Scott Kelly and John Judkins to Tour Europe Early in 2018

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 6th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

You in no way need me to tell you to go see Scott Kelly. The Neurosis guitarist/vocalist, as a solo performer, has more than enough of a reputation behind him at this point that if you don’t know to show up and sit quietly, it’s nobody’s fault but your own. What I’ll do instead is point out the trio of videos at the bottom of this post of Kelly at work. The first clip is a trailer for a new 7″ split with his upcoming tourmate/collaborator John Judkins (Rwake). It contains new music and makes me very badly want a copy of that single. The second is a live clip from earlier this year of Kelly and Judkins performing “The Sun is Dreaming in the Soul” together, and if you needed further argument to get out to a show, that should about cover it. And the third is a recently-posted clip from Revolver of Kelly playing Neurosis‘ “Stones from the Sky” in the open-air setting of Crater Lake that The Patient Mrs. showed me the other day. I don’t know who might’ve thought of setting that one up, but whoever it was, they deserve a raise.

Judkins is the latest in a distinguished line of Kelly-solo collaborators that includes Bruce Lamont (Yakuza), CHVE of Amenra, and Scott “Wino” Weinrich, among others, but as you can see in the clip below, he brings a genuine complement to Kelly‘s acoustic work. As for Kelly himself, he recently got off tour with Mastodon and has a new band going called Semantron with Dave French of Brothers of the Sonic Cloth and Guy Nelson of Green Jellö about which one hopes to hear more in the New Year.

Until then, this from the PR wire:

Scott Kelly John Judkins photo Danin Drahos

SCOTT KELLY Announces Early 2018 European Tour Dates With John Judkins

SCOTT KELLY of NEUROSIS announces a European solo tour for early 2018, where he’ll accompanied by John Judkins of Rwake.

The tour will be supported by the release of a 7″ EP which captures the two artists performing at their show at White Water Tavern in Little Rock, Arkansas on March 3rd, 2017, during a US tour together. In selecting these two songs for the release, SCOTT KELLY offers, “we felt that they show the depth, emotion, and life that we are trying to bring to them.”

This limited edition live 7″ will be sold throughout the tour via My Proud Mountain, available in quantities of 200 on purple vinyl and 100 on black vinyl. A full overview of the dates can be found below.

SCOTT KELLY European Tour 2018 w/ John Judkins:
1/11/2018 Stubnitz – Hamburg, DE w/ Peter Wolff
1/12/2018 UT Connewitz – Leipzig, DE w/ Peter Wolff
1/13/2018 TBA – Poznan, PL
1/14/2018 Chmury – Warsaw, PL
1/15/2018 Klarisky Church – Bratislava, SK
1/16/2018 Kapu – Linz, AT
1/17/2018 Circolo Magnolia – Milan, IT
1/18/2018 Traffic Club – Rome, IT
1/19/2018 Cueva – Caligari, IT
1/20/2018 Poudrière – Belfort, FR
1/21/2018 Black Sheep – Montpellier, FR
1/22/2018 Karspek – Lyon, FR
1/23/2018 Sunset Bar – Martigny, CH
1/24/2018 Knabenschule – Darmstadt, DE w/ Peter Wolff
1/25/2018 Parterre – Basel, CH
1/26/2018 Sabotage – Lisbon, PT
1/27/2018 Understage – Porto, PT
1/28/2018 Festsaal Kreuzberg – Berlin, DE @ CTM Festival
1/29/2018 Arena 3raum – Vienna, AT
1/30/20018 A38 – Budapest, HU
1/31/2018 Club Mochvara – Zagreb, HR
2/02/2018 Dachstock – Bern, CH
2/03/2018 Pauluskirche – Dortmund, DE w/ Peter Wolff
2/04/2018 Gebr de Nobel – Liden, NL

https://www.facebook.com/ScottKelly.official
http://www.myproudmountain.com
https://www.facebook.com/myproudmountain
https://www.neurotrecordings.com
https://www.facebook.com/neurotrecordings

Scott Kelly & John Judkins tour trailer

Scott Kelly & John Judkins, “The Sun is Dreaming in the Soul” live Feb. 28, 2017

Scott Kelly, “Stones from the Sky” live at Crater Lake

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Rwake’s First Demo to Be Released in February

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 19th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

rwake

I can’t claim to have heard Rwake‘s demo, Xenoglossalgia: The Last Stage of Awareness — going by the etymology it would seem to be knowing what’s outside yourself, alien to you, or something like that — but if I had to sit and imagine what earliest Rwake might sound like, I’d have to guess it would be raw as hell. An included excerpt of “Colibos/So Fucking Tired” that’s about one-tenth the actual length of the track affirms the supposition. It’s nice to be validated every now and again, even if that means being flayed by Rwake in the process.

