Perennially reliable in conveying that no space they occupy will ever qualify as ‘safe,’ Ohio sludge bastards Fistula remain as gut-spewing, vigilantly misanthropic and generally-on-pills as ever. Also productive. After issuing their latest full-length, The Shape of Doom to Cumm))), in December, the litmus-test abrasives will have a slew of singles out in 2017, and the first ones announced will be splits across opposite coast. Joining forces with likewise long-running Los Angeles troupe -(16)- and Boston’s Grief-offshoot Come to Grief, Fistula align themselves with other powerhouses of American sludge, though to be perfectly honest, they’re in a league of their own when it comes to sheer gross-out extremity. As ever.
They’ll reportedly have two more splits out before the end of 2017 on PATAC, so stay tuned for more. Here’s the latest in the meantime:
FISTULA announce upcoming split 7″s with COME TO GRIEF & -16-
Ohio’s purveyors of pain and filth FISTULA have reassembled the Longing For Infection lineup and are back in the basement tracking new compositions for upcoming split releases. With this first announcement, FISTULA will be extending their deafening plague of ‘rust belt doom’ coast-to-coast across two split EPs with COME TO GRIEF and -16- scheduled for release Fall 2017 on PATAC Records.
Expect a second pair of split recordings to be announced in the upcoming months.
Ohio’s FISTULA was forged in 1998 by musical partners-in-crime Corey Bing and Bahb Branca. Over the years,FISTULA has released a seemingly endless barrage of studio albums and split EPs through numerous lineup changes featuring the creative talents of bands such as –(16)-, Sloth, Hemdale, The Disease Concept, Accept Death, and so many others. FISTULA is a band that is impossible to categorize, combining elements of remedial sludge, hardcore and a proverbial “bad case of the Mondays.” Nearing two decades of ear bleeding, FISTULA remains the kings of doomed-out “miserycore.”
2015 saw the band at its creative peak, headlining the Het Patronaat stage at Roadburn Festival and recording the Destitute demo as well as the new full studio album Longing For Infection. Aside from Roadburn, FISTULA played the Haunted Hotel 13th Anniversary Fest as well as the Berserker III Fest. FISTULA returned to Europe (Bloodshed Festival) in October 2016 to bring their ultimate onslaught of pure, unbridled hatred, and negativity. FISTULA released another full-length last Fall coinciding with the tour on Totem Cat Records. Entitled The Shape Of Doom To Cumm ))), the record featured guest guitarist David Szulkin from Blood Farmers and Church Of Misery.
Personnel response for all that racket: Corey Bing – guitar/backups Bahb Branca – guitar/backups Dan Harrington – vocals Buddy Peel – bass Jeff Sullivan – drum
On no level is Sins of the Elders a minor undertaking. The debut full-length from Conclave arrives via PATAC Records and Lost Apparitions Records as a 63-minute-long slab of doomed punishment, telling much of the story of its sound with its cover: harsh, draconian, violent. Stoned to death. And so they are. Marked out by their lineup featuring members of unsung heroes Warhorse in bassist/vocalist Jerry Orne and Noreaster sludge bastards Grief in guitarist Terry Savastano, along with guitarist Jeremy Kibort and drummer Dan Blomquist, Conclave bring a pedigree of extremity into their debut that builds on the downward vibes of their 2014 debut EP, Breaking Ground (review here), while seeming to build an impenetrable wall with its heft of both tone and atmosphere. Easy listening it is not.
Recorded by Eric Braunschweiger at Raven’s Head Studio in MA, the majority of the nine tracks on Sins of the Elders — which I actually suspect is something of a gag title; the band being the elders, the songs being the sins — rests comfortably in the eight-to-nine-minute range, with the exception of the intro “Descend,” the quiet outro “Kaltas” and the more raging “Cold Comfort,” positioned before the pre-outro title-track, and its feel becomes as much about the entire forward slog than any individual piece’s bludgeonry. Standout moments like the second half of centerpiece “Mammut,” with its German samples and war sounds and landmark riff, and the chorus of “Cut it Off” prior, do much to anchor the proceedings, but taken as a whole, the cruel design of Sins of the Elders is encompassing in its darkness and unremittingly extreme.
That’s not to say it doesn’t groove, because it absolutely does, just that it has the absolute potential to overwhelm some listeners and that’s according to what sounds like the band’s obvious intent. Those averse to growling vocals will bristle at Orne‘s gruff, sometimes grunted, delivery, timed rhythmically to the riffs and almost universally miserable-sounding, but it’s an essential component in the atmosphere Conclave conjure. Credit to Blomquist for making a track like “Funeral Fyre” — which follows the quiet, spacious, raining, spoken-word-over-guitar intro “Descend” — have such a sense of march. While Kibort, Savastano and Orne are chugging away at the second verse, the drummer is subtly injecting a bit of swing and getting away with it admirably, double-kicking through a quick standout lead section and a late chorus before crashes complement the rumbling and sparse, mournful guitar ending, which leads right into “Black Lines.”
Slower at its start, “Black Lines” is among the album’s most aggressive cuts by the time it gets to the midpoint, and damn near uptempo in its last minute-plus, picking up a faster riff and riding it toward the eight-minute finish line. The aforementioned “Cut it Off” follows, finding some balance in terms of pacing but letting go of none of the severity for its relatively straightforward verse/chorus structure, breaking in the second half after its first guitar solo to bridge to a second, longer one before another faster ending takes complete hold, almost blindsiding the listener even though they did basically the same thing one song before. Easier to pull that kind of thing off when you have a varied songwriting process, it would seem.
Air raid sirens blare at the start of “Mammut” and the intro riff to the song itself serves as the bomb being dropped. Fair enough. Apart from the already-noted samples, “Mammut” is the only instrumental on Sins of the Elders apart from the opener and closer, and all the more interesting that they should make it the centerpiece, but it leads into the grueling and massive “Aethereum,” which echoes out its central guitar figure over a rolling beat that somewhat revives the march of “Funeral Fyre” but turns toward a guitar solo in its midsection and then back for another round through the verse and chorus before its fade. One might expect “Cold Comfort” as the only non-segue track under seven minutes long to be faster or more geared toward the death metal side of Conclave‘s sound, but it isn’t, really.
