The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2016

Posted in Features on December 20th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk top 30

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 2016 to that, please do.

I say this every year: These are my picks. If you’re unfamiliar with this site, or you don’t come here that often, or if you do and just normally don’t give a crap — all of which is cool — you should know it’s all run by one person. One human being. Me. My name is JJ, and this is a list of what I think are the best albums that were released in 2016.

Since before 2016 began, I’ve kept a running list of releases. My criteria for what gets included in this list is largely unchanged — it’s a balance between what I feel are important records on the level of what they achieve, what I listened to most, what held some other personal appeal, and what I think did the best job of meeting the goals it set for itself. Pretty vague, right? That’s the idea.

The nature of worldwide heavy has become so broad that to encompass it all under some universal standard is laughable. Judging psychedelia, garage rock, heavy psych, doom, sludge and so on by the same measure makes no sense, and as genres continue to splinter and remake themselves as we’ve seen them doing all year and over the last several years, one must be malleable in one’s own taste. We’ve seen a new generation of heavy rock bands emerge in the last three-plus years. It’s been amazing, and there are a few pivotal second and third records that came out in 2016 to affirm that movement underway. Look for it to continue into 2017 and beyond.

This year more than any other seemed to want to bring the different sides together. A laudable goal. Thick riffing marked with flourish of psychedelia. Spacious doom bred against folk impulses. There’s been experimentation around melds that have led to considerable triumphs, and it just doesn’t seem to me that rigid standards can apply. It’s why I don’t grade reviews and never did.

Sound is evolving now as it always has been and as it will keep doing, but like any year, 2016 had a full share of landmarks to offer as a part of that process. As universal development hopefully remains ongoing, it’s only right that we celebrate the accomplishments helping to push it along its winding and sometimes divergent-seeming paths.

I have no doubt you know what I mean. Let’s get to the list:

30. Talmud Beach, Chief

talmud beach chief

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed Feb. 10.

Seems only fair to start with a record I couldn’t put down. Finnish trio Talmud Beach‘s second album and Svart debut, Chief, hit on just the right blend of laid back, semi-acoustic groove-blues, psychedelia and classic progressive folk rock, but with the exception of its sprawling dreamscape title-track (a welcome arrival at the finale), it also kept the songwriting simple, resulting in a natural, pastoral feel that only highlighted their melodic range in songs like “Mountain Man” and “Snow Snow Snow.” I think it flew under a lot of people’s radar, but I’ve kept going back to it over the course of the year and I see no reason to stop.

29. Comet Control, Center of the Maze

comet control center of the maze

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed June 22.

Space is still the place. I’ve already highlighted closer “Artificial Light” from Comet Control‘s sophomore LP, Center of the Maze as my favorite song of 2016, so I’ll spare you the longwinded treatise on its languid cosmic glories — this time — but consider this a reminder that that song was by no means the limit of what the eight-track release had to offer in terms of breadth. From the opening push of “Dig out Your Head” to the dream-drift of “Sick in Space,” it unfolded tonal presence and a melodic depth that engaged a gorgeous, multifaceted sonic wash as it moved onward toward that landmark conclusion.

28. Droids Attack, Sci-Fi or Die

droids attack sci-fi or die

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 17.

There was not a level on which Madison, Wisconsin’s Droids Attack didn’t make it clear they were going all-out, all-in on Sci-Fi or Die. Even the title speaks to the stakes involved. And sure enough, the trio executed their fourth album with a sense of urgency and professionalism in songcraft, production, artwork (discussed here) and nuance of presentation that managed to make even a song called “Clawhammer Suicide” a classy affair. As guitarist/vocalist Brad Van said on the hidden title-track, “Death to false stoner thrash.” Droids Attack brought that ethic and more to life across the entire record.

27. Beelzefuzz, The Righteous Bloom

beelzefuzz the righteous bloom

Released by Restricted Release and The Church Within. Reviewed Aug. 2.

A winding road brought Beelzefuzz around to following up their 2013 self-titled debut (review here), and as The Righteous Bloom brought guitarist/vocalist Dana Ortt and drummer Darin McCloskey together with bassist Bert Hall and lead guitarist Greg Diener, it found their songwriting more expansive, more progressive and dug further into their own particular oddball sense of grandeur. I’ve said on multiple occasions that no one out there is doing what Beelzefuzz are doing and that continues to be true. Even as a first offering from a new lineup of the band, The Righteous Bloom took bold and exciting forward steps.

26. Foghound, The World Unseen

foghound the world unseen

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed July 6.

Down to business. Immediately. Not a moment to spare. Taking part in what can only be considered a landmark year for Ripple Music, Baltimore’s Foghound issued The World Unseen as an answer to their 2013 debut, Quick, Dirty and High (review here), and upped their game across the board. From the intensity in the hooks of “Message in the Sky” and Rockin’ and Rollin'” to the quiet interlude of “Bridge of Stonebows” and the mid-paced heavy rock nod of “Never Return,” they made a strong case for themselves among their label’s foremost acts and found individualism in the growth of their songwriting. It was a kick in the ass you weren’t going to forget.

25a. Egypt, Endless Flight

egypt endless flight

Released by Doomentia Records. Reviewed Dec. 11, 2015.

Put out by the band digitally in Dec. 2015 and issued on vinyl in 2016, Egypt‘s second LP, Endless Flight may be somewhat debatable in terms of when it actually landed (hence “25a.,” above), but the quality of the six-tracker more than warrants inclusion anyway. Rolling dense, massively-fuzzed groove, its nine-minute opening title-track set the course for the Fargo, North Dakota, three-piece, and they only grew the heavy revelry from there, as heard on the penultimate “Black Words,” which seemed to be chewing on rocks even as it played back and forth in tempo, build and push. The converted never had it so good.

25. 1000mods, Repeated Exposure To…

1000mods repeated exposure to

Released by Ouga Booga and the Mighty Oug Recordings. Reviewed Sept. 20.

There seems to be no stopping the Chiliomodi-based 1000mods, who with their third album have stepped to the forefront of Greece’s populous and vibrant heavy rock underground. Progressed well beyond where even 2014’s impressive Vultures (review here) found them, they seemed to hit a stride with Repeated Exposure To… thanks in part to road time and the ability to bring that energy directly into songs like the eight-minute roller “Loose” and the sizable crashes of “Groundhog Day.” Momentum working in their favor could be heard front-to-back from “Above 179” to “Into the Spell,” moving them toward something ever-more crucial and marking a considerable achievement along that path. 2017 might be a good time for them to test the waters with initial US shows.