The Little Rock outfit’s demo will see a February release on Relapse. 2015 will make it four years since their last album, Rest (review here), so they’re probably due for something one way or another. Perhaps issuing Xenoglossalgia is a way to remind people that Rwake are still out there, lurking in the genre-blending shadows, ahead of a new full-length. I suppose that could go the other way too. I’d make a guess, but wouldn’t want to be accused of faking knowledge of things foreign to me.

Info and awesome-looking art off the PR wire:

rwake xenoglossalgia

RWAKE: Announce Official Release of First Ever Demo

Xenoglossalgia: The Last Stage of Awareness Set for February Release

Little Rock, AR infamous doom horde, Rwake, have announced the first ever official release of their highly sought after original demo Xenoglossalgia: The Last Stage of Awareness. Originally released in 1998 when the band were barely in their 20s, Xenoglossalgia is a document of the band discovering and experimenting with their sound. Glimmers of the deeply psychedelic sludge the band would become famous for are there, coupled with moments of Emperor influenced symphonic metal. Now, almost 20 years later, Rwake’s first official recordings have been fully remastered by Brad Boatright (Sleep, High On Fire, Integrity, etc) and made available for the first time ever outside of their hometown.

The album will be released on CD/LP/Digital on February 10th via Relapse Records in North America and February 9th in the UK/World and February 6th in Germany/Benelux. The limited edition LPs and CDs will come packaged in an insane 3D cover complete with 3D glasses. Physical pre-orders are available HERE with digital pre-orders available HERE.

1. Intro
2. Stairwell
3. Or Die
4. Xenoglossalgia
5. Nagarachi
6. Interlude
7. Calibos/So Fucking Tired

https://www.facebook.com/RwakeBand
https://twitter.com/rwakeband/
https://rwake.bandcamp.com/

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Rwake Premiere New Video: It was Beautiful, but Now it’s Pig Fetuses

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 23rd, 2012 by JJ Koczan

What’s the plural of “pig fetus” anyway? “Pig feti?” So hard to nail down the grammar there.

As it happens, Casper Haugegaard, who directed the video below for Rwake‘s track “It was Beautiful but Now it’s Sour” from last year’s brilliant Rest resurgence, seems to have had a much easier time actually nailing the pig fetuses themselves, or so the clip demonstrates. Don’t worry though. Real or not, everything it lacks in conveying the bleak gorgeousness of the song itself, it more than makes up for in needless “eww, gross” factor.

Apparently it’s already been pulled from YouTube, so here it is from Vimeo, who I guess are less squeamish about this kind of thing. PR wire info follows:

The 12 minute short film, directed Danish horror aficionado Casper Haugegaard, features devastating slow motion close-ups of actual pig fetuses being absolutely annihilated by a variety of implements.  RWAKE frontman C.T. commented on the video:

Caspercame to us about a year ago with this idea.  He said he had “certain” subject matter he knew he had to film and that it would fit to our music perfectly.  He probably knew no other band in its right mind who would agree to this footage and believe me the original test shootings he sent were way sicker.  This fits Rwake perfectly and we are honored to have such an artist like this think of us in the way that it inspires him to make such a beautifully, disturbing short film accompanied to our music.”

RWAKE released Rest, their first album in over four years, last year to immense critical acclaim.  The harrowingly beautiful progressive/doom/sludge masterpiece is currently available for streaming here.

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Who Wants to Watch CT from Rwake Puke at Maryland Deathfest?

Posted in Bootleg Theater on May 29th, 2012 by JJ Koczan

I do!

I didn’t get to Maryland Deathfest this past weekend, but even if you did go, here’s something you might have missed. Along with selling an exclusive 7″ of a new song, Rwake frontman CT brought a little something extra for the Baltimore crowd at what’s become America’s biggest metal fest. His lunch.

And I’ll tell you something else. I’ve seen a few frontmen vomit in my day — from Dixie Dave of Weedeater to Andy from Clamfight — and anyone can puke on stage. It’s pretty easy. What’s not easy, however, is puking on stage and still managing to keep the verse going. Kudos to you, sir.

