Six Dumb Questions with Akula

Posted in audiObelisk, Six Dumb Questions on March 9th, 2018 by JJ Koczan


Those familiar with the vocal work of Columbus, Ohio-based vocalist Jeff Martin will find his presence recognizable in everything but context when it comes to the newcomer five-piece Akula. Known of course for his work fronting (from behind the drums) the fuzz-laced heavy rocking Lo-Pan, Martin brings his soulful melodicism to Akula as part of a lineup that includes bassist Scott Hyatt, guitarists Sergei Parfenov and Chris Thompson (the latter now also of Lo-Pan) and drummer Ronnie Miller, and the group’s self-titled first full-length incorporates a swath of atmospheric textures derived from progressive metal as ’90s alternative, post-rock and more beyond.

The album, Akula was given a digital self-release by the band in January in somewhat quiet fashion almost testing the ground to gauge an initial reception that, sure enough, came back in a positive response to the sharp chugging turns of 12-minute closer “Predators,” the open-spaced rolling groove of “Force Me Open” (10:07) the weighted ambient pulsations of opener “A Pound of Flesh” (9:19) and the post-doomer crash of “Born of Fire”‘s (9:27) blend of sonic reach and earthen nod. These four extended tracks would be all Akula needed to make that strong first impression, and in terms of both memorable songwriting and a stylistic ambitiousness, the self-titled indeed sounds like only the beginning of where the band might go in terms of ground they explore and just the first demonstration of a nuance of craft set to grow even more across subsequent outings.

Whether Martin‘s voice is the draw or you happen upon Akula through some other means — frankly, the pop in Miller‘s snare, Hyatt‘s tone on the low end and the fluidity with which Thompson and Parfenov lead transitions between claustrophobic riffing and broad-spaced soundscapes all make valid arguments in the 41-minute LP’s favor — the clearly-intended-to-be-two-vinyl-sides offering is immersive from the outset and rich in both sprawl and impact. I would not at all be surprised to find a physical pressing or two in the works for later this year, but in the meantime, Martin was kind enough to take some time to discuss the origins of the band and how the record came together in writing and recording, and whether or not Akula should be considered a side-project. Some of those responses might surprise you.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

akula akula

Six Dumb Questions with Akula

Tell me about Akula getting together. What was the impetus behind starting the band, and how much did you guys know going into the project what you wanted it to sound like?

Akula started when Lo-Pan had some downtime. I was feeling an overabundance of creative energy and I thought jamming with some different people and different styles might be a good way to channel some of that. This was before Chris [Thompson, guitar] joined Lo-Pan. I knew who he was and had seen a few of his previous bands play. I had been listening to a lot of heavier psychedelic stuff in the vein of Yob, Neurosis, and even some Mastodon. I knew Chris could do pretty much anything from seeing him play. I contacted him and asked if he would be interested in getting some people together for a purely fun project. He was all for it. I told him what I was thinking in terms of style and he said he actually already had some part ideas he had been messing around with that might be a fit.

We talked about bass players and drummers and rhythm guitarists and invited some guys to meet up and discuss. It all went pretty smoothly. And stylistically, everyone seemed to understand what we were looking for. A darker, heavier psychedelic sound with melodic vocals. Longer format and prog shifts seemed like a natural thing for everyone. So we got to work.

Talk about that sound for a bit. The album has such a sense of space to it, everything sounds very open and atmospheric, but still heavy. Was there something in particular you were looking to capture in terms of mood on the album?

I think there was a nebulous direction we were all going, but it’s always a mystery how it will actually shake out when you start playing. We all come from various genres of heavy music but also a mix of other types of music as well. Atmospheric was definitely where I wanted it to go. Chris brings that off-time heavy lead mentality to the songs and that was new for me. It was a challenge for me to add vocals to that. I am used to having very standard time signatures which allows me to weave in and out as much as I want to. In that feel, I can really add to the swing of a song. I really love heavy music that swings. But with Akula it took me a bit of effort to learn where the swing was. It’s definitely there. But with the off-time parts, I wanted to make sure that my swing wasn’t too hindered by the guitar parts. It’s not always easy. But I do enjoy the challenge of incorporating my vocal and lyrical style into a heavier format.

