3rd!
Tickets are on sale now.

For a full list of tour dates, head over to AllThemWitches.org

Upcoming Tour Dates:
MAY 3 • Rose Music Hall • COLUMBIA, MO
MAY 4 • Slowdown • OMAHA, NE
MAY 6 • Red Rocks Amphitheater • MORRISON, CO ^
MAY 8 • The Criterion • OKLAHOMA CITY, OK ^
MAY 10 • South Side Ballroom • DALLAS, TX ^
MAY 11 • Austin 360 Amphitheatre • DEL VALLE, TX ^
MAY 12 • Walmart Arkansas Music Pavilion • ROGERS, AR ^
MAY 14 • BJCC Concert Hall • BIRMINGHAM, AL ^
MAY 15 • Nashville Municipal Auditorium • NASHVILLE, TN ^
MAY 16 • Fox Theatre • ATLANTA, GA ^
MAY 18 • Portsmouth Pavilion • PORTSMOUTH, VA ^
MAY 19 • Charlotte Metro Credit Union Amphitheater • CHARLOTTE, NC ^
MAY 20 • Red Hat Amphitheater • RALEIGH, NC ^
MAY 22 • Diamond Credit Union Theatre • READING, PA ^
MAY 23 • Artpark Amphitheater • LEWISTON, NY ^
MAY 25 • Cool Insuring Arena • GLENS FALLS, NY ^
MAY 26 • Bold Point Park • EAST PROVIDENCE, RI ^
MAY 27 • Maine State Pier • PORTLAND, ME ^
MAY 29 • Blue Hills Bank Pavilion • BOSTON, MA ^
MAY 30 • Penn’s Landing – Festival Pier • PHILADELPHIA, PA ^
JUN 1 • Stone Pony Summerstage • ASBURY PARK, NJ ^
JUN 2 • Pier Six Pavilion • BALTIMORE, MD ^
JUN 3 • Ford Amphitheater at Coney Island Boardwalk • BROOKLYN, NY ^

^ w/ Primus and Mastodon

All Them Witches is:
Charles Michael Parks, Jr. – Vocals, Bass, Guitar, Mellotron, Percussion
Ben McLeod – Guitar, Bass, Mellotron, Percussion
Robby Staebler – Drums, Percussion
Allan Van Cleave – Rhodes, Organ, Piano, Mellotron

http://allthemwitches.bandcamp.com/album/sleeping-through-the-war
http://www.facebook.com/allthemwitches
https://www.instagram.com/allthemwitchesband/
https://twitter.com/allthemwitches
http://www.allthemwitches.org/

All Them Witches, “Bulls” official video

All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War (2017)

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2017

Posted in Features on December 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

top-30-of-2017

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 2017 to that, please do.

We’re almost at the finish line for 2017, and if I’m honest, it’s not a minute too soon. I think if one more record comes out this year my head is going to explode.

A perpetual onslaught of cool music is, of course, nothing to complain about. It just seemed like every time I thought I had a handle on where the year was going, some other announcement came through and knocked me on my ass. What’s that? The Obsessed are putting out their first album in more than two decades? Oh and Monolord have a new one coming? Radio Moscow just signed to Century Media? Arc of Ascent are back? Samsara Blues Experiment are back? Causa Sui are putting out a live album and a studio album? Sasquatch are going to Europe and sneaking a record along with them? All of a sudden I’m out of breath feeling like I just ran a lap.

It’s been madness this year. Between an emergent neo-psych movement in the wake of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and others, and the ongoing and constant reshaping of doom and heavy rock from practitioners new and old, I don’t know how anyone could ever claim to keep up with any of it.

You know I do the best I can, so when you look through this list, please keep in mind that these are my picks and the result of applying my own standard, which if you’ve ever seen a list on this site before you probably already know is a combination of things like what I view as being important on a critical level and things like what kept me coming back as a listener. What were the year’s biggest releases and what couldn’t I get enough of? Sometimes those two things come together around one record and it’s beautiful. That’s usually your album of the year, or close to, anyhow.

No sense in delaying further. I hope if you haven’t heard some of this stuff you’ll give it a shot, and if you have something you felt strongly about it, you’ll let me know in the comments. Thanks in advance for keeping it civil, and of course for reading.

Here goes:

30. Geezer, Psychoriffadelia
geezer psychoriffadelia

Released by Kozmik Artifactz and STB Records. Reviewed May 16.

Coming off of what was their strongest album to-date in their 2016 self-titled (review here), New York heavy psych blues trio Geezer decided it was time to take the groove for a walk. And so they did. Psychoriffadelia is the result — a looser collection of jams and willfully unrefined heavy blues, reveling in the politically incorrect on “Dirty Penny” only after basking in the post-Monster Magnet hypnosis of “Red Hook” and the earlier roll of the more straightforward “Hair of the Dog” and “Stressknots.” Everything Geezer has done to this point has pushed their sound to new places. Psychoriffadelia is no exception.

