The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2018

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

the-top-30-of-2018

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks in advance for reading. Here we go:

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

30. The Skull, The Endless Road Turns Dark

The Skull The Endless Road Turns Dark

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Sept. 12.

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

29. Foghound, Awaken to Destroy

foghound awaken to destroy

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Nov. 21.

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

28. Orange Goblin, The Wolf Bites Back

orange goblin the wolf bites back

Released by Spinefarm Records. Reviewed June 13.

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

27. Fu Manchu, Clone of the Universe

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

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

26. Witch Mountain, Witch Mountain

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

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

25. Windhand, Eternal Return

windhand eternal return

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed Oct. 3.

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

24. Sun Voyager, Seismic Vibes

Sun Voyager Seismic Vibes

Released by King Pizza Records. Reviewed April 18.

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

23. Forming the Void, Rift

forming the void rift

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed July 27.

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

22. Spaceslug, Eye the Tide

spaceslug eye the tide

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

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

21. Conan, Existential Void Guardian

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

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

20. Pale Divine, Pale Divine

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

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

19. Mos Generator, Shadowlands

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

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

18a. Stoned Jesus, Pilgrims

STONED JESUS PILGRIMS

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 5.

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

18. Backwoods Payback, Future Slum

backwoods payback future slum

Self-released. Reviewed Aug. 15.

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

17. Corrosion of Conformity, No Cross No Crown

corrosion of conformity no cross no crown

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Jan. 3

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

16. Naxatras, III

naxatras iii

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 14.

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

15. Clutch, Book of Bad Decisions

clutch book of bad decisions

Released by Weathermaker Music. Reviewed Aug. 27.

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

14. Ancestors, Suspended in Reflections

Ancestors Suspended in Reflections

Released by Pelagic Records. Reviewed Aug. 3.

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

13. High on Fire, Electric Messiah

high on fire electric messiah

Released by eOne Heavy. Reviewed Sept. 28.

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

12. Yawning Man, The Revolt Against Tired Noises

yawning man the revolt against tired noises

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed July 2.

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

11. Greenleaf, Hear the Rivers

greenleaf hear the rivers

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Nov. 26.

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

10. Gozu, Equilibrium

gozu equilibrium

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

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

9. Monster Magnet, Mindfucker

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

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

8. Apostle of Solitude, From Gold to Ash

Apostle of Solitude From Gold to Ash

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

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

7. Holy Grove, Holy Grove II

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

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

6. All Them Witches, ATW

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

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

5. YOB, Our Raw Heart

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

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

4. Brant Bjork, Mankind Woman

brant bjork mankind woman

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Sept. 13.

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

3. Earthless, Black Heaven

earthless black heaven

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed March 15.

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

2. King Buffalo, Longing to Be the Mountain

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

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

1. Sleep, The Sciences

sleep the sciences

Released by Third Man Records. Reviewed May 1.

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

The Next 20

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

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

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

Honorable Mention

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

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

Special Note

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

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

Best Short Release of the Year

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

  • Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard & Slomatics, Totems Split

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

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

Looking Forward

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

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

Okay, That’s It

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

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

So thanks.

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

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

Everybody have a great and safe 2019.

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YOB, Voivod and Amenra Announce Spring 2019 Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 19th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

yob alyssa herman photo

Here’s a nifty thought to make your day a little brighter: YOB touring with Voivod on a co-headlining run with support from Amenra. Just to put a check on it, it’s the outfit who defined and continue to reinvent cosmic doom, the band who innovated nerdism in heavy metal and proved that thrash could be progressive, and Europe’s leading purveyor of post-metal. This is not a minor tour. It’s not even the kind of tour you talk about later. It’s the kind of tour that, if you know, you were there, and that’s it. Some experiences don’t need words. “You were at that show?” “Yeah.” And so on.

YOB of course go in support of earlier-2018’s Our Raw Heart (review here), which if the results thus far of the Year-End Poll (add your list!) are anything to go by, yes, you already knew that. Voivod and Amenra have releases too, but really, even if none of them had put out a record in five years, wouldn’t this still be an astounding bill? Yes, yes it would.