How does Akula’s songwriting process work? How does a track like “Force Me Open” come together, and what does each member of the band bring to it? When did you begin writing for the record?

Usually it all starts with a part idea from either Chris or Sergei. Those two will get together and work out a sort of skeleton format for a song. Then Scott and Ronnie will jam with them to build the rest. Adding parts. Changing parts. Removing parts. This will all happen over the course of a few weeks. Maybe even a month or two. “Force Me Open” probably took five months or more to reach a record-ready state.  And some of that is just time delays. Chris joined Lo-Pan about a year after we started Akula. Before we even had a name for Akula, actually. So Lo-Pan’s schedule definitely has an effect on the Akula writing process when it comes to time allocation for myself and for Chris.

Also everyone else in the band has quite a bit going on as well. Scott, our bassist is in a few different bands, mainly Bridesmaid, but also occasionally Horseburner and Siouxplex. He also has a career and a wife. Ronnie, our drummer is in another band (Artillery Breath) and travels quite a bit. Sergei, our rhythm guitarist has a family and runs a business. It all just takes time. We began writing the first record from the very first jam sessions. But I think it took around a year before we had our first two songs completed. All before we even discussed a name for the band.

We didn’t even play a show until around the 18-month mark. That was important for us when we started out. We wanted everything to happen in its own good time. No shows until we felt it was all ready to be played out. No recording until we have an album worth of material we all liked. No rushing whatsoever. It’s done when it’s done. And in the meantime we just have fun playing music and hanging out together. That was the first thing I said to everyone when we first got together. Those were the marching orders. No stress. Just fun.

No hassles. It’s done when it’s done. And we have really seen that through. It really is like that. We don’t fight. We all get along and we have a blast together. We play the shows we want to play. We go the direction we all decide is best.

Tell me about recording. It’s just four tracks, but they’re four pretty significant tracks. Where was the album done, how long were you in the studio and as your first release, how do you feel the outcome represents the band at this stage?

Recording could not have been a better process for us. We recorded this record at Sonic Lounge here in Columbus, Ohio. It’s a really killer studio with some outstanding equipment and it’s all run by Joe Viers. Chris had worked with Joe multiple times in other projects like Sleepers Awake. I worked with Joe on the last Lo-Pan release (In Tensions), and Scott had worked with him in his band Bridesmaid. Joe was our first choice and for me our only choice really. He just gets music and he’s a fantastic collaborator. He becomes like another member of the band. He makes strong suggestions and will hold you accountable when he knows you can play a part better or if you’re out of tune. And even vocally, I have found Joe to be an invaluable resource for ideas on harmonies and execution. I can’t say enough good things about the guy.

We did the entire album and mixing over the course of two weekends at Sonic Lounge. It was a real blast to make this album. I think as a first effort it reflects the entire timeline of the band to this point. You can hear the maturation of the songs. Or at least I can. “Born of Fire” was our first completed song. “Force Me Open” was the second completed song. Even between those two songs, I think you can hear a quantum shift. It’s pretty rewarding to see that growth as a group.

Of course, you’ve done plenty of touring over the years in Lo-Pan, but how much will Akula play out? Will you guys tour to support the album? How much is the band a side-project for you or anyone else involved?

As far as playing out goes, I think Akula takes a very methodical approach to things. We love to play live but we want live shows to be an addition to our experience, and not just a maintaining of status quo. So we are selective about frequency and overall makeup of shows. We are discussing a summer run to support this release.

I would say when we first started out this was definitely a side-project for all of us. And as it’s progressed it has really become an important project for everyone. I don’t know that I would still classify Akula as my side-project. It’s just a different project with a different sound and its own process.

Any plans or closing words you want to mention?

Akula is currently in talks to sign with an indie label to release our self-titled in physical format including vinyl. More to follow on that. We are also continuing to write new material which we will start road testing soon. Our next show is April 6 at Spacebar in Columbus with Royal Thunder and Pinkish Black.

