Pallbearer Announce Tour Dates with Tribulation; New Video Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 11th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

pallbearer

Is it really even necessarily at this point to mention that Pallbearer are among the most important American doom acts of their generation? Isn’t it kind of a given? I don’t know. Whatever. If you don’t know that, it’s probably because your taste dictates otherwise. That is, if you’re reading this, it’s not like you haven’t heard of them. Especially after last year’s Warning-gone-prog LP Heartless (review here), they’re about as close to household names as doom gets without being Black Sabbath.

It’s not a mistake either. They didn’t just happen into success. They’ve broken their collective ass on the road for the last half-decade-plus, and the thread continues this weekend as they begin yet another European tour. Copious festival dates will round out on Aug. 16 in Germany at Summer Breeze — is it the same Summer Breeze you got all those 1996 bootlegs from? I don’t know, go to Radio Shack and spend $100 on like five CD-Rs and I’ll take two hours trying to burn you copies on my 1x CD-RW drive and we’ll find out. After that, they’ll take it to the streets in the western half of the US and also north up into Canada, this time in the company of Tribulation. Much to do.

And as if that didn’t count as busy enough, they’ve got a new video for “Thorns” at the bottom of this post, and keep an eye out. In the band’s quote below, they talk about “revisiting and adding new dimension” to stuff from their whole discography. True enough they’ve undertaken significant growth in their sound, but to me, that sounds like the kind of thing they might want to represent on a live album somewhere down the line. That’s speculation, of course, but you never know.

Unless they say something. Then you know. But they haven’t said anything. So there.

PR wire, take me away:

pallbearer tribulation tour

PALLBEARER ANNOUNCE NORTH AMERICAN TOUR, PREMIERE MUSIC VIDEO FOR ‘THORNS’

See them on the road with Tribulation in September & October

Ascending Arkansas progressive doom quartet Pallbearer will head to European + UK shores next week for a run of shows and festival appearances and today, the band has announced a North American tour with Sweden’s finest metal exports Tribulation this Fall. In anticipation of their forthcoming tour dates, Pallbearer has unleashed a live music video for the track “Thorns”, taken from their recent release, Heartless. The live video was shot during part of the band’s U.S. tour back in February; watch the video for “Thorns” here: https://youtu.be/ooKeykeDsHQ

In regard to the upcoming tours, Pallbearer commented: “After a long period of constant touring behind Heartless, it’s almost time for us to settle in to the cold season and begin crafting our next musical endeavor. But before that, we are heading out once more across North America to bring this chapter to its conclusion. We look forward to stretching out our sets each night on this double bill with Tribulation, revisiting and adding new dimension to material across our entire catalogue.” See all Pallbearer tour dates below.

PALLBEARER, ON TOUR:
July 13 DE Hamburg – Molotow Club
July 14 BE Dour – Dour Festival
July 15 NL Nijmegen – Valkhof Festival
July 16 UK London – Islington Assembly Hall
July 17 UK Glasgow – Stereo
July 18 UK Leeds – Brudenell Social Club
July 19 UK Bristol – The Fleece
July 21 DE Crispendorf – Chaos Descends Festival
July 23 IT Milan – Circolo Magnolia
July 24 SL Tolmin – Metaldays festival
August 3 DK Copenhagen – Vega
August 4 DE Beelen – Krach am Bach Festival
August 5 DE Cottbus – Zum Faulen August
August 7 HR Primosten – SuperUho Festival
August 8 HU Budapest – A38
August 9 CZ Josefov – Brutal Assault Festival
August 10 DE Bad Kotzting – Void Fest
August 12 UK Derbyshire – Bloodstock Festival
August 14 DE Wiesbaden – Schlachthof
August 15 CH Winterthur – Gaswerk
August 16 DE Dinkelsbuhl – Summer Breeze Festival

September 15 – Toronto ON – Lee’s Palace *
September 16 – Detroit MI – Magic Stick *
September 18 – Chicago IL – Bottom Lounge *
September 19 – Minneapolis MN – Turf Club *
September 21 – Denver CO – Bluebird *
September 22 – Salt Lake City UT – Metro *
September 24 – Calgary AB – Dickens *
September 25 – Edmonton AB – Starlite *
September 27 – Vancouver BC – Rickshaw *
September 28 – Seattle WA – El Corazon *
September 29 – Portland OR – Hawthorne *
October 1 – San Francisco CA – Slim’s *
October 3 – Phoenix AZ – Rebel Lounge *
October 5 – Austin TX – Barracuda *
October 6 – Dallas TX – Trees *
October 7 – Houston TX – White Oak *
* w/ Tribulation

Buy tickets: http://pallbearerdoom.com/tour

Pallbearer are:
Brett Campbell | lead vocals, electric & acoustic guitars, synthesizers
Devin Holt | electric & acoustic guitars, vocals
Joseph D. Rowland | electric bass, vocals, synthesizers
Mark Lierly | percussion

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Pallbearer, “Thorns” official video

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Pallbearer Tour Starts Tonight; “Dropout” Documentary Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 2nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Arkansas doomers Pallbearer head out on a month-long tour tonight in the company of classic death metallers Obituary, darkthrashers Skeletonwitch and Dust Bolt. They’ve got dates booked as well for July and August — yes, they’ll be at Psycho Las Vegas — as they continue to support last year’s Heartless (review here) full-length, and a new single issued through the Adult Swim Singles Program called “Dropout” that pushes them into some new and surprisingly psychedelic sonic territory.

Not that Pallbearer‘s tones haven’t always been spacious, just that they’ve never been used in quite this way. Could be a one-off or could be portentous of future stylistic evolution, but the song is cool either way and the band have a short documentary up about its making that you can see below. No reason not to get on that.

From the PR wire:

pallbearer (Photo by Diana Lee Zadlo)

Ruminant progressive doom quartet Pallbearer recently premiered a new track entitled ‘Dropout’ as the 53rd installment of the Adult Swim Singles Program. The song, which is available digitally, represents a subtle expansion of the singular doom-prog metal sound the quartet is known for.

To coincide with this release, the band have also made an accompanying mini documentary which gives a behind the scenes look at the recording of ‘Dropout’ – recorded at Fellowship Hall Sound in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Pallbearer comments on the single: “We have almost always written music intended to exist as part of an album, with common musical and lyrical threads that tie many elements together into one release. Being freed from those confines in recording this song allowed us to explore themes and immediacy that might not have been uncovered in our more typical “large format” composition process.”

Pallbearer are undoubtedly road warriors, and they will continue to uphold that titled with their forthcoming North American tour dates. Along with a freshly announced batch of headlining gigs, the group is gearing up to support Obituary on an expansive U.S. tour in the coming month.

PALLBEARER, ON TOUR:
May 2 Atlanta, GA @ Masquerade *
May 3 Greensboro, NC @ The Blind Tiger *
May 4 Philadelphia, PA @ Theatre of Living Arts *
May 5 New York, NY @ Gramercy Theatre *
May 6 Boston, MA @ Sinclair *
May 8 Toronto, ON @ Opera House *
May 9 Montreal, QB @ Club Soda *
May 10 Rochester, NY @ Main Street Armory *
May 11 Cleveland, OH @ Agora Ballroom *
May 12 Detroit, MI @ Majestic *
May 13 Chicago, IL @ Metro *
May 15 Des Moines, IA @ Wooly’s *
May 16 Omaha, NE @ Waiting Room *
May 18 Denver, CO @ Gothic Theatre *
May 19 Salt Lake City, UT @ Metro Music Hall *
May 21 Portland, OR @ Hawthorne Theatre *
May 22 Seattle, WA @ El Corazon *
May 23 Vancouver, BC @ Rickshaw Theatre *
May 25 San Francisco, CA @ DNA Lounge *
May 26 Pomona, CA @ Glasshouse *
May 27 Phoenix, AZ @ Club Red *
May 29 Austin, TX @ Barracuda *
May 30 Dallas, TX @ Gas Monkey Bar & Grill *
May 31 Houston, TX @ Scout Bar *
Jun 1 Pensacola, FL @ Vinyl Music Hall *
Jun 2 Orlando, FL @ The Haven Lounge *
Jun 3 Miami, FL @ The Ground *
Jun 17 Little Rock, AR @ Mutants of the Monster Festival
June 22 Tulsa, OK @ Guthrie Green
July 26 Hamden, CT @ The Space
July 27 Syracuse, NY @ Lost Horizon
July 28 Montreal, QC @ Heavy Montreal
July 29 Bangor, ME @ Impact Festival
July 30 Brooklyn, NY @ Saint Vitus +
July 31 Amityville, NY @ Amityville Music Hall
Aug 18 Las Vegas, NV @ Psycho Las Vegas
Oct 13 San Bernardino, CA @ Glen Helen Amphitheater ^

* w/ Obituary, Skeletonwitch, Dust Bolt
^ w/ System Of A Down, Incubus
+ Kerrang! presents

PALLBEARER is:
Brett Campbell | lead vocals, electric & acoustic guitars, synthesizers
Devin Holt | electric & acoustic guitars, vocals
Joseph D. Rowland | electric bass, vocals, synthesizers
Mark Lierly | percussion

Pallbearer, “Dropout”

Pallbearer, The Making of “Dropout”

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2017

Posted in Features on December 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

top-30-of-2017

Please note: This post is not culled in any way from the Year-End Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2017 to that, please do.