Like its surroundings, it lacks nothing for force, but doesn’t seem to be willfully readjusting the scales when it comes to one aspect of their personality over the other as it makes its way toward the title-track, which is the longest cut on Sins of the Elders at 9:31 and from which no light seems to escape. Between Orne‘s shouts and the push of guitars, bass and drums accompanying, its second half particularly is like a revelry of the damned, moving toward and through a chorus and solo that serve as the album’s apex before finishing noisy and turning over to the quiet guitar, bass and cymbal wash of “Kaltas” that bring the madness to an end. That Conclave would have an idea of what they wanted to accomplish going into their first full-length isn’t really a surprise given their experience and what they were able to bring to the prior EP, but Sins of the Elders excels in its pummel and its blend of heavy riffing and harder sentiments. It is brutal in concept and execution.
The forthcoming Longing for Infection is reportedly one of two long-players that filth-coated, lock-up-the-meds Ohio sludgers Fistula will issue this year, to be followed by The Shape of Doom to Cumm))) this fall, which will also correspond to a return trip to Europe in October. Knowing the festival of festivals happening in Europe during that time — Up in Smoke, Desertfest Athens, Desertfest Belgium, Keep it Low — I can’t help but wonder if they might get picked up for any of them. The Desertfest(s) would seem the most likely candidates, but you never know.
In any case, Longing for Infection will be out July 15 and lead track “Too Many Devils and Drugs” is streaming now. Unsurprisingly, it sounds completely fucked.
From the PR wire:
FISTULA: Ohio Kings Of Sludge-Fueled Miserycore To Release Longing For Infection Full-Length; New Track Streaming + Preorders Available
Long-running Ohio volume abusers, FISTULA, will self-release their Longing For Infection full-length this Summer. The scathing follow-up to the band’s critically-adored 2014 sludge opus, Vermin Prolificus, Longing For Infection was recorded and engineered by Dave Johnson (Midnight, Incantation, Soulless) and features the return of FISTULA founding member Bahb Branca on second guitar, furthering the band’s already torrid brand of sonic violence.
Set for mass contamination on July 15th, 2016, the first pressing of Longing For Infection will be limited to one-thousand copies housed in digipak packaging bathed in the abysmal artwork of Jason Barnett. Preorders are currently available atTHIS LOCATION.
Longing For Infection Track Listing: 1. Too Many Devils And Drugs 2. Morgue Attendant 3. The Big Turnout 4. Destitute 5. Smoke Acid Shoot Pills 6. Loyal To The Foil 7. Detox
Nearing two decades of ear bleeding, FISTULA remains the kings of doomed-out “miserycore.”
2015 saw the band at its creative peak, headlining the Het Patronaat stage at Roadburn Festival and recording the Destitute demo as well as the new full studio album Longing For Infection. In addition to Roadburn, FISTULA recently played the Haunted Hotel 13th Anniversary Fest as well as the Berserker III Fest. FISTULA will return to Europe (Bloodshed Festival) in October 2016 to bring their ultimate onslaught of pure, unbridled hatred, and negativity. FISTULA will release another full-length this Fall coinciding with the tour on Totem Cat Records. Entitled The Shape Of Doom To Cumm ))), the record will feature guest guitarist David Szulkin from Blood Farmers and Church Of Misery. Stand by for details.
Personnel responsible for all that racket: Corey Bing – guitar/backups Bahb Branca – guitar/backups Dan Harrington – vocals Buddy Peel – bass Jeff Sullivan – drums
However the usage came about, it’s hard to argue with bringing together footage of a star being torn apart by a black hole with the grueling, massive doom that Conclave bring to bear. The Massachusetts four-piece’s debut LP, Sins of the Elders, is due out June 10 via Lost Apparitions Records and PATAC Records, and their new video for the track “Aethereum” reminds me of one of the very few things I miss most about having regular tv service: the NASA Channel.
I don’t know for sure, but I’d gather much of the footage culled together to make the “Aethereum” clip comes from video news releases — VNRs, for you Communications majors — and the NASA Channel used to show that kind of thing all the time. There’d be a brief explanation of what simulation or captured footage you were about to see actually was, and then they’d show you a clip of whatever length of awesome space stuff like sunspots, satellites shooting through orbit, planetary collisions, spacecraft design, really anything. It was awesome. Obviously Conclave have curated that and edited it to fit the rhythm and what’s-bleaker-than-bleak-oh-yeah-dead vibe of “Aethereum,” but when it comes to space, cosmic-level destructiveness is part of the appeal.
So it is with Conclave as well. If you missed it, the track “Black Lines” from Sins of the Elders was previously streamed here. You’ll find the “Aethereum” video below, followed by more info from the PR wire.
Hope you enjoy:
Conclave, “Aethereum” official video
Sins Of The Elders is the forthcoming full-length from Massachusetts-based doom metal faction CONCLAVE. Captured at Raven’s Head Studio in Allston, Massachusetts with Eric Braunschweiger at the recording helm, with Sins Of The Elders the members of CONCLAVE — which unites Warhorse, Grief, Disrupt, Desolate, and Martyrvor alumni — fuse their death and doom influences into a unique amalgam of heavy grooves, pounding sludge and melodic doom.
Issues the band of the track, “‘Aethereum’ was written in minor keys with a feeling of darkness in tribute to the great forefathers of doom that paved the road before us. The lyrical concept is that of falling through space, time and all ethereal planes. It brought forth thoughts of the infinite vastness of space, the extremes of temperature, light and sound or absence thereof. Other parallels were drawn from the stories of World War II naval convoys traveling to Murmansk and the conditions those soldiers lived and died under. Hell is real and it extends beyond Earth and throughout the cosmos.”