Here’s the clip, filmed by a dutiful documentarian going by the nom de guerre “TOTALFUCKINGMAYHEM,” whose efforts are much appreciated. For those who’d skip right to it, there’s pukeage at about 2:20, but you might want to consider watching the whole thing, because “It was Beautiful but Now it’s Sour” — taken from last year’s excellent Rest LP — is badass. Either way, enjoy:

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 of 2011

Posted in Features on December 9th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

Please note: This list is made up of my personal picks, not the results of the Readers Poll, which is ongoing — if you haven’t added your top 11 to that yet, please do.

It was an impossible task to keep up with everything that came out this year. I’ll say flat out that I didn’t. There are records that I just didn’t get to hear, and I should note at the outset that this list is mine. It’s based on my personal opinions, what I listened to the most this year and what I think 2011’s most crucial releases have been.

I’ve spent the better part of this week (and last, if brain-time counts) constructing this list, and I finally got it to a point where I feel comfortable sharing. Since last December, I’ve kept a Post-It of names, and all year, I’ve logged bands I’d want to consider for the final top 20. In the end, there were 78 bands and more that I didn’t get to write down for whatever reason. 2011 was nothing if it wasn’t overwhelming.

But here we are, anyway, and it’s done. Let’s get to it:

20. Suplecs, Mad Oak Redux

Released by Small Stone. Reviewed Nov. 5, 2010.

This is nothing if not a sentimental pick. Last year, I put Electric Wizard in the #20 spot because the record wasn’t out yet, and this year, I’m putting Suplecs (interview with bassist Danny Nick here) in just because I couldn’t imagine this list without them. Until literally a few minutes before I clicked “Publish” on this post, there was someone else in this spot, but ultimately, it had to be them. The New Orleans trio’s first record in half a decade wasn’t what I listened to most in 2011, it wasn’t the best album, or the most important, or career-defining, but when it came right down to it, god damn, I was just happy to have Suplecs back. It had been too long.

19. Elvis Deluxe, Favourite State of Mind

Released by Harmony Records. Reviewed June 14.

After a while, I was kind of shocked to find myself continuing to listen to Favourite State of Mind, the second album by Polish rockers Elvis Deluxe. The record’s dynamics didn’t immediately open up to me, but once I dug into the songs, I was wowed by their balance of catchy hooks and substantial-sounding riffs. The album was genre-relevant without being genre-minded, with vocal changes, organ, atmospheric shifts and a whole host of moods and turns. After hearing their 2007 debut, Lazy, I wasn’t expecting much out of the norm from Favourite State of Mind, and I’m still thrilled by just how wrong I was, and “Take it Slow” is among my favorite single songs of the year.

18. 40 Watt Sun, The Inside Room

Released by Metal Blade. Reviewed Aug. 11.

The gloomy opening statement from former Warning guitarist/vocalist Patrick Walker turned heads around the world with its unabashed emotional conviction, which was so much the central focus of the record as to be made a novelty by those who don’t usually consider doom an emotionally relevant genre (the widespread arguments against that notion I’ll leave for another time). What most stood out to me about The Inside Room was how the sentimentality translated into a gorgeous melodic sensibility and resulted in a lonely mood that was engrossing. On that level, it was easily among 2011’s most effective releases. It made you feel what it seemed to be feeling.

17. Sigiriya, Return to Earth

Released by The Church Within. Reviewed May 27.

It was an album that lived up to its name. Return to Earth marked the remaking of one of heavy rocks most stoned outfits: Acrimony. But, as Sigiriya (interview with drummer Darren Ivey here), the four-piece (down from five) would show that the years since the demise of their former band had found them progressing as musicians, resulting in a sound less directly stoner, more modern, more earthy. The songs, however, were what made it. It’s still a rare day that goes by that I don’t hum at least part of the chorus of “Mountain Goat” to myself, and if Return to Earth was a new beginning for these players, I can’t wait to see where they go next.

16. Totimoshi, Avenger

Released by At a Loss. Reviewed Aug. 16.

In addition to being Totimoshi‘s first album for At a Loss following the end of their deal with Volcom, Avenger was the first Totimoshi record since 2003’s ¿Mysterioso? not to be produced by Page Hamilton, and where 2006’s Ladrón and 2008’s Milagrosa moved away from some of the noisy crunch in the guitar of Tony Aguilar (interview here), Avenger managed to be both a return to form and a progression of the band’s melodicism. It seems, as ever, to have flown under most radars, but Totimoshi continue to refine their songwriting and have become one of the heavy underground’s most formidable and least classifiable bands.