Akula, Akula (2018)

Akula on Thee Facebooks

Akula on Bandcamp

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Pillärs Announce East Coast and Midwest Tour Dates for April

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 6th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Ohio-based purveyors of raw scathe Pillärs are heading out on a run through the Midwest and the northern part of the East Coast next month, supporting their full-length Abandoned, which was released earlier this year via Tape Haus to a vicious impression. The three-piece skirt the lines between sludge and hardcore punk and raw heavy riffing in that way that used to just be called “noise rock” until it got even madder. I’m sure the kids have a new name for it, but whatever it is, to hear the band blast their way through cuts like “Through the Storm” and the oh-here’s-a-little-black-metal-squibbly-action-for-good-measure “Beneath the Ice,” I’m not sure there’s a name that’s angry enough to cover the punishing vibe itself.

At least not yet. Someone clever will come up with something. They always do. It’s just never me.

Pillärs play some pretty venerable rooms on this tour, from Now That’s Class in Cleveland and The Bug Jar in Rochester to Saint Vitus in Brooklyn and O’Brien’s in Boston, so yeah. Good to know at least that it’s well-respected venues looking to be destroyed.

Dates follow, courtesy of the band via the PR wire:

pillars spring tour 2018


Fresh of the release of their debut full-length “Abandoned” earlier this year, Cleveland Ohio’s sludge / crust powerhouse PILLÄRS have announced dates for their spring tour.

4/11: Cleveland, OH @ Now That’s Class
4/12: Rochester, NY @ The Bug Jar
4/13: Toronto, ON @ Sneaky Dee’s
4/14: Montreal, QC @ Atomic Cafe
4/15: Boston, MA @ O’Brien’s
4/16: New York City, NY @ St. Vitus
4/17: Philadelphia, PA @ Century Tavern
4/18: Pittsburgh, PA @ Black Forge
4/19: Columbus, OH @ Rhumba Cafe
4/20: Canton, OH @ Buzzbin

PILLÄRS has been busy over the past year establishing themselves as one of the must-see bands in a resurgent Rust Belt music scene that has long played a pivotal role in the heavy metal and hardcore punk underground.

This tour will find the band covering ground far outside its usual territory, and will be PILLÄRS’ first time into Canada. For those not close to the East Coast this spring, merch and music are available at and through the Tape Haus label.

Zach – Guitar/Vocals
Beth – Bass/Vocals
Mike – Drums

PILLÄRS, Abandoned (2018)

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Review & Track Premiere: Beneath Oblivion, The Wayward and the Lost

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on January 29th, 2018 by JJ Koczan


[Click play above to stream ‘Satyr’ from Beneath Oblivion’s The Wayward and the Lost. Album is out March 27 on Weird Truth Productions.]

The sludge that Beneath Oblivion elicit is nothing less than a destructive force. While the Midwest and particularly Ohio is known for the unhinged, pill-added fuckall proffered by the likes of Fistula and their many offshoots and related outfits, 2018 marks a decade and a half of the Cincinnati-based troupe’s onslaught, and they celebrate with the issue through Japanese imprint Weird Truth Productions of their first full-length in seven years. Last heard from with 2011’s From Man to Dust, the woeful foursome return to apply roughly that same ethic to the five-track/64-minute churn of The Wayward and the Lost. It lurches. It crushes. It creates a sonic and emotional miasma from which it feels like there’s no escape.

Its depression runs deep through extended tracks like opener “The City (My Mausoleum)” (15:12) and “The Liar’s Cross” (13:47), and is immersive in its atmospheric punishment as founding guitarist/vocalist Scott Simpson leads the way through the molasses trudge. Granted, it’s been over half a decade, so one shouldn’t necessarily be surprised at some measure of stylistic shift, but Beneath Oblivion‘s approach on the whole throughout The Wayward and the Lost is more atmospheric than either of its two predecessors, From Man to Dust or 2006’s Existence Without Purpose, both of which were released through The Mylene Sheath and had more of a post-hardcore spirit than shown in the droning extremity of The Wayward and the Lost even in its shortest track, the penultimate “Savior-Nemesis-Redeemer” (7:21), which precedes ultra-lurching closer “Satyr” itself an all-consuming 16:20 of aural quicksand. Revelry in brutality; brutality in excess.