CONCLAVE: 5/13/2016 One Bar & Grill/Pearl St. – Northampton, MA 6/30/2016 Ralph’s Rock Diner – Worcester, MA * Record Release Show 6/23/2016 Grub Sweat & Beers Fest @ O’Brien’s – Cambridge, MA 8/27/2016 RPM Fest – Greenfield, MA
CONCLAVE: Jerry Orne – bass, vocals Jeremy Kibort – guitars, backing vocals Terrenza Savastano – guitars Dan Blomquist – drums, percussion
In its raw grit, fierce depressiveness and underlying teeth-clenched aggression, Conclave‘s debut album, Sins of the Elders pummels as much in atmosphere as in sound. The Massachusetts four-piece are right to call its intro “Descend,” since that’s exactly what happens, and as the deathly “Funeral Fyre” and “Black Lines” take hold from there, the only place to go is further and further downward.
Conclave will release Sins of the Elders on June 10 via Lost Apparitions Records (CD) and PATAC Records (tape). The band is comprised of bassist/vocalist Jerry Orne (ex-Warhorse), guitarist Terry Savastano (ex-Grief), guitarist/vocalist Jeremy Kibort and drummer Dan Blomquist, and the harsh judgments cast throughout the nine included tracks bear out that pedigree of things grooving and miserable. A scorcher like “Aethereum” and the maddeningly chugging title-track are as much classic death metal as they are doomed, and Blomquist‘s ride and tom work in “Cold Comfort” — not to mention all that shouting and growling — is pure extremity in a long East Coast tradition, but Conclave‘s debut is no less emotionally grueling than it is sonically raging.
Recorded by Eric Braunschweiger at Raven’s Head Studio in MA, Sins of the Elders follows the band’s 2014 debut EP, Breaking Ground (review here), and expands both the command and the crush of that release with an assured direction toward abysmal sludge, the metal of death, and consuming disaffection. In the slow, dense roll of “Cut it Off” and the quiet acoustic closer “Kaltas” alike, Conclave maintain an oppressive feel that dares the listener to keep moving forward along its plotted course.
I’ll have more on the album closer to the release, but you can find the premiere of the track “Black Lines” below, followed by some more bio info on the band, which I seem to recall having some hand in editing. Go figure.
Not sure if “enjoy” is the right word, but enjoy anyway:
Massachusetts four-piece Conclave not only draw on the inspirations of bands such as Black Sabbath, EyeHateGod and Autopsy with their debut full-length, ”Sins of the Elders”, but combine their death and doom influences into a unique blend of heavy grooves, pounding sludge and melodic doom; all of which tantalize the listener to dig further. Their sound emerges difficult to categorize, but still pleasing to fans of all facets of metal.
With a musical resume that includes such acts as WarHorse, Grief, Disrupt, Desolate and Martyrvore, it would only make sense that this New England collective are no strangers to working with record labels such as Relapse, Southern Lord and Century Media. Through several bands and projects together, Conclave’s members have honed their approach to a bludgeoning impact, and their album is the culmination of everything they’ve experienced to this point, musically and personally.
”Sins of the Elders” was recorded with Eric Braunschweiger and Raven’s Head Studio in Allston, MA. Building off their 2014 self-released EP “Breaking Ground”, the band offers 9 tracks of staggeringly heavy and atmospheric oppression and continue to stamp out their own musical path. There will be no bowing down to trends or watering down the riffs with this band. It’s pure and honest metal in an uncompromised form. “Sins of the Elders” will be released on CD format through Lost Apparitions Records and on cassette tape format through PATAC Records on June 10, 2016.
Conclave are: Jerry Orne – Bass and vocals Jeremy Kibort – Rhythm/lead guitars and backing vocals Terrenza Savastano – Rhythm/lead guitars Dan Blomquist – Drums/percussion
There’s no keeping up with Fistula. They’re on pills. Those who aren’t can’t hope to compete. The prolific Ohioan sludge degenerates released two singles this past weekend. They’re one of few bands in the world who could cover GG Allin and have it make any kind of sense, and both Ignorant Weapon and Never Trust a Cop are available now through PATAC Records, and not that Fistula need my or anyone else’s endorsement or anything, but they’re punk rock’s fucked up older brother and everything they do reinforces that fact. Look out for their next 7″, which has probably already been released.
Info, audio, changing lineups, DIY fuckall:
“FISTULA releases two new 7? vinyl EPs! IGNORANT WEAPON & NEVER TRUST A COP/LADIES IN LEATHER
Akron, Ohio sludge cretins FISTULA release two new 7?s on Saturday, May 30 2015.
If you’re looking for the crazy green splatter vinyl, only 100 were made and will not last long. First come, first served, no reserves. These tracks were recorded during the same session as our VERMIN PROLIFICUS. Four tracks of pissed off sludgecore, two originals plus our renditions of FANG’s “Destroy The Handicapped” and GG Allin & ANTiSEEN’s “I Love Nothing.”
Copies are available in the USA direct from the band’s distro PATAC Records, Bad Road in Russia & Let The Bastards Grind in the UK.
Limited to 500 copies. 100 on Green/Black splattered vinyl and 400 on standard black. Features artwork by Sinister Illustration (Christopher Parry from DAMAD), center labels by Jann/Skin Coffin and back artwork by Scott Stearns/Wizardfool. Recorded by Eric Braunschweiger, vinyl mastering/lacquers cut by Dave Eck/Lucky Lacquers.
Tracklist: Wood Glue Destroy The Handicapped (Fang cover) This Is Sodom, Not LA I Love Nothing (GG Allin + ANTiSEEN cover)
This four track EP was recorded during the VERMIN PROLIFICUS session in 2013. The final recording from the ‘Boston’ lineup. Two originals, two punk rock covers. Songs about huffing glue, setting fires and dope-dealing piece of shit rapists. It is loud, it is pissed off… it is anti-fucking-everything… get assaulted by IGNORANT WEAPON.
