The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2017

Posted in Features on December 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

top-30-of-2017

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 2017 to that, please do.

We’re almost at the finish line for 2017, and if I’m honest, it’s not a minute too soon. I think if one more record comes out this year my head is going to explode.

A perpetual onslaught of cool music is, of course, nothing to complain about. It just seemed like every time I thought I had a handle on where the year was going, some other announcement came through and knocked me on my ass. What’s that? The Obsessed are putting out their first album in more than two decades? Oh and Monolord have a new one coming? Radio Moscow just signed to Century Media? Arc of Ascent are back? Samsara Blues Experiment are back? Causa Sui are putting out a live album and a studio album? Sasquatch are going to Europe and sneaking a record along with them? All of a sudden I’m out of breath feeling like I just ran a lap.

It’s been madness this year. Between an emergent neo-psych movement in the wake of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and others, and the ongoing and constant reshaping of doom and heavy rock from practitioners new and old, I don’t know how anyone could ever claim to keep up with any of it.

You know I do the best I can, so when you look through this list, please keep in mind that these are my picks and the result of applying my own standard, which if you’ve ever seen a list on this site before you probably already know is a combination of things like what I view as being important on a critical level and things like what kept me coming back as a listener. What were the year’s biggest releases and what couldn’t I get enough of? Sometimes those two things come together around one record and it’s beautiful. That’s usually your album of the year, or close to, anyhow.

No sense in delaying further. I hope if you haven’t heard some of this stuff you’ll give it a shot, and if you have something you felt strongly about it, you’ll let me know in the comments. Thanks in advance for keeping it civil, and of course for reading.

Here goes:

30. Geezer, Psychoriffadelia
geezer psychoriffadelia

Released by Kozmik Artifactz and STB Records. Reviewed May 16.

Coming off of what was their strongest album to-date in their 2016 self-titled (review here), New York heavy psych blues trio Geezer decided it was time to take the groove for a walk. And so they did. Psychoriffadelia is the result — a looser collection of jams and willfully unrefined heavy blues, reveling in the politically incorrect on “Dirty Penny” only after basking in the post-Monster Magnet hypnosis of “Red Hook” and the earlier roll of the more straightforward “Hair of the Dog” and “Stressknots.” Everything Geezer has done to this point has pushed their sound to new places. Psychoriffadelia is no exception.

29. Orango, The Mules of Nana

orango the mules of nana

Released by Stickman Records. Reviewed March 27.

More than a touch of twang on opener “Heartland” sets a tone of Americana-infusion for Orango‘s sixth LP, The Mules of Nana, but the 10-tracker is ultimately much more about harmony-laced classic heavy smoothness than playing to prairie-minded sensibilities, though roots spread wide through a natural, dirty blues just the same. However they get there, “Hazy Chain of Mountains,” the softshoe-ready funk of “Head on Down” and the peacefully progressive finish of “Ghost Rider” bring ’70s-style thrills in songwriting and their precise, gorgeous execution. Underrated record from an underappreciated band.

28. Radio Moscow, New Beginnings

radio moscow new beginnings

Released by Century Media. Reviewed Oct. 6.

Cali boogie kingpins and all-around marvelous frenetic bastards Radio Moscow were in top form on their Century Media debut, and if it was a new beginning they were searching for, they met it head on with a sound as classic and organic as ever. Arguably the most powerful power trio in their game, they tore through cuts like “No One Knows Where They’ve Been” and “Deceiver” while offering flourish in the trip-out “Woodrose Morning” and subdued blues-psych on the penultimate “Pick up the Pieces.” Very much to form, but cast of a form that still manages to outclass all challengers.

27. Spaceslug, Time Travel Dilemma

spaceslug time travel dilemma

Released by Southcave Records, BSFD Records and Oak Island Records. Reviewed Feb. 10.

And so here we have the first of what will no doubt be several records about which I’m going to say they should be higher on the list. Poland’s Spaceslug have emerged from the moist ground created by their own tonality and on their sophomore full-length, they proffered warm depth of fuzz and a corresponding melodic and psychedelic reach that was resonant even before they brought in ex-Sungrazer bassist Sander Haagmans for a guest spot on the title-track. It’s been out for 10 months and still delivers every time I put it on, which is often.

26. Mothership, High Strangeness

mothership high strangeness
Released by Ripple Music and Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed March 7.

Three albums into a tenure marked by hard-driving riffs, scorching solos and relentless road work, there’s little Texas trio Mothership need to do at this point to prove themselves to their audience. At the same time, High Strangeness brought considerable expansion to their range overall, whether it was the exploratory “Eternal Trip” or the semi-metallic insistence behind “Midnight Express,” while staying tied together with lyrical and instrumental hooks. High Strangeness set a new standard for Mothership, plain and simple, and easily surpassed the considerable accomplishments of their 2012 self-titled debut (review here) and 2014’s Mothership II (review here).

25. Eternal Black, Bleed the Days

eternal black bleed the days

Released by Obsidian Sky Records. Reviewed Aug. 1.

There was a lot about Eternal Black‘s Bleed the Days that chugged its way into the post-Wino oeuvre of US-style trad doom, but the gruff, lumbering and impeccably riffed outing was nonetheless one of 2017’s best debut full-lengths, and it was the songwriting that got it there. Already sounding sure in the vibe captured, cuts like the plodding brooder “Sea of Graves” and “Stained Eyes on a Setting Sun” showed potential in mood and atmosphere as much as sheer sonic heft — though of course there was plenty of that to go around as well. Doomers missed it at their peril.

24. Kadavar, Rough Times

kadavar rough times

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Sept. 6.

It kind of feels like a slight to have Berlin trio Kadavar appear anywhere outside of at least a top 10 on any kind of list whatsoever, ever, but that’s not my intention at all. Rather, their fourth album and third for Nuclear Blast found them at an important stage in their progression — past the novelty of the vintage feel in their early work, after having proven their songwriting could translate to a modern context, and embarking on a process of expanding their sound. Rough Times, which was as current as current could be, met that goal and beat it easily with a barrage of memorable choruses and a dark streak one could only consider suitable for our age.

23. Shroud Eater, Strike the Sun

shroud eater strike the sun

Released by STB Records. Reviewed June 28.

The biggest surprise about Shroud Eater‘s long-awaited sophomore long-player was also its most encouraging aspect — namely how it found the Miami trio bringing together various impulses shown on a number of shorter releases over the course of the six years since their debut, ThunderNoise (review here), came out in 2011, and still managed to utterly crush when it so chose. With a swath from sludge to drone and back again, this was no minor feat, and that the songs they brought to bear were so memorable at their heart as well makes me hope all the more it’s not 2023 before their third album arrives.

22. Enslaved, E

enslaved e

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Oct. 4.

What’s left to say about Norwegian progressive black metal innovators Enslaved 14 records into their career? Plenty as it turns out. The introduction of new keyboardist/vocalist Håkon Vinje in place of Herbrand Larsen brought a new twist on a signature element of Enslaved‘s approach. Vinje utterly owned his role, and his performance alongside guitarist Ivar Bjørnson, bassist/vocalist Grutle Kjellson, guitarist Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal and drummer Cato Bekkevold resulted in a fresh urgency that made the band’s sound even more potent and set their ongoing creative evolution on a new branch of its self-directed path.

21. Arc of Ascent, Realms of the Metaphysical

arc-of-ascent-realms-of-the-metaphysical

Released by Astral Projection and Clostridium Records. Reviewed April 6.

Some five years on from 2012’s The Higher Key (review here) and seven out from their debut, Circle of the Sun (review here), and with bassist/vocalist Craig Williamson firmly entrenched in his always excellent Lamp of the Universe psych-drone-folk solo-project, I wasn’t sure there would be another offering from New Zealand heavy psych-rock trio Arc of Ascent, but Realms of the Metaphysical took shape from an ether of riffs and echoes atop resilient underlying structures and revitalized the group with new drummer Mark McGeady in the lineup with Williamson and guitarist Matt Cole-Baker. Remains to be seen if this marks a priority shift for Williamson or it’s a one-off, but its arrival was welcome either way.

20. Causa Sui, Vibraciones Doradas

causa sui vibraciones doradas

Released by El Paraiso Records. Reviewed Oct. 20.

With the various glories already offered in 2017 on the Live in Copenhagen (review here) 3LP, one didn’t necessarily expect a new studio outing from Danish instrumental psych masters Causa Sui, but Vibraciones Doradas found them as vibrant as ever, bringing forth a surprising amount of tonal weight on songs like “El Fuego,” warm fuzz for the basking on opener “The Drop” and spaciousness on the closing title-track. Somewhat more straight-ahead in its rocking groove than 2016’s Return to Sky (review here), the five-track/38-minute long-player showed yet again why Causa Sui are always welcome and that any news of a new release from them, live, studio, whatever, is good news. This was the kind of record that could make your day if you let it.

19. Telekinetic Yeti, Abominable

telekinetic yeti abominable

Released by Sump Pump Records. Reviewed April 10.

The Iowa-based duo of guitarist/vocalist Alex Baumann and drummer Anthony Dreyer, operating as Telekinetic Yeti, released what I considered to be the debut of the year, both for the fullness of its tonality and the accomplishment in songcraft it already showed. Powered by cuts like its lumbering title-track and the gloriously fuzzed runner “Stoned and Feathered,” it could’ve been another band’s second or third record for the level of cohesion on display and the obvious awareness on the part of the band of what they wanted to do with their sound and the just-as-obvious result of their bringing it to life.

18. Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kozmic Dust

cloud catcher trails of kozmic dust

Released by Totem Cat Records. Reviewed Dec. 9, 2016.

While I admit I’m still not 100 percent certain on whether to spell “kozmic” in the title with a ‘k’ or with a ‘c’ on the end, that question did nothing ultimately to diminish enjoyment of Denver emergents Cloud Catcher‘s sophomore outing. Topped off by one of the best album covers of the year, the follow-up to their 2015 debut, Enlightened Beyond Existence (discussed here), took the progressive casting of that record to a place entirely more raw and rock-driven, willfully roughing up the edges even as it showed marked creative growth on a relatively quick turnaround. The must-hear bass tone of “Beyond the Electric Sun” and “Super Acid Magick” was icing on a cake of choice riffing and Hendrixian lead swirl, and the shuffle they elicited was enough to make even the most stubborn of asses (i.e. mine) think about moving.

17. Ruby the Hatchet, Planetary Space Child

ruby the hatchet planetary space child

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Aug. 29.

After the neo-garage manifestations of their 2015 sophomore outing, Valley of the Snake (review here), it was clear Philly psych rockers Ruby the Hatchet were a force when it came to songwriting. What was less obvious was what they’d do with that going forward. On Planetary Space Child, at least, the answer is they’ll take it to Freaktown. The melody-happy, organ-laced swirlmasters conjured presence kosmiche enough to justify the album’s title, and around the cast-in-moon-rock structures of the swinging “Pagan Ritual” and the playfully doomed “Symphony of the Night,” Ruby the Hatchet built a multifaceted weirdoist triumph the likes of which simply doesn’t come along every year, establishing themselves as more reliable and less predictable than ever: an absolute win.