Taken in the context of the recent triumph of darkness that was Bell Witch‘s 2017 offering, Mirror Reaper, it’s perhaps not surprising to learn that The Wayward and the Lost was also helmed by Billy Anderson (Acid KingNeurosis, etc.), as its blend of claustrophobic tonality from Simpson and Allen Scott — who also adds to the liberal amount of drones and noise included throughout these tracks — though the bulk of the basic material seems to have been put to tape in 2015 by SimpsonScott, bassist Keith Messerle and drummer Nate Bidwell with further grim flourish added after the fact.

beneath oblivion and billy anderson

One can hear the effects of that as drones and echoes fill out the reaches of the otherwise minimalist, extreme and excruciating “Satyr” at the album’s finish, but from “The City (My Mausoleum),” which opens with a deceptive innocent melancholy of guitar and eerie cymbal wash, the threat of violence is never completely absent. Unlike most of The Wayward and the Lost, “The City (My Mausoleum)” in its early going feels specifically indebted to Neurosis via YOB, but by the time Beneath Oblivion build into their first slow-motion rollout and engulfing, nod-topping screams, their course through sludge-laden cruelty seems set, and while their approach is by no means unipolar — that is, the screams and growls and lumber and pummel dissipate in favor of trades into sparse lines of guitar, swells of volume emerging in a dynamic back and forth interplay — they’ve already somewhat subtly begun the work that will continue throughout the subsequent tracks.

Now, it’s important to keep in mind that, as regards subtlety and Beneath Oblivion, it’s probably not the first word that’s going to come to mind, what with the unmanageable 64 minutes of punishment that The Wayward and the Lost carries across with such ferocity and patience, but as grueling and intense as these songs can be, there’s a sense of exploration within them as well. That comes through in the pre-midsection of “The Liar’s Cross” and in the rolling “Savior-Nemesis-Redeemer,” which might be the most straightforward inclusion here from Beneath Oblivion by whatever standard one might want to apply. Again, all things are relative. The impulse with a band like Beneath Oblivion is to cast them as misanthropes, as a kind of four-man counterculture working against the norms of songcraft and accessibility.

Well, I’m perfectly willing to grant that The Wayward and the Lost is about as audience-friendly as a carpenter’s nail through the skull when taken front to back, but to separate the group from what it is to be human and especially what it is to be human in the varied age of wonders and horrors in which we live cheats the band of perhaps one of the most crucial elements of their expression. A group doesn’t just come back after seven years and put out a record if they don’t have something do say, and with the stated theme of addiction, The Wayward and the Lost explores a pivotal aspect of this moment, but even if one wants to take it on a less analytical, more impressionistic level, it shows us the depths to which our minds can go that more often than not we’re more afraid to plunder. The growth the band has undertaken that has allowed them to do so is no less evident than the volume of their delivery, and in Beneath Oblivion‘s maturity there is a focus of intent that belies the album’s title. We may be wayward, lost, but the band has every idea of how they want to represent that, and in their success, they cast depths and spaces the harshness of which reflects our own cruelties and apathy back at us.

Beneath Oblivion on Thee Facebooks

Beneath Oblivion on Twitter

Beneath Oblivion on Instagram

Beneath Oblivion on Bandcamp

Beneath Oblivion website

Weird Truth Productions website

Weird Truth Productions on Thee Facebooks

Weird Truth Productions on Twitter

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Fistula and Come to Grief Announce Spring Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 25th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Safe bet this one isn’t gonna be pretty. Hell, I ain’t even sure this is street legal. Fistula from Ohio, Come to Grief from Massachusetts, kicking around the country and meeting up with the likes of Cough along the way? If you ever thought you liked your sludge nasty, this would be the way to find out how true that is. A litmus test the entire planet seems doomed to fail.

They’ve got splits and whatnot for the merch table, should you want to take the scathe home with you and show everyone where those scars came from.

Oh yeah, and it’s misanthropic too.