15. Grifter, Grifter

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Aug. 30.

With their 2010 EP release, upstart British trio Grifter informed us that The Simplicity of the Riff is Key, and on their self-titled Ripple Music debut, they put that ethic to excellent use, resulting in straightforward, catchy songs that were as high-octane as they were low-bullshit. The ultra-catchy “Good Day for Bad News” showed Grifter at the top of their form, and with a dose of humor thrown in, Grifter was the drunken stoner rock party you always wanted to be invited to and, of course, finally were. Now if only I could get Skype to work and get that interview with Ollie Stygall moving, I’d be happy to tell him personally he put out one of 2011’s most kickass rock records.

14. The Book of Knots, Garden of Fainting Stars

Released by Ipecac. Reviewed June 16.

I don’t know what’s most impressive about The Book of KnotsGarden of Fainting Stars — the songs themselves or that they were able to make any songs at all. With upwards of 20 guest spots around the core four-piece, the third in a purported trilogy of records from the avant rock originalists was an epic in every listen. Songs like “Microgravity” and the Mike Watt spoken word “Yeager’s Approach” pushed the limits of both genre and expectation, and miraculously, Garden of Fainting Stars was cohesive and enthralling in its narrative aspect. If it really was their last album, it was triumphant in a manner befitting its expanding-universe thematics.

13. Ancestors, Invisible White

Released by Tee Pee. Reviewed July 5.

Had it been a full-length, Invisible White would be higher on this list. Many out there who were enamored of Ancestors‘ 2008 Neptune with Fire debut have gone on to bemoan the Californian collective’s shift away from extended sections of heavy riffing and tales of sea monsters and other things that go “doom” in the night. I’m not one of them. The Invisible White EP was a brave step along a fascinating progression, and as Crippled Black Phoenix didn’t release a new album in 2011, I was glad to have Ancestors there to fill that morose, contemplative void, and I look forward to seeing how they expand on the ideas presented on Invisible White (if they decide to stick to this direction) for their next full-length.

12. Elder, Dead Roots Stirring

Released by MeteorCity. Reviewed Oct. 5.

Speaking of shifting approaches, still-young Massachusetts trio Elder also moved away from the Sleep-centric methods of their 2008 self-titled debut on the follow-up, Dead Roots Stirring. Still based very much around the guitar work of Nick DiSalvo (interview here), Elder songs like “Gemini” and the über-soloed “The End” pushed an influence of European heavy psych into the band’s aesthetic, and the result was both grippingly heavy and blown of mind. As an album long delayed by mixing and business concerns, when Dead Roots Stirring finally arrived, it was a relief to hear that Elder, though they’d varied the path, were still headed in the right direction.

11. The Gates of Slumber, The Wretch

Released by Rise Above. Reviewed May 5.

Hands down the year’s best traditional doom release. The Wretch so gleefully and so earnestly employed the conventions of ’80s-style doom — most especially those of Saint Vitus and Trouble — that even though the lyrical and musical content was miserable, I couldn’t help but smile as I listened. Songs like “Bastards Born” and “The Scovrge ov Drvnkenness” pushed The Gates of Slumber away from the barbarism the Indianapolis outfit had been touting on their last couple albums, including 2008’s Conqueror breakthrough, in favor of a more purely Chandlerian plod. “To the Rack with Them” remains a standout favorite and a line often referenced in my workplace dealings.

10. Weedeater, Jason… the Dragon

Released by Southern Lord. Reviewed Jan. 6.

I don’t know what you say to someone at this point who doesn’t like Weedeater. It just seems like a terrible way to go through life, without the madman ranting of “Dixie” Dave Collins (interview here) echoing perpetually in your ears, or never having witnessed their ultra-viscous fuzz in person. Jason… the Dragon was one of the earliest landmark releases of 2011, and practically the whole year later, it retains its hold, whether it’s the stomping fury of “Mancoon,” the lumbering groove of “Long Gone” or the surprisingly melodic “Homecoming.” The hard-touring, hard-hitting band did right in recording with Steve Albini to capture their live sound, and Jason… the Dragon was their strongest outing yet in terms of both songwriting and that unmistakable quality that makes Weedeater records Weedeater records.