‘Never Trust A Cop’ features Alex Smith from Weymouth noise rockers NIGHTSTICK on bass for the title track. ‘Ladies in Leather’ was originally by SST recording artists OVERKILL LA, this track is dedicated to Felice Lococo and features original art by Maegan Lemay.
Posted in Features on December 22nd, 2014 by JJ Koczan
Please note: These are not the results of the Readers Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t added your list yet, please do.
This was a hard list to put together. The top three have been set in my mind for probably the last month, but trying to work my way backwards from there was a real challenge — what’s a top 10 record, a top 20 record, a top 30, honorable mentions and all the rest. I’ve never done a full top 30 before, always 20, but the truth is there was just too much this year to not expand.
I’m still juggling numbers even as I put together this post, and I’m sure that by the time I’m done several records will have switched places. That’s always how it seems to go. What I’m confident that I have is a list accurately representing critique and my own habits, both what I gravitated toward in listening throughout the year and what I feel is noteworthy on a critical level. This site has always been a blend of those two impulses. It’s only fair this list should be as well.
Before we dig in, you should note this is full-length albums only. I’ll have a list of short releases (EPs, singles, demos) to come, as well as a special list of debut releases, since it seemed to be a particularly good year for them. And since I’m only one person, I couldn’t hear everything, much as I tried.
The kings of London’s heavy scene offered more powerhouse heavy rock with their eighth album and second for Candlelight, and their rabid and ever-growing fanbase ate it up. Back from the Abyss proved yet again that few can attain the kind of vicious force that seems to come so natural to Orange Goblin, and made it clear their domination shows no signs of losing momentum.
A darker affair from Port Orchard, Washington’s Mos Generator, Electric Mountain Majesty still found its core in the songwriting led by guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed. They’re a band with some changes on the horizon, and I’ll be interested to hear what hindsight does to these songs. As it was, the hooks and downer vibes may have been in conceptual conflict, but the execution was inarguable.
Richer in the listening than 2012’s Misery Wizard debut, Pilgrim‘s II: Void Worship nonetheless held firm to the doomly spirit that’s made the Rhode Island outfit such a sensation these last couple years. Its longer songs, “Master’s Chamber,” “Void Worship” and the emotionally weighted “Away from Here,” were particularly immersive, and they remain a bright spot in doom’s future.
His long-awaited solo debut, John Garcia‘s John Garcia offered memorable tracks culled from years of songwriting from the former Kyuss, Slo Burn, Unida and Hermano frontman, performed in the classic desert rock style he helped define. I’m not sure it was worth trading a second Vista Chino record for, but it was hard to argue with “The Blvd” and “All These Walls.”
An overwhelming two-disc barrage from a relentless creativity that, more than 30 years on from its first public incarnation, is still to be considered avant garde. I’m not sure planet earth realizes how lucky it is to have Swans running around unleashing all this chaos, but I hope they don’t stop anytime soon. To be Kind was brutal and beautiful in like measure.
I initially made this list without Alunah‘s excellent third album and Napalm Records, but when it came down to it, not having the UK four-piece on here haunted me to the point where I had to come back in and swap them out with somebody else. Just couldn’t live with myself for not giving this record its due, which, to be frank, I’m still not since it should be higher on the list than it is. At least it’s here though, so the mistake is somewhat corrected.
The follow-up to Greenleaf‘s stellar 2012 outing Nest of Vipers (review here) brought lineup changes and stripped away many of the textural elements of the band’s sound — guest appearances, arrangement flourishes — in order to get back to a classic heavy rock sound and translate better to the stage. With guitarist Tommi Holappa‘s songwriting ever at the core, it would be unfair to call the process anything but a success.
Most of the headlines went to the fact that Primitive and Deadly had vocals, where the generally-instrumental Earth had avoided singers for 18 years prior, but even putting aside Mark Lanegan and Rabi Shabeen Qazi, whose performance on “From the Zodiacal Light” was the high point of the record, presented Earth‘s always progressive tensions in a rawer, heavier production, and was a joy for longtime fans.
Six years and one breakup later, Portland, Maine, doom trio Ogre returned with The Last Neanderthal, neither afraid to revel in Sabbathian traditionalism or rock out a more upbeat cut like opener “Nine Princes in Amber.” For bassist/vocalist Ed Cunningham, guitarist Ross Markonish and drummer Will Broadbent, it was a welcome resurgence of pretense-free heavy riffs and grooves.
Of course, at the time we didn’t know it would be the final outing from this lineup of UK doomers The Wounded Kings, whose guitarist/founder Steve Mills has now reunited with original vocalist George Birch, but Consolamentum was a hell of a closing statement anyway for this era of the band, showcasing their murky, increasingly progressive style still waiting for wider appreciation.
Wasn’t sure where to put Floor‘s reunion offering, Oblation, on this list at first, since I kind of fell off listening to it as the year went on, but I’ve gone back to it over the last couple weeks and it has held up to the revisit, whether it’s songs like the extended “Sign of Aeth” or shorter, catchy pummelers like “Rocinante” or “War Party.” Floor‘s 2002 self-titled holds an untouchable legacy in heavy rock, but I think the years will prove Oblation a worthy successor. Nobody knew what they had with Floor at the time either.
Little on 2011’s Motherfucker Rising (review here) or their 2010 demo (review here) prepared for the kind of assault that Druglord‘s Enter Venus brought to bear. Four stomp-laden slabs of tectonic crash and distortion, vocals buried under and calling up from the amp-bred fog. The Virginian trio were in and out on the 27-minute 12″ release, but had enough heavy for a record twice as long, and the tinges of darkened psychedelia made their songs like a lurking presence just on the edge of consciousness, a threat waiting to be unleashed.
For the sheer variety of Ararat‘s third album in rockers like “Nicotina y Destrucción,” “El Hijo de Ignacio,” the experimentalism of “El Arca” and the piano-driven “Los Viajes” and the acoustic closer “Atalayah,” and the assured, flowing manner in which the Argentina trio pulled it all off, Cabalgata Hacia la Luz should be higher on this list than it is. Part of that might be my frustration at my apparent inability to buy a copy, but don’t let that take away from the quality of the material here, which is wonderfully chaotic, memorable and engaging, rushing in some places and stopping to weep in others.