29. Orango, The Mules of Nana

orango the mules of nana

Released by Stickman Records. Reviewed March 27.

More than a touch of twang on opener “Heartland” sets a tone of Americana-infusion for Orango‘s sixth LP, The Mules of Nana, but the 10-tracker is ultimately much more about harmony-laced classic heavy smoothness than playing to prairie-minded sensibilities, though roots spread wide through a natural, dirty blues just the same. However they get there, “Hazy Chain of Mountains,” the softshoe-ready funk of “Head on Down” and the peacefully progressive finish of “Ghost Rider” bring ’70s-style thrills in songwriting and their precise, gorgeous execution. Underrated record from an underappreciated band.

28. Radio Moscow, New Beginnings

radio moscow new beginnings

Released by Century Media. Reviewed Oct. 6.

Cali boogie kingpins and all-around marvelous frenetic bastards Radio Moscow were in top form on their Century Media debut, and if it was a new beginning they were searching for, they met it head on with a sound as classic and organic as ever. Arguably the most powerful power trio in their game, they tore through cuts like “No One Knows Where They’ve Been” and “Deceiver” while offering flourish in the trip-out “Woodrose Morning” and subdued blues-psych on the penultimate “Pick up the Pieces.” Very much to form, but cast of a form that still manages to outclass all challengers.

27. Spaceslug, Time Travel Dilemma

spaceslug time travel dilemma

Released by Southcave Records, BSFD Records and Oak Island Records. Reviewed Feb. 10.

And so here we have the first of what will no doubt be several records about which I’m going to say they should be higher on the list. Poland’s Spaceslug have emerged from the moist ground created by their own tonality and on their sophomore full-length, they proffered warm depth of fuzz and a corresponding melodic and psychedelic reach that was resonant even before they brought in ex-Sungrazer bassist Sander Haagmans for a guest spot on the title-track. It’s been out for 10 months and still delivers every time I put it on, which is often.

26. Mothership, High Strangeness

mothership high strangeness
Released by Ripple Music and Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed March 7.

Three albums into a tenure marked by hard-driving riffs, scorching solos and relentless road work, there’s little Texas trio Mothership need to do at this point to prove themselves to their audience. At the same time, High Strangeness brought considerable expansion to their range overall, whether it was the exploratory “Eternal Trip” or the semi-metallic insistence behind “Midnight Express,” while staying tied together with lyrical and instrumental hooks. High Strangeness set a new standard for Mothership, plain and simple, and easily surpassed the considerable accomplishments of their 2012 self-titled debut (review here) and 2014’s Mothership II (review here).

25. Eternal Black, Bleed the Days

eternal black bleed the days

Released by Obsidian Sky Records. Reviewed Aug. 1.

There was a lot about Eternal Black‘s Bleed the Days that chugged its way into the post-Wino oeuvre of US-style trad doom, but the gruff, lumbering and impeccably riffed outing was nonetheless one of 2017’s best debut full-lengths, and it was the songwriting that got it there. Already sounding sure in the vibe captured, cuts like the plodding brooder “Sea of Graves” and “Stained Eyes on a Setting Sun” showed potential in mood and atmosphere as much as sheer sonic heft — though of course there was plenty of that to go around as well. Doomers missed it at their peril.

24. Kadavar, Rough Times

kadavar rough times

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Sept. 6.

It kind of feels like a slight to have Berlin trio Kadavar appear anywhere outside of at least a top 10 on any kind of list whatsoever, ever, but that’s not my intention at all. Rather, their fourth album and third for Nuclear Blast found them at an important stage in their progression — past the novelty of the vintage feel in their early work, after having proven their songwriting could translate to a modern context, and embarking on a process of expanding their sound. Rough Times, which was as current as current could be, met that goal and beat it easily with a barrage of memorable choruses and a dark streak one could only consider suitable for our age.

23. Shroud Eater, Strike the Sun

shroud eater strike the sun

Released by STB Records. Reviewed June 28.

The biggest surprise about Shroud Eater‘s long-awaited sophomore long-player was also its most encouraging aspect — namely how it found the Miami trio bringing together various impulses shown on a number of shorter releases over the course of the six years since their debut, ThunderNoise (review here), came out in 2011, and still managed to utterly crush when it so chose. With a swath from sludge to drone and back again, this was no minor feat, and that the songs they brought to bear were so memorable at their heart as well makes me hope all the more it’s not 2023 before their third album arrives.

22. Enslaved, E

enslaved e

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Oct. 4.

What’s left to say about Norwegian progressive black metal innovators Enslaved 14 records into their career? Plenty as it turns out. The introduction of new keyboardist/vocalist Håkon Vinje in place of Herbrand Larsen brought a new twist on a signature element of Enslaved‘s approach. Vinje utterly owned his role, and his performance alongside guitarist Ivar Bjørnson, bassist/vocalist Grutle Kjellson, guitarist Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal and drummer Cato Bekkevold resulted in a fresh urgency that made the band’s sound even more potent and set their ongoing creative evolution on a new branch of its self-directed path.