Dates are presented by Nanotear and are as follows:

yob voivod amenra tour

Spring 2019: Yob + Voivod + Amenra

03.26 Minneapolis MN Fine Line
03.27 Chicago IL Thalhia Hall
03.28 Columbus OH Ace of Cups
03.29 Cleveland OH Grog Shop
03.30 Toronto ON Phoenix
03.31 Buffalo NY Town Ballroom
04.02 Portland ME Geno’s
04.03 Boston MA Royale
04.04 Brooklyn NY Warsaw
04.05 Philadelphia PA Union Transfer
04.06 Richmond VA Broadberry
04.07 Raleigh NC Kings
04.09 Knoxville TN Concourse (Co-presented with American Icon)
04.10 Atlanta GA Masquerade / Hell
04.11 New Orleans LA One Eyed Jack’s
04.12 Houston TX Warehouse Studios
04.13 Austin TX Barracuda
04.14 Dallas TX Gas Monkey
04.16 Denver CO Marquis Theater*
04.18 Mesa AZ Club Red+
04.19 San Diego CA Brick by Brick w/ Monolord+
+ = YOB only
* = no Voivod

YOB is:
Mike Scheidt – Guitar, Vocals
Aaron Rieseberg – Bass
Travis Foster – Drums

www.yobislove.com
www.facebook.com/quantumyob
www.twitter.com/quantumyob
www.instagram/com/quantumyob
www.relapse.com
www.facebook.com/RelapseRecords

YOB, Our Raw Heart (2018)

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YOB Announce End-of-Year West Coast Dates; Euro Tour Starts Oct. 5

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 28th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

yob (Photo by James Rexroad)

So, unless they post a new video or something or start announcing their inevitable Spring 2019 plans, this is probably the last time I’ll post about YOB before we get to the year-end lists in December. I feel compelled to point out the fact that they’re fucking amazing. Fact? Yes. Fact. It’s established. It’s not like gravity, which is a theory just waiting to be disproved. It’s a fact. Undeniable. They’re a special band. They’re almost certainly the best of their generation, and the innovations in style and form they’ve brought to doom have only made it and listeners richer for their advent. I’m sorry. If you can’t dig on YOB, I’ve got nothing for you.

I guess that’s what I want to say about it. Their latest album, Our Raw Heart (review here), well, if you haven’t heard it, it’s down there at the bottom of this post. But you’ve heard it. I’m actually dying to get to the year-end poll and see how they do against the behemoth that is Sleep. I think they’ve got a shot.

Either way, YOB will round out their year doing what they’ve done a whole lot of in 2018 already: touring. And hey, look at that! The West Coast stint is presented by Gimme Radio, which is a thing I’m on. Good to see the name getting out there, especially on something it’s so easy to wholeheartedly endorse.

Poster and info from the PR wire:

yob dec tour

YOB: Announce End of 2018 West Coast Tour Dates; European Headlining Tour Begins Next Week

Our Raw Heart is out now on CD/2xLP/Deluxe 2xLP Boxset/CS/Digital

YOB returns to North American highways once more before the end of 2018, adding a half-dozen date trek up and down the North American West Coast including a performance Decibel Magazine’s Metal & Beer Fest on Dec. 2 at the Wiltern. Gimme Radio presents the non-Decibel shows.

The new round of tour dates are:

December 1 San Francisco, CA Slim’s ^
December 2 Los Angeles, CA The Wiltern (Decibel Metal & Beer Fest)
December 5 Seattle, WA Neumo’s #
December 7 Vancouver, BC Astoria #
December 8 Bellingham, WA Shakedown #
December 9 Portland, OR Star Theatre #^

# – with Thrones
^ – with Khorada

The dates follow an extensive European tour, which kicks off next week in Germany and includes an Oct. 13 performance at Desertfest.

