The Obelisk Presents: The Top 30 of 2014

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

the-obelisk-top-30-of-2014

Please note: These are not the results of the Readers Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t added your list yet, please do.

This was a hard list to put together. The top three have been set in my mind for probably the last month, but trying to work my way backwards from there was a real challenge — what’s a top 10 record, a top 20 record, a top 30, honorable mentions and all the rest. I’ve never done a full top 30 before, always 20, but the truth is there was just too much this year to not expand.

I’m still juggling numbers even as I put together this post, and I’m sure that by the time I’m done several records will have switched places. That’s always how it seems to go. What I’m confident that I have is a list accurately representing critique and my own habits, both what I gravitated toward in listening throughout the year and what I feel is noteworthy on a critical level. This site has always been a blend of those two impulses. It’s only fair this list should be as well.

Before we dig in, you should note this is full-length albums only. I’ll have a list of short releases (EPs, singles, demos) to come, as well as a special list of debut releases, since it seemed to be a particularly good year for them. And since I’m only one person, I couldn’t hear everything, much as I tried.

Okay. Here we go:

30. Orange Goblin, Back from the Abyss

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Released by Candlelight Records. Reviewed on Nov. 17.

The kings of London’s heavy scene offered more powerhouse heavy rock with their eighth album and second for Candlelight, and their rabid and ever-growing fanbase ate it up. Back from the Abyss proved yet again that few can attain the kind of vicious force that seems to come so natural to Orange Goblin, and made it clear their domination shows no signs of losing momentum.

 

29. Mos Generator, Electric Mountain Majesty

mos-generator-electric-mountain-majesty

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed on March 14.

A darker affair from Port Orchard, Washington’s Mos GeneratorElectric Mountain Majesty still found its core in the songwriting led by guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed. They’re a band with some changes on the horizon, and I’ll be interested to hear what hindsight does to these songs. As it was, the hooks and downer vibes may have been in conceptual conflict, but the execution was inarguable.

 

28. Pilgrim, II: Void Worship

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Released by Metal Blade Records. Reviewed on April 15.

Richer in the listening than 2012’s Misery Wizard debut, Pilgrim‘s II: Void Worship nonetheless held firm to the doomly spirit that’s made the Rhode Island outfit such a sensation these last couple years. Its longer songs, “Master’s Chamber,” “Void Worship” and the emotionally weighted “Away from Here,” were particularly immersive, and they remain a bright spot in doom’s future.

 

27. John Garcia, John Garcia

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Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed on July 7.

His long-awaited solo debut, John Garcia‘s John Garcia offered memorable tracks culled from years of songwriting from the former Kyuss, Slo Burn, Unida and Hermano frontman, performed in the classic desert rock style he helped define. I’m not sure it was worth trading a second Vista Chino record for, but it was hard to argue with “The Blvd” and “All These Walls.”

 

26. Swans, To be Kind

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

An overwhelming two-disc barrage from a relentless creativity that, more than 30 years on from its first public incarnation, is still to be considered avant garde. I’m not sure planet earth realizes how lucky it is to have Swans running around unleashing all this chaos, but I hope they don’t stop anytime soon. To be Kind was brutal and beautiful in like measure.

 

25. Sólstafir, Ótta

solstafir-otta

Released by Season of Mist. Discussed Oct. 11.

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

 

24. Greenleaf, Trails and Passes

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Released by Small Stone Records. Reviewed on April 25.

The follow-up to Greenleaf‘s stellar 2012 outing Nest of Vipers (review here) brought lineup changes and stripped away many of the textural elements of the band’s sound — guest appearances, arrangement flourishes — in order to get back to a classic heavy rock sound and translate better to the stage. With guitarist Tommi Holappa‘s songwriting ever at the core, it would be unfair to call the process anything but a success.

 

23. Earth, Primitive and Deadly

earth-primitive-and-deadly

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

Most of the headlines went to the fact that Primitive and Deadly had vocals, where the generally-instrumental Earth had avoided singers for 18 years prior, but even putting aside Mark Lanegan and Rabi Shabeen Qazi, whose performance on “From the Zodiacal Light” was the high point of the record, presented Earth‘s always progressive tensions in a rawer, heavier production, and was a joy for longtime fans.

 

22. Ogre, The Last Neanderthal

ogre-the-last-neanderthal

Released by Minotauro Records. Reviewed on March 10.

Six years and one breakup later, Portland, Maine, doom trio Ogre returned with The Last Neanderthal, neither afraid to revel in Sabbathian traditionalism or rock out a more upbeat cut like opener “Nine Princes in Amber.” For bassist/vocalist Ed Cunningham, guitarist Ross Markonish and drummer Will Broadbent, it was a welcome resurgence of pretense-free heavy riffs and grooves.

 

21. The Wounded Kings, Consolamentum

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Released by Candlelight Records. Reviewed on Jan. 30.

Of course, at the time we didn’t know it would be the final outing from this lineup of UK doomers The Wounded Kings, whose guitarist/founder Steve Mills has now reunited with original vocalist George Birch, but Consolamentum was a hell of a closing statement anyway for this era of the band, showcasing their murky, increasingly progressive style still waiting for wider appreciation.

 

20. Floor, Oblation

floor-oblation

Released by Season of Mist. Reviewed on April 22.

Wasn’t sure where to put Floor‘s reunion offering, Oblation, on this list at first, since I kind of fell off listening to it as the year went on, but I’ve gone back to it over the last couple weeks and it has held up to the revisit, whether it’s songs like the extended “Sign of Aeth” or shorter, catchy pummelers like “Rocinante” or “War Party.” Floor‘s 2002 self-titled holds an untouchable legacy in heavy rock, but I think the years will prove Oblation a worthy successor. Nobody knew what they had with Floor at the time either.

 

19. Druglord, Enter Venus

druglord-enter-venus

Released by STB Records. Reviewed on Feb. 14.

Little on 2011’s Motherfucker Rising (review here) or their 2010 demo (review here) prepared for the kind of assault that Druglord‘s Enter Venus brought to bear. Four stomp-laden slabs of tectonic crash and distortion, vocals buried under and calling up from the amp-bred fog. The Virginian trio were in and out on the 27-minute 12″ release, but had enough heavy for a record twice as long, and the tinges of darkened psychedelia made their songs like a lurking presence just on the edge of consciousness, a threat waiting to be unleashed.

 

18. Ararat, Cabalgata Hacia la Luz

ararat-cabalgata-hacia-la-luz

Released by Oui Oui Records. Reviewed on April 4.

For the sheer variety of Ararat‘s third album in rockers like “Nicotina y Destrucción,” “El Hijo de Ignacio,” the experimentalism of “El Arca” and the piano-driven “Los Viajes” and the acoustic closer “Atalayah,” and the assured, flowing manner in which the Argentina trio pulled it all off, Cabalgata Hacia la Luz should be higher on this list than it is. Part of that might be my frustration at my apparent inability to buy a copy, but don’t let that take away from the quality of the material here, which is wonderfully chaotic, memorable and engaging, rushing in some places and stopping to weep in others.

 

17. Radio Moscow, Magical Dirt

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Released by Alive Naturalsound. Reviewed on May 29.

You won’t hear me deny that Radio Moscow‘s primary impact is as a live band, but their fifth album, Magical Dirt, managed to bring forth much of their psychedelic blues presence in “Death of a Queen,” “Before it Burns” and “Gypsy Fast Woman,” the blinding rhythmic turns and wah-soaked guitar supremacy of Parker Griggs front and center throughout. Together with bassist Anthony Meier (also Sacri Monti) and drummer Paul Marrone (also Astra and Psicomagia), Radio Moscow are hitting their stride as one of heavy rock’s most powerful power trios. One never knows what to expect, but hopefully they keep going the way they are.

 

16. Apostle of Solitude, Of Woe and Wounds

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

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

Four years isn’t the longest time I’ve ever waited for a record to come out, but in the case of Indianapolis’ Apostle of Solitude, it felt like an especially long stretch. Their third full-length and first for Cruz del Sur, Of Woe and Wounds followed the anticipation-building Demo 2012 (review here) and a couple splits and brought aboard bassist Dan Dividson and guitarist/vocalist Steve Janiak (also Devil to Pay), who fit well with drummer Corey Webb and guitarist/vocalist Chuck Brown to result in a payoff worthy and indicative of the time that went into its making. Hands down one of the finest acts in American doom.

 

15. Stubb, Cry of the Ocean

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Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed on Nov. 24.

