Torche Set July 12 Release for Admission; “Slide” Video Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 14th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

torche (Photo by Keans Llamera)

So Torche have a new bassist in Eric Hernandez, who joins guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks, guitarist Jon Nuñez (formerly bass) and drummer Rick Smith, for their fifth album, Admission. The record is due out July 12 on Relapse Records, and will be the follow-up to 2015’s Restarter (review here), which I really dug but seemed to catch internet-flack for being slower and not as maniacally upbeat as some of their past work. That’s something Nuñez seems to implicitly acknowledge below when he talks about the new lineup being more inspired and Hernandez being excited to be in the group. So it goes, I guess. I still thought that album was cool.

Torche of course have a bunch of tour dates to go with the release of Admission, and preorders are up and there’s the new single “Slide” playing below that you can dig into as well. So, uh, do that.

PR wire:

torche admission

TORCHE: Announce New Album Admission Coming July 12; Share First Single “Slide”

Miami’s heavy rock quartet TORCHE release Admission, the band’s fifth album, and first new music since 2015’s critically-lauded Restarter, on July 12 via Relapse Records.

“This album is more revealing of who we are. I think the core of the band is happier and more inspired than we have been in some time, and we’ve got somebody new who’s excited to be a part of it. It’s just refreshing. It feels right. It feels real,” says guitar player Jon Nuñez, referencing the band’s new line-up which includes a shift from bass to guitar for Nuñez and the addition of bass player Eric Hernandez (Wrong). Steve Brooks (guitar/vocals) and Rick Smith (drummer) round-out the band.

“Slide,” a new song from the Nuñez produced album, is streaming now. “’Slide’ is one of the first songs Eric came to the table with, fully realized and arranged,” explains Smith. “Eric is a total beast of a songwriter. I suggested he use the first three Gary Numan records as inspiration and he came back at us with some melodically sound material that nailed the Torche vibe.”

The new song arrives as Torche announce their first wave of tour dates, including performances at this year’s Levitation, The Fest and Sled Island festivals. Tickets for all non-festival dates are on-sale this Friday at 10 am eastern.

Admission pre-orders are available now via Relapse’s webstore (http://relapse.com/torche-admission/). Digital downloads and streaming services are available at http://ffm.to/torcheadmission.

Admission cover; artwork by Richard Vergez

Admission Tracklist:
From Here
Submission
Slide
What Was
Times Missing
Admission
Reminder
Extremes of Consciousness
On The Wire
Infierno
Changes Come

The 11-song album is available in various formats (CD/LP/CS/Digital) with several highly-limited colored vinyl options on-sale now. The album artwork was created by Richard Vergez, a Cuban-American visual artist, who is known for his handmade collages that highlight the meeting of human and technological elements in our modern society. His work has been shown at No Romance Galleries (TriBeCa), Urban Arts Society (Chicago) and Kids of Dada (London).

TORCHE Tour Dates:

May 31 – Chicago, IL @ Chicago Doomed & Stoned Festival
June 15 – Denver, CO @ Electric Funeral Fest IV
June 19 – Calgary, AB @ Sled Island Festival
July 26 – Tampa, FL @ The Crowbar
July 27 – Jacksonville, FL @ The Justice Pub
July 28 – Chapel Hill, NC @ Local 506
July 29 – Harrisonburg, VA @ Golden Pony
July 31 – Washington, D.C. @ Black Cat
August 1 – Philadelphia, PA @ Underground Arts
August 2 – Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Bazaar
August 3 – Boston, MA @ Great Scott
August 4 – Pawtucket, RI @ The Met
August 5 – Hamden, CT @ Space Ballroom
August 6 – Lancaster, PA @ Chameleon Club
August 7 – Wilmington, NC @ Reggie’s 42nd Street Tavern
August 8 – Atlanta, GA @ The Masquerade
August 9 – Orlando, FL @ Henao Center
August 10 – Miami, FL @ Las Rosa’s
September 21 – Asheville, NC @ Heavy Mountain
November 1 – Gainesville, FL @ FEST
November 9 – Austin, TX @ Levitation

torchemusic.com
facebook.com/torcheofficial
instagram.com/torche_band
http://www.relapse.com
http://www.relapserecords.bandcamp.com
http://www.facebook.com/RelapseRecords

Torche, “Slide” official video

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Ecstatic Vision Finish Work on New Album; Touring with Heavy Temple

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 26th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

ecstatic vision

New stuff from Ecstatic Vision is a win. Their next record — it’ll be their third LP — is reportedly in the can, and that’s awfully nifty, so I’d expect news about it, oh, say, about three minutes after this post goes live. Just so I can still be behind as I am in posting these tour dates. I try to keep up. And fail. Consistently. Nonetheless, I’m curious to see who’ll be handling the release for the upcoming offering from the Philadelphia psych forerunners, since Heavy Psych Sounds put out their 2018 Under the Influence EP (discussed here), and their two records to-date, 2017’s Raw Rock Fury (review here) and 2015’s Sonic Praise (review here), came out on Relapse. Could be either of those or of course someone else. I have a hard time imagining anyone wouldn’t want to get in on putting out their stuff.