9. Rwake, Rest

Released by Relapse. Reviewed Sept. 6.

I was surprised to see Rwake crack the top 10. Not because their first album in four years, the Sanford Parker-produced Rest, wasn’t superb, but because of how much the songs on the album stayed with me after listening. The Arkansas band’s last outing, Voices of Omens, was heavy and dark and had a lot going for it, but Rest upped the songwriting on every level and together with frontman CT (interview here) adopting a more decipherable shout over most of the record’s four main extended tracks, Rwake felt like a band reborn, and theirs was a highlight among several 2011 albums that showed there’s still room for individual growth and stylistic nuance within the sphere of post-metal.

8. Hull, Beyond the Lightless Sky

Released by The End. Reviewed Oct. 14.

It was back and forth, nine and eight, between Rwake and Hull for a while, but when all was said and done, the fantastic scope of Beyond the Lightless Sky gave the Brooklyn triple-guitar masters the edge. With a narrative structure behind it and a breadth of ambience and crushing, post-doomly riffing, Beyond the Lightless Sky was the defining moment that those who’ve followed Hull since their Viking Funeral demo have been waiting for. In concept, in performance, in sound and structure and heft, it absolutely floored me, and of all the heavy records I’ve heard with the tag applied to them in 2011, Hull‘s second full-length seems most to earn the tag “progressive.” A stunning and groundbreaking achievement.

7. Mars Red Sky, Mars Red Sky

Released by Emergence. Reviewed Aug. 29.

One of 2011’s most fascinating developments has been the boom in European heavy psychedelia, and the self-titled debut from French band Mars Red Sky was among the best releases to blend a jam-based sensibility with thick, warm fuzz and memorable riffs. Together with the sweet-hued vocals of Julien Pras (interview here), those riffs made for some of the most infectious hooks I heard all year on songs like “Strong Reflection” and “Way to Rome,” and where other bands jammed their way into psychedelic oblivion, Mars Red Sky were able to balance their focus on crafting quality songs, so that although they sounded spontaneous, the material was never self-indulgent or lacking accessibility. One just hopes they don’t lose sight of that musical humility their next time out.

6. Grayceon, All We Destroy

Released by Profound Lore. Reviewed on March 8.

There was a point earlier this year at which I had forgotten about All We Destroy. After reviewing it in March, I simply moved on to the next thing on my list, and the thing after, and the thing after. But before I knew it, in my head was the voice of Jackie Perez Gratz, singing the line “As I live and breathe” over her own cello, the guitar of Max Doyle and Max Doyle‘s drums. It got so persistent that, eventually, I went out and bought the record, because the mp3s I’d been given to review simply weren’t enough. That was probably July, and I don’t think I’ve gone a week since without listening to Grayceon. So although I classify it in the same league as Rwake and Hull in terms of what it accomplishes in and for its genre, All We Destroy gets the extra nod for the fact that I simply haven’t been able to let it go. And though I’ve come to further appreciate “Shellmounds,” “Once a Shadow” and “A Road Less Traveled,” the 17-minute “We Can” — from which the above-noted lyric is taken — remains the best single song I heard in 2011.

5. Red Fang, Murder the Mountains

Released by Relapse. Reviewed Feb. 16.

On paper, this one should’ve flopped: Band with minor buzz and a cool video hooks up with indie rock dude to record an album of dopey riffs and beardo bombast. Instead, Red Fang‘s second album and Relapse debut became the 2011 vanguard release for the Portland heavy underground, which is arguably the most fertile scene in the US right now. They toured the record widely, and made another killer video for the mega-single “Wires,” but the reason Murder the Mountains is top five material is because it’s lasted. It was February that I reviewed this record, and March that I interviewed guitarist/vocalist Bryan Giles, and I still can’t get “Into the Eye” and “Hank is Dead” and “Number Thirteen” (especially the latter) out of my head. When it came down to it, the songs on Murder the Mountains lived up to any hype the album received, and I’m a sucker for quality songwriting. I mean, seriously. That key change late into “Number Thirteen?” It’s the stuff of the gods.

4. Graveyard, Hisingen Blues

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Feb. 25.

