Tomorrow’s Dream: 200+ of 2017’s Most Anticipated Releases

Posted in Features on January 23rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

tomorrow's dream 2017

Looks like it’s going to be another busy 12 months ahead. It’s been a busy better-part-of-a-month already, so that stands to reason, but you should know that of the several years now that I’ve done these ‘Tomorrow’s Dream’ posts, this is the biggest one yet, with over 150 upcoming releases that — one hopes — will be out between today and the end of 2017.

Actually, at last count, the list tops 180. Do I really expect you to listen to all of them? Nope. Will I? Well, it would be nice. But what I’ve done is gone through and highlighted 35 picks and then built lists off that in order of likelihood of arrival. You’ll note the categories are ‘Gonna Happen and/or Likely Candidates,’ ‘Definitely Could Happen’ and ‘Would be Awfully Nice.’

Beyond that last one, anything else just seems like speculation — one might as well go “new Sabbath this year!” with zero info backing it up. The idea here is that no matter where a given band is placed, there has been some talk of a new release. In some cases, it’s been years, but I think they’re still worth keeping in mind.

Another caveat: You can expect additions to this list over the next week — probably album titles, band names people (fingers crossed) suggest in the comments, and so on — so it will grow. It always does. The idea is to build as complete a document as possible, not to get it all nailed down immediately, so please, if you have something to contribute and you’re able to do so in a non-prickish, “You didn’t include Band X and therefore don’t deserve to breathe the same air as me,” kind of way, please contribute.

Other than that, I think it’s pretty straightforward what’s going on here and I’ll explain the category parameters as we go, so by all means, let’s jump in.

— Tomorrow’s Dream 2017 —

Presented Alphabetically

1. Abrahma, TBA

Late last year, Paris heavy progressives Abrahma announced a new lineup and third full-length in progress. No reason to think it won’t come to fruition, and a follow-up to 2015’s Reflections in the Bowels of a Bird (review here) is an easy pick to look forward to. Even with the shift in personnel, it seems likely the band will continue their creative development, driven as they are by founding guitarist Seb Bismuth.

2. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War

all them witches sleeping through the warIf 2017 ended today, Sleeping Through the War would be my Album of the Year. Of course, there’s a lot of year to go, but for now, Nashville’s All Them Witches have set the standard with their second album for New West Records behind 2015’s Dying Surfer Meets His Maker (review here) and fourth overall outing. They’ve got videos up so far for “3-5-7” (posted here) and “Bruce Lee” (posted here). Both are most definitely worth your time. Out Feb. 24. Full review should be later this week.

3. Alunah, Solennial

Seems like UK forest riffers Alunah are on this list every year. Wishful thinking on my part. Nonetheless, their fourth LP and Svart Records debut, Solennial, is out March 17, and if the tease they gave already with the clip for “Fire of Thornborough Henge” (posted here) is anything to go from, its Chris Fielding-produced expanses might just be Alunah‘s most immersive yet.

4. Arbouretum, TBA

I asked the Baltimore folk fuzzers a while back on Thee Facebooks if they had a new record coming in 2017 and they said yes, so that’s what I’m going on here. The last Arbouretum album was 2013’s Coming out of the Fog (review here), and even with frontman Dave Heumann‘s 2015 solo outing, Here in the Deep (review here), factored in, you’d have to say they’re due. Keep an eye on Thrill Jockey for word and I’ll do the same.

5. Atavismo, Inerte

This is another one that already has a spot reserved for it on my Best-of-2017 year-end list. Spanish heavy psych rockers Atavismo up the progressive bliss level with their second full-length, Inerte, without losing the depth of style that made 2014’s Desintegración (review here) so utterly glorious. It probably won’t have the biggest marketing budget of 2017, but if you let Atavismo fly under your radar, you are 100 percent missing out on something special.

6. Bison Machine, TBA

In addition to the video for new track “Cloak and Bones” that premiered here, when Michigan raucousness-purveyors Bison Machine put out the dates for their fall 2016 tour, they included further hints of new material in progress. As much as I dug their earlier-2016 split with SLO and Wild Savages (review here) and 2015’s Hoarfrost (review here), that’s more than enough for me to include them on this list. Killer next-gen heavy rock.

7. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, TBA

News of a follow-up to Brothers of the Sonic Cloth‘s 2015 Neurot Recordings self-titled debut (review here) came through in October, and it remains some of the best news I’ve heard about 2017 doings. Took them a while to get the first record out, so we’ll see what happens, but it kind of feels like looking forward to a comet about to smash into the planet and cause a mass extinction, and by that I mean awesome. Can’t get here soon enough.

8. Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kosmic Dust

cloud catcher trails of kosmic dustOkay, so maybe I jumped the gun and did a super-early review of Denver trio Cloud Catcher‘s second long-player and Totem Cat Records debut, Trails of Kosmic Dust, but hell, no regrets. Some albums require an early-warning system. Their 2015 debut, Enlightened Beyond Existence (discussed here), was a gem as well, but this is a band in the process of upping their game on every level, and the songwriting and momentum they hone isn’t to be missed.

9. Colour Haze, TBA

I’ve gotten some details on the upcoming full-length from Colour Haze. They do not include a title, artwork, audio, song titles or general direction. Less details, I guess, than word that the CD version of this answer to 2015’s To the Highest Gods We Know (review here) is set to come out next month, as ever, on Elektrohasch. That puts it out in time for Colour Haze‘s upcoming tour with My Sleeping Karma (announced here). Fingers crossed it happens. Colour Haze are perpetual top-albums candidates in my book.

10. Corrosion of Conformity, TBA

Signed to Nuclear Blast after being rejoined by guitarist/vocalist Pepper Keenan, North Carolina’s C.O.C. have been in the studio since last year. The lineup of Keenan, bassist/vocalist Mike Dean and guitarist Woody Weatherman and Reed Mullin on drums is the stuff of legend and last worked together on 2000’s America’s Volume Dealer, so no question this reunion makes for one of 2017’s most anticipated heavy rock records. They nailed the nostalgia factor on tour. Can they now add to their legacy?

11. Elder, TBA

I was incredibly fortunate about a month ago to visit progressive heavy rockers Elder at Sonelab in Easthampton, MA, during the recording process for their upcoming fourth album. I heard a couple of the tracks, and of course it was all raw form, but the movement forward from 2015’s Lore (review here) was palpable. That LP (on Stickman) brought them to a wider audience, and I expect no less from this one as well, since the farther out Elder go sound-wise, the deeper the level of connection with their listeners they seem to engage.

12. Electric Wizard, TBA

Could happen, could not happen. That’s how it goes. Announced for last Halloween. That date came and went. Word of trouble building their own studio surfaced somewhere along the line. That was the last I heard. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if it showed up tomorrow, if it showed up in 2018, or if the band broke up and never put it out. They’re Electric Wizard. Anything’s possible.

13. John Garcia, The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues

Out Jan. 28 on NapalmThe Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues (review here) is the first-ever acoustic album from former Kyuss frontman John Garcia, also of Unida, the reunited Slo BurnHermanoVista ChinoZun, etc. — basically the voice of desert rock. He does a couple Kyuss classics for good measure, but shines as well on the new/original tracks, and while it’s a piece for fans more than newcomers — that is, it helps if you know the original version of “Green Machine” — his presence remains as powerful as ever despite this new context.

14. Goya, Harvester of Bongloads

Riffs, dude. Goya seem to have them to spare. The Arizona-based wizard doomers have set a pretty prolific clip for themselves at this point, with at least two short releases out in 2016, one a 7″ of Nirvana covers (review here), and the The Enemy EP (review here). Set for a March 3 release through their own Opoponax Records imprint, Harvester of Bongloads continues the march into the abyss that 2015’s Obelisk (review here) and 2013’s 777 set in motion, finding the band coming more into their own as well. Creative growth — and bongloads! The best of both worlds.

15. Ides of Gemini, TBA

Ides of Gemini are set to record their yet-untitled third album with Sanford Parker early this year, and it will also mark their debut on Rise Above Records upon its release. They’ve also got a new lineup around vocalist Sera Timms and guitarist J. Bennett, so as they look to move forward from 2014’s Old World New Wave (review here), one can’t help but wonder what to expect, but to be honest, not knowing is part of the appeal, especially from a band who so readily specialize in the ethereal.