For what it’s worth, Heavy Psych Sounds is presenting the tour, and Ecstatic Vision will play the Heavy Psych Sounds Fest out on the West Coast. They’ll also be back in Europe this Fall for Keep it Low in Munich, and they’ll presumably have more dates TBA around that. So, more to come. I’ll try to keep up.

For now, here’s this from the PR wire:

ecstatic vision tour

Ecstatic Vision Announces U.S. Tour Dates

Philly Krautrock Crew Gears Up for Album Number Three with 15 City Spring Live Trek

Philadelphia heavy psych band Ecstatic Vision has announced a spring U.S. headlining tour. The dangerous live group, known for its hybrid sound that merges the sound and style of ’70s rock acts like Hawkwind, Can and MC5 with the feel and flow of Afrobeat artists such as Fela Kuti and Africa 70, will launch the two week trek on May 2 in Baltimore, MD. Support on the Ecstatic Vision tour will be provided by fellow Philadelphians Heavy Temple.

As part of the 15 city tour, Ecstatic Vision will perform live as part of the recently-announced Heavy Psych Sounds Fests, a celebration of the Italian underground rock label of the same name to which the group is signed. Ecstatic Vision will join labelmates Mothership, Duel, Crypt Trip and more on both May 10 in Fort Worth, TX and May 11 in Austin, TX. For more details on these HPS Fest shows, visit these locations.

Ecstatic Vision is touring in support of its EP of space / zam rock covers, ‘Under the Influence’ (2018), its 2015 debut album, ‘Sonic Praise’, and the band’s ballsy experimentation into Detroit rock meets white noise, ‘Raw Rock Fury’ (2017). Ecstatic Vision recently completed work on its as-yet-untitled new album, and is expected to debut some of its new songs live over the course of the upcoming tour.

“”We are stoked to get back on the road to play live at places we haven’t been in a long time, and with a new record in the can,” says vocalist / guitarist Doug Sabolick. “Yes you heard right! Expect news on our new LP soon as well. See you at the shows!”

Ecstatic Vision tour dates:
May 2 Baltimore, MD The Metro Gallery *
May 3 Richmond, VA Wonderland RVA
May 4 Raleigh, NC The Pour House Music Hall
May 5 Asheville, NC The Odditorium
May 6 Charlotte, NC The Milestone Club
May 7 Columbia, SC Hunter-Gatherer Brewery & Alehouse
May 9 Memphis, TN Growlers
May 10 Fort Worth, TX Lola’s
May 11 Austin, TX The Lost Well
May 12 Denton, TX Andy’s Bar
May 14 St. Louis, MO Fubar
May 15 Nashville, TN The East Room
May 16 Johnson City, TN The Hideaway
May 17 Washington, DC The Pinch *
May 18 Harrisonburg, VA The Golden Pony *
* = No Heavy Temple

Ecstatic Vision is:
Doug Sabolick (vocals / guitar)
Michael Field Connor (bass)
Kevin Nickles (saxophone)
Ricky Culp (drums)

https://www.facebook.com/ecstaticvision
https://twitter.com/ecstaticvision_
https://www.instagram.com/ecstaticvision

Ecstatic Vision, Under the Influence (2018)

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Friday Full-Length: Mastodon, Leviathan

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 29th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Mastodon, Leviathan (2004)

Later this summer will mark 15 years since the release of Mastodon‘s second album, Leviathan. No doubt there will be something down to celebrate the anniversary, either by the band itself or by the label, Relapse Records, who put it out, and one could hardly argue. What was one of the best heavy albums of the aughts remains infectious in its energy right from the outset of “Blood and Thunder,” the tense riff paying off in a guest vocal appearance from Clutch‘s Neil Fallon as the Atlanta four-piece of Troy Sanders (bass, vocals), Brent Hinds (guitar, vocals), Bill Kelliher (guitar) and Brann Dailor (drums) crafted a tempest befitting the song and album’s seafaring, Moby Dick-derived theme. “White whale, holy grail,” and so on. Across 10 tracks and 46 minutes, Mastodon demonstrated a dynamic approach that not only took a leap forward from their 2002 debut, Remission, but was essentially a leap forward for heavy metal, striking out in a direction that saw no reason to compromise between impact and progressivism, driven by Dailor‘s snare-overload mania on drums to conjure an urgency that by then was lacking in the dominant creative staleness of metalcore, and that hit with a diversity of songwriting, a balance of melody and burl, and a winding course that every bit sounded like the future. Leviathan‘s impact was immediate and a decade and a half later, it is ongoing.