Stubb‘s second long-player, also their debut on Ripple, gets a nod for the sense of progression it brought in answering the potential of the trio’s 2012 self-titled debut (review here), guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson, bassist Peter Holland and new drummer Tom Fyfe expanding the scope to include more heavy psych influence and soul along with the fuzz riffs and steady rolling while giving no ground in terms of the level of craft at work. Cry of the Ocean has become one of those albums where all I have to do is look at a title, be it “Cry of the Ocean Pt. I” or “Sail Forever” or “Heartbreaker,” and the song is immediately stuck in my head. With these tracks, that’s not at all a complaint.

 

14. Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, Black Power Flower

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

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed on Nov. 10.

Brant Bjork has worn many hats, literal and figurative, over the years, whether it’s drummer in Kyuss or Fu Manchu, producer, solo artist or bandleader. With Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, he steps once again into the latter role, and with guitarist Bubba DuPree, bassist Dave Dinsmore and drummer Tony Tornay, presents not only on his heaviest record to date, but what could easily begin a sustainable full-band progression that can go just about anywhere his songwriting wants to take it. “Stokely up Now,” “That’s a Fact Jack,” “Controllers Denied” and “Boogie Woogie on Your Brain” made for some of 2014’s best in desert rock, and Black Power Flower was an stellar return for Bjork to his “solo” work.

 

13. Dwellers, Pagan Fruit

dwellers-pagan-fruit

Released by Small Stone. Reviewed on May 22.

An earlier version of this list had Pagan Fruit at a lower number, but I couldn’t live with it not being closer to the top 10. Salt Lake City’s Dwellers pushed deeper into laid back psych and blues on their second album, and in doing so, crafted an atmosphere entirely their own. From “Creature Comfort” down to “Call of the Hollowed Horn,” with triumphs along the way like “Rare Eagle,” “Totem Crawler” (“Ohh, my queen… To whom, I crawl…) and “Son of Raven,” Pagan Fruit became a staple of my 2014, building off their 2012 debut, Good Morning Harakiri (review here), but presenting their stylistic growth with a confidence and poise that can only come from a band who’ve figured out what they want to be doing and how they want to do it. Front to back, Pagan Fruit sounds like an arrival.

 

12. The Golden Grass, The Golden Grass

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Released by Svart Records. Reviewed on March 25.

What made Brooklyn trio The Golden Grass‘ self-titled debut such a special released wasn’t just that it was heavy, or that the tracks were catchy, or that guitarist Michael Rafalowich and drummer Adam Kriney could harmonize over Joe Noval‘s warm-toned basslines. That was all great, don’t get me wrong, but what really stood out about The Golden Grass was its irony-free positivity, the way it was able to capture an upbeat, sunshiny feel without having to smirk about it on the other side of its mouth. It was self-aware, to be sure — knew what it was doing — but the way I see it, consciousness only makes the stylistic choices more impressive. Add to that the nuance they brought to ’70s revivalism, and all that stuff about catchiness and the harmonies, and there just wasn’t a level on which the album didn’t work.

 

11. The Well, Samsara

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Released by RidingEasy Records. Reviewed on Sept. 22.

My appreciation continues to grow for The Well‘s Samsara, which successfully pulled together influences from garage doom and heavy psychedelia while crafting an identity for the Austin, Texas, three-piece at once raw and melodically accomplished, guitarist Ian Graham and bassist Lisa Alley sharing vocals to classic effect on “Refuge” while otherwise trading off lead position to bolster variety in the material. The high point might’ve been the eight-minute “Eternal Well,” on which GrahamAlley and drummer Jason Sullivvan conjured some of their grooviest demons, but the hooks of “Mortal Bones,” “Trespass” and the attitude-laced “Dragon Snort” were no less engaging. One of many strong releases from their label this year — Slow SeasonThe Picturebooks, etc. — they seemed to come ready to serve notice of a stylistic movement underway.

 

10. Montibus Communitas, The Pilgrim to the Absolute

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

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

Peruvian psych adventurers Montibus Communitas more or less blew my mind when I heard their late-2013 offering, Harvest Times earlier this year, and the narrative, conceptual 2014 release, The Pilgrim to the Absolute, is even more of an achievement in its portrayal of improvised exploration, sonic ritualism and open creativity. The weaving of longer pieces against shorter ones with the various steps along the path as presented in the titles, some journeying, some arriving, some descriptive, almost all accompanied by nature in one form or another, gives The Pilgrim to the Absolute an almost impressionistic quality, so that even as you listen to it, you engage it as much as it carries you along its vibrant, breathtaking progression en route to the closing title-track, which is a destination every bit worthy of the journey. This is the most recently reviewed inclusion on this list, but Montibus Communitas‘ latest readily earns its place in the top 10. It is unique in its surroundings.

 

9. Fu Manchu, Gigantoid

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

Looking back at the last two Fu Manchu records, 2007’s We Must Obey and 2009’s Signs of Infinite Power, it seemed reasonable to expect the groundbreaking SoCal fuzz foursome to put out another collection of big-sounding riffs in a big-sounding production. Nothing to complain about, but probably not a landmark. By going the other way completely — stripping their buzzed-out riffing down to its punkish core thanks in no small part to recording with Moab‘s Andrew GiacumakisFu Manchu served up a raw reminder both of where they came from and how top notch their songwriting remains. Reissuing their earliest work and being on their own label might’ve had something to do with it, but whatever it was, the 35 minutes of Gigantoid was as efficient a heavy rock outing as one could hope from an already legendary band, whether it was the hook-prone opening salvo of “Dimension Shifter,” “Invaders on My Back,” “Anxiety Reducer” and “Radio Source Sagittarius” or the righteous ending jam “The Last Question.”

 

8. The Skull, For Those Which are Asleep

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

Given the origins of The Skull — ex-Trouble members Eric Wagner, Jeff “Oly” Olson and Ron Holzner joining with Lothar Keller and a series of other guitarists, finally Matt Goldsborough, working essentially as a tribute band to their former outfit — I think not only did the quality of the material and performance on For Those Which are Asleep surprise, as well as the classically doomed feel that resonates throughout the album, but the sheer heartfelt nature of songs like “Sick of it All,” “Send Judas Down” and the title-track itself. This wasn’t a cynical attempt to make a go of an already set legacy. It was an expression of appreciation both for what they accomplished as Trouble and a desire to continue that work. The Skull‘s whole thing has been that they’re “more Trouble than Trouble,” and in their lineup that’s been true since they brought Olson on board. For Those Which are Asleep demonstrated that the classic spirit of that band is alive and well, its address has just changed. Moreover, it’s the beginning of a new progression for that spirit, and I hope it continues.

 

7. Blood Farmers, Headless Eyes

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

Nineteen years after releasing their self-titled debut, New York’s Blood Farmers contended for 2014’s comeback of the year with their sophomore outing, Headless Eyes — a morose, horror-obsessed six-track collection that on “Night of the Sorcerers” owed as much to Goblin as to Sabbath. The closing cover of David Hess‘ theme from The Last House on the Left, “The Road Leads to Nowhere,” was a late bit of melodic flourish to add depth, but how could the highlight be anything other than the 10-minute title-track itself, with its samples from the 1971 horror flick The Headless Eyes, bassist Eli Brown in a call and response with lyrics comprised of lines directly taken from the movie? That after playing shows the last several years, Blood Farmers managed to get a record out was impressive enough. That Headless Eyes turned out to be the year’s best traditional doom release was an entirely different level of surprise. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for their third, but Brown, guitarist David Szulkin and drummer Tad Leger gave plenty to chew on with Blood Farmers‘ second. It was better than would’ve been fair to expect.

 

6. Lo-Pan, Colossus

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Released by Small Stone. Reviewed on Oct. 7.

A lot of what you need to know about Lo-Pan‘s fourth album you learn in the first five seconds of opener “Regulus.” There’s no fancy intro, no time wasted, nothing to take away from the directness of the song itself. Tones are crisp — the verse is already underway — and guitar, bass and drums are laser-focused in their forward movement. Even when vocalist Jeff Martin enters the song, roughly six seconds later, his arrival comes with no indulgence, no pomp. Colossus is easily Lo-Pan‘s most immediate work to date, and throughout, Martin, guitarist Brian Fristoe (since replaced by Adrian Zambrano), bassist Scott Thompson and drummer Jesse Bartz retain that focus no matter where the material takes them, delivering a clinic in how to kick as much ass as possible at any given moment on cuts like “Marathon Man” and “Eastern Seas,” or even bringing in guest vocalist Jason Alexander Byers, who also designed the album cover, for a spot on “Vox.” They had a hard task in following up 2011’s Salvador (review here), but the Columbus, Ohio, unit stood up to the challenge and met it and everyone else head-on.

 

5a. All Them Witches, Lightning at the Door

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Self-released. Reviewed on Sept. 25.