I wasn’t particularly a fan of Swedish rockers Graveyard‘s 2008 self-titled debut. Even watching them at Roadburn in 2010, I was underwhelmed. But when I heard Hisingen Blues and was able to get a feel for what the retro-minded foursome were getting at stylistically — and most of all, that they were acknowledging that they were doing it without being glib or ironic about it — I found the material irresistible. We’re getting into seriously indispensable records now; ones that I’ve been unwilling to leave home without since they came, in, and Graveyard‘s Hisingen Blues has been a constant feature in heavy rotation. Everything from the devilish testimony of the title-track to the wiry guitars of the chorus to “Ungrateful are the Dead,” to the Skynyrd-ified solo capping “Uncomfortably Numb”: It’s been a year of revelry in all of it, and since they overcame my prejudice to impress on such a level, Graveyard (interview with drummer Axel Sjöberg here) are all the more deserving of their spot on this list.

3. Sungrazer, Mirador

Released by Elektrohasch. Reviewed Sept. 9.

What I hear in the second album from Dutch trio Sungrazer is the heralding of a new generation of fuzz rock. Taking influence from their forebears in Colour Haze and Kyuss, the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Rutger Smeets (interview here), bassist/vocalist Sander Haagmans and drummer Hans Mulders followed and surpassed their stellar 2010 debut on every level, playing heavy riffs on expansive psychedelic jams and still finding room for some of 2011’s most memorable choruses in songs like “Sea” and “Goldstrike.” In so doing, Sungrazer affirmed the character of next-gen European fuzz and placed themselves at the fore of their scene, with touring and festival  appearances to support. For their warmth of tone and for the fact that I spent the better part of the summer streaming the record through the Dutch website 3voor12, there was no way they were going to be left out of the top 20. It wasn’t until I sat down and actually put the numbers together, though, that I realized how vital Mirador actually was.

2. Lo-Pan, Salvador

Released by Small Stone. Reviewed Feb. 16.

I was lucky enough to be sent some rough listening mixes of Ohio outfit Lo-Pan‘s Small Stone Records debut (following a reworked reissue of their Sasquanaut sophomore full-length), and in my email back to label head Scott Hamilton, I told him I thought he had a genuine classic on his hands. A year, I don’t even know how many Lo-Pan gigs and listens through Salvador later, I still feel that way 100 percent. If you were from another planet, and we got to talking at a bar, and you asked me what rock and roll should sound like in the place where I’m from, I’d hand you Salvador. I still think they should’ve started the album with “Generations,” but if that’s my biggest gripe, they’re clearly doing alright. “Bird of Prey” was the best live song I saw all year, and I saw it plenty, and cuts like “Bleeding Out” and “Struck Match” set the standard by which I’ll judge American heavy rock for a long time to come. Like the best of any class, Salvador is bigger than just the year in which it was released, and at this point, I don’t know what else to say about it.

1. YOB, Atma

Released by Profound Lore. Reviewed July 6.

This is as good as it gets, and by “it,” I mean life. YOB‘s last album, 2009’s The Great Cessation, was my album of the year that year as well, and I knew from the second I heard the self-produced Atma that nothing to come this year would top it. Like Ufomammut‘s Eve in 2010, Atma brings the entire genre of doom along with it on the new ground it breaks, refining what’s fast becoming YOB‘s signature approach even as it pushes ever forward. I still have to stop whatever I’m doing (not exactly good for productivity) whenever “Prepare the Ground” comes on, and songs like “Adrift in the Ocean” and “Before We Dreamed of Two” were humbling. Seriously. Humbling. Listening to them was like looking at those photographs from the Hubble that cover trillions of miles that we’ll never know and reveal gorgeous colors where our naked eyes only see black. If that sounds hyperbolic, thanks for getting it. YOB guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt (interview here) is, almost in spite of himself, one of American doom’s most crucial contributors, and with Atma, he and the rhythm section of bassist Aaron Reiseberg and drummer Travis Foster released what is without a doubt the best album of 2011.

A few quick housekeeping items and we’ll call it quits. First, honorable mentions. If this list went to 25, also included would be The Wounded Kings, Earth, Larman Clamor, Olde Growth and The Atlas Moth. Roadsaw were also in heavy consideration, so they’re worth noting, as are many others.

Obviously, I couldn’t include them, but two of my favorite releases in 2011 also came from Blackwolfgoat and HeavyPink, and I’m thrilled and honored to have helped put them out in the small way I did.

And as I said above, there are records I didn’t hear. I haven’t heard the new Black Pyramid yet. Or Orchid. Or a bunch more that I could go on listing. I’m only one man and this is only my list, for better or worse. Again, I really do hope you’ll contribute yours to the group poll, the results of which will be out Jan. 1.