24. Black Rainbows, Stellar Prophecy

black rainbows stellar prophecy

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed April 11.

Quick turnaround from Roman heavy psych magnate Gabriele Fiori (guitar/vocals) and company, but though it hit just about 13 months after their fourth full-length, Hawkdope (review here), Black Rainbows, Stellar Prophecy wholly succeeded in making an impact of its own, cuts like the oozing, organ-laced “Woman” and 11-minute jam-out triumph “Golden Widow” showcasing an approach in a continuous state of refinement that seems to get rawer as it goes, shifting like a rogue planetoid toward some maddening cosmic realization. How something can seem both so frenetic and so blissful is still a mystery, and perhaps that’s part of what makes Stellar Prophecy resonate as it does, but either way, Black Rainbows brought together some of the year’s most efficient psychedelic immersion.

23. Borracho, Atacama

borracho atacama

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed Nov. 14.

Borracho don’t seem to release an album until they have something to say. That was to their credit on Atacama, their third LP and label debut for Kozmik Artifactz debut. Also their second collection issued as a trio behind 2013’s Oculus (review here), it distinguished itself from its predecessor in its sense of overarching flow, shifting between the ahead-thrust of “Gold from Sand” into the 10-minute sample-laden jam “Overload” to start out with such ease that the listener had little choice but to follow along. With an expanded scope on “Drifted away from the Sun” and the lightly-strummed memento mori “Flower,” Borracho found new avenues of expression to complement their well established dense, heavy riffing, and took obvious care in crafting their most realized LP yet.

22. The Golden Grass, Coming Back Again

the golden grass coming back again

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed April 26.

Nothing Brooklyn’s The Golden Grass does feels like happenstance, and though their classic-styled boogie is imbued with a vibrant, friendly positive energy, there’s an underlying meticulousness in their arrangements and in their songwriting that came further into focus on Coming Back Again, their sophomore release 2014’s self-titled debut (review here). A more progressive take showed itself in “Reflections” and “Down the Line,” and taken in combination with the bookends “Get it Together” and “See it Through,” the three-piece stood on ground that was even more their own than on the first record, striking a careful balance between the willful exploration of new elements and the outright need for tracks to directly engage their listeners with catchy hooks and upbeat vibes. They did it. Expect continued growth.

21. Curse the Son, Isolator

curse the son isolator

Released by Snake Charmer Coalition and The Company Records. Reviewed March 1.

For something so awash in fuzz, so nodding in its rhythms, so let’s-push-the-vocals-back-under-this-huge-awesome-fucking-riff, Curse the Son‘s Isolator was also remarkably clearheaded in its purposes. With the added vocal harmonies of “Callous Unemotional Traits,” the far-off spaces of “Hull Crush Depth” and the stoner metal despair of “Aislamiento,” the Connecticut three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Ron Vanacore, capital-‘d’ Drummer Michael Petrucci and newcomer bassist Brendan Keefe drew a direct, intentional line to sometimes-grueling (hello, “Sleepwalker Wakes”) weighted tonality and found justification for their largesse in its own being. Like 2012’s Psychache (review here), I expect to be returning to Isolator over a longer term than this single year of release.

20. Neurosis, Fires Within Fires

neurosis fires within fires

Released by Neurot Recordings. Reviewed Sept. 21.

I feel like I need to explain myself here. Make no mistake, NeurosisFires Within Fires is among the year’s most accomplished offerings. There’s just about no way it wouldn’t be. So why not top 10? Top five? It’s a question of timing. With the long-running post-metal progenitors, it’s always a longer digestion period. It was about two years before 2012’s Honor Found in Decay (review here) really sunk in, and I expect Fires Within Fires will work similarly over the greater term. Maybe a little guilt on my part for the disparity between its quality and its placement, but rest assured, Neurosis remain among the most imperative bands walking the earth, and as they took on the full brunt of 30 years of unmitigated progression through Fires Within Fires, they were no less brazen in pushing themselves creatively than they’ve ever been.

19. Conan, Revengeance

conan revengeance

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Jan. 19.

Though the narrative of Conan has remained largely unchanged since their inception — hack, slash, kill, riff — and they still bask in nigh-on-unmatched tonal slaughter, their third full-length brings a few key developments. Perhaps most notable from opener “Throne of Fire” onward is the vocal interplay between guitarist/founder Jon Davis and bassist/longtime-engineer Chris Fielding, who joined after 2014’s Blood Eagle (review here). Adding Fielding‘s deeper growls allowed Davis to subtly move into a cleaner shout, and the emergent dynamic between them made Revengeance a decidedly expanded affair compared to Conan‘s past work. Adding drummer Rich Lewis to the mix was no minor shift either, and as much as Conan had already established their sheer dominance, they also sounded refreshed and set themselves up to keep growing.

18. Baby Woodrose, Freedom

baby woodrose freedom

Released by Bad Afro Records. Reviewed Aug. 18.

Some records just feel like gifts, and though many of its lyrical positions were cynical — “Reality,” “21st Century Slave,” “Mind Control Machine,” “Red the Sign Post,” etc. — Freedom marked the 15th anniversary of Danish garage-psych rockers Baby Woodrose with dripping lysergic aplomb, reminding some four years after their last LP, 2012’s Third Eye Surgery (review here), that bandleader Lorenzo Woodrose is unparalleled when it comes to manifesting his take on the psychedelic victories of 13th Floor Elevators and classic-era Hawkwind — firmly at home levitating on the edge of time. Its swirl and underlying foundation of songwriting, its Richie Havens cover title-track, and its sprawling interstellar “Termination” were like a welcome check-in from another dimension, and I only hope it’s not four years before Woodrose sends the next signal. Earth needs this band.

17. Geezer, Geezer

geezer geezer

Released by Ripple Music and STB Records. Reviewed Nov. 10.

I’m not going to discount the shuffle of “Sunday Speed Demon” or sleeze of “Sunday Speed Demon,” but where Geezer‘s self-titled third full-length really showed how far the New York heavy blues-psych trio have come was in its extended midsection jams, “Sun Gods,” “Bi-Polar Vortex” and “Dust,” each of which showed a distinct approach while feeding into an engaging flow between them, offering a blend of trailmarker hooks as they drifted into realms of organic chemistry previously uncharted by the band. The slow-motion swing of “Hangnail Crisis,” raucous push of “Superjam Maximus” and concluding bounce of “Stoney Pony” brought them back down to earth to finish out with a symmetry to the album’s opening, but Geezer kept a collective hand on the controls the whole voyage and when they landed, it was an arrival indeed, and very much what their two previous records were building toward.