YOB Tour Dates:
October 5 to November 13 w/ Wiegedood (except *)

October 5 Karlsruhe, Germany Jubez
October 6 Nijmegen, Netherlands Soulcrusher
October 7 Bristol, UK The Fleece
October 9 Glasgow, UK Stereo
October 10 Leeds, UK Brudenell Social Club
October 11 Manchester, UK Gorilla
October 13 Antwerp, Belgium Desertfest *
October 14 Cologne, Germany Gebaeude9
October 16 Hamburg, Germany Molotow Club
October 17 Copenhagen, Denmark Vega
October 18 Gothenburg, Sweden Sticky Fingers
October 19 Stockholm, Sweden Kraken
October 20 Oslo, Norway Blä
October 21 Helsingfors, Finland Tavastia *
October 23 Paris, France Petit Bain
October 24 Feyzin, France L’Epicerie Moderne
October 25 Cenon, France Le Rocher De Palmer
October 26 Bilbao, Spain Santana 27
October 27 Porto, Portugal Hard Club
October 28 Madrid, Spain Caracol
October 29 Barcelona, Spain Boveda
October 31 Langenthal, Switzerland Old Capitol
November 1 Milan, Italy Santeria Social Club
November 2 Bologna, Italy Freakout Club
November 3 Martigny, Switzerland Caves Du Manoir
November 4 Bregenz, Austria Between
November 6 Vienna, Austria Arena
November 7 Budapest, Hungary Robot
November 8 Leipzig, Germany UT Connewitz
November 9 Warsaw, Poland Hydrozagadka
November 10 Kraków, Poland Soulstone Gathering Festival
November 11 Berlin, Germany Musik & Frieden
November 13 Athens, Greece Kyttaro Live Club *

YOB is:
Mike Scheidt – Guitar, Vocals
Aaron Rieseberg – Bass
Travis Foster – Drums

www.yobislove.com
www.facebook.com/quantumyob
www.twitter.com/quantumyob
www.instagram/com/quantumyob
www.relapse.com
www.facebook.com/RelapseRecords

YOB, “Original Face” official video

YOB, Our Raw Heart (2018)

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YOB Post “Original Face” Video; On Tour Now

Posted in Bootleg Theater on September 13th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

yob (Photo by James Rexroad)

It’s been a full week since YOB released the video below, and I’ll admit I held off posting it basically because I didn’t go to the show where it was filmed and of everything I either attended or didn’t this summer, missing YOB probably stings the most. Actually, Portugal stings the most, but YOB at Le Poisson Rouge are a close second. You see, I was there in 2011 the last time they played that room, and they were of course incredible. I’ve seen YOB numerous times since then, but this show had the kind of vibe of being the NYC arrival party for their new album, Our Raw Heart (review here), and in addition to feeling like I should be there on account of that, I wanted to be. It’s fucking YOB. I remember a time when they were never going to play again. Every show since is a gift.

What finally tipped the balance and got me to get over myself and post it was reading that it was filmed by Frank Huang. Frank‘s work has always been top notch and worth highlighting whenever possible, and the clip for “Original Face” that follows here is no exception to that. It’s an exciting performance-capture that’s briskly edited and doesn’t need to be overdone to showcase the impact of YOB live. For everyone who’s seen them before, it’s a reminder of what a special band they are live, and for anyone who hasn’t, it’s a compelling argument to get off your ass next time. I hope to do precisely that when next given the opportunity. I’m also holding out hope they’ll be added to Roadburn next year and make a return there, but I haven’t heard anything either way as yet.

In the meantime, the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt, bassist Aaron Rieseberg and drummer Travis Foster are wrapping a quick West Coast run with Acid King and CHRCH, and next month they head to Europe to tour with Wiegedood and hit several festivals along the way on the extended trek. You’ll find those dates below, and if you’re anywhere near where they’re going to be, even if you’ve seen them multiple times before, go. If you don’t, you’ll regret it later. Trust me.

Enjoy the clip:

YOB, “Original Face” official video

YOB, who recently released their critically-acclaimed album, Our Raw Heart, share a live video for “Original Face.”

The clip was directed by Frank Huang (Maximum Volume Silence) and filmed at New York’s Le Poisson Rouge.

YOB Tour Dates:
US WEST COAST TOUR w/ ACID KING & CHRCH
September 13 Phoenix, AZ Club Red
September 14 San Diego, CA Brick by Brick
September 15 Oakland, CA Metro

