The Obelisk Presents: The Top 30 of 2014

Posted in Features on December 22nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

the-obelisk-top-30-of-2014

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.

Okay. Here we go:

30. Orange Goblin, Back from the Abyss

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Released by Candlelight Records. Reviewed on Nov. 17.

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.

 

29. Mos Generator, Electric Mountain Majesty

mos-generator-electric-mountain-majesty

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed on March 14.

A darker affair from Port Orchard, Washington’s Mos GeneratorElectric 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.

 

28. Pilgrim, II: Void Worship

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Released by Metal Blade Records. Reviewed on April 15.

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.

 

27. John Garcia, John Garcia

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Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed on July 7.

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.”

 

26. Swans, To be Kind

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Released by Mute/Young God Records. Reviewed on May 9.

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.

 

25. Sólstafir, Ótta

solstafir-otta

Released by Season of Mist. Discussed Oct. 11.

Icelandic four-piece Sólstafir hit on a rarely attained balance of gorgeousness and melancholy, and while Ótta is expansive, it’s also gripping front to back and is the best execution of its style I’ve heard since Anathema‘s Alternative 4, which is not a comparison I make lightly. A challenging record, but satisfying in kind and universal in its expressiveness.

 

24. Greenleaf, Trails and Passes

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Released by Small Stone Records. Reviewed on April 25.

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.

 

23. Earth, Primitive and Deadly

earth-primitive-and-deadly

Released by Southern Lord Recordings. Reviewed on Sept. 9.

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.

 

22. Ogre, The Last Neanderthal

ogre-the-last-neanderthal

Released by Minotauro Records. Reviewed on March 10.

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.

 

21. The Wounded Kings, Consolamentum

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Released by Candlelight Records. Reviewed on Jan. 30.

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.

 

20. Floor, Oblation

floor-oblation

Released by Season of Mist. Reviewed on April 22.

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.

 

19. Druglord, Enter Venus

druglord-enter-venus

Released by STB Records. Reviewed on Feb. 14.

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.

 

18. Ararat, Cabalgata Hacia la Luz

ararat-cabalgata-hacia-la-luz

Released by Oui Oui Records. Reviewed on April 4.

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.

 

17. Radio Moscow, Magical Dirt

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Released by Alive Naturalsound. Reviewed on May 29.

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.

 

16. Apostle of Solitude, Of Woe and Wounds

apostle-of-solitude-of-woe-and-wounds

Released by Cruz del Sur. Reviewed on Nov. 6.

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.

 

15. Stubb, Cry of the Ocean

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Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed on Nov. 24.

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-and-the-low-desert-punk-band-black-power-flower

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed on Nov. 10.

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.

 

13. Dwellers, Pagan Fruit

dwellers-pagan-fruit

Released by Small Stone. Reviewed on May 22.

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.

 

12. The Golden Grass, The Golden Grass

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Released by Svart Records. Reviewed on March 25.

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.

 

11. The Well, Samsara

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Released by RidingEasy Records. Reviewed on Sept. 22.

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 GrahamAlley 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 SeasonThe Picturebooks, etc. — they seemed to come ready to serve notice of a stylistic movement underway.

 

10. Montibus Communitas, The Pilgrim to the Absolute

montibus-communitas-the-pilgrim-to-the-absolute

Released by Beyond Beyond is Beyond. Reviewed on Dec. 4.

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.

 

9. Fu Manchu, Gigantoid

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Released by At the Dojo Records. Reviewed on May 14.

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 GiacumakisFu 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.”

 

8. The Skull, For Those Which are Asleep

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Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed on Nov. 5.

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.

 

7. Blood Farmers, Headless Eyes

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Self-released on CD, LP on PATAC Records. Reviewed on March 24.

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.

 

6. Lo-Pan, Colossus

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Released by Small Stone. Reviewed on Oct. 7.

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.

 

5a. All Them Witches, Lightning at the Door

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Self-released. Reviewed on Sept. 25.

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.

 

5. Witch Mountain, Mobile of Angels

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Released by Profound Lore. Reviewed on Aug. 20.

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 Angels that 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.

 

4. Conan, Blood Eagle

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Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed on Jan. 22.

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 DavisSkyhammer 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.

 

3. Wo Fat, The Conjuring

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Released by Small Stone Records. Reviewed on June 18.