16. Alunah, Solennial

alunah solennial

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 1.

It’s been the case more or less all along with UK forest rockers Alunah that their nature-minded material and heavy rolling grooves have had their haunting aspects, but with the production of Conan‘s Chris Fielding behind it, Solennial — their fourth LP and first on Svart — brought this to new levels entirely. The songs, memorable like footprints in the woods, are somewhat bittersweet in context now, since founding guitarist/vocalist Sophie Day announced in September she was leaving the band, but as the group will move forward led by guitarist Dave Day and recently acquired new singer Siân Greenaway, intrigue remains high at what the future might bring and the impact of Solennial is undiminished.

15. Mindkult, Lucifer’s Dream

mindkult-lucifers-dream

Released by Transcending Obscurity Records and Caligari Records.

Virginia-based doomgazing garage cult solo-project Mindkult has thus far managed to keep some of the mystique around its sole inhabitant, Fowst, which is admirable in a way. As the multi-instrmentalist, vocalist and producer this year answered the promise of last year’s Witch’s Oath (review here) debut, he did so around a swath of purposeful miseries, loose devil worship and other dark thematics, casting an atmospheric darkness matched head-on by the tonal murk of his riffs. Through this, however, the songwriting was no less memorable than on the first offering, and as the project moves forward, one can only hope that Fowst will continue to use that as the core aspect buried six feet under his other, formidable stylistic achievements. That certainly was how it worked out on Lucifer’s Dream.

14. Argus, From Fields of Fire

argus from fields of fire
Released by Cruz del Sur Music. Reviewed Sept. 1.

Behold ye perhaps the most underrated band in heavy metal. Regardless of subgenre, style, strata, whatever, it’s hard to listen to From Fields of Fire and think of Pittsburgh’s Argus as anything else. The five-piece’s fourth album continued to owe part of its sound to doom, but was much more encompassing than simply that, touching on aspects of classic metal with a command that left one wondering how they hadn’t yet been tapped to open for Judas Priest on that band’s next tour. Victory abounds on a per-song basis throughout the nine-tracker, and whether it was the emotional crux of “Hour of Longing” or the catchy fistpump righteousness of “Devils of Your Time” or the 11-minute progressive reach of “Infinite Lives/Infinite Doors,” Argus once again crafted a work nigh-unmatched in poise and class.

13. Uffe Lorenzen, Galmandsværk

Uffe-Lorenzen-Galmandsvaerk

Released by Bad Afro Records. Reviewed Nov. 6.

For the first outing ever to be issued under his real name, Denmark’s Uffe Lorenzen — aka Lorenzo Woodrose of garage-psych pioneers Baby Woodrose — danced between acid folk singer-songwriterisms like “Flippertøs” and more expansive jamming on “På Kanten Af Verden,” all the while retaining his distinct structural and arrangement sensibilities and creating a flowing vibe that was nothing less than a pure joy of classic-form psychedelia. The most serene and pastoral freakout one was likely to witness in 2017, easily, Galmandsværk resounded in the Mellotron-laced “Høj Som Et Højhus” and was no less at home in the acoustic spaciousness of the earlier “Remits Tyranni,” able to wander where it pleased and find steady ground in molten surroundings.

12. The Flying Eyes, Burning of the Season

the flying eyes burning of the season

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Oct. 11.

A welcome return from a viciously underappreciated band, The Flying EyesBurning of the Season marked the Baltimore four-piece’s first offering for Ripple Music and first since 2013’s Lowlands (review here), a four-year stretch during which the band kept busy touring Europe and South America, the latter also being where they recorded these songs with Gabriel Zander at Estudio Superfuzz in Brazil. The tonal depth resulting from that process was enough to make the collection a highlight, but it was the songs themselves that most stood out, benefiting from the band’s expanded reach and legitimate, hard-won maturity. Especially for a group who’ve done so much work on the road over their years — to be fair, the US has been pretty low priority in that regard — they remain a secret kept too well.

11. Bell Witch, Mirror Reaper

bell witch mirror reaper

Released by Profound Lore. Reviewed Dec. 27.

Doomed extremity simply unmatched in its scope. The song of the year for 2017. An accomplishment the likes of which is prone to happen maybe once or twice in a generation. None of this seems to really speak to the entirety of the achievement that is Bell Witch‘s Mirror Reaper — the single-song, 83-minute full-length issued by the Seattle duo like a challenge in the face of mortality itself. Beautiful, devastating and weighted like the grave, its sprawl utterly consumed the listener, and I firmly believe it will be years before its depths are fully processed. Some offerings are bigger than the year in which they’re released. Mirror Reaper would seem to function on a scale of its own, and though it could easily be read as a litmus test for audience punishment, the truth of the listening experience is both more emotionally complex and more fulfilling than simple hyperbole can capture.

10. Monolord, Rust

monolord rust

Released by RidingEasy Records. Reviewed Oct. 26.

The story all along with Gothenburg’s Monolord has been tone. Tone tone tone. Crush crush crush. Riffs riffs riffs. Nothing wrong with any of that, but their third album, Rust, proves once and for all that there’s more to the trio than “cool riffs bro” and post-Electric Wizard nod. Catchy cuts like “Dear Lucifer” and rolling opener “Where Death Meets the Sea” brought a sense of space leading to the later sprawl of “Forgotten Lands” and “At Niceae,” and the band settled into an individualized, lumbering psychedelia that moved forward from 2015’s Vænir (review here), not leaving behind the heft that earned them their reputation, but not at all being limited by it either in scope or overall approach. Three records in, Rust brought forth Monolord‘s greatest sonic expansion yet and gave rise to the feeling that their true potential was just starting to come to fruition. Also, crush crush crush. Cool riffs, bro.

9. Vokonis, The Sunken Djinn

vokonis-the-sunken-djinn

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed June 5.

The Sunken Djinn is Vokonis‘ second full-length in as many years, and in addition to serving as their Ripple debut where 2016’s Olde One Ascending (review here) landed via Ozium Records, it was a feast for hungry riff hounds. In defiance of its quick turnaround, it showed a firm evolution taking place within the upstart Swedish trio of guitarist/vocalist Simon Ohlsson, bassist/backing vocalist Jonte Johansson and drummer Emil Larsson, whose range overall was greater in tracks like “Rapturous” and the torrential “Blood Vortex” while nonetheless controlled in its delivery. Their Sleep-y origins still a factor sound-wise, Vokonis were able just the same to push themselves ahead into new sonic ground in fittingly lumbering fashion, and the character they brought to “The Sunken Djinn,” “Calling from the Core” and the noise-caked “Maelstroem” seemed to speak to a burgeoning sense of atmospheric focus taking hold as well. Still so much potential here.

8. Electric Moon, Stardust Rituals

electric moon stardust rituals

Released by Sulatron Records. Reviewed April 7.

Do I even need to remotely justify having Electric Moon‘s first studio album in six years on this list? Was it not just like a love-letter issued by the cosmos itself? What more explanation could possibly be necessary? Not that the German trio haven’t dropped copious, glorious live outings all the while, but to have Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt, “Komet Lulu” Neudeck and Marcus Schnitzler follow-up 2011’s The Doomsday Machine (review here) with four cuts culminating in the 22-minute sprawl of “(You Will) Live Forever Now” was high on the list of the year’s most satisfying psychedelic journeys. Constantly exploring, their methods always seem geared toward finding the molten essence of space rock itself, and though the songs on Stardust Rituals were a little more crafted than some of their straight-up improv jams, they nonetheless showed there are many avenues one might take to get to the heart of the sun.

7. Sun Blood Stories, It Runs Around the Room with Us

sun-blood-stories-it-runs-around-the-room-with-us

Self-released. Reviewed May 1.

This one is personal, and by that I mean I love this fucking band. Similar to my experience with their 2015 sophomore outing, Twilight Midnight Morning (review here), the third record by Boise-based trio of Ben Kirby (vocals, guitar, synth, percussion), Amber Pollard (vocals, guitar, theremin, percussion) and Jon Fust (drums, keys, percussion, noise) was one that I simply could not put down. Even now, seeing the name of the record is all I need to have songs like “The Great Destroyer” and the immersive midsection in “Come Like Rain” and “Time Like Smoke” stuck in my head, let alone the ultra-brazen, searingly-pissed “Burn” noise assault that finished the album and in the span of 90 seconds turned all the psychedelic warmth and serenity on its face with a visceral anger completely unforeseen and jarring, turning it from a depth-laden execution of adventurous neo-psych and indie into a project of conceptual artistry with all the efficiency of the chemical reaction it sought to portray. If you missed it, your loss.

6. The Atomic Bitchwax, Force Field

the-atomic-bitchwax-force-field

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Dec. 7.

Songs like “Alaskan Thunder Fuck,” “Humble Brag” and “Earth Shaker (Which Doobie U Be?)” assured that the defining character of Force Field, the sixth album from New Jersey’s The Atomic Bitchwax, was pure scorch. That made the 12-cut outing a more than worthy follow-up for 2015’s  Gravitron (review here), which introduced this more speed-rock-minded, aggressive delivery from the tight-as-nails trio, and while they proved they could still lock in a slower groove on the organ-topped finisher “Liv a Little,” head-spinners like the instrumental “Fried, Dyed and Layin’ to the Side” and “Houndstooth” came across like the fruit of the band pushing themselves to the limits of their physical ability in terms of tempo, and their ride along the edge of that line brought thrills at every turn. And make no mistake, there were a lot of turns. Fortunately, bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik, guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan and drummer Bob Pantella seemingly had a corresponding hook in their pocket for each one of them. This band is a national treasure.

5. Atavismo, Inerte

atavismo inerte

Released by Temple of Torturous. Reviewed Feb. 21.

Warm, fuzzy tones, rhythmic shifts right out of classic progressive rock, melodic intricacy and periodic excursions into glorious psychedelic drift: I’m not sure what wasn’t to like about Inerte, Atavismo‘s second full-length behind 2014’s Desintegración (review here). Comprising five tracks of unmistakable flow and jam-laden fluidity, it was immersive with landmarks along the way to keep the listener from getting too lost, and whether or not one spoke Spanish, the three-piece of Jose “Poti” Moreno (ex-Viaje a 800Mind!), bassist/vocalist Mateo and drummer/vocalist Sandri Pow (also ex-Mind!) made it easy to follow along their purposefully meandering path, offering guidance no less skillful on the 11-minute fuzz-freaker “El Sueño” than the dream-toned linear build of “Belleza Cuatro.” There were very, very few albums I listened to more this year than this one, which is precisely why it is where it is on this list.