What to do with All Them Witches‘ Lightning at the Door? The Nashville four-piece released the album last fall digitally, but it wasn’t until this September that it saw a physical manifestation. In fact, if you go back, it was included on the Top 20 of 2013 as well. Which is the release date? I don’t know. What I know is that in terms of the sheer amount of time spent listening, I put on Lightning at the Door more than any other record this year. From where I sit, that alone gets it a place in the top five. Yeah, it might be a cop-out to do a “5a,” but sometimes exceptions have to be made, and All Them Witches have proved to be nothing if not exceptional in their still relatively brief, jam-laden history, the psych-blues dynamic between bassist/vocalist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod, Fender Rhodes specialist Allan van Cleave and drummer Robby Staebler pushing them quickly to the fore of American heavy rock’s innovators, their natural, improv-sounding material feeling brazen and exploratory while reshaping the elements of genre to suit their needs. One can only see this dynamic developing further as they continue to grow as a live band, so Lightning at the Door may just be the start, and that’s perhaps most exciting of all.

 

5. Witch Mountain, Mobile of Angels

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Released by Profound Lore. Reviewed on Aug. 20.

A beautiful, stunning work made even more powerful by the honesty driving it. Portland, Oregon’s Witch Mountain completed a trilogy with the Billy Anderson-produced Mobile of Angels that brought about some of the best doom of this young decade, their 2011 return from a years-long hiatus, South of Salem (review here) serving as the foundation for a stylistic progression that continued on the following year’s Cauldron of the Wild (review here) and onto Mobile of Angels itself as the four-piece’s most accomplished album to date. The reason it feels like such a concluding chapter is because of the departure of vocalist Uta Plotkin, whose voice helped establish Witch Mountain both on stage and in the studio, leaving founders Rob Wrong (guitar) and Nathan Carson (drums) with the sizable task of finding a replacement. That situation will be what it will be, but Mobile of Angels remains a gorgeous, lonely testament. Plotkin gives a landmark performance on “Can’t Settle” and “The Shape Truth Takes,” which in the context of what was happening in Witch Mountain at the time ring with a truth that’s rare in or out of doom, and she seems to have left the band just as they were hitting their finest hour. So it goes.

 

4. Conan, Blood Eagle

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Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed on Jan. 22.

In all of heavy, there is no assault so severe as Conan‘s. With their second full-length and debut on Napalm Records, the UK trio solidified the two sides of the preceding 2012 outing, Monnos (review here), in constructing material that, fast or slow, short or long, retained an epic feel melded with their ungodly tonality and memorable songwriting. Their first recording at guitarist/vocalist Jon DavisSkyhammer Studio, it affirmed Conan‘s will to conquer in its two massive bookends, “Crown of Talons” and “Altar of Grief,” and in the High on Fire-worthy gallop of “Foehammer” — a bludgeon commandingly wielded by Davis, bassist/vocalist Phil Coumbe and drummer Paul O’Neil, the latter to of whom have since left the band to be replaced by longtime-producer Chris Fielding and Rich Lewis, respectively. What effect the changes might have on the band — except apparently more touring, which isn’t a bad thing — have yet to be seen, but Conan are already in the process of writing a follow-up to Blood Eagle, so it doesn’t seem like it’ll be all that long until we find out. With Davis still steering the band in songwriting and overall direction, one severely doubts they’ll be fixing what obviously isn’t broken anytime soon. None heavier.

 

3. Wo Fat, The Conjuring

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Released by Small Stone Records. Reviewed on June 18.

Dallas riff-rockers Wo Fat have grown steadily over the course of their five albums, from the nascent heavy roll of 2006’s The Gathering Dark, to the hooks of 2008’s Psychedelonaut (review here), the jamming that started to surface on 2011’s Noche del Chupacabra (review here) and was pushed further on 2012’s The Black Code (review here). And their approach has been as steady as the frequency of their releases. In making The Conjuring, the three-piece were simply engaging the next step in their progression, but the material on the five-track/48-minute outing goes further than just that. Putting aside (momentarily) the 17-minute closer “Dreamwalker,” the other cuts, “The Conjuring,” “Read the Omens,” “Pale Rider from the Ice” and “Beggar’s Bargain” each found a place for themselves in pulling together jammed-sounding elements with a memorable construction, and when guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, bassist Tim Wilson and drummer Michael Walter did kick into “Dreamwalker,” they hit on not only their longest piece yet, but their most accomplished showcase of the chemistry that has developed between them. That song is a beast unto itself, but as has been the case with Wo Fat each time out so far in their career, there’s nothing on The Conjuring to give the impression the band can’t or won’t continue to keep going on the path that’s worked so well for them on this point. They’ve spent the last eight years on the right track and have yet to waiver. The Conjuring should be played at top volume for anyone who contends there’s no life left in heavy rock and roll.

 

2. Mars Red Sky, Stranded in Arcadia

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Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed on March 11.

Mars Red Sky‘s second LP and first for Listenable, Stranded in Arcadia was originally supposed to be recorded in the California desert, but visa problems kept the French trio of guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras, bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Matgaz in Brazil, where they’d previously been touring. Thus, “stranded in Arcadia,” which is basically another way of saying “lost in paradise.” Can’t say the Bordeaux three-piece didn’t make the most of it, though. Songs like “The Light Beyond” and “Hovering Satellites” — not to mention the utter melodic bliss of “Join the Race” — took cues from their 2011 self-titled debut (review here) in terms of memorable songwriting and melodic craft, but added to that heft and tonal richness more of a psychedelic vibe, so that not only was there fuzz and wah, but a spacious world in which the songs took place. With Kinast on lead vocals, the sneaky boogie of “Holy Mondays” became a highlight, and the one-two swing ‘n’ stomp of “Circles” and “Seen a Ghost” were a perfect demonstration by the band of the various sides of their sound, particularly following after the dreamy instrumental “Arcadia,” an echoing jam distinguished by Pras‘ wistful guitar lead and coming before the closing “Beyond the Light,” which reprises the opener’s resonant unfolding. It probably wasn’t the record they intended to make, but Stranded in Arcadia became one of my go-to albums for 2014, and like the best of any given year’s output, I’ve no doubt it will transcend the passage of time and continue to deliver for years to come. Hell, I was barely done with the debut when this one came out.

 

1. YOB, Clearing the Path to Ascend

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Released by Neurot Recordings. Reviewed on Sept. 3.

“It’s time to wake up.”

Can’t imagine this is any great surprise. Not only did Clearing the Path to Ascend – YOB‘s seventh album and first for Neurot — produce my pick for song of the year in its sprawling, emotionally weighted 18-minute closer, “Marrow,” but in the three full-lengths the Eugene, Oregon, trio of drummer Travis Foster, bassist Aaron Rieseberg and guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt have released since the latter reformed the band after breaking it up following 2005’s The Unreal Never Lived, all three have been my album of the year. The Great Cessation was in 2009, and Atma was in 2011. Consistency aside, I’ll point out specifically that each of the same three records has earned that position, perhaps Clearing the Path to Ascend most of all for its progressive feel, moving past genre even at its most raging moment, second cut “Nothing to Win,” the chorus of which proved that among everything else YOB could be, they could be anthemic. The cosmic, spiritual questing that has always been present in their songs, that feeling of searching, showed up in opener “In Our Blood,” but even there, it was evident YOB were pushing themselves beyond what they’ve done before, rewriting their own formulas incorporating lessons from their past in among their other points of inspiration. “Unmask the Spectre” could have easily been an album closer itself, with its patient exploration and feverishly intense payoff, but with the melodic progressivism of “Marrow” and the soul poured into every second of that track, every verse and chorus, solo and build — including the Hammond added to the last of them by producer Billy Barnett — YOB created a landmark both for themselves and the increasing many working under their influence. I’ve said on several occasions (bordering on “many” at this point) that YOB are a once-in-a-generation band, and it feels truer in thinking of Clearing the Path to Ascend than it ever has. Without a doubt, album of the year and then some.

 

 

Honorable Mention

First, special note to Colour Haze‘s To the Highest Gods We Know. I’ve decided to count it as a 2015 release since the vinyl will be out in Spring, but otherwise surely it would earn a place on this list. Blackwolfgoat‘s Drone Maintenance also deserves note.

A few other honorable mentions:

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

Ice DragonSeeds from a Dying Garden — Boston experimental psych/garage doomers continue to defy expectation. May their weirdness last forever and continue to produce material so satisfying.

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

SteakSlab City — An impressive debut following two strong EPs.

GodfleshA World Lit Only by Fire — I never got a review copy, so I never reviewed it. Its name is here because I’m a fan of the band and glad they’re back.

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

Corrosion of ConformityIX — Everybody who gets a boner whenever Pepper Keenan is mentioned in connection with this band has missed out. This record and the self-titled kick ass.

SpidergawdSpidergawd — Holy shit they’re over here! No they’re over there! No wait over here again! Oh my god I’ve just gone blind!

