The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2018

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

the-top-30-of-2018

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks in advance for reading. Here we go:

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

30. The Skull, The Endless Road Turns Dark

The Skull The Endless Road Turns Dark

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Sept. 12.

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

29. Foghound, Awaken to Destroy

foghound awaken to destroy

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Nov. 21.

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

28. Orange Goblin, The Wolf Bites Back

orange goblin the wolf bites back

Released by Spinefarm Records. Reviewed June 13.

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

27. Fu Manchu, Clone of the Universe

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

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

26. Witch Mountain, Witch Mountain

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

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

25. Windhand, Eternal Return

windhand eternal return

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed Oct. 3.

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

24. Sun Voyager, Seismic Vibes

Sun Voyager Seismic Vibes

Released by King Pizza Records. Reviewed April 18.

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

23. Forming the Void, Rift

forming the void rift

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed July 27.

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

22. Spaceslug, Eye the Tide

spaceslug eye the tide

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

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

21. Conan, Existential Void Guardian

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

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

20. Pale Divine, Pale Divine

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

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

19. Mos Generator, Shadowlands

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

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

18a. Stoned Jesus, Pilgrims

STONED JESUS PILGRIMS

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 5.

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

18. Backwoods Payback, Future Slum

backwoods payback future slum

Self-released. Reviewed Aug. 15.

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

17. Corrosion of Conformity, No Cross No Crown

corrosion of conformity no cross no crown

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Jan. 3

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

16. Naxatras, III

naxatras iii

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 14.

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

15. Clutch, Book of Bad Decisions

clutch book of bad decisions

Released by Weathermaker Music. Reviewed Aug. 27.

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

14. Ancestors, Suspended in Reflections

Ancestors Suspended in Reflections

Released by Pelagic Records. Reviewed Aug. 3.

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

13. High on Fire, Electric Messiah

high on fire electric messiah

Released by eOne Heavy. Reviewed Sept. 28.

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

12. Yawning Man, The Revolt Against Tired Noises

yawning man the revolt against tired noises

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed July 2.

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

11. Greenleaf, Hear the Rivers

greenleaf hear the rivers

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Nov. 26.

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

10. Gozu, Equilibrium

gozu equilibrium

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

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

9. Monster Magnet, Mindfucker

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

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

8. Apostle of Solitude, From Gold to Ash

Apostle of Solitude From Gold to Ash

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

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

7. Holy Grove, Holy Grove II

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

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

6. All Them Witches, ATW

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

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

5. YOB, Our Raw Heart

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

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

4. Brant Bjork, Mankind Woman

brant bjork mankind woman

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Sept. 13.

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

3. Earthless, Black Heaven

earthless black heaven

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed March 15.

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

2. King Buffalo, Longing to Be the Mountain

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

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

1. Sleep, The Sciences

sleep the sciences

Released by Third Man Records. Reviewed May 1.

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

The Next 20

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

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

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

Honorable Mention

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

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

Special Note

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

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

Best Short Release of the Year

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

  • Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard & Slomatics, Totems Split

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

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

Looking Forward

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

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

Okay, That’s It

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

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

So thanks.

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

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

Everybody have a great and safe 2019.

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Quarterly Review: Rotor, Electric Octopus, Randall Dunn, Graven, Near Dusk, Svuco, Stonus, Acolytes of Moros, Lime Eyelid, Tombtoker

Posted in Reviews on December 13th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

I’ve been doing this for a while, the whole Quarterly Review thing. Not just talking about the last two weeks — though that also feels like a while to be doing it — but over the last few years. And in so doing I have a couple running gags kind of with myself. One obvious one is the “(immediate points)” for bands who put their longest song first on their album. There is no point system. There will be no tally at the end. I don’t grade records. It’s just a way of noting a decision I almost always find to be particularly bold.

Another is the use of “penultimate.” I don’t even know how this happened, but I use that word all the time in these reviews, way, way more than I might in day-to-day life. Somehow I’m always talking about the second-to-last song. Keep an eye out today, I’m sure it’ll be in there.

Indeed, I bring it up because today is the penultimate day of this extended Quarterly Review. We’ll finish out with the last 10 records tomorrow, and no doubt by the end of it I’ll be doling out more “(immediate points)” and talking about the “apex of the penultimate cut” or whatever else it is I do. Hard not to repeat yourself when you’re writing about 100 records. Or, you know, one.