We’re almost at the finish line for 2017, and if I’m honest, it’s not a minute too soon. I think if one more record comes out this year my head is going to explode.

A perpetual onslaught of cool music is, of course, nothing to complain about. It just seemed like every time I thought I had a handle on where the year was going, some other announcement came through and knocked me on my ass. What’s that? The Obsessed are putting out their first album in more than two decades? Oh and Monolord have a new one coming? Radio Moscow just signed to Century Media? Arc of Ascent are back? Samsara Blues Experiment are back? Causa Sui are putting out a live album and a studio album? Sasquatch are going to Europe and sneaking a record along with them? All of a sudden I’m out of breath feeling like I just ran a lap.

It’s been madness this year. Between an emergent neo-psych movement in the wake of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and others, and the ongoing and constant reshaping of doom and heavy rock from practitioners new and old, I don’t know how anyone could ever claim to keep up with any of it.

You know I do the best I can, so when you look through this list, please keep in mind that these are my picks and the result of applying my own standard, which if you’ve ever seen a list on this site before you probably already know is a combination of things like what I view as being important on a critical level and things like what kept me coming back as a listener. What were the year’s biggest releases and what couldn’t I get enough of? Sometimes those two things come together around one record and it’s beautiful. That’s usually your album of the year, or close to, anyhow.

No sense in delaying further. I hope if you haven’t heard some of this stuff you’ll give it a shot, and if you have something you felt strongly about it, you’ll let me know in the comments. Thanks in advance for keeping it civil, and of course for reading.

Here goes:

30. Geezer, Psychoriffadelia
geezer psychoriffadelia

Released by Kozmik Artifactz and STB Records. Reviewed May 16.

Coming off of what was their strongest album to-date in their 2016 self-titled (review here), New York heavy psych blues trio Geezer decided it was time to take the groove for a walk. And so they did. Psychoriffadelia is the result — a looser collection of jams and willfully unrefined heavy blues, reveling in the politically incorrect on “Dirty Penny” only after basking in the post-Monster Magnet hypnosis of “Red Hook” and the earlier roll of the more straightforward “Hair of the Dog” and “Stressknots.” Everything Geezer has done to this point has pushed their sound to new places. Psychoriffadelia is no exception.

29. Orango, The Mules of Nana

orango the mules of nana

Released by Stickman Records. Reviewed March 27.

More than a touch of twang on opener “Heartland” sets a tone of Americana-infusion for Orango‘s sixth LP, The Mules of Nana, but the 10-tracker is ultimately much more about harmony-laced classic heavy smoothness than playing to prairie-minded sensibilities, though roots spread wide through a natural, dirty blues just the same. However they get there, “Hazy Chain of Mountains,” the softshoe-ready funk of “Head on Down” and the peacefully progressive finish of “Ghost Rider” bring ’70s-style thrills in songwriting and their precise, gorgeous execution. Underrated record from an underappreciated band.

28. Radio Moscow, New Beginnings

radio moscow new beginnings

Released by Century Media. Reviewed Oct. 6.

Cali boogie kingpins and all-around marvelous frenetic bastards Radio Moscow were in top form on their Century Media debut, and if it was a new beginning they were searching for, they met it head on with a sound as classic and organic as ever. Arguably the most powerful power trio in their game, they tore through cuts like “No One Knows Where They’ve Been” and “Deceiver” while offering flourish in the trip-out “Woodrose Morning” and subdued blues-psych on the penultimate “Pick up the Pieces.” Very much to form, but cast of a form that still manages to outclass all challengers.

27. Spaceslug, Time Travel Dilemma

spaceslug time travel dilemma

Released by Southcave Records, BSFD Records and Oak Island Records. Reviewed Feb. 10.

And so here we have the first of what will no doubt be several records about which I’m going to say they should be higher on the list. Poland’s Spaceslug have emerged from the moist ground created by their own tonality and on their sophomore full-length, they proffered warm depth of fuzz and a corresponding melodic and psychedelic reach that was resonant even before they brought in ex-Sungrazer bassist Sander Haagmans for a guest spot on the title-track. It’s been out for 10 months and still delivers every time I put it on, which is often.

26. Mothership, High Strangeness

mothership high strangeness
Released by Ripple Music and Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed March 7.

Three albums into a tenure marked by hard-driving riffs, scorching solos and relentless road work, there’s little Texas trio Mothership need to do at this point to prove themselves to their audience. At the same time, High Strangeness brought considerable expansion to their range overall, whether it was the exploratory “Eternal Trip” or the semi-metallic insistence behind “Midnight Express,” while staying tied together with lyrical and instrumental hooks. High Strangeness set a new standard for Mothership, plain and simple, and easily surpassed the considerable accomplishments of their 2012 self-titled debut (review here) and 2014’s Mothership II (review here).

25. Eternal Black, Bleed the Days

eternal black bleed the days

Released by Obsidian Sky Records. Reviewed Aug. 1.

There was a lot about Eternal Black‘s Bleed the Days that chugged its way into the post-Wino oeuvre of US-style trad doom, but the gruff, lumbering and impeccably riffed outing was nonetheless one of 2017’s best debut full-lengths, and it was the songwriting that got it there. Already sounding sure in the vibe captured, cuts like the plodding brooder “Sea of Graves” and “Stained Eyes on a Setting Sun” showed potential in mood and atmosphere as much as sheer sonic heft — though of course there was plenty of that to go around as well. Doomers missed it at their peril.

24. Kadavar, Rough Times

kadavar rough times

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Sept. 6.

It kind of feels like a slight to have Berlin trio Kadavar appear anywhere outside of at least a top 10 on any kind of list whatsoever, ever, but that’s not my intention at all. Rather, their fourth album and third for Nuclear Blast found them at an important stage in their progression — past the novelty of the vintage feel in their early work, after having proven their songwriting could translate to a modern context, and embarking on a process of expanding their sound. Rough Times, which was as current as current could be, met that goal and beat it easily with a barrage of memorable choruses and a dark streak one could only consider suitable for our age.

23. Shroud Eater, Strike the Sun

shroud eater strike the sun

Released by STB Records. Reviewed June 28.

The biggest surprise about Shroud Eater‘s long-awaited sophomore long-player was also its most encouraging aspect — namely how it found the Miami trio bringing together various impulses shown on a number of shorter releases over the course of the six years since their debut, ThunderNoise (review here), came out in 2011, and still managed to utterly crush when it so chose. With a swath from sludge to drone and back again, this was no minor feat, and that the songs they brought to bear were so memorable at their heart as well makes me hope all the more it’s not 2023 before their third album arrives.

22. Enslaved, E

enslaved e

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Oct. 4.

What’s left to say about Norwegian progressive black metal innovators Enslaved 14 records into their career? Plenty as it turns out. The introduction of new keyboardist/vocalist Håkon Vinje in place of Herbrand Larsen brought a new twist on a signature element of Enslaved‘s approach. Vinje utterly owned his role, and his performance alongside guitarist Ivar Bjørnson, bassist/vocalist Grutle Kjellson, guitarist Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal and drummer Cato Bekkevold resulted in a fresh urgency that made the band’s sound even more potent and set their ongoing creative evolution on a new branch of its self-directed path.

21. Arc of Ascent, Realms of the Metaphysical

arc-of-ascent-realms-of-the-metaphysical

Released by Astral Projection and Clostridium Records. Reviewed April 6.

Some five years on from 2012’s The Higher Key (review here) and seven out from their debut, Circle of the Sun (review here), and with bassist/vocalist Craig Williamson firmly entrenched in his always excellent Lamp of the Universe psych-drone-folk solo-project, I wasn’t sure there would be another offering from New Zealand heavy psych-rock trio Arc of Ascent, but Realms of the Metaphysical took shape from an ether of riffs and echoes atop resilient underlying structures and revitalized the group with new drummer Mark McGeady in the lineup with Williamson and guitarist Matt Cole-Baker. Remains to be seen if this marks a priority shift for Williamson or it’s a one-off, but its arrival was welcome either way.

20. Causa Sui, Vibraciones Doradas

causa sui vibraciones doradas

Released by El Paraiso Records. Reviewed Oct. 20.