Monster MagnetMilking the Stars — I wasn’t sure what to do with this since technically it’s not a new album, mostly reworked songs from the last one. I still listened to it a ton though, whatever it is.

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

Electric WizardTime to Die — People seem to do this thing where Electric Wizard puts out a record, everyone slathers over it for a few months and then spends the next two years talking about how it sucked. I guess I’ll be on the ground floor with not having been that into Time to Die.

PallbearerFoundations of Burden — Had to put their name somewhere on this list or someone would burn my house down. Album of the year for many.

The list goes on: Monolord, Comet Control, Mammatus, Triptykon, Eyehategod, Fever Dog, Moab, Karma to Burn, Atavismo, Grifter, 1000mods, Megaton Leviathan, Wovenhand, Mr. Peter Hayden, Primordial, and many more.

Before I check out and go sit in a corner somewhere to try and rebuild brain power after this massive dump of a purge, I want to sincerely thank you for reading. If you check in regularly, or if you’ve never been to the site before, if you don’t give a crap about lists or if you’re gonna go listen to even one band on here, it’s fantastic to me. Thank you so much for all the support this site receives, for your comments, for sharing links, retweeting, whatever it is. I am a real person — I’m sitting on my couch at this very moment — and being able to do this and have people see it and be a part of it with me is unbelievable. I realize how fortunate I am. So thank you. Thank you.

Thank you.

More to come as we close out 2014. I’ll have a list of short/split/demo releases, a year-end podcast, a list of the best debuts, a round up of the best live shows I saw, as much more as time allows. Please stay tuned.

And again, thank you. If I left anyone off the list, I hope you’ll let me know in the comments and contribute your own top albums, however many there are, to the Readers Poll.

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Windhand Stream “Orchard”from Live at Roadburn 2014

Posted in audiObelisk on August 27th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

windhand

Among the many Main Stage acts on the Roadburn lineup this year, few bands left the kind of impression Richmond, Virginia’s Windhand seemed to leave. After their set, which was on the third day of the fest proper, Saturday, April 12, you could hear their name being talked about for the rest of the evening outside the 013 in Tilburg: “Dude, did you see Windhand?” The five-piece had obviously made an impression with their 2013 Relapse label debut, Soma (review here), and they followed that up with a blistering live set that, come the fall, will be available as an exclusive vinyl release on Burning World Records and Outer Battery Records.

The opener from that set, recorded and mixed by Marcel van de Vondervoort and mastered by James Plotkin, was “Orchard,” but that’s only if you want to be windhand live at roadburn 2014technical about it. Really, the opener for the set was about a solid minute of gut-wrenching feedback from which the initial riff eventually oozed. Soon enough, Windhand are underway with the track’s doomly lurch, but they’re barely there at all before you can hear the audience get into it on the recording. Roadburn may have been a stop for Windhand on a longer tour, one that seems nearly endless with the road-time the band puts in — they’re out again in the States next month (dates below) — but after listening to the captured results, there can be little question it was a landmark both for them and for those who got to see them play.

If you were there, Live at Roadburn 2014 is a chance to relive that moment. If you weren’t there, it’s still about as quality a live recording of Windhand as you’re going to get, so I don’t really see how you could lose. The LP is available now to preorder, and you can hear “Orchard” on the player below. Please enjoy:

Windhand will release the vinyl-only Live at Roadburn 2014 late September/October on Burning World Records (EU preorder here) and Outer Battery Records (US preorder here). The pressing is limited to 400 copies in the US. Windhand also head out on tour starting Sept. 4 with All Them Witches. Dates follow:

Windhand tour with All Them Witches:
9/4 Baltimore, MD – Ottobar
9/5 Pittsburgh, PA – 31st St Pub
9/6 Akron, OH – Musica
9/7 Columbus, OH – The Basement
9/9 Iowa City, IA – Gabe’s
9/10 Chicago, IL – Cobra Lounge
9/11 Minneapolis, MN – Triple Rock
9/12 Milwaukee, WI – Metal Grill
9/13 Ferndale, MI – Loving Touch
9/14 Toronto, ON – Coda
9/16 Ottawa, ON – Cafe Dekcuf
9/17 Montreal, QC – Petit Campus
9/18 Cambridge, MA – Middle East (upstairs)
9/19 Providence, RI – AS220
9/20 Brooklyn, NY – Saint Vitus Bar

Windhand on Thee Facebooks

Windhand BigCartel store

Windhand at Burning World Records

Live at Roadburn 2014 at Outer Battery Records

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Inter Arma Announce The Cavern 40-Minute Single-Song EP

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 19th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

inter arma

As a general stance, I’m way down with single-song releases. I feel like a lot of the time they’re what a band is building toward and then afterwards they have to be even more creative because, well, they’ve already done that, so what next? They show ambition and a will to challenge a progression to come to its fullest point. Richmond, Virginia’s Inter Arma have a sound more than varied enough to pull off a single-song release, and while I’d question calling their upcoming The Cavern outing an EP at 40 minutes long, when one considers the fact that their 2013 Relapse debut, Sky Burial (track stream here), was over the hour mark, it probably makes more sense.

This is one I’ll hope to hear. The PR wire has details, preorder links and an audio sample featuring Windhand vocalist Dorthia Cottrell:

INTER ARMA: Announce The Cavern EP, Release Album Trailer

40-Minute Single-Song EP to See October 14th Release

Richmond, VA genre-destroying metallers INTER ARMA are set to release a brand new, 40+ minute, single song EP entitled The Cavern this Fall. Originally written during the summer of 2009, but reworked and perfected over the last few years, The Cavern was recorded last year during breaks from the relentless touring the band did with the likes of Baroness, Russian Circles, Ulcerate and numerous others. The recording was captured with producer Mikey Allred at Dark Art Studios in Madison, TN, the same surroundings and setup that captured last year’s monolithic Sky Burial LP.

Shifting from Americana laced extreme metal to doom to stoner rock to prog all within a single song, INTER ARMA’s The Cavern is an opus that will surely be heralded for years to come as a work of true artistic vision and endurance. A sample of The Cavern which also features guest vocals from Windhand’s Dorthia Cottrell can be heard HERE.

The EP will see its official release in North America on October 14th, in the UK/World on October 13th and in Germany/Benelux/Finland on October 10th. Physical pre-orders are currently available via this location with digital pre-orders available HERE.

https://www.relapse.com/interarmacavern
https://www.facebook.com/INTERARMA
http://instagram.com/interarmamusic
http://interarma.bandcamp.com/

Inter Arma, “The Cavern” teaser

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On Wax: Druglord, Enter Venus (Plus Full Album Stream)

Posted in audiObelisk, On Wax on February 14th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

The STB Records vinyl for Virginian psychedelic doomers Druglord‘s Enter Venus comes in three editions. The “diehard” is limited to 48 copies, has custom art from W. Ralph Walters, and comes with foil stamp, hand-numbered, clear vinyl with “dopesmoke” green splatter. An “OBI” version is what it sounds like — it comes with an OBI strip in Japanese and English. The vinyl is green with a white swirl and it’s limited to 90 copies. Given the quality of the presentation and its still-limited pressing of 115 copies, I hesitate to call third version “standard,” but I suppose of you think of it as a “high standard,” it makes more sense.

As ever, my photos don’t do the package justice. W. Ralph Walters‘ cover is part-glossy and part-matte on the front and back, the platter is the same milky-clear/green splatter as the diehard version, and both the cover and the liner sleeve are of a stock thick enough to do justice to the four cuts on Enter Venus itself, which hurls forth an otherworldly swirl of low end rumble and psychedelic echo. The three-piece of guitarist/vocalist/organist Tommy Hamilton, bassist Greta Brinkman and drummer Hufknell have reveled in righteous-order aural fuckery since (probably before) their 2010 self-titled demo (review here), and while 2011’s Motherfucker Rising (review here) expanded that form, Enter Venus is in a different class of sonic fullness. A recording job by Windhand‘s Garrett Morris positions the guitar and bass at the fore with Hufknell‘s cymbal wash behind and the vocals calling out as through trapped within the barrage of languid, drawling riffs.

On headphones, Enter Venus is all the more consuming, through the opening “Grievous Heaving” — still the best description I’ve encountered for Druglord‘s sound — and “Feast on the Eye” on side A, but particularly into the depths of side B’s “Enter Venus” and the closing “Let us Bleed.” This is something that was true of STB‘s limited tape version (review here), but while the tape benefited from the claustrophobic compression of the format, the LP — set for 45RPM presumably so that if you want to play it even more inhumanely slow than it already is, you can — likewise capitalizes on the expansive breadth and clarity. It’s like staring at a really clear blur. Hamilton, Brinkman and Hufknell shift into ambience here and there, as on the title-track, but the sense of plod is never completely gone, and at atmosphere of horror emerges not just because the lyrics (presented in the inner sleeve) throw in lines like “Rest in pieces/Ripped up and thrown in the grave” in “Let us Bleed” and “Haunt me forever/Demons underneath my skin” in “Grievous Heaving.” Vocals are often indecipherable without the lyric sheet. It’s the overarching dreadful impression of the vocals along with the morass of distortion, all of it taken together, that results in the brutal sensibility.