16. EYE, Vision and the Ageless Light

eye vision and the ageless light

Released by The Laser’s Edge. Reviewed Nov. 17.

Beautifully experimental with its 27-minute finisher “As Sure as the Sun,” EYE‘s Vision and the Ageless Light seemed throughout its whole 46-minute run to be executing a cohesive vision in its synth-soaked progressive textures. Between the intro “Book of the Dead” and the subsequent “Kill the Slavemaster,” “Searching,” “Dweller of the Twilight Void” and the already-noted closer, each piece had something different to offer that added to the full impact of the whole, and with guitarist Jon Finely and bassist Michael Sliclen joining founding drummer/vocalist Brandon Smith and synth/Mellotron/Moog-ist Lisa Bella Donna (also vocals and acoustic guitar), EYE added to the scope of 2013’s Second Sight (review here) and found a place for themselves where prog complexity didn’t need to come at the expense of memorable songwriting and spaced-out vibes. An absolute joy, front to back.

15. Fatso Jetson, Idle Hands

fatso jetson idle hands

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Oct. 3.

Even Fatso Jetson themselves would probably have to admit that six years — even a six years that saw several splits, singles, etc. — was too long between albums. Fortunately, Idle Hands saw the desert rock forebears in top form as regards their quirk-fueled songwriting, angular approach to punk and inimitable groove. Following 2010’s Archaic Volumes (review here) was no easy task, but with additional depth to the material from the contributions of guitarist Dino von Lalli — son of founding guitarist/vocalist Mario Lalli and nephew of founding bassist Larry Lalli — guest spots from his sister Olive Lalli as well as Sean Wheeler (the latter moves second cut “Portuguese Dream” into high-echelon strangeness) and the ever-propulsive drumming of Tony Tornay, Fatso Jetson were both all over the place and right at the core of where they most ought to be sonically. At 56 minutes, it hardly seemed long enough.

14. Hexvessel, When We are Death

hexvessel when we are death

Released by Century Media. Reviewed Feb. 5.

Each song was like a different persona the band adopted momentarily, whether it was the Bowie-goes-proto-goth-prog of organ-ic opener “Transparent Eyeball” or the grim pastoralia of “Mirror Boy” and the condemnations/proclamations of “Drugged up on the Universe,” but wherever Hexvessel went on their third full-length and Century Media debut, When We are Death, that unifying theme went with them. Death. It was everywhere in the Finland-based genre-benders’ deeply varied approach, though its presence made their material in no way off-putting, and in the case of cuts like “Cosmic Truth” or the later “Mushroom Spirit Doors,” not even dark, and as it drew the tracks together despite working in different sounds and style, it became apparent that When We are Death worked because of a universal quality in songwriting and presentation allowing for such drastic shifts without any risk of losing the audience.

13. Zun, Burial Sunrise

zun burial sunrise

Released by Small Stone Records. Reviewed Feb. 16.

Yawning Man guitarist Gary Arce — a key figure in the development of desert rock and a player of unmatched tone, period — had quite a year, between Zun‘s Burial Sunrise, his main outfit and his collaboration with Fatso Jetson vs. HifiKlub, but it was the dreamscape drift of songs like “Come Through the Water” and “All that You Say I Am” as well as the subtle hooks of “Into the Wasteland” and “All for Nothing” that, for me, made this the highlight. Sure, bringing in vocalists Sera Timms (Ides of Gemini, Black Mare) and John Garcia (ex-Kyuss, Slo Burn, Vista Chino, etc.) and having them swap back and forth between the tracks didn’t hurt either, but the wash of ethereal presence in Arce‘s guitar was an excellent showcase for his patience and improvisational sensibilities, and the spaces Burial Sunrise covered seemed to have an infinite horizon all their own. Will hope for a follow-up, will hope Garcia and Timms return, and will hope for a duet.

12. Elephant Tree, Elephant Tree

elephant tree elephant tree

Released by Magnetic Eye Records. Reviewed Jan. 29.

One had reasonably high expectations for the debut full-length from London’s Elephant Tree after their 2014 EP Theia (review here) so deftly blended spacious, sitar-laced heavy psychedelic rock with more visceral sludge impulses — a difficult mix to pull off — but I think it would’ve been impossible to see the quality of this self-titled outing coming in any substantive way. Gone were the screams, in was a depth of tone and nigh-on-perfect tempo — see “Dawn” and “Aphotic Blues,” as well as the acoustic “Circles” between them — and where some first albums have a kind of tentative, feeling-it-out vibe, guitarist/vocalist Jack Townley (interview here), bassist/vocalist Peter Holland, drummer Sam Hart and sitarist/vocalist/engineer Riley MacIntyre took utter command of the proceedings. They won’t have the element of surprise working for them next time, but as Elephant Tree made perfectly clear in its biggest surprise of all, neither do they need it.

11. Mos Generator, Abyssinia

mos generator abyssinia

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed July 12.

If you were to ask me to summarize in one word the last four-plus years of Mos Generator‘s tenure, since their reactivation with 2012’s Nomads (review here) and the subsequent lineup changes and hard-touring that followed 2014’s Electric Mountain Majesty (review here), I’d say “go.” I might say it three times: Go-go-go. One of three LP-ish offerings out this year, the studio album Abyssinia embodied this ethic as it started with immediate momentum on “Strangest Times” and “You’ve Got a Right” and seemed to push itself into new ground as it went. Guitarist/vocalist/founder Tony Reed brought heavy boogie to bear at a frenetic clip, but Abyssinia offset its early mania with later progressive stylization on “There’s No Return from Nowhere,” “Time and Other Thieves” and harmonized closer “Outlander,” so that in addition to representing their furious creativity, it also brought them to places they’ve never been before in sound.

10. Slomatics, Future Echo Returns

slomatics future echo returns

Released by Black Bow Records. Reviewed June 29.