21. Arc of Ascent, Realms of the Metaphysical

arc-of-ascent-realms-of-the-metaphysical

Released by Astral Projection and Clostridium Records. Reviewed April 6.

Some five years on from 2012’s The Higher Key (review here) and seven out from their debut, Circle of the Sun (review here), and with bassist/vocalist Craig Williamson firmly entrenched in his always excellent Lamp of the Universe psych-drone-folk solo-project, I wasn’t sure there would be another offering from New Zealand heavy psych-rock trio Arc of Ascent, but Realms of the Metaphysical took shape from an ether of riffs and echoes atop resilient underlying structures and revitalized the group with new drummer Mark McGeady in the lineup with Williamson and guitarist Matt Cole-Baker. Remains to be seen if this marks a priority shift for Williamson or it’s a one-off, but its arrival was welcome either way.

20. Causa Sui, Vibraciones Doradas

causa sui vibraciones doradas

Released by El Paraiso Records. Reviewed Oct. 20.

With the various glories already offered in 2017 on the Live in Copenhagen (review here) 3LP, one didn’t necessarily expect a new studio outing from Danish instrumental psych masters Causa Sui, but Vibraciones Doradas found them as vibrant as ever, bringing forth a surprising amount of tonal weight on songs like “El Fuego,” warm fuzz for the basking on opener “The Drop” and spaciousness on the closing title-track. Somewhat more straight-ahead in its rocking groove than 2016’s Return to Sky (review here), the five-track/38-minute long-player showed yet again why Causa Sui are always welcome and that any news of a new release from them, live, studio, whatever, is good news. This was the kind of record that could make your day if you let it.

19. Telekinetic Yeti, Abominable

telekinetic yeti abominable

Released by Sump Pump Records. Reviewed April 10.

The Iowa-based duo of guitarist/vocalist Alex Baumann and drummer Anthony Dreyer, operating as Telekinetic Yeti, released what I considered to be the debut of the year, both for the fullness of its tonality and the accomplishment in songcraft it already showed. Powered by cuts like its lumbering title-track and the gloriously fuzzed runner “Stoned and Feathered,” it could’ve been another band’s second or third record for the level of cohesion on display and the obvious awareness on the part of the band of what they wanted to do with their sound and the just-as-obvious result of their bringing it to life.

18. Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kozmic Dust

cloud catcher trails of kozmic dust

Released by Totem Cat Records. Reviewed Dec. 9, 2016.

While I admit I’m still not 100 percent certain on whether to spell “kozmic” in the title with a ‘k’ or with a ‘c’ on the end, that question did nothing ultimately to diminish enjoyment of Denver emergents Cloud Catcher‘s sophomore outing. Topped off by one of the best album covers of the year, the follow-up to their 2015 debut, Enlightened Beyond Existence (discussed here), took the progressive casting of that record to a place entirely more raw and rock-driven, willfully roughing up the edges even as it showed marked creative growth on a relatively quick turnaround. The must-hear bass tone of “Beyond the Electric Sun” and “Super Acid Magick” was icing on a cake of choice riffing and Hendrixian lead swirl, and the shuffle they elicited was enough to make even the most stubborn of asses (i.e. mine) think about moving.

17. Ruby the Hatchet, Planetary Space Child

ruby the hatchet planetary space child

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Aug. 29.

After the neo-garage manifestations of their 2015 sophomore outing, Valley of the Snake (review here), it was clear Philly psych rockers Ruby the Hatchet were a force when it came to songwriting. What was less obvious was what they’d do with that going forward. On Planetary Space Child, at least, the answer is they’ll take it to Freaktown. The melody-happy, organ-laced swirlmasters conjured presence kosmiche enough to justify the album’s title, and around the cast-in-moon-rock structures of the swinging “Pagan Ritual” and the playfully doomed “Symphony of the Night,” Ruby the Hatchet built a multifaceted weirdoist triumph the likes of which simply doesn’t come along every year, establishing themselves as more reliable and less predictable than ever: an absolute win.

16. Alunah, Solennial

alunah solennial

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 1.

It’s been the case more or less all along with UK forest rockers Alunah that their nature-minded material and heavy rolling grooves have had their haunting aspects, but with the production of Conan‘s Chris Fielding behind it, Solennial — their fourth LP and first on Svart — brought this to new levels entirely. The songs, memorable like footprints in the woods, are somewhat bittersweet in context now, since founding guitarist/vocalist Sophie Day announced in September she was leaving the band, but as the group will move forward led by guitarist Dave Day and recently acquired new singer Siân Greenaway, intrigue remains high at what the future might bring and the impact of Solennial is undiminished.

15. Mindkult, Lucifer’s Dream

mindkult-lucifers-dream

Released by Transcending Obscurity Records and Caligari Records.