All told, the LP checks in at 27 minutes, so one could hardly accuse it of overstaying its welcome, but even just with two songs on each side and both sides clocking in under 15 minutes, there’s no lack of substance. An opening sample gives darkly religious overtones and from there it’s a slow-motion slaughter. Still, the vivid colors of the packaging in which Enter Venus arrives suit it well, playing to the psychedelic elements brought through in the recording, which even if they’re brought forth in a grueling, wretched manner hold strong to an otherworldly feel. It just so happens that the other world is populated by monsters.

Today I have the extreme pleasure in addition to checking out the vinyl itself of hosting a full stream of the album. Find it on the player below and please enjoy:

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

The Enter Venus LP is available now for preorder through STB Records and will be released Feb. 22. More info at the following links:

Druglord on Thee Facebooks

Druglord’s BigCartel store

STB Records on Thee Facebooks

STB Records’ BigCartel store

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10 Days of SHoD XIII, Pt. 9: The Final Lineup and Teaser Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Features on November 5th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

It’s a rather formidable group of bands playing Stoner Hands of Doom XIII, and I won’t lie, part of the reason I wanted to do this “10 Days of SHoD XIII” series was because of the drama that surrounds this year’s fest. Early last month, founder and promoter Rob Levey bowed out of Stoner Hands of Doom XIII, saying simply that his heart wasn’t in it anymore. Understandable. Levey‘s work at the head of SHoD has gone unnoticed and underappreciated for more than a decade; some measure of burnout is not only expected but damn near mandatory. It was the timing of it, with bands and venue booked, tours in place and all systems go about a month before the event itself, that created such a stir. If Levey had said in May he didn’t want to do it anymore, I don’t think anyone would have been able to argue he should keep going in what for years has been a passion-driven endeavor.

Neither is this the first time Stoner Hands of Doom has called it quits. Between 2010 and 2012, it looked like the festival — which over the years has taken place in Ohio, Arizona, Germany, Oregon, Maryland, and so on — was done for. Last year’s fest in New London, Connecticut, was killer but poorly attended. Richmond, Virginia, where SHoD XIII will take place at Strange Matter from Nov. 7-10, is home to a slew of creative heavy acts, from Valkyrie to Lord and many more on the bill, and I assume it was Levey‘s hope that by delving into the local scene, the festival would be able to capitalize on a grassroots, word-of-mouth kind of promotion from the bands. Whether or not that happened, I don’t know. I don’t have numbers on ticket sales, but the fact of the matter is I think SHoD, both with its history and its impending lineup for this coming weekend, is a cause worth supporting in any way I can. Obviously Brendan Burns of The Eye of the Stoned Goat, who stepped in to take Levey‘s place as the promoter, felt similarly. However things turn out, his efforts are to be commended.

I won’t be traveling to Virginia this weekend, contrary to my initial plans, and we close out the series tomorrow with an interview with Beelzefuzz guitarist/vocalist Dana Ortt, but I just wanted to get one more plug in for what I feel is a perfect example of some of the best in doom’s motivations. If this is or isn’t the final installment of Stoner Hands of Doom, it will have lived and died as a festival put on out of love for music and the community of people making it. Long live SHoD.

See the lineup card with set times here.

Stoner Hands of Doom XIII promo video

Stoner Hands of Doom XIII

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10 Days of SHoD XIII, Pt. 8: Gritter Welcome You to the Sinkhole

Posted in Features on November 4th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Richmond natives Gritter have been banging around abrasive sludge metal since they started out as Rube with the Angry at the Missus EP in 2009 (review here). That record worked within some engaging-if-familiar sludge methods, but it was clear Gritter had outgrown even a year later when they switched monikers and put out the Vince Burke-recorded Sour Mash and Spanish Moss LP (review here). Likewise, it seems their 2013 six-song EP, Welcome to the Sinkhole, put to tape by Kevin Willoughby, is another jump in approach, if not in the band’s actual name, taking cues less from underground sludge and more in the modern Southern metal of Lamb of God on songs like “Black Teeth” and “Welcome to the Sinkhole” itself. If it seems like a fine line, there are times where it is, but because most of Welcome to the Sinkhole keeps an upbeat push to its chugging riffs and because vocalist Ryan Kent has dialed back some of his Phil Anselmo-isms, Gritter emerge from their latest outing sounding their most individualized yet. Also metal. Very, very metal.

I have yet to post something about this band — Kent on vocals, Adam Kravitz on guitar, Justin Wolz on bass and Kevin White on drums — and not have someone they’ve rubbed the wrong way chime in about it (you can check the comments on past reviews for proof if you’d like), but I think there’s something to be said for an act who elicit a strong response one way or another, and it’s hard not to have an opinion listening to Welcome to the Sinkhole. Superficially, the elements at work are familiar, but to dig below the surface of a song like “Sayonara” is to reveal something not only ably structured in terms of its verse and chorus progression, but a thick, professionally-presented groove. Kent‘s balance of screams and cleaner singing adds drive to the arrangements throughout, whether it’s propelling the adrenaline of “Bowie” or adding just a touch of melody to the early verses in “Sayonara,” and the music behind him is no less thoughtfully constructed. I’m not sure where the animosity comes from, but there are a whole lot of bands out there working from a similar base of influence as Gritter on Welcome to the Sinkhole who don’t put as much of themselves into their songs as these guys seem to do.

The penultimate instrumental “Sea of Trees” makes a well-placed change of pace after four pummelers in a row, and a linear build not only showcases the foursome’s ability to work in more than verse/chorus songwriting, but provides a lead-in to the resurgent aggression of closer “Drunk Tank,” also the longest song on Welcome to the Sinkhole at 5:51, the extra time dedicated to a stretch of this-is-the-mosh-part riffing and a final slowdown that only makes the chugging more vicious and which Kent can’t seem to help himself from topping with like-minded screams and venomous spitting. Can’t say I blame him. Gritter‘s sound is less burly than some, but lacks nothing for chestbeating, and with the crisp production and clear intent toward Southern metal brutality, they’re just about asking for every scream they get. After three years since their last release, they’re almost frighteningly mature on Welcome to the Sinkhole, and whatever attention they’re able to glean from it is attention earned more or less by a punch in the face. Something tells me these guys are alright with pissing people off.

Gritter play Stoner Hands of Doom XIII on Thursday, Nov. 7, at Strange Matter in Richmond, Virginia, sharing the bill that night with Clamfight, Druglord, Compel, Pillbuster and more. Welcome to the Sinkhole was released in July in a variety of vinyl editions — black and red swirl, white with black swirl, lavender with black swirl — as well as on CD and download, all of which (except for some of the vinyl, which is sold out) are available from the band via Bandcamp, from whence I also nabbed the player with the album below:

Gritter, Welcome to the Sinkhole (2013)

Gritter on Thee Facebooks

Gritter on Bandcamp

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Windhand Interview with Dorthia Cottrell: Unbroken Continuity

Posted in Features on November 1st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

After making their Relapse debut earlier this year with the Reflection of the Negative split with fellow Richmond, Virginia, natives Cough, ultra-doomed five-piece Windhand unleashed Soma (review here), their sophomore full-length behind a 2012 self-titled (streamed here). At 75 minutes long, it’s a formidable undertaking before you even get to the dark sensibilities the band proffers throughout in songs like “Woodbine,” the sprawling “Cassock” or half-hour-long closer “Boleskine,” varying in intensity and tension while toying with a grueling pace throughout, expanding beyond the relatively straightforward riff-led approach of the first album and into atmospherics that make Soma all the more individualized.