To the PR wire:


FISTULA: Ohio Sludgecore Veterans Announce May Tour With Come To Grief

Ohio sludgecore veterans FISTULA have confirmed a spring tour this May with fellow sludge stalwarts Come To Grief. The soul-crushing journey will commence on May 1st in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and trample thirteen venues through May 13th in Portland, Maine with Cough, Midmourner, and No Funeral to appear on select shows. See confirmed dates below.

FISTULA recently issued the first wave of an ongoing split seven-inch series celebrating twenty years of sonic misery. Released via PATAC Records, the first two installments find FISTULA sharing wax space with Come To Grief and -(16)-.

The band’s split with Come To Grief features two original and categorically scathing unreleased tracks while the second features -(16)- ‘s cover of “Complications” by Killing Joke and FISTULA’s rendition of “Mongoloid,” by Devo.

Each limited edition seven-inch is available in various color variants (all clear vinyl is sold out). The Come To Grief / FISTULA split is also available on cassette. To order, visit THIS LOCATION.

FISTULA w/ Come To Grief:
5/01/2018 Kung Fu Necktie – Philadelphia, PA
5/02/2018 Strange Matter – Richmond, VA w/ Cough
5/03/2018 Maywood Tavern – Raleigh, NC w/ Midmourner
5/04/2018 529 Bar – Atlanta, GA w/ Midmourner
5/05/2018 White Water Tavern – Little Rock, AR
5/06/2018 Fubar – St. Louis, MO
5/07/2018 Rock Island Brewing Co. – Rock Island, IL w/ No Funeral
5/08/2018 Eagles 34 – Minneapolis, MN w/ No Funeral
5/09/2018 Reggie’s – Chicago, IL
5/10/2018 Black Circle Brewing Co. – Indianapolis, IN
5/11/2018 Mohawk Place – Buffalo, NY
5/12/2018 The Irish Wolf Pub – Scranton, PA
5/13/2018 Geno’s Rock Club – Portland, ME

Come to Grief & Fistula, Split EP (2017)

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Short Releases of 2017

Posted in Features on December 22nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk top 20 short releases

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.

This is the hardest list to put together, no question. Don’t get me wrong, I put way too much thought into all of them, but this one is damn near impossible to keep up with. Every digital single, every demo, every EP, every 7″, 10″ one-sided 12″, whatever it is. There’s just too much. I’m not going to claim to have heard everything. Hell, that’s what the comments are for. Let me know what I missed. Invariably, something.

So while the headers might look similar, assuming I can ever remember which fonts I use from one to the next, this list has a much different personality than, say, the one that went up earlier this week with the top 20 debuts of 2017. Not that I heard everyone’s first record either, but we’re talking relative ratios here. The bottom line is please just understand I’ve done my best to hear as much as possible. I’m only one person, and there are only so many hours in the day. Eventually your brain turns into riffy mush.

With that caveat out of the way, I’m happy to present the following roundup of some of what I thought were 2017’s best short releases. That’s EPs, singles, demos, splits — pretty much anything that wasn’t a full-length album, and maybe one or two things that were right on the border of being one. As between genres, the lines are blurry these days. That’s part of what makes it fun.

Okay, enough dawdling. Here we go:


The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Short Releases of 2017

1. Lo-Pan, In Tensions
2. Godhunter, Codex Narco
3. Year of the Cobra, Burn Your Dead
4. Shroud Eater, Three Curses
5. Stubb, Burning Moon
6. Canyon, Canyon
7. Solace, Bird of Ill Omen
8. Kings Destroy, None More
9. Tarpit Boogie, Couldn’t Handle… The Heavy Jam
10. Supersonic Blues, Supersonic Blues Theme
11. Come to Grief, The Worst of Times EP
12. Rope Trick, Red Tape
13. Eternal Black, Live at WFMU
14. IAH, IAH
15. Bong Wish, Bong Wish EP
16. Rattlesnake, Outlaw Boogie Demo
17. Hollow Leg, Murder
18. Mars Red Sky, Myramyd
19. Avon, Six Wheeled Action Man Tank 7″
20. Wretch, Bastards Born