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.

 

2. Mars Red Sky, Stranded in Arcadia

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Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed on March 11.

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.

 

1. YOB, Clearing the Path to Ascend

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Released by Neurot Recordings. Reviewed on Sept. 3.

“It’s time to wake up.”

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.

 

 

Honorable Mention

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:

MothershipMothership II — It’s hard to argue with a classic heavy rock power trio kicking ass. I won’t try.

AlunahAwakening the Forest — Every time I make a list, no matter what kind of list it is, there’s a band I wind up kicking myself for forgetting about at the time. This is the case 100 percent with why Alunah aren’t in the Top 30. In fact, I might go in and swap them out with somebody.

Ice DragonSeeds 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.

TruckfightersUniverse – I thought at some point I’d go back to Universe again, but never really did. A problem with me more than the album.

SteakSlab City — An impressive debut following two strong EPs.

GodfleshA 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.

ThouHeathen — Just recently purchased this and am only getting to know it, but a ridiculously strong album.

Corrosion of ConformityIX — 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.

SpidergawdSpidergawd — 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 MagnetMilking 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.

SlomaticsEstron — Another one I’m just getting to know, but am very much digging.

Electric WizardTime 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.

PallbearerFoundations 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.

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.

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Witch Mountain Interview with Nathan Carson: The Shape Truth Takes

Posted in Features on November 20th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Musician Portrait series

Something is stirring in the Witch Mountain camp. I don’t know quite what yet, but on Nov. 10, the Portland, Oregon, outfit posted the following: “Just booked studio time to record a song in early December. Details when we are allowed to share them.”

Cryptic but precise, obscure and calculated, the message itself sums up a lot of what Witch Mountain have become over the last few years. After getting off tour this fall Nik Turner‘s incarnation of Hawkwind, the band — founded by guitarist Rob Wrong (to whom I’ve never spoken because he used to review records for stonerrock.com and would blow my meager knowledge of heavy out of the water) and drummer Nathan Carson (who also runs Nanotear Booking and has been interviewed here before) — said farewell to vocalist Uta Plotkin. They lost their bassist at the time as well, but it was Plotkin who grabbed the headlines, and reasonably so. Among metal singers, hers was a singular voice, resonant in its power and presence, but able also to convey emotion, bluesy soul and, particularly in the case of their latest album, Mobile of Angels (review here), a desperate sense of longing.

Their third offering for Profound Lore and third since reactivating following a long hiatus after their 2001 debut, Come the Mountain (discussed here), it’s easy to think of Mobile of Angels as a culmination in light of Plotkin‘s departure, and certainly it is their crowning achievement to date, but it’s also a step in an interrupted progression from their last two outings, 2012’s Cauldron of the Wild (review here) and 2011’s South of Salem (review here). With the constant thread of Billy Anderson‘s production, one can hear Witch Mountain growing on these three albums, becoming the assured, progressive act they are on Mobile of Angels, patiently presenting an all-too-brief 38 minutes that’s beautiful and desolate at the same time.

Carson knows that whoever takes the vocalist role has a challenge ahead of them. In the interview that follows, he talks about how Plotkin‘s leaving took shape, making Mobile of Angels, the mood on this last tour and what they might be looking for in a new singer. The question at this point, after the above Nov. 10 post, is whether or not they’ve found that person. I guess we’ll have to wait and see.

Full Q&A is after the jump. Please enjoy.

Read more »

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audiObelisk Transmission 040

Posted in Podcasts on September 26th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Click Here to Download

 

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

This one’s beamed in from a universe of all good times. I don’t want to walk around tooting my own horn like I actually did anything, but you’ll pardon me if I say that once you get on board here, you might not want to jump back off. The flow is up and down, alternately drawn out and rushing, and right up to the last song which is a bit of a return to earth, the second hour is the most spaced out it’s ever been around these parts. I’m way into it. I hope you’re way into it.

Like last time, I tried to get a mix of excellent stuff upcoming with other recent items you might’ve missed. One of these days I’m gonna do another one of these where I talk, but this is straight-up track into track the whole way through and I think it moves really well that way. Please feel free to grab a download or hit the stream and dig in and enjoy.