Virginia-based doomgazing garage cult solo-project Mindkult has thus far managed to keep some of the mystique around its sole inhabitant, Fowst, which is admirable in a way. As the multi-instrmentalist, vocalist and producer this year answered the promise of last year’s Witch’s Oath (review here) debut, he did so around a swath of purposeful miseries, loose devil worship and other dark thematics, casting an atmospheric darkness matched head-on by the tonal murk of his riffs. Through this, however, the songwriting was no less memorable than on the first offering, and as the project moves forward, one can only hope that Fowst will continue to use that as the core aspect buried six feet under his other, formidable stylistic achievements. That certainly was how it worked out on Lucifer’s Dream.

14. Argus, From Fields of Fire

argus from fields of fire
Released by Cruz del Sur Music. Reviewed Sept. 1.

Behold ye perhaps the most underrated band in heavy metal. Regardless of subgenre, style, strata, whatever, it’s hard to listen to From Fields of Fire and think of Pittsburgh’s Argus as anything else. The five-piece’s fourth album continued to owe part of its sound to doom, but was much more encompassing than simply that, touching on aspects of classic metal with a command that left one wondering how they hadn’t yet been tapped to open for Judas Priest on that band’s next tour. Victory abounds on a per-song basis throughout the nine-tracker, and whether it was the emotional crux of “Hour of Longing” or the catchy fistpump righteousness of “Devils of Your Time” or the 11-minute progressive reach of “Infinite Lives/Infinite Doors,” Argus once again crafted a work nigh-unmatched in poise and class.

13. Uffe Lorenzen, Galmandsværk

Uffe-Lorenzen-Galmandsvaerk

Released by Bad Afro Records. Reviewed Nov. 6.

For the first outing ever to be issued under his real name, Denmark’s Uffe Lorenzen — aka Lorenzo Woodrose of garage-psych pioneers Baby Woodrose — danced between acid folk singer-songwriterisms like “Flippertøs” and more expansive jamming on “På Kanten Af Verden,” all the while retaining his distinct structural and arrangement sensibilities and creating a flowing vibe that was nothing less than a pure joy of classic-form psychedelia. The most serene and pastoral freakout one was likely to witness in 2017, easily, Galmandsværk resounded in the Mellotron-laced “Høj Som Et Højhus” and was no less at home in the acoustic spaciousness of the earlier “Remits Tyranni,” able to wander where it pleased and find steady ground in molten surroundings.

12. The Flying Eyes, Burning of the Season

the flying eyes burning of the season

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Oct. 11.

A welcome return from a viciously underappreciated band, The Flying EyesBurning of the Season marked the Baltimore four-piece’s first offering for Ripple Music and first since 2013’s Lowlands (review here), a four-year stretch during which the band kept busy touring Europe and South America, the latter also being where they recorded these songs with Gabriel Zander at Estudio Superfuzz in Brazil. The tonal depth resulting from that process was enough to make the collection a highlight, but it was the songs themselves that most stood out, benefiting from the band’s expanded reach and legitimate, hard-won maturity. Especially for a group who’ve done so much work on the road over their years — to be fair, the US has been pretty low priority in that regard — they remain a secret kept too well.

11. Bell Witch, Mirror Reaper

bell witch mirror reaper

Released by Profound Lore. Reviewed Dec. 27.

Doomed extremity simply unmatched in its scope. The song of the year for 2017. An accomplishment the likes of which is prone to happen maybe once or twice in a generation. None of this seems to really speak to the entirety of the achievement that is Bell Witch‘s Mirror Reaper — the single-song, 83-minute full-length issued by the Seattle duo like a challenge in the face of mortality itself. Beautiful, devastating and weighted like the grave, its sprawl utterly consumed the listener, and I firmly believe it will be years before its depths are fully processed. Some offerings are bigger than the year in which they’re released. Mirror Reaper would seem to function on a scale of its own, and though it could easily be read as a litmus test for audience punishment, the truth of the listening experience is both more emotionally complex and more fulfilling than simple hyperbole can capture.

10. Monolord, Rust

monolord rust

Released by RidingEasy Records. Reviewed Oct. 26.

The story all along with Gothenburg’s Monolord has been tone. Tone tone tone. Crush crush crush. Riffs riffs riffs. Nothing wrong with any of that, but their third album, Rust, proves once and for all that there’s more to the trio than “cool riffs bro” and post-Electric Wizard nod. Catchy cuts like “Dear Lucifer” and rolling opener “Where Death Meets the Sea” brought a sense of space leading to the later sprawl of “Forgotten Lands” and “At Niceae,” and the band settled into an individualized, lumbering psychedelia that moved forward from 2015’s Vænir (review here), not leaving behind the heft that earned them their reputation, but not at all being limited by it either in scope or overall approach. Three records in, Rust brought forth Monolord‘s greatest sonic expansion yet and gave rise to the feeling that their true potential was just starting to come to fruition. Also, crush crush crush. Cool riffs, bro.

9. Vokonis, The Sunken Djinn

vokonis-the-sunken-djinn

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed June 5.