Honorable Mention

Across Tundras, Blood for the Sun / Hearts for the Rain
The Discussion, Tour EP
Fungus Hill, Creatures
Switchblade Jesus & Fuzz Evil, The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter Seven
The Grand Astoria, The Fuzz of Destiny
Test Meat, Demo
Blood Mist, Blood Mist
Sweat Lodge, Tokens for Hell
Dautha, Den Foerste
Scuzzy Yeti, Scuzzy Yeti
Howling Giant, Black Hole Space Wizard Part 2
Decasia, The Lord is Gone
Bible of the Devil/Leeches of Lore, Split 7″

I can’t imagine I won’t add a name or two or five to this section over the next few days as I think of other things and people remind me of stuff and so on, so keep an eye out, but the point is there’s way more than just what made the top 20. That Across Tundras single would probably be on the list proper just on principle, but I heard it like a week ago and it doesn’t seem fair. Speaking of unfair, The Discussion, Howling Giant, The Grand Astoria and the Bible of the Devil/Leeches of Lore split all deserve numbered placement easily. I might have to make this a top 30 in 2018, just to assuage my own guilt at not being able to include everything I want to include. For now though, yeah, this is just the tip of the doomberg.


To be totally honest with you, that Lo-Pan EP came out Jan. 13 and pretty much had the year wrapped up in my head from that point on. It was going to be hard for anything to top In Tensions, and the Godhunter swansong EP came close for the sense of stylistic adventurousness it wrought alone, and ditto that for Year of the Cobra’s bold aesthetic expansions on Burn Your Dead and Shroud Eater’s droning Three Cvrses, but every time I heard Jeff Martin singing “Pathfinder,” I knew it was Lo-Pan’s year and all doubt left my mind. Of course, for the Ohio four-piece, In Tensions is something of a one-off with the departure already of guitarist Adrian Zambrano, but I still have high hopes for their next record. It would be hard not to.

The top five is rounded out by Stubb’s extended jam/single “Burning Moon,” which was a spacey delight and new ground for them to cover. The self-titled debut EP from Philly psych rockers Canyon, which they’ve already followed up, is next. I haven’t had the chance to hear the new one yet, but Canyon hit a sweet spot of psychedelia and heavy garage that made me look forward to how they might develop, so I’ll get there sooner or later. Solace’s return was nothing to balk at with their cassingle “Bird of Ill Omen” and the Sabbath cover with which they paired it, and though Kings Destroy weirded out suitably on the 14-minute single-song EP None More, I hear even greater departures are in store with their impending fourth LP, currently in progress.

A couple former bandmates of mine feature in Tarpit Boogie in guitarist George Pierro and bassist John Eager, and both are top dudes to be sure, but even if we didn’t have that history, it would be hard to ignore the tonal statement they made on their Couldn’t Handle… The Heavy Jam EP. If you didn’t hear it, go chase it down on Bandcamp. Speaking of statements, Supersonic Blues’ Supersonic Blues Theme 7″ was a hell of an opening salvo of classic boogie that I considered to be one of the most potential-laden offerings of the year. Really. Such warmth to their sound, but still brimming with energy in the most encouraging of ways. Another one that has to be heard to be believed.

The dudes are hardly newcomers, but Grief offshoot Come to Grief sounded pretty fresh — and raw — on their The Worst of Times EP, and the Massachusetts extremists check in right ahead of fellow New Englangers Rope Trick, who are an offshoot themselves of drone experimentalists Queen Elephantine. Red Tape was a demo in the demo tradition, and pretty formative sounding, but seemed to give them plenty of ground on which to develop their aesthetic going forward, and I wouldn’t ask more of it than that.

Eternal Black gave a much-appreciated preview of their Bleed the Days debut long-player with Live at WFMU and earned bonus points for recording it at my favorite radio station, while Argentine trio IAH probably went under a lot of people’s radar with their self-titled EP but sent a fervent reminder that that country’s heavy scene is as vibrant as ever. Boston-based psych/indie folk outfit Bong Wish were just the right combination of strange, melodic and acid-washed to keep me coming back to their self-titled EP on Beyond Beyond is Beyond, and as Adam Kriney of The Golden Grass debuted his new project Rattlesnake with the Outlaw Boogie demo, the consistency of his songcraft continued to deliver a classic feel. Another one to watch out for going into the New Year.

