Goya, Obelisk: An Invitation to Burn

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on July 21st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

goya obelisk

[Please note: Press play above to stream Goya’s Obelisk in full. Album is out Aug. 1 on STB Records (CD & tape; LP to follow). Thanks to the band and label for letting me host the stream.]

Obelisk is the well-titled second full-length offering from Phoenix, Arizona, three-piece Goya. Set for release through respected purveyor STB Records, it follows 2013’s 777 debut and their initial 2012 demo (review here), as well as a 2014 EP, Satan’s Fire (review here), and an early 2015 split with Seattle’s Wounded Giant (review here) that found them dug deep into Electric Wizard-style plod on the extended “No Place in the Sky.” What was an early version of the track there is refined on Obelisk and given due reverence in its position as the 14-minute closer, following a swath of dirge riffing, devil-worship and malevolent churn.

I can’t quite decide if the album knows how much fun it’s having as it conjures its darkened chaos-swirl, but suffice it to say, a song like opener “Nothin’ but Dead Stuff” might not be a laugher in terms of its lyrics, but from the opening watery guitar provided by Jeff Owens (also vocals) that unfolds Oborn-again over the swinging ride of drummer Nick LoseJirix-Mie Paz plays bass on the record but seems to have since been replaced by Ben Clarkson — to the penultimate “Echo from Space” interlude of feedback before “No Place in the Sky” takes hold, it becomes abundantly clear that Goya are absolutely dug into the grooves of their own making and are enjoying the crap out of the heavy roll they enact across Obelisk‘s nine-track/55-minute span.

That being the case makes it much easier to follow suit. Goya have their variety in structure and approach — the aforementioned “Echo from Space” serves well as a late interlude, and the quiet ritualized vibe of “The Star” after second track “The Devil’s Pray” does likewise, while “300 Eyes” cuts to the heart of their songwriting with an acoustic modus and layered vocals and “The Sun,” which follows, is a standout for its speed alone — but the crux of Obelisk‘s overarching atmosphere and the impression it leaves resides in cuts like “Nothin’ but Dead Stuff,” “The Devil’s Prey,” “Beyond Good and Evil” and “No Place in the Sky,” Goya making a case to establish their own witchcult in bouncing riffs and Satanihilist vibing. Taken on their surface, these parts of Obelisk aren’t especially surprising — 777, Satan’s Fire, that Wounded Giant split and even the early demo carried a similar influence base, but it’s what the trio have managed to bring to it of their own that distinguishes their work.

To wit, the patience of the 7:46 title-track, “Obelisk,” becomes a defining moment for more than the simple fact that the song also shares its name with the album. Its slow unfurling is deceptively graceful, and while one hesitates to call Goya subtle since that doesn’t really seem to be what they’re going for, they’ve cleverly managed to begin a process whereby having mastered their influences, they’re starting to move beyond them. That’s not necessarily a one-album process, but if you listen to the shifts between “Obelisk,” “300 Eyes,” “The Sun” and “Beyond Good and Evil,” it becomes clear there’s more to the band’s approach than buzzsaw tones and space-echo vocals.

goya (photo by Chas McElmury)

Not to say neither of those elements aren’t present and/or put to good use, just that they’re not exclusives for the band at this stage in their development. The effect that has is that when the quicker push of “The Sun” gives way to the lumbering, weighted crash of “Beyond Good and Evil,” the latter is all the more righteous. Likewise, back on side A, the gradual buildup of “Obelisk” is all the more worth appreciating after “The Devil’s Pray” and “The Star” lead into it — bottom line: the album isn’t short at 55 minutes, but it is impeccably structured to highlight Goya‘s tonal and conceptual strengths. When it comes around, “No Place in the Sky” fuzzes to life with Owens‘ guitar setting the pace and sets itself to the complex task of tying the various sides of Obelisk together.

Cohesive as the album is atmospherically — and it is — that’s not an easy task to ask of one song, even at 14 minutes. Still, “No Place in the Sky” reinforces the mood the band has worked with for the duration, the godlessness that served as theme in “The Devil’s Prey” and “Beyond Good and Evil,” and the rolling rhythms of those tracks and the opener without losing sight of making its own impression, which it does in the second half centering around memorable cycles through and around the line, “It doesn’t fucking matter.” I’m not sure the fuckall is quite the guiding principle the band would have the listener believe — if it was, they probably wouldn’t have paid so much attention to the flow of the record between its songs — but you gotta end somewhere and, as I say, “No Place in the Sky” makes for a memorable finish, rounding out its last minute with a slowdown and crash that lets the amp buzz carry Obelisk to its conclusion.

What will be a readily accessible listen for the already converted, Goya‘s second offers evidence of growth undertaken, provides glimpses of what might develop down the line, finds the band reveling in their processes and hits like a hammer made of pills. There is little one might ask of it that it does not deliver.