16. Kind, TBA

Three-fourths of Kind feature elsewhere on this list. Bassist Tom Corino plays in Rozamov. Drummer Matt Couto is in Elder. Vocalist Craig Riggs is in Roadsaw. And for what it’s worth, guitarist Darryl Shepherd has a new band coming together called Test Meat. How likely does that make Kind to release a second LP in 2017? I don’t know, but their 2015 Ripple Music debut, Rocket Science (review here), deserves a follow-up, and I know they’ve demoed some new songs. If it happens, great. If it’s 2018, at least these dudes will be plenty busy besides.

17. Lo-Pan, In Tensions

lo-pan in tensionsYes, Lo-Pan‘s In Tensions (review here) has already been released — CD/LP with an artbook on Aqualamb. It’s out. Limited numbers. You can get it now. Why include it on a list of most anticipated releases? Because that’s how strongly I feel about your need to hear it. The fruit of a shortlived lineup with guitarist Adrian Zambrano, it distinguishes itself from everything they’ve done before in style while still keeping to the core righteousness that one hopes the Ohio outfit will continue to carry forward. It’s more than a stopgap between albums. Listen to it.

18. The Midnight Ghost Train, TBA

It seems to have been a rough ride for hard-boogie specialists The Midnight Ghost Train since their 2015 Napalm debut and third album overall, Cold was the Ground (review here). They’ve never taken it easy on the road or in terms of physicality on stage, and between injuries and who knows what else, their intensity at this point veers toward the directly confrontational. Nonetheless, they’ve been writing for album number four, may or may not have started the recording process, and I expect that confrontationalism to suit them well in their new material.

19. Monster Magnet, TBA

I have it on decent authority that NJ heavy psych innovators Monster Magnet were in the studio this past autumn. I’ve seen no concrete word of a new album in progress from Dave Wyndorf and company, and I wouldn’t necessarily expect to until it was time to start hyping the release, but after their two redux releases, 2015’s Cobras and Fire (review here) and 2014’s Milking the Stars (review here), their range feels broader than ever and I can’t wait to hear what they come up with next.

20. Mothership, High Strangeness

A pivotal moment for Mothership arrives with High Strangeness, and the heavy-touring, heavy-riffing Texas power trio seem to know it. Their third record on Ripple Music pushes into new avenues of expression and keeps the energy of 2014’s Mothership II (review here) and 2012’s Mothership (review here), but thus far into their career, it’s been about their potential and what they might accomplish going forward. 2017 might be the year for Mothership to declare a definitive place in the sphere of American heavy rock.

21. The Obsessed, Sacred

On Halloween 2016, founding The Obsessed guitarist/vocalist and doom icon Scott “Wino” Weinrich announced a new lineup for the band, with his former The Hidden Hand bandmate Bruce Falkinburg on bass/vocals, Sara Seraphim on guitar and Brian Costantino continuing on drums. A genuine surprise. Their first album since 1994, Sacred (due on Relapse) was tracked as the trio of WeinrichCostantino and bassist/vocalist Dave Sherman, but clearly they’ve moved into a new era already. Wouldn’t even guess what the future holds, but hopefully Sacred still comes out.

22. Orange Goblin, TBA

When it was announced that London’s Orange Goblin were picked up by Spinefarm as part of that label’s acquisition of Candlelight Records last Spring, the subheadline from the PR wire was “Working on Ninth Studio Album.” I haven’t heard much since then, but even as 2014’s Back from the Abyss (review here) pushed them deeper into metallic territory than ever before, their songs retained the character that’s made the band the institution they are. Always look forward to new Orange Goblin.

23. Pallbearer, Heartless

pallbearer heartlessDoomers, this is your whole year right here. I haven’t heard Pallbearer‘s third album, Heartless (out March 24 on Profound Lore), but I have to think even those who haven’t yet been won over by the Arkansas four-piece’s emotive, deep-running style have to be curious about what they’ve come up with this time around. I know I am. These guys have been making a mark on the genre since their 2012 debut, Sorrow and Extinction (review here), and there’s little doubt Heartless will continue that thread upon its arrival.

24. Radio Moscow, TBA

Fact: Radio Moscow stand among the best classic heavy rock live acts in the US. They’re the kind of band you can watch upwards of 15 gigs in a row — I’ve done it — and find them putting on a better show night after night, in defiance of science, logic and sobriety. Word of their signing to Century Media came just this past week and brought with it confirmation of a follow-up to 2014’s stellar Magical Dirt (review here), and for me to say hell yes, I’m absolutely on board, seems like the no-brainer to end all no-brainers. Can’t wait.

25. Roadsaw, TBA

Nearly six full years later, it’s only fair to call Boston scene godfathers Roadsaw due for a follow-up to their 2011 self-titled (review here). Granted, members have been busy in KindWhite Dynomite, and other projects, but still. Their upcoming outing finds them on Ripple Music after years under the banner of Small Stone Records, and though I haven’t seen a solid release date yet, my understanding is they hit Mad Oak Studio in Allston, MA, this past fall to track it, so seems likely for sooner or later. Sooner, preferably.

26. Rozamov, This Mortal Road

Speaking of albums by Boston bands a while in the making, This Mortal Road (out March 3 on Battleground Records and Dullest Records) is the debut full-length from Boston atmospheric extremists Rozamov. Haven’t heard it yet, but I got a taste of some of the material when I visited the band at New Alliance Audio in Aug. 2015, and the bleak expanses of what I heard seem primed to turn heads. I’m a fan of these guys, but in addition, they’ve found a niche for themselves sound-wise and I’m curious to hear how they bring it to fruition.

27. Samsara Blues Experiment, TBA

It’s been a pleasure over the last couple months to watch a resurgence of Berlin heavy psych trio Samsara Blues Experiment take shape, first with the announcement of a fourth album in October, then with subsequent confirmations for DesertfestRiff Ritual in Barcelona, and a South American tour. Reportedly due in Spring, which fits with the timing on shows, etc., the record will follow 2013’s righteous Waiting for the Flood (review here) and as much as I’m looking forward to hearing it, I’m kind of just glad to have these guys back.

28. Seedy Jeezus, TBA

Work finished earlier this month on Melbourne trio Seedy Jeezus‘ second full-length. As with their 2015 self-titled debut, the band brought Tony Reed of Mos Generator to Australia to produce, and after their blissed-out 2016 collaboration with Earthless guitarist Isaiah MitchellTranquonauts (review here), it’s hard not to wonder what experimentalist tendencies might show in the trio’s style this time out, and likewise difficult not to anticipate what guitarist Lex “Mr. Frumpy” Wattereus comes up with for the cover art.

29. Shroud Eater, Strike the Sun

Not to spoil the surprise, but Feb. 1 I’ll host a track premiere from Florida’s Shroud Eater that finds them working in a different context from everything we’ve heard from them to this point in their rightly-celebrated tenure. They also recently had a split out with Dead Hand, and their second long-player, Strike the Sun, will be their debut through STB Records. It’s been since 2011’s ThunderNoise (review here) that we last got a Shroud Eater album, so you bet your ass I’m dying to know what the last six years have wrought.

30. Sleep, TBA

If Sleep were any other band, they’d probably be in the “Would be Awfully Nice” category. But they’re Sleep, so even the thought of a new record is enough to put them here. The lords of all things coated in THC are reissuing their 2014 single, The Clarity (review here), on Southern Lord next month, but rumors have been swirling about a proper album, which of course would be their first since the now-legendary Dopesmoker. If it happens, it’ll automatically be a heavy underground landmark for 2017, but it’s one I’m going to have in my ears before I really believe it.

31. Stoned Jesus, TBA

Even as they tour playing their second album, 2012’s Seven Thunders Roar (review here), to mark its fifth anniversary and continued impact, Ukrainian trio Stoned Jesus are forging ahead with a fourth record behind 2015’s The Harvest (review here). The capital-‘q’ Question is whether or not looking back at Seven Thunders Roar and engaging that big-riffing side of their sound will have an impact on the new material, and if so, how it will meld with the push of The Harvest. Won’t speculate, but look forward to finding out.

32. Stubb, TBA

Since reveling in the soul of 2015’s Cry of the Ocean (review here) on Ripple, London trio Stubb have swapped out bassists, and they were in Skyhammer Studio this month recording a single that may be an extended psychedelic jam. I’ll take that happily, but I’m even more intrigued at the prospect of a third LP and what guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson, bassist/vocalist Tom Hobson and drummer Tom Fyfe might have in store as the band moves forward on multiple levels. Might be 2017, might not.