4. Samsara Blues Experiment, One with the Universe

samsara-blues-experiment-one-with-the-universe

Released by Electric Magic Records and Abraxas Records. Reviewed May 4.

Four years between records isn’t at all an unheard of stretch. It’s not the longest on this list by any means. But with Berlin heavy psych rockers Samsara Blues Experiment, it really seemed like the band was done, so to have them come back with such force on One with the Universe was, as I know I said at several points throughout the last 12 months, one of the year’s total highlights. Tracked by former bassist Richard Behrens, the group’s fourth album answered the extended-track spread of 2013’s Waiting for the Flood (review here) with a deeper sense of sonic variety, and while the 15-minute title-cut and opener “Vispassana” still had plenty of room for jamming out and even six-minute centerpiece “Glorious Daze” found room for some flourish of organ and sitar, guitarist/vocalist Christian Peters, drummer Thomas Vedder and bassist Hans Eiselt rightly featured the chemistry they’ve built as a trio live and brought to the songs a renewed sense of vigor, sounding — and hopefully being — truly inspired. Waiting for the Flood capped a period of marked productivity across several years. Fingers crossed One with the Universe begins that cycle anew.

3. Elder, Reflections of a Floating World

Elder-Reflections-of-a-Floating-World

Released by Armageddon Shop and Stickman Records. Reviewed May 23.

You just can’t consider Elder‘s Reflections of a Floating World outside the context of the progressive achievement that was their prior outing, 2015’s Lore (review here). Where the trio — based now between Massachusetts and Berlin, Germany — took their first two outings, 2008’s self-titled debut (discussed here) and 2011’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here), to find their sound, which they began to showcase on the 2012 Spires Burn/Release EP (review here), it was Lore that brought to fruition the potential that had always been waiting to be unleashed by the trio of guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto, and Reflections of a Floating World had the daunting task of being the next further step from that landmark moment. To say the band rose to the occasion is perhaps to undersell the cohesion at work in consuming-but-cohesive pieces like opener “Sanctuary” or “Blind” or “Staving off the Truth,” which brought together clear-headed psychedelia around a wash that seemed to stem as much from rhythm as melody. As they’ve matured stylistically and become a major touring presence, Elder have made themselves perhaps the most pivotal American heavy rock act going, and Reflections of a Floating World brings them to the discovery of yet another apex while at the same time giving zero indication it will be the last one they find.

2. Colour Haze, In Her Garden

colour haze in her garden

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed March 9.

Of course, the bonus of writing about Colour Haze in just about any context is that you get to put Colour Haze on while you’re doing it, and in the case of the 12th LP from these Munich heavy psych forebears, that’s an even more appealing prospect. After stripping down some of the arrangement flourish with 2014’s To the Highest Gods We Know (review here), the 13-track/73-minute 2LP In Her Garden brought a revitalized sonic expansion, but as ever, it wasn’t just the horns or the strings or the blend of keys and acoustics that made In Her Garden the unbridled joy that it was and continues to be — it was the underlying performance from guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek, bassist Philipp Rasthofer and drummer Manfred Merwald that gave the album the stem on which its garden grew. That’s not to say Jan Faszbender‘s work on modular synth, Rhodes, and Hammond or the arrangements of strings, tuba, bass-clarinet and trombone throughout hurt anything, just that as Colour Haze have grown into incorporating these elements into their groundbreaking aesthetic, they haven’t left behind the organic chemistry and necessary live feel that has helped them influence a generation of followers over their more than 20-year career. One came through as much as the other on In Her Garden, and that balance gave the overarching warmth of their self-recorded tonality yet another level on which to engage their audience. I’ll be a sucker for Colour Haze for as long as I live, and I have absolutely no problem admitting to and owning that.

1. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War

all them witches sleeping through the war

Released by New West Records. Reviewed Jan. 27.

It was clear early on that Nashville four-piece All Them Witches were contending hard for Album of the Year with Sleeping Through the War, their fourth long-player and second for New West following the mellow vibes of 2015’s Dying Surfer Meets His Maker (review here). What finally sealed it? The songs. Working with producer Dave Cobb, the each-member-essential lineup of bassist/vocalist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod, key-specialist Allan van Cleave (Rhodes, Mellotron, piano, organ, etc.) and drummer/graphic artist Robby Staebler solidified their approach in exciting new ways on early cuts like the grunge-crunching “Don’t Bring Me Coffee” and the shuffling “Bruce Lee,” which hit in succession following the fluid lead-in of opener “Bulls,” an introduction of the organic psychedelia and heavy blues that the loose-swinging of “3-5-7″‘s nigh-on-gospel chorus and subsequent, almost maddeningly catchy “Am I Going Up?” would continue to push outward, thereby setting a linear course into a consciousness-capturing side B with “Alabaster” and the jammier “Cowboy Kirk” and “Internet” playing between melodic nuance and mindful, go-with-it drift. The unflinching strength of the material was matched perhaps only by the understatement of its delivery, which was the more staggering considering how easily the arrangements of background vocals on “Am I Going Up?” or  “3-5-7” could have come through as overblown or self-indulgent, and by the time they got down to the light weirdo-bluesy stomp of “Internet” — the key lyric and hook being, “Guess I’ll go live on the internet” — there was no doubting the genuine nature of the realization Sleeping Through the War represented for All Them Witches. Coupling that feeling of achievement with the sheer repeatability of the listening experience itself left no doubt that 2017 belonged to these tracks and the marvelous way the band wove between them, and that whatever other sounds All Them Witches may go on to explore and whatever else they may accomplish as a result, Sleeping Through the War was a truly special moment in their evolution that, as with the best of offerings in any year, will continue to resonate long after the calendar page has turned.

The Next 20

You know, I used to feel like once you got past a top 20, the numbers were arbitrary. Then I felt that way about the top 30. This year, I think I agonized more about what to include in numbers 31-50 than I did between 30 and the album of the year. Put that in your “go figure” file while you chew on these picks:

31. Cities of Mars, Temporal Rifts
32. The Midnight Ghost Train, Cypress Ave.
33. Snowy Dunes, Atlantis
34. Rozamov, This Mortal Road
35. PH, Eternal Hayden
36. Sasquatch, Maneuvers
37. Young Hunter, Dayhiker
38. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, II
39. Ufomammut, 8
40. John Garcia, The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues
41. Paradise Lost, Medusa
42. Beastmaker, Inside the Skull
43. Arduini / Balich, Dawn of Ages
44. Primitive Man, Caustic
45. Motorpsycho, The Tower
46. Arbouretum, Song of the Rose
47. Hymn, Perish
48. Youngblood Supercult, The Great American Death Rattle
49. Pallbearer, Heartless
50. Dool, Here Now There Then

There’s so, so much good stuff here. So much. The Cities of Mars debut was a treasure and the only reason it wasn’t on my top debuts list was because I haven’t had the chance to go back in and put it on. The Young Hunter record? Some of their best work yet. Hell, that Arduini / Balich album alone! Then you’ve got huge releases by Pallbearer, Ufomammut, Paradise Lost, Primitive Man, on and on. Like I said at the outset, one more album and my head was gonna explode this year. Way too much to ever hope to keep up with. One thing though I felt like I really wanted to emphasize including was Dool. They’re in the last spot, but make no mistake, in atmosphere and songwriting that album was something really special and loaded with potential. It’s not there because it came in last. It’s there to highlight the point of how much it should be on this list.

What’s that? More records? Okay…

Honorable Mentions

In case you also weren’t completely overwhelmed this year, maybe another batch of records will do the trick. Here’s some presented alphabetically:

Anathema, The Optimist
Blackfinger, When Colors Fade Away
Child, Blueside
Cortez, The Depths Below
Demon Eye, Prophecies and Lies
Elbrus, Elbrus
Electric Wizard, Wizard Bloody Wizard
Ecstatic Vision, Raw Rock Fury
Five Horse Johnson, Jake Leg Boogie
Mirror Queen, Verdigris
The Obsessed, Sacred
T.G. Olson, Foothills Before the Mountain
Outsideinside, Sniff a Hot Rock
Queens of the Stone Age, Villains
Siena Root, A Dream of Lasting Peace
Six Organs of Admittance, Burning the Threshold
Steak, No God to Save
Summoner, Beyond the Realm of Light
Valborg, Endstrand
With the Dead, Love from With the Dead

Plus: Abronia, Lewis and the Strange Magics, Iron Monkey, Band of Spice, Puta Volcano, Galley Beggar, Heavy Traffic, Coltsblood, REZN, Green Meteor, Demon Head, Lord, Grigax, The Raynbow, Carpet, Norska, Les Lekin, Slow, Ixion, and I’m sure more that I’ll add as the names continue to pop into my head.

I did this back in June as well, but I also want to draw attention to a swath of quality live albums that came out this year. The top pick should be no surprise if you’ve been hanging around the site of late:

Live Albums:
1. SubRosa, Subdued Live at Roadburn
2. Causa Sui, Live in Copenhagen
3. Slomatics, Futurians Live at Roadburn
4. My Sleeping Karma, Mela Ananda – Live
5. Wight, Fusion Rock Invasion
5. Death Alley, Live at Roadburn

Thank You

It’s been a hell of a year, obviously. Musically and otherwise. As always, I cannot possibly come close to thanking you enough for your incredible and ongoing support of The Obelisk, of what this site is, what it’s become over its nearly nine-year run, what it will continue to become going forward from here. It is astounding to me and deeply humbling that you would possibly take time out of your busy day and your busy life to check out what’s going on here, and words fail me continually when it comes to feeling like I can properly convey my appreciation for that. Thank you for reading. Thank you for reading. Thank you for reading. Tattoo it on my forehead.

Thank you to The Patient Mrs. for understanding how much I need to be doing this, to Slevin for keeping the site running on the technical end, to Behrang Alavi for taking over hosting earlier this year, to my family for their ongoing support, to The Pecan for sleeping late some mornings and giving me time to write, and to everyone who ever shared a link on social media or made a comment on a post or anything like that. To long-time readers and to newcomers alike — thank you so much. This year has seen a fair share of ups and downs, but the support this site gets sustains me in ways I never expected it could, and that would be impossible without you. Please know how crucial that is to me.

Well, that should do it. I know there are probably disagreements about where things landed on the list, what was included, what was left out, etc., as there always are. All comments are of course welcome — only thing I’d ask is you please keep it civil and respectful of the opinions of others. Otherwise, have at it. Please.

And one more time, thank you for reading.