I got married in a Leviathan t-shirt. Relapse still sells it — it’s the one with the whale from the incredible Paul A. Romano cover art on front — and it felt classy enough to with a tuxedo. Like Metallica before them and Conan after, Mastodon had their time as a band who, when you saw someone else wearing their shirt, it said something about them. Around the time of Leviathan, it was safe to assume that person knew what was up. Radio had largely abandoned metal unless you had a satellite account. Social media existed if you were willing to sit in front of a computer to get it — and plenty people were — and file-sharing had largely gone underground from the Napster fallout. Print media existed but was unmistakably in decline, and the sphere of digital outlets was nowhere near as broad as it was today. Still everyone, seemed to agree on this record. Granted, Mastodon were a big enough band to divide opinion — people either actively liked or actively disliked them — but consensus generally was Mastodon had created something special in the furies of “Ísland,” “Iron Tusk” and “I am Ahab,” the surprising Southern rock departure in “Megalodon,” the mastodon leviathansprawling crescendo of the 13-minute “Hearts Alive” and the more melodic and catchy “Naked Burn” and the righteous preach of the second guest vocal spot, this one from NeurosisScott Kelly — who’d join Mastodon in the studio and tour with them on more than one occasion — and it was their ability to control it that truly made their sound so powerful. Yeah, they were absolutely putting on a clinic in terms of technicality, but whether it was the throaty moans of “I am Ahab” or the acoustic comedown in closer “Joseph Merrick,” there was nothing Mastodon did that loosened their grasp on the material. I once heard Tom Araya or Kerry King from Slayer — can’t remember which — describe Dave Lombardo‘s drumming by saying that it sounds like the whole song is going to crash and come flying apart at all times, but it never does. With Mastodon during the Leviathan era, that was the whole band. They struck at the perfect generational moment to spearhead a new wave of progressive metal, and the impact of their work in doing that is continuing to flesh out. At this point, they’re a band other bands grew up listening to.

Was Leviathan the Millennial Master of Puppets? I don’t know, but it was definitely the Leviathan, and that seems like enough.

There have been continual vinyl pressings done since the release, and my only issue with that would be it would preclude listening at such a volume as to vibrate the stylus over the platter, but for me, Leviathan has always worked best in linear form. A 46-minute CD, front to back. I won’t discount the appeal of a side flip as a moment to catch one’s breath — arguably necessary after “Aqua Dementia” — but the way the songs tie together while still providing standout moments, and the breadth of the album as a whole, it just seems to function as one larger piece. Even the way “Ísland” ends and “Iron Tusk” picks up on the next beat, or the way “Blood and Thunder” seems to cut with just the slightest stutter into “I am Ahab.” With the recording of Matt Bayles, Mastodon were able to capture a blend of nuance and pummel that, no matter how many others would try to pick up on what they were doing, remains largely unmatched by whatever measurement you care to use.

Before Blood Mountain surfaced in 2006, Mastodon departed Relapse for Warner Bros. subsidiary Reprise Records. I remember their statement about the signing was almost apologetic. They’d go on to do what many consider their greatest work in 2008’s Crack the Skye, but to be honest, by then they’d pretty much lost me. I’ve still never really sat with that record or anything they’ve done since, though I’ve seen them live on several occasions between then and now. The Hunter in 2011 and Once More ‘Round the Sun in 2014 garnered mixed reviews, but 2017’s Emperor of Sand seemed to do well for them, which is fine. They always have a good showing in the year-end polls here. Once Blood Mountain came out, the balance of impact and intensity against melody and progginess shifted, and once that happens on such a scale, there’s no real going back. I’m sure I’ve missed out, but somehow I don’t think Mastodon are exactly hurting without my ultra-fandom. I continue to appreciate Leviathan and Remission, and even the earlier Lifesblood EP and split with American Heritage — plus that time they covered Thin Lizzy‘s “Emerald”; that was fun — to a lesser extent, for the landmark accomplishments they were. Are. Will continue to be. That’s probably enough.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

I have a cold. Fuckers. The baby gave it to me, which, yes, I take personally. No doubt he meant to do it. Malicious intent behind it and all that. He’s been letting me know via boogers all week what he thinks of my pitiful attempts at parenting. Can’t say I’d do different were I in his position. I am pretty awful at being a dad.

Next week we’re down in Jersey for a good portion of the time. Kind of a surprise jaunt south, but we’ll be there long enough for me to go see YOB, Voivod and Amenra in Brooklyn and that’ll be fun assuming I can remember to bring my camera. The show is at Warsaw, which I’m not sure I’ve ever actually been to, but has been doing shows for a long time. Keeping my fingers crossed for a photo pit so I can actually go and both take pictures and enjoy the show. We’ll see.

This weekend is a new episode of The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio. Sunday, 7PM EDT. Listen at http://gimmeradio.com. Please. It covers some cool stuff from the Quarterly Review and other odds and ends that have been kicking my ass lately, like the new Valley of the Sun, which is easily their best work to-date.

Notes for next week? Yeah, I’ve got some. Hang on.