First Hour:
The Melvins, “Sesame Street Meat” from Hold it In (2014)
Fever Dog, “One Thousand Centuries” from Second Wind (2014)
Lo-Pan, “Eastern Seas” from Colossus (2014)
Witchrider, “Black” from Unmountable Stairs (2014)
Alunah, “Awakening the Forest” from Awakening the Forest (2014)
Craang, “Magnolia” from To the Estimated Size of the Universe (2014)
Slow Season, “Shake” from Mountains (2014)
Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds, “Guillotine” from The Shining One (2014)
The Proselyte, “Irish Goodbye” from Our Vessel’s in Need (2014)
Flood, “Lake Nyos” from Oak (2014)
Lord, “Golgotha” from Alive in Golgotha (2014)

Second Hour:
My Brother the Wind, “Garden of Delights” from Once There was a Time When Time and Space were One (2014)
Spidergawd, “Empty Rooms” from Spidergawd (2014)
The Myrrors, “Whirling Mountain Blues” from Solar Collector (2014)
Witch Mountain, “Your Corrupt Ways (Sour the Hymn)” from Mobile of Angels (2014)

Total running time: 1:54:28

 

Thank you for listening.

Download audiObelisk Transmission 040

 

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Pallbearer Announce North American Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 7th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Just six days after capping their European tour with YOB by appearing at Desertfest Belgium, Arkansas doomers Pallbearer will embark on their first and presumably far from last round of North American dates in support of their new album, Foundations of Burden, which is due in August on Profound Lore Records. They’ll tour this time with Tombs and Vattnet Viskar, and the trek includes a stop at Austin’s Fun Fun Fun Fest.

Details follow, fresh off the PR wire:

PALLBEARER ANNOUNCE NORTH AMERICAN TOUR IN OCTOBER

Tombs & Vattnet Viskar to Support; U.S. Tour Follows European Run with YOB

New Album, Foundations Of Burden, Available August 19th from Profound Lore

Having recently completed a tour across the U.S. supporting Deafheaven, Little Rock AR’s Pallbearer are excited to announce their own headlining run this coming October with Tombs and Vattnet Viskar in tow. The tour will kick off shortly after Pallbearer’s European tour with YOB and will take the band from the South up through the Midwest and into Canada for shows in Toronto and Montreal. Then, Pallbearer will tour down the East Coast to eventually end up in Texas for Fun Fun Fun Fest in Austin – check out the band’s full tour routing below.

Pallbearer will be on tour in support of their monumental new album, Foundations of Burden, which is scheduled for release on August 19th on Profound Lore Records. The band recently premiered a new track “The Ghost I Used To Be” via NPR’s All Songs Considered and the track was hailed as “more confident, more diverse, and more immersive” by Stereogum and “modern metal doesn’t get much better than this” by Consequence Of Sound.

Formed in 2008 by Joseph D. Rowland (bass) and Brett Campbell (vocals/guitars), Pallbearer grew from the fertile underground metal scene of Little Rock, AR. A year after their formation, the band released their first three-song demo (with guitarist Devin Holt), which garnered well-deserved attention. Pallbearer went on to release Sorrow & Extinction in early 2012 on well-respected Canadian indie label Profound Lore, and instantly made waves among listeners and critics who found the band’s compositional paradox of vulnerability and might unparalleled in the metal world. Sorrow & Extinction proved to be an unequivocal masterpiece in any genre of music and compelled Pallbearer to reach even further creatively for what would come next.

Fast forward to February of 2014 as Pallbearer headed to Portland, OR (with drummer Mark Lierly) to Type Foundry Studio with legendary producer/engineer Billy Anderson (Neurosis, Melvins, Sleep, Swans) to lay down six tracks that would become Foundations Of Burden. This new album delves even deeper into Pallbearer’s melodic contexts, which adds a new and compelling dimension to music which has long since proven itself to be inexorably captivating; if Sorrow and Extinction created massive waves in the metal scene, Foundations Of Burden will create the stuff of legends.

Pre-order Foundations Of Burden now from Profound Lore.