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The Obsessed Announce Coast-to-Coast Fall Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 1st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obsessed photo susie constantino

Good mix here of bigger and smaller markets for The Obsessed to hit on a Fall 2017 US tour supporting their first new album in 20-plus years, Sacred (review here). That record — invariably a doomly highlight of the year by simple virtue of, you know, existing, let alone being the most diverse Obsessed outing of their ultra-influential career — was also heralded on a North American run around the time of its release, and with Relapse Records and Tone Deaf Touring behind them and support on this go from Cobalt and Iron Tongue — the latter group an offshoot of Rwake, from whence The Obsessed bassist Reid Raley also comes — the Wino-fronted doom legends will no doubt remind audiences of just how vital Sacred is.

It’s been a hell of a ride getting The Obsessed to this point, but the band, rounded out by drummer Brian Constantino, seem to really be firing on all cylinders, and hopefully they can keep it going. Among the groups on the formidable CV of Scott “Wino” Weinrich, they’re arguably the most seminal, and the more acclaim that gets heaped their way, the more one can only call it fair enough for them to finally get their due. And as you can see in the list of dates below, they’re certainly working for it.

Poster culled from social media, dates transcribed by yours truly:

the obsessed tour

THE OBSESSED Fall 2017 TOUR

w/ Cobalt 10/8, 10/9, 10/12-10/27
w/ Iron Tongue 9/30-10/03

09/27 Asheville NC Mothlight
09/28 Atlanta GA Clermont Lounge
09/29 Little Rock AR Whitewater
09/30 St. Louis MO Fubar
10/01 Memphis TN Hi Tone
10/02 Austin TX Lost Well
10/03 Ft. Worth TX Lolas
10/05 Las Vegas NV Beauty Bar
10/07 San Bernadino CA Cal Jam
10/08 San Francisco CA Elbo Room
10/09 Eugene OR Old Nicks
10/10 Portland OR Bossanova Ballroom
10/12 Seattle WA Studio Seven
10/13 Spokane WA The Pin
10/16 Minneapolis MN 7th St. Entry
10/17 Milwaukee WI Cactus Club
10/18 Lombard IL Brauerhaus
10/19 Cincinnati OH Woodward Theater
10/20 Louisville KY Trixies
10/21 Lancaster PA Chameleon Club
10/24 Brooklyn NY Saint Vitus Bar
10/25 Newport RI The Cafe at Parlor
10/26 Philadelphia PA Voltage Lounge
10/27 Baltimore MD Metro Gallery

https://www.facebook.com/TheObsessedOfficial
http://relapse.com/the-obsessed-sacred/
https://theobsessed.bandcamp.com/
http://www.relapse.com
http://www.relapserecords.bandcamp.com
http://www.facebook.com/RelapseRecords
http://www.twitter.com/RelapseRecords
https://www.facebook.com/tonedeaftouring/

The Obsessed, Sacred (2017)

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 of 2017 So Far

Posted in Features on June 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk top-20-2017-so-far

The time has come to take a look at some of the best albums of 2017 so far. I hardly know where to start. In some ways, this list is harder to put together than the end-of-year one that comes out in December, because by then not only do you have the full year to draw on, but it’s easier to sort of put a narrative to the course of events of 12 months, whereas in this case, obviously, the story is half told. So I guess if the list feels incomplete, that might be part of why.

Even with just six months to work from, the list has become fairly immense. I’ve been keeping track of 2017 releases since about September of last year, and the amount of stuff that’s come through has been staggering. Every year brings good music, and the basic fact of the matter is that if you don’t think so it’s because you’re either unwilling to find it or unwilling to let yourself hear it, but 2017 has been a multi-tiered assault of sounds from all over the world, and it seems like whatever you might be into, the universe stands ready to accommodate.

There’s a lot to say about that — is the market flooded? — but it’s a topic for a different post. I’ll keep it short here and just say that as always, it’s an honor to be covering the stuff that I cover and that I deeply appreciate you taking the time to read. I hope if there’s a release you feel deeply passionate about that you don’t see on my list below that you’ll please let me know about it in the comments.

Also, please note that in order to qualify for this list, a record had to come out on or before June 9. That’s the cutoff.

Okay, here goes:

The Top 20 of 2017 So Far

elder reflections of a floating world

1. Elder, Reflections of a Floating World
2. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War
3. Samsara Blues Experiment, One with the Universe
4. Colour Haze, In Her Garden
5. Atavismo, Inerte
6. Sun Blood Stories, It Runs Around the Room with Us
7. Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kozmic Dust
8. Vokonis, The Sunken Djinn
9. The Obsessed, Sacred
10. Mothership, High Strangeness
11. Spaceslug, Time Travel Dilemma
12. Electric Moon, Stardust Rituals
13. Alunah, Solennial
14. Arc of Ascent, Realms of the Metaphysical
13. Rozamov, This Mortal Road
14. Siena Root, A Dream of Lasting Peace
15. PH, Eternal Hayden
16. Geezer, Psychoriffadelia
17. T.G. Olson, Foothills Before the Mountain
18. Telekinetic Yeti, Abominable
19. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, II
20. Lord, Blacklisted

Notes

If you keep up with this site at all, there probably aren’t a lot of surprises in there. These are all records that have been discussed at great length over the last six months, reviewed, streamed, analyzed, whathaveyou’d all the way. If you don’t believe me, search any of the names. Still, as far as my personal picks go and who I think has crafted something special over the last six months, this feels pretty representative to me. I managed to live for a full week with the list as you see it above, without making changes. That’s usually my standard.

And as always, it’s a combination of what I’ve listened to most and what I feel has had the greatest impact thus far into the year. Between the two, there was little doubt Elder would take the top spot. I’ve probably listened to the All Them Witches record more than anything else this year, including Elder’s Reflections of a Floating World, but the truth is the Massachusetts trio are working at a level of their own making in terms of their sonic progression, and that they’ve emerged as one of if not the most pivotal American underground heavy rock bands going. The situation was much the same when they put out Lore in 2015 and claimed that year’s top-album spot, but even since then their sound has expanded and they continue to demand ultimate respect.

As for the All Them Witches album — absolute stunner. The increased depth of their arrangements on Sleeping Through the War came at no expense of songwriting, resulting in ultra-memorable material that could either wash over you with melody or shove you out of your seat with the force of its rhythm, and that band continues to be a treasure. No other way to put it.

From there, we move into what I think are the four best heavy psych offerings of 2017 so far, with Samsara Blues Experiment, Colour Haze, Atavismo and Sun Blood Stories, in that order. Samsara Blues Experiment’s return has been a joy to witness and their first album in four years lived up to the occasion. Colour Haze expanded the palette from their last album with In Her Garden and proved as immersive as always. I’m still getting to know that record. Atavismo’s second full-length upped the progressive influences without losing fluidity or cohesion in songwriting, and Sun Blood Stories’ hypnotic shoegaze offered expansive thrills and a sense of varied, beautifully crafted exploration.

A pair of exciting young bands thereafter in Colorado’s Cloud Catcher, whose boogie is right-on-right-on and whose development continues to hold much potential, and Vokonis, whose crushing riffs on The Sunken Djinn were met with an increased focus on structure and tightening of approach that maximized overall impact. The Obsessed’s unexpected return could only be called a triumphant one, and Mothership’s third long-player found them working in a richer sense of mood than previous outings, adding yet more character to what was still a blast of good-time rock and roll. They round out the top 10 in full command of who they are as players.

Granted, the next 10 releases are kind of all over the place, but I think that just shows the overarching quality of work being done across the board. From Spaceslug’s melodic stoner-psych to Electric Moon’s studio return — so, so, so good — to Alunah’s continued growth in nature-worshiping heavy and Arc of Ascent’s comebacker of rolling heavy riffs and metaphysical themes, there’s been so much to take in. I especially like the pairing of Rozamov and Siena Root as a sense of scope for 2017 so far; the former being so dark and crushing and the latter who lived up to calling their record A Dream of Lasting Peace. You want to know both ends of the spectrum? There they are.

PH’s Eternal Hayden gets a nod for its effective reset of the context of that band following the completion of their trilogy of albums, and Geezer’s Psychoriffadelia might have been something of a tossoff in the making, but the level at which the New York trio jams nonetheless assures it a spot here. Plus, a Nazareth cover. So duh.

I couldn’t help but include T.G. Olson’s Foothills Before the Mountain on the list as the Across Tundras frontman creeps closer to a full-band sound for his solo work, adding to his acoustic singer-songwriter foundations, and the crush of Telekinetic Yeti’s post-Sleep riffing evoked so many nods I thought they deserved one here as well. Placing The Devil and the Almighty Blues was difficult, but especially after seeing them live, I felt like I had a better idea of where they were coming from on II, so knew they belonged somewhere, even if it was tucked in at the end. And of course, Lord. Always killer, always experimenting, always chaotic. Never have grind and sludge sounded more cohesive together. They’re the band I wish Soilent Green had become, and yes, I mean that.

Honorable Mention

Let’s do another 10 releases, shall we?

21. Beastmaker, Inside the Skull
22. Arduini/Balich, Dawn of Ages
23. Brume, Rooster
24. John Garcia, The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues
25. Six Sigma, Tuxedo Brown
26. Demon Head, Thunder on the Fields
27. Summoner, Beyond the Realm of Light
28. Steak, No God to Save
29. Six Organs of Admittance, Burning the Threshold
30. Dool, Here Now There Then

And just to make the point, here are even more worthy of note in this space:

Elbrus, Elbrus
Cortez, The Depths Below
Ecstatic Vision, Raw Rock Fury
Child, Blueside (a December 2016 release, maybe, but I think the vinyl was this year, so whatever)
Pallbearer, Heartless
Spidergawd, IV
Green Meteor, Consumed by a Dying Sun
Loss, Horizonless

There are of course other names as well that come to mind. Like I said at the outset, it’s a crowded field: Hymn, Arbouretum, Green Meteor, REZN, Demon Head, Galley Beggar, Devil’s Witches, Orango, Heavy Traffic, Coltsblood, Mt. Mountain, Vokonis, Solstafir, High Plains, on and on.

Also worth highlighting several really, really quality live records that have surfaced so far this year. I didn’t really know where to place them among the other studio offerings, but they deserve note for sure:

Causa Sui, Live in Copenhagen
Death Alley, Live at Roadburn
My Sleeping Karma, Mela Ananda – Live
Enslaved, Roadburn Live

More to Come

Of course, we’re still just barely halfway through the year, so keep on the lookout for more to follow. If you didn’t see my massive 200+ albums to watch for list in January, it has many that have come out and many more still to surface, but here are a few highlight names as well that you’re going to want to keep an eye on in the months ahead:

Queens of the Stone Age
Radio Moscow
The Atomic Bitchwax
Kadavar
Ufomammut
The Midnight Ghost Train
Moon Rats
Clamfight
Egypt
the Melvins
Bison Machine
Seedy Jeezus
High on Fire
Monster Magnet

Thanks for Reading

Before I check out, I’d like to give special mention to Lo-Pan’s In Tensions EP as the best short release of the year thus far. Along with EPs from Godhunter, Kings Destroy, Solace and Shroud Eater, it has assured those seeking a quick fix are handed their ass in return for asking.