In some ways, Future Echo Returns was simply picking up where Belfast’s Slomatics left off with 2014’s Estron (review here), as heard on the riff of lead-in track “Estronomicon,” but as the third in a purported trilogy following that record and 2012’s A Hocht, it also brought the tonecrushing three-piece to Skyhammer Studio to work with producer Chris Fielding (Conan) and presented a linear storyline that, while rife with standout moments in cuts like “Electric Breath,” the ambient “Ritual Beginnings” and ultra-catchy “Supernothing,” found a genuine sense of resolution in the finale “Into the Eternal” that spoke to the scope the entire work was meant to represent — not just itself, but an entirety spanning three albums. Not a minor feat, but what also made Future Echo Returns so resonant was how well the material stood on its own, so that even without the narrative context, it was immersive, hypnotic and unbridled in its heft.

9. Wo Fat, Midnight Cometh

wo fat midnight cometh

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed April 21.

After two landmarks issued by Small Stone in 2014’s The Conjuring (review here) and 2012’s The Black Code (reviews here and here), Texas forerunners of riff Wo Fat gave a concise rundown of their appeal in the six-track Ripple debut and sixth LP overall, Midnight Cometh. Their ongoing development as found them bringing together a two-sided personality of memorable songs and open, fluid jams, and cuts like “There’s Something Sinister in the Wind,” “Of Smoke and Fog,” “Three Minutes to Midnight” and “Nightcomer” emphasized the next stage of this process, while the shuffling “Riffborn” and swaggering blues rock of “La Dilleme de Detenu” gave listeners a chance to touch ground every now and again. Over the last two-plus years, Wo Fat have become a point of influence for other, particularly American, acts — see labelmates Geezer — and Midnight Cometh assured that will be the case going forward too; a status well-earned.

8. King Buffalo, Orion

king buffalo orion

Released by Stickman Records. Reviewed July 29.

Offered up this summer as a limited self-release and picked up by no less than Stickman Records (Motorpsycho, Elder), Orion might be the most molten inclusion on this list. It’s also my pick for 2016 Debut of the Year, and to hear cuts like “She Sleeps on a Vine,” “Kerosene,” the sprawling closer “Drinking from the River Rising,” or even just to take the whole record front-to-back, which was clearly how the band intended it be experienced, there’s just about no competition in that regard that stands up. The Rochester, NY, three-piece showed marked promise on their 2013 demo (review here) and 2015 split with Lé Betre (review here), but the listenability of Orion — which earned every single one of its repeat visits — made it a triumph on a different level entirely, and distinguished King Buffalo as a formidable presence in the sphere of US heavy psychedelia, fostering a sound no less soulful for its outward cosmic reach and to-be-measured-in-lightyears scale of potential.

7. Wight, Love is Not Only What You Know

wight love is not only what you know

Released by Fat and Holy Records, Kozmik Artifactz, Import Export Music and SPV. Reviewed Sept. 7.

German outfit Wight answered significant anticipation on their third album, Love is Not Only What You Know, some four years after 2012’s Through the Woods into Deep Water (review here) and undertook a significant evolution in sound. A transition from a trio to a four-piece and adding a strong current of funk to their heavy psych groove and boogie resulted in cuts like “The Muse and the Mule,” the jammed-out “Kelele” and “The Love for Life Leads to Reincarnation,” which were as danceable as they were nod-ready, and when complemented by shorter classic rockers like “Helicopter Mama” and “I Wanna Know What You Feel” (still plenty funky) and the Eastern-tinged interlude “Three Quarters,” gave Love is Not Only What You Know scope to match its ass-shaking encouragement. It was a spirit unto itself among 2016 releases, but ultimately, the key to understanding the record was right there in the title: It was all about love, and wherever Wight went in a given track, they never lost sight of that.

6. Greenleaf, Rise Above the Meadow

greenleaf rise above the meadow

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Feb. 18.

A decade and a half after 2001’s Revolution Rock (discussed here), Sweden’s Greenleaf most embodied that ethic with Rise Above the Meadow, their sixth long-player and Napalm Records debut. 2014’s Trails and Passes (review here) represented the key step of founding guitarist Tommi Holappa (interview here) bringing vocalist Arvid Johnsson into the lineup, but Rise Above the Meadow built exponentially on what that album achieved, bolstered by work as a touring band and a revitalized songwriting process heard in “Howl,” “A Million Fireflies,” “You’re Gonna be My Ruin,” the stomping “Golden Throne” and “Tyrants Tongue,” among others. I refuse to discount the quality of Trails and Passes, 2012’s Nest of Vipers (review here) or 2007’s landmark Agents of Ahriman (review here), but as Greenleaf shifted toward a style more reminiscent of Holappa‘s later output with Dozer, they also seemed to stake their claim on the forefront of European heavy rock and roll, which was just waiting for them to do so.

5. Brant Bjork, Tao of the Devil

brant bjork tao of the devil

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 15.

Perhaps the most believable lyric of 2016 was the opening line of leadoff cut “The Gree Heen” from Brant Bjork‘s Tao of the Devil: “I got all that I need. I got the gree-heen.” From the prominent pot leaf on the cover to that single clause — which set the tone for that song’s mega-nod as much as everything that followed in the boogie of “Humble Pie” and “Stackt,” the so-laid-back-it’s-almost-unconscious title-track and the longer-form explorations of “Dave’s War” and the wah’ed-out “Evening Jam” — the inimitable Bjork seems to have embraced the role of stoner guru and the Godfather of Desert Rock. Tao of the Devil was his second release through Napalm behind 2014’s Black Power Flower (review here), which introduced the Low Desert Punk Band, and far from hanging its hat on the man’s historical accomplishments from his days in KyussFu ManchuCheVista Chino, etc., the 50-minute eight-tracker came fueled by the soul most typified in Bjork‘s solo catalog, which it’s increasingly easy to argue is his greatest contribution to the desert aesthetic. Definitely in his wheelhouse, but what a wheelhouse.

4. Asteroid, III

asteroid iii

Released by Fuzzorama Records. Reviewed Oct. 21.

What a relief it was to have Asteroid back, and what a relief it was to have III arrive some six years after II (review here) and find the Örebro, Sweden, trio’s certified-organic chemistry undulled by that long stretch. The songs — “Pale Moon,” “Last Days,” “Til Dawn,” “Wolf and Snake,” “Silver and Gold,” “Them Calling,” “Mr. Strange” — there wasn’t a miss in the bunch, and in addition to the reignited craftsmanship, III made clear a progression as players and the intent to move forward from guitarist/vocalist Robin Hirse, bassist/vocalist Johannes Nilsson and drummer Elvis Campbell (since replaced by Jimmi Kolscheen), so that the material didn’t just let listeners know Asteroid was a band again after having unceremoniously faded out for a half-decade, but gave a signal that perhaps they were just getting started. One can only hope that turns out to be the case, but either way, III felt like a reward dolled out to their fanbase after a long absent stretch, and one that, like II and their 2007 self-titled debut (discussed here) before it, will reverberate its echoes for years to come. Hands down 2016’s most welcome return.