Quarterly Review #81-90:

Rotor, Sechs

rotor sechs

Long-running Berlin instrumentalists Rotor issue Sechs, their aptly-titled sixth album, as their second for Noisolution after 2015’s Fünf (review here), and in so doing blend the best impulses from where they started with where they’ve ended up. Fünf, not without its moments of heavy psych drift, was a deeply progressive album, and Sechs is likewise, but it also brings in a more natural, warmer production sound like some of their earlier material, so that songs like “Vor der Hern” or “Allmacht” come across as nuanced but welcoming all the same. “Allmacht” is a highlight for its classic prog elements, but that’s not to discount the centerpiece “Abfahrt!,” with its raucous second half or the nine-minute penultimate cut “Druckverband,” which finds Rotor pushing themselves to new heights some 20 years on from their beginnings. Or anything else, for that matter, because it’s all brilliant. And that, basically, is how you know you’re listening to Rotor.

Rotor on Thee Facebooks

Noisolution website

 

Electric Octopus, Line Standing

electric octopus line standing

Next-level naturalism from Belfast trio Electric Octopus means that not only does the digital-only-otherwise-it’d-be-a-box-set Line Standing top four and a half hours, but those four and a half hours bring the listener into the studio with the band — guitarist Tyrell Black, bassist/keyboardist Dale Hughes and drummer Guy Hetherington — as they talk between jams, goof around and discuss what they just played in quick interludes. Complementing cuts like 35-minute opener “Iliudi,” the 38-minute “Line Standing 23336,” the 24-minute “Room Move” and the three-minute funk-reggae vibe of “Inspired by a Chicken,” the chatter gives Line Standing an even more organic vibe not by trying to capture a live feel, like what they’d do on stage — they have plenty of live albums for that — but by bringing the listener into the studio while they pick up their instruments and improvise their way through whatever it is that’s coming next, which is something that everyone seems to find out together. It’s not always smooth, but neither should it be. This is pure sonic exploration — and not a little of it.

Electric Octopus on Thee Facebooks

Electric Octopus on Bandcamp

 

Randall Dunn, Beloved

randall dunn beloved

Randall Dunn, through his production work, collaborations with Sunn O))), founding Master Musicians of Bukkake, etc., is no stranger to experimentalism, and his first solo album, Beloved (on Figureight), finds him evoking cinematic landscapes one at a time in ambient tracks that range from minimalist to consuming by sheer will. His range as a composer means that “Mexico City” shimmers with a near-overwhelming post-Vangelis splendor while “Lava Rock and Amber” is barren enough to make each strike of the piano keys feel like a lifeline before the synth horror takes hold near the end. Dunn brings in several guest vocalists for spots on “Something About that Night” and closer “A True Home,” but there’s hardly a lack of human presence throughout the material anyway, as the nine-minute centerpiece “Theoria : Aleph” resonates with the creative drive that made it. Not by any means a record that’s going to be for everyone, Beloved casts a sound that’s impeccably broad.

Randall Dunn on Thee Facebooks

Figureight on Bandcamp

 

Graven, Heirs of Discord

Graven Heirs of Discord

Heirs of Discord, indeed. With guitarist/vocalist Peter Maturi and drummer Chris Csar from the much-missed Swarm of the Lotus and bassist Teddy Patterson of Burnt by the Sun and Human Remains in the up-and-down-the-Eastern-Seaboard lineup with vocalist Jason Borowy, there’s no shortage of discord to go around. Deathly extremity and a pervasive grinding sensibility is conveyed with tones that absolutely crush and a groove that, while not shy with the blastbeats on “I Dreamt You Were Dead” — or the bonus track Human Remains cover “Human,” for that matter — is no less comfortable locked in the nod of the nine-minute “Thieves of Rotted Ilk.” It reportedly took Graven over a year to make the six-song/28-minute LP at various studios (including one two towns over from where I grew up in my beloved Garden State), and one only hopes the no-doubt daunting nature of that task doesn’t dissuade Graven from a follow-up, because whether it’s the angular starts and stops of “Backwards to Oblivion” or the initial assault of “A Failed Mask,” they bring a stylistic nuance to extreme metal that goes beyond the often dry showcase of technical prowess the style can sometimes be. However long it might take to put together, a sophomore outing feels well justified.

