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The Top 20 of 2016 Year-End Poll — RESULTS!

Posted in Features on January 1st, 2017 by H.P. Taskmaster

top 20 year end poll results

The poll is closed, the results are counted and the top 20 albums of 2016 have been chosen. Hard to argue with the list as it’s shown up over the course of the past month, so I won’t try. Instead, let me just say thanks to incredible amount of participants who contributed this year.

All told, between Dec. 1 and Dec. 31, 612 people added their picks to the proceedings, compared to 388 in last year’s poll. Considering how much that number blew my mind on Jan. 1, 2016, I’m sure you can imagine how I feel about adding another 200-plus lists to the pot. In short, I’m astounded, deeply humbled and so, so, so grateful. I feel like we got enough of a sampling this year to give a genuinely representative showing for where people’s heads have been at, so thank you if you were a part of it.

Thank you as well as always to Slevin for running the poll’s back end and tabulating the results. As ever, the weighting system is one in which a 1-4 ranking is worth five points, 5-8 worth four, 9-12 worth three, 13-16 worth two and 17-20 worth one. You’ll find that list (plus some honorable mentions) below, followed by the raw-vote tally.

And after the jump, as has become the tradition, are the full lists of everyone who submitted, alphabetized by name. I’m in there too. It’s a huge amount to wade through, and even if you thought you heard everything in 2016, it should be more than enough to keep you busy for the next year.

One last note: I’m no statistician. Please allow for these numbers to change over the next couple days on some small level.

Let’s go:

Top 20 of 2016 — Weighted Results

wo fat midnight cometh

1. Wo Fat, Midnight Cometh (375 points)
2. Greenleaf, Rise Above the Meadow (368)
3. Elephant Tree, Elephant Tree (324)
4. Asteroid, III (302)
5. Brant Bjork, Tao of the Devil (295)
6. Gozu, Revival (274)
7. Neurosis, Fires Within Fires (253)
8. King Buffalo, Orion (244)
9. Mars Red Sky, Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul) (238)
10. Conan, Revengeance (232)
11. Cough, Still They Pray (228)
12. Holy Grove, Holy Grove (218)
13. SubRosa, For this We Fought the Battle of Ages (213)
14. Truckfighters, V (206)
15. Blood Ceremony, Lord of Misrule (200)
16. Khemmis, Hunted (192)
16. Red Fang, Only Ghosts (192)
17. Inter Arma, Paradise Gallows (181)
18. Witchcraft, Nucleus (174)
19. Opeth, Sorceress (173)
20. Church of Misery, And then there Were None (159)

Honorable mention to:
Causa Sui, Return to Sky (157)
Goatess, II: Purgatory Under New Management (157)
Black Mountain, IV (148)
Mos Generator, Abyssinia (144)
Wretch, Wretch (140)

Look at those tallies for number one and two. That race was close all month. Wo Fat kept out front for the most part, but Greenleaf kept it interesting and Elephant Tree’s debut snuck in there at third, which I love to see, both because it’s their first album and because that record was indeed so great. King Buffalo, another debut, also made the top 10, underscoring those two as bands to watch, and though Brant Bjork, Conan, Asteroid, Neurosis, Gozu and Mars Red Sky might be more expected names, they still certainly delivered excellent records, so again, nothing to fight with here. Things flesh out a bit in the 10-20 range, but I don’t think there’s one album on this list you could call is “miss.”

Top 20 of 2016 — Raw Votes

wo fat midnight cometh

1. Wo Fat, Midnight Cometh (109)
2. Greenleaf, Rise Above the Meadow (92)
3. Brant Bjork, Tao of the Devil (87)
4. Elephant Tree, Elephant Tree (82)
5. Asteroid, III (80)
6. Gozu, Revival (76)
7. Conan, Revengeance (73)
8. Cough, Still They Pray (70)
9. Mars Red Sky, Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul) (68)
10. King Buffalo, Orion (67)
11. Truckfighters, V (62)
12. Red Fang, Only Ghosts (61)
13. Khemmis, Hunted (60)
14. Blood Ceremony, Lord of Misrule (59)
14. SubRosa, For this We Fought the Battle of Ages (59)
15. Holy Grove, Holy Grove (58)
16. Church of Misery, And then there Were None (53)
17. Inter Arma, Paradise Gallows (49)
17. Witchcraft, Nucleus (49)
18. Opeth, Sorceress (47)
19. Mos Generator, Abyssinia (45)
20. Black Mountain, IV (44)
20. Causa Sui, Return to Sky (44)
20. Wretch, Wretch (44)

Honorable mention to:
Goatess, II: Purgatory Under New Management (43)
Mondo Drag, The Occultation of Light (43)
Geezer, Geezer (41)
Crowbar, The Serpent Only Lies (41)
Gojira, Magma (37)
Slomatics, Future Echo Returns (36)
Graves at Sea, The Curse that Is… (35)
Black Rainbows, Stellar Prophecy (33)
Beastmaker, Lusus Naturae (32)
Vokonis, Olde One Ascending (31)