Goya on Thee Facebooks

Goya on Bandcamp

STB Records webstore

STB Records on Thee Facebooks

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Visual Evidence: New Header Art and Logo by Adam Burke and Christophe Szpajdel

Posted in Visual Evidence on January 3rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

This whole thing came about because I mentioned a few months back that it was a personal dream of mine to have Belgian-born “lord of the logos” Christophe Szpajdel do a logo for this site. I’ve dug Szpajdel‘s work since I first saw it editing a feature about him in Metal Maniacs, in what I like to think of now as “the before time.” Well, Kiffin Rogers of Napalm Christ/Rwake was kind enough to put me in touch and Szpajdel, instead of pointing to the nearest cliff and asking me in so many words to leap from it, was on board with designing a logo for The Obelisk. This was most certainly exciting news.

Now, I like the Skillit header currently on this site. Fucking love it, in fact, and I plan on keeping it in use along with the new design. In its every detail, it excellently encapsulates a lot of the vibe that I enjoy most about this site. However, to ask Skillit‘s work to mesh with Szpajdel — who’s more known for his associations on the extreme end of black and death metal than anything resembling desert rock — would be unfair to both artists. Adam Burke (interview here), however, seemed like a perfect fit, with his watercolor style, deep tones and fantasy influence.

A phrase I actually used in my email to Burke talking about what I had in mind for the header piece: “A land-octopus off to one side or the other’s always welcome by me.” Rules to live by, people.

Obviously, when the finished product came in, I was flabbergasted. Here’s a look at the details of both the header art and the logo. Click any to enlarge.

Header Art by Adam Burke

You ever have a picture in your mind of what you want and then what you wind up with not only is that thing, but is that thing better? Yeah, that’s kind of how it went with this one. The land-octopus, the sunscape, the crags on the left side, Burke absolutely nailed it. I damn near wept when I opened the file.

Logo by Christophe Szpajdel

This is the original hand-drawn version of the logo. You can see the marker marks and the lighter spaces where his stroke lifted. So fucking cool. If you do or don’t know Szpajdel‘s work, he’s an absolute master. It was an honor to email with him, let alone actually have him send this as an attachment.

I, on the other hand, am not at all a master when it comes to graphic design, and though I tried for an embarrassingly long time, I couldn’t get the logo either completely black or onto a transparent background. Outside help was enlisted, and this emerged as the finished version (turned white for posting here — also maybe for t-shirts):

When I put them together — that I could do — this is how it wound up:

The Finished Product

I don’t think I could be any happier with how it all came out in the end of I tried. Huge thanks to Christophe Szpajdel and Adam Burke for their attention and hard work. Please check out their sites/portfolios and support underground art by giving them money and telling other people how much ass they kick.

Christophe Szpajdel on Flickr

Lord of the Logos book on Amazon

Adam Burke on Thee Facebooks

Fellwoods on Bandcamp

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The Debate Rages: What are the 10 Greatest Stoner Rock Records?

Posted in The Debate Rages on September 5th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

The reason I ask is this: I said a while back I wanted to start some hall-of-fame-esque series of posts covering the classics of the genre, going all the way back to the start. It was — I’ll be honest — an excuse to slather even more praise onto Master of Reality, which I don’t think ever has enough. That never quite materialized, but this whole time I was thinking to myself about what makes an album really great?

There’s so much context involved. When did it come out? What was happening at the time? Where is the band from? What was the response? How influential was it? What made it so special? Who was on it? What else did they do and how much of it was defined by this single album? Never mind questions about what counts as stoner rock and when that began — was it the ’90s or was it when Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil? — but what is it about an individual record that lets it stand the test of time, and is standing the test of time a basis for judgment of greatness? What about those albums you listened to when you were younger that sound dated now? Are they any less great because you’ve grown out of them?

So I’ve decided to open it up. Everything counts, everything’s in.

If you’ve got a list of 30 essentials or just one you want to add to the others, that’s cool. Let’s put everything out there and see what comes back, what we can agree on, disagree on, whatever. It’s all valid. If you think Welcome to Sky Valley is the best because it happens to be the album you listened to while you went trekking through the desert that one time, awesome. If you think it’s crap, pick something else.

In demographic research, they call it crowd-sourcing, but I’m not even sure what we’re crowd sourcing for, so let’s just have at it. The best of the best. What are the 10 greatest stoner rock records?

I’m looking forward to seeing your picks (and I think I already gave away two of mine). Leave a comment and let’s just have some fun with it.

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This is the 3,000th Post on The Obelisk

Posted in The Numbers on September 4th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Feels more like 3,002, doesn’t it? Well it isn’t. According to my WordPress dashboard — which I trust the way most people trust gods — this is post number 3,000 since the site went up. I just wanted to take a second and mark the occasion and of course to say thanks to everyone who has read, commented, signed up on the forum, contributed, sent in albums for review, tipped me onto new bands or shared their love of music in any way as we’ve gone along.

It’s been a hell of a trip so far, and I don’t think when I started this site three and a half years ago I had any idea what I was getting myself into (maybe a little), but it’s been great up till now, and as this past weekend proved, there are still plenty of adventures to be had. Thanks so much for being a part of it.

Number 3,001 coming right up…

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