Graven on Thee Facebooks

Graven on Bandcamp

 

Near Dusk, Near Dusk

Near Dusk Near Dusk

The cleverly-titled “Humboldt Pie” finds them dipping into bluesier fare with some psychedelic effect on guitarist Matthew Orloff‘s vocals, and “We are the Buffalo” has a distinct spaciousness, but the core of Denver trio Near Dusk‘s self-released, self-titled debut is in straightforward heavy rock, and Orloff, bassist Kellen McInerney and drummer Jon Orloff sound well schooled in the ways of following the riff. “That Bastard” chugs out behind a vocal echo and the six-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “No More” introduces the steady factor that is McInerney‘s bass behind some initial guitar noodling that leads to the first of many rolling grooves to come on the seven-track/34-minute outing. The bass again gets to shine in the subsequent “Sweet Home,” setting up the final push for a moment before being joined by the drums and guitar, and the low-end tone is right on, though by the time they close out with “Furnace Creek,” all three of them seem to tease some jammier sensibilities. Near Dusk allow themselves room to develop their approach and perspective, but establish a strong root of songwriting to serve as their foundation as they move forward.

Near Dusk on Thee Facebooks

Near Dusk on Bandcamp

 

Svuco, El Gran Mito de SanSaru

svuco El Gran Mito de SanSaru

At least some of the material on Svuco‘s debut long-player, El Gran Mito de SanSaru, dates back a few years. The release includes what was the title-track of their 2015 Mizaru EP as well as the title-track of 2016’s Kikazaru, as well as a number of tracks that also featured on the Iwazaru EP shortly before the album actually arrived. Still, taken in this form and with these recordings, the Granada-based four-piece unfurl a varied 13-song full-length that’s crisp in its production and smoothly constructed to hit hard but with a sense of tonal presence that speaks to a heavy rock influence. That is, there might be a current of noise rock to the ’90s-style chug of “Llorarás,” but “Fuzzia” still has room for organ and acoustic guitar along with its central riff. Later cuts like “Nobogo,” the layered-vocals of “El Color del Sol,” and the almost-industrial pulsations (conveyed through organic instrumentation) of “El Dios del Nuevo Mundo” branch out, but there’s an underlying identity taking shape all the while.

Svuco on Thee Facebooks

Svuco on Bandcamp

 

Stonus, Lunar Eclipse

Stonus Lunar Eclipse

Welcoming in its tone and bordering on cosmic in its atmosphere, Lunar Eclipse is the second EP from Cyprus-based troupe Stonus, and for the sprawl of its eight-minute title-track alone, it showcases distinct potential on the part of the band. Intro and outro tracks help set up a flow, but as “Aspirin” and “Spiritual Realities” fuzz their way toward “Lunar Eclipse” itself, it’s hardly like Stonus need the help. The tempo of “Aspirin” tells the tale, taking desert rock to three-quarters speed for an extra laid back vibe, still pushed along by the drums, but chill, chill, chill as it goes. “Spiritual Realities” is a little more tripped out in its lumber, and its vocals are more forward in the mix, but once again, “Lunar Eclipse” is nothing but a joy to behold from front to back, and in large part it defines the short release that shares its name. They close out with the minute of experimentalism on “Euphoric Misery” and only make one hope they don’t lost those impulses by the time they get around to a full-length, because they’ll only help them further distinguish themselves.

Stonus on Thee Faceboks

Stonus on Bandcamp

 

Acolytes of Moros, The Wellspring

acolytes of moros the wellspring

Seven years on from playing their first show, Swedish doomers Acolytes of Moros present their first full-length, The Wellspring (CD on Nine Records), and if that might stand as an indication of their pacing overall, it would certainly apply to the album itself. Presented as four extended tracks with an interlude/instrumental near seven minutes dividing the two halves, it’s a rawly-produced take on doom-death traditionalism with an emphasis on the first part of that equation. Calling it “morose” feels too easy given the band’s moniker, but they’re nothing if not self-aware, and the miseries they portray in “Quotidian” and the 14-minute “A Yen to Relinquish and Evanesce” border on the dramatic without ever really tipping too far in that direction, coming through as much in the grueling riffs as in the vocal declarations and willfully repetitive rhythms. It’s a slog and it’s supposed to be, but Acolytes of Moros eschew the sometimes lush presentation of their genre in favor of a barebones take that loses none of its emotional impact for that.