FALL EUROPEAN TOUR DATES w/ WIEGEDOOD
Oct 05 Karlsruhe, DE Jubez
Oct 06 Nijmegen, NL Soulcrusher Festival
Oct 07 Bristol, UK The Fleece
Oct 09 Glasgow, UK Stereo
Oct 10 Leeds, UK Brudenell Social Club
Oct 11 Manchester, UK Gorilla
Oct 12 London, UK The Garage
Oct 13 Antwerp, BE Desertfest Belgium (No Wiegedood)
Oct 14 Koln, DE Gebaeude9
Oct 16 Hamburg, DE Molotow Club
Oct 17 Copenhagen, DK Vega
Oct 18 Gothenburg, SE Sticky Fingers
Oct 19 Stockholm, SE Kraken
Oct 20 Oslo, NO Bla
Oct 21 Helsinki, FI Tavastia (no Wiegedood)
Oct 23 Paris, FR Petit Bain
Oct 24 Feyzin, FR L’Epicerie Moderne
Oct 25 Cenon, FR Le Rocher De Palmer
Oct 27 Porto, PT Hard Club
Oct 28 Madrid, ES Caracol
Oct 29 Barcelona, ES Boveda
Oct 31 Langenthal, CH Old Capitol
Nov 01 Milan, IT Santeria Social Club
Nov 02 Bologna, IT Freakout Club
Nov 03 Martigny, CH Caves Du Manoir
Nov 04 Bregenz, AT Between
Nov 06 Vienna, AT Arena
Nov 07 Budapest, HU Robot
Nov 08 Leipzig, DE UT Connewitz
Nov 09 Warsaw, PL Hydrozagadka
Nov 10 Krakow, PL Soulstone Gathering Festival
Nov 11 Berlin, DE Musik & Frieden
Nov 13 Athens, GR Kyttaro Live Club (no Wiegedood)

Dec 01 Los Angeles, CA Decibel Metal & Beer Festival

YOB is:
Mike Scheidt – Guitar, Vocals
Aaron Rieseberg – Bass
Travis Foster – Drums

YOB website

YOB on Thee Facebooks

YOB on Twitter

YOB on Instagram

Relapse Records website

Relapse Records on Thee Facebooks

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YOB Announce European Tour Dates Supporting Our Raw Heart

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 4th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

yob (Photo James Rexroad)

It a little bit broke my heart to miss YOB when they came through last week. They were in New York, I was in Connecticut. It would’ve been at least 90 minutes in the car, but at the end of that trip, I’d have seen YOB on their first run through supporting their new album, Our Raw Heart (review here), with direct support from Bell Witch and Philly’s own Heavy Temple rounding out the bill. That’s a fucking awesome show. But, you know, baby stuff. I’d been to a fest the weekend prior. Taking care of my wife’s sister’s kids. So on and so forth. But yeah, that one stung a little bit to miss. I don’t feel that way nearly about as many shows as I used to, but I for sure did about that one.

YOB, of course, have a fuck-ton of tour dates coming up, and more are being added. They’ll wrap up the stint with Bell Witch next week, then there are shows in September with Acid King and CHRCH which is a bill so righteous it makes me want to price flights to Albuquerque, and then a full European tour with Wiegedood that picks up in October. Then they’re at the West Coast Decibel Metal and Beer Fest in Los Angeles in December. Next year? Probably more touring, if I had to guess. Anyone remember when YOB didn’t tour? That used to be a thing. Now they’re like a Relapse band or something. Ha.

Overwhelming list follows, courtesy of the PR wire:

yob euro tour

YOB: Announce Fall European Headlining Tour Dates

Our Raw Heart is out now on CD/2xLP/Deluxe 2xLP Boxset/CS/Digital

Oregon cosmic trio YOB announce Fall European headlining tour dates throughout October and November. The band will be touring in support of the recently released full-length album Our Raw Heart. Belgium’s Wiegedood will provide direct support throughout the tour. A full list of confirmed tour dates is available below.

YOB’s Our Raw Heart is out now on CD/LP/Digital via Relapse Records. Physical packages are available via Relapse.com HERE and Digital Downloads / Streaming Services HERE.