Well, that’s about where I’m at with it. As per usual, I’m sure there are things I forgot and/or left off here, because I’m human and whatnot, so please if you have something to add, feel free to do so in the comments so long as you can keep it cordial. No name calling. I’m sensitive and you’ll ruin my whole day. I mean that.

Thanks again for being a part of this and here’s to an excellent rest of 2017.

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The Obsessed Interview with Scott “Wino” Weinrich: Declaring the Sacred

Posted in Features on April 19th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obsessed Photo-Susie-Costantino

Of all the events that might’ve taken place in doom this decade, I don’t know if The Obsessed putting out a record was the least likely, but it had to be somewhere on the list. And the road that brought the legendary Maryland-doom-agenda-setters to the point of releasing their Relapse Records debut, Sacred (review here), is suitably winding. Never mind the fact that it’s been 23 years since the last time the unit founded and fronted by Scott “Wino” Weinrich (Saint VitusSpirit CaravanThe Hidden HandPremonition 13Shrinebuilder, etc.) offered up what most probably figured was their final studio outing, 1994’s The Church Within — it’s been half a decade since this reunion got underway, beginning with a set in the Netherlands at Roadburn 2012 (review here).

In the years since, The Obsessed has receded and come to the fore again. Weinrich was still fronting Saint Vitus at the time in support of that band’s reunion offering, Lillie: F-65 (review here), and though that tenure would end unceremoniously following a well-publicized drug arrest in Norway late in 2014, it was the three-piece Spirit Caravan that he went back to first, reunited with bassist Dave Sherman, also of Earthride and Weed is Weed and eventually bringing on board Brian Costantino in place of original drummer Gary IsomSpirit Caravan toured and threatened a new record, but before they could get there, they announced early last year that Spirit Caravan was now The Obsessed and they’d be continuing under the moniker Wino first put to use in 1980.

Fair enough. More tumult followed after this three-piece hit the studio with Frank “The Punisher” Marchand to track what they’d come to call Sacred, with Wino and Sherman parting ways and The Obsessed reforming for a short time as a double-guitar four-piece featuring former The Hidden Hand bassist/vocalist Bruce Falkinburg before once more paring back to a trio of WeinrichCostantino and bassist Reid Raley, also of Arkansas post-sludgers RwakeThe Obsessed had done gigs all along with Raley in the lineup, including Maryland Deathfest, but in bringing him on board full-time, the band seems to have settled the issue as much as these things are ever settled, and though the chaos surrounding Sacred is palpable, the album itself is treated fitting to its title.

That is to say, while the process by which it came about and its aftermath have been anything but, the actual record and the songs that comprise Sacred are fluid, unconfused, progressive, and most of all — heavy. Fast or slow, light or dark, they bear the hallmarks of Weinrich‘s songwriting style, and whether they’re playing toward bluesy convention or bridging the how-is-this-still-so-wide-when-we-know-all-doomers-are-grown-up-punks gap of doom and punk, The Obsessed circa 2017 are living up to and pushing forward one of the genre’s most storied and influential legacies. Whatever the future might hold for the band, Sacred pays for its unlikeliness in the sheer quality of its craft and execution, and when this year is over, there’s no question it will stand as a landmark for even more than the simple fact that it exists — though that’s not to take away from that either, because the fact that it exists remains pretty fucking impressive.

The Obsessed are on tour now in the US with Karma to BurnFatso Jetson and Lo-Pan. Dates are posted here.

I had the first slot of a press day to speak with Weinrich about making the album… and a terrible connection. There was a lot lost of our conversation to the digital ether of crackles, pops, fadeouts. We got disconnected twice. Still, I did my best to recover what I could of the interview and it turned out to be plenty.

You’ll find the results below, with my thanks for reading.

THE OBSESSED PHOTO SUSIE COSTANTINO

The Obsessed Interview with Scott “Wino” Weinrich

Take me through the decision to move from Spirit Caravan to The Obsessed. How did that come about and what went into that for you?

Spirit Caravan was with Dave Sherman and then we had a succession of drummers. Where I met the current drummer for The Obsessed, Brian Costantino, was actually many years ago. He was a friend of the band when The Obsessed was together back in the ‘70s and ‘80s and he and I had not seen each other for quite a while, so we put Spirit Caravan back together we had Ed Gulli playing drums…

So Brian came around and I didn’t realize in the time that we had been apart that he had played the drums. He came around for rehearsal and Brian sat down behind the kit and we had a little jam and that’s kind of what started the whole thing rolling because the wheels are coming off the wagon a little bit with Spirit Caravan and Eddie didn’t want to tour and there’s some other issues and so I just looked prior and so BrIan was pretty much never in Spirit Caravan. Now Sherman’s on the record, but some other things happened and we trying to move ahead without him. So basically when I met Brian I realized after our first couple of camps that Brian grew up on The Obsessed. It was his favorite band and in the years we had been apart from each other, he had become quite a successful drummer and he was tired of what he was doing which was kind of like cover stuff and playing with some local bands.

He had basically just retired from playing and then I came along and gave him a call one evening and was like man do you want to reform The Obsessed and he said, “Yeah let’s do this.” You know, it’s the kind of chemistry that really reinspired me. It’s exactly what I needed. I realize that the songs, the old type of songs for me seemed to be timeless and I just started right away and we really kicked it off. It really was about a chemistry thing between me and Brian and there was this confusion after that with the [lineup, and] I decided to try a little experiment so I called [Bruce Falkinburg] to the basement and he goes “yes,” and then my fiancée came and we decided to put [the band together as a four-piece].

Well, everything was pretty groovy at first, but a touring commitment and came up and there was some wavering and I had been assured that everything was going to be cool but it became obvious to me that it really is all about commitment and I understand but not everybody is just willing to leave their job and just play musical instruments. So I’ve got  nothing for admiration of everybody but reality [was that] Bruce had to be replaced and Reid Raley was actually our first choice but he’s eight hours away from where we rehearse and for some reason I just forgot what a rogue one he was. Anyway we brought him in and we’ve had a couple weeks and man the chemistry is just extremely focused now. We’re back in a three-piece with Reid, and man, it’s really on. I feel completely energized.

You had played with Reid before in The Obsessed though as well. He was at Maryland Deathfest with you, right?

Yeah, Reid is a very personable guy and while I was touring with Vitus, Reid saw I was having some issues with Guy, who played on The Church Within and was a member of The Obsessed for some years. Guy had some immigration issues but didn’t really tell us and so he booked the Maryland Deathfest kind of knowing that he wasn’t going to be able make it. So it was kind of weird, but Reid told me “whatever you need if you need me to play bass for you to help you out, I will,” so I said at that point in time, “Yeah, why don’t you do that?” So me and Reid have some good history.

Is it a little strange? Sacred is the first Obsessed album in 20-odd years and it’s such a different band.

The only thing different is the bass player. We were a three-piece when we recorded Sacred. The nucleus of The Obsessed is me and Brian and I think the addition of Reid is nothing but good. And I’m very proud of the record. We’re already playing seven songs off the record, and we play the material live and I’m super-proud of that record. I think it’s great. I not just saying it because it’s my record but I think it’s the best sounding record I’ve ever done. I’m completely inspired. We’re ready to take these songs out on the road. I mean it’s been a long time, but you know, but it seems the time has never been right in the past and it seems like everything is lining up pretty good now.

Why do you think that is?

I think it’s because A) the music is top notch and B) In my opinion I think that I also must say that in my opinion, Frank Kozik and his label Man’s Ruin was pretty crucial in kind of opening up the door to hard rock and stoner rock or whatever, and he also opened up the power of the internet. I mean, come on, back when The Obsessed was starting to take off we did a video for “Streetside” and if you got on Bevis and Butt-Head, that was a venue. If it didn’t pass the Bevis and Butt-Head test you were done (laughs). I remember “Streetside” hit Bevis and Butt-Head and one of them said, “Ah they look old,” and that was it. But now you’ve got YouTube. The label. We’re on a very strong label. The label did really, really well and I feel honored to be on Relapse, and there’s a mutual respect thing and I think it’s just good now. I can’t say I fully understand why. I just know this is the time.

Talk to me about the Obsessed now as opposed to 20 years ago? How is it different for you? Has it felt like a crazy last couple of years after the whole situation with Vitus, playing with Conny Ochs, doing the solo stuff. Does going back to The Obsessed feel like going home for you?

It felt like going home for me and you have to understand that between me and Brian, Brian grew up with The Obsessed. It was his favorite band. It was Obsessed for all these years, so that has been like his main focus and when we reconnected I was truly flabbergasted that he’s an astounding drummer and it we haven’t seen each other in how many years?

It’s actually really mind blowing in a really, really good way. So we’ve got this amazing chemistry, lived together, we’re like a hardcore team and it finally feels right. The Church Within was cool, but with Greg and Guy, it’s touring, but when I started the reunion stuff, the one-offs, it just didn’t feel right. I’ve kind of felt in way as if I was been going through the motions. I’m really feeling good about stuff, like the chemistry between me and Brian and Reid. I’m pretty excited. I made a pretty important lifestyle changes to embrace this wave.

Can you talk about that?

Obviously, anybody who knows my past knows I had a very long period of sobriety in this reunion and after the separation and I lost the ability to see my kids and then we got separated for three or four years, i was pretty torn up and I fell back in my old ways but I’ve got to tell you, I was depressed and I did what I had to do. Had to get up out of bed in the morning and do what I had to do.

Right around that time was when Vitus was heavy touring, the brand new Vitus record, I did the Adrift record, I did the Shrinebuilder record, I did the Premonition 13 record. So basically I did what I had to do to be able to get on with my life and my career. So after a while, I must say, with Saint Vitus, to get into that stuff and to get into that mode and do that stuff, I had to be pretty loaded. I mean, it was like a requirement for me. The music is so primitive and so primal, especially playing live I had to really get into that state of mind to do it and that state of mind to me and in those days meant about 20 beers and half a fifth of liquor and as much shit as I could cram up my nose, but you know, that was the singing in Saint Vitus so things were a bit different.

Nobody can live that way forever. It caught up to me in Norway and I did get deported and that was kind of a bummer for me. I didn’t end up taking any charges, but it’s still kind of a bummer now I have to pay out the ass for visas and I have this ban from the Schengen countries, which is sort of like the EU, for five years, so I’ve already had three of that. So basically you pay the price. So I had to grab the reigns and I did. Now you know I’m back on the bandwagon, back in my head, living a sober lifestyle.

How has it been working in The Obsessed in that mode?