Acolytes of Moros on Thee Facebooks

Nine Records website

 

Lime Eyelid, Week of Wonders

lime eyelid week of wonders

As regards recording narratives, it’s hard to beat the image of Traveling Circle drummer Josh Schultz recording Lime Eyelid‘s debut album, Week of Wonders (as in, The Wonder Weeks?), alone in his kitchen. The resulting limited LP is comprised mostly of numbered instrumental experiments in drone and languid groove, save for “I Saw Waves,” which brings to mind some of Six Organs of Admittance‘s far-out earlier fare, but psychedelia holds a prominent sway and if you ever want a lesson in doing something new with familiar elements, look no further than the watery guitar line of “1” or “3,” with its Earth groove gone processional. The 12-minute soundscape of “4” follows as Schultz moves deeper into the realms of cosmic minimalism — that big, mostly empty, galaxy — but “5” somehow sounds even more piped in from outer space, and closer “6” rounds out with swells of high-pitched volume that seem to be speaking their own language in tone. Pretty vast reaches for a record to hit, having been recorded in the kitchen. One awaits further adventures in the follow-up.

Lime Eyelid on Soundcloud

Lime Eyelid on YouTube

 

Tombtoker, Coffin Texts

tombtoker coffin texts

I don’t know if the band’s moniker refers to one who actually tokes tombs or who tokes in tombs, but neither would surprise me. The Baltimorean five-piece Tombtoker unveil their 20-minute debut EP, Coffin Texts (on Seeing Red, tapes through Metal Swarm), with a melding of doom, sludge and metallic extremity that is righteous in its riffs and malevolent in its purposes. That is to say, they mean harm. “Warfare Revolution” and “Robo Cujo” demonstrate that plainly ahead of the centerpiece “Stenchsquatch” with its oh-you’re-gonna-have-to-play-that-at-all-the-shows lurching midsection of death, while the subsequent “Blood Freak” taps Eyehategoddy swing and closer/shortest track “Globster” (3:21) bludgeons its own riffs before a bit of Slayer-style ping ride late adds even more of that metal-for-metal feel. I’d call it promising, but maybe “foreboding” is a better word. Whether they’re smoking your corpse or just smoking near your corpse, Tombtoker bring a welcome sense of chaos to extreme sludge that hearkens to the genre’s original, unhinged appeal.

Tombtoker on Thee Facebooks

Seeing Red Records on Bandcamp

Metal Swarm website

 

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Lake on Fire 2017 Sold Out; Brant Bjork, Ufomammut, Elder, Acid King & More to Play

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

lake-on-fire-2017-banner

Austria-based festival Lake on Fire 2017 — which, yes, takes place on a lake and which, yes, looks totally frickin’ awesome as a result — sold out in a matter of minutes earlier this week after putting tickets on sale. The lineup is splendid with Brant Bjork headlining a bill that also includes Asteroid, Elder, Ufomammut, Acid King, Sasquatch, Rotor, and others, but you want to know something even more impressive about it? The full lineup hasn’t even been announced yet. What you see below, with Tides from Nebula, Weedpecker, King Buffalo, Triptonus and all that? Yeah, they’re not even done yet.

Next time you’re searching for an example of how unbelievably righteous the festival scene is in Europe, go ahead and consider Lake on Fire 2017, which offers camping and hotel options, a unique setting, killer bands, and a clientele that trusts it enough to completely buy up all the tickets before the full lineup has been unveiled. My minescule American brain boggles at the thought. Not that I’ve been Mr. Goestoshows lately or anything, but if you’re also from the States, consider the cultural richness at work in making something like this come together in the way it has. It’s astounding. I can’t even get bands to return my emails about playing an All-Dayer a year from now.

Go figure.

From the festival:

lake-on-fire-2017-poster

This is unreal – SOLD OUT again – for the 4th time in a row! Even compared to last year this was kinda fast! Thank you so much for your support! We love you!