You won’t hear me deny that Radio Moscow‘s primary impact is as a live band, but their fifth album, Magical Dirt, managed to bring forth much of their psychedelic blues presence in “Death of a Queen,” “Before it Burns” and “Gypsy Fast Woman,” the blinding rhythmic turns and wah-soaked guitar supremacy of Parker Griggs front and center throughout. Together with bassist Anthony Meier (also Sacri Monti) and drummer Paul Marrone (also Astra and Psicomagia), Radio Moscow are hitting their stride as one of heavy rock’s most powerful power trios. One never knows what to expect, but hopefully they keep going the way they are.
Four years isn’t the longest time I’ve ever waited for a record to come out, but in the case of Indianapolis’ Apostle of Solitude, it felt like an especially long stretch. Their third full-length and first for Cruz del Sur, Of Woe and Wounds followed the anticipation-building Demo 2012 (review here) and a couple splits and brought aboard bassist Dan Dividson and guitarist/vocalist Steve Janiak (also Devil to Pay), who fit well with drummer Corey Webb and guitarist/vocalist Chuck Brown to result in a payoff worthy and indicative of the time that went into its making. Hands down one of the finest acts in American doom.
Stubb‘s second long-player, also their debut on Ripple, gets a nod for the sense of progression it brought in answering the potential of the trio’s 2012 self-titled debut (review here), guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson, bassist Peter Holland and new drummer Tom Fyfe expanding the scope to include more heavy psych influence and soul along with the fuzz riffs and steady rolling while giving no ground in terms of the level of craft at work. Cry of the Ocean has become one of those albums where all I have to do is look at a title, be it “Cry of the Ocean Pt. I” or “Sail Forever” or “Heartbreaker,” and the song is immediately stuck in my head. With these tracks, that’s not at all a complaint.
14. Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, Black Power Flower
Brant Bjork has worn many hats, literal and figurative, over the years, whether it’s drummer in Kyuss or Fu Manchu, producer, solo artist or bandleader. With Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, he steps once again into the latter role, and with guitarist Bubba DuPree, bassist Dave Dinsmore and drummer Tony Tornay, presents not only on his heaviest record to date, but what could easily begin a sustainable full-band progression that can go just about anywhere his songwriting wants to take it. “Stokely up Now,” “That’s a Fact Jack,” “Controllers Denied” and “Boogie Woogie on Your Brain” made for some of 2014’s best in desert rock, and Black Power Flower was an stellar return for Bjork to his “solo” work.
An earlier version of this list had Pagan Fruit at a lower number, but I couldn’t live with it not being closer to the top 10. Salt Lake City’s Dwellers pushed deeper into laid back psych and blues on their second album, and in doing so, crafted an atmosphere entirely their own. From “Creature Comfort” down to “Call of the Hollowed Horn,” with triumphs along the way like “Rare Eagle,” “Totem Crawler” (“Ohh, my queen… To whom, I crawl…) and “Son of Raven,” Pagan Fruit became a staple of my 2014, building off their 2012 debut, Good Morning Harakiri (review here), but presenting their stylistic growth with a confidence and poise that can only come from a band who’ve figured out what they want to be doing and how they want to do it. Front to back, Pagan Fruit sounds like an arrival.
What made Brooklyn trio The Golden Grass‘ self-titled debut such a special released wasn’t just that it was heavy, or that the tracks were catchy, or that guitarist Michael Rafalowich and drummer Adam Kriney could harmonize over Joe Noval‘s warm-toned basslines. That was all great, don’t get me wrong, but what really stood out about The Golden Grass was its irony-free positivity, the way it was able to capture an upbeat, sunshiny feel without having to smirk about it on the other side of its mouth. It was self-aware, to be sure — knew what it was doing — but the way I see it, consciousness only makes the stylistic choices more impressive. Add to that the nuance they brought to ’70s revivalism, and all that stuff about catchiness and the harmonies, and there just wasn’t a level on which the album didn’t work.
My appreciation continues to grow for The Well‘s Samsara, which successfully pulled together influences from garage doom and heavy psychedelia while crafting an identity for the Austin, Texas, three-piece at once raw and melodically accomplished, guitarist Ian Graham and bassist Lisa Alley sharing vocals to classic effect on “Refuge” while otherwise trading off lead position to bolster variety in the material. The high point might’ve been the eight-minute “Eternal Well,” on which Graham, Alley and drummer Jason Sullivvan conjured some of their grooviest demons, but the hooks of “Mortal Bones,” “Trespass” and the attitude-laced “Dragon Snort” were no less engaging. One of many strong releases from their label this year — Slow Season, The Picturebooks, etc. — they seemed to come ready to serve notice of a stylistic movement underway.
10. Montibus Communitas, The Pilgrim to the Absolute
Peruvian psych adventurers Montibus Communitas more or less blew my mind when I heard their late-2013 offering, Harvest Times earlier this year, and the narrative, conceptual 2014 release, The Pilgrim to the Absolute, is even more of an achievement in its portrayal of improvised exploration, sonic ritualism and open creativity. The weaving of longer pieces against shorter ones with the various steps along the path as presented in the titles, some journeying, some arriving, some descriptive, almost all accompanied by nature in one form or another, gives The Pilgrim to the Absolute an almost impressionistic quality, so that even as you listen to it, you engage it as much as it carries you along its vibrant, breathtaking progression en route to the closing title-track, which is a destination every bit worthy of the journey. This is the most recently reviewed inclusion on this list, but Montibus Communitas‘ latest readily earns its place in the top 10. It is unique in its surroundings.