It’s fantastic, I just feel like all my focus and energy is in the right place, everything is where I feel it need to be. I’ve always been interested in alternative spirituality, if you will. I’ve never been into any organized religion or the denominational trip, but I consider myself to be pretty bright. I always want to learn and I always need to learn but I think that I try to awaken to the situation of the reality.

My personal spirituality has always been one of my main focuses and I’m just continuing my research, as I put it, and I’m just focusing on playing it right and I’m not one to blow my own horn but I do think I’m playing at the top of my game right now and I think that we have an absolute killer chemistry between the three of us and I thought, “man, this all I’m doing.” I’m playing the acoustic guitar here and there, wherever the listening party is, and at some point, I will do something else with Conny because I love Conny and we [need another record and tour] but right now The Obsessed is all I want to do. It’s where my focus is right now.

Can you tell me about going from touring a reunion band with The Obsessed as opposed to taking it on as a creative project again? You did that big tour last year with Karma to Burn, but how has it been moving from a reunion, to a working band, to a creative project?

I think it’s been refreshing and rewarding, actually because we get to go on tour. We were with Dave and there were some issues there. I mean listen, Dave’s loyalty and his heart never in question, he’s a great guy, so basically I don’t want to insult him and put him down in any way. He’s a great guy. I feel now that the record is coming out and it’s an incredibly strong record, it’s getting amazing reviews so far and I’m very happy.

We’ve already got three new songs we’re working on and we’re going to go back in the studio with our same guy from Sacred, Frank Marchand. We have three songs now. Hopefully by the end of the tour we have another two, and we’ll be halfway to another record. Whether we can have it finished, I doubt it, but we can at least get a couple in the can. So I feel completely energized, reinspired, and we’re getting it on, man. This is what we do, 24/seven. This is what I enjoy doing. When I’m in the studio, that is my perfect embodiment, that is when I am the most happy, and so yes, I’m just looking ahead.

Can you talk a little more about your time in the studio for this record? Working with Frank?

Frank is an amazing guy. He had to set up a little unconventionally, his room where he recorded wasn’t a control room. It was an open area. He likes to listen loud. He likes to mix loud but I’m telling you it was an orgy of vintage equipment. He’s got at least 10 [stacks] of different size and variety, mixed models.

What about the diversity on the album? It covers a lot of ground.

…For example, “Stranger Things,” when Reid was listening to the record, he goes, “ok, that song really put the ‘what the fuck?’ nail in the coffin.” That song threw him for a loop. It’s not that he disliked that song, but he just thought it was really, really different. That song was an acoustic song. I woke up one morning like, “fuck, what am I trying to even put it in a box like that? Why am I trying to make the specifics,” because The Obsessed has always been about diversity. We cut our teeth in the early days playing with punk rock bands. We can play super-fast, and we also like really slow stuff. A good example is the fact that of course I’m a diehard Black Sabbath fan but I’m also – I love Joy Division. I love The Stooges, The Dictators.

One of my favorite records is Hear Nothing, See Nothing, Say Nothing by Discharge. So our tastes and our influences were always very diverse but we grew up in an era where it was all about energy. It was all about passion with the punk rock thing and also with the hard rock we listened to. I think that’s what’s really – always – you are a product of your influences, obviously just the same depending on your youth and childhood and really how wounded you are (laughs) in the rest of your life. It’s the same kind of theory.

I think the diversity is what makes it interesting because if I listen to a record where every song sounds the same even though it might be a good record, but every song sounds the same! I’m happy to bring a little diversity to it. I’m happy to people to kind of be like, “woah! This is weird or interesting.” I just think it makes it more interesting and it’s actually very natural, the way it came out.

It’s a pretty personal record. Especially the song for my kids, that’s a very personal song. But man, hey, my life is an open book and my theory or my philosophy if you will is, man, it’s all about passion, but it’s all about the power of the song. The song might need a guitar solo. It’s really about the power of the song.

The same way when you listen to the radio or you’re in a bar and an old song comes back again, one of your favorite songs from whenever it was, it has a way of invoking those good memories. Bringing back a feeling or maybe even remember the day when you listened to that song when you had memorable events like that. It’s really about the power of the song and it’s about the passion.

I really believe that I was given a gift in this earthly trip and I believe that it’s sort of my duty or job to carry the torch man, and to enrich other people’s lives and mine as well. It’s more rewarding having someone say, “hey, your music touched me in a way that was special,” or maybe even, “your music saved my life.” I’ve heard that before. To me that’s way more rewarding than a bag of gold on the table.

What’s next? The tour in May and then back in the studio. Then what?

The tour in April/May and then we will be in the studio recording some new material. Then we are going to be going to the UK including Scotland and Ireland. Then we’re going to be going to South America and Australia. By that time, man, it should be time to go back to Europe. We plan on touring pretty hard for the next couple of years. And also, in between then we’ll be writing another record.

When do you think you’ll squeeze in Conny Ochs?

Me and Conny have been talking and when there’s a break in the action, a break in The Obsessed action, for whatever reason that might be, then Conny said he’d like to come out and play the US and more than likely we’ll do a short tour out here.

One last thing, off topic. There was talk a while ago about a project with Nick Oliveri. What happened with that?

Actually it was me, Nick and Joey [Castillo], but Joey was really busy at the time. He was on retainer with Scott Weiland at the time and even though we tried to put it together he was just too busy. Joey‘s had a little run up, he’s I mean some bad luck, but we might revisit that. But right now I’m focusing on The Obsessed. They’re both amazing people and amazing players and it was something that like, it came up, we wanted to do it but Joey was pretty busy. In the future.

The Obsessed, “Sacred” official video

The Obsessed on Thee Facebooks

Sacred at Relapse Records

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The Obsessed, Sacred: Through the Razor Wire

Posted in Reviews on April 5th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obsessed sacred

It’s been 23 years since the last time The Obsessed released a studio full-length, and the confluence of events leading to the arrival via Relapse Records of Sacred is duly headspinning. Even if we start five years ago with the Scott “Wino” Weinrich-fronted trio’s first reunion show at Roadburn 2012 (review here), the next few years would see lineup changes, bands coming and going, and more. After Weinrich‘s parting ways with Saint Vitus, the revitalization of the three-piece Spirit Caravan with the original rhythm section of bassist Dave Sherman (see also: Earthride) and Gary Isom didn’t last, as Isom was traded out, first for Henry Vasquez, then for Ed Gulli (a veteran of The Obsessed) and finally for Brian Costantino. This version of Spirit Caravan toured and was set to begin work on a new record — they performed “Be the Night,” which features on Sacred and was a preview track, as a regular part of live sets — before Weinrich announced a banner change.

What was Spirit Caravan was now The Obsessed, and with the lineup of Weinrich, Sherman and Costantino, they entered the studio with Frank “The Punisher” Marchand to record the awaited follow-up to 1994’s The Church Within. Following the recording of the 57-minute/14-track behemoth from this most quintessential of Maryland doom outfits, whose impact on that style is second to none perhaps save Pentagram (and that’s a maybe) and of course Black Sabbath, more lineup changes brought in Bruce Falkinburg (a former Weinrich bandmate in The Hidden Hand) on bass and Sara Serphim on guitar for a short-lived four-piece incarnation, and the actual release of Sacred finds The Obsessed retooled once more, with Weinrich on guitar/vocals, Costantino on drums and Reid Raley (Rwake), with whom the band had played live shows more or less all along, stepping in as the full-time bassist.

Somehow it’s fitting that in the midst of all the flux, of the near-constant swirl of change that has surrounded Weinrich for the bulk of his career — one album to the next, one band to the next — The Obsessed should reemerge with Sacred as a defining document of what’s made them such a landmark act in the first place. Sacred is far and away the most diverse record The Obsessed have ever done, from the rush of “Punk Crusher” and “Be the Night” to Weinrich and Sherman trading vocal lines — and sounding like they’re having a blast doing it, no less — in “It’s Only Money” to the languid nine-minute bluesy solo flow of “On So Long” and the organ-laced finish in “Crossroader Blues,” it’s an album nonetheless united by inimitable tone and by its underlying qualities of performance and craftsmanship, and while opener “Sodden Jackal” willfully hearkens back to the impact The Obsessed had in shaping what we think of as “traditional doom,” there’s just as much about Sacred that is unflinchingly forward-thinking and that refuses to compromise that vision.

With the strength of hooks in “Haywire,” “Stranger Things,” “Razor Wire” and “Be the Night,” the band provides a steady stream of landmarks throughout to keep listeners oriented as they present turns like “It’s Only Money,” the instrumental “Cold Blood” and toy with faster and slower tempo shifts across “Punk Crusher,” the title-track, “Haywire” and “Perseverance” early and “Razor Wire,” the heartfelt “My Daughter My Son” and “Be the Night” late — and that’s before the already-noted “On So Long” and “Crossroader Blues” at the end of the album — and as far as The Obsessed push sound-wise, they never lose the central identity created by the outright heft in the guitar and bass, yes, but in the emotion and execution of the material as well.

the obsessed photo susie costantino

The confusion in “Haywire” feels genuine, as does the downer stomp of “Perseverance” (organ doesn’t hurt that atmosphere either), and the upbeat classic heavy rock of “It’s Only Money” offers a moment of (gasp!) actual fun when Weinrich and Sherman come together to yell, “stick ’em up!,” and while “Stranger Things” is something of a structural masterpiece to represent the work as a whole at its best, all-thrust pieces like “Be the Night” and “Razor Wire” offer a blistering appeal of their own. On paper, Sacred might feel like a work of multiple personalities, but on a front to back listen, they absolutely carry it. They make it flow.

Part of that comes down to Wino himself, and I’ll make no bones about being a fan of his work or of Sherman‘s. The guitarist makes the primary impression as frontman — The Obsessed, which as a band dates back to 1979, and across its first three records, 1985/1990’s self-titled, 1991’s Lunar Womb and 1994’s The Church Within, established itself as the original “Wino band” — but the collaboration between Wino and Sherman here is essential in giving Sacred its personality and its depth. To undersell that aspect of it would be disingenuous.

That’s a relationship that was born in the mid-’90s as Shine, which became Spirit Caravan, and like other key creative partners with whom Weinrich has worked over the years, for example guitarist Dave Chandler of Saint Vitus or the aforementioned Bruce Falkinburg in The Hidden Hand, the Wino/Sherman pairing may be one in which personalities contrast, but the work produced is that much broader and more realized, perhaps in part because of that. On that level, Sacred is almost bittersweet, because while even down to its sheer length it speaks to a highly productive writing experience — in the age of reborn LP length, one does not release an hour’s worth of material if one doesn’t have something to say — it also marks the end of the partnership that was such a major factor in its making.