With the various glories already offered in 2017 on the Live in Copenhagen (review here) 3LP, one didn’t necessarily expect a new studio outing from Danish instrumental psych masters Causa Sui, but Vibraciones Doradas found them as vibrant as ever, bringing forth a surprising amount of tonal weight on songs like “El Fuego,” warm fuzz for the basking on opener “The Drop” and spaciousness on the closing title-track. Somewhat more straight-ahead in its rocking groove than 2016’s Return to Sky (review here), the five-track/38-minute long-player showed yet again why Causa Sui are always welcome and that any news of a new release from them, live, studio, whatever, is good news. This was the kind of record that could make your day if you let it.

19. Telekinetic Yeti, Abominable

telekinetic yeti abominable

Released by Sump Pump Records. Reviewed April 10.

The Iowa-based duo of guitarist/vocalist Alex Baumann and drummer Anthony Dreyer, operating as Telekinetic Yeti, released what I considered to be the debut of the year, both for the fullness of its tonality and the accomplishment in songcraft it already showed. Powered by cuts like its lumbering title-track and the gloriously fuzzed runner “Stoned and Feathered,” it could’ve been another band’s second or third record for the level of cohesion on display and the obvious awareness on the part of the band of what they wanted to do with their sound and the just-as-obvious result of their bringing it to life.

18. Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kozmic Dust

cloud catcher trails of kozmic dust

Released by Totem Cat Records. Reviewed Dec. 9, 2016.

While I admit I’m still not 100 percent certain on whether to spell “kozmic” in the title with a ‘k’ or with a ‘c’ on the end, that question did nothing ultimately to diminish enjoyment of Denver emergents Cloud Catcher‘s sophomore outing. Topped off by one of the best album covers of the year, the follow-up to their 2015 debut, Enlightened Beyond Existence (discussed here), took the progressive casting of that record to a place entirely more raw and rock-driven, willfully roughing up the edges even as it showed marked creative growth on a relatively quick turnaround. The must-hear bass tone of “Beyond the Electric Sun” and “Super Acid Magick” was icing on a cake of choice riffing and Hendrixian lead swirl, and the shuffle they elicited was enough to make even the most stubborn of asses (i.e. mine) think about moving.

17. Ruby the Hatchet, Planetary Space Child

ruby the hatchet planetary space child

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Aug. 29.

After the neo-garage manifestations of their 2015 sophomore outing, Valley of the Snake (review here), it was clear Philly psych rockers Ruby the Hatchet were a force when it came to songwriting. What was less obvious was what they’d do with that going forward. On Planetary Space Child, at least, the answer is they’ll take it to Freaktown. The melody-happy, organ-laced swirlmasters conjured presence kosmiche enough to justify the album’s title, and around the cast-in-moon-rock structures of the swinging “Pagan Ritual” and the playfully doomed “Symphony of the Night,” Ruby the Hatchet built a multifaceted weirdoist triumph the likes of which simply doesn’t come along every year, establishing themselves as more reliable and less predictable than ever: an absolute win.

16. Alunah, Solennial

alunah solennial

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 1.

It’s been the case more or less all along with UK forest rockers Alunah that their nature-minded material and heavy rolling grooves have had their haunting aspects, but with the production of Conan‘s Chris Fielding behind it, Solennial — their fourth LP and first on Svart — brought this to new levels entirely. The songs, memorable like footprints in the woods, are somewhat bittersweet in context now, since founding guitarist/vocalist Sophie Day announced in September she was leaving the band, but as the group will move forward led by guitarist Dave Day and recently acquired new singer Siân Greenaway, intrigue remains high at what the future might bring and the impact of Solennial is undiminished.

15. Mindkult, Lucifer’s Dream

mindkult-lucifers-dream

Released by Transcending Obscurity Records and Caligari Records.

Virginia-based doomgazing garage cult solo-project Mindkult has thus far managed to keep some of the mystique around its sole inhabitant, Fowst, which is admirable in a way. As the multi-instrmentalist, vocalist and producer this year answered the promise of last year’s Witch’s Oath (review here) debut, he did so around a swath of purposeful miseries, loose devil worship and other dark thematics, casting an atmospheric darkness matched head-on by the tonal murk of his riffs. Through this, however, the songwriting was no less memorable than on the first offering, and as the project moves forward, one can only hope that Fowst will continue to use that as the core aspect buried six feet under his other, formidable stylistic achievements. That certainly was how it worked out on Lucifer’s Dream.

14. Argus, From Fields of Fire

argus from fields of fire
Released by Cruz del Sur Music. Reviewed Sept. 1.

Behold ye perhaps the most underrated band in heavy metal. Regardless of subgenre, style, strata, whatever, it’s hard to listen to From Fields of Fire and think of Pittsburgh’s Argus as anything else. The five-piece’s fourth album continued to owe part of its sound to doom, but was much more encompassing than simply that, touching on aspects of classic metal with a command that left one wondering how they hadn’t yet been tapped to open for Judas Priest on that band’s next tour. Victory abounds on a per-song basis throughout the nine-tracker, and whether it was the emotional crux of “Hour of Longing” or the catchy fistpump righteousness of “Devils of Your Time” or the 11-minute progressive reach of “Infinite Lives/Infinite Doors,” Argus once again crafted a work nigh-unmatched in poise and class.

13. Uffe Lorenzen, Galmandsværk

Uffe-Lorenzen-Galmandsvaerk

Released by Bad Afro Records. Reviewed Nov. 6.

For the first outing ever to be issued under his real name, Denmark’s Uffe Lorenzen — aka Lorenzo Woodrose of garage-psych pioneers Baby Woodrose — danced between acid folk singer-songwriterisms like “Flippertøs” and more expansive jamming on “På Kanten Af Verden,” all the while retaining his distinct structural and arrangement sensibilities and creating a flowing vibe that was nothing less than a pure joy of classic-form psychedelia. The most serene and pastoral freakout one was likely to witness in 2017, easily, Galmandsværk resounded in the Mellotron-laced “Høj Som Et Højhus” and was no less at home in the acoustic spaciousness of the earlier “Remits Tyranni,” able to wander where it pleased and find steady ground in molten surroundings.

12. The Flying Eyes, Burning of the Season

the flying eyes burning of the season

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Oct. 11.

A welcome return from a viciously underappreciated band, The Flying EyesBurning of the Season marked the Baltimore four-piece’s first offering for Ripple Music and first since 2013’s Lowlands (review here), a four-year stretch during which the band kept busy touring Europe and South America, the latter also being where they recorded these songs with Gabriel Zander at Estudio Superfuzz in Brazil. The tonal depth resulting from that process was enough to make the collection a highlight, but it was the songs themselves that most stood out, benefiting from the band’s expanded reach and legitimate, hard-won maturity. Especially for a group who’ve done so much work on the road over their years — to be fair, the US has been pretty low priority in that regard — they remain a secret kept too well.

11. Bell Witch, Mirror Reaper

bell witch mirror reaper

Released by Profound Lore. Reviewed Dec. 27.

Doomed extremity simply unmatched in its scope. The song of the year for 2017. An accomplishment the likes of which is prone to happen maybe once or twice in a generation. None of this seems to really speak to the entirety of the achievement that is Bell Witch‘s Mirror Reaper — the single-song, 83-minute full-length issued by the Seattle duo like a challenge in the face of mortality itself. Beautiful, devastating and weighted like the grave, its sprawl utterly consumed the listener, and I firmly believe it will be years before its depths are fully processed. Some offerings are bigger than the year in which they’re released. Mirror Reaper would seem to function on a scale of its own, and though it could easily be read as a litmus test for audience punishment, the truth of the listening experience is both more emotionally complex and more fulfilling than simple hyperbole can capture.

10. Monolord, Rust

monolord rust

Released by RidingEasy Records. Reviewed Oct. 26.

The story all along with Gothenburg’s Monolord has been tone. Tone tone tone. Crush crush crush. Riffs riffs riffs. Nothing wrong with any of that, but their third album, Rust, proves once and for all that there’s more to the trio than “cool riffs bro” and post-Electric Wizard nod. Catchy cuts like “Dear Lucifer” and rolling opener “Where Death Meets the Sea” brought a sense of space leading to the later sprawl of “Forgotten Lands” and “At Niceae,” and the band settled into an individualized, lumbering psychedelia that moved forward from 2015’s Vænir (review here), not leaving behind the heft that earned them their reputation, but not at all being limited by it either in scope or overall approach. Three records in, Rust brought forth Monolord‘s greatest sonic expansion yet and gave rise to the feeling that their true potential was just starting to come to fruition. Also, crush crush crush. Cool riffs, bro.

9. Vokonis, The Sunken Djinn

vokonis-the-sunken-djinn

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed June 5.