I’ll probably have some more to wrap up 2011 as the month winds down, but until then, thank you so much for reading this and the rest of the wordy nonsense I’ve put up the whole year long. Your support and encouragement means more than I’m able to tell. Here’s to 2012 to come.

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Rwake Interview with CT: If You Can Fill the Unforgiving Minute with 60 Seconds’ Worth of Distance Run…

Posted in Features on October 11th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

Of the various kinds of heavinesses they emit — sonic, emotional, temperamental, etc. — where Arkansas post-sludgers Rwake are heaviest of all is in atmosphere. There’s something about their new album, Rest, that, in its most biting moments, reaches down your throat to pull the air from your lungs. It’s not just oppressively loud. Even quiet stretches like the opening introduction “Souls of the Sky” enact a kind of hegemony for the threats they contain.

Rest is the fifth and most realized Rwake (pronounced “wake”) album. It follows four years behind the band’s Relapse Records debut, Voices of Omens, and, like that album, was produced by the careful ears of Sanford Parker. That’s important to note because, as Rwake has stepped beyond their past work in so many ways across Rest‘s six tracks, there are still some consistencies of sound that work greatly to their benefit, and Parker‘s production is undeniably a big part of that.

But then, “big” seems to be the word all around when it comes to Rwake. The guitars of Kiffin Rogers and Kris “Gravy” Graves alternate between piercing leads and riffs that seem to be made of block cement, broken through only by Jeff Morgan‘s ultra-adaptable drums, Reid Raley‘s rumble and the dual-vocal assault of Brittany Fugate‘s snarled screams and CT‘s shouts echoing over the abyss like cliffside incantations yelled to gathering clouds.

As the frontman, CT has shown marked growth in his vocals, moving beyond the screams of Voices of Omens and earlier records like 2004’s If You Walk Before You Crawl, You Crawl Before You Die and 2002’s Hell is a Door to the Sun (reissued earlier this year by Relapse) to more controlled and overall cleaner shouting. It’s not exactly melodic, and he’s still able to match Fugate for ferocity on cuts like “An Invisible Thread,” but there’s no question that in the four years between Voices of Omens and Rest, he came into his own as a singer and as a central figure in the band.

The album is 53 minutes long. My interview with CT was 55. We spoke before the band’s short tour at the end of last month about the strange and protracted process by which Rest was recorded and how it ultimately helped in undertaking the aforementioned maturation, the move to longer songs, their current position as regards touring and much more, and even had some time at the end to bring in how he — as the director of the sludge documentary Slow Southern Steel — views Rwake within the expansive creative milieu of the American south.

You’ll find the complete 6,200-word Q&A after the jump. Please enjoy.

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Rwake, Rest: It is Later than You Think

Posted in Reviews on September 6th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

While embroiled in the 53 minutes of Rwake’s new album, Rest, you feel every second of the four and a half years it’s been since Voices of Omens came out in February 2007. That record was Rwake’s Relapse Records debut, and in some ways, the new Rest is a direct sequel. It once again pairs the Little Rock, Arkansas, five-piece with producer/engineer Sanford Parker and finds them imbuing their sludge with atmospheric sprawl, but where Rest surpasses Voices of Omens (not an easy task) is in the level of growth displayed. On the four extended cuts (plus two interludes) of Rwake’s latest, the band show a mastery of their form and style that couldn’t come from anything but a mature outfit. The music is heavy both in tone and introspection, and Rest benefits greatly from the interplay between vocalists CT and Brittany Fugate, the latter who also contributes samples and noise, but the fact that’s most readily apparent is that four years ago, Rwake simply wasn’t here yet, and they’re here now.

In light of CT having helmed the documentary film Slow Southern Steel, it’s hard not to read Rest in terms of its place in the lineage of Southern American sludge, and in that regard, it builds on the directives of the genre – at times it is painfully slow – but shies away neither from exploration nor melody in the guitar work of Kiffin Rogers and Kris “Gravy” Graves. Rounded out by Jeff Morgan’s drums and Nachtmystium contributor Reid Raley‘s bass (John Judkins has also recently toured with the band in the role), Rwake don’t entirely transcend rudimentary sludge’s punk-based aggression – they’re not trying to – but in terms of where these songs go, it’s clear the band are reaching for something more complex. They get it almost instantly, the acoustic guitar and melodic vocals from Fugate in the intro “Souls of the Sky” giving way after 1:27 to the near-12-minute ultra-downer “It was Beautiful but Now it’s Sour.” The opener, like the later “Ti Progetto,” being geared more toward atmosphere and establishing a context for what’s coming, Rest truly gets underway with the second cut, a lumbering pace set by Morgan’s snare and topped with one of the album’s several excellent guitar leads. CT’s first vocals, interestingly, are backwards. It’s a tactic Rwake use toward the end of the song as well, but his gruff shouts are soon turned forward and paired with Fugate’s animalistic black metal snarl. But 3:20 into the total 11:45, Rwake’s expanse is beginning to lay itself out. CT and Fugate synchronize and the effect is engrossing.