YOB w/ Bell Witch remaining dates:
July 04 Toronto, ON @ Mod Club
July 06 Pittsburgh, PA @ Rex Theatre
July 07 Detroit, MI @ El Club
July 08 Chicago, IL @ Reggies
July 10 St. Paul, MN @ Club
July 11 Omaha, NE @ Lookout Lounge
July 12 Denver, CO @ Bluebird Theatre
July 13 Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge
July 14 Boise, ID @ Neurolux

— All Dates Sept 6 – Sept 15th w/ Acid King & Chrch —
Sep 06 Sacramento, CA Harlow’s
Sep 07 Santa Cruz, CA Catalyst Atrium
Sep 08 Pioneertown, CA Pappy & Harriet’s
Sep 09 Los Angeles, CA Teragram
Sep 12 Albuquerque, NM Sister
Sep 13 Phoenix, AZ Club Red
Sep 14 San Diego, CA Brick By Brick
Sep 15 Oakland, CA Metro

YOB FALL EUROPEAN TOUR DATES w/ WIEGEDOOD:
Oct 05 Karlsruhe, DE Jubez
Oct 06 Nijmegen, NL Soulcrusher Festival
Oct 07 Bristol, UK The Fleece
Oct 09 Glasgow, UK Stereo
Oct 10 Leeds, UK Brudenell Social Club
Oct 11 Manchester, UK Gorilla
Oct 12 London, UK The Garage
Oct 13 Antwerp, BE Desertfest Belgium (No Wiegedood)
Oct 14 Koln, DE Gebaeude9
Oct 16 Hamburg, DE Molotow Club
Oct 17 Copenhagen, DK Vega
Oct 18 Gothenburg, SE Sticky Fingers
Oct 19 Stockholm, SE Kraken
Oct 20 Oslo, NO Bla
Oct 21 Helsinki, FI Tavastia (no Wiegedood)
Oct 23 Paris, FR Petit Bain
Oct 24 Feyzin, FR L’Epicerie Moderne
Oct 25 Cenon, FR Le Rocher De Palmer
Oct 27 Porto, PT Hard Club
Oct 28 Madrid, ES Caracol
Oct 29 Barcelona, ES Boveda
Oct 31 Langenthal, CH Old Capitol
Nov 01 Milan, IT Santeria Social Club
Nov 02 Bologna, IT Freakout Club
Nov 03 Martigny, CH Caves Du Manoir
Nov 04 Bregenz, AT Between
Nov 06 Vienna, AT Arena
Nov 07 Budapest, HU Robot
Nov 08 Leipzig, DE UT Connewitz
Nov 09 Warsaw, PL Hydrozagadka
Nov 10 Krakow, PL Soulstone Gathering Festival
Nov 11 Berlin, DE Musik & Frieden
Nov 13 Athens, GR Kyttaro Live Club (no Wiegedood)

Dec 01-02 Los Angeles, CA Decibel Metal & Beer Fest

www.yobislove.com
www.facebook.com/quantumyob
www.twitter.com/quantumyob
www.instagram/com/quantumyob
www.relapse.com
www.facebook.com/RelapseRecords

YOB, Our Raw Heart (2018)

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YOB, Our Raw Heart: Rise in This Moment

Posted in Reviews on June 7th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

yob our raw heart

One sincerely doubts the band thinks about it this way, but YOB‘s eighth album, Our Raw Heart, arrives at a pivotal moment for the band. Not only does it mark their debut on Relapse Records after outings on Neurot Recordings and Profound Lore — one might argue it’s their highest-profile release since 2004’s The Illusion of Motion and 2005’s The Unreal Never Lived (discussed here), which was issued via Metal Blade — but it’s the point at which they must answer the question of where to go after 2014’s Clearing the Path to Ascend (review here), which was not only a landmark for the Eugene, Oregon, three-piece themselves, but for the genre as whole.

It was the moment when YOB pushed beyond even the groundbreaking, crushing and ethereal cosmic doom of their two prior offerings, 2009’s The Great Cessation (review here) and 2011’s Atma (review here), and into new territory of emotionalism and aesthetic individuality. Simply put, it was one of the best if not the best record of the decade, so how the hell do you follow that up? If you’re YOB, the answer turns out to be pretty easy: you keep moving forward.

Our Raw Heart comes accompanied by the narrative of guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt coming through a potentially life-threatening bout with diverticulitis that required emergency surgery and a long recovery afterward, and it’s easy enough to read that story and reflection on that into the lyrics of the seven-track/73-minute outing. Even as songs like “In Reverie,” the short and punishing “Lungs Reach” and longest track and immediate focal point “The Beauty in Falling Leaves” — which feels like a natural answer to “Marrow” (discussed here) from the last record and the latest in a tradition of YOB epics going back 15 years to the early declaration of their second album, Catharsis, and their preceding 2002 exploratory debut, Elaborations of Carbon — bleed directly into each other in a natural flow, something here feels unsettled, shaken. As reflective as Our Raw Heart gets, it’s still right that it includes “raw” in the title, as it seems there’s very little distance between the expression and the experience.