For all those who haven’t got their tickets, don’t be sad, there will be another chance in approx. 2 weeks. All pre-registered users in our webshop (newly registered users won’t be considered anymore) will have the chance to be part of our LUCKY BIRD TICKET lottery.

The Artwork is made by the Austrian Artist Missfelidae Illustration.

LINE UP:
Brant Bjork [USA]
UFOMAMMUT [ITA]
Elder [USA]
Acid King [USA]
Rotor [GER]
Asteroid [SWE]
Tides From Nebula [POL]
Sasquatch [USA]
Triptonus [AUT]
Weedpecker [POL]
King Buffalo [USA]

The rest of the line up will be announced within the next two weeks!

www.lakeonfirefestival.com
facebook.com/LOF.festival

Lake on Fire 2016 impressions

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Rotor, Fünf: Wachstumsmotor

Posted in Reviews on February 9th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

rotor funf

Released late in 2015, Fünf is the aptly-titled fifth album from Berlin heavy progressives, Rotor. It is their first record since 2010’s 4 (review here), their first for Noisolution after working with Elektrohasch since 2005’s 2 (the label also has a vinyl reissue of their 2001 self-titled out), and perhaps most pivotally, their first offering as a double-guitar four-piece, definitively marking a new era for the band. As one might expect, this results in some significant changes throughout the eight-track/42-minute LP as compares to what came before it. Rotor being a group whose sound has always been based on what they do on stage — as they showed on the 2011 live outing, Festaal Kreuzberg (review here) — captured with a natural vibe in the studio, one doesn’t imagine adding a fourth player to their lineup after well over a decade as a trio was a decision lightly undertaken, but in the thicker rolling of “Volllast” and the interplay of fuzzy leads late in “Fette Kette,” the difference in approach is plain to hear.

Most likely that was just something Rotor wanted to be able to do live as well. Fair enough, but Fünf isn’t just about hitting harder or heavier either. Split neatly into two four-track sides, the record continues Rotor‘s proggy evolution, as heard on the airy, patient opening they give the album with “Echolot,” the drums setting the foundation at the start from which the bass and guitars build through desert rock-style grooving and into more open psychedelia by the end of the song’s seven-minute run. Lack of scope has never been an issue for Rotor, and it would seem it still isn’t, but more importantly, the band never sounds like it’s making radical, disconnected jumps from one part to another so much as following a steady, organic flow.

That holds true between the songs on Fünf as well, “Echolot” bleeding directly into the shorter “Fette Kette,” which offers thicker riffs ringing out over circular rhythm and sleek fuzz swing. The soloing in the back half already noted, the thrust which Rotor put into that part isn’t to be ignored, even as it spreads out over a half-time drum nod and finishes with due circumstance and is quickly enough gone off to the next thing. That sense of urgency in their groove is nothing new for the band, but it’s a signature element put to good use across Fünf that helps to make the record as exciting as it is immersive. Rotor never quite trip all the way out, and they never quite have, though their sound continues to be warm and engaging, so they walk a tight balance between hooking the listener and keeping attention conscious.

rotor

Third track “Scheusal” starts quietly on guitar but soon unfolds one of the album’s most progressive movements, distinctly King Crimson in its style, but less frantically technical and not departing from the spirit of Fünf overall as it showcases a winding guitar lead in its midsection. Additional thoughtful interplay follows, crashing to a close from which “Rabensol” picks up with immediately pastoral guitar. Side A’s closer will maintain a kind of wistfulness throughout its six minutes, patient, vaguely Southern, and molten in its shifts between louder and quieter stretches, building, turning and careening between before making its way out on its central figure as though nothing just happened, and that blend of complexity and overarching heft is what allows Rotor to effectively carry over progressive ideas with such a lack of sonic pretense. They’re never putting on a clinic, though clearly they probably could. They’re writing songs.