The Sunken Djinn is Vokonis‘ second full-length in as many years, and in addition to serving as their Ripple debut where 2016’s Olde One Ascending (review here) landed via Ozium Records, it was a feast for hungry riff hounds. In defiance of its quick turnaround, it showed a firm evolution taking place within the upstart Swedish trio of guitarist/vocalist Simon Ohlsson, bassist/backing vocalist Jonte Johansson and drummer Emil Larsson, whose range overall was greater in tracks like “Rapturous” and the torrential “Blood Vortex” while nonetheless controlled in its delivery. Their Sleep-y origins still a factor sound-wise, Vokonis were able just the same to push themselves ahead into new sonic ground in fittingly lumbering fashion, and the character they brought to “The Sunken Djinn,” “Calling from the Core” and the noise-caked “Maelstroem” seemed to speak to a burgeoning sense of atmospheric focus taking hold as well. Still so much potential here.

8. Electric Moon, Stardust Rituals

electric moon stardust rituals

Released by Sulatron Records. Reviewed April 7.

Do I even need to remotely justify having Electric Moon‘s first studio album in six years on this list? Was it not just like a love-letter issued by the cosmos itself? What more explanation could possibly be necessary? Not that the German trio haven’t dropped copious, glorious live outings all the while, but to have Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt, “Komet Lulu” Neudeck and Marcus Schnitzler follow-up 2011’s The Doomsday Machine (review here) with four cuts culminating in the 22-minute sprawl of “(You Will) Live Forever Now” was high on the list of the year’s most satisfying psychedelic journeys. Constantly exploring, their methods always seem geared toward finding the molten essence of space rock itself, and though the songs on Stardust Rituals were a little more crafted than some of their straight-up improv jams, they nonetheless showed there are many avenues one might take to get to the heart of the sun.

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

sun-blood-stories-it-runs-around-the-room-with-us

Self-released. Reviewed May 1.

This one is personal, and by that I mean I love this fucking band. Similar to my experience with their 2015 sophomore outing, Twilight Midnight Morning (review here), the third record by Boise-based trio of Ben Kirby (vocals, guitar, synth, percussion), Amber Pollard (vocals, guitar, theremin, percussion) and Jon Fust (drums, keys, percussion, noise) was one that I simply could not put down. Even now, seeing the name of the record is all I need to have songs like “The Great Destroyer” and the immersive midsection in “Come Like Rain” and “Time Like Smoke” stuck in my head, let alone the ultra-brazen, searingly-pissed “Burn” noise assault that finished the album and in the span of 90 seconds turned all the psychedelic warmth and serenity on its face with a visceral anger completely unforeseen and jarring, turning it from a depth-laden execution of adventurous neo-psych and indie into a project of conceptual artistry with all the efficiency of the chemical reaction it sought to portray. If you missed it, your loss.

6. The Atomic Bitchwax, Force Field

the-atomic-bitchwax-force-field

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Dec. 7.

Songs like “Alaskan Thunder Fuck,” “Humble Brag” and “Earth Shaker (Which Doobie U Be?)” assured that the defining character of Force Field, the sixth album from New Jersey’s The Atomic Bitchwax, was pure scorch. That made the 12-cut outing a more than worthy follow-up for 2015’s  Gravitron (review here), which introduced this more speed-rock-minded, aggressive delivery from the tight-as-nails trio, and while they proved they could still lock in a slower groove on the organ-topped finisher “Liv a Little,” head-spinners like the instrumental “Fried, Dyed and Layin’ to the Side” and “Houndstooth” came across like the fruit of the band pushing themselves to the limits of their physical ability in terms of tempo, and their ride along the edge of that line brought thrills at every turn. And make no mistake, there were a lot of turns. Fortunately, bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik, guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan and drummer Bob Pantella seemingly had a corresponding hook in their pocket for each one of them. This band is a national treasure.

5. Atavismo, Inerte

atavismo inerte

Released by Temple of Torturous. Reviewed Feb. 21.

Warm, fuzzy tones, rhythmic shifts right out of classic progressive rock, melodic intricacy and periodic excursions into glorious psychedelic drift: I’m not sure what wasn’t to like about Inerte, Atavismo‘s second full-length behind 2014’s Desintegración (review here). Comprising five tracks of unmistakable flow and jam-laden fluidity, it was immersive with landmarks along the way to keep the listener from getting too lost, and whether or not one spoke Spanish, the three-piece of Jose “Poti” Moreno (ex-Viaje a 800Mind!), bassist/vocalist Mateo and drummer/vocalist Sandri Pow (also ex-Mind!) made it easy to follow along their purposefully meandering path, offering guidance no less skillful on the 11-minute fuzz-freaker “El Sueño” than the dream-toned linear build of “Belleza Cuatro.” There were very, very few albums I listened to more this year than this one, which is precisely why it is where it is on this list.

4. Samsara Blues Experiment, One with the Universe

samsara-blues-experiment-one-with-the-universe

Released by Electric Magic Records and Abraxas Records. Reviewed May 4.

Four years between records isn’t at all an unheard of stretch. It’s not the longest on this list by any means. But with Berlin heavy psych rockers Samsara Blues Experiment, it really seemed like the band was done, so to have them come back with such force on One with the Universe was, as I know I said at several points throughout the last 12 months, one of the year’s total highlights. Tracked by former bassist Richard Behrens, the group’s fourth album answered the extended-track spread of 2013’s Waiting for the Flood (review here) with a deeper sense of sonic variety, and while the 15-minute title-cut and opener “Vispassana” still had plenty of room for jamming out and even six-minute centerpiece “Glorious Daze” found room for some flourish of organ and sitar, guitarist/vocalist Christian Peters, drummer Thomas Vedder and bassist Hans Eiselt rightly featured the chemistry they’ve built as a trio live and brought to the songs a renewed sense of vigor, sounding — and hopefully being — truly inspired. Waiting for the Flood capped a period of marked productivity across several years. Fingers crossed One with the Universe begins that cycle anew.

3. Elder, Reflections of a Floating World

Elder-Reflections-of-a-Floating-World

Released by Armageddon Shop and Stickman Records. Reviewed May 23.

You just can’t consider Elder‘s Reflections of a Floating World outside the context of the progressive achievement that was their prior outing, 2015’s Lore (review here). Where the trio — based now between Massachusetts and Berlin, Germany — took their first two outings, 2008’s self-titled debut (discussed here) and 2011’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here), to find their sound, which they began to showcase on the 2012 Spires Burn/Release EP (review here), it was Lore that brought to fruition the potential that had always been waiting to be unleashed by the trio of guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto, and Reflections of a Floating World had the daunting task of being the next further step from that landmark moment. To say the band rose to the occasion is perhaps to undersell the cohesion at work in consuming-but-cohesive pieces like opener “Sanctuary” or “Blind” or “Staving off the Truth,” which brought together clear-headed psychedelia around a wash that seemed to stem as much from rhythm as melody. As they’ve matured stylistically and become a major touring presence, Elder have made themselves perhaps the most pivotal American heavy rock act going, and Reflections of a Floating World brings them to the discovery of yet another apex while at the same time giving zero indication it will be the last one they find.

2. Colour Haze, In Her Garden

colour haze in her garden

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed March 9.

Of course, the bonus of writing about Colour Haze in just about any context is that you get to put Colour Haze on while you’re doing it, and in the case of the 12th LP from these Munich heavy psych forebears, that’s an even more appealing prospect. After stripping down some of the arrangement flourish with 2014’s To the Highest Gods We Know (review here), the 13-track/73-minute 2LP In Her Garden brought a revitalized sonic expansion, but as ever, it wasn’t just the horns or the strings or the blend of keys and acoustics that made In Her Garden the unbridled joy that it was and continues to be — it was the underlying performance from guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek, bassist Philipp Rasthofer and drummer Manfred Merwald that gave the album the stem on which its garden grew. That’s not to say Jan Faszbender‘s work on modular synth, Rhodes, and Hammond or the arrangements of strings, tuba, bass-clarinet and trombone throughout hurt anything, just that as Colour Haze have grown into incorporating these elements into their groundbreaking aesthetic, they haven’t left behind the organic chemistry and necessary live feel that has helped them influence a generation of followers over their more than 20-year career. One came through as much as the other on In Her Garden, and that balance gave the overarching warmth of their self-recorded tonality yet another level on which to engage their audience. I’ll be a sucker for Colour Haze for as long as I live, and I have absolutely no problem admitting to and owning that.

1. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War

all them witches sleeping through the war

Released by New West Records. Reviewed Jan. 27.