At the same time — and somehow not in contradiction — Our Raw Heart is also YOB‘s most expansive-sounding collection yet. Produced by the band, which is the steady lineup of Scheidt, bassist Aaron Rieseberg (also of Norska) and drummer Travis Foster, with Billy Barnett at Gung Ho Studio in their hometown, it’s patient and graceful. It maintains elements that are signature YOB, whether it’s in Rieseberg‘s foundational low end throughout, Foster‘s propensity to make even a quiet drum part like the quiet fade at the end of “Beauty of Falling Leaves” swing, or Scheidt‘s style of riffing on opener “Ablaze” and the galloping chug of the subsequent “The Screen,” but it also pushes ahead along the steady pattern of progression that YOB have tread since making their return nearly a decade ago after splitting up following The Unreal Never Lived.

And even before that. The entire trajectory, from one album to the next, has been a progression of always-developing sonic ideas, and as much as Our Raw Heart may be centered around Scheidt processing and coming to an understanding of what he’s been through — never mind the psychological and emotional implications of facing one’s own mortality; or better, don’t — the story of who YOB are as a band lies in that factor. Like Neurosis before them and few others on this planet, they’re the kind of band whose eighth album you look forward to because you can trust it will bring the next stage of their creative evolution, and certainly Our Raw Heart lives up to that promise.

yob photo by jimmy hubbard

Songs like “Original Face” and and even “The Screen” seem to share some sonic kinship with Atma, and certainly a closing title-track with a stretch of quiet guitar at the beginning is familiar enough ground, but for all three players and for the group as a single entity, these cuts and the rest demonstrate that the larger narrative of YOB is one of an ongoing advance, and the most pivotal accomplishment Our Raw Heart makes in terms of its sheer sound is in pushing beyond its predecessor as fluidly and naturally as that album did its own. Our Raw Heart is the point at which YOB affirm not only the sustainability of their sound as a mature band, which Clearing the Path to Ascend seemed to lay out, but also their unmistakable drive to go deeper into their approach and find a new level of enunciation for who they are and what they do.

This journey is as gorgeous as it is grueling and as beautiful as it is painful. The scope from the lumbering march of “The Screen” to the immersive breadth of “Beauty in Falling Leaves,” or from the momentary extremity and crunching atmosphere of “Lungs Reach” — which at 5:40 is the shortest YOB song ever — and the epilogue of push in “Original Face” and apex wash in the title-track, during which the lead guitar seems to sing through its surroundings almost like a joyous bagpipe on a fadeout that, even after 73 minutes, seems to end the record too soon. Worth noting that while it features the shortest cut they’ve ever written — as its centerpiece, no less — Our Raw Heart is also the longest album YOB have ever produced.

That’s here or there to the listening experience itself, as once you’re in it, you’re in it, but a testament nonetheless to the basic amount of, well, everything put into it. While the title begs the question of who “we” are — the band? the band and audience? the whole of humanity? — YOB make perfectly clear the personal tone of the album, and whatever it might mean to anyone who’d take it on, it obviously holds great meaning for them. Still, looking at it in the context of their arc as a whole, it is the continuity that’s most striking. ScheidtRieseberg and Foster seem to hit turning points almost each time out, and Our Raw Heart is no exception to that, but it’s also the logical next step from where they were four years ago, and as much as it may be fueled and motivated by what Scheidt went through over the last couple years, in its songwriting and execution it continues the band’s progression and says more plainly than ever before that it will not stop.

For as long as YOB go, they will keep growing. I don’t know if it was a question, but if it was, it isn’t anymore, and the answer is that while their style remains one of the most immediately identifiable in doom, and while their influence spreads over an up and coming generation of heavy acts looking to reach expanses of their own, YOB will still refine who they are, still push beyond their collective comfort zone, and still work to arrive at a changing realization of their sound. If Our Raw Heart isn’t a contender for the best album of 2018, I’ve got nothing for you, but more important than where it appears on a given list and more important than any fawning the press might throw its way, it’s the latest stage of YOB‘s resonant and perpetual manifestation, and another landmark along their own expressive path.