No doubt for many the groove of “Volllast” will make it an album highlight. I won’t argue. It’s a hell of a riff, and Rotor ride it well. Introduced via quiet acoustics, it explodes into full-tonal berth suddenly and never relinquishes once it takes hold, though a brighter middle stretch adds some psych flourish and late-arriving Mellotron keys add drama to the build that leads to the chugging apex, ended cold as if to say, “Okay, the set’s over, let’s have a drink.” Nowhere to go from there except into the wah bliss of “Okatagon,” shorter and more progressive but still substantially heavy by its finish, and the jazzier shuffle of “Herrengedeck,” which remind that Fünf has more going on that powerhouse riffing and straight-ahead linear builds.

Also the shortest cut at 3:02, “Herrengedeck” is especially satisfying rhythmically, showcasing the drums for a brief movement-minded course that soon leads to closer “Weltall Erde Rotor,” providing an atmospheric ending to the album that’s less sentimental perhaps than was “Rabensol,” but which gives a kind of symmetry to that song’s swing all the same in its lead after the two-minute mark and the memorable impression overall that it makes as it pushes through to its organ-topped finish. Not the first instance of keys on the record — Charlie Paschen, who also recorded, contributed. Could it be that Rotor would add a fifth after Fünf? I wouldn’t speculate. All the same their latest outing arrives after some delay but finds their stylistic evolution very much intact, and as they move further into this incarnation of the band, it seems entirely possible that evolution is beginning anew.

Rotor, “Volllast” official video

Rotor on Thee Facebooks

Rotor website

Noisolution

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Desertfest Berlin 2016: Rotor, Samavayo, Coogans Bluff, Dÿse and The Loranes Join Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 30th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

desertfest 2016 banner

If you haven’t seen the name around yet, The Loranes is the new band from former Kadavar bassist Mammut. The newcomers are one of five bands in the latest batch to be announced for Desertfest Berlin 2016, which still has Electric WizardTruckfightersCrowbar and Elder at the top of its bill. If no one else joined, they’d probably be ready to roll out a three-day fest as is and call it square, but I have the feeling we’re still in the thick of it as The Loranes and other local Berlin outfits like RotorCoogans Bluff (they’re from Rostock, two hours north), Samavayo and Dÿse are added.

Hard to argue either way, and I’m not inclined to try. Here’s the newest update from the festival:

desertfest berlin 2016 poster

Desertfest Berlin 2016 – ROTOR, DYSE, SAMAVAYO, COOGANS BLUFF, THE LORANES added to the line-up!

It’s time for a DESERTFEST special BERLIN announcement! 5 Years DESERTFEST BERLIN – 5 amazing Berlin bands added to the lineup! We are thrilled to welcome aboard instrumental stoner prog pioneers Rotor, incredibly entertaining experimental duo Dÿse, fast forward stoner rockers Samavayo, “Contemporary retro” songcrafters Coogans Bluff and the brand new power trio of ex-Kadavar bassist “Mammut”, The Loranes!

These 5 acts join the first 13 bands previously announced Electric Wizard, Truckfighters, Crowbar, Elder, Wo Fat, Egypt, Monolord, Death Alley, Monomyth, Mothership, Desert Storm, Kaleidobolt and Somali Yacht Club. Our fifth edition might be the trippiest experience of your life, so join us… take the ride and buy your ticket now! (tickets’ links below).

Regular HARD TICKETS or E-TICKETS can be purchased on our WEBSITE! Our ticketprices remain the same, that’s 85 Euros for all you newbies! But remember that we were sold out last time about 7 weeks ahead, and we think we may top that this year!

By ordering a HARD TICKET, you get a free Desertfest patch!

http://www.desertfest.de/
https://www.facebook.com/DesertfestBerlin

Rotor, “Volllast” official video

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Rotor Post Video for “Volllast”; New LP Fünf out Now

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 19th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

rotor (Photo by Björn Mager)

I’m a little sad to admit that Rotor‘s aptly-titled fifth album, Fünf, is out now (on Noisolution) and I’ve yet to hear it. Having so thoroughly dug 2010’s 4 (review here) and the subsequent Festaal Kreuzberg live outing (review here) when they were released, the latest was one to look forward to. The good news is that the Berlin-based instrumental four-piece have a new video up now for the track “Volllast” from the record, and it finds their heavy, progressive sound well intact.

Rotor have been on tour in Europe since Nov. 11, heralding the arrival of their first offering in five years and first with two guitarists, and have already been confirmed for Desertfest London and Freak Valley next year. Doesn’t seem unreasonable to think they’ll have more fest appearances and other touring in the works, but in addition to the current run, they’ll also play Freak Valley‘s X-mas Fest on Dec. 19 with TuberWucanDed Orse and Green Orbit.