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

sun blood stories it runs around the room with usIt Runs around the Room with Us seems to find peace in its resonant experimentalist drones, loops, open, subdued spaces, but there’s always some underlying sense of foreboding to its drift, as if Boise’s Sun Blood Stories could anticipate the moment before it happened. Toward the end of the follow-up to 2015’s Twilight Midnight Morning (review here), they execute the 90-second assault “Burn” and turn serenity to ash. Look for it in April and look for it again on my best of 2017 list in December.

34. Ufomammut, TBA

Any new offering from the Italian cosmic doom magnates is worth looking forward to, and while Ufomammut have left the 15-year mark behind, they’ve never stopped progressing in style and form. To wit, 2015’s Ecate (review here) was a stunner after 2012’s two-part LP, Oro (review here and review here), tightening the approach but assuring the vibe was no less expansive than ever. They started recording last summer, finished mixing in November, so I’m hoping for word of a release date soon.

35. Vokonis, The Sunken Djinn

Born out of Creedsmen Arise, whose 2015 demo, Temple (review here), offered formative thrills, Swedish trio Vokonis debuted with last year’s Olde One Ascending (review here) and proved there’s still life in post-Sleep riffing when it’s wielded properly. They signed to Ripple in November and confirmed the title of their sophomore effort as The Sunken Djinn, as well as a reissue for the first album, which will probably arrive first. I don’t know how that will affect the timing on this one, but keep an eye out anyway.

Gonna Happen and/or Likely Candidates

Obviously some of these are more likely than others. Some have solidified, announced release dates — Dopelord‘s out this month, Demon Head‘s out in April, etc. — and others come from social media posts of bands in studios and hints at upcoming releases and so on. A big tell is whether or not a band has an album title with their listing, but even some of those without have their new albums done, like Atala and Royal Thunder, so it’s not necessarily absolute.

Either way, while I’m spending your money, you might want to look into:

36. Against the Grain
37. Amenra
38. Atala
39. Attalla, Glacial Rule
40. Ayahuasca Dark Trip, II
41. Beastmaker
42. Beaten Back to Pure
43. Blackout
44. Bretus
45. Buried Feather, Mind of the Swarm
46. The Clamps
47. Cold Stares
48. Coltsblood, Ascending into the Shimmering Darkness
49. Come to Grief, The Worst of Times EP
50. Cortez
51. Cruthu, The Angle of Eternity
52. The Dead-End Alley Band, Storms
53. Dead Witches, Dead Witches
54. Dealer
55. Death Alley, Live at Roadburn
56. Demon Head, Thunder on the Fields
57. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, II
58. Devil Electric
59. Doctor Cyclops, Local Dogs
60. Dool, Here Now There Then
61. Dopelord, Children of the Haze
62. Doublestone, Devil’s Own/Djævlens Egn
63. Dread Sovereign, For Doom the Bell Tolls
64. Drive by Wire
65. Elbrus, Elbrus
66. Electric Age
67. Electric Moon, Stardust Rituals
68. Endless Floods, II
69. Five Horse Johnson
70. Forming the Void, Relic
71. Funeral Horse
72. Greenbeard
73. Green Desert Water
74. Greenleaf
75. Grifter / Suns of Thunder, Split
76. Hair of the Dog, This World Turns
77. Heavy Temple, Chassit
78. Here Lies Man, Here Lies Man
79. Hollow Leg, Murder EP
80. Holy Mount, The Drought
81. Hooded Menace
82. Horisont, About Time
83. Hymn, Perish
84. Lecherous Gaze
85. Magnet, Feel Your Fire
86. Mastodon
87. Merlin, The Wizard
88. Merchant
89. Mindkult, Lucifer’s Dream
90. Mirror Queen
91. Moonbow, War Bear
92. Mos Generator
93. The Moth
94. MotherSloth
95. Mouth, Vortex
96. My Sleeping Karma, Mela Ananda – Live
97. Orango
98. Papir
99. PH, Eternal Hayden
100. Psychedelic Witchcraft, Magick Rites and Spells
101. Royal Thunder
102. Saturn, Beyond Spectra
103. Season of Arrows, Give it to the Mountain
104. Siena Root
105. Six Organs of Admittance, Burning the Threshold
106. Six Sigma, Tuxedo Brown
107. Sólstafir
108. The Sonic Dawn, Into the Long Night
109. Spelljammer
110. Spidergawd, IV
111. Steak
112. Stinking Lizaveta, Journey to the Underworld
113. Sula Bassana, Organ Accumulator
114. Summoner
115. Sun Voyager, Sun Voyager
116. Sweat Lodge, Tokens for Hell EP
117. Thera Roya, Stone and Skin
118. Toke
119. Troubled Horse, Revelation on Repeat
120. VA, Brown Acid The Third Trip
121. Weedpecker
122. Youngblood Supercult, The Great American Death Rattle

Definitely Could Happen

Maybe a recording process is upcoming (Gozu, Cities of Mars, YOB), or a band is looking for a label (The Flying Eyes), or they’ve said new stuff is in the works but the circumstances of an actual release aren’t known (Arc of Ascent, Dead Meadow, High on Fire), or I’ve just seen rumors of their hitting the studio (Freedom Hawk, La Chinga, Ruby the Hatchet). We’ve entered the realm of the entirely possible but not 100 percent.

So, you know, life.

Dig it:

123. The Age of Truth
124. Ape Machine
125. Arc of Ascent
126. At Devil Dirt
127. Bantoriak
128. Bask
129. BCAD
130. BoneHawk
131. La Chinga
132. Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters
133. Cities of Mars
134. Crypt Sermon
135. Dead Meadow
136. Death Alley (Studio LP)
137. Dee Calhoun
138. Destroyer of Light
139. Devil
140. Devil Worshipper
141. Duel
142. Dustrider
143. Egypt
144. Electric Moon
145. Elephant Tree
146. Farflung
147. The Flying Eyes
148. Freedom Hawk
149. Gozu
150. The Great Electric Quest
151. Green Meteor, Consumed by a Dying Sun
152. High on Fire
153. Horrendous
154. Insect Ark
155. In the Company of Serpents
156. Iron Monkey
157. Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus
158. The Judge
159. Killer Boogie
160. King Dead
161. The Kings of Frog Island
162. Lords of Beacon House, Recreational Sorcery
163. Mangoo
164. Mondo Drag
165. Monolord
166. Mountain God
167. The Munsens
168. Naxatras
169. Never Got Caught
170. Ommadon
171. Orchid
172. Ordos
173. Pilgrim
174. Poseidon
175. Purple Hill Witch
176. Ruby the Hatchet
177. Sasquatch
178. Satan’s Satyrs
179. Serpents of Secrecy
180. Shabda
181. Shooting Guns
182. Sleepy Sun
183. Slow Season
184. Snowy Dunes, Atlantis
185. Spectral Haze
186. The Sweet Heat
187. Switchblade Jesus
188. Superchief
189. Tÿburn
190. YOB
191. Zone Six

Would be Awfully Nice

This last category is basically as close as I’m willing to come to rampant speculation. Endless Boogie have hinted at new material, and Queens of the Stone Age have talked about hitting the studio for the last two years. There were rumors about Om, and though Kings Destroy just put out an EP, they have new songs as well, though I doubt we’ll hear them before the end of 2017. I’ll admit that Across Tundras, Fever Dog, Lord Fowl, Lowrider and Hour of 13 are just wishful thinking on my part. A boy can hope:

192. Across Tundras
193. Eggnogg
194. Elephant Tree
195. Endless Boogie
196. Fever Dog
197. Fu Manchu
198. Halfway to Gone
199. Hour of 13
200. Kadavar
201. Kings Destroy
202. Lord Fowl
203. Lowrider
204. Masters of Reality
205. Om
206. Orodruin
207. Queens of the Stone Age

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading. Whatever this year brings, I hope it’s been great so far for you and I hope it continues to be so as we proceed inexorably to 2018 and all the also-futuristic-sounding numbers thereafter. At least we know we’ll have plenty of good music to keep us company on that voyage.

As always, comments section is open if there’s anything I’ve left out. I’m happy to add, adjust, etc., as need be, so really, have at it, and thanks in advance.

All the best.