Windhand toured heavily for the first LP, which was released on Forcefield Records, and seem already to be keeping the ethic intact in support of Soma. Already they spent September into early October going coast-to-coast on a full US tour. Tonight, Nov. 1, they begin a run of dates in Europe alongside Pilgrim that will go for more than three weeks, and upon their return to the States, they’ll pick up five days later and do the West Coast and Canada along with Kvelertak and High on Fire. Both runs are a continuation of the momentum Windhand has established through consistent road-time, and the new album seems certain to receive its due as well. Here are the tour dates:

Windhand
with Pilgrim
01/11 BE Ghent Charlatan
02/11 NL Venlo Mudfest
03/11 FR Paris t.b.a.
04/11 UK Birmingham Asylum
05/11 UK Manchester Star & Garter
06/11 UK London Our Black Heart
08/11 ES Barcelona Rocksound
09/11 ES Madrid Rock & Pop
10/11 ES Bilbao Sentinel Rock Bar
11/11 FR Bordeaux Heretic Club
12/11 FR Paris Le Club
14/11 NL Tilburg Little Devil
15/11 DK Aalborg 1000 Fryd
16/11 SE Gothenburg Truckstop Alaska
17/11 DK Copenhagen KB18
18/11 DE Hamburg Rote Flora
19/11 DE Berlin Cassiopeia
20/11 DE Leipzig Zoro
21/11 AT Wien Vrena
22/11 DE Günzburg Donaustüble
23/11 DE Köln MTC
24/11 NL Amsterdam Occii

Windhand
with High on Fire and Kvelertak
11/29 Lawrence, KS Granada Theatre
11/30 Minneapolis, MN First Avenue
12/02 Winnipeg, MB West End Cultural Center
12/04 Edmonton, AB Starlite Room
12/05 Calgary, AB Republik
12/07 Vancouver, BC Venue Vancouver
12/08 Seattle, WA El Corazon
12/09 Portland, OR Hawthorne Theater
12/11 San Francisco, CA Regency Center Grand Ballroom
12/12 Los Angeles, CA El Rey Theatre

As they’ve already been confirmed for Roadburn 2014 and the next installment of Heavy Days in Doomtown, you can expect much more to come on Windhand. The band is comprised of vocalist Dorthia Cottrell, guitarist/recording engineer Garrett Morris, guitarist Asechaiah Bogdan, bassist Parker Chandler (also of Cough) and drummer Ryan Wolfe. Cottrell recently took some time out to talk about the making of Soma and how their road ethic came into play in terms of putting the album together, plus the European dates — it’s their first time out of the country — prospects for 2014 and much more.

Q&A is after the jump. Please enjoy.

Read more »

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10 Days of SHoD XIII, Pt. 5: Druglord, Enter Venus Limited Tape

Posted in Duuude, Tapes!, Features on October 30th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

You can turn on the “noise reduction” if you want when you’re listening to Richmond trio Druglord‘s new Enter Venus tape, but be warned that if you do, there might not be anything left. The cave-echo sludge three-piece will play Stoner Hands of Doom XIII at Strange Matter in their hometown on Thursday, Nov. 7, with fellow Richmonders Gritter, as well as Compel, Clamfight and others, and they bring a presence to the festival like few others. Released in limited edition by STB Records, Enter Venus follows behind 2011’s Motherfucker Rising (review here) and their 2010 self-titled debut demo (review here), and if I call it their most solidified outing yet, please take that in the appropriate context of viciously misanthropic and lurchingly cavernous sludge. The three-piece band of guitarist/vocalist Tommy Hamilton, bassist Greta Brinkman and drummer Hufknell may be cohesive across the four songs recorded by Windhand‘s Garrett Morris at The Darkroom in Richmond, but their pummel continues molten and unhinged.

Starting with a snare fill from Hufknell, the title-track — third of the four cuts included on Enter Venus and the first on side 2 — is Southern sludge as filtered through a nightmare, but a guitar solo emerges on an almost hopeful note from the morass of distortion and plod. Like everything else in the song’s path, it’s ultimately consumed, but it’s flashes like this that mark out the development in Druglord‘s approach, and the complementing nod is the most hypnotic they’ve concocted to date. Hamilton‘s vocals echo from the depths of the mix, consistent in their approach but not entirely amelodic, and he seems to be setting himself up for more sonic adventurousness their next time out. In his and Brinkman‘s tone, there’s bound to be some similarity to Windhand‘s Soma, the two releases having both been helmed by Morris, but Druglord maintain a more misanthropic resonance from their earlier works, though the lyrics of the songs and the image of Aleister Crowley screenprinted onto the hand-numbered bag in which the cassette arrives do give some impression of vague cultish leanings.

Even so, the crash and drown of opener “Grievous Heaving” — a more than fairly apt description of the song itself — mark out this material as Druglord‘s most encompassing. A sample launches the opener, but the first verse of “Grievous Heaving” is quick to arrive and fittingly malevolent, slow, punishing, and “Feast on the Eye,” which follows as the second half of side 1, is perhaps more atmospheric, but ultimately similarly minded in its dreary course. If one encounters it or any of this material through a player with substantive low end, then a warning is in order. One hardly thinks of tapes as busting woofers or sounding big, but whether it’s Brinkman‘s low end or Hufknell‘s kick, Enter Venus makes a considerable sonic presence for itself and is all the more threatening at loud volumes, the organ that shows up layered into “Feast on the Eye” giving creepy classicism to what’s already a cinematic-feeling horror show.

As I understand it, the Enter Venus tapes are almost gone if they’re not gone already, but even of Druglord don’t have any on hand for SHoD, there will be a vinyl version of Enter Venus coming early in 2014. Think of the cassette as an early warning alert system ahead of that, and hopefully a harbinger of where Druglord‘s continued progression might be leading them for their next outing.

Druglord, “Feast on the Eye” from Enter Venus (2013)

Stoner Hands of Doom XIII

Druglord on Thee Facebooks

Druglord on Bandcamp

STB Records

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10 Days of SHoD XIII, Pt. 1: Catching up with Lord

Posted in Features on October 24th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

For the next 10 days I’m going to take a look at just a sampling of the killer acts playing this year’s Stoner Hands of Doom festival in Virginia from Nov. 7-10 at Strange Matter, and I couldn’t think of a better place to start than with the unhinged Southern sludge aggression of Lord. A band whose history is filled with underappreciation, makeups, breakups, lineup changes and whatever else you can think of, Lord has nonetheless served over the years as a proving ground for those who’s also make a stamp in Fredericksburg and Richmond bands from Ol’ Scratch and Ancient Astronaught to Akris and The Might Could. What’s been consistent for them over all this time is the intensity of their sludge, which they most recently demonstrated on the 2011 full-length, Chief (review here), which was alternately violent and brooding, a torrent of chaos that mirrors the band itself.

Of course, that being the case, there’s a kind of permanent X-factor around the band. Since the days of their 2006 long-play debut, Built Lord Tough, you’ve never known quite what you’re going to get with Lord, who’s going to be there and what kind of madness is going to be unleashed. They played Stoner Hands of Doom two years ago at Krug’s Place in Maryland (review here) along with Cough, Earthling, Fire Faithful and others, and what seemed to be becoming an annual gig at the festival was cut short in 2012 when vocalist Steven “Kerch” Kerchner announced they had called it quits:

Lord will unfortunately not be playing SHOD this year. Lord has officially disbanded. We had a blast rocking while we did and appreciate the love and support everyone has given us over the years!! Everyone is still jamming in other projects – definitely check them out: Bourne of Ash, Lacy, House Size Giant, Akris, Palkoski. There are still a limited number copies of Chief available from the members of Lord and it can still be downloaded from iTunes and so on. Love you guys – Kerch

As someone who’s been a fan of the band since the long, long ago, in the beforetimes, naturally it was a bummer to hear they were done, but though the members were busy in the projects listed by Kerch above — Akris have a new record out now (stream it here), and Palkoski never seem too far removed from another challenging slab of noise — apparently the split didn’t take, and they’ve once again joined the SHoD and are set to bring their melee to Richmond this year. Not only that, but the band’s lineup of Kerchner, guitarist Willy Rivera, bassist Helena Goldberg and drummer Stephen Sullivan are also reportedly at work writing a new full-length, which they’ll record sometime after the appearance at Stoner Hands of Doom XIII.

How that will come together remains to be seen, but if Lord are working on something at all, you won’t hear me complain. They play SHoD on Sunday, Nov. 10, and share the bill with Devil to Pay, Black Thai, Wizard Eye and others. Check out “Zoh K Zo Kay” from Chief below and find more details at the that follow:

Lord, “Zoh K Zo Kay” from Chief (2011)

Stoner Hands of Doom XIII

Lord on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Hound Records

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The Obelisk Radio Add of the Week: Sinister Haze, Demo

Posted in Radio on October 17th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

They may or may not have pared down to a trio since, but it appears that for the bulk of their short tenure, Richmond, Virginia’s Sinister Haze were fronted by Brandon Malone, also of Fire Faithful. He’s not listed as being in the band now — the current lineup given is guitarist/vocalist Brandon Marcey (Cough), bassist Sam Marsh (Dry Spell) and drummer Joe Dillon (Balaclava) — but Malone‘s low, Southern metal soul delivery definitely has left a mark on Sinister Haze‘s aptly-titled 2013 Demo, whether it’s the bluesy Church of Misery-style swagger of “Changin’ Ways” or the loose Electric Wizard affiliation shown through the nine-minute “Black Shapeless Demon.” Marcey‘s own vocals are mostly screams that come forward more on the shorter “Betrayed by Time,” which closes out the three-song affair, but there are times especially on the first two tracks when it’s pretty clear there are two voices working in tandem, and presumably that’s a result of Malone and Marcey both contributing, not just different layers on the Griffin IV-recorded CD and tape, which is set for release through Unholy Anarchy Records in time for the band’s headlining gig at the first night of this year’s Autumn Screams Doom at The Ottobar in Baltimore, Oct. 25.