PALLBEARER – ON TOUR
September 3 Utrecht, NL @ Tivoli de helling ^
September 4 Bristol, UK @ The Fleece ^
September 5 Manchester, UK @ Roadhouse ^
September 6 Glasgow, UK @ Audio ^
September 7 Leeds, UK @ Brudenell Social Club ^
September 8 London, UK @ The Underworld ^
September 10 Dortmund, DE @ FZW ^
September 11 Groningen, NL @ Vera ^
September 12 Aarhus, DK @ Atlas ^
September 13 Gothenberg, SE @ Truckstop Alaska ^
September 14 Oslo, NO @ Hostsabbat @ Betong ^
September 16 Helsinki, FI @ Tavastia ^
September 17 Stockholm, SE @ Slakthuset ^
September 18 Copenhagen, DK @ Loppen ^
September 19 Leipzig, DE @ UT Connewitz ^
September 20 Wroclaw, PL @ Firlej ^
September 21 Berlin, DE @ Bi Nuu ^
September 23 Prague, CZ @ Klub 007 ^
September 24 Vienna, AT @ Arena ^
September 25 Innsbruck, AT @ PMK ^
September 26 Winterthur, CH @ Gaswerk ^
September 29 Lausanne, CH @ Le Romandie ^
October 2 Barcelona, ES @ Razzmatazz3 ^
October 3 Madrid, ES @ Villamanuela ^
October 4 Porto, PT @ Amplifest ^
October 5 Erandio, ES @ Sonora ^
October 10 Athens, GR @ Kyttaro Club ^
October 11 Antwerp, Belgium @ Desert Fest ^
October 17 Nashville, TN @ Exit/In *
October 18 Lexington, KY @ Cosmic Charlie’s *
October 19 Champaign, IL @ High Dive *
October 20 Madison, WI @ The Frequency *
October 21 Detroit, MI @ Magic Stick *
October 23 Cleveland, OH @ Grog Shop *
October 24 Toronto, ON @ Lee’s Palace *
October 25 Montreal, QC @ Il Motore *
October 26 Boston, MA @ Great Scott *
October 27 Brooklyn, NY @ Saint Vitus *
October 29 Philadelphia, PA @ Black Box *
October 30 Baltimore, MD @ Metro Gallery *
October 31 Chapel Hill, NC @ Local 506
November 1 Atlanta, GA @ The Earl *
November 2 Tampa, FL @ The Orpheum *
November 5 Houston, TX @ Fitzgerald’s Downstairs *
November 7 Austin, TX @ Fun Fun Fun Fest
November 9 Dallas, TX @ Three Link *

* w/ Tombs, Vattnet Viskar
^ w/ YOB

Foundations Of Burden Track Listing:
1. Worlds Apart
2. Foundations
3. Watcher In The Dark
4. The Ghost I Used To Be
5. Ashes
6. Vanished

https://www.facebook.com/pallbearerdoom
https://www.profoundlorerecords.com/pallbearer/

Pallbearer, “The Ghost I Used to Be”

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Pallbearer to Release Foundations of Burden in August

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 4th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

The second half of this year is pretty stacked with releases, with YOB and Pallbearer and Electric Wizard and more than a handful of others. Looks like Pallbearer have finished their new one, which is titled Foundations of Burden and set to come out on Aug. 19 in North America through Profound Lore. Their 2012 debut, Sorrow and Extinction (review here), was a rare bridge across the gap from doom to a more mainstream audience, and with production by the venerable Billy Anderson, there’s little concern Foundations of Burden will be much of a tonal letup.

Pallbearer hit the road this week alongside Deafheaven and Wreck and Reference, and dates for that run follow the album art and tracklisting below, which come via Profound Lore:

PALLBEARER – Complete Work On New Album

Little Rock, AR doom metal band PALLBEARER have completed work on their follow-up to 2012’s acclaimed “Sorrow and Extinction” LP. Entitled “Foundations Of Burden”, the sophomore release sees the present-day doom metal giants create a more expansive, advanced, crushing, and emotionally charged album that takes everything to the next level beyond its predecessor.

With “Foundations Of Burden”, PALLBEARER have delivered their most engaging work yet. Musically, “Foundations Of Burden” sees the band strengthen their monolithic melodious structures of doom that have become synonymous with their signature sound. All while incorporating a much more progressive and musically challenging scenario to their anthems which compliment the huge epic melodies and harmonics even more. Whereas “Sorrow and Extinction” expanded the foundation which PALLBEARER laid down with their demo, “Foundations Of Burden” morphs itself into a glorious new vision that will see the band rise even more to promising new heights beyond the awareness brought upon them with “Sorrow and Extinction”.