Left a few more honorable mentions in the raw-vote count, just for fun and so you could get more of a feel beyond the top 20 itself, which you’ll notice has a couple ties in it as the raw votes usually do and reorganizes a bit from the weighted results. One and two remain the same, however, and in the same order, and you’ll see Wo Fat was the only album that scored more than 100 votes on its own. As a whole, there were over 2,400 separate entries for albums this year, which is by far the most spread out that the voting has ever been. Frankly, with so many people involved and such a variety of stuff being voted on, I’m amazed anyone managed to agree on anything at all, but of course they did and once again a stellar list is the result.

Well, Happy New Year.

Before I go, thanks again to Slevin for the work put into running the back end of this site and this poll particularly. I show up with the finish lists, but it’s his code that makes it happen, and his efforts are appreciated more than I can say. Dude has never asked me for anything in the nearly eight years I’ve been a constant pain in his ass.

After the jump, you’ll find everybody’s list, alphabetized by name. Please enjoy browsing. I hope you find something awesome, because there’s certainly plenty in there that qualifies, and if you see something that looks like it appears often enough that it should be included in one or both of the counts above, let me know in the comments.

Thanks.

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Witchcraft, Nucleus: At the Center of it All

Posted in Reviews on January 12th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

witchcraft nucleus

To date, across five albums, Sweden’s Witchcraft have never repeated themselves. Even their first two outings, 2004’s landmark self-titled debut and 2005’s similarly-intentioned Firewood, showed marked progression one into the next. Those records have become landmarks of heavy ’70s retro methodology in the decade-plus since their release, a brand of classic doom that Witchcraft founder Magnus Pelander first began to foster in Norrsken alongside members of what would become Graveyard. Following the more prog-rock vintage styling of Witchcraft‘s third album, The Alchemist, the band took a five-year break, and when they resurfaced in 2012 with Legend (review here), it was clear some changes had taken place. Amid a more modern production than ever before, Pelander led a five-piece incarnation of the band in which bassist Ola Henriksson (now Troubled Horse) was the only other founding member.

Four years after Legend, Pelander brings Witchcraft to places both familiar and strange on their fifth full-length and second for Nuclear Blast, Nucleus, stripping back some of Legend‘s grandiosity for a nine-track/69-minute 2LP that, while it still maintains the modern crispness of its predecessor, is arguably the doomiest atmosphere they’ve conjured on an album. Witchcraft 2016 being comprised of Pelander on guitar/vocals, Tobias Anger (ex-2 Ton Predator) on bass and Rage Widerberg on drums, it’s a completely revamped outfit, and Nucleus marks the first time the band has ever worked as a trio. And perhaps the title is meant directly to speak to that notion of stripping things down to their core, to expose the basic element at the center of it all, I don’t really know, but if that’s the case, then it seems like Nucleus does that even before it’s started. At the center of it all for Witchcraft, there’s always been change.

And if it seems strange to think of a 69-minute album — the longest Witchcraft has produced by 13 minutes over its predecessor — as also being “stripped down,” that very contrast seems to be the beating hard that pumps the record along. Witchcraft continue to have grand aspirations, and the band show them in the side-consuming finales of each of its two LPs, “Nucleus” (14:08) first and album closer “Breakdown” (15:55) second. Each component record in the whole also receives a somewhat-less extended opener, whether it’s the morose album launch “Malstroem” (8:31) or the contemplative build of “An Exorcism of Doubts,” which shifts from open-spaced minimalism to some of Nucleus‘ most bombastic output, and then shifts back, unexpectedly. Pelander, long since the master of his domain in terms of making the band what he wants it to be, also produced in cooperation with Philip Gabriel Saxin and Anton Sundell, and when it wants to, as on “Malstroem,” or the trudging final five minutes of “Breakdown,” the album can be an absolute slog, and that’s clearly something done on purpose.

witchcraft nucleus band pic

It’s not intended to be simple or forgettable in its impact, even if what’s really at work across much of it is guitar, bass, drums, vocals and keys — maybe plus some percussion and flute on the more shuffling “The Outcast,” one of the more upbeat and catchier inclusions here — and though much of its material stretches well beyond, the two-minute second cut, “Theory of Consequence” stands in as an analogy for a lot of what follows; it is riff-led doom, still driven by a classic dynamic as I think Witchcraft almost can’t help but be, but taken to a darker place atmospherically than the band have ever taken it before. Arrangement flourishes are subtle throughout compared to some of what hits hardest, but keys and acoustic guitars in the title-track set an expansive tone early and with guest vocals and slow-push crashing at the end, “Nucleus” rounds out the first LP in surprisingly large fashion and gives way to CD centerpiece “An Exorcism of Doubts,” which toys back and forth with volume before bursting into a central nod that holds sway onto relinquish to a quiet, almost Graveyard-ian finish.