I wasn’t sure if it was fair to include Hollow Leg’s Murder or not since it wound up getting paired with a special release of their latest album, but figured screw it, dudes do good work and no one’s likely to yell about their inclusion here. If you want to quibble, shoot me a comment and quibble away. Mars Red Sky only released Myramyd on vinyl — no CD, no digital — and I never got one, but heard a private stream at one point and dug that enough to include them here anyway. They remain perennial favorites.

Avon, who have a new record out early in 2018 on Heavy Psych Sounds, delivered one of the year’s catchiest tracks with the “Six Wheeled Action Man Tank” single. I feel like I’ve had that song stuck in my head for the last two months, mostly because I have. And Wretch may or may not be defunct at this point — I saw word that drummer Chris Gordon was leaving the band but post that seems to have disappeared now, so the situation may be in flux — but their three-songer Bastards Born EP was a welcome arrival either way. They round out the top 20 because, well, doom. Would be awesome to get another LP out of them, but we’ll see I guess.

One hopes that nothing too egregious was left off, but one again, if there’s something you feel like should be here that isn’t, please consider the invitation to leave a comment open and let me know about it. Hell, you know what? Give me your favorites either way, whether you agree with this list or not. It’s list season, do it up. I know there’s the Year-End Poll going, and you should definitely contribute to that if you haven’t, but what was your favorite EP of the year? The top five? Top 10? I’m genuinely curious. Let’s talk about it.

Whether you have a pick or not (and I hope you do), thanks as always for reading. May the assault of short releases continue unabated in 2018 and beyond.

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Enhailer to Release Dumb Enough to Care Dec. 11; Teaser Now Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 1st, 2017 by JJ Koczan


With a telling misanthropic sample culled from 1988’s Deadbeat at Dawn — ‘I hate people and I don’t fucking care,’ etc. — Akron, Ohio’s Enhailer unite once again with Blackseed Records, this time to release the single-song EP Dumb Enough to Care on Dec. 11. The track itself is something of a beast at 18 minutes long, but for all its professing to not give a shit, it also shows some considerable growth from where Enhailer were even just last year on their debut album, Grisaille. Whatever incongruity there might be between an anarcho-murder-spree point of view and a band willfully progressing their sound, the song is ridiculously heavy and lurches with revel-worthy glee, and could possibly portend of even harsher vibes to come.

There’s a teaser at the bottom of this post, along with the Bandcamp stream of Grisaille, should you want a refresher. Info follows from the PR wire:

enhailer dumb enough to care

Enhailer – Dumb Enough to Care – Blackseed Records

Blackseed once again teams up with Akron, Ohio’s Enhailer, offering an eighteen minute track via CD and cassette ‘Dumb Enough To Care’. It may seem a release this length would be considered short, but once your ears tune in, it serves up a delectable feast to entice hard doom lovers and progressive stoner rockers alike. This presents a darker, more abrasive Enhailer. Vocals added in just the right places give variance from their initial, almost fully instrumental debut.

‘Dumb Enough To Care’ is officially available as of Monday, December 11th, 2017. Enhailer will soon confirm its release party in their home town, as well as Pittsburgh, PA (the home of Blackseed Records) in early winter. Dumb Enough to Care Artwork by Fred Grabosky.

Enhailer is a “mid-paced, sludge, experimental, stoner, doom metal, progressive, misanthropic dirt rock” outfit based in Akron, Ohio. They’ve been together since 2014 and produced their first record, Grisaille (gri-sigh) in the summer of 2016. Filled with instrumental arrangements that simultaneously destroy and restore your faith in sonic healing, the band sold out of their self-produced debut CD in short order while playing out in a number cities with bands such as Goatwhore, Eyehategod, Black Breath, Lo-Pan, Childbite, Ringworm, Weedeater, and became a crowd favorite packing spots like Ralph’s (MA), The Grog Shop (OH), and the 31st Street Pub(PA).