Looking back at the last two Fu Manchu records, 2007’s We Must Obey and 2009’s Signs of Infinite Power, it seemed reasonable to expect the groundbreaking SoCal fuzz foursome to put out another collection of big-sounding riffs in a big-sounding production. Nothing to complain about, but probably not a landmark. By going the other way completely — stripping their buzzed-out riffing down to its punkish core thanks in no small part to recording with Moab‘s Andrew Giacumakis — Fu Manchu served up a raw reminder both of where they came from and how top notch their songwriting remains. Reissuing their earliest work and being on their own label might’ve had something to do with it, but whatever it was, the 35 minutes of Gigantoid was as efficient a heavy rock outing as one could hope from an already legendary band, whether it was the hook-prone opening salvo of “Dimension Shifter,” “Invaders on My Back,” “Anxiety Reducer” and “Radio Source Sagittarius” or the righteous ending jam “The Last Question.”
Given the origins of The Skull — ex-Trouble members Eric Wagner, Jeff “Oly” Olson and Ron Holzner joining with Lothar Keller and a series of other guitarists, finally Matt Goldsborough, working essentially as a tribute band to their former outfit — I think not only did the quality of the material and performance on For Those Which are Asleep surprise, as well as the classically doomed feel that resonates throughout the album, but the sheer heartfelt nature of songs like “Sick of it All,” “Send Judas Down” and the title-track itself. This wasn’t a cynical attempt to make a go of an already set legacy. It was an expression of appreciation both for what they accomplished as Trouble and a desire to continue that work. The Skull‘s whole thing has been that they’re “more Trouble than Trouble,” and in their lineup that’s been true since they brought Olson on board. For Those Which are Asleep demonstrated that the classic spirit of that band is alive and well, its address has just changed. Moreover, it’s the beginning of a new progression for that spirit, and I hope it continues.
Nineteen years after releasing their self-titled debut, New York’s Blood Farmers contended for 2014’s comeback of the year with their sophomore outing, Headless Eyes — a morose, horror-obsessed six-track collection that on “Night of the Sorcerers” owed as much to Goblin as to Sabbath. The closing cover of David Hess‘ theme from The Last House on the Left, “The Road Leads to Nowhere,” was a late bit of melodic flourish to add depth, but how could the highlight be anything other than the 10-minute title-track itself, with its samples from the 1971 horror flick The Headless Eyes, bassist Eli Brown in a call and response with lyrics comprised of lines directly taken from the movie? That after playing shows the last several years, Blood Farmers managed to get a record out was impressive enough. That Headless Eyes turned out to be the year’s best traditional doom release was an entirely different level of surprise. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for their third, but Brown, guitarist David Szulkin and drummer Tad Leger gave plenty to chew on with Blood Farmers‘ second. It was better than would’ve been fair to expect.
A lot of what you need to know about Lo-Pan‘s fourth album you learn in the first five seconds of opener “Regulus.” There’s no fancy intro, no time wasted, nothing to take away from the directness of the song itself. Tones are crisp — the verse is already underway — and guitar, bass and drums are laser-focused in their forward movement. Even when vocalist Jeff Martin enters the song, roughly six seconds later, his arrival comes with no indulgence, no pomp. Colossus is easily Lo-Pan‘s most immediate work to date, and throughout, Martin, guitarist Brian Fristoe (since replaced by Adrian Zambrano), bassist Scott Thompson and drummer Jesse Bartz retain that focus no matter where the material takes them, delivering a clinic in how to kick as much ass as possible at any given moment on cuts like “Marathon Man” and “Eastern Seas,” or even bringing in guest vocalist Jason Alexander Byers, who also designed the album cover, for a spot on “Vox.” They had a hard task in following up 2011’s Salvador (review here), but the Columbus, Ohio, unit stood up to the challenge and met it and everyone else head-on.
What to do with All Them Witches‘ Lightning at the Door? The Nashville four-piece released the album last fall digitally, but it wasn’t until this September that it saw a physical manifestation. In fact, if you go back, it was included on the Top 20 of 2013 as well. Which is the release date? I don’t know. What I know is that in terms of the sheer amount of time spent listening, I put on Lightning at the Door more than any other record this year. From where I sit, that alone gets it a place in the top five. Yeah, it might be a cop-out to do a “5a,” but sometimes exceptions have to be made, and All Them Witches have proved to be nothing if not exceptional in their still relatively brief, jam-laden history, the psych-blues dynamic between bassist/vocalist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod, Fender Rhodes specialist Allan van Cleave and drummer Robby Staebler pushing them quickly to the fore of American heavy rock’s innovators, their natural, improv-sounding material feeling brazen and exploratory while reshaping the elements of genre to suit their needs. One can only see this dynamic developing further as they continue to grow as a live band, so Lightning at the Door may just be the start, and that’s perhaps most exciting of all.
A beautiful, stunning work made even more powerful by the honesty driving it. Portland, Oregon’s Witch Mountain completed a trilogy with the Billy Anderson-produced Mobile of Angelsthat brought about some of the best doom of this young decade, their 2011 return from a years-long hiatus, South of Salem (review here) serving as the foundation for a stylistic progression that continued on the following year’s Cauldron of the Wild (review here) and onto Mobile of Angels itself as the four-piece’s most accomplished album to date. The reason it feels like such a concluding chapter is because of the departure of vocalist Uta Plotkin, whose voice helped establish Witch Mountain both on stage and in the studio, leaving founders Rob Wrong (guitar) and Nathan Carson (drums) with the sizable task of finding a replacement. That situation will be what it will be, but Mobile of Angels remains a gorgeous, lonely testament. Plotkin gives a landmark performance on “Can’t Settle” and “The Shape Truth Takes,” which in the context of what was happening in Witch Mountain at the time ring with a truth that’s rare in or out of doom, and she seems to have left the band just as they were hitting their finest hour. So it goes.