If it seems strange that a band just putting out their first demo of whom there seems to be no record going back any further than the start of 2013 would be playing last for the night at a fest that also features Negative Reaction, Weed is Weed, Iron Man, Wizard Eye and Serpent Throne — all of whom have been around considerably longer and are not without pedigree of their own in varying degrees — one might chalk it up to the immediately recognizable and acknowledged Saint Vitus influence in Marcey‘s guitar, delivered in kind with Dillon‘s bombastic crash. Or hell, maybe they know someone. Point is it’s a fucking quality demo, full of Southern grit without the post-Down dudely posturing, and raw and fucked-up sounding without making a lo-fi caricature of garage doom. “Black Shapeless Demon” is probably my pick of the three cuts here, but “Betrayed by Time” has a creeper catchiness to it that begs for repeat listens and even “Changin’ Ways” makes a hook out of its chorus, as oddly dismantled as it might seem. If nothing else, they make it apparent that their interest in fucking around is slim to none.

And with the prospect of what could be a different configuration that’ll either position Marcey as the frontman or bring someone else into the band to replace Malone, there’s even more intrigue for Sinister Haze as they move past their Demo, but most importantly for their first time out, these songs are heavy as hell and show Sinister Haze as being more than able to take the reins on a drunken sludge lurch. Always a welcome find, and bonus if it leads to further distorted misanthropy down the road.

You can hear Sinister Haze‘s Demo now streaming as part of the 24/seven The Obelisk Radio playlist, or check it out on the Bandcamp player below:

Sinister Haze, Demo (2013)

Sinister Haze on Thee Facebooks

Sinister Haze on Bandcamp

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Stoner Hands of Doom 2013 Canceled? NO!!!

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 3rd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Word has come down this morning that the venerable Stoner Hands of Doom fest has been canceled for 2013. Set for Nov. 7-10 at Strange Matter in Richmond, Virginia, the lineup was to feature bands from across the country, concentrating on Northern and Southern acts from along the East Coast like Gozu, Weed is Weed, Valkyrie and Black Thai, but also bringing in groups from the Midwest such as Devil to Pay, Grel, Lo-Pan and many others. A note was reportedly sent to the bands from fest organizers Rob and Cheryl Levey that read as follows:

We regret to inform you that after careful consideration Cheryl and I have decided we cannot go through with SHoD Festival this year or in the future. We appreciate all that have helped and support our efforts and regret and problems this will create but we are done with our festival thank you for all you do and hope to see you in the future.

Peace, Rob and Cheryl

As of this post, SHoD has yet to make an official announcement of the reason behind the cancellation and what could bring them — after the work of booking and finding slots for 40 bands and with just over a month to go before the first night — to call it quits on the long-running and underappreciated festival. With tours booked surrounding and the dates reportedly in place, steps are being taken to save the fest. When I get updates, I’ll give them.

Obviously the cancellation of Stoner Hands of Doom would be a massive bummer, even when you take away the tours set up with it as their centerpiece. One can only hope that, should the Leveys really be done — and again, there’s been no official word from SHoD as of now — someone can possibly step in and at least get through 2013, if not continue the fest in the future.

More to come, I’m sure.

UPDATE:

Brendan Burns of The Eye of the Stoned Goat has sent the announcement around that he’s hoping to take over the fest under his banner. This message went out a bit ago:

To all bands playing SHoD this year-
I am working on trying to take over this event as a ‘Eye of the Stoned Goat’ event. I would really love your support and if we can get Robert Levey to give us his blessing I would still like to see the event go as planned….
-Brendan

UPDATE:


Brendan Burns of The Eye of the Stoned Goat has stepped in, spoken with SHoD‘s Rob Levey and Strange Matter in Richmond, and the fest will take place, at least for this year. He says:

Just talked to Mark at strange matter we are still good to go! Spoke to Rob, I have his full support… SHoD XIII will go on as planned

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Wino Wednesday: Premonition 13 Live in Richmond, VA, Nov. 7, 2011

Posted in Bootleg Theater on September 25th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Their tenure was not long at all. Videos of Wino jamming in an instrumental two-guitar four-piece called Premonition began to surface around 2010. Early in 2011, a debut 7″ from Premonition 13 was released (review here) and that was followed soon enough by their first full-length, 13 (review here), on Volcom. They toured that fall with The Gates of Slumber and by the time they got around to releasing a song on a three-way split with Earthless and Radio Moscow (streamed here) last year, they weren’t a band anymore. Quick. A year together, maybe a little more, and then gone.

It’s still something of a mystery what happened on their last European tour in 2011 that led to them finishing that run as a trio, but that was the end of it. Guitarist/vocalist Jim Karow, who shared those duties with Wino, was out and I guess at that point, with Saint Vitus‘ reunion running concurrent, there was no reason to find someone else to fill that slot, since the Wino/Karow collaboration was the core of the group. They had some cool songs though, and it was interesting to hear another guitar alongside Wino‘s after his standing alone for so long in The Obsessed, Spirit Caravan and The Hidden Hand. The only other times I can think of when he was joined by another guitarist (in a non-guesting situation) was on the Heavy Kingdom album with Conny Ochs and on the similarly brief Shrinebuilder run, which paired Wino with his soon-to-be unplugged tourmate Scott Kelly of Neurosis. Both pretty recent examples.

But Premonition 13 was more a “Wino band” than either the supergroup Shrinebuilder or the acoustic Ochs collaboration, with his tone, songwriting and vocals as a major factor in the draw, so though it was brief, Premonition 13 remains something unique within Wino‘s canon. And with The Gates of Slumber having announced their breakup this week as well, that tour was on my mind, so it seemed even more appropriate to find this live Premonition 13 full set from Richmond, Virginia, from that stint.

Filmed Nov. 7, 2011, by TubeVisionDotCom, here’s Premonition 13‘s gig at Strange Matter in its entirety. Enjoy and have a great Wino Wednesday:

Premonition 13, Live in Richmond, VA, 11/07/11

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Windhand, Soma: Stay Evergreen

Posted in Reviews on September 10th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

I imagine that somewhere on the outskirts of Richmond, Virginia, a lone technician sits in a room with an impossible array of gauges, measuring tectonic pressure, general atmospheric conditions, etc., only to have the emergency lights kick on an unspeakable siren of chaos every time Windhand plugs in to rehearse. Call it “tone overload.” Our poor technician — who went to college for this, mind you, and is a skilled professional — gradually loses his or her mind, quits the job, and spends all remaining days wandering RVA, trying to find the source of that maddening rumble. Thus another existence destroyed by the ascendant dual-guitar five-piece, who made their debut on Relapse Records earlier this year with the Reflection of the Negative split with Richmond countrymen Cough, whose bass player, Parker Chandler, they also share. Windhand‘s full-length Relapse debut — their second album overall following a 2011 self-titled on Forcefield Records (streamed here) and a not-inconsiderable amount of touring — has been dubbed Soma, the drink of the gods. It’s a title Windhand share the most recent My Sleeping Karma LP, though the two bands have really nothing in common, as Windhand push forth low-end mud at a horrifying, lung-filling rate from Chandler‘s bass and the steady riff and lead interplay of guitarists Asechiah Bogdan and Garrett Morris, march to a wash of crash and stomp from drummer Ryan Wolfe (The Might Could, ex-Facedowninshit) and top with the ethereal vocals of Dorthia Cottrell, giving Soma a bleak, otherworldly sensibility to go along with its unbridled heft. If it’s the drink of the gods, the beverage is opaque. Clocking in at a full 75 minutes with six tracks and closing with the monster “Boleskine” that comprises just over half an hour on its own, Windhand‘s sophomore outing is dense even beyond the levels shows on the self-titled and fuller-sounding, bigger and more crushing. Early cuts “Orchard” and “Woodbine” establish the nod that the fivesome will carry through the next hour-plus, the opener in particular — also the shortest cut at 6:38 — harkening to some of the Electric Wizard influence that showed up last time out in the guitar work, but giving clear indication that Windhand‘s road time has helped them figure out who they are and who they want to be as a band.