“An Exorcism of Doubts,” with its rolling riff and accompanying organ, swaying shifts one way or the other in volume, emergent chorus, etc., is responsible in no small part for setting the more brooding ambience of Nucleus‘ second LP, but even it has its brighter moments. To wit, “The Obsessed” has a lead-in riff and bounce worthy of its namesake trio, even if Pelander‘s vocals remain so thoroughly his own, though “To Transcend Bitterness” reaffirms a moody swirl and emotional tumult even as it also highlights a nascent chemistry between Pelander, Anger and Widerberg (also one between Pelander, anger and rage) instrumentally. Its apex-into-finish satisfies like a miniature “Nucleus” and leads to the softer beginnings of the penultimate “Helpless,” which channels the tension built up over the record’s tempestuous course into a linear build that starts at guitar alone and crests with the album’s best solo over a lurching rhythm before finishing out with the full-toned fuzz riffing out.

That would be a suitable conclusion to Nucleus on its own, but “Breakdown” is the thick underline beneath all the emotional chaos preceding, comprised of two parts demarcated by misanthropic samples as a far-back psychedelic minimalism gives way circa seven minutes in to the doomed march that continues through the remainder of the track, only growing more unhinged — are those strings? — as it makes its way toward the chorus-topped finish, and instead of the fuzz guitar, it’s a single string plucked in the same rhythm that caps the album. Perhaps that’s Witchcraft hitting the titular nucleus after all the careening and lumbering. Maybe it’s that last few seconds that Nucleus is inextricably pushing toward. One way or another, it is a significant journey to get there. Could Witchcraft have cut this down to make it a single LP? Probably, but the fact that the stretch is challenging in form and execution seems like part of the intent. Their breadth of influence may continue to stem from their earliest work, but Witchcraft, and Pelander as the band’s own nucleus, have never stopped growing. Whatever they do next, don’t be surprised when it’s not this.

Witchcraft, “Theory of Consequence”

Witchcraft on Thee Facebooks

Witchcraft website

Witchcraft at Nuclear Blast

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Witchcraft to Release New Album Nucleus on Jan. 15

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 28th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

witchcraft-band-pic

Nuclear Blast has announced a Jan. 15 release date for Nucleus, the next LP from Swedish revivalist progenitors Witchcraft, who brazenly adopted a more modern take on their last album, 2012’s Legend (review here). That record was their fourth overall and their first for the label, and as founding guitarist/vocalist Magnus Pelander has once again revamped the lineup, it’s even harder to know what to expect for full-length number five. Doubtless that’s the whole idea, but my interest is piqued with the label’s mentioning of capturing the rawness of their early work in the upcoming tracks. We’ll see how it pans out. Either way, preorders are up now and linked below.

From the PR wire:

Witchcraft - Nucleus

WITCHCRAFT announce new album details!

Swedish classic / doom rock masters WITCHCRAFT have announced the release date, track list and cover art for the band’s eagerly anticipated new album.

Nucleus is scheduled for a January 15, 2016 release worldwide via Nuclear Blast and will be available as CD, lavish digipak (also as a t-shirt bundle), vinyl (black, clear, splatter, gold) and digital download.

The first single, ‘The Outcast’ will be released on 7″ vinyl (black, clear) and as digital download on December 4, and will exclusively be available via the Nuclear Blast Mailorder. The single will include the NIRVANA cover ‘Even In His Youth’.

Pre-order Nucleus and The Outcast 7″ from the Nuclear Blast web shop, here: http://nblast.de/WitchcraftNucleusNB

The track lists for both releases read as follows.

The Outcast 7″:
Side A
01. The Outcast (edit)
Side B
02. Even In His Youth (NIRVANA cover)

Nucleus:
01. Malstroem
02. Theory Of Consequence
03. The Outcast
04. Nucleus
05. An Exorcism Of Doubts
06. The Obsessed
07. To Transcend Bitterness
08. Helpless
09. Breakdown
Limited digipak CD & 2LP vinyl bonus track
10. Chasing Rainbows

The successor of 2012’s globally extremely successful album, Legend, will be entitled Nucleus. The record seemlessly mixes the rawer side of WITCHCRAFT’s early roots, with a slightly more melancholic modern sound.

With an all new line-up (Rage Widerberg on drums and Tobias Anger on bass) the band sounds more hungry and powerful than ever before. In combination with the thrilling, yet very down-to-earth production by mastermind Magnus Pelander himself, Philip Gabriel Saxin and Anton Sundell, the album throws you into a dreamy sonic landscapes that will mesmerize and haunt you alike.

www.witchraftswe.com
www.facebook.com/witchcraft
www.nuclearblast.de/witchcraft
http://nblast.de/WitchcraftNucleusNB

Witchcraft, “Deconstruction” Live in Finland, 2013

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