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Papir Sign to Stickman Records; New Album Due Early 2017

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 15th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

There are few labels with taste as blindly reliable as Stickman Records, who in the past have aligned themselves with the likes of MotorpsychoElder and Spidergawd, so when I say that Copenhagen’s Papir will make a good fit for the roster, take it as a sign of respect for the quality of the instrumental trio’s output. Their last record, IIII (review here), came out in 2014 on El Paraiso Records — the imprint helmed by members of Causa Sui; no minor shakes as regards taste either — and since then the band has collaborated with Electric Moon and Øresund Space Collective, so it’s fair to note that their track record of keeping good company continues unabated.

Veterans of RoadburnFreak ValleyDesertfest and many others, Papir will release a new album — which either will or will not be titled IIIII — in early 2017 through Stickman Records. It took me a while to catch onto these guys, but I’ve been glad I did ever since, and the sense of forward thinking jamming and progressive sensibility they bring to their sonic textures is second to none. Whatever they call it, I’m looking forward to hearing the next stage of their ongoing development.

Stickman offered the following brief announcement on the pickup with the promise of more album details to come:

papir-700

NEW SIGNING – PAPIR FROM COPENHAGEN!

We’re happy to announce that we have a new family member on Stickman Records: Papir from Copenhagen, Denmark.

Papir are an instrumental trio who have released a string of great albums on El Paraiso. After seeing them several times at Roadburn, Freak Valley, and most recently at the Copenhagen PsychFest, we’re excited to welcome them into the fold and see what the future will bring.

The band’s new album will be mixed in mid-August by John McEntire of Tortoise and is scheduled for release in early 2017. Details to follow!

https://www.facebook.com/papirband
https://www.stickman-records.com/

Papir, “IIII.I”

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Desertfest Belgium 2015 Adds Earth, Stoned Jesus, Papir, Crystal Head, Pendejo, Banda de la Muerte and USA out of Vietnam

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 2nd, 2015 by JJ Koczan

trix, yo.

They still have more to announce. That might be the most terrifying part of the whole thing. Desertfest Belgium 2015 came out of the gate swinging — I don’t even know what these clichés are supposed to mean; are they boxing horses or something? — and the festival, which is set for Oct. 9, 10 and 11 at Trix in Antwerp has only continued to get more and more lethal. Now Earth are headlining? What, were the fucking Beatles busy? Jesus, guys. Save some for next year.

Next year, I’m sure, will be even more ludicrous in that wish-you-were-there kind of way. But for this year, yes, there’s still one more announcement to come for Desertfest Belgium 2015, and after reading the below news that EarthStoned JesusPapirCrystal HeadPendejoBanda de la Muerte and USA out of Vietnam have joined the already-kicked-ass ranks, it’s less of a question of imagining who might be added than of asking who’s left that’s not already playing.

Heavy rock and roll, my friends:

desertfest belgium 2015

EARTH to headline DESERTFEST BELGIUM 2015, plus seven more bands announced!

For its next-to-last announcement, DESERTFEST BELGIUM is proud to welcome megalithic legends EARTH to the bill, for the first time ever at Desertfest! In addition, the festival also confirmed Ukraine’s number one heavy mongers STONED JESUS, Copenhagen’s instrumental drone trio PAPIR, eclectic foursome USA OUT OF VIETNAM, Argentina’s sludgers BANDA DE LA MUERTE, British rockers CRYSTAL HEAD, Bruges vintage THE HEAVY CROWN and the one and only PENDEJO!

Day tickets on sale next week with final announcement!

Bands already confirmed are:
Earth, Goatsnake, Orange Goblin, Bongzilla, Fatso Jetson, Dozer, Moon Duo, Greenleaf, Valient Thorr, Ufomammut, Stoned Jesus, Causa Sui, Siena Root, Monolord, Mars Red Sky, Glowsun, Papir, Carlton Melton, Monomyth, Child, Harsh Toke, Planet Of Zeus, Pendejo, Vandal X, USA Out Of Vietnam, Banda De La Muerte, Tangled Horns, Psychonaut, The Progerians, Crystal Head, The Heavy Crown, Wheel Of Smoke, Sunder, Fever Dog, Black-Bone and 3rd Ear Experience.

Unfortunately, Sourvein have been forced to cancel their European tour for personal reasons. Full statement from the band follows:

“Due to circumstances beyond our control, a family emergency has occurred and can’t be delayed at this time. We’ll have to postpone our upcoming tour until 2016. Thanks for understanding it’s family first in this type of situation. Shows will be rescheduled and we will see you in 2016. Can’t wait to see everyone in europe. Thank you, Sourvein.”

DESERTFEST BELGIUM 2015
October 9-11th at Trix Muziekcentrum – Antwerp
3 day tickets (96€) on sale HERE

More infos at www.desertfest.be

https://www.facebook.com/desertfestbelgium
https://twitter.com/desertfestBE
http://www.desertfest.be/

Earth, Primitive and Deadly (2014)

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Quarterly Review: Royal Thunder, Strauss, Kult of the Wizard, Coogans Bluff, Papir Meets Electric Moon, We are Warwick Davis, Rongeur, Crowlegion, Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band, Eldorado

Posted in Reviews on April 1st, 2015 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk quarterly review

Morale is good as I stare down day three of this Quarterly Review. I’m encouraged by the good response the two-so-far posts have gotten and hope if you’ve had the chance to check out any of this stuff you’ve been able to find something you’re into. Or if not, I hope the next three days can rectify that situation. There are 30 records still to go. Bound to be something in there for everyone, myself included.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Royal Thunder, Crooked Doors

royal thunder crooked doors

Royal Thunder’s second full-length for Relapse, Crooked Doors, is bound to surprise some listeners. A three-piece when they issued CVI through the label in 2012, the Savannah, Georgia, outfit arrives at Crooked Doors as a foursome with the addition of guitarist Will Fiore of Zoroaster, and embarks on a considerable shift in approach. Slickly, almost commercially produced, the album brisks past some riffy elements in songs like opener “Time Machine,” also the longest cut at 7:20 (immediate points), and “The Line” toward an aesthetic reinterpreting ‘80s pop-metal melodramas through a vaguely heavy rock filter. Between Fiore and might-spit-beer-on-you guitarist Josh Weaver, one might expect more tonal heft than Crooked Doors offers overall, but the album instead leans heavily on bassist/vocalist Mlny Parsonz to carry the emotional crux of the material (though Evan Diprima’s drums still hit with some impact as well). Parsonz’s voice proves up to the task — in pop-singer form, she carries the record —  and is bolstered through layering, but by the time Crooked Doors’ hour runtime ends up at the lounge-blues and piano stylizations of “The Bear I” and “The Bear II,” it feels cumbersome and like the point has already been made.

Royal Thunder on Thee Facebooks

Relapse Records

Strauss, Luia

strauss luia

A sophomore EP from this London five-piece following their impressive 2013 self-titled (review here), Luia doesn’t top half an hour, but its five included tracks show marked progression in pushing Strauss away from the Kyuss-isms that in large part defined their prior work. Opener “Mud at You” is immediately more aggressive, and though “Humanphobic (to Mary Shelley)” (note: anthropophobia), slows the pace and opens wide in its middle third, vocalist Stef shouts to remind of the core intensity in the songwriting. That takes a back seat as centerpiece “For all the Wrong Reasons” moves toward an apex of a cleaner-sung chorus, but the riffs of guitarists Charles and Bano, and the groove from bassist Bill and drummer Doc, remain heavy enough that the point isn’t lost. The eight-minute “Eclipse” has it all – doomed chug, screams, singing, crash, tempo changes, nod and so on – but the funky jam that starts closer “2015” shows Strauss are willing to have some fun with their heaviness as well. All the better. Time for a full-length.

Strauss on Thee Facebooks

Strauss on Bandcamp

Kult of the Wizard, The White Wizard

kult of the wizard the white wizard

Comparisons to Witch Mountain are inevitable for Minneapolis four-piece Kult of the Wizard, whose vocalist, Mahle Roth, carries a bluesy inflection not dissimilar from Uta Plotkin on the five-song EP, The White Wizard. Self-released, it’s the band’s first work with Roth as frontwoman, guitarist Aaron Hodgson, bassist Ryan Janssen and drummer Travis Nordahl having released two prior outings – The Red Wizard (2013) and The Blue Wizard (2014) – instrumentally, and the difference is palpable. Roth adds a commanding presence to the rolling leadoff track “Tusk of the Mammoth,” showcases a noteworthy range on “Black Moon” and steps back only for an eerie wash of noise and samples on centerpiece “Plasma Pool,” but the finest performance on all fronts is closer “Devil Delight,” which meters out stomp and echo at its peak to concoct an otherworldly churn of psychedelic cult doom, Roth once again steering the progression with a sure hand. One does not expect The White Wizard to be the last we hear from Kult of the Wizard. Hell, they haven’t even done all the primary colors yet.