3. Gozu, Revival

gozu revival

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed May 19.

Though it would carry the context of its scorching opener “Nature Boy” with it for the duration and, accordingly, hit with a more intense feel than its 2013 predecessor, The Fury of a Patient Man (review here), Gozu‘s fourth album overall and Ripple label debut was a kick in the ass on more than just that one level. It found the Boston foursome with the finally-solidified lineup of vocalist/guitarist Marc Gaffney, guitarist Doug Sherman, bassist Joe Grotto and drummer Mike Hubbard, and while one could argue they still wound up under the banner of a heavy rock band, that became happenstance to the songs themselves. That is, even more than The Fury of a Patient Man or 2010’s Locust Season (review here), Gozu came across as writing not to style, but to their own impulses, as demonstrated in “Big Casino,” the echoing soul of “Tin Chicken” and shuffle-thrust of “Oldie,” and as they moved beyond their initial swath of influence into this individualized sonic persona, they reaped the benefits of the locked-in lineup and a process of craft that never sounded so purposeful. Revival was indeed typified by its vitality, but it was also the sound of a band maturing as a unit, becoming who they were meant to be, and there is almost nothing more exciting than that for a single album to represent. Plus, it had a song called “By Mennen,” and, you know, references.

2. Mars Red Sky, Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul)

mars red sky apex iii praise for the burning soul

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed Feb. 24.

It was unreasonable to expect the third full-length from Bordeaux, France, trio Mars Red Sky to surpass 2014’s Stranded in Arcadia (review here) and the progressive crux that album brought to the warm tones and sweet melodicism of their 2011 self-titled debut (review here), but Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul) reinforced the elements that worked so well on previous outings while pushing inarguably onto what the band seemed to know was “Alien Ground” if the title of their intro was anything to go by. More over, it did so with a natural fluidity and poise that were as striking as they were encompassing in sound. Tying to earlier 2016’s Providence EP (review here) in concept and execution through that intro and the title-track following it, Apex III presented the to-date pinnacle of Mars Red Sky‘s growth in songs like “The Whinery,” “Mindreader,” the tear-inducing “Under the Hood,” the swing-happy “Friendly Fire,” the willful atmospheric crash of closer “Prodigal Sun” — each one a crucial advancing step from the trio of guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras, bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Mathieu “Matgaz” Gazeau — and brilliantly fed them one into the other, so that in addition to the standout impressions of each, there developed a personality to the whole span of the album; a world of Mars Red Sky‘s own creation, where they dwelt for what seemed too short a time before returning to earth and on from here to who knows where next.

1. SubRosa, For this We Fought the Battle of Ages

subrosa for this we fought the battle of ages

Released by Profound Lore. Reviewed Aug. 26.

Most of all, For this We Fought the Battle of Ages was fearless. For their fourth album, Salt Lake City’s SubRosa adapted themes from 1924’s We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, which laid out a futuristic dystopia wherein all identity is subsumed to the state and even love is outlawed when not properly sanctioned. This framework, obscure if influential, gave guitarist/vocalist Rebecca Vernon, violinist/vocalist Sarah Pendleton, violinist/backing vocalist Kim Pack, bassist/vocalist Levi Hanna, drummer/engineer Andy Patterson (formerly of Iota, among others), and a range of other contributors, a space in which to explore gender and LGBT issues across the six included tracks, and from the opening build and crush of the chorus to “Despair is a Siren” through the depiction of privilege in “Wound of the Warden,” the 97-second Italian-language ballad “Il Cappio” (translated: “the noose”) and into the gut-wrenching finale of “Troubled Cells,” their musical accomplishment was no less stunning than lyrics like, “Isn’t it good to be acquainted with darkness?/To caress it gently/To slit its throat,” from “Black Majesty.” Tense in its quiet stretches, harmonized vocally, given orchestral presence through its use of strings, flute, French horn, and so on, For this We Fought the Battle of Ages worked fluidly in what for most acts would be a contradictory modus of careful, meticulous arrangements and raw, emotional realism. No matter how deep it dove — and by the time identity was being erased and the state was taking control of the body on “Killing Rapture,” it was diving pretty deep — SubRosa never lost their sense of poise, so that the defiance in the last movement of “Troubled Cells” in which Heaven itself is rejected with the clearest of justifications, “Paradise is a lie if you’re not by my side,” the band seemed to stand as straight and tall as their multi-tiered righteousness would warrant. But even if one took For this We Fought the Battle of Ages with politics aside, its achievement in marrying post-metallic structures, gothic texture and progressive atmospherics was on a plane of its own making, operating under its own rules and in its own definitive space. Albums like it do not happen every year, and forward motion for genre as a whole is rarely so visible as it was in this special offering, which seems only fair to regard as a landmark for the band and anyone whose ears and hearts it touched.

The Next 20

Like any good Top 30, mine goes to 50. Here is the next batch:

31. Blaak Heat, Shifting Mirrors
32. Truckfighters, V
33. West, Space & Love, Vol. II
34. Seedy Jeezus with Isaiah Mitchell, Tranquonauts
35. Yawning Man, Historical Graffiti
36. Causa Sui, Return to Sky
37. Vokonis, Olde One Ascending
38. Hotel Wrecking City Traders, Phantomonium
39. The Wounded Kings, Visions in Bone
40. It’s Not Night: It’s Space, Our Birth is but a Sleep and a Forgetting
41. Beastwars, The Death of all Things
42. Naxatras, II
43. Holy Grove, Holy Grove
44. Worshipper, Shadow Hymns
45. Wretch, Wretch
46. Colour Haze, Live Vol. I: Europa Tournee 2015
47. Zaum, Eidolon
48. Bellringer, Jettison
49. Young Hunter, Young Hunter
50. Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Y Proffwyd Dwyll

From the kinetic desert artistry of Blaak Heat to Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard’s ethereal synth-laden doom, there are more than a few essentials here. I’ve never before done a year-end list that had so many releases on it, but my motivation in doing so this time around couldn’t have been simpler: They were simply too good and had too much to offer to leave out. It would’ve been an oversight to do so.