YOB, Our Raw Heart (2018)

YOB website

YOB on Thee Facebooks

YOB on Twitter

YOB on Instagram

Relapse Records website

Relapse Records on Thee Facebooks

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YOB Set June Release for Our Raw Heart; Announce Tour Dates with Bell Witch

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 9th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

yob (photo orion landau)

Not to point out the overly frickin’ obvious, but a YOB and Bell Witch tour is going to be insane. YOB go supporting Our Raw Heart, which is out in June on Relapse, while Bell Witch will be heralding last year’s brilliant Mirror Reaper (review here) on Profound Lore, having already played the thing in its 80-minute, one-song entirety at this year’s Roadburn in April. Details are still pretty sparse on the new YOB, which is unquestionably one of 2018’s most anticipated releases and marks their jump to Relapse from Neurot Recordings, which released their 2014 milestone, Clearing the Path to Ascend (review here).

YOB have never ceased to grow as a band from one release to the next, so one looks forward to finding out at what stage Our Raw Heart finds them. The album is out June 8 and the tour starts June 14, so you’ve only got a little bit to commit the songs to memory before you hit the gig, but I’m sure you’ll be on it no problem. Once you put on a new YOB record, it can be pretty difficult to turn it off.

The PR wire had the below to say on the subject. While you peruse the info, I’ll be busy asking myself why I don’t yet own the reissue of The Great Cessation that Relapse just put out. Oh yeah, because I’m broke. Well that was a fun reminder:

yob tour poster

YOB: Our Raw Heart Coming June 8; Announce North American Tour

YOB, the Oregon-based trio, will release Our Raw Heart, the band’s eighth full-length album and Relapse Records’ debut, on June 8.

“We’re very excited to share this new music,” says singer/guitar player Mike Scheidt. “We gave it everything we have. Going from an uncertain future in the beginning of 2017, to writing and then recording a new album at the end of it, it was quite a year. We’re very grateful. We’re looking forward to hitting the road again and celebrating decibels and good cheer with friends worldwide. Can’t wait.”

The news of the seven-track album’s release arrives as the band confirm a North American tour, kicking off June 14 at 89th Street in Oklahoma City. The outing, which will feature direct support from Bell Witch, also includes performances at Austin Terror Fest and Mutants of the Monster 2018. A full list of confirmed tour dates is available below.

Our Raw Heart was co-produced by the band and Billy Barnett at Gung Ho Studio in Eugene, Ore., with mastering handled by Heba Kadry (The Mars Volta, Diamanda Galas, Slowdive). Pre-Orders for Our Raw Heart will be available April 10 via Relapse.com.

YOB recently reissued their fifth full-length album, The Great Cessation, in December via Relapse. That album can be streamed via all digital retail outlets HERE and ordered via Relapse.com HERE.

YOB Tour Dates:

May 25 Vancouver, BC @ Modified Ghost Festival

— All Dates Jun 14 – Jul 14 w/ Bell Witch —

June 14 Oklahoma City, OK @ 89th Street
June 15 Austin, TX @ Austin Terror Fest
June 16 Little Rock, AR @ Mutants of the Monster 2018
June 17 Memphis, TN @ Hi Tone
June 19 Birmingham, AL @ Saturn
June 20 Atlanta, GA @ The Earl
June 23 Wilmington, NC @ Reggies
June 24 Asheville, NC @ Mothlight
June 25 Raleigh, NC @ King’s
June 27 Baltimore, MD @ Metro
June 28 New York, NY @ Le Poisson Rouge
June 29 Philadelphia, PA @ Underground Arts
June 30 Boston, MA @ Middle East
July 02 Montreal, QC @ La Sala Rosa
July 03 Ottawa, ON @ Mavericks
July 04 Toronto, ON @ Mod Club
July 06 Pittsburgh, PA @ Rex Theatre
July 07 Detroit, MI @ El Club
July 08 Chicago, IL @ Reggies
July 10 St. Paul, MN @ Club
July 11 Omaha, NE @ Lookout Lounge
July 12 Denver, CO @ Bluebird Theatre
July 13 Salt Lake City, UT @ Urban Lounge
July 14 Boise, ID @ Neurolux

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YOB, The Great Cessation (Reissue) (2017)

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