In all of heavy, there is no assault so severe as Conan‘s. With their second full-length and debut on Napalm Records, the UK trio solidified the two sides of the preceding 2012 outing, Monnos (review here), in constructing material that, fast or slow, short or long, retained an epic feel melded with their ungodly tonality and memorable songwriting. Their first recording at guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis‘ Skyhammer Studio, it affirmed Conan‘s will to conquer in its two massive bookends, “Crown of Talons” and “Altar of Grief,” and in the High on Fire-worthy gallop of “Foehammer” — a bludgeon commandingly wielded by Davis, bassist/vocalist Phil Coumbe and drummer Paul O’Neil, the latter to of whom have since left the band to be replaced by longtime-producer Chris Fielding and Rich Lewis, respectively. What effect the changes might have on the band — except apparently more touring, which isn’t a bad thing — have yet to be seen, but Conan are already in the process of writing a follow-up to Blood Eagle, so it doesn’t seem like it’ll be all that long until we find out. With Davis still steering the band in songwriting and overall direction, one severely doubts they’ll be fixing what obviously isn’t broken anytime soon. None heavier.
Dallas riff-rockers Wo Fat have grown steadily over the course of their five albums, from the nascent heavy roll of 2006’s The Gathering Dark, to the hooks of 2008’s Psychedelonaut (review here), the jamming that started to surface on 2011’s Noche del Chupacabra (review here) and was pushed further on 2012’s The Black Code (review here). And their approach has been as steady as the frequency of their releases. In making The Conjuring, the three-piece were simply engaging the next step in their progression, but the material on the five-track/48-minute outing goes further than just that. Putting aside (momentarily) the 17-minute closer “Dreamwalker,” the other cuts, “The Conjuring,” “Read the Omens,” “Pale Rider from the Ice” and “Beggar’s Bargain” each found a place for themselves in pulling together jammed-sounding elements with a memorable construction, and when guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, bassist Tim Wilson and drummer Michael Walter did kick into “Dreamwalker,” they hit on not only their longest piece yet, but their most accomplished showcase of the chemistry that has developed between them. That song is a beast unto itself, but as has been the case with Wo Fat each time out so far in their career, there’s nothing on The Conjuring to give the impression the band can’t or won’t continue to keep going on the path that’s worked so well for them on this point. They’ve spent the last eight years on the right track and have yet to waiver. The Conjuring should be played at top volume for anyone who contends there’s no life left in heavy rock and roll.
Mars Red Sky‘s second LP and first for Listenable, Stranded in Arcadia was originally supposed to be recorded in the California desert, but visa problems kept the French trio of guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras, bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Matgaz in Brazil, where they’d previously been touring. Thus, “stranded in Arcadia,” which is basically another way of saying “lost in paradise.” Can’t say the Bordeaux three-piece didn’t make the most of it, though. Songs like “The Light Beyond” and “Hovering Satellites” — not to mention the utter melodic bliss of “Join the Race” — took cues from their 2011 self-titled debut (review here) in terms of memorable songwriting and melodic craft, but added to that heft and tonal richness more of a psychedelic vibe, so that not only was there fuzz and wah, but a spacious world in which the songs took place. With Kinast on lead vocals, the sneaky boogie of “Holy Mondays” became a highlight, and the one-two swing ‘n’ stomp of “Circles” and “Seen a Ghost” were a perfect demonstration by the band of the various sides of their sound, particularly following after the dreamy instrumental “Arcadia,” an echoing jam distinguished by Pras‘ wistful guitar lead and coming before the closing “Beyond the Light,” which reprises the opener’s resonant unfolding. It probably wasn’t the record they intended to make, but Stranded in Arcadia became one of my go-to albums for 2014, and like the best of any given year’s output, I’ve no doubt it will transcend the passage of time and continue to deliver for years to come. Hell, I was barely done with the debut when this one came out.
Can’t imagine this is any great surprise. Not only did Clearing the Path to Ascend — YOB‘s seventh album and first for Neurot — produce my pick for song of the year in its sprawling, emotionally weighted 18-minute closer, “Marrow,” but in the three full-lengths the Eugene, Oregon, trio of drummer Travis Foster, bassist Aaron Rieseberg and guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt have released since the latter reformed the band after breaking it up following 2005’s The Unreal Never Lived, all three have been my album of the year. The Great Cessation was in 2009, and Atma was in 2011. Consistency aside, I’ll point out specifically that each of the same three records has earned that position, perhaps Clearing the Path to Ascend most of all for its progressive feel, moving past genre even at its most raging moment, second cut “Nothing to Win,” the chorus of which proved that among everything else YOB could be, they could be anthemic. The cosmic, spiritual questing that has always been present in their songs, that feeling of searching, showed up in opener “In Our Blood,” but even there, it was evident YOB were pushing themselves beyond what they’ve done before, rewriting their own formulas incorporating lessons from their past in among their other points of inspiration. “Unmask the Spectre” could have easily been an album closer itself, with its patient exploration and feverishly intense payoff, but with the melodic progressivism of “Marrow” and the soul poured into every second of that track, every verse and chorus, solo and build — including the Hammond added to the last of them by producer Billy Barnett — YOB created a landmark both for themselves and the increasing many working under their influence. I’ve said on several occasions (bordering on “many” at this point) that YOB are a once-in-a-generation band, and it feels truer in thinking of Clearing the Path to Ascend than it ever has. Without a doubt, album of the year and then some.
First, special note to Colour Haze‘s To the Highest Gods We Know. I’ve decided to count it as a 2015 release since the vinyl will be out in Spring, but otherwise surely it would earn a place on this list. Blackwolfgoat‘s Drone Maintenance also deserves note.
A few other honorable mentions:
Mothership, Mothership II — It’s hard to argue with a classic heavy rock power trio kicking ass. I won’t try.
Sólstafir, Ótta — They were originally on the list proper but had to be moved to make room for Alunah. I didn’t really get to know this record in 2014 anyway.
Ice Dragon, Seeds from a Dying Garden — Boston experimental psych/garage doomers continue to defy expectation. May their weirdness last forever and continue to produce material so satisfying.
Truckfighters, Universe — I thought at some point I’d go back to Universe again, but never really did. A problem with me more than the album.