Kult of the Wizard on Thee Facebooks

Kult of the Wizard on Bandcamp

Coogans Bluff, Ein Herz Voller Soul

coogans bluff ein herz voller soul

With 350 copies pressed by H42 Records in no fewer than five different color variations and at least that many versions of the cover art, Ein Herz Voller Soul, the latest 7” single from horn-laden German rockers Coogans Bluff hits with a fair amount of circumstance. It is, nonetheless, two songs and a quick listen. Its A-side is “Ein Herz Voller Soul,” a German-language retelling of “Heart Full of Soul” from the band’s 2014 full-length, Gettin’ Dizzy, and the B-side is “She Gave Her Life for a Man,” a classic rocker given middle-era Beatlesian flair by Stefan Meinking’s trombone, which feels fitting after the garage style of “Ein Herz Voller Soul,” though both cuts retain an element of the progressive in their approach, the band – Meinking, guitarist Willi Paschen, bassist/vocalist Clemens Marasus, drummer Charlie Paschen and saxophonist Max Thum – not afraid to branch wherever the song might take them, to a call and response hook or harder drum stomp. A stopgap, maybe, but Coogans Bluff have a tendency to engage and here they do so in hardly any time at all.

Coogans Bluff on Thee Facebooks

H42 Records’ webstore

Papir Meets Electric Moon, The Papermoon Sessions Live at Roadburn 2014

papir meets electric moon the papermoon sessions live at roadburn 2014

Members of German psych-jam godsends Electric Moon and Copenhagen progressive explorers Papir took the stage at Roadburn 2014 in the Netherlands as a follow-up to their 2013 outing, The Papermoon Sessions (review here). I don’t think they’d played live together before and I’m pretty sure they haven’t since (though don’t quote me on that), but in any case, the billing Papir Meets Electric Moon isn’t something that happens every day, and the two north-of-20-minutes pieces conjured up for inclusion on The Papermoon Sessions Live at Roadburn 2014 only emphasize how special the collaboration actually is, washes of synth and effects layered over gloriously krautrocking rhythms, swiftly turning one minute and peaceful the next, but never disjointed, never losing the sense of flow. Each track — the second one is shorter at 22:15 — has its own movement, but the thing to do is put on The Papermoon Sessions Live at Roadburn 2014 and just let it go and go along with it. For a group that came together in the wake of a tragedy — the untimely passing of Danish promoter Ralph Rjeily — Papermoon proves yet again that beauty can spring even in dark times. I hope they do another record.

Papir on Thee Facebooks

Electric Moon on Thee Facebooks

Sulatron Records

We are Warwick Davis, Storming the Castle

we are warwick davis storming the castle

Seems unlikely a band is going to dive into songs like “Hippies are Dead,” “Whore Island (Jim Loves His Wife” or “King Mullet Destroyer” and not have a sense of humor, let alone call themselves We are Warwick Davis – please note: the actor is nowhere to be seen – so yeah, the Illinois double-guitar five-piece get up to some chicanery on their Storming the Castle full-length. Lots of chicanery, as it happens. Vocalist Joe Duffy is blown out over the punkish progressions of “Audio Visual” but reminds more of Jello Biafra on “Mind Enemy Mine,” which launches the album following a voicemail intro about blowing people off the stage. Former Monster Magnet guitarist John McBain mastered the album, and it was apparently a couple years in the self-recording process. It’s accordingly raw, and at 57 minutes, I doubt the band could be accused of understating their argument. Out of balance here and there to the point of abrasion, but ultimately harmless.

We are Warwick Davis on Thee Facebooks

We are Warwick Davis on Reverbnation

Rongeur, The Catastrophist and As the Blind Strive Demos

Rongeur-The-Catastrophist-As-The-Blind-Strive-Demos

With members of folk metallers Trollfest, off-kilter hardcore punkers Ampmandens Døtre and atmospheric post-metallers Sju in tow, it may or may not be fair to call Rongeur a side-project, but they sure as hell are varied in their influences. The Oslo trio of drummer/vocalist Jostein, guitarist/vocalist Ken-Robert and bassist/vocalist Dag Ole (who belong respectively to the bands above) arrange their two-to-date demos with the newer tracks first on The Catastrophist and As the Blind Strive Demos, on Disiplin Media, so that the listener encountering them for the first time hears where the trio are as of 2014, then goes back to their first explorations, from 2013. Raw noise ensues, a post-hardcore vibe delivered with shouts and sludgy heft, but the older tracks offer a fuller distortion that they seem to have stripped down before getting around to songs like “Traitors” or the barebones-aggro “Jon Hogg.” One wonders where they might go from here, which is probably the whole point of the release.

Rongeur on Thee Facebooks

Disiplin Media

Crowlegion, The First Offering

crowlegion the first offering

Heavy rock and death metal rarely tread the same ground without being immediately cast to one side or another. Gothenburg’s Crowlegion seem determined to stake a claim to both sides, and the 24-minute The First Offering EP, issued on CD by Grave Goods Productions, makes good on that attempt. The seven tracks are short – only two top four minutes – but stylistically ambitious, guitarist/vocalist Linus Pilebrand seeming to be the driving force behind the project’s blend of rolling riffs and guttural growls. He’s since replaced the rhythm section, having played bass on this recording in addition to guitar, with Jonas Jörgensen also on guitar and Sarah Tefke drumming, and four of the seven cuts also feature guest vocals, most of them working in extreme styles as well. I’m not sure if The First Offering is the release that finally crosses that long bridge between aesthetics, but Crowlegion position themselves well with these tracks to continue to make the journey. Nod or headbang. Your choice.

Crowlegion on Thee Facebooks

Crowlegion on Bandcamp

Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band, Intensity Ghost

chris forsyth and the solar motel band intensity ghost

Less about the sonic heft of any given moment than the overarching freedom of exploration throughout its five instrumental tracks, Intensity Ghost is the first studio offering from Chris Forsyth and the Solar Motel Band (released on No Quarter), and it’s fucking brilliant. The Philly-based five-piece got together in 2013 but play like they’ve been sharing stages for a decade, whether it’s the smoothness with which they ride the bassline and current of synth in “Yellow Square” or closer “Paris Song”’s subtle move from minimalism into contemplative psychedelia. Dreamy centerpiece “I Ain’t Waiting” is the shortest of the bunch at 5:16, and opener “The Ballad of Freer Hollow” the longest and jammiest at 11:25 (immediate points), but wherever these guys – Forsyth on guitar, plus guitarist Paul Sukeena, bassist Peter Kerlin, drummer Steven Urgo and synth/organist Shawn Edward Hansen – seem to go, they get there with an engrossing fluidity that’s nothing short of masterful. A joy, front to back.

Chris Forsyth on Thee Facebooks

No Quarter Records

Eldorado, Babylonia Haze

eldorado babylonia haze

Eldorado’s Babylonia Haze, at 10 tracks and 55 minutes, is not an insignificant undertaking. The Spanish four-piece brazenly take on classic rock hooks topped with organ-and-guitar fluidity and the soar-ready singing of Jesus Trujillo, joined in the band by guitarist Andres Duende, bassist Cesar Sanchez and drummer Christian Giardino (since replaced by Javier Planelles). A progressive clarity marks out acoustic-led cuts like “Breathe the Night” and the later “Resurrection Song,” the arrangements natural and purposeful in kind, and longer inclusions like “Flowers of Envy” (8:02) and “Karma Generator” (11:35) have breadth enough to sustain their runtimes while keeping a structured feel, the latter providing plotted movements toward the apex of the album before “Moon Girl” offers a lesser build of its own as afterthought, reimagining prog-fueled heavy rock as the fodder of a pop wistfulness. Accomplished and precise, it’ll be too clean for some ears, while others will no doubt wonder how its brilliance can be ignored.

Eldorado on Thee Facebooks

Eldorado on Bandcamp

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Roadburn 2014: Sets from Conan, Corrections House, Momentum, Papir, Promise and the Monster, Scorpion Child, Sourvein, and Tribulation Available to Stream

Posted in audiObelisk on March 24th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

Conan at Roadburn 2014 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

It is always a pleasure to play host to the live sets from Roadburn. This batch — the sixth to come from last year’s fest at the 013, Cul de Sac and Het Patronaat venues in Tilburg, the Netherlands — includes a couple particularly choice acts from the fest. I caught some of Papir through the door and they were awesome even being outside the room, and Sourvein kicked off the festival with a sludgy immediacy that let the Main Stage crowd know they were in for a hell of a weekend to come. That’s not to take anything away from Tribulation, Momentum, Promise and the Monster or Scorpion Child, but I can only go by what I saw.