The Sunken Djinn is Vokonis‘ second full-length in as many years, and in addition to serving as their Ripple debut where 2016’s Olde One Ascending (review here) landed via Ozium Records, it was a feast for hungry riff hounds. In defiance of its quick turnaround, it showed a firm evolution taking place within the upstart Swedish trio of guitarist/vocalist Simon Ohlsson, bassist/backing vocalist Jonte Johansson and drummer Emil Larsson, whose range overall was greater in tracks like “Rapturous” and the torrential “Blood Vortex” while nonetheless controlled in its delivery. Their Sleep-y origins still a factor sound-wise, Vokonis were able just the same to push themselves ahead into new sonic ground in fittingly lumbering fashion, and the character they brought to “The Sunken Djinn,” “Calling from the Core” and the noise-caked “Maelstroem” seemed to speak to a burgeoning sense of atmospheric focus taking hold as well. Still so much potential here.

8. Electric Moon, Stardust Rituals

electric moon stardust rituals

Released by Sulatron Records. Reviewed April 7.

Do I even need to remotely justify having Electric Moon‘s first studio album in six years on this list? Was it not just like a love-letter issued by the cosmos itself? What more explanation could possibly be necessary? Not that the German trio haven’t dropped copious, glorious live outings all the while, but to have Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt, “Komet Lulu” Neudeck and Marcus Schnitzler follow-up 2011’s The Doomsday Machine (review here) with four cuts culminating in the 22-minute sprawl of “(You Will) Live Forever Now” was high on the list of the year’s most satisfying psychedelic journeys. Constantly exploring, their methods always seem geared toward finding the molten essence of space rock itself, and though the songs on Stardust Rituals were a little more crafted than some of their straight-up improv jams, they nonetheless showed there are many avenues one might take to get to the heart of the sun.

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

sun-blood-stories-it-runs-around-the-room-with-us

Self-released. Reviewed May 1.

This one is personal, and by that I mean I love this fucking band. Similar to my experience with their 2015 sophomore outing, Twilight Midnight Morning (review here), the third record by Boise-based trio of Ben Kirby (vocals, guitar, synth, percussion), Amber Pollard (vocals, guitar, theremin, percussion) and Jon Fust (drums, keys, percussion, noise) was one that I simply could not put down. Even now, seeing the name of the record is all I need to have songs like “The Great Destroyer” and the immersive midsection in “Come Like Rain” and “Time Like Smoke” stuck in my head, let alone the ultra-brazen, searingly-pissed “Burn” noise assault that finished the album and in the span of 90 seconds turned all the psychedelic warmth and serenity on its face with a visceral anger completely unforeseen and jarring, turning it from a depth-laden execution of adventurous neo-psych and indie into a project of conceptual artistry with all the efficiency of the chemical reaction it sought to portray. If you missed it, your loss.

6. The Atomic Bitchwax, Force Field

the-atomic-bitchwax-force-field

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Dec. 7.

Songs like “Alaskan Thunder Fuck,” “Humble Brag” and “Earth Shaker (Which Doobie U Be?)” assured that the defining character of Force Field, the sixth album from New Jersey’s The Atomic Bitchwax, was pure scorch. That made the 12-cut outing a more than worthy follow-up for 2015’s  Gravitron (review here), which introduced this more speed-rock-minded, aggressive delivery from the tight-as-nails trio, and while they proved they could still lock in a slower groove on the organ-topped finisher “Liv a Little,” head-spinners like the instrumental “Fried, Dyed and Layin’ to the Side” and “Houndstooth” came across like the fruit of the band pushing themselves to the limits of their physical ability in terms of tempo, and their ride along the edge of that line brought thrills at every turn. And make no mistake, there were a lot of turns. Fortunately, bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik, guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan and drummer Bob Pantella seemingly had a corresponding hook in their pocket for each one of them. This band is a national treasure.

5. Atavismo, Inerte

atavismo inerte

Released by Temple of Torturous. Reviewed Feb. 21.

Warm, fuzzy tones, rhythmic shifts right out of classic progressive rock, melodic intricacy and periodic excursions into glorious psychedelic drift: I’m not sure what wasn’t to like about Inerte, Atavismo‘s second full-length behind 2014’s Desintegración (review here). Comprising five tracks of unmistakable flow and jam-laden fluidity, it was immersive with landmarks along the way to keep the listener from getting too lost, and whether or not one spoke Spanish, the three-piece of Jose “Poti” Moreno (ex-Viaje a 800Mind!), bassist/vocalist Mateo and drummer/vocalist Sandri Pow (also ex-Mind!) made it easy to follow along their purposefully meandering path, offering guidance no less skillful on the 11-minute fuzz-freaker “El Sueño” than the dream-toned linear build of “Belleza Cuatro.” There were very, very few albums I listened to more this year than this one, which is precisely why it is where it is on this list.

4. Samsara Blues Experiment, One with the Universe

samsara-blues-experiment-one-with-the-universe

Released by Electric Magic Records and Abraxas Records. Reviewed May 4.