At least for now. One would be a fool to try to predict what the future might hold for Weinrich or The Obsessed — and kudos to whoever in 1994 said, “I bet they do another record in 2017” — but if this is the band with which he’s going to continue writing and touring for the time being, then “this” is already a band that has changed in a crucial way that will affect any future output. Now, even talking about a “next record” from a band who just put together their first in nearly a quarter-century seems utterly ridiculous, but the point is that Sacred, true to its title, captures a moment that isn’t likely to come again anytime soon. It successfully revives and expands the palette of one of American doom’s most influential acts, and it comes across as a genuine representation of the personalities, or at least the personae, of those who made it. The next few years will continue to tell The Obsessed‘s story and these songs’ ultimate place therein, but there’s little doubt that for many, Sacred will rank among the top albums of 2017, and I have no argument against its consideration as such.

The Obsessed, “Punk Crusher”

The Obsessed on Thee Facebooks

Sacred at Relapse Records

The Obsessed on Bandcamp

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The Obsessed Announce Tour Dates with Karma to Burn, Fatso Jetson & Lo-Pan

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 8th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obsessed

The Obsessed have announced a massive round of tour dates for April and May to support their first album in more than 20 years, Sacred, which is out April 7 on Relapse Records. Direct support on the run will come from Karma to Burn (with whom The Obsessed also toured last year), and Fatso Jetson and Lo-Pan will trade off for the West Coast and East Coast portions, respectively. In addition, a record release party will be held in Philly on April 8 at Kung Fu Necktie, at which The Obsessed legendary founding guitarist/vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich will perform acoustic.

By way of a spoiler, I interviewed Wino yesterday about the new album — which rules — and he’s stoked to take it on the road. More to come on that as soon as I get the conversation transcribed.

Meantime, without further ado here are the dates from the PR wire:

THE OBSESSED TOUR

THE OBSESSED Announce Headlining US Tour Dates

Maryland doom legends THE OBSESSED have announced a full US tour in support of the forthcoming album Sacred. The tour commences on April 12th in Pittsburgh, PA and runs through May 20th in Baltimore, MD. Karma To Burn will provide direct support on all dates while Fatso Jetson (April 17 – May 1) and Lo-Pan (May 3 – May 20) will provide additional support on select dates. THE OBSESSED will also join Weedeater and label-mates Primitive Man on five West Coast shows during the run (April 27 – May 1). All confirmed tour dates below.

Additionally, THE OBSESSED will hold a record release show for Sacred on April 8th at Kung Fu Necktie in Philadelphia, PA. The band will also perform at this year’s Berserker Fest IV in Detroit, Michigan the weekend of April 14-15. Stay tuned for further tour announcements in the future!

April 7, 2017 will see the worldwide release of Sacred via Relapse Records on CD/LP/DLX. 2xLP/Digital. Physical pre-order and bundles are available via Relapse.com HERE and digital downloads can be pre-ordered by Bandcamp AT THIS LOCATION. The Deluxe 2xLP bundle includes an enamel logo pin, signed art print and two bonus tracks!

With renewed energy and purpose, THE OBSESSED sounds heavier and more relevant than ever before. On Sacred, the band doubles down on enormous, heaving riffs and pummeling low-end across 12 tracks of eternal doom. Rounded out by Wino’s lyrical honesty and iconic throaty vocals, Sacred is an album that further pushes THE OBSESSED into the annals of heavy metal history, well worth the two-plus decade wait. The band will perform once again as three piece featuring Wino, Reid Raley and Brian Costantino.

THE OBSESSED Tour Dates:
Apr 08 Philadelphia, PA Kung Fu Necktie *Record Release Party/Acoustic Wino Set*
— All Dates Apr 12 – May 20 With Karma To Burn —
Apr 12 Pittsburgh, PA Cattive
Apr 14 Cleveland, OH Grog Shop
Apr 15 Pontiac, MI Berserker IV (The Crofoot) &
Apr 17 Indianapolis, IN 5th Quarter +
Apr 18 Kansas City, MO Riot Room +
Apr 19 Chicago, IL Bottom Lounge +
Apr 20 St. Louis, MO Fubar +
Apr 21 Rock Island, IL Rock Island Brewing Co. +
Apr 23 Denver, CO Hi-Dive +
Apr 24 Salt Lake City, UT Metro Music Hall +
Apr 25 Boise, ID Neurolux +
Apr 26 Bellingham, WA Shakedown +
Apr 27 Seattle, WA Highline ** +
Apr 28 Portland, OR Star Theater ** +
Apr 29 Sacramento, CA Starlite ** +
Apr 30 San Francisco, CA DNA Lounge ** +
May 01 Los Angeles, CA Regent Theater ** +
May 02 Mesa, AZ Club Red
May 03 Albuquerque, NM Launchpad #
May 04 Dallas, TX Three Links #
May 05 Austin, TX Grizzly Hall #
May 07 San Antonio, TX Korova #
May 08 New Orleans, LA Siberia #
May 09 Savannah, GA The Jinx #
May 10 Johnson City, TN Hideaway #
May 11 Atlanta, GA EARL #
May 12 Miami, FL Gramps #
May 13 Spartanburg, SC Ground Zero #
May 14 Raleigh, NC Pour House #
May 16 Philadelphia, PA Kung Fu Necktie #
May 17 Boston, MA ONCE Ballroom #
May 18 Brooklyn, NY Saint Vitus #
May 19 New Hanover, CT The Ballroom at Outer Space #
May 20 Baltimore, MD Otto Bar #

& No Karma To Burn
** W/ Weedeater + Primitive Man
+ W/ Fatso Jetson
# W/ Lo-Pan

https://www.facebook.com/TheObsessedOfficial
http://relapse.com/the-obsessed-sacred/
https://theobsessed.bandcamp.com/
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The Obsessed, “Punk Crusher”

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The Obsessed Announce April 7 Release for Sacred; New Song Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 7th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Been waiting for news on this one. The first album from The Obsessed in 23 years, Sacred, will be out April 7 on Relapse Records. They have a new song streaming now that you can hear below. It’s called “Razor Wire,” and though the lineup of the band that crafted it is already defunct, founding guitarist/vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich having assembled a four-piece incarnation of the group that may or may not still be active — you’ll note a lineup mentioned below with Reid Raley of Rwake as well as that four-piece version; I’m not going to pretend to know which is current, if not both — one can hear the renewed vitality of The Obsessed in the track. It sounds fantastic, to be blunt about it, and I can only look forward to hearing more when the time comes. April 7. Calendar is marked.

Just in from the PR wire:

the obsessed sacred

THE OBSESSED Announces New Album Sacred; Band Premieres “Razor Wire”

Sacred coming April 7th via Relapse Records

Maryland doom legends THE OBSESSED will unleash Sacred, the band’s first studio album in over twenty years, this April via Relapse Records.

Guitarist Scott “Wino” Weinrich comments on the new album: “I can honestly say, I think this is the best sounding recording of my career, and I am excited to release it on Relapse. This song ‘Razor Wire,’ I have been carrying around the title concept and main riff in my pocket for a couple years. The full song was born after applying real life experiences, with a little wishful thinking! Fuck control.”

April 7th, 2017 will see the worldwide release of Sacred via Relapse Records on CD, LP, deluxe double LP, and digital formats. Physical preorders and bundles are available via Relapse.com HERE and digital downloads can be preordered by Bandcamp at THIS LOCATION. The deluxe 2xLP bundle includes an enamel logo pin, signed art print, and two bonus tracks.

With renewed energy and purpose, THE OBSESSED sounds heavier and more relevant than ever before. On Sacred, the band doubles down on enormous, heaving riffs and pummeling low-end across twelve tracks of eternal doom. Rounded out by Wino’s lyrical honesty and iconic throaty vocals, Sacred is an album that further pushes THE OBSESSED into the annals of heavy metal history, well worth the two-plus decade wait. The band will perform once again as a three-piece featuring Wino, Reid Raley, and Brian Costantino.

Sacred Track Listing:
1. Sodden Jackal
2. Punk Crusher
3. Sacred
4. Haywire
5. Perseverance Of Futility
6. It’s Only Money
7. Cold Blood
8. Stranger Things
9. Razor Wire
10. My Daughter My Son
11. Be The Night
12. Interlude
13. On So Long (Bonus)
14. Crossroader Blues (Bonus)

Additionally, THE OBSESSED will perform at this year’s Berserker Fest IV in Detroit, Michigan the weekend of April 14th-15th. Stay tuned for further tour announcements in the future.

THE OBSESSED:
4/14-15/2017 Berserker Fest IV – Detroit, MI w/ GWAR, Eyehategod, OFF!, Weedeater, Brain Tentacles, more

Wino announced the full-time return of THE OBSESSED in March 2016 and the band’s official signing to Relapse Records to record the follow up to The Church Within. The new lineup originally consisted of Spirit Caravan bassist Dave Sherman and Wino’s longtime friend and former road crew member. drummer Brian Costantino. On October 31st, 2016, Wino announced the lineup for THE OBSESSED, included bassist Bruce Falkinburg and guitarist Seraphim, making that the first time the band had been a four piece in over thirty-five years. Now in 2017, THE OBSESSED will unleash Sacred, the band’s first studio album in over two decades.

http://www.facebook.com/TheObsessedOfficial
http://relapse.com/the-obsessed-sacred/
https://theobsessed.bandcamp.com/
http://www.relapse.com
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http://www.facebook.com/RelapseRecords
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The Obsessed, “Razor Wire”

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Tomorrow’s Dream: 200+ of 2017’s Most Anticipated Releases

Posted in Features on January 23rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

tomorrow's dream 2017

Looks like it’s going to be another busy 12 months ahead. It’s been a busy better-part-of-a-month already, so that stands to reason, but you should know that of the several years now that I’ve done these ‘Tomorrow’s Dream’ posts, this is the biggest one yet, with over 150 upcoming releases that — one hopes — will be out between today and the end of 2017.

Actually, at last count, the list tops 180. Do I really expect you to listen to all of them? Nope. Will I? Well, it would be nice. But what I’ve done is gone through and highlighted 35 picks and then built lists off that in order of likelihood of arrival. You’ll note the categories are ‘Gonna Happen and/or Likely Candidates,’ ‘Definitely Could Happen’ and ‘Would be Awfully Nice.’

Beyond that last one, anything else just seems like speculation — one might as well go “new Sabbath this year!” with zero info backing it up. The idea here is that no matter where a given band is placed, there has been some talk of a new release. In some cases, it’s been years, but I think they’re still worth keeping in mind.

Another caveat: You can expect additions to this list over the next week — probably album titles, band names people (fingers crossed) suggest in the comments, and so on — so it will grow. It always does. The idea is to build as complete a document as possible, not to get it all nailed down immediately, so please, if you have something to contribute and you’re able to do so in a non-prickish, “You didn’t include Band X and therefore don’t deserve to breathe the same air as me,” kind of way, please contribute.

Other than that, I think it’s pretty straightforward what’s going on here and I’ll explain the category parameters as we go, so by all means, let’s jump in.