Okay Subject to change, of course:

MON 04/01 THE DRUIDS REVIEW; CEGVERA VIDEO PREMIERE; KANDODO VIDEO
TUE 04/02 THE DEVIL AND THE ALMIGHTY BLUES REVIEW; MORASS OF MOLASSES PREMIERE
WED 04/03 STONE MACHINE ELECTRIC VIDEO PREMIERE
THU 04/04 THE DRY MOUTHS ALBUM STREAM
FRI 04/05 YOB LIVE REVIEW

Busy busy. Probably for the best. Even with this cold, which I’m very much hoping will dissipate over the weekend and both I and the baby can leave bastard-mode go back to our non-boogery selves. We shall see.

In the meantime, slept poorly last night. I went to bed after picking The Patient Mrs. up at work, circa 5PM, but was reading a Deep Space Nine book (Ascendance, if you’re curious) and didn’t get to sleep, so came back downstairs for Pecan bedtime ritual and subsequent delicious leftovers dinner, then did my own futz ritual and went back to bed. I was asleep around 8PM maybe, or before that, and the alarm went off at 4AM to get up and come do this. Was up around 10:30 though, my head reeling and congested. Always forget about that with colds. You have to find just the right angle so the mucus drains and doesn’t drown you while you sleep. Shit is difficult.

And yet there are people who believe humans were intelligently designed, like your snot was made in the image of god. Even if you want to believe humans were “designed,” intelligence would not seem to have been a factor in the slightest. If it were, people probably wouldn’t believe in things like intelligent design.

But hey, how ’bout that Mueller report though, huh? Turns out no one’s coming to save us.

At least it’s baseball season.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend. I’m gonna go grab the baby, who’s awake, and start the day. Please check out Forum, Radio and merch at Dropout.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

The Obelisk shirts & hoodies

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Quarterly Review: Stuck in Motion, AVER, Massa, Alastor, Seid, Moab, Primitive Man & Unearthly Trance, Into Orbit, Super Thief, Absent

Posted in Reviews on March 18th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review-spring-2019

Let the games begin! The rules are the same: 10 albums per day, this time for a total of 60 between today and next Monday. It’s the Quarterly Review. Think of it like a breakfast buffet with an unending supply of pancakes except the pancakes are riffs and there’s only one dude cooking them and he’s really tired all the time and complains, complains, complains. Maybe not the best analogy. Still, it’s gonna be a ton of stuff, but there are some very, very cool records included, so please keep your eyes and your mind open for what’s coming, because you might find something here you really dig. If not, there’s always tomorrow. Let’s go.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Stuck in Motion, Stuck in Motion

stuck in motion self-titled

The classic style cover art of Swedish trio Stuck in Motion‘s self-titled debut tells much of the story. It’s sweet-toned vintage-style soul rock, informed by Graveyard to some degree, but more aligned to retroism. The songs are bluesy and natural and not especially long, but have vibe for weeks, as demonstrated on the six-minute longest-track “Dreams of Flying,” or the flute-laden closer “Eken.” What the picture doesn’t tell you is the heavy use of clavinet in the band’s sound and just how much the vintage electric piano adds to what songs like “Slingrar” with its ultra-fluid shifts in tempo, or the sax-drenched penultimate cut “Orientalisk.” Comprised of guitarist/vocalist Max Kinnbo, drummer Gustaf Björkman and bassist/vocalist/clavinetist Adrian Norén, Stuck in Motion‘s debut successfully basks in a mellow psychedelic blues atmosphere and shows a patience for songwriting that bodes remarkably well. It should not be overlooked because you think you’re tired of vintage-style rock.

Stuck in Motion on Thee Facebooks

Stuck in Motion on Bandcamp

 

AVER, Orbis Majora

aver orbis majora

Following up their 2015 sophomore outing, Nadir (review here), which led to them getting picked up by Ripple Music, Australia’s AVER return with the progressive shove of Orbis Majora, five songs in 50 minutes of thoughtfully composed heavy progadelica, and while it’s not all so serious — closer “Hemp Fandango” well earns its title via a shuffling stonerly groove — opener “Feeding the Sun” and the subsequent “Disorder” set a mood of careful craftsmanship in longform pieces. The album’s peak might be in the 13-minute “Unanswered Prayers,” which culls together an extended linear build that’s equal parts immersive and gorgeous, but the rest of the album hardly lacks for depth or clarity of purpose. An underlying message from the Sydney four-piece would seem to be that they’re going to continue growing, even after more than a decade, because it’s not so much that they’re feeling their way toward their sound, but willfully pushing themselves to refine those parameters.