Honorable Mentions

Even a Top 50 fails to grasp the full scope of what 2016 brought about musically, so here are even more, alphabetically:

Ancient Warlocks, II
Black Moon Circle, Sea of Clouds
Sergio Ch., Aurora
Lamp of the Universe, Hidden Knowledge
Mondo Drag, The Occultation of Light
Øresund Space Collective, Visions Of…
-(16)-, Lifespan of a Moth
Spidergawd, III
The Well, Pagan Science
Wovenhand, Star Treatment

And if that’s still not enough, here are 60-plus more names who shouldn’t be left out of the discussion, also alphabetically:

Akris, Atala, Atomikylä, Backwoods Payback, Beastmaker, BigPig, Black Cobra, Black Lung, Blood Ceremony, Blues Pills, Bright Curse, Bus, Dee Calhoun, Captain Crimson, Child, La Chinga, Church of Misery, Conclave, Cough, Devil to Pay, Domkraft, Dot Legacy, Electric Citizen, Estoner, Eternal Elysium, Fatso Jetson & Gary Arce vs. Hifiklub, Fox 45, Goatess, Goblin Cock, Graves at Sea, Heavy Temple (they’ll be back on next year’s list), High Fighter, Holy Serpent, Hotel Wrecking City Traders, Inter Arma, Joy, Kaleidobolt, Khemmis, King Dead, Lord, Lord Vicar, Merchant, Mirrors for Psychic Warfare, Helen Money, Monkey3, Moon Coven, Mother Mooch, Necro, New Keepers of the Water Towers, T.G. Olson, Oranssi Pazuzu, Pooty Owldom, Russian Circles, Salem’s Pot, Samavayo, Seremonia, Skuggsjá, Sourvein, Spirit Adrift, Stone Machine Electric, Suma, Surya Kris Peters, Swans, Throttlerod, Virus, Wasted Theory, Wretch, and Zaum.

Thank You

In case none of the above has made it clear, I’ll just say flat out that 2016 has been an amazing year for music, and that every time I feel like maybe underground heavy has hit a wall and there’s nowhere left for it to go, sure enough about three minutes later another record shows up that slaps me in the face with a reminder of just how wrong that notion is.

If you’re still reading — how could you be? — thank you so much for your incredible support throughout 2016 and all the years The Obelisk has been in progress. I already know that 2017 is going to bring some incredible music as well, but that’s another list for another time, so I’ll just say again how much I appreciate your being a part of this ongoing project, how much it means to me to have you here. Thank you, thank you, and thank you.

And please, if there’s anything I forgot, got wrong, misspelled, or if you just think I used the word “breadth” too many times, please let me know about it in the comments.

One more time: Thank you.

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Beelzefuzz, The Righteous Bloom: Nebulous Parfait

Posted in Reviews on August 2nd, 2016 by JJ Koczan

beelzefuzz ii the righteous bloom-700

Three years after offering up their self-titled debut (review here), Maryland-area progressive doomers Beelzefuzz return with a second album. But what a three years it’s been. First, the former trio added guitarist Greg Diener (Pale Divine) as a fourth member, then they broke up, partially reformed under the name Righteous Bloom, and then finally decided to re-adopt the name Beelzefuzz as they headed into making the sophomore outing that would eventually become The Righteous Bloom, out this month on Restricted Release in the US and The Church Within in Europe. Founding members Dana Ortt (guitar/vocals; also Dark Music Theory) and Darin McCloskey (drums; also Pale Divine) are once again joined by Diener on lead guitar/backing vocals, and while it’s his first record with the band, these 11 tracks/47 minutes also mark the introduction of bassist Bert Hall, perhaps best known for his work in Revelation and Against Nature, but a perennial figure in Maryland doom, now also a member of Mangog.

Hall makes an impression early in opener “Nazzriff,” as does Diener, and helps the band build on the rather considerable accomplishments of the first offering while finding a tonality truer to their live presentation than their prior studio work had been and maintaining the subtle classic rock nuance and progressive doom that have become Beelzefuzz‘s hallmark, be it in “Nazzriff” — named after the band Nazareth — or the more shuffling “The Soulless,” which follows. After all the tumult the last few years have brought, The Righteous Bloom‘s level of cohesion is even more impressive, and their second LP establishes Beelzefuzz as one of the most immediately recognizable sounds in doom.

Greatly bolstering their distinction, as has been the case all along, is Ortt‘s guitar tone. Easily mistaken for flourish of organ, his guitar is as much of a sonic signature as Beelzefuzz have, and that’s plenty, but as a later cut like rolling album highlight “Nebulous” or the earlier “Rat Poison Parfait” showcase, his vocal presence has also become more confident and his range has increased from where it was in 2013. I won’t take away anything from Beelzefuzz‘s Beelzefuzz — I loved that record and still do — but The Righteous Bloom steps forward in bold-but-subtle ways and makes its progression felt in service to the songs.

beelzefuzz (Photo by Kathy Reeves)

Whether it’s a chorus-driven bouncer like “Hardluck Melody” — an older song if I’m right — or the yes-it’s-actually-a-waltz “Eternal Waltz,” or the atmospheric “Sanctum and Solace” that arrives after the title-track, the band’s execution of this material makes plain the fact that their priority is in the songs, and all four members of Beelzefuzz work toward the same goals throughout, be it the boogie-doom of centerpiece “Within Trance,” on which Hall particularly shines from under the guitar line, or the penultimate “Dying on the Vine.” I’ll admit to some skepticism when I heard Beelzefuzz added a second guitarist. Diener has long since proven he’s a fantastic player in Pale Divine, so that wasn’t really in question, but establishing a dual-guitar dynamic seemed like it might take away from what Ortt‘s tone did by standing alone. Rather, it adds to it, literally and figuratively. Diener brings tonal depth in a more natural way and his lead work throughout is stellar, perhaps nowhere more so than on the epilogue closer “Peace Mind” where he classes up Skynyrdisms to round out a quick three-minute track that sounds like it could’ve gone on for another 11.

As one would hope, the title-cut proves to be something special. Beelzefuzz hit the seven-minute mark once on the debut, and “The Righteous Bloom” comes close at 6:57, but moreover, it offers one of the record’s most memorable shuffles alongside quick rhythmic changes that play up both the bizarro ambience of the guitar and wizardly conjuring of Ortt‘s vocals, and highlights how far the band has come in the last couple years, pushing into unpretentious prog that’s as intricate as it is heavy, lush in its melody but still commanding in vibe. It emphasizes the balance that Beelzefuzz seem to perpetually strike so well. You’d call them laid back as quickly as you’d call them downtrodden, classic and forward-thinking in kind, yet not at all incongruous.