And in that regard, I’m not sure any band who played Roadburn last year killed it quite as hard as did Conan at Het Patronaat. Having previously witnessed their Roadburn debut in 2012 (review here), it was something particularly special to see them come back and destroy in Roadburn‘s church, the stained glass windows rattling from the density of their low end, one tectonic riff feeding into another with explosive energy and ferocity unmatched in doom. They could’ve easily been on the Main Stage, but somehow it was even more appropriate in that venue. Fit for worship and then some.

They played the same day as Sourvein and Corrections House, and several of these others if I’m not mistaken. Oh, and if that pic of Sanford Parker looks familiar (it won’t, but I’m mentioning it anyway), it came from the review of their first show at the Saint Vitus Bar back in 2013. Good times.

As always, thanks to Walter for allowing me to host the streams and to Marcel Van De Vondervoort of Torture Garden Studio for busting his ass to record it all.

Enjoy:

Conan – Live at Roadburn 2014

Corrections House – Live at Roadburn 2014

Momentum – Live at Roadburn 2014

Papir – Live at Roadburn 2014 (Saturday)

Promise and the Monster – Live at Roadburn 2014

Scorpion Child – Live at Roadburn 2014

Sourvein – Live at Roadburn 2014

Tribulation – Live at Roadburn 2014

For the other batches of audio from Roadburn 2014 — there’s some stuff worth digging for — click herehere, here, here, and here, and to read the coverage from last year’s fest, click here. For all Roadburn 2015 updates, click here.

Roadburn’s website

Marcel Van De Vondervoort on Thee Facebooks

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audiObelisk Transmission 045

Posted in Podcasts on February 20th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

Click Here to Download

 

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

A real blend this time around. Some of this stuff is straight up riffs and crash, and some of it gets pretty far out, even in the first hour, let alone by the time we get to the last two tracks, with Papir’s live prog freakery and Earthling Society’s trippy experimentalism. There’s a lot to dig here and, perhaps unsurprisingly, I dig it a lot. These are all, I think with the exception just of Stonebride, 2015 releases. Some, like Monolord and Blackout and Stoned Jesus, aren’t out yet, and others, like Corsair, or Elbrus, or Sandrider, are newly released.

All told, the balance works between the more straight-ahead stuff and the weirdness, but my head’s been pulled pretty hard in the direction lately of things generally more on the outer edges of genre, so it seemed only right to be honest to that impulse. It’s not too long, and if there’s something here you haven’t heard before, then of course I hope you dig it. Actually, I hope you dig it anyway, new or not. Cheers.

First Hour:
Stoned Jesus, “Here Come the Robots” from The Harvest
Black Rainbows, “The Prophet” from Hawkdope
Sandrider, “Rain” from Sandrider + Kinski
Eggnogg, “Slugworth” from Sludgy Erna Bastard Vol. 1: Borracho & Eggnogg 7”
Blackout, “Cross” from Blackout
Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters, “Devil’s Buttermilk” from Earth Hog
Shepherd, “Turdspeak” from Stereolithic Riffalocalypse
Corsair, “Coriolis” from One Eyed Horse
Kooba Tercu, “Pebble” from Kooba Tercu
Stonebride, “Sokushinbutsu” from Heavy Envelope
Monolord, “Cursing the One” from Vaenir

Second Hour:
Elbrus, “Far Away and into Space Pt. 2” from Far Away and into Space Pt. 2
King Buffalo, “Providence Eye” from split with Lé Betre
Papir, “Monday” from Live at Roadburn 2014
Earthling Society, “It’s Your Love that’s Sound” from It’s Your Love that’s Sound

Total running time: 1:53:18

 

Thank you for listening.

Download audiObelisk Transmission 045

 

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Revisiting 2014’s Most Anticipated Albums

Posted in Features on December 11th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

tomorrows-dream-REVISITED-Original-etching-by-Wenceslas-Hollar

[PLEASE NOTE: This is not my Top Albums of 2014 list. That’s coming later in the month.]

First of all, the math was wrong. The list went to 42, not 40…

I did two major “stuff is coming out” posts this year. The first was January’s Tomorrow’s Dream: 42 of 2014’s Most Anticipated Albums, and the second was July’s 30 Before ’15: Records Not to Miss Before the New Year Hits. Apparently I have thing for cumbersome titles.

At best, this stuff is a crapshoot. Until something’s just about in your hand, you never really know when or if it’s going to come out. But they’re fun, and it’s exciting to think of good music being released, so you do it anyway. On the whole, I don’t think I did that badly between the two lists. Of course there was stuff that wasn’t anticipated — Colour Haze‘s new album, To the Highest Gods We Know, walks by and waves en route to its Dec. 15 release date — but for what we got, it worked out well.

That’s the general overview, but because I hold myself to a standard of accountability more rigorous than, say, my nation’s torture-happy secret police, here’s a full rundown of the list as it was, now (as then), presented alphabetically and with the titles listed as they were at the time:

42 of 2014’s Most Anticipated Albums — REVISITED!

 

1. Acid King, TBA: Word is Acid King‘s first in 10 years was mastered last month and will be out in Feb. 2015 on Svart.
 

2. Alcest, Shelter: Was way less post-black metal than their prior stuff, and I think it threw a lot of people off. Not a bad record (review here), but worked against lofty expectations.
 

3. All Them Witches, TBA: I remember including this because they said they were going back into the studio. Turned out they were recording the Effervescent EP/jam (review here). No regrets.
 

4. Alunah, TBA: Their new one was their Napalm Records debut, Awakening the Forest (review here). It was awesome. Score one for the list.
 

5. Blackwolfgoat, Drone Maintenance: Yeah, it was cheating to include this since I was there when it was recorded. Still a killer record though.
 

6. Causa Sui, Live at Freak Valley: Ruled. Reviewed and streamed here. Made me want to see them even more.
 

7. Conan, Blood Eagle: What does complete dominance sound like? Sounds like Conan to me.
 

8. Eggnogg, You’re all Invited: Was dying to hear what the Brooklyn trio came up with. No word on it yet.
 

9. Elder, Live at Roadburn 2013: Still don’t have a copy of this. Maybe I can pick one up when I get their forthcoming third studio album, Lore, out early next year.
 

10. 40 Watt Sun, TBA: More like “MIA” than TBA. Anyone heard from these guys?
 

11. The Golden Grass, TBATheir self-titled debut (review here) was one of the finest first-albums I heard all year.
 

12. Greenleaf, Trails and Passes: Any Greenleaf is a treat. Trails and Passes (review here) was no exception.
 

13. Grifter, The Return of the Bearded Brethren: Solid follow-up (review here). Grifter‘s humor and lack of pretense serves them well.
 

14. Hull, TBA: Well, they had the Legend of the Swamp Goat single (review here) to coincide with their Euro tour. Waiting on the album.
 

15. Lowrider, TBA: I wouldn’t mind if this materialized right now. Or now. Or now. Or 2015. Or 2016.
 

16. The Machine, TBA: Might’ve jumped the gun on this. Hopefully in 2015.
 

17. Mars Red Sky, TBA: Easily one of the year’s best records. Stranded in Arcadia (review here) continues to get regular spins.
 

18. Mos Generator, Electric Mountain Majesty: A highlight of early 2014. Darker record (review here), but inarguable songwriting.
 

19. Mr. Peter Hayden, Archdimension NowFitting end to their trilogy and hopefully not their last outing.
 

20. Pallbearer, TBA: Their Foundations of Burden has topped year-end lists already. It’s still on my desktop. I’ve barely listened to it.
 

21. Papir, IIII: Very, very good. They seem to be developing, but IIII (review here) was a satisfying chronicle.
 

22. Pilgrim, TBA: Can’t say II: Void Worship (review here) wasn’t a win for the band since they did a month on the road with Spirit Caravan. Maybe overshadowed by more recent stuff, but a quality record.
 

23. Radio Moscow, Magical Dirt: Their incendiary heavy blues was in top form on Magical Dirt (review here). Glad I got to see them live once or twice (or 18 times) as well this year.
 