AVER on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

 

Massa, Walls

massa walls

Flourish of keys adds nuance to Massa‘s moody, heavy post-rock style, the Rotterdam-based trio bringing an atmosphere to their second EP, Walls, across five tracks and 26 minutes marked by periodic samples from cinema and a sense of scope that seems to be born of an experimental impulse but not presented as the experiment itself. That is, they take the “let’s try this!” impulse and make a song out of it, as the chunky rhythm of instrumental centerpiece “Expedition” or the melodies in the prior “#8” show. Before finishing with the crash-into-push of the relatively brief “Intermassa,” the eight-minute “The Federal” complements winding guitar with organ to affect an engaging spirit somewhere between classic and futurist heavy, with the drums holding together proceedings that would seem to convey all the chaos of that temporal paradox. Perhaps it was opener “Shiva” that set this creator/destroyer tone, but either way, Massa bask in it and find a grim sense of identity thereby.

Massa on Thee Facebooks

Massa on Bandcamp

 

Alastor, Slave to the Grave

alastor slave to the grave

The first full-length from Swedish doomplodders Alastor and their debut on RidingEasy Records, late 2018’s Slave to the Grave is the four-piece’s most expansive offering yet in sonic scope as well as runtime. Following the 2017 EPs Blood on Satan’s Claw (review here) and Black Magic (review here), the seven-song/56-minute offering holds true to the murk-toned cultism and dense low-end rumble of the prior offerings, but the melodic resonance and sense of updating the aesthetic of traditional doom is palpable throughout the roller “Your Lives are Worthless,” while the later acoustic-led “Gone” speaks to a folkish influence that suits them surprisingly well given the heft that surrounds. They make an obvious focal point of 17-minute closer “Spider of My Love,” which though they’ve worked in longer forms before, is easily the grandest accomplishment they’ve yet unfurled. One might easily say the same applies to Slave to the Grave as a whole. Those who miss The Wounded Kings should take particular note of their trajectory.

Alastor on Thee Facebooks

RidingEasy Records website

 

Seid, Weltschmerz, Baby!

seid-weltschmerz_baby-web

If Norwegian space-psych outfit Seid are feeling weary of the world, the way they show it in Weltschmerz, Baby! is by simply leaving it behind, substituting for reality a cosmic starscape of effects and synth, the odd sample and vaguely Hawkwindian etherealism. The centerpiece title-track is a banger along those lines, a swell of rhythmic intensity born out of the finale of the prior “Satan i Blodet” and the mellow, flowing “Trollmannens Hytte” before that, but the highlight might be the subsequent “Coyoteman,” which drifts into dream-prog led by echoing layers of guitar and eventually given over to a fading strain of noise that “Moloch vs. Gud” picks up with percussive purpose and flows directly into the closer “Mir (Drogarna Börjar Värka),” rife with ’70s astro-bounce and a long fadeout that’s less about the record ending and more about leaving the galaxy behind. Starting out at a decent clip with “Haukøye,” Weltschmerz, Baby! is all about the journey and a trip well worth taking.

Seid on Thee Facebooks

Sulatron Records website

 

Moab, Trough

moab trough

A good record tinged by the tragic loss of drummer Erik Herzog during the recording and finished by guitarist/vocalist Andrew Giacumakis and bassist Joe Fuentes, the 10-track/39-minute Trough demonstrates completely just how much Moab have been underrated since their 2011 debut, Ab Ovo (discussed here), and across the 2014 follow-up, Billow (review here), as they bring a West Coast noise-infused pulse to heavy rock drive on “All Automatons” and meet an enduring punker spirit face first with “Medieval Moan,” all the while presenting a clear head for songcraft amid deep-running tones and melodies. “The Will is Weak” makes perhaps the greatest impact in terms of heft, but heft is by no means all Moab have to offer. With the very real possibility this will be their final record, it is a worthy homage to their fallen comrade and a showcase of their strengths that’s bound someday to get the attention it deserves whenever some clever label decides to reissue it as a lost classic.

Moab on Thee Facebooks

Moab on Bandcamp

 

Primitive Man & Unearthly Trance, Split

primitive man unearthly trance split

Well of course it’s a massive wash of doomed and hate-filled noise! What were you expecting, sunshine and puppies? Colorado’s Primitive Man and Brooklyn’s Unearthly Trance team up to compare misanthropic bona fides across seven tracks of blistering extremity that do Relapse Records proud. Starting with the collaborative intro “Merging,” the onslaught truly commences with Primitive Man’s 10-minute “Naked” and sinks into an abyss with the instrumental noisefest “Love Under Will,” which gradually makes its way into a swell of abrasive drone. Unearthly Trance, meanwhile, proffer immediate destructiveness with the churning “Mechanism Error” and make “Triumph” dark enough to live up to its most malevolent interpretations, while “Reverse the Day” makes me wonder what people who heard Godflesh in the ’80s must’ve thought of it and the six-minute finishing move “418” answers back to Primitive Man‘s droned-out anti-structure with a consuming void of fuckall depth. It’s like the two bands cut open their veins and recorded the disaffection that spilled out.