To say Soma crushes doesn’t really do it full justice. It is impeccably mixed to maximize murk — a dense fog begins with “Orchard” and is consistent throughout. Cottrell‘s vocals and Wolfe‘s drums reside deep within the overbearing thrust of guitar and bass, lending the songs an even larger sound, and especially considering it was self-recorded and self-mixed (Morris also helmed the self-titled), the atmospheric bludgeon that Soma carries portrays Windhand as all the more cohesive in its styilstic take. They know what they’re doing, in other words. The riffs of “Orchard” proffer malevolent swirl and Cottrell sings through the churning progression, but there’s a structure to the song as well, a verse and a chorus trading off, as hard as they might be to discern initially, and the ringing feedback that caps the opener crashes directly into the similarly drugged-out “Woodbine.” Both the drums and the vocals seem more forward here, as though they’ve stepped up to meet the more insistent riff, and though by most standards it’s hardly a thrasher, in comparison to “Orchard” and the penultimate “Cassock” still to come, “Woodbine” moves at as quick a pace as Windhand show on Soma. Of course, the guitars and bass are so thick that even as it moves forward quickly, it still sounds slow. A memorable melody line through the vocals and guitars make “Woodbine” something of a landmark in terms of the album overall, but with a record that makes so plain its intent to swallow the listener whole and keep them for the duration, any landmark is only going to be so helpful. The idea is you lose yourself in it and are more subject to the overall impression than any particular standout, and that makes the album an even more satisfying front-to-back listen, though a “hook” for lack of a better word is certainly appreciated as well. Following a big slowdown as “Woodbine” hits the seven-minute mark and collapses to its finish, one gets no such mercies from the subsequent “Feral Bones,” which lets up some on the tempo and finds the vocals receding to deep under the tonequake, ghostly in echo but still definitely a presence. Peppered by regular crashes, “Feral Bones” is Windhand sounding the most their own as they have yet on the album. It doesn’t have the immediate familiarity of “Orchard,” but that’s also what makes it exciting. A striding lead takes hold near the halfway point, but the riff is maintained and soon returns to its prominent place, a last verse and chorus returning to round out the eight-minute track with more deceptive structuring.

Read more »

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Pilgrim to Support Windhand on European Tour

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 22nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

As they make ready to enter the studio to record the follow-up to their 2012 Misery Wizard full-length debut, Rhode Island doom upstarts Pilgrim have announced that they’ll join Windhand on a Fall 2013 European run. The two bands are no strangers, having done US dates together last year, and of course, Pilgrim played at Roadburn in 2013 as well, so this will be their second time on the continent this year. Still, good news all around for the band and for anyone who might find themselves in their destructive path.

Sayeth the PR wire:

PILGRIM coming back to Europe in November to support WINDHAND for a full tour!

Ready to enter studio next month!

Rhode Island Doom disciples PILGRIM have made an astonishing impact with the release of their debut album Misery Wizard and their European shows including a slot at this years Roadburn festival.

PILGRIM will return to Europe in November for a full tour with Windhand. Comments vocalist/guitarist The Wizard: “THIS IS GOING TO BE A TOUR WORTHY OF SONG AND LEGEND. Not only is it our first lengthy European venture, but we get to share it with our incredibly talented friends WINDHAND (whose music we worship). This is honestly a dream come true for us. We are will be featuring a new bass player for the excursion, whose identity shall remain a mystery for the moment. Unfortunately, we had planned to be supporting the release of our new record this tour, but due to various complications with our studio we were not able to meet our deadline. However, we just confirmed today that the recording of our second record will begin next month at Moonlight Mile Studios! And with that, so begins the next chapter of our pilgrimage. We have worked UNFATHOMABLY hard to make this tour come together. Blood, sweat, and tears. DO NOT MISS THIS TOUR!”

Windhand
+ PILGRIM
01/11/13 BE – Ghent – Charlatan

02/11/13 NL – Venlo – Mudfest
03/11/13 FR – Paris – t.b.a.
04/11/13 UK – Birmingham – Asylum
05/11/13 UK – Manchester – Star & Garter
06/11/13 UK – London – Our Black Heart
08/11/13 ES – Barcelona – Rocksound
09/11/13 ES – Madrid – Rock & Pop
10/11/13 ES – Bilbao – Sentinel Rock Bar
11/11/13 FR – Clermont Ferrand – t.b.a.
12/11/13 FR – Strasbourg – t.b.a.
14/11/13 NL – Groningen – t.b.a.
15/11/13 DK – Aalborg – 1000 Fryd
16/11/13 SE – Gothenburg – Truckstop Alaska
17/11/13 DK – Copenhagen – KB18
18/11/13 DE – Hamburg – Rote Flora
19/11/13 DE – Berlin – Cassiopeia
20/11/13 DE – Leipzig – Zoro
21/11/13 AT – Wien – Vrena
22/11/13 DE – Günzburg – Donaustüble
23/11/13 DE – Köln – MTC
24/11/13 NL – Amsterdam – Occii

http://www.facebook.com/hailthepilgrim
https://twitter.com/hailthepilgrim
http://www.youtube.com/user/PilgrimOfficial
http://www.metalblade.com/pilgrim

Pilgrim, Misery Wizard (2012)

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Inter Arma and Windhand to Play Roadburn 2014

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 18th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

From reuniting formative psychedelic wanderers to supporting up and coming genre-crossers. Last week, Loop was revealed as the headliner for Roadburn 2014, and today it’s been announced that Relapse Records upstarts Inter Arma and Windhand will both take part. Both bands make their home in the fertile dirt of Richmond, Virginia, so I’m left wondering if maybe a Euro tour with the two acts is in the offing?

Time will tell on that. Until then, and in related news, it was also announced today that Windhand‘s full-length Relapse debut, Soma, will be released Sept. 17. More on that here, and you can find the album trailer below:

INTER ARMA And WINDHAND Confirmed For Roadburn Festival 2014

Following last week’s announcement of Loop as the main headliner for Roadburn 2014, the festival is excited to report that Relapse Records artists WINDHAND and INTER ARMA have also been confirmed for next years event, set for April10 ? 13, 2014 at the 013 venue in Tilburg, the Netherlands.

Walter Hoeijmakers from Roadburn: “Windhand’s S/T was definitely THEE psych/doom album of 2012, while anticipation of the band’s upcoming album on Relapse is reaching a crescendo that will continue to build throughout the year and culminate in their main stage set on Saturday, April 12 at Roadburn 2014. Inter Arma’s “Sky Burial” is a serious contender for this year’s Roadburn Festival-related album of the year. Both Windhand and Inter Arma seem poised to rank among the regal line of iconic Relapse bands, and Roadburn is proud to welcome both bands on Saturday, April 12 at the 013 venue in Tilburg, The Netherlands.”

Richmond, Virginia’s WINDHAND cut their teeth worshipping at Iommi’s school of a thousand riffs, fusing classic churning doom as smooth as melted chocolate with Electric Wizard-ish bong-cloud obscured psychedelia. Sparking your natural highness, the band locks into a mesmerizing sprawl of epic, doomic heaviness, a trancelike reverence that inspires lethargic, hypnotic head banging and is embellished with enough hazy psych to be a tripped-out soundtrack for some obscure war on drugs propaganda film. Meanwhile, vocalist Dorthia Cottrell’s hellish howl beckons from the distance, swathed in distortion, transcending any earthly ideas of gender, and positioning the band firmly at the top of the pile of the current crop of female fronted metal outfits.

Windhand will release “Soma”, their 2nd album on Relapse Records on September 13 in the Benelux, GAS and Finland and on September 16 in the UK and Europe. The album was recorded & mixed by the band’s own Garrett Morris at The Darkroom & mastered by James Plotkin, in their hometown of Richmond, VA.

Also emerging (like Windhand) from the seemingly ever-fertile metal breeding grounds of Richmond, Virginia, INTER ARMA sports a sound that’s difficult to pin down, as it continually changes and surprises with each passing album track. “Sky Burial” starts with a strong dose of the industrial infused black metal of “Volcano”-era Satyricon, then takes a decidedly Pink Floydian left turn for the next two tracks (the first is acoustic and the second of which culminates in an unexpectedly raucous blast of Cascadian black metal). They then introduce truly hellish sounding occult doom followed by caustic, repetitive noise rock in the vein of Unsane. They continue with epic, abrasive, majestic doom with vintage Gibby Haynes-style menacing vocals into another foreboding acoustic track and cap the album off with the title track, a noisy, doomy, mathy, blackened rock and roll experience that is rippling with evil and menace. Their live set will be a constantly evolving, emotionally devastating experience that is sure to leave us all uncomfortably numb.

www.facebook.com/WindhandVA
windhandva.bandcamp.com
www.facebook.com/INTERARMA
interarma.bandcamp.com

Windhand, Soma album trailer

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