Steak, Slab City — An impressive debut following two strong EPs.
Godflesh, A World Lit Only by Fire — I never got a review copy, so I never reviewed it. Its name is here because I’m a fan of the band and glad they’re back.
Thou, Heathen — Just recently purchased this and am only getting to know it, but a ridiculously strong album.
Corrosion of Conformity, IX — Everybody who gets a boner whenever Pepper Keenan is mentioned in connection with this band has missed out. This record and the self-titled kick ass.
Spidergawd, Spidergawd — Holy shit they’re over here! No they’re over there! No wait over here again! Oh my god I’ve just gone blind!
Monster Magnet, Milking the Stars — I wasn’t sure what to do with this since technically it’s not a new album, mostly reworked songs from the last one. I still listened to it a ton though, whatever it is.
Slomatics, Estron — Another one I’m just getting to know, but am very much digging.
Electric Wizard, Time to Die — People seem to do this thing where Electric Wizard puts out a record, everyone slathers over it for a few months and then spends the next two years talking about how it sucked. I guess I’ll be on the ground floor with not having been that into Time to Die.
Pallbearer, Foundations of Burden — Had to put their name somewhere on this list or someone would burn my house down. Album of the year for many.
The list goes on: Monolord, Comet Control, Mammatus, Triptykon, Eyehategod, Fever Dog, Moab, Karma to Burn, Atavismo, Grifter, 1000mods, Megaton Leviathan, Wovenhand, Mr. Peter Hayden, Primordial, and many more.
Before I check out and go sit in a corner somewhere to try and rebuild brain power after this massive dump of a purge, I want to sincerely thank you for reading. If you check in regularly, or if you’ve never been to the site before, if you don’t give a crap about lists or if you’re gonna go listen to even one band on here, it’s fantastic to me. Thank you so much for all the support this site receives, for your comments, for sharing links, retweeting, whatever it is. I am a real person — I’m sitting on my couch at this very moment — and being able to do this and have people see it and be a part of it with me is unbelievable. I realize how fortunate I am. So thank you. Thank you.
More to come as we close out 2014. I’ll have a list of short/split/demo releases, a year-end podcast, a list of the best debuts, a round up of the best live shows I saw, as much more as time allows. Please stay tuned.
And again, thank you. If I left anyone off the list, I hope you’ll let me know in the comments and contribute your own top albums, however many there are, to the Readers Poll.
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 8th, 2014 by JJ Koczan
Unquestionably one of 2014’s finest doom releases, Blood Farmers‘ long awaited studio return, Headless Eyes (review here), is set to be released tomorrow on vinyl through PATAC Records. Their sophomore outing and first with drummer Tad Leger (ex-Toxic) alongside bassist/vocalist Eli Brown and guitarist Dave Szulkin (also of The Disease Concept), it’s an unpretentious slab of classic-minded horror doom, rife with memorable tracks like its sprawling 10-minute title cut and “Gut Shot,” but immersive, eerily psychedelic and spiraling continually downward.
Since Headless Eyes was 19 years in following-up Blood Farmers‘ self-titled debut, your guess is as good as mine when they might get around to putting out a third one, so all the more reason to note the occasion of the LP coming out. If you haven’t heard it yet — and I’m sure you have, because you’re up on it like that — the title-track “Headless Eyes” is on the YouTube player under PATAC‘s announcement below.
Blood Farmers ‘Headless Eyes’ will be hitting stores worldwide 12/09/2014! Be sure to pick up the doom metal masterpiece on vinyl!
150 on Red Vinyl 450 on Black Vinyl
“Who would have thought that the within doom circles well appreciated band Blood Farmers would ever release a follow-up to their ‘Blood Farmers’ debut? Okay, the band had reunited in 2007 and did play live quite frequently, but unfortunately bass player Dr. Phibes passed away in 2010. Vocalist Eli Brown took over bass duty and the band continued with in 2009 on drums Tad Leger. Tad Leger, you say? Yes, the tad Leger of Toxik’s two albums fame. First technical thrash and now doom, that is a different ballpark entirely. In 2011 Blood Farmers even played at the renowned Roadburn festival. But at the time I didn’t expect any new studio work. Pleasantly surprised I was that nineteen years after their debut there is now a follow-up in the guise of ‘Headless Eyes’ in front of me.
But will the band be able to achieve the same level as before? Well, I shouldn’t have worried for a second. What a scorcher of an album ‘Headless Eyes’ turned out to be. Still traditional doom in the vein of Saint Vitus and Internal Void with quite a bit of stoner. Six absolute top songs is what this album contains, be it the title song or the instrumental ‘Night Of the Sorcerers’ which clocks in at over ten minutes or closing cover song ‘The Road Leads To Nowhere’ which is taken from 1972 horror film ‘The Last House On The Left’. All doom diamonds of the purest form. ‘Headless Eyes’ is up to now the doom album of the year for me and I am of the opinion that this album can become a true genre classic. I am as happy as a kid in a sweetshop with the return of Blood Farmers in recorded form.”Limited to 600 copies. 150 copies on opaque red vinyl, 450 copies on black vinyl. All copies include a double-sided ‘grindhouse’ insert and 5?x5? sticker of the cover art.
Originally formed in 1989, BLOOD FARMERS combine the atmosphere of ’70s horror with heavy doses of psychedelia and doom in the tradition of BLACK SABBATH and SAINT VITUS. The band’s 1995 debut on the legendary Hellhound Records has been cited as an influential underground classic by such bands as ELECTRIC WIZARD and CHURCH OF MISERY.
BLOOD FARMERS‘ current lineup includes Dave Szulkin (guitar), Eli Brown (vocals) and Tad Leger (drums; ex-TOXIK).
“Headless Eyes” track listing: 01. Gut Shot (6:17) 02. Headless Eyes (10:49) 03. The Creeper (4:51) 04. Thousand-Yard Stare (6:34) 05. Night Of The Sorcerers (10:15) 06. The Road Leads To Nowhere (5:59)