Primitive Man on Thee Facebooks

Unearthly Trance on Thee Facebooks

Relapse Records website

 

Into Orbit, Shifter

Into Orbit Shifter

Progressive New Zealander two-piece Into OrbitPaul Stewart on guitar and Ian Moir on drums — offer up the single Shifter as the answer to their 2017 sophomore long-player, Unearthing. The Wellington instrumentalists did likewise leading into that album with a single that later showed up as part of a broader tracklist, so it may be that they’ve got another release already in the works, but either way, the 5:50 standalone track finds them dug into a full band sound with layered or looped guitar standing tall over the mid-paced drumming, affecting an emotion-driven atmosphere as much as the cerebral nature of its craft. Beginning with a thick chug, it works into more melodic spaciousness as it heads toward and through its midsection, lead guitar kicking in with harmony lines joining soon after as the two-piece build back up to a bigger finish. Whatever their plans, Into Orbit make it clear that just because something is prog doesn’t mean it needs to be staid or lack expressiveness.

Into Orbit on Thee Facebooks

Into Orbit on Bandcamp

 

Super Thief, Eating Alone in My Car

super thief eating alone in my car

Noise-punk intensity pervades Eating Alone in My Car, the not-quite-not-an-LP from Austin four-piece Super Thief. They call it an album, and that’s good enough for me, especially since at about 20 minutes there isn’t much more I’d ask of the thing that it doesn’t deliver, whether it’s the furious out-of-mindness of minute-long highlight “Woodchipper” or the poli-sci critique of that sandwiches the offering with opener “Gone Country” immediately taking a nihilist anti-stance while closer “You Play it Like a Joke but I Know You Really Mean It” — which consumes nearly half the total runtime at 9:32 — seems to run up the walls unable to stick to the “smoke ’em if you got ’em” point of view of the earlier cut. That’s how the bastards keep you running in circles, but at least Super Thief know where to direct the frustration. “Six Months Blind” and the title-track have a more personal take, but are still worth a read lyrically as much as a listen, as the rhythm of the words only adds to the striking personality of the material.

Super Thief on Thee Facebooks

Learning Curve Records website

 

Absent, Towards the Void

absent towards the void

Recorded in 2016, released on CD in 2018 and snagged by Cursed Tongue Records for a vinyl pressing, Absent‘s Towards the Void casts a shimmering plunge of cavernous doom, with swirling post-Electric Wizard guitar and echoing vocals adding to the spaciousness of its four component tracks as the Brasilia-based trio conjure atmospheric breadth to go along with their weighted lurch in opener “Ophidian Womb.” With tracks arranged shortest to longest between eight and a half and 11 minutes, “Semen Prayer,” “Funeral Sun” and “Urine” follow suit from the opener in terms of overall approach, but “Funeral Sun” speeds things up for a stretch while “Urine” lures the listener downward with a subdued opening leading to more filth-caked distortion and degenerate noise, capping with feedback because at that point what the hell matters anyway? Little question in listening why this one’s been making the rounds for over a year now. It will likely continue to do so for some time to come.

Absent on Thee Facebooks

Cursed Tongue Records webstore

 

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Inter Arma Set April 12 Release for Sulphur English; Stream “Citadel”

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 18th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

inter arma (photo by Joey Wharton)

Richmond, Virginia-based anti-genre extremists Inter Arma will release their fourth album, Sulphur English, April 12 through Relapse Records. That’s pretty much what you need to know. There’s a new Inter Arma record. It’s coming out. If that isn’t enough of an immediate argument in favor of itself, the band have posted the new song “Citadel” with a march and underlying groove straight out of classic death metal to further their position. Their consistent refusal to settle into one style or another would seem to remain prevalent, and that’s just fine, especially because you can expect a decent amount of “Inter Arma announce tour dates” news stories forthcoming. These guys never hang around for too long.

They’ll mark Sulphur English‘s arrival at the Decibel Metal and Beer Fest — where I hear they’ll have both metal and beer — and continue to slaughter the unsuspecting from there while no doubt remaining persistently underrated for the value of the work they do in the studio and on stage.

Death. March. To oblivion:

inter arma sulphur english

INTER ARMA: Announce 4th-Studio Album Sulphur English Coming April 12; Share New Song “Citadel”

Richmond’s INTER ARMA, reigning masters of the slow build, continue to trace a distinctly ambitious trajectory through modern metal. Today, the band announces their 4th full-length offering Sulphur English, coming April 12th, 2019, and share the first single entitled “Citadel”.

Vocalist Mike Paparo comments:

“The lyrics to “Citadel” were written as a sort of clarion call to myself about overcoming depression and the demons that manifest with it. It, like most of the lyrical content on the record, is deeply personal to me.

For the band as a whole, Sulphur English is an ill-tempered, unrepentant act of defiance towards stagnation and complacency. We create this music on our own terms and we refuse to compromise our collective vision, for better or worse.”

Sulphur English is due out April 12th on CD/2xLP/Digital. Physical packages are available for pre-order via Relapse.com HERE. Digital Downloads / Streaming Services are available HERE.