It was clear early on that Nashville four-piece All Them Witches were contending hard for Album of the Year with Sleeping Through the War, their fourth long-player and second for New West following the mellow vibes of 2015’s Dying Surfer Meets His Maker (review here). What finally sealed it? The songs. Working with producer Dave Cobb, the each-member-essential lineup of bassist/vocalist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod, key-specialist Allan van Cleave (Rhodes, Mellotron, piano, organ, etc.) and drummer/graphic artist Robby Staebler solidified their approach in exciting new ways on early cuts like the grunge-crunching “Don’t Bring Me Coffee” and the shuffling “Bruce Lee,” which hit in succession following the fluid lead-in of opener “Bulls,” an introduction of the organic psychedelia and heavy blues that the loose-swinging of “3-5-7″‘s nigh-on-gospel chorus and subsequent, almost maddeningly catchy “Am I Going Up?” would continue to push outward, thereby setting a linear course into a consciousness-capturing side B with “Alabaster” and the jammier “Cowboy Kirk” and “Internet” playing between melodic nuance and mindful, go-with-it drift. The unflinching strength of the material was matched perhaps only by the understatement of its delivery, which was the more staggering considering how easily the arrangements of background vocals on “Am I Going Up?” or  “3-5-7” could have come through as overblown or self-indulgent, and by the time they got down to the light weirdo-bluesy stomp of “Internet” — the key lyric and hook being, “Guess I’ll go live on the internet” — there was no doubting the genuine nature of the realization Sleeping Through the War represented for All Them Witches. Coupling that feeling of achievement with the sheer repeatability of the listening experience itself left no doubt that 2017 belonged to these tracks and the marvelous way the band wove between them, and that whatever other sounds All Them Witches may go on to explore and whatever else they may accomplish as a result, Sleeping Through the War was a truly special moment in their evolution that, as with the best of offerings in any year, will continue to resonate long after the calendar page has turned.

The Next 20

You know, I used to feel like once you got past a top 20, the numbers were arbitrary. Then I felt that way about the top 30. This year, I think I agonized more about what to include in numbers 31-50 than I did between 30 and the album of the year. Put that in your “go figure” file while you chew on these picks:

31. Cities of Mars, Temporal Rifts
32. The Midnight Ghost Train, Cypress Ave.
33. Snowy Dunes, Atlantis
34. Rozamov, This Mortal Road
35. PH, Eternal Hayden
36. Sasquatch, Maneuvers
37. Young Hunter, Dayhiker
38. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, II
39. Ufomammut, 8
40. John Garcia, The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues
41. Paradise Lost, Medusa
42. Beastmaker, Inside the Skull
43. Arduini / Balich, Dawn of Ages
44. Primitive Man, Caustic
45. Motorpsycho, The Tower
46. Arbouretum, Song of the Rose
47. Hymn, Perish
48. Youngblood Supercult, The Great American Death Rattle
49. Pallbearer, Heartless
50. Dool, Here Now There Then

There’s so, so much good stuff here. So much. The Cities of Mars debut was a treasure and the only reason it wasn’t on my top debuts list was because I haven’t had the chance to go back in and put it on. The Young Hunter record? Some of their best work yet. Hell, that Arduini / Balich album alone! Then you’ve got huge releases by Pallbearer, Ufomammut, Paradise Lost, Primitive Man, on and on. Like I said at the outset, one more album and my head was gonna explode this year. Way too much to ever hope to keep up with. One thing though I felt like I really wanted to emphasize including was Dool. They’re in the last spot, but make no mistake, in atmosphere and songwriting that album was something really special and loaded with potential. It’s not there because it came in last. It’s there to highlight the point of how much it should be on this list.

What’s that? More records? Okay…

Honorable Mentions

In case you also weren’t completely overwhelmed this year, maybe another batch of records will do the trick. Here’s some presented alphabetically:

Anathema, The Optimist
Blackfinger, When Colors Fade Away
Child, Blueside
Cortez, The Depths Below
Demon Eye, Prophecies and Lies
Elbrus, Elbrus
Electric Wizard, Wizard Bloody Wizard
Ecstatic Vision, Raw Rock Fury
Five Horse Johnson, Jake Leg Boogie
Mirror Queen, Verdigris
The Obsessed, Sacred
T.G. Olson, Foothills Before the Mountain
Outsideinside, Sniff a Hot Rock
Queens of the Stone Age, Villains
Siena Root, A Dream of Lasting Peace
Six Organs of Admittance, Burning the Threshold
Steak, No God to Save
Summoner, Beyond the Realm of Light
Valborg, Endstrand
With the Dead, Love from With the Dead

Plus: Abronia, Lewis and the Strange Magics, Iron Monkey, Band of Spice, Puta Volcano, Galley Beggar, Heavy Traffic, Coltsblood, REZN, Green Meteor, Demon Head, Lord, Grigax, The Raynbow, Carpet, Norska, Les Lekin, Slow, Ixion, and I’m sure more that I’ll add as the names continue to pop into my head.

I did this back in June as well, but I also want to draw attention to a swath of quality live albums that came out this year. The top pick should be no surprise if you’ve been hanging around the site of late:

Live Albums:
1. SubRosa, Subdued Live at Roadburn
2. Causa Sui, Live in Copenhagen
3. Slomatics, Futurians Live at Roadburn
4. My Sleeping Karma, Mela Ananda – Live
5. Wight, Fusion Rock Invasion
5. Death Alley, Live at Roadburn

Thank You

It’s been a hell of a year, obviously. Musically and otherwise. As always, I cannot possibly come close to thanking you enough for your incredible and ongoing support of The Obelisk, of what this site is, what it’s become over its nearly nine-year run, what it will continue to become going forward from here. It is astounding to me and deeply humbling that you would possibly take time out of your busy day and your busy life to check out what’s going on here, and words fail me continually when it comes to feeling like I can properly convey my appreciation for that. Thank you for reading. Thank you for reading. Thank you for reading. Tattoo it on my forehead.

Thank you to The Patient Mrs. for understanding how much I need to be doing this, to Slevin for keeping the site running on the technical end, to Behrang Alavi for taking over hosting earlier this year, to my family for their ongoing support, to The Pecan for sleeping late some mornings and giving me time to write, and to everyone who ever shared a link on social media or made a comment on a post or anything like that. To long-time readers and to newcomers alike — thank you so much. This year has seen a fair share of ups and downs, but the support this site gets sustains me in ways I never expected it could, and that would be impossible without you. Please know how crucial that is to me.

Well, that should do it. I know there are probably disagreements about where things landed on the list, what was included, what was left out, etc., as there always are. All comments are of course welcome — only thing I’d ask is you please keep it civil and respectful of the opinions of others. Otherwise, have at it. Please.

And one more time, thank you for reading.

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2017 Song of the Year: Bell Witch, “Mirror Reaper”

Posted in Features on December 27th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

bell witch (photo david choe)

It could be a few years before the scope of Bell Witch‘s Mirror Reaper is fully understood. The single-song, 83-minute, Profound Lore-released third full-length from the Seattle-based funeral sludge outfit, it is a work as likely to digest the listener as to be digested by them, and in its level of vision and execution, it should be considered nothing less than a generational accomplishment within doom’s most extreme ends. Front-to-back, it casts itself into progressive depths of headphone- and hyperbole-worthy murk, departing from the ground that the two-piece established on their 2015 offering, Four Phantoms (review here), the preceding 2012 debut, Longing (review here), and 2011 demo (review here) into a downward-aimed ether that seems to plunge as much in emotionality as in tempo. On either level, its gravity is unmistakable, and with the production of Billy Anderson behind it, an analogy to what Sleep‘s Dopesmoker once brought to stoner-doom feels all the more appropriate to the level of statement bassist/vocalist Dylan Desmond and drummer/organist/vocalist Jesse Shreibman are making within Mirror Reaper‘s no-bottom plummet. Make no mistake: this is a definitive achievement — both for Bell Witch and for any and all who’d dare follow in their wake.

One has to note that Mirror Reaper arrived this Fall as the band’s first work since the untimely death of original drummer Adrian Guerra last year at age 36. Guerra, who’d left Bell Witch after Four Phantoms, was nonetheless an essential facet in making their earlier work what it was, and it’s entirely likely that Mirror Reaper‘s ultra-resonant sense of mournfulness stems indeed from a genuine place of grief. In the lyrics, lines like “Floods that sleeve the reach of the drought/To bleed evermore/Empty me/Empty me/Ash of the ocean,” and “An ice of pieces/Of what was once there/The skin of being/Flayed as though the air,” seem to be manifesting an emotional processing in raw form, and the weight of the indecipherable growling and folkish clean delivery — Aerial Ruin‘s Erik Moggridge guests again on vocals as he did on Four Phantoms — is all the more palpable for the instrumental flow it complements, shifting with seamless patience between crushing tones and harsh, lumbering crash, and stretches so minimal as to be barely there, the first of which occurs about 17 minutes in and carries through a subtle build that unfolds over the next eight or so minutes, introducing the first of Mirror Reaper‘s chants and barely giving the audience time to stare back at how far the two-piece have already come in the 10 minutes since they were growling and plodding past the eight-minute mark with unbridled, Hammond-inclusive brutality. That duality is telling, but still only the beginning of what Bell Witch will unfurl over the subsequent hour of Mirror Reaper, which continues to grow more vicious and more reverberating as it plays out.