24. Sigiriya, Darkness Died Today: Also residing on my desktop. A vocalist switch caught me off guard and I feel like I still haven’t given it a fair shot.
 

25. Sixty Watt Shaman, TBA: Really? I had Sixty Watt on the list? That seems ambitious. No doubt they’ll have something new eventually, but that was a pretty high expectation it would be out this year.
 

26. Skraeckoedlan, Gigantos: If this came out, no one told me. Seems like not yet.
 

27. The Skull, TBA: A stunner. As much as I looked forward to it, For Those Which are Asleep (review here) exceeded the excitement.
 

28. Sleep, TBA: Included as wishful thinking. Their The Clarity single (review here) was something to celebrate.
 

29. Slough Feg, Digital Resistance: I was really looking forward to this one. Kind of fell off with Digital Resistance (review here) after a while. Hard to argue with Slough Feg though.
 

30. Snail, FeralWaiting on it for 2015.
 

31. Steak, TBAThe London four-piece followed two strong EPs with Slab City (review here), as heartfelt a showing of desert rock loyalty as I’ve heard.
 

Damn, this was a long list.
 

32. Stubb, TBA: I had my doubts it would arrive, but Stubb‘s Ripple Music debut, Cry of the Ocean (review here), found welcome when it did.
 

33. SunnO))) & Ulver, Terrestrials: One of two collaborations SunnO))) would have out in 2014. Heard a lot about it at the beginning of the year. Less now.
 

34. Tombs, Savage Gold: Good band, doing interesting stuff. I have a hard time transitioning from appreciating it to actually being a fan.
 

35. Triptykon, Melana ChasmataSorry, but when Tom G. Warrior puts out a record, you hop to. I didn’t review it to save myself having to buy a copy, but dug it anyway.
 

36. Truckfighters, Universe: I feel like this one picked up steam as the year went on. I didn’t go back to it as much as its predecessor, but Universe (review here) was a logical next step for them.
 

37. Valley of the Sun, Electric Talons of the Thunderhawk: Nothing to complain about with the Ohio three-piece’s debut (review here) or the effort they put into supporting it throughout the year.
 

38. Weedeater, TBA: Nope. At least I knew it at the time.
 

39. Wolves in the Throne Room, TBA: Surprised a lot of people when Celestite (review here) was a companion piece for their last record instead of a new album proper, myself included.
 

40. The Wounded Kings, Consolamentum: 2014 was quite a year for doom, and The Wounded Kings were right there at the start. This lineup may be gone, but Consolamentum (review here) holds up.
 

41. Yawning Man, Gravity is Good for You: Rumor is guitarist Gary Arce has a few projects in the works for next year. Not sure if this is one of them or not.
 

42. YOB, TBA: We certainly know how this worked out, don’t we? If the votes in the Readers Poll are anything to go by, yes. Clearing the Path to Ascend (review here) was a landmark, and this won’t be the last year-end list around here on which YOB make a showing.
 

The list from July had a few winners on it as well — Apostle of Solitude, Blues Pills, Bongripper, Brant Bjork, Earth, Lo-Pan, The Well, Witch Mountain, etc. — but I think we’ve probably got enough as it is.

With the year starting to wind down, I’ll be putting together my Top 30 Albums of 2014 in the next week or so. Please keep an eye out for that, and thanks for reading.
 

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The Top 15 of the First Half of 2014

Posted in Features on June 23rd, 2014 by JJ Koczan

It’s custom around here to do a Top 10 of the First Half of the Year, in advance of doing a Top 20 of the Year in December. The idea is that the later list will basically build on the earlier one. That’s never really how it works out — albums always drop off or appear unexpectedly depending on what gets listened to most, what gets reviewed late, etc. — but it always works out to be a good time anyway, and that’s really what it’s all about.

The difference this year is that instead of doing a Top 20 in December, I’m planning on expanding to a full Top 30, so to do a Top 10 of the stuff from January until now makes less sense. So here we are with a Top 15. A slightly longer list, but still the same basic idea as years past otherwise. These are albums I’m expecting will turn up again at the end of the year on the final Top 30, and though some will and some won’t and almost all of them will move around, there are more than a handful — particularly if we’re counting by fingers — of essential records released over the last six months recounted here.

If you missed something, I hope it’s something cool you get to check out, and if I missed something (as I inevitably did), I hope you’ll let me know in the comments. Please note that this is full albums only, no EPs, splits, singles or demos.

Enjoy:

 

15. Greenleaf, Trails and Passes

Released by Small Stone. Reviewed April 25.

I’ll freely admit I was more than a little thrown off by the change in approach on Greenleaf‘s fifth album. Where prior outings like 2012’s Nest of Vipers (review here) and 2007’s megatriumph Agents of Ahriman had been lush heavy rock affairs helmed by Dozer guitarist Tommi Holappa with a slew of guests on vocals, organ, etc., Trails and Passes dialed back the “extras” in favor of a more stripped down, stage-ready approach. Holappa‘s songwriting alone would likely be enough to have Greenleaf on this list one way or another, and Trails and Passes is one of the year’s best. The turn was just unexpected and I feel like I’m not caught up to it yet.

 

14. Druglord, Enter Venus

Released by STB Records. Reviewed Feb. 14.

Initially put out in a limited tape run in late 2013 (review here), the Enter Venus full-length from Richmond-based sludgers Druglord codified the noisy murk of their prior outings into one devastating wave of lurching riffage and echoing shouts. The Virginian three-piece recorded with Garrett Morris of Windhand and the STB vinyl topped off with artwork by W. Ralph Walters, making for a package both visually and sonically devastating, and though it’s short for an album at under a half-hour, the 12″ still earns the nod for the unmitigated heft its four songs carry. It’s one you can either dig or miss out, but Druglord show there’s more room for invention in sludge.

 

13. Wovenhand, Refractory Obdurate

Released by Deathwish Inc. Reviewed May 15.

There really isn’t much left to say when it comes to Wovenhand and their driving force, frontman David Eugene Edwards. Their first for Deathwish Inc., Refractory Obdurate is the latest document of one of this generation’s most accomplished songwriting progressions. It follows a brilliant record in 2012’s The Laughing Stalk (review here) and likely precedes one in whatever they decide to do next, and the enduring fascination on Edwards‘ part with tonal weight and groove continues to push Wovenhand into a creative territory that is without genre. Nobody else comes close.

 

12. Papir, IIII

Released by El Paraiso Records. Reviewed Jan. 24.

Quick-working Danish jammers Papir made a strong impression with IIII early in the year, offering a progressive take on the style of heavy instrumental jamming that has flourished throughout Europe over the last half-decade or so. Immediately individualized, the Copenhagen three-piece carried across four intricately constructed pieces, most open with the 21-minute “III” but never lacking for twists and turns that were an utter joy to follow. A band that has already collaborated with the even-jammier Electric Moon and who’ve aligned themselves with Causa Sui‘s El Paraiso Records, they seem like a safe bet to continue to grow into reliable purveyors of high-quality instrumental heavy psychedelia.

 

11. Ogre, The Last Neanderthal

Released by Minotauro Records. Reviewed March 10.

Its arrival was heralded by the righteousness of a Lego video for “Nine Princes in Amber,” though even that was little preparation for the classic doomery that would take place on the return long-player from Portland, Maine’s Ogre. The trio of guitarist Ross Markonish, bassist/vocalist Ed Cunningham and drummer Will Broadbent broke up in 2009, got back together in 2012, and with their fourth album, they made it clear they still had plenty to offer those who worship trad-style riffing, Sabbathy grooves and the kind of hooks that stay with you for days. The Last Neanderthal had plenty of those, and “Warpath,” the aforementioned “Nine Princes in Amber,” “Bad Trip” and “Son of Sisyphus” tapped into what makes the best of doom so ready for repeat listens.

 

10. Floor, Oblation

Released by Season of Mist. Reviewed April 22.

Another reunited trio, Floor had it tough coming into their first album in a decade, Oblation. The legacy of their 2002 self-titled would loom large over anything they put out, and guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks had since gained a huge following as the spearhead of Torche, but four years after they started playing shows again, Floor met the challenge head-on with Oblation‘s 14 tracks, showing a natural progression from where they left off so long ago without seeming like they were trying to recapture a past that inevitably would prove irretrievable. Instead, they’ve set themselves on a course for continuing to develop as a band, and though Torche have a new album expected out this summer on Relapse and doubtless that will take some time and focus away from Floor, hopefully they keep pursuing that growth.