They were already a standout from the Maryland doom set, which very often prides itself on riffy originalism, but The Righteous Bloom brings their stylistic achievement to a new level entirely, and it does so without sacrificing the songwriting that, like McCloskey‘s drumming, has been the reliable foundation on which the band is built. In the speedier chug of “The Soulless,” or the nod of “Within Trance,” or the creeper insistence of “Dying on the Vine,” and in each of the inclusions here, Beelzefuzz always seem to be showing a look just slightly different, but The Righteous Bloom ties together via tone, groove and overall high quality of performance and satisfies so as to completely justify the anticipation leading to its release. We’d be lucky if it was taken up as an influence by other acts, and going forward, it seems only fair to consider Beelzefuzz among the most essential outfits going in East Coast doom. There’s no one else quite like them.

Beelzefuzz, “Nazzriff” official video

Beelzefuzz on Thee Facebooks

The Righteous Bloom preorder at Restricted Release

The Righteous Bloom preorder at Abstract Distribution

The Church Within Records

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Beelzefuzz Premiere Video for “Nazzriff”; New Album out Aug. 19

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 7th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

beelzefuzz (Photo by Kathy Reeves)

Progressive doomers Beelzefuzz first premiered the leadoff track from Beelzefuzz II: The Righteous Bloom here back in March, in part I think to prove the album existed after everything they’d been through making it. Set to come out Aug. 19 via Restricted Release with a European issue to follow via The Church Within, the follow-up to the band’s 2013 self-titled debut (review here) brings half a new lineup with guitarist Greg Diener (Pale Divine) and bassist Bert Hall (Revelation) joining founders Dana Ortt (vocals/guitar) and Darin McCloskey (drums; also Pale Divine) in the studio for the first time.

In raw talent and doom cred both, those are no minor additions, but the core of Beelzefuzz remains the blend of melancholic melody, classic-style laid back groove and off-kilter quirk driven in large part by Ortt‘s organ-esque guitar tone — something that has to be witnessed live to be fully appreciated; one expects they’ll come out of playing Psycho Las Vegas in August with many new friends — and obscure lyrics. “Nazzriff,” its title a play on the band Nazareth, showcases just about all of that, and while the album expands greatly in terms of style, Diener‘s second guitar and storied lead work bringing a new dynamic to the former-trio, Beelzefuzz‘s work remains entirely their own and the band stands among the most individualized acts in US doom. There’s nothing else out there quite like them. Yet.

Beelzefuzz II: The Righteous Bloom, once again, is out Aug. 19, 2016, on Restricted Release, which as fate would have it is one week before the band plays the aforementioned Psycho Las Vegas. You’ll find the video for “Nazzriff” below, made by CineMavericks Media, followed by more info on the record courtesy of the PR wire.

Please enjoy:

Beelzefuzz, “Nazzriff” official video

Restricted Release is proud to present the second full-length album from BEELZEFUZZ. The album is set for North American release August 19.

Formed in 2009, BEELZEFUZZ’s heavy rock found an immediate regional following. Shortly after the release of a 4-song demo in 2010, the band signed with Germany’s The Church Within and released their full length in 2013. BEELZEFUZZ features members of Pale Divine, Falcon, and Revelation.

The Righteous Bloom is the band’s first album to be distributed nationally via Restricted Release/Abstract Distribution. Produced by the band with Richard Whittaker (Skullflower), it features original artwork by illustrator David Paul Seymour (Red Fang, Graveyard).

BEELZEFUZZ is vocalist/guitarist Dana Ortt, drummer Darin McCloskey, guitarist/vocalist Greg Diener, and bassist Bert Hall.

European release of The Righteous Bloom will be via The Church Within.

Beelzefuzz on Thee Facebooks

Beelzefuzz website

Preorder at Restricted Release

The Church Within Records

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Black Cowgirl Release New Demo Track “The Traveler”

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 16th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

From the description Black Cowgirl sent down the PR wire, it sounds like a nightmare scenario that led them to release “The Traveler” as a pay-what-you-want download. The song was originally put to tape as the first cut for their Restricted Release debut. They went in the studio, put “The Traveler” down, took it home unfinished and then never heard from the engineer again. After putting the time in to write the songs, rehearse them, get everything where you wanted it to be, find someone to record, get to the studio, set up, get drum sounds, bass sounds, guitar sounds, vocal sounds, and then actually begin the process only to have it cut off like that — it sounds awful. What a waste.

It’s twice the bummer because the song sounds awesome. Their two-EPs-into-one-full-length self-titled was a cool listen, but already in “The Traveler” it’s clear the Lancaster, PA, four-piece were looking to take their tonal warmth to new heights and build on the steady heavy rock bounce they honed their first time out. I believe they had started working on the album in January, so hopefully they found someplace else to record, because “The Traveler” definitely warrants accompaniment.

For now though, it’s what we’ve got:

New free BLACK COWGIRL song!

Black Cowgirl entered a studio for one day in the dead of winter with the intent to begin recording their follow up their 2013 self titled release on Restricted Release Records. One song was recorded. The band went home that night with a unmixed, unfinished copy of a song called “The Traveler”. The plan was to go back and complete “The Traveler” and then record the rest of the album. Unfortunately the studio engineer mysteriously disappeared. Therefore the song cannot be finished and to celebrate the circumstances Black Cowgirl has made the demo for “The Traveler” available for free on band camp.

Black Cowgirl, “The Traveler” (2014)

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Black Cowgirl Self-Titled Coming Soon from Restricted Release

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 20th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

Previously issued by Bilocation Records in Europe on vinyl and limited CD, the Black Cowgirl self-titled double EP compilation will see domestic US shelves May 14 thanks to Restricted Release. The band, who’ve spent the last couple years tightening their approach alongside some hefty touring acts while clocking a bit of their own road time, have recorded a new cover of Rory Gallagher‘s “I’m Not Awake Yet” to accompany the new version.

The PR wire sees it like this:


Lancaster County, Pennsylvania’s BLACK COWGIRL will see the North American release of their self-titled double ep released via Restricted Release on May 14. The 11-song recording was produced by the band with mixing and recording by Rich Gavalis. The national release of Black Cowgirl has been expanded to include lyrics previously unavailable on the version of the album sold at live performances and the band’s official webstore. It showcases the unique illustration work of Adrian Brouch.