Additionally, INTER ARMA have been announced for Decibel’s Metal & Beer Fest Pre-Fest and celebrate the release of Sulphur English with labelmates Integrity, Full of Hell & Devil Master. Stay tuned for more INTER ARMA live announcements in the near future.

Sulphur English Tracklist:
1. Bumgardner
2. A Waxen Sea
3. Citadel
4. Howling Lands
5. Stillness
6. Observances of the Path
7. The Atavist’s Meridian
8. Blood on the Lupines
9. Sulphur English

INTER ARMA are:
T.J. Childers – Drums, guitars, lap steel, keyboards, synthesizers, noise, vocals
Trey Dalton – Guitars, keyboards, vocals
Andrew Lacour – Bass
Mike Paparo – Vocals
Steven Russell – Guitars

http://relapse.com/inter-arma-sulphur-english/
https://www.facebook.com/INTERARMA/
https://www.instagram.com/interarmamusic/
http://interarma.bandcamp.com/

Inter Arma, “Citadel”

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YOB Announce Summer European Tour with Neurosis

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 12th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

yob (Photo by James Rexroad)

So the deal is that within the span of three months YOB are going to be out on tour with Voivod and then Neurosis? Sounds like it’s a damn good year to be YOB. Well earned, of course, what with the universal acclaim that greeted 2018’s Our Raw Heart (review here), and the fact that, uh, they’re incredible. The Voivod dates — they’re also with Amenra, lest they be left out — were previously announced, but I wanted to include them here as well, both because that tour is badass and because it emphasizes how much YOB have long since become a full-on, full-time act over the last however many years. “Oh, they’re hitting the road for a month in the States and then doing fests in Europe? Yeah, that’s how it goes.” One remembers it being a novelty that they were leaving Oregon at all.

But then, one is old as hell, so there you go.

From the PR wire:

YOB: Announce Summer European Tour Dates w/ Neurosis

Oregon’s cosmic trio YOB return to Europe this summer opening for doom metal legends Neurosis. The tour begins July 11 in Alperstedt, DE and ends July 26 in Gdasnk, PL. All confirmed tour dates are listed below.

YOB are touring in support of their critically acclaimed album Our Raw Heart.

“We are deeply honored to be supporting Neurosis in Europe this Summer. We’ve said it before and will say it again: collectively, they are our favorite band. We cannot wait for these shows, to play for people who are in attendance, and watch Neurosis every night. It can’t get better than that.”

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

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

YOB Tour Dates:
Jul 11 Rome, IT @ Ostia Antica Roman Amphitheater *
Jul 12 Milan, IT @ Carroponte *
Jul 13 Dour, BE @ Dour Festival *
Jul 14 Bern, CH @ Dachstock *
Jul 16 Barcelona, ES @ Sala Apolo *
Jul 17 Biarritz, FR @ Atabal *
Jul 18 Paris, FR @ Bataclan *
Jul 19 Birmingham, UK @ Supersonic Festival +
Jul 20 London, UK @ 02 Forum Kentish Town +
Jul 23 Vienna, AT @ Arena *
Jul 24 Budapest, HU @ Durer Kert *
Jul 25 Berlin, DE @ Festival Kreuzberg *
Jul 26 Warsaw, PL @ Progresja *
Jul 27 Gdansk, PL @ B90 *
* w/ Neurosis
+ w/ Neurosis & Godflesh

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

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

YOB, Our Raw Heart (2018)

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Primitive Man Announce Spring Touring in Japan, Australia and New Zealand

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 22nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

primitive man (photo Alvino Salcedo)

Primitive Man, who are about the most unfortunately appropriate soundtrack to our times one could ask, are doing a quickie run of West Coast shows this week — they already played Calgary this weekend — culminating in a gig at Brick by Brick in San Diego with Relapse labelmates -(16)-. That’ll be a good show, provided anyone’s able to walk out of it. The Colorado bringers-of-destruction will spread their chaotic end-days preach to Japan, Australia and New Zealand this Spring, and that run on the other side of the planet will follow a split due next month with Hell that of course follows their split with Unearthly Trance, follows their split with so on and so forth. You get the idea. Like the concrete post-apocalyptic firescape they convey in their consuming assault of noise, they are nothing if not productive.

The PR wire plots the storm’s path:

primitive man

PRIMITIVE MAN: Announce Spring 2019 World Tour Dates

Denver’s PRIMITIVE MAN announce Spring 2019 World headlining tour dates including trips to Japan, Australia & New Zealand. The tour begins in Japan from April 11-14 with Bell Witch & Coffins, continues in Australia from April 18-21 then ends in New Zealand from April 24-27 with Heresiarch. All confirmed tour dates are available below.

Additionally, PRIMITIVE MAN kick off four exclusive West Coast tour dates this Saturday, January 19 in Calgary, AB and ends January 25 in San Diego, CA with -(16)-.