Like much of Rest, “It was Beautiful but Now it’s Sour” follows a linear structure, but though there are moments where it feels like their build will just keep going without payoff, Rwake never lose sight of the song they’re writing. I’d argue that the ambient/acoustic break that comes into “It was Beautiful but Now it’s Sour” – one of CT’s most Neurosis-esque moments in terms of delivery – undercuts the apex the prior movement was leading toward, but it doesn’t feel like Rwake are making a misstep in their craft as much as making their listeners sweat out the track’s peak. Instead, melodic guitar lines space out patiently before a crashing avalanche of a riff takes hold and, eventually Morgan introduces a quicker tempo with drum fills while Fugate screams deep in the mix, nonetheless stepping back as CT helms the drama of the final minute. There’s a lot happening right away, and though shorter at nine minutes, “An Invisible Thread” doesn’t let up, beginning faster with electric and acoustic (I think) guitars paired in Mastodonian tradition for a quicker riff as CT and Fugate once again line up as well. Much of Rest’s success is based around the two pairings – Rogers and Graves and CT and Fugate (with the Raley‘s bass and Morgan’s drumming for ground) – and all are working excellently on “An Invisible Thread.” The song doesn’t have the same kind of outward movement as “It was Beautiful but Now it’s Sour,” but the intensity of the first half finds release in the slow riffing and Slayeresque lead-line/ride cymbal interplay that mounts the second. It’s horrific in how huge it sounds, but here too Rwake are in control, and the rumbling noise with which the song ends is suitable aftermath for the low-end apocalypse the song preceding has wrought.

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audiObelisk EXCLUSIVE: Rwake Stream “An Invisible Thread” From New Album Rest

Posted in audiObelisk on August 24th, 2011 by JJ Koczan

We’re about a month out from the Sept. 27 release date for Rwake‘s second album for Relapse Records, Rest. The full-length follows four years after Rwake‘s label debut, Voices of Omens, and like that record, it was produced by the ever-vigilant Sanford Parker. It is — and I say this with no exaggeration or sense of hyperbole — a beast.

Voices of Omens delved into apocalyptic metal territory, no doubt about it, but Rest personalizes that process. It makes it human. Sonically, the six tracks encompass a range of extreme genres, from doom to black and death metal to the dirge-hued bombast Rwake have come to trade on over the course of their development. The songs (with the use of a couple choice samples) hit hard enough to satisfy longtime followers of the band, and the expansive scope comes at no cost to that heaviness.

Relapse has been kind enough to let The Obelisk have a couple choice track premieres over the last several months (Hail!Hornet, Indian, the entirety of Rwake‘s reissue of 2002’s Hell is a Door to the Sun), but I don’t know if I’ve been as excited about any of them as I am about this. As you listen, understand that you’re getting a part of the whole here and that each cut on Rest offers something individual to the listener.

Please find “An Invisible Thread” on the player below — followed by an explanation of the track and lyrics from frontman CT — and enjoy.

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

From CT:
“An Invisible Thread” is an anthemic song about the devil’s music, wife abuse, dreamscapes, and the ability to “out of body experience” your very own suicide. It is the “upper” on the album. Not so much uplifting, just more of an all around upper.

Lyrics:
nothing last forever un relived
when all the others give and fucking take
user suck the life to fucking live
imitate life but never recreate

if we knew there would be no fit
if you think you know then you’re fucking full of shit
look around you and embrace it
the long road to hell with no regret

now you feel it cause you’re sick at your stomach
it’s a feeling that no one can run from
it’s a haunting and the sickness is the demon
exorcise through suicide and reason

Rest is available for preorder at this location in 180 gram vinyl, CD or t-shirt bundles, and will be released Sept. 27. Special thanks to Relapse for permission to host the stream.

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