BLACK COWGIRL recently performed at West Chester’s The Note alongside England’s Viking Skull. It was the UK rocker’s final show. BLACK COWGIRL vocalist/guitarist Ben McGuire shares, “the Viking Skull guys have always been great to us. It is a shame it was their last show. We played our first show with them a couple years ago and were honored to play their last, though I won’t be surprised if they come back from the grave down the road.”

Black Cowgirl will also include a recently recorded cover of “I’m Not Awake Yet” by Rory Gallagher. One of the late Irish singer/guitarist’s most popular songs, it is a tough one for any band to tackle. “I’m Not Awake Yet” is one of our favorite Rory Gallagher songs,” notes McGuire. “We talked about recording it for a while because we felt like it fit in with our other songs pretty well. We are all big fans of his mellow songs that are often overshadowed by his blues rock songs. There is just something about the sad, desperate, lonely feeling he captures in some of his low key songs that strikes a chord with what we are trying to do.”

Originally conceived as a one-man instrumental project by McGuire, BLACK COWGIRL’s current incarnation took shape in 2008. Guitarist Nathan Rosenzweig, bassist Chris Casse, and drummer Mark Hanna with McGuire initially united their talents to record six songs. Recorded quickly, three days in fact, the band immediately set out on tour supporting local heros CKY. Drummer Jess Margera was immediately impressed by the band. “BLACK COWGIRL kicks ass,” he says. “The band combines all the best elements of classic rock, groove rock, and even some prog at times.” Since that maiden tour, BLACK COWGIRL has shared the stage with Graveyard, The Company Band, Radio Moscow, Karma to Burn, Black Tusk, Monstro, and many others.

Complete track listing for Black Cowgirl is:
1. Talk of Wolves
2. Roadmaster
3. The Ride
4. Alkaline
5. Dead House
6. Eclipsor
7. Weight of Oblivion
8. Three Seasons
9. Solarizer
10. Becoming Nothing
11.Unio Mystica
12. I’m Not Awake Yet

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Whose Rock is Fireball Ministry?

Posted in Reviews on April 26th, 2010 by JJ Koczan

There’s no denying that Hollywood rockers Fireball Ministry have, with their new self-titled on Restricted Release, crafted their most commercial album yet. They were never especially defiant in this regard before, but Fireball Ministry takes the band’s proven songwriting ability (a quick run through 1999’s Ou est la Rock? or 2003’s The Second Great Awakening should be enough to make you aware of their obvious chops in this regard) to new heights of accessibility, carrying across the otherwise unpretentious rocking material with a digital sheen only possible in this age of recording technology.

The centerpiece of Fireball Ministry’s attack has always been guitarist/vocalist James A. Rota. Working here with producer Andrew Alekel (Fu Manchu, The Company Band’s full-length), Rota sounds smoother than ever before on a track like “Fallen Believers,” which plunks along at mid-pace without ever really getting spirited or dynamic, or “Thought it Out,” which seems to reach in the direction of Fu Manchu-styled Californian fuzz but ultimately stops just short of pop-punk fluffery. The drums of John G. Oreshnick sound triggered, Johnny Chow’s bass is barely there, and Emily J. Burton, who provides backing vocals and guitar, seems to be resting almost entirely in line behind Rota’s riffing where some contrast between the two players would do a lot to add character to the material.

There is material on Fireball Ministry that hits with some impact, though. “Followed by a Fall” remains relatively un-neutered by the production it’s given, and “Butcher, Faker, Policy Maker” is such catchy and well-composed pop rock that it could have been recorded in a tin can and it would still be memorable. It’s not so much a question of the songs feeling uninspired or not accomplishing something creatively – and there shouldn’t be any doubt this is the record the band intended to make; Rota’s been heading Fireball Ministry for well over a decade now, and Restricted Release is owned by CKY’s Jess Margera (also Rota’s bandmate in supergroup The Company Band), so one doesn’t imagine there were tight deadlines or restrictions from that direction – but they’re simply lacking the punch that a more rock-centric production could have given them. Certainly they have nowhere near the weight they must carry in a live setting.

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The Company Band Interview with James A. Rota: Making a Killer Wager

Posted in Features on October 29th, 2009 by JJ Koczan

Beers at the ready, gentlemen!The Company Band, the debut full-length from the supergroup of the same name, is an album of strong personalities. Whether it’s the prominent vocals of Clutch‘s Neil Fallon, the bass of Fu Manchu‘s Brad Davis, the guitars of Dave Bone and Fireball Ministry‘s James A. Rota or the drums of CKY‘s Jess Margera, there is little in the output that can’t be tracked back to one source or another within the band itself. “That sounds like Fireball,” or “Man, that’s a Clutch part,” etc.

The success of the album and the band as a whole, then, hinges on being able to combine these personalities into something wholly new. I’ve already reviewed the album, so I’ll spare the evaluations, but suffice it to say that The Company Band is an entity unique among its components.

In the phone interview Rota was kind enough to grant The Obelisk from his Los Angeles home, the guitarist discusses the makings of The Company Band and the album of the same name, touching on the future of Fireball Ministry and the current climate in general for musicians and artists looking to be heard. Thanks to Rota for his candor and to you for reading.

Interview is after the jump. Please enjoy.

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The Company Band: Sound Investments

Posted in Reviews on October 2nd, 2009 by JJ Koczan

Shitloads of cash...After issuing their IPO in the form of the recently-vinylized Sign Here, Here and Here EP (on CD through the band?s own Venture Capital Records in 2008), the five-piece supergroup The Company Band return with a change in lineup and general approach on their self-titled debut full-length. The Company Band, produced by Andrew Alekel (Foo Fighters) with additional tracking by J. Robbins (Clutch), is 10 tracks of straightforward pop songwriting that is tight and given an edge because of the players involved. And before this review goes any further, it?s probably best to list them:

Neil Fallon (Clutch): Vocals
James A. Rota
(Fireball Ministry): Guitar
Dave Bone
(The Company Band): Guitar
Brad Davis
(Fu Manchu): Bass
Jess Margera
(CKY): Drums

Davis is new to the band as a replacement for Jason Diamond of New York?s Puny Human, and he makes his presence felt throughout as a suitable accompaniment to Margera?s drumming ? though quite frankly neither of them is down for much fancytalk musically. The Company Band depart from the impression they gave on the four tracks of their prior EP by keeping the stoner level low, pushing the riff all the same but angling the style of the writing toward classic and southern rock with some meaty grooves thrown in the verses and choruses.

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