The video, like the song, starts out serenely enough. A white van pulls up, foldout chairs and a table with a plant on it are laid out, and some unplugged guitar interplay ensues. Then the motorcycles go by and all hell breaks loose. No, seriously. The song stomps out some of the heaviest riffing I’ve heard from Rotor and the video hits it no less fervently. Booze is poured into open mouths, ladies wrap their arms around the bellies of riders, fires are lit, hedonism is had. In watching the clip last night, The Patient Mrs. commented, “What an odd celebration of masculinity.” And fairly enough.

Nonetheless, it looks like it was a damn good time to make, and though it’s been up for a minute at this point, I didn’t want to let any longer pass without giving it due attention.

Enjoy:

Rotor, “Volllast” official video

Rotor.2015 Tour (remaining dates):
19.11.2015 – AT Salzburg, Rockhouse Bar
20.11.2015 – AT Linz, Kapu
21.11.2015 – DE Chemnitz, Zukunft
27.11.2015 – DE Dresden, Groovestation
29.11.2015 – DE Berlin, Lido
19.12.2015 – DE Siegen, Freak Valley X-Mas Fest

Rotor’s website

Rotor on Thee Facebooks

Rotor on Bandcamp

Noisolution

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Desertfest London 2016: Godflesh, Crowbar, Truckfighters, Egypt, Wo Fat, Monolord, Mothership, Rotor and Planet of Zeus Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 29th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

desertfest london 2016 banner

Goodness gracious. There wasn’t really any doubt that Desertfest London 2016 meant business when it came out of the gate with Electric WizardElder and Conan in the lineup, but the Camden Town festival has continued to swing hard with its next batch of adds, which includes GodfleshCrowbarTruckfightersWo FatMothershipEgypt (if those last three aren’t touring Europe together around their Desertfest appearance, they should be), MonolordRotor and Planet of Zeus. It’s a pretty significant round two from Desertfest London 2016, which, again, wasn’t exactly struggling to make its quota of awesome to start with. If I had a bank holiday weekend, that would seem to be the way to spend it.

Tickets are on sale now. Details follow, as seen on the PR wire:

desertfest london 2016 poster

Godflesh, Crowbar, Truckfighters, Egypt and more acts confirmed to play DESERTFEST LONDON 2016!

UK’s #1 stoner, doom, sludge and psych event DESERTFEST LONDON is thrilled to announce the second wave of artists who will be taking the stage at the 2016 edition, taking place in April 29th to May 1st across multiple venues in the legendary musical hub of Camden Town…

NOLA’s sludge metal heroes CROWBAR will be heading back over seas to make ears bleed, bringing their influential slow-and-low sound to an eager, ready, and willing Desertfest. Kirk Windstein and his crew of titans haven’t graced UK revellers with their rowdy presence since 2014; and Crowbar has never played Desertfest London. Making for a truly exciting, and long over-due, addition to the already stellar proceedings next year has in store.

Desertfest are also pleased to reveal that our friends at Old Empire will once again be curating a stage, bringing an eclectic and exciting array of acts to broaden the pallet. First to be announced are industrial legends GODFLESH, who will be headlining the Old Empire offerings. Their experimental and aggressive sound has established the Birmingham-based duo as one of the most innovative bands in industrial music, cited as influencing everyone from Metallica to Faith No More.

As if all that wasn’t enough to process, there’s of course a healthy helping of doom and stoner rock goodness joining the mix for Desertfest 2016. Heavy-hitting warriors TRUCKFIGHTERS will be chucking riffs left, right and centre, alongside fellow Swedish fuzz lords MONOLORD, who will be riding easy and destroying all in one slow, hard and loud blow. Psychedelic monsters WO FAT are a welcome return, having well and truly mastered the art of trippy doom – many can do it, but few do it as well as the Dallas desert trio. EGYPT will also be heading over and hitting the bill hard to bring some Dakota doom goodness to the haze, alongside eccentric instrumental gurus ROTOR. Southern rock lovin’ PLANET OF ZEUS are bringing their raw grooves out of the Greek underground and into thirsty a London, and finally heavy rockers MOTHERSHIP will be taking fans well out the galaxy – musically speaking, of course.