Recorded and mixed by Billy Anderson (Neurosis, Sleep, Agalloch, The Melvins etc.) at Type Foundry Studios in Portland, OR, tracklisting for “Foundations Of Burden” goes as follows:

1. Worlds Apart
2. Foundations
3. Watcher In The Dark
4. The Ghost I Used To Be
5. Ashes
6. Vanished

Covert art by Animetalphysical with design/layout by Chimere Noire.

“Foundations Of Burden” will see its release (CD/LP/Digital) in North America on Aug 19th, Aug 22nd in the EU, Aug 25th in the UK, and late Aug respectively in Japan.

Tour dates w/ Deafheaven and Wreck & Reference
06/08 – Cambridge, MA @ The Sinclair
06/09 – Philadelphia, PA @ The Barbary
06/10 – Washington, DC @ Rock & Roll Hotel
06/11 – Richmond, VA @ The Canal Club
06/12 – Brooklyn, NY @ Club Europa/Northside Festival (w/Hull, Planning For Burial, Yellow Eyes, and Vilkacis)**
06/15 – Miami, FL @ Churchill’s
06/16 – Orlando, FL @ Backbooth
06/17 – Tampa, FL @ The Crowbar
06/18 – New Orleans, LA @ One Eyed Jack’s
06/20 – St. Louis, MO @ Firebird
06/21 – Detroit, MI @ Magic Stick
06/22 – Madison, WI @ High Noon Saloon
06/23 – Minneapolis, MN @ Triple Rock Social Club
06/24 – Lawrence, KS @ The Granada
06/26 – Houston, TX @ Fitzgerald’s
06/27 – Austin, TX @ Red 7
06/28 – Dallas, TX @ Club Dada
**No Deafheaven/Wreck & Reference

https://www.profoundlorerecords.com
https://www.facebook.com/pallbearerdoom

Pallbearer, New Song Live in MA, Feb. 2013

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The Obelisk Questionnaire: Stavros Giannopoulos of The Atlas Moth

Posted in Questionnaire on May 13th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

With the coming release next month of their third full-length, The Old Believer on Profound Lore, Chicago triple-guitar five-piece The Atlas Moth have proven to be survivors where others have fallen by the wayside. Consistent in releases and touring since 2008’s Pray for Tides EP (review here), the band has evolved beyond post-metallic beginnings to craft a sound of their own while those who were their peers and their forebears have called it quits, from Isis to Minsk. Through 2009’s A Glorified Piece of Blue Sky, 2011’s An Ache for the Distance and the 2013 compilation release Master of Blunt Hits that brought together Pray for Tides and 2010’s The One amongst the Weed Fields covers EP, as well as some prime internet smartassery, The Atlas Moth and guitarist/vocalist Stavros Giannopoulos have earned a place in metal that crosses genre lines and gives stoners and headbangers grounds for mutual nod.

Just today, Profound Lore announced that The Atlas Moth and labelmates SubRosa will join Japan’s Boris for US tour dates this August. The Old Believer is set for release June 10.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Stavros Giannopoulos

How did you come to do what you do?

A lot of hard work, persistence, and a general lack of interest in doing anything else whatsoever.

Describe your first musical memory.

My father dancing around the living room to Greek music.

Describe your best musical memory to date.

On tour with Gojira, our hometown Chicago show was on my 30th birthday with my entire family there for the first time to see us play.

When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?

Every time we meet adversity playing music.

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

Ultimate satisfaction.

How do you define success?

Finding happiness.

What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?

Lemonparty.org.

Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.

Master of Puppets.

Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?

The 2014-2015 Chicago Bulls season.

The Atlas Moth, Live in El Paso, TX, March 11, 2014

The Atlas Moth on Thee Facebooks

Profound Lore

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The Atlas Moth to Release The Old Believer June 10 on Profound Lore

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 8th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

I’m just going to assume that before you place the waterproof cover of The Atlas Moth‘s forthcoming third album, The Old Believer — out June 10 on Profound Lore – into water to reveal the rest of the art, it’s probably best to take the LP itself out first. Just a hunch. Cool idea though, and as it’s been three years since the last The Atlas Moth full-length, 2011’s An Ache for the Distance, it’s one more thing to stand them out from the crowd.