Because of its extended runtime, the piece itself — that is, “Mirror Reaper,” the title-track — is broken bell witch mirror reaperinto two parts for the CD release. These are titled “Mirror Reaper (As Above)” and “Mirror Reaper (So Below),” where on the 2LP edition of the album, its four sides are simply “As,” “Above” and “So” and “Below,” in that order. I can’t speak to the differing experience of hearing Mirror Reaper across these varied formats, but there’s little question that it was meant to be taken in its entirety one way or the other. This is, of course, also its most challenging form, and there are times when its assault on its audience feels especially geared as a litmus test for how much one can take, but even as Bell Witch hone a tension of growl-accompanied crashes at around 35 minutes in, there’s more happening than extremity for its own sake. That is to say, Mirror Reaper is not just pushing boundaries of sonic decency as an exercise in trying to make itself a next-level effort in punishment. Its greatest asset, rather, is the sense of expressiveness behind each measure’s excruciating roll, and as it makes its way toward and past the its halfway point, there is as much about it that could be called poetic as there is atmospherically ranging. At 45:40, clean vocals and growls come together over full-boar plod and organ and Bell Witch seem to find a moment with all elements active at once, producing an entrancing effect that caps with an especially scathing scream and echoing-out tones before shifting again into a slow, minimal bassline — this is the break point of the tracks on the CD version — in preparation for the song’s next stage.

By this point it should be well clear to anyone who’s managed to take Mirror Reaper on that there will be no escape. This mournful chronicle of our times is no less likely than those times an seem to be to swallow the consciousness whole, and that’s no less true as the folk-style verses begin circa 53 minutes in, carrying past the hour mark and into a section of church-style organ that, just as the 69th minute becomes the 70th, is met by resurgent bass tone and the final swell of crawling volume that lands as the emotional apex, returning to the initial heavy progression but staying with the cleaner vocals instead of growls, tying the various sides of the entirety together with no less fluidity than Bell Witch have to this point put in the transitions from one movement to the next. The final five minutes or so of Mirror Reaper are given to drone folk and the closing lines, “The pendulum slows/Then stilled under the cold/In absence he flies/In presence we will writhe,” coming across with the bare emotional presence and melodicism of a half-speed Warning in search of peace that it may or may not have found or find, the last note of “writhe” held out over a sudden end, as though there were still more to say after everything that came before but that it was cut short for a gorgeous and poignant finish. And there may well be, about the nature of resignation, of grief, or of our ongoing and ever-developing relationship with our own mortality and that of those around us, loved ones and otherwise, but part of what makes Mirror Reaper so engrossing is that rather than posture and philosophize these issues, it sidesteps the need for distance and carries the audience with it through a more experiential representation. It puts you there. You don’t need to talk about it. You’re going through it together.

Again, I do not believe at this point it’s really possible to understand what Bell Witch have done with Mirror Reaper, but there’s no question in my mind that it is a pivotal work in setting a new standard for a style it’s essentially recrafting to suit its own purposes. There is not a level on which it doesn’t succeed in this effort, and because of this, because of its sheer scale and because of the cohesion underlying its impossibly darkened sprawl, there is no doubt in my mind that “Mirror Reaper” is the 2017 song of the year.

Honorable Mention

I’m a big believer in the context of full albums, so it’s always hard to pick individual tracks that are such standouts. Nonetheless, here are a few more to chew on, in no particular order:

Lo-Pan, “Pathfinder”
All Them Witches, “3-5-7”
Spaceslug, “Time Travel Dilemma”
Colour Haze, “Labyrinthe”
Alunah, “Feast of Torches”
Moon Rats, “Heroic Dose”
Argus, “Devils of Your Time”
The Flying Eyes, “Drain”
Avon, “Six Wheeled Action Man Tank”
Sun Blood Stories, “The Great Destroyer”

Some of these and a whole slew of others were included in the Year-End Spotify playlist that went up yesterday, so if you haven’t yet, make sure you check that out. And if there are any songs you feel like should be on this list or just something that really hit you hard this year, I’d love to know about it in the comments. Thanks for reading.

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Insect Ark Announce Marrow Hymns LP out Feb. 23; Stream New Track

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 11th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

insect ark

Go ahead and sign me up for Insect Ark‘s Marrow Hymns right now and save us both the time. I dug the hell out of Dana Schechter‘s work on the band’s 2015 debut, Portal/Well (review here), and was fortunate enough to see the former member of Bee and Flower perform live as well, and going by what I’m hearing in the Earth-y vibes of the new track “In the Nest,” the drone has only gotten richer since Schechter teamed up with TaurusAshley Spungin to make what was a solo-project a duo. So yeah, go ahead. Sign me up. I’m on board. Let’s do this thing.

Oh what? I have to wait until February for the album to come out? So you mean to say I don’t get to have my brain eaten outright by Marrow Hymns immediately? Hell’s bells that’s going to be a challenge.

But so is the record. In the best way possible.

From the PR wire. Check out this fucking cover art:

insect ark marrow hymns

INSECT ARK: Atmospheric Noise/Doom Duo To Release Marrow Hymns Via Profound Lore This February; New Track Streaming

Combining elements of horror-?lm soundtracks, psychedelic doom, and atmospheric noise, New York City/Portland-based instrumental duo INSECT ARK presents their newest record, Marrow Hymns, to be released on Profound Lore Records, February 23rd, 2018.

Comprised of Dana Schechter (M. Gira’s Angels Of Light, Wrekmeister Harmonies, Zeal & Ardor, Gnaw) and Ashley Spungin (Taurus, Purple Rhinestone Eagle, Negative Queen), INSECT ARK’s intensely visual music weaves interludes of fragile beauty with crushing passages of swirling doom, spinning like a backwards fever dream. Marrow Hymns is a wordless song, a hypnotic voice that screams and whispers from a place deep in the furrows, from the bones, from the blood. Defying easy categorization, INSECT ARK’s uncommon sound is in part the amalgamation of these two women’s passions: Schechter’s sinister bass lines and unconventional use of lap steel guitar (and her complete omission of electric guitar), and Spungin’s lucid, exacting drumming and synth work with her own hand-built analog noise pedals (Ormus Electronics).

Schechter describes INSECT ARK as being a voice when words fail to articulate emotions or experiences, a visceral form of communication through sonic submersion. The cathartic nature of the music INSECT ARK creates is a document of life’s many complex facets – perseverance and presence, chaos and meditation, birth and decay, brutality and delicacy, and of hope in the unknown.

Marrow Hymns was recorded and mixed with engineer Ethan Donaldson at Mozart Street Studios in Brooklyn, New York over the course of eighteen months. With the two halves of INSECT ARK residing on opposite coasts, the album was largely skeletal in form upon commencement of recording. Overdubs and further writing/arrangements were done after Spungin’s return to Portland in the isolation of Schechter’s home studio. The sense of distance and vast emptiness remained intact in the songs, built out over many long nights. Marrow Hymns’ song themes of displacement, loss, and isolation are personal journals of that time period, as both members found themselves simultaneously experiencing existential crises. However, the album also tells a story of strength and determination, made from the marrow of these two women, a song for all things that struggle to survive.

Marrow Hymns will be available on CD, vinyl, and digital formats. Preorders to be unveiled in the coming weeks. 

Marrow Hymns Track Listing:
1. Thelema
2. Arp 9
3. In the Nest
4. Skin Walker
5. Slow Ray
6. Sea Harps
7. Tarnish
8. Windless
9. Daath

INSECT ARK Is:
Dana Schechter – bass, lap steel guitar, synthesizers
Ashley Spungin – drums, synthesizers

http://www.insectark.com
http://www.facebook.com/InsectArk
http://www.insectark.bandcamp.com
http://www.profoundlorerecords.com
http://www.facebook.com/profoundlorerecords
http://www.profoundlorerecords.bandcamp.com

Insect Ark, “In the Nest”

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GIVEAWAY: Win Tickets to See Monarch in Brooklyn on Nov. 30

Posted in Features, The Obelisk Presents on November 27th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

monarch

[TO ENTER GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment on this post with your email address in the form. You’ll be contacted at that address if you win.]

There isn’t much time on this one so I’m going to try to keep it simple. The show is this Thursday in Brooklyn at the Knitting Factory, and it’s exclamatory French doomers Monarch! along with Ocrilim and T.O.M.B. bringing three different kinds of extremity to bear across an evening that’s sure to leave its legacy stamped in the damage of your eardrums.