– DESERTFEST LONDON 2016 –
April 29th to May 1st in Camden, London (UK)
Weekend tickets available AT THIS LOCATION

Current lineup is as follows:
ELECTRIC WIZARD
GODFLESH
CROWBAR
TRUCKFIGHTERS
ELDER
EGYPT
CONAN
WO FAT
MOTHERSHIP
MONOLORD
ROTOR
RAGING SPEEDHORN
PLANET OF ZEUS
WITCHSORROW

https://www.leedstickets.com/eventinfo/4804/Desertfest-2016
http://www.thedesertfest.com/london/
https://twitter.com/DesertFest
https://www.facebook.com/DesertfestLondon
https://instagram.com/desertfest
http://desertfest.bigcartel.com/

Truckfighters, Live at Desertfest London 2013

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Freak Valley 2016: Rotor and Monolord Added to Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 25th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

freak valley 2016

By way of a confession, Monolord were announced a bit ago as the first band for Freak Valley 2016, the festival set to take place next May 26-28 in Netphen, Germany, so I’m combining that word with the news that Berlin’s Rotor have also joined the lineup. Rotor, now past the 15-year mark as a band, will be supporting their fifth album, Fünf, which was released last week on Noisolution. They’ll also be touring in Nov. on a self-booked run to herald Fünf‘s arrival.

Monolord, meanwhile, are fast working their way toward veteran status. Already they’ve done Roadburn, and next month they play Desertfest Belgium as the latest in a slew of appearances of increasing profile, and almost directly after their Desertfest slot, they’ll make their way over for their first US tour (dates here), supporting no less than Windhand on what’s sure to be one of fall 2015’s heaviest runs.

Both are great pickups for Freak Valley 2016, and I’m sure they’re just the start of more to come.

Announcements follow:

For fifteen years RoToR have been crafting their dry as a bone instrumental sound merging 90s Stoner Rock and 70s Space Rock. From Berlin, founded 1998. First as a trio, now a quartet. Four studio albums and a live album. The fifth chapter now: “Fünf” (English: “Five”) is the title of the new album.

Those who have seen the band live know about the crushing heavyness, the ultra-tight rhythmic changes and the melancholic space trips. The intoxicating energy and radiation is the real quintessence of the band.

Contrasts meet: Stoner and Psychedelic, Kraut and Progressive make encounters and collapse. RoToR’s music has become more sophisticated, more transparent, more diverse, before suddenly the ton-weighing head-shaking part kicks in to take the listener to far away sound-worlds…

Here we go!! Please welcome Swedens doom metal starsailors MONOLORD

Formed in 2013, Monolord are made up of Swedish rockers Thomas Jäger, Esben Willems, and Mika Häkki. Both Jäger and Willems were in the Swedish boogie rock band Marulk and started Monolord as a side project as a way to play some more heavier tunes, they quickly added Häkki (from The Don Darlings, ex Rotten Sound) and realized that they had something very special between the 3 of them. Monolord is for more than just doom-metal fanatics and will satisfy all fans of guitar driven rock, stoner and monolithic riffs.

With all the flavours of an iconic doom classic Empress Rising follows in the footsteps of Sleep’s Holy Mountain, Pallbearer’s Sorrow and Extinction and Electric Wizard’s Witchcult Today with melodic vocals and harmonies that are as mind bending as they are anthemic.

Did we mention that Monolord are heavy? Fuck are they HEAVY!

Freak Valley Festival – 26th-27th-28th May 2016
www.freakvalley.de www.rockfreaks.de

FVF 3-day tickets – only 69€ incl. camping!!
FREAK VALLEY FESTIVAL: No Fillers – Just Killers
Line-up 2016:
Monolord [RidingEasy Records] – Doom/Sludge
Rotor [Noisolution] – Instrumental StonerRock/Psychedelic

www.freakvalley.de
https://www.facebook.com/freakvalley
https://twitter.com/FreakValley
https://shop.ticketscript.com/channel/web2/start-order/rid/LYSQRABJ/language/en

Rotor, “Volllast”

Monolord, Vænir (2015)

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