 

9. Mos Generator, Electric Mountain Majesty

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed March 14.

I’ll claim no impartiality when it comes to Port Orchard, Washington, heavy rock purveyors Mos Generator or the craftsmanship of guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed, but if half the point of a list like this is to nerd out over albums you dig (and I’ll gladly argue that it is), then Electric Mountain Majesty is right where it should be. Reed, bassist Scooter Haslip and drummer Shawn Johnson are clockwork-reliable when it comes to putting out high-grade material, and their second record since getting going again after Reed‘s few years in Stone Axe pushed beyond the considerable accomplishments of 2012’s Nomads (review here) and brought their sound to new and at times surprisingly doomed places while still keeping their core in a love of classic heavy rock songwriting. From where I sit, new Mos Gen is never one to pass up.

 

8. Blood Farmers, Headless Eyes

Self-released. Reviewed March 24.

Not that I didn’t expect a new Blood Farmers release to be cool, but Headless Eyes was still a surprise when it arrived earlier in 2014. Who was to say what the New York trio would concoct after a 19-year studio absence? Of course, what they came out with was dead-on horror-loving doomly plod, cuts like the instrumental “Night of the Sorcerers” and the deceptively catchy “Headless Eyes” not only worthy of Blood Farmers‘ substantial legacy but building on it. Void of pretense, Headless Eyes resonated with a brooding atmosphere capped by the surprising closer, “The Road Leads to Nowhere,” a cover of the theme from The Last House on the Left and positioned the three-piece of vocalist Eli Brown, guitarist/bassist David Szulkin and drummer Tad Léger among the fore of traditional doom’s practitioners.

 

7. The Golden Grass, The Golden Grass

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 25.

After seeing them live late last year (review here), digging their 456th Div. tape (review here) and putting their debut single on the best short releases of 2013 list, I had little doubt that their self-titled debut full-length would deliver a satisfying listen. Sure enough, the five-tracks of the quality-over-quantity release did precisely that, the Brooklyn three-piece harnessing unashamed positive vibes to mesh with a burgeoning psychedelic feel, catchy hooks and classic-style road songs serving as a reminder of the good times that rock and roll both provides and complements. Now that summer is here, I expect to revisit The Golden Grass plenty of time over these sunny, hot months, since it would seem the year has finally caught up with the band’s warmth and day-long spirit. The Golden Grass are reportedly headed to Europe later this year, so more to come on them for sure.

 

6. Ararat, Cabalgata Hacia la Luz

Released by Oui Oui Records. Reviewed April 4.

Every time I think I’m out, Cabalgata Hacia la Luz pulls me back in. The third full-length from Argentina trio Ararat seems to hit me with a different song each week. This week, it’s the six-minute “El Hijo de Ignacio,” with the insistent, punkish drums from Alfredo Felitte, backing noise and later keyboard eeriness from Tito Fargo and the low bass rumble of Sergio Chotsourian (ex-Los Natas), whose vocals seem to hover over the rest of the mix as though piped in from someplace else entirely. The whole album had a hypnotic effect that pulled the listener away from how diverse it actually was, moving into and out of heavy psych atmospherics with expert smoothness, but the more attention you paid, the more rewarding the experience became, as Ararat defied any expectations that might have come from their 2012 sophomore outing, II (review here), and boldly pushed toward new avenues of progression.

 

5. Conan, Blood Eagle

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Jan. 22.

Who’s heavier than Conan? The superlative UK trio have spent the two years since the release of their full-length debut, Monnos (review here), solidifying their dominance, and their first album for Napalm Records plays out like a victory lap over the skulls of lesser riffs. Opening with the near-10-minute lumber of “Crown of Talons,” Blood Eagle solidified the two-sidedness of Monnos into a back-breaking doom assault, and their pummel remains unparalleled as they continue to grow as players and songwriters. This year has also seen producer Chris Fielding join the band on bass, and as badass as Blood Eagle is — one would rarely think of a song called “Gravity Chasm” as being so aptly-named — I can’t help but look forward to hearing what Conan do from here and how they continue to refine one of doom’s most bludgeoning approaches.

 

4. Dwellers, Pagan Fruit

Released by Small Stone. Reviewed May 22.

It’s the songs. I really, really dug Dwellers‘ 2012 debut, Good Morning Harakiri (review here) as well, and I won’t say a bad word about that album, but Pagan Fruit is in a different class altogether. And you know, it’s not just the songs. It’s how the songs play next to each other, the mood they create, and the hooks that Dwellers bring to the table with so much stylistic poise, calling the bluffs of any number of heavy psych blues rockers on “Totem Crawler,” or “Creature Comfort,” or “Son of Raven” or “Spirit of the Staircase.” The Salt Lake City-based trio of guitarist/vocalist Joey Toscano, bassist Dave Jones and drummer Zach Hatsis brought new levels of cohesion to their sound throughout Pagan Fruit and it remains an album that I have yet to get enough of hearing, one that seems to offer more each time I put it on and let my mind drift to its patient, open spaces.

 

3. Fu Manchu, Gigantoid

Released by At the Dojo Records. Reviewed May 14.

From here on out, on any given day, any one of these is my album of the year. What a thrill it was to put on Fu Manchu‘s first album in five years, Gigantoid, and have it roll out such a tight-knit collection of heavy rolling excellence. The West Coast stoner riff gods of gnarl stripped down their production inspired in part by a reissue campaign of their earlier work on their own At the Dojo Records label, and the punkish feel suited them better than even they likely could’ve expected. With its opening four-song punch, the no-frills shot of “No Warning” and the closeout jam at the end of “The Last Question,” Gigantoid felt like more than one could’ve reasonably asked from a Fu Manchu long-player 20 years on from their debut, but the vitality they showed in its tracks, paired with the efficiency with which the songs were executed, showcased a timeless, perpetual appeal. They know what they’re doing and how they want to do it, and just because there was no doubt going into Gigantoid doesn’t make the end product any less of a payoff.

 

2. Mars Red Sky, Stranded in Arcadia

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed on March 11.

I’ve gone on at some length about what I find so appealing in the second full-length from Bordeaux trio Mars Red Sky, so even putting aside the deft hand with which they incorporated further heavy psych soundscapes into their songwriting, let me just focus on how memorable Stranded in Arcadia actually is. That was true as well of Mars Red Sky‘s 2011 self-titled debut (review here), but these songs are more ambitious, from the eight-minute opener “The Light Beyond” to the gorgeous melody-wash in the chorus of “Join the Race” and the stomp in the de facto closer “Seen a Ghost” before the leadout/refrain “Beyond the Light” calls all the way back to the first track. The development of Mars Red Sky‘s take isn’t necessarily such a surprise — the debut had its psychedelic, jammy feel as well — but the fact that the trio of guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras, bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Matgaz managed to elicit such development while remaining true to the warm tones and humble, unpretentious vibe of the debut only makes Stranded in Arcadia more remarkable. I wouldn’t stop listening to it if I could.

 

1. Wo Fat, The Conjuring

Released by Small Stone. Reviewed June 18.

It wasn’t easy to hold off on reviewing the fifth album from the Texas power trio for as long as I did, but I thought the record was too good to jump the gun on, and so yeah, it’s a pretty recent writeup, but I feel comfortable putting The Conjuring at number one here because I’ve actually had a while to live with these songs. Or maybe “live in” them would be a better way to say it, since the dense wall of fuzz and jammed-out distortion Wo Fat create across this record is basically thick enough to take up residence. Recently back from a European tour, Wo Fat hit the road supporting their finest work to date, and as the lineup of guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, bassist Tim Wilson and drummer/backing vocalist Michael Walter are more or less self-sustaining in their own Crystal Clear Sound studio in Dallas, there’s no reason they can’t just keep developing along the path they are. The Conjuring boasts their best jams yet but also holds firm to the already-planted-in-your-consciousness hooks that Wo Fat have long since established a penchant for, and one could just as easily put the band at the fore of traditional heavy rock riffing as of American heavy psych jammers. Any way you look at them, they’re at the top of their class.

Quick honorable mention goes to Radio Moscow, The Wounded Kings, 1000mods (review forthcoming), Eyehategod, Abramis Brama, Truckfighters, Valley of the Sun, the live Causa Sui record and Alcest. Been a hell of a year so far, and I’m already putting together a list of anticipated records for the next six months, so there’s much more to follow.

Thanks as always for reading.

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