Presented by Stardust NYC in conjunction with this site and Made in Brooklyn Silkscreeners, it finds Monarch! making a rare East Coast appearance before they head out to the Pacific region to tour with Bell Witch and support their new album, Never Forever, released by Profound Lore in September and streaming in full below.

Prize is two tickets, and no, travel isn’t included. Basically if you’re in NYC and can make it out, drop a line by leaving a comment on this post and if you win I’ll let you know asap. By Wednesday.

Good luck to all who enter. Here’s more background:

monarch knitting factory poster

Stardust NYC is presenting its last event for 2017:

After many years of absence, France’s crushing doom act MONARCH! will destroy Brooklyn with this exclusive East Coast ritual. They head out to the West immediately after for their tour with BELL WITCH.

Opening, TOMB and OCRILIM.

For years, France’s most recognized and active extreme doom metal band MONARCH have delivered some of the most punishing amplifier worship that has befallen doom metal through the band’s myriad of releases. This has earned them the reputation as one of the most recognized extreme doom metal bands in the scene today, through countless live shows and tours they have under their belt, the music of MONARCH is an experience to behold within the realm of doom metal.

With their new album “Never Forever” France’s cult extreme doom metal band MONARCH continue their singular style of punishing ritualistic drone doom and take it even more towards melancholic territory with their new LP. Even more ghostly, atmospheric, and haunting than its predecessor, 2014’s “Sabbracadaver”, “Never Forever” sees MONARCH take even more form and shape with their songwriting while still harnessing that plodding, down-tuned, and crushing low-end that has become their signature rhythmic backdrop to vocalist Emilie Bresson’s enchanting and spellbinding vocals. With the more melancholic tone and vibe of “Never Forever”, Bresson adapts her vocals in a more ethereal and delicate manner likewise, while still juxtaposing them with her otherworldly harsh shrieks.

[TO ENTER GIVEAWAY: Leave a comment on this post with your email address in the form. You’ll be contacted at that address if you win.]

Monarch!, Never Forever (2017)

Show event page on Thee Facebooks

Tickets on Ticketweb

Stardust NYC on Thee Facebooks

Monarch at Profound Lore Bandcamp

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Bell Witch Announce US Touring; Mirror Reaper Movie Trailer Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 6th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

As they prepare to plunge the universe into an underside of chaos-churning ultra-doom with their 80-minute opus Mirror Reaper, which is out Oct. 20 via the brave souls of Profound Lore, Seattle duo Bell Witch are likewise making ready to head out on a US tour alongside Denver skullcrush specialists Primitive Man. That run starts Oct. 24, just days after Mirror Reaper hits, and though it’s curiously short on West Coast dates — coming closest in Arizona — a new round of touring has just been announced for December alongside France’s Monarch that makes up for the gap. In both cases, one can only argue Bell Witch are keeping suitable company.

The two piece, also newly confirmed to play Mirror Reaper in its entirety at Roadburn 2018 next April, have also posted a six-minute trailer for a short film based around the album that you can see below, along with copious background info and the tour dates, all courtesy of ye olde PR wire:

bell witch tour

BELL WITCH: Seattle Doom Metal Duo Announces US Tour Dates With Monarch!; Mirror Reaper Movie Trailer Posted + North American Tour With Primitive Man Draws Near

Seattle doom metal duo, BELL WITCH, will join French doom metalists/labelmates Monarch! for a stretch of US live dates this December. The tour will commence on December 1st and run through December 7th with additional performances to be announced in the coming days. The trek follows BELL WITCH’s previously announced North American tour with Denver doom troupe Primitive Man from October 25th to November 17th. See all confirmed dates below.

Additionally, BELL WITCH will bring their devastating odes to the stages of Roadburn Festival 2018. Set to take place in Tilburg, The Netherlands, the band will perform two sets, the first on Saturday April 21st at the 013 venue and Sunday, April 22nd at Het Patronaat. BELL WITCH will be recreating their soon-to-be-released, eighty-three-minute offering, Mirror Reaper, in its crushingly exquisite entirety. The feat requires the input of honorary member, vocalist Erik Moggridge (Aerial Ruin), who will be joining the band to complete the performance. Expect his fragile yet evocative vocal style to lend an even more ghastly and ethereal quality to BELL WITCH’s already otherworldly sound.

The anticipated Mirror Reaper is set for release worldwide via Profound Lore Records on October 20th. With their latest output BELL WITCH has created a truly enormous work – one continuous, eighty-three-minute piece unfolding as a single track. Engineered and mixed by veteran producer Billy Anderson (Swans, Sleep, Neurosis), the duo of Dylan Desmond (bass, vocals) and Jesse Shreibman (drums, vocals, organ) have pushed the band’s sound further beyond their landmark 2015 LP, Four Phantoms. While retaining the colossal heaviness of their previous releases, Mirror Reaper sees the band explore the more meditative, melancholy, and introspective aspects to their sound through the introduction of long, lonely organ passages and the return of Moggridge, offering a prominent presence.

In conjunction with the release, BELL WITCH has created a feature-length music video. The film is a video collage comprised of dozens of archival films. Each of these clips are woven together with the album to build a patient, heavy, and haunting narrative. The film aims to hold the viewer in the state of a lucid dream, feeling trapped as a specter drifting through places of darkness. Mirror Reaper will be a projection for the band’s live performances, as well as a standalone cinematic experience.

Issues director Taylor Bednarz, “I was given the opportunity to work with Dylan and Jesse on their incredibly ambitious new project, Mirror Reaper. I had started making small fan music videos by chopping up old archival film originally as editing practice. I started to find that you could craft these visceral narratives by weaving these different films together with the context of the music. What developed were deep and mysterious stories that were framed in the tone and rhythm of the music. I noticed how much symbolism and atmosphere I could pack into these four-five minute songs that I knew it had very unique cinematic potential.

When I met Dylan and Jesse, they were just finishing up the last of the album and had been kicking around the idea of a music video. I mentioned I was a filmmaker, showed them some of my work, and they extended the opportunity to make a film with them. After listening to the album and talking with the two, I started collecting dozens of old horror movies, anatomical films, historical documentaries. I am so honored to have gotten the opportunity to be a part of such an incredible project.”

BELL WITCH’s Mirror Reaper will be available on 2xCD, 2xLP, and digital formats. Preorder your copy today at THIS LOCATION.

BELL WITCH w/ Primitive Man:
10/24/2017 Diabolical Records – Salt Lake City, UT * no Primitive Man
10/25/2017 Hi Dive – Denver, CO
10/26/2017 O’Leavers – Omaha, NE
10/27/2017 Cobra Lounge – Chicago, IL
10/28/2017 Rock Island Brewery – Rock Island, IL
10/29/2017 The New Dodge – Hamtramck, MI
10/30/2017 Ace Of Clubs – Columbus, OH
10/31/2017 Brillobox – Pittsburgh, PA
11/01/2017 Coalition – Toronto, ON
11/02/2017 Bar Le Ritz – Montreal, QC
11/03/2017 Geno’s – Portland, ME
11/04/2017 Cop Frat – Oneonta, NY
11/05/2017 ONCE – Boston, MA
11/06/2017 Saint Vitus Bar – Brooklyn, NY
11/07/2017 Kung Fu Necktie – Philadelphia, PA
11/08/2017 The Meatlocker – Montclair, NJ
11/09/2017 Sidebar – Baltimore, MD
11/10/2017 Strange Matter – Richmond, VA
11/11/2017 Drunken Unicorn – Atlanta, GA
11/12/2017 Exit/In – Nashville, TN
11/13/2017 White Water Tavern – Little Rock, AR
11/14/2017 Growlers – Memphis, TN
11/15/2015 Santos – New Orleans, LA
11/16/2017 Lost Well – Austin, TX
11/17/2017 Ridgelea Lounge – Fort Worth, TX
11/19/2017 Club Red – Mesa, AZ w/ Thra, Ceremented * no Primitive Man
w/ Monarch:
11/30/2017 Cobalt – Vancouver, BC * Bell Witch only
12/01/2017 Highline – Seattle, WA
12/02/2017 Tonic Lounge – Portland, OR
12/03/2017 Old Nick’s – Eugene, OR
12/05/2017 Blue Lamp – Sacramento, CA
12/06/2017 Golden Bull – Oakland, CA
12/07/2017 Five Star Bar – Los Angeles, CA

http://www.facebook.com/BellWitchDoom
http://www.profoundlorerecords.com
http://www.facebook.com/profoundlorerecords
https://profoundlorerecords.bandcamp.com/album/mirror-reaper

Bell Witch, Mirror Reaper movie trailer

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Friday Full-Length: YOB, The Great Cessation

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 11th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

YOB, The Great Cessation (2009)

From their 2002 12th Records debut, Elaborations of Carbon, onward, each YOB album has established its own personality, but I don’t think there’s any question 2009’s The Great Cessation (review here) is the angriest of the seven offered to-date. Released as the first of two outings for Profound Lore Records — the other, Atma (review here), followed in 2011 — it marked the return of the groundbreaking Eugene, Oregon, cosmic doomers, who had split after the release of what was then their pinnacle achievement, The Unreal Never Lived (discussed here), was released in 2005.