PRIMITIVE MAN’s recent full-length Caustic is out now on CD/2xLP/CS/Digital via Relapse Records. Physical Packages are available via Relapse.com HERE and Digital Downloads / Streaming Services AT THIS LOCATION.

PRIMITIVE MAN Tour Dates:

Jan 23 Salt Lake City, UT @ Diabolical Records
Jan 24 Los Angeles, CA @ Catch One
Jan 25 San Diego, CA @ Brick by Brick (w/ -(16)- )

— All Dates Apr 11-14 w/ Bell Witch & Coffins —

Apr 11 Yokohama, JP @ El Puente
Apr 12 Tokyo, JP @ Bushbash
Apr 13 Tokyo, JP @ Nine Spices
Apr 14 Osaka, JP @ Hokage

— Primitive Man Australia Headline Tour Apr 18-21 —

Apr 18 Brisbane, AU @ Crowbar
Apr 19 Melbourne, AU @ Bendigo Hotel
Apr 20 Sydney, AU @ Crowbar
Apr 21 Hobart, AU @ Brisbane Hotel

— All Dates Apr 24-28 w/ Heresiarch —

Apr 24 Dunedin, NZ @ The Crown Hotel
Apr 25 Christchurch, NZ @ Darkroom
Apr 26 Wellington, NZ @ Valhalla
Apr 27 Auckland, NZ @ Thirsty Dog

PRIMITIVE MAN:
Ethan Lee McCarthy – guitars, vocals
Jonathan Campos – bass
Joe Linden – drums

http://www.primitivemandoom.com
http://www.facebook.com/primitivemandoom
http://www.relapse.com
http://www.relapserecords.bandcamp.com
http://www.facebook.com/RelapseRecords
http://www.twitter.com/RelapseRecords

Primitive Man & Hell, Split (2019)

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2018

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

the-top-30-of-2018

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks in advance for reading. Here we go:

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

30. The Skull, The Endless Road Turns Dark

The Skull The Endless Road Turns Dark

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Sept. 12.

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

29. Foghound, Awaken to Destroy

foghound awaken to destroy

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Nov. 21.

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

28. Orange Goblin, The Wolf Bites Back

orange goblin the wolf bites back

Released by Spinefarm Records. Reviewed June 13.

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

27. Fu Manchu, Clone of the Universe

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

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

26. Witch Mountain, Witch Mountain

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

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

25. Windhand, Eternal Return

windhand eternal return

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed Oct. 3.

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

24. Sun Voyager, Seismic Vibes

Sun Voyager Seismic Vibes

Released by King Pizza Records. Reviewed April 18.

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

23. Forming the Void, Rift

forming the void rift

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed July 27.

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

22. Spaceslug, Eye the Tide

spaceslug eye the tide

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

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

21. Conan, Existential Void Guardian

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

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

20. Pale Divine, Pale Divine

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

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

19. Mos Generator, Shadowlands

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

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

18a. Stoned Jesus, Pilgrims

STONED JESUS PILGRIMS

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 5.

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

18. Backwoods Payback, Future Slum

backwoods payback future slum

Self-released. Reviewed Aug. 15.

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

17. Corrosion of Conformity, No Cross No Crown

corrosion of conformity no cross no crown

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Jan. 3

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

16. Naxatras, III

naxatras iii

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 14.

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

15. Clutch, Book of Bad Decisions

clutch book of bad decisions

Released by Weathermaker Music. Reviewed Aug. 27.

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

14. Ancestors, Suspended in Reflections

Ancestors Suspended in Reflections

Released by Pelagic Records. Reviewed Aug. 3.

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

13. High on Fire, Electric Messiah

high on fire electric messiah

Released by eOne Heavy. Reviewed Sept. 28.

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

12. Yawning Man, The Revolt Against Tired Noises

yawning man the revolt against tired noises

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed July 2.

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

11. Greenleaf, Hear the Rivers

greenleaf hear the rivers

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Nov. 26.

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

10. Gozu, Equilibrium

gozu equilibrium

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

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

9. Monster Magnet, Mindfucker

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

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

8. Apostle of Solitude, From Gold to Ash

Apostle of Solitude From Gold to Ash

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

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

7. Holy Grove, Holy Grove II

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

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

6. All Them Witches, ATW

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

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

5. YOB, Our Raw Heart

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

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

4. Brant Bjork, Mankind Woman

brant bjork mankind woman

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Sept. 13.

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

3. Earthless, Black Heaven

earthless black heaven

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed March 15.

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

2. King Buffalo, Longing to Be the Mountain

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

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

1. Sleep, The Sciences

sleep the sciences

Released by Third Man Records. Reviewed May 1.

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

The Next 20

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

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

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

Honorable Mention

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

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

Special Note

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

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

Best Short Release of the Year

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

  • Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard & Slomatics, Totems Split

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

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

Looking Forward

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

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

Okay, That’s It

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

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

So thanks.

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

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

Everybody have a great and safe 2019.

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