Not that they’ve been slacking in that regard anyway. It’s been half a decade since I reviewed their debut EP, Pray for Tides (review here), but particularly since the last record came out, The Atlas Moth have worked to establish their own identity within and around their sound. I’d have some catching up to do, but even beyond the novelty factor of the artwork, The Old Believer holds some intrigue ahead of its June release.

The PR wire offers the following:

THE ATLAS MOTH RELEASE THE OLD BELIEVER ON JUNE 10 VIA PROFOUND LORE

UNIQUE COVER ART CHANGES WHEN DIPPED IN WATER

The Atlas Moth, the Chicago-based quintet, release The Old Believer on June 10 via Profound Lore Records.

“This record is an equally large progression as between our first two records but this time is coupled with more experience,” explains singer/guitar player Stavros Giannopoulos (who also moonlights in black metal super group, Twilight). “I feel like we found ourselves on An Ache for the Distance and now we are expanding on our sound more than ever. It’s also the most personal and introspective music we have ever done. We are wearing our hearts on our sleeves with every note.”

The Old Believer, produced The Atlas Moth’s own Andrew Ragin at Chicago’s Wall To Wall Studios, features guests Joe Duplantier (Gojira), Marcus Eliopulos (Stabbing Westward) and Subrosa violinists Kim Pack and Sarah Pendleton. The album’s cover and back art feature a water-reveal stock, which when dipped in water, more graphics are revealed.

The Old Believer track listing:
1. Jet Black Passenger
2. Collider
3. The Sea Beyond
4. Halcyon Blvd
5. Sacred Vine
6. The Old Believer
7. City of Light
8. Wynona
9. Hesperian
10. Blood Will Tell

The band recently completed an extensive North American tour with The Ocean and Scale The Summit where they previewed music from The Old Believer. The Atlas Moth will return to the road upon release of The Old Believer, with dates to be announced soon.

www.facebook.com/theatlasmothband
www.twitter.com/TheAtlasMoth
theatlasmoth.bandcamp.com

The Atlas Moth, An Ache for the Distance (2011)

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YOB’s Catharsis Vinyl Reissue Due in March on Relapse

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 21st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Who’s gonna argue with this one? Hard to imagine it was a very long meeting at Relapse when they were deciding to get behind a vinyl reissue of YOB‘s 2003 sophomore outing, Catharsis. “So, here’s one of the best albums of the last decade remastered by Tad Doyle sounding more kickass than ever. Should we get on board?” “Yes.” Meeting adjourned. Everybody goes to lunch.

Seriously, Catharsis is one of if not the most essential documents of American doom since the end of Sleep, and I know that sounds like hyperbole, but it’s true and anyone who tells you otherwise is simply mistaken. Profound Lore put out the CD of the Doyle remaster — you’ll also note the new artwork by Aaron Edge, completing the Lumbar triumvirate — last year, and aside from a Roadburn-exclusive gold with black splatter version (fucking kill me that’s awesome), there are a host of killer editions set to arrive in late Feb./early March.

Details via the PR wire:

YOB: Doom Metal Classic Catharsis to See Deluxe Vinyl Reissue

Relapse Records is proud to announce the re-release of YOB’s psyche-doom metal classic Catharsis on vinyl.  After being out of print on vinyl for over six years, Catharsishas been given the deluxe re-issue treatment and will be released the way it was meant to be presented.  Re-mastered from the original tapes by Tad Doyle, the reissue features stunning new artwork by Aaron Edge and brand new liner notes from Guitarist / Vocalist Mike Scheidt.

Catharsis will see it’s official vinyl re-release on March 4th in North America, March 3rd in the UK/World and February 28th in Germany/Benelux/Finland.  The vinyl includes a digital download of the full album and is being pressed on four limited color variations including gold, gold with black splatter (available exclusively at Roadburn), clear with black, bone white & gold splatter, and a special swamp green with purple & yellow splatter version that includes a blacklight poster available exclusively at Relapse.com.  Pre-orders are currently available via this location while a trailer with detailed pictures of vinyl colors is available via this location.  The full album can be streamed here.

Additionally, YOB will be headlining Roadburn Festival’s official Afterburner party on April 13th in Tilburg, NL alongside Triptykon, Avatarium, Morne, Bolzer and many others.  Details are available here.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Yob/36708497970
http://www.yobislove.com
http://www.relapse.com

YOB, Catharsis (Reissue)

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