The story behind that stretch of time has been told and retold, but the tumult plays directly into The Great Cessation‘s atmosphere and five tracks. Guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt continued to work with Metal Blade Records, who had put out The Unreal Never Lived and the preceding 2004 full-length, The Illusion of Motion, as he formed the new project Middian and released a debut album therefrom in 2007 titled Age EternalMiddian, who went so far as to tour to support that record — something that YOB was really only starting to do when they called it quits in ’06 — wound up getting sued by an unsigned Wisconsin-based outfit called Midian who had trademarked the name and apparently decided the world wasn’t big enough for more than one band to use it despite the different spelling, and that basically brought the project to an end. Age Eternal, which invariably had some commonalities with YOB‘s work, languished, and though there was a brief time where Middian had changed their name to Age Eternal and it looked like they might press forward, by 2008, Scheidt had reformed YOB with drummer Travis Foster and new bassist Aaron Rieseberg, and work had begun on The Great Cessation, which somewhat ironically given its title, was nothing if not a new beginning for them as a group.

It was also, apparently, the receiving vessel for all the frustration that was born of this troubled time. While Catharsis had cut its teeth in a formative, slow-motion psychedelic doom, The Illusion of Motion made its mark with the perennially satisfying roll of “Ball of Molten Lead,” and The Unreal Never Lived found a place to dwell between sonic spiritualism and crushing heft, The Great Cessation was fueled by a rawer impulse. Produced by Sanford Parker, its sound was crisp and full, but the impact was near-immediate with opening track “Burning the Altar,” and what unfolded from then on would only become more scathing until arriving at its final resolution in the closing 20-minute title cut. To wit, the lurch forward that begins “Burning the Altar,” as YOB seem to reel back and attempt to smother the listener with the weight of the opening riff, or the explosive and caustic turns of the subsequent “The Lie that is Sin,” which crashes and rumbles and seethes even in its quietest stretches, finding Scheidt switching between cleaner vocals and harsh screams amid a final linear build that doesn’t so much offer payoff as it tightens until it can go no further and collapses on itself. “Burning the Altar,” which even eight years later commands nothing less than maximum volume at all times, had something of an instrumental hook, but YOB would pull the rug out from under it with “The Lie that is Sin,” and “Silence of Heaven” and “Breathing from the Shallows” only continued the descent into the darkest territory YOB had pursued up to that time, and maybe the darkest they’ve ever pursued, period.

Among those, particularly “Silence of Heaven.” Don’t get me wrong, “The Lie that is Sin” has just as much crunch as soar, and “Breathing from the Shallows” is second to none in terms of both growl and the critique of lines like “Where are you going with your greed” and “Ambition like cancer,” but if there’s a single representation on The Great Cessation of the raw anger running through the band at the time, it’s the centerpiece. It barely has lyrics, and seems to dedicate the energy that would otherwise go into crafting them into tearing its own flesh off. Furious and, for that, a little sad when taken in relation to the spiritualism or at least metaphysical searching Scheidt and YOB have put at the center of the band’s aesthetic all along, it feels right to call it a moment of pure catharsis despite having nothing to do with that album of the same name. Even when one goes back and listens to “Burning the Altar” or “The Lie that is Sin” before it, the rage of “Silence of Heaven” seems to radiate in all directions, affecting the songs before it as well as those after.

And yet, when The Great Cessation arrives at the quiet opening guitar line of its 20-minute closing title-track, isn’t there some sense of resolution? Isn’t that YOB willing itself — themselves — to press forward from that very anger and get back to the things that truly matter, court costs, legalese and other concerns be damned? In the tradition of “Catharsis,” “The Illusion of Motion” and “The Unreal Never Lived” — each an extended closing title-cut for the record on which it appeared — “The Great Cessation” provided YOB a landing point for the expression of The Great Cessation as a whole, but in its more melodic and serene atmosphere, that landing point also serves to answer “Silence of Heaven”‘s clenched fist with a release of tension. An exhale. Sure, the second half moves into some growling and lumbering riffs, and Rieseberg‘s bass is a thickening presence as always amid Foster‘s popping snare that does so much across the album’s 62 minutes to hold it all together, and the song devolves into noise as it makes its way out, but in comparison, even that seems reassuring compared to the blisters raised earlier. After such chaos, even the final howls of Scheidt‘s guitar — almost like a siren as the bass and drums fade out — are a sign of YOB leaving that anger behind. Purged.

They would indeed keep moving forward. The Great Cessation was my album of the year in 2009 (also the first year this site was up), and Atma followed suit in 2011, but YOB would hit their to-date transcendental peak with 2014’s Clearing the Path to Ascend (review here). Also their debut on Neurot Recordings, it was a record — yes, the top one released that year — that looked inward as much as outward, to the self and the universe surrounding, and in addition to being YOB‘s most sonically progressive songwriting, it seems in hindsight to have taken the will to put its emotions brazenly at the forefront from The Great Cessation, and thereby wind up in a much different place in terms of representing YOB as people and as a group.

I’ve said on multiple occasions that YOB are the best band of their generation, and I stand by that assessment completely. They’re said to have a follow-up to Clearing the Path to Ascend in the works, which I imagine was delayed somewhat owing to recent health issues on Scheidt‘s part (he had surgery multiple times over but seems to be doing well, which is fortunate; all the best to him of course), and seems a likely candidate for most anticipated LP of 2018. Whenever it arrives, rest assured, it will be welcome. In the interim and despite its representing such a dark period of renewal for the band, I hope you enjoy revisiting The Great Cessation.

Thanks for reading and listening.

Kind of a weird week around here, I guess. I had company in town into Tuesday morning, so Monday was kind of a blur, yet in terms of response, it was easily the biggest day for posts. The rest of the week was pretty quiet, relatively speaking, including some stuff that I was hoping would catch more eyes. I recognize not everything is going to reach as many people as Uncle Acid reissuing their first record, but still. A few killer premieres — Blaak Heat, Old Man Wizard, The Quill — and reviews — Paradise Lost, Mindkult — that are well worth a look if you get there. If not, thanks at least for reading this sentence.

In Connecticut today, New Jersey tomorrow and back to Massachusetts on Sunday, so it’s going to be a busy weekend, but I have already and will continue to see family as a part of that process, so I’m looking forward to it. Some pretty cool stuff in store for next week though. Might do a surprise poll if I can bother Slevin to help me put it together over the next day or two, so keep an eye out for that, but there’s plenty besides even if that doesn’t shake out.

Here are the notes, subject to change as always:

Mon.: Blues Funeral track premiere/album review; news on End Hip End It, Attalla and more.
Tue.: Steak video premiere/overdue album review; maybe that poll.
Wed.: Red Mountains track premiere/review; Six Dumb Questions with Cortez.
Thu.: Sundrifter track premiere.
Fri.: Stinkeye review.

These posts have gotten longer and longer lately — writing about YOB is a sure way for me to not at all cure that — but here’s a nice moment to leave you with before I sign off for the weekend:

While waiting to go to a haircut appointment late yesterday afternoon, The Patient Mrs. and I sat outside at a cafe here in CT which we frequent when we’re here. The place was getting ready to close up but there were a couple people sitting at the outside tables and they weren’t chasing anyone away or anything. They just kind of leave them there. The sun was shining and we sat there looking at a clothing rack outside the little for-middle-aged-ladies boutique next door at a black and white shirt with a rose on it and a bird or something and I started cracking wise about buying it and being goth with its wide neck and wearing it when I get hangry and sad before meals. “Aww, what’s the matter, pookie? Did your eating disorder make you goth? Did you have to put on your sad goth shirt because of it?”

My wife, about two months away from giving birth to what will be our first and only child, laughing loud enough so that the people at other tables looked over to see what was going on. My favorite sound in the world. Her amazing laugh. Her wonderful face. I had to stop for a minute to realize how lucky I am to be where I am in my life. I’m 35 years old, unemployed, just waiting to take up the stay-at-home-dad mantle, but it was such an incredible feeling of warmth and beauty in her laugh that I damn near wept behind my sunglasses. How lucky I am. How stupidly, stupidly unworthy I am of the last 19-plus years with her. How much I’m looking forward to the terrific and terrifying adventures ahead and to facing them together. It was such a simple thing, and that moment didn’t last — had to go get that haircut, after all — but if I lived for a thousand years, I’d hope to never forget it.

Thanks again for reading, and have a great and safe weekend. Please check out the forum and radio stream.

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