Four years between records isn’t at all an unheard of stretch. It’s not the longest on this list by any means. But with Berlin heavy psych rockers Samsara Blues Experiment, it really seemed like the band was done, so to have them come back with such force on One with the Universe was, as I know I said at several points throughout the last 12 months, one of the year’s total highlights. Tracked by former bassist Richard Behrens, the group’s fourth album answered the extended-track spread of 2013’s Waiting for the Flood (review here) with a deeper sense of sonic variety, and while the 15-minute title-cut and opener “Vispassana” still had plenty of room for jamming out and even six-minute centerpiece “Glorious Daze” found room for some flourish of organ and sitar, guitarist/vocalist Christian Peters, drummer Thomas Vedder and bassist Hans Eiselt rightly featured the chemistry they’ve built as a trio live and brought to the songs a renewed sense of vigor, sounding — and hopefully being — truly inspired. Waiting for the Flood capped a period of marked productivity across several years. Fingers crossed One with the Universe begins that cycle anew.

3. Elder, Reflections of a Floating World

Elder-Reflections-of-a-Floating-World

Released by Armageddon Shop and Stickman Records. Reviewed May 23.

You just can’t consider Elder‘s Reflections of a Floating World outside the context of the progressive achievement that was their prior outing, 2015’s Lore (review here). Where the trio — based now between Massachusetts and Berlin, Germany — took their first two outings, 2008’s self-titled debut (discussed here) and 2011’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here), to find their sound, which they began to showcase on the 2012 Spires Burn/Release EP (review here), it was Lore that brought to fruition the potential that had always been waiting to be unleashed by the trio of guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto, and Reflections of a Floating World had the daunting task of being the next further step from that landmark moment. To say the band rose to the occasion is perhaps to undersell the cohesion at work in consuming-but-cohesive pieces like opener “Sanctuary” or “Blind” or “Staving off the Truth,” which brought together clear-headed psychedelia around a wash that seemed to stem as much from rhythm as melody. As they’ve matured stylistically and become a major touring presence, Elder have made themselves perhaps the most pivotal American heavy rock act going, and Reflections of a Floating World brings them to the discovery of yet another apex while at the same time giving zero indication it will be the last one they find.

2. Colour Haze, In Her Garden

colour haze in her garden

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed March 9.

Of course, the bonus of writing about Colour Haze in just about any context is that you get to put Colour Haze on while you’re doing it, and in the case of the 12th LP from these Munich heavy psych forebears, that’s an even more appealing prospect. After stripping down some of the arrangement flourish with 2014’s To the Highest Gods We Know (review here), the 13-track/73-minute 2LP In Her Garden brought a revitalized sonic expansion, but as ever, it wasn’t just the horns or the strings or the blend of keys and acoustics that made In Her Garden the unbridled joy that it was and continues to be — it was the underlying performance from guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek, bassist Philipp Rasthofer and drummer Manfred Merwald that gave the album the stem on which its garden grew. That’s not to say Jan Faszbender‘s work on modular synth, Rhodes, and Hammond or the arrangements of strings, tuba, bass-clarinet and trombone throughout hurt anything, just that as Colour Haze have grown into incorporating these elements into their groundbreaking aesthetic, they haven’t left behind the organic chemistry and necessary live feel that has helped them influence a generation of followers over their more than 20-year career. One came through as much as the other on In Her Garden, and that balance gave the overarching warmth of their self-recorded tonality yet another level on which to engage their audience. I’ll be a sucker for Colour Haze for as long as I live, and I have absolutely no problem admitting to and owning that.

1. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War

all them witches sleeping through the war

Released by New West Records. Reviewed Jan. 27.

It was clear early on that Nashville four-piece All Them Witches were contending hard for Album of the Year with Sleeping Through the War, their fourth long-player and second for New West following the mellow vibes of 2015’s Dying Surfer Meets His Maker (review here). What finally sealed it? The songs. Working with producer Dave Cobb, the each-member-essential lineup of bassist/vocalist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod, key-specialist Allan van Cleave (Rhodes, Mellotron, piano, organ, etc.) and drummer/graphic artist Robby Staebler solidified their approach in exciting new ways on early cuts like the grunge-crunching “Don’t Bring Me Coffee” and the shuffling “Bruce Lee,” which hit in succession following the fluid lead-in of opener “Bulls,” an introduction of the organic psychedelia and heavy blues that the loose-swinging of “3-5-7″‘s nigh-on-gospel chorus and subsequent, almost maddeningly catchy “Am I Going Up?” would continue to push outward, thereby setting a linear course into a consciousness-capturing side B with “Alabaster” and the jammier “Cowboy Kirk” and “Internet” playing between melodic nuance and mindful, go-with-it drift. The unflinching strength of the material was matched perhaps only by the understatement of its delivery, which was the more staggering considering how easily the arrangements of background vocals on “Am I Going Up?” or  “3-5-7” could have come through as overblown or self-indulgent, and by the time they got down to the light weirdo-bluesy stomp of “Internet” — the key lyric and hook being, “Guess I’ll go live on the internet” — there was no doubting the genuine nature of the realization Sleeping Through the War represented for All Them Witches. Coupling that feeling of achievement with the sheer repeatability of the listening experience itself left no doubt that 2017 belonged to these tracks and the marvelous way the band wove between them, and that whatever other sounds All Them Witches may go on to explore and whatever else they may accomplish as a result, Sleeping Through the War was a truly special moment in their evolution that, as with the best of offerings in any year, will continue to resonate long after the calendar page has turned.