Enhailer is: Mike Shea, Matt Snyder, Chadd Beverlin, and Michael Gilpatrick

Enhailer, Dumb Enough to Care teaser video

Enhailer, Grisaille (2016)

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THAL Sign to Argonauta Records; Reach for the Dragon’s Eye Due in 2018

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 7th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Ohio heavy rockers THAL, whose name is an acronym for The Heathens are Loose, are the latest pickup by Argonauta Records, which has been on an absolute international tear in the process of establishing its release schedule for 2018. Look for THAL‘s next long-player, Reach for the Dragon’s Eye to hit as a part of that swath alongside outings from ZOM, Supernaughty, Clamfight and Greyfell, among others.

For THAL, Reach for the Dragon’s Eye follows 2016’s Glitter, which you can stream at the bottom of this post, and will be their second full-length overall. The band also has a handful of digital singles and a name-your-price split with Hashishian that came out this past February, if you’re up for digging in.

Word came through the PR wire:



We’re excited to welcome to Argonauta Records family U.S. Heavy Rockers THAL.

THAL (The Heathens Are Loose) is a collaboration between John “Vince Green” Walker and Kevin Hartnell. THAL was originally Green’s solo effort, but while recording wytCHord’s 2016 debut album “Death Will Flee” (another band in which Vince and Kevin play with guitarist David Jones) he quickly realized that Kevin’s barbaric drumming and multi-instrumental abilities would make the next THAL album something special.

“Kevin is a very busy musician and in high demand, but I couldn’t not ask him to collaborate. I was really excited when he said yes.” says Green. Although they live two hours apart, they passed song ideas and sound files back and forth online for a year; almost daily as “Reach For The Dragon’s Eye” quickly took shape. The album is a true collaboration. “This album was inspired by a life changing event last fall and the subsequent personal journey as the world continued devolving around us. In other words, the heaviest material THAL has put to tape.”

THAL confronts the ugliness of daily life with a dose of pessimism processed through an esoteric filter. Stories of despair put to one hell of a riff.

About the label deal: “Argonauta is one of the finest providers of heavy music in the industry today. Every release is consistently great. We are honored to be given the opportunity to contribute to that legacy.”

THAL “Reach for the Dragon’s Eye” will be released in CD/DD during 2018, a huge album briefly described as the perfect blend between CLUTCH, DANZIG and QUEENS OF THE STONE AGE.

THAL, Glitter (2016)

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Pale Grey Lore Self-Titled LP Due Dec. 1

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 2nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

pale grey lore

I was a big fan of the self-titled first full-length from Ohio heavy rockers Pale Grey Lore (review here) when it was released last year by the band on their own. Enough so that I considered it one of 2016’s best debut albums, and I’ll happily stand by that a year after the fact. Right out of the gate, the Columbus natives showcased an ability to craft memorable songs that were about more than just their hooks, but still delivered those with righteous efficiency. Their material was tight, mature in a way that undercut the fact that it was their first album, and wholly unpretentious. There was, in short, a lot to like.

On Dec. 1, Kozmik Artifactz offshoot Oak Island Records will release Pale Grey Lore‘s Pale Grey Lore as a limited LP. The band has a release show booked in their hometown at The Spacebar and preorders are set to start soon. If you didn’t dig into the album when it came out last year, no time like the present to get caught up. You’ll find it streaming in full at the bottom of this post.



Originally released on CD and digital download in June of 2016, Pale Grey Lore’s self-titled debut album is slated for vinyl release on December 1st 2017 via German label Kozmik Artifactz’s imprint Oak Island Records. Featuring cover art by Joel Chastain, the album was recorded and engineered by Andy Sartain and mastered by Harold LaRue.

Melodic vocals and tasteful harmonies echo alongside thunderous drums, while fuzz-drenched reverberating guitars push demon-haunted vintage amplifiers to the brink. Spanning the genres of psych rock, doom metal, post-punk and drone pop, the album’s nine tracks are refreshingly diverse, yet part of a remarkably coherent whole that adds up to much more than the sum of its parts.
The vinyl release party will take place on Friday December 1st at The Spacebar in Columbus Ohio and will feature special guests Matter of Planets (from Columbus) and Pillärs (from Cleveland).

Pale Grey Lore, Pale Grey Lore (2016)

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