The Next 20

You know, I used to feel like once you got past a top 20, the numbers were arbitrary. Then I felt that way about the top 30. This year, I think I agonized more about what to include in numbers 31-50 than I did between 30 and the album of the year. Put that in your “go figure” file while you chew on these picks:

31. Cities of Mars, Temporal Rifts
32. The Midnight Ghost Train, Cypress Ave.
33. Snowy Dunes, Atlantis
34. Rozamov, This Mortal Road
35. PH, Eternal Hayden
36. Sasquatch, Maneuvers
37. Young Hunter, Dayhiker
38. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, II
39. Ufomammut, 8
40. John Garcia, The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues
41. Paradise Lost, Medusa
42. Beastmaker, Inside the Skull
43. Arduini / Balich, Dawn of Ages
44. Primitive Man, Caustic
45. Motorpsycho, The Tower
46. Arbouretum, Song of the Rose
47. Hymn, Perish
48. Youngblood Supercult, The Great American Death Rattle
49. Pallbearer, Heartless
50. Dool, Here Now There Then

There’s so, so much good stuff here. So much. The Cities of Mars debut was a treasure and the only reason it wasn’t on my top debuts list was because I haven’t had the chance to go back in and put it on. The Young Hunter record? Some of their best work yet. Hell, that Arduini / Balich album alone! Then you’ve got huge releases by Pallbearer, Ufomammut, Paradise Lost, Primitive Man, on and on. Like I said at the outset, one more album and my head was gonna explode this year. Way too much to ever hope to keep up with. One thing though I felt like I really wanted to emphasize including was Dool. They’re in the last spot, but make no mistake, in atmosphere and songwriting that album was something really special and loaded with potential. It’s not there because it came in last. It’s there to highlight the point of how much it should be on this list.

What’s that? More records? Okay…

Honorable Mentions

In case you also weren’t completely overwhelmed this year, maybe another batch of records will do the trick. Here’s some presented alphabetically:

Anathema, The Optimist
Blackfinger, When Colors Fade Away
Child, Blueside
Cortez, The Depths Below
Demon Eye, Prophecies and Lies
Elbrus, Elbrus
Electric Wizard, Wizard Bloody Wizard
Ecstatic Vision, Raw Rock Fury
Five Horse Johnson, Jake Leg Boogie
Mirror Queen, Verdigris
The Obsessed, Sacred
T.G. Olson, Foothills Before the Mountain
Outsideinside, Sniff a Hot Rock
Queens of the Stone Age, Villains
Siena Root, A Dream of Lasting Peace
Six Organs of Admittance, Burning the Threshold
Steak, No God to Save
Summoner, Beyond the Realm of Light
Valborg, Endstrand
With the Dead, Love from With the Dead

Plus: Abronia, Lewis and the Strange Magics, Iron Monkey, Band of Spice, Puta Volcano, Galley Beggar, Heavy Traffic, Coltsblood, REZN, Green Meteor, Demon Head, Lord, Grigax, The Raynbow, Carpet, Norska, Les Lekin, Slow, Ixion, and I’m sure more that I’ll add as the names continue to pop into my head.

I did this back in June as well, but I also want to draw attention to a swath of quality live albums that came out this year. The top pick should be no surprise if you’ve been hanging around the site of late:

Live Albums:
1. SubRosa, Subdued Live at Roadburn
2. Causa Sui, Live in Copenhagen
3. Slomatics, Futurians Live at Roadburn
4. My Sleeping Karma, Mela Ananda – Live
5. Wight, Fusion Rock Invasion
5. Death Alley, Live at Roadburn

Thank You

It’s been a hell of a year, obviously. Musically and otherwise. As always, I cannot possibly come close to thanking you enough for your incredible and ongoing support of The Obelisk, of what this site is, what it’s become over its nearly nine-year run, what it will continue to become going forward from here. It is astounding to me and deeply humbling that you would possibly take time out of your busy day and your busy life to check out what’s going on here, and words fail me continually when it comes to feeling like I can properly convey my appreciation for that. Thank you for reading. Thank you for reading. Thank you for reading. Tattoo it on my forehead.

Thank you to The Patient Mrs. for understanding how much I need to be doing this, to Slevin for keeping the site running on the technical end, to Behrang Alavi for taking over hosting earlier this year, to my family for their ongoing support, to The Pecan for sleeping late some mornings and giving me time to write, and to everyone who ever shared a link on social media or made a comment on a post or anything like that. To long-time readers and to newcomers alike — thank you so much. This year has seen a fair share of ups and downs, but the support this site gets sustains me in ways I never expected it could, and that would be impossible without you. Please know how crucial that is to me.

Well, that should do it. I know there are probably disagreements about where things landed on the list, what was included, what was left out, etc., as there always are. All comments are of course welcome — only thing I’d ask is you please keep it civil and respectful of the opinions of others. Otherwise, have at it. Please.

And one more time, thank you for reading.

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All Them Witches Announce US Tour; “Bulls” Video Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 26th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Already at this point All Them Witches have spent a significant portion of 2017 on the road supporting Sleeping Through the War (review here), which came out in February via New West Records. They toured before it hit, they toured in Spring. They did shows in June and just this week wrapped a July run that found them in Israel, Germany, Belgium and Switzerland before finally settling in for shows in the UK. They’ll be back in Europe come Sept./Oct. as well, and were previously confirmed for Desertfest Belgium 2017 (though I don’t see it listed below), and they’ve just added more dates for after they return to the US in November.

Not only are they in full go-go-go mode in spreading the word on the album, but they’ve also got a brand new video for “Bulls” as well. Directed by drummer Robby Staebler, it captures the awesomely atmospheric opening track in such a way that immediately makes me want to put on the rest of the record and dig into it all over again, though that’s kind of my general headspace in terms of Sleeping Through the War anyhow. Some albums never let you wander too far before they pull you back.

Tour dates from the PR wire:

all them witches

ALL THEM WITCHES – MORE TOUR DATES ANNOUNCED

New U.S. dates have been added.

All Them Witches will be on tour throughout the East Coast and Midwest in November. Reserve your tickets now. For a full list of tour dates, head over to AllThemWitches.org

The new album SLEEPING THROUGH THE WAR is available now.

EUROPEAN DATES
SEP 18 • Heimathafen • BERLIN, GERMANY
SEP 19 • Backstage Werk • MUNCHEN, GERMANY
SEP 20 • Arena • VIENNA, AUSTRIA
SEP 22 • Reeperbahn • HAMBURG, GERMANY
SEP 24 • Debaser Strand • STOCKHOLM, SWEDEN
SEP 25 • Revolver • OSLO, NORWAY
SEP 26 • Pumpehuset • COPENHAGEN, DENMARK
SEP 28 • The Sugarfactory • AMSTERDAM, NETHERLANDS
SEP 29 • Trabendo • PARIS, FRANCE
SEP 30 • O2 Institute Birmingham • BIRMINGHAM, UNITED KINGDOM
OCT 1 • Sound Control • MANCHESTER, UNITED KINGDOM
OCT 2 • Whelans • DUBLIN, IRELAND
OCT 3 • King Tuts • GLASGOW, UNITED KINGDOM
OCT 4 • Wardrobe • LEEDS, UNITED KINGDOM
OCT 5 • Koko • LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM
OCT 7 • Bierkeller • BRISTOL, UNITED KINGDOM
OCT 8 • Rescue Rooms • NOTTINGHAM, UNITED KINGDOM
OCT 10 • Les Docks • LAUSANNE, SWITZERLAND
OCT 11 • Gloria • COLOGNE, GERMANY
OCT 12 • Das Bett • FRANKFURT, GERMANY
OCT 14 • Gagarin • ATHENS, GREECE

U.S. DATES
NOV 3 • Cat’s Cradle • CARBORRO, NC
NOV 4 • The Southern Cafe and Music Hall • CHARLOTTESVILLE, VA
NOV 5 • Rock & Roll Hotel • WASHINGTON, DC
NOV 7 • The Foundry at The Fillmore • PHILADELPHIA, PA
NOV 8 • Music Hall of Williamsburg • BROOKLYN, NY
NOV 9 • High Ground • SOUTH BURLINGTON, VT
NOV 10 • Fairmount Theatre • MONTREAL, CANADA
NOV 11 • Lee’s Palace • TORONTO, CANADA
NOV 12 • The Bug Jar • ROCHESTER, NY
NOV 14 • Ace of Cups • COLUMBUS, OH
NOV 15 • Hi-Fi • INDIANAPOLIS, IN
NOV 16 • The Mill • IOWA CITY, IA
NOV 17 • Turf Club • ST. PAUL, MN
NOV 18 • The Back Room at Colectivo Coffee • MILWAUKEE, WI

All Them Witches is:
Charles Michael Parks, Jr. – Vocals, Bass, Guitar, Mellotron, Percussion
Ben McLeod – Guitar, Bass, Mellotron, Percussion
Robby Staebler – Drums, Percussion
Allan Van Cleave – Rhodes, Organ, Piano, Mellotron

http://allthemwitches.bandcamp.com/album/sleeping-through-the-war
http://www.facebook.com/allthemwitches

All Them Witches, “Bulls” official video

All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War (2017)

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