— Tomorrow’s Dream 2017 —

Presented Alphabetically

1. Abrahma, TBA

Late last year, Paris heavy progressives Abrahma announced a new lineup and third full-length in progress. No reason to think it won’t come to fruition, and a follow-up to 2015’s Reflections in the Bowels of a Bird (review here) is an easy pick to look forward to. Even with the shift in personnel, it seems likely the band will continue their creative development, driven as they are by founding guitarist Seb Bismuth.

2. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War

all them witches sleeping through the warIf 2017 ended today, Sleeping Through the War would be my Album of the Year. Of course, there’s a lot of year to go, but for now, Nashville’s All Them Witches have set the standard with their second album for New West Records behind 2015’s Dying Surfer Meets His Maker (review here) and fourth overall outing. They’ve got videos up so far for “3-5-7” (posted here) and “Bruce Lee” (posted here). Both are most definitely worth your time. Out Feb. 24. Full review should be later this week.

3. Alunah, Solennial

Seems like UK forest riffers Alunah are on this list every year. Wishful thinking on my part. Nonetheless, their fourth LP and Svart Records debut, Solennial, is out March 17, and if the tease they gave already with the clip for “Fire of Thornborough Henge” (posted here) is anything to go from, its Chris Fielding-produced expanses might just be Alunah‘s most immersive yet.

4. Arbouretum, TBA

I asked the Baltimore folk fuzzers a while back on Thee Facebooks if they had a new record coming in 2017 and they said yes, so that’s what I’m going on here. The last Arbouretum album was 2013’s Coming out of the Fog (review here), and even with frontman Dave Heumann‘s 2015 solo outing, Here in the Deep (review here), factored in, you’d have to say they’re due. Keep an eye on Thrill Jockey for word and I’ll do the same.

5. Atavismo, Inerte

This is another one that already has a spot reserved for it on my Best-of-2017 year-end list. Spanish heavy psych rockers Atavismo up the progressive bliss level with their second full-length, Inerte, without losing the depth of style that made 2014’s Desintegración (review here) so utterly glorious. It probably won’t have the biggest marketing budget of 2017, but if you let Atavismo fly under your radar, you are 100 percent missing out on something special.

6. Bison Machine, TBA

In addition to the video for new track “Cloak and Bones” that premiered here, when Michigan raucousness-purveyors Bison Machine put out the dates for their fall 2016 tour, they included further hints of new material in progress. As much as I dug their earlier-2016 split with SLO and Wild Savages (review here) and 2015’s Hoarfrost (review here), that’s more than enough for me to include them on this list. Killer next-gen heavy rock.

7. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, TBA

News of a follow-up to Brothers of the Sonic Cloth‘s 2015 Neurot Recordings self-titled debut (review here) came through in October, and it remains some of the best news I’ve heard about 2017 doings. Took them a while to get the first record out, so we’ll see what happens, but it kind of feels like looking forward to a comet about to smash into the planet and cause a mass extinction, and by that I mean awesome. Can’t get here soon enough.

8. Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kosmic Dust

cloud catcher trails of kosmic dustOkay, so maybe I jumped the gun and did a super-early review of Denver trio Cloud Catcher‘s second long-player and Totem Cat Records debut, Trails of Kosmic Dust, but hell, no regrets. Some albums require an early-warning system. Their 2015 debut, Enlightened Beyond Existence (discussed here), was a gem as well, but this is a band in the process of upping their game on every level, and the songwriting and momentum they hone isn’t to be missed.

9. Colour Haze, TBA

I’ve gotten some details on the upcoming full-length from Colour Haze. They do not include a title, artwork, audio, song titles or general direction. Less details, I guess, than word that the CD version of this answer to 2015’s To the Highest Gods We Know (review here) is set to come out next month, as ever, on Elektrohasch. That puts it out in time for Colour Haze‘s upcoming tour with My Sleeping Karma (announced here). Fingers crossed it happens. Colour Haze are perpetual top-albums candidates in my book.

10. Corrosion of Conformity, TBA

Signed to Nuclear Blast after being rejoined by guitarist/vocalist Pepper Keenan, North Carolina’s C.O.C. have been in the studio since last year. The lineup of Keenan, bassist/vocalist Mike Dean and guitarist Woody Weatherman and Reed Mullin on drums is the stuff of legend and last worked together on 2000’s America’s Volume Dealer, so no question this reunion makes for one of 2017’s most anticipated heavy rock records. They nailed the nostalgia factor on tour. Can they now add to their legacy?

11. Elder, TBA

I was incredibly fortunate about a month ago to visit progressive heavy rockers Elder at Sonelab in Easthampton, MA, during the recording process for their upcoming fourth album. I heard a couple of the tracks, and of course it was all raw form, but the movement forward from 2015’s Lore (review here) was palpable. That LP (on Stickman) brought them to a wider audience, and I expect no less from this one as well, since the farther out Elder go sound-wise, the deeper the level of connection with their listeners they seem to engage.

12. Electric Wizard, TBA

Could happen, could not happen. That’s how it goes. Announced for last Halloween. That date came and went. Word of trouble building their own studio surfaced somewhere along the line. That was the last I heard. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if it showed up tomorrow, if it showed up in 2018, or if the band broke up and never put it out. They’re Electric Wizard. Anything’s possible.

13. John Garcia, The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues

Out Jan. 28 on NapalmThe Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues (review here) is the first-ever acoustic album from former Kyuss frontman John Garcia, also of Unida, the reunited Slo BurnHermanoVista ChinoZun, etc. — basically the voice of desert rock. He does a couple Kyuss classics for good measure, but shines as well on the new/original tracks, and while it’s a piece for fans more than newcomers — that is, it helps if you know the original version of “Green Machine” — his presence remains as powerful as ever despite this new context.

14. Goya, Harvester of Bongloads

Riffs, dude. Goya seem to have them to spare. The Arizona-based wizard doomers have set a pretty prolific clip for themselves at this point, with at least two short releases out in 2016, one a 7″ of Nirvana covers (review here), and the The Enemy EP (review here). Set for a March 3 release through their own Opoponax Records imprint, Harvester of Bongloads continues the march into the abyss that 2015’s Obelisk (review here) and 2013’s 777 set in motion, finding the band coming more into their own as well. Creative growth — and bongloads! The best of both worlds.

15. Ides of Gemini, TBA

Ides of Gemini are set to record their yet-untitled third album with Sanford Parker early this year, and it will also mark their debut on Rise Above Records upon its release. They’ve also got a new lineup around vocalist Sera Timms and guitarist J. Bennett, so as they look to move forward from 2014’s Old World New Wave (review here), one can’t help but wonder what to expect, but to be honest, not knowing is part of the appeal, especially from a band who so readily specialize in the ethereal.

16. Kind, TBA

Three-fourths of Kind feature elsewhere on this list. Bassist Tom Corino plays in Rozamov. Drummer Matt Couto is in Elder. Vocalist Craig Riggs is in Roadsaw. And for what it’s worth, guitarist Darryl Shepherd has a new band coming together called Test Meat. How likely does that make Kind to release a second LP in 2017? I don’t know, but their 2015 Ripple Music debut, Rocket Science (review here), deserves a follow-up, and I know they’ve demoed some new songs. If it happens, great. If it’s 2018, at least these dudes will be plenty busy besides.

17. Lo-Pan, In Tensions

lo-pan in tensionsYes, Lo-Pan‘s In Tensions (review here) has already been released — CD/LP with an artbook on Aqualamb. It’s out. Limited numbers. You can get it now. Why include it on a list of most anticipated releases? Because that’s how strongly I feel about your need to hear it. The fruit of a shortlived lineup with guitarist Adrian Zambrano, it distinguishes itself from everything they’ve done before in style while still keeping to the core righteousness that one hopes the Ohio outfit will continue to carry forward. It’s more than a stopgap between albums. Listen to it.

18. The Midnight Ghost Train, TBA

It seems to have been a rough ride for hard-boogie specialists The Midnight Ghost Train since their 2015 Napalm debut and third album overall, Cold was the Ground (review here). They’ve never taken it easy on the road or in terms of physicality on stage, and between injuries and who knows what else, their intensity at this point veers toward the directly confrontational. Nonetheless, they’ve been writing for album number four, may or may not have started the recording process, and I expect that confrontationalism to suit them well in their new material.

19. Monster Magnet, TBA

I have it on decent authority that NJ heavy psych innovators Monster Magnet were in the studio this past autumn. I’ve seen no concrete word of a new album in progress from Dave Wyndorf and company, and I wouldn’t necessarily expect to until it was time to start hyping the release, but after their two redux releases, 2015’s Cobras and Fire (review here) and 2014’s Milking the Stars (review here), their range feels broader than ever and I can’t wait to hear what they come up with next.

20. Mothership, High Strangeness

A pivotal moment for Mothership arrives with High Strangeness, and the heavy-touring, heavy-riffing Texas power trio seem to know it. Their third record on Ripple Music pushes into new avenues of expression and keeps the energy of 2014’s Mothership II (review here) and 2012’s Mothership (review here), but thus far into their career, it’s been about their potential and what they might accomplish going forward. 2017 might be the year for Mothership to declare a definitive place in the sphere of American heavy rock.

21. The Obsessed, Sacred

On Halloween 2016, founding The Obsessed guitarist/vocalist and doom icon Scott “Wino” Weinrich announced a new lineup for the band, with his former The Hidden Hand bandmate Bruce Falkinburg on bass/vocals, Sara Seraphim on guitar and Brian Costantino continuing on drums. A genuine surprise. Their first album since 1994, Sacred (due on Relapse) was tracked as the trio of WeinrichCostantino and bassist/vocalist Dave Sherman, but clearly they’ve moved into a new era already. Wouldn’t even guess what the future holds, but hopefully Sacred still comes out.

22. Orange Goblin, TBA

When it was announced that London’s Orange Goblin were picked up by Spinefarm as part of that label’s acquisition of Candlelight Records last Spring, the subheadline from the PR wire was “Working on Ninth Studio Album.” I haven’t heard much since then, but even as 2014’s Back from the Abyss (review here) pushed them deeper into metallic territory than ever before, their songs retained the character that’s made the band the institution they are. Always look forward to new Orange Goblin.

23. Pallbearer, Heartless

pallbearer heartlessDoomers, this is your whole year right here. I haven’t heard Pallbearer‘s third album, Heartless (out March 24 on Profound Lore), but I have to think even those who haven’t yet been won over by the Arkansas four-piece’s emotive, deep-running style have to be curious about what they’ve come up with this time around. I know I am. These guys have been making a mark on the genre since their 2012 debut, Sorrow and Extinction (review here), and there’s little doubt Heartless will continue that thread upon its arrival.

24. Radio Moscow, TBA

Fact: Radio Moscow stand among the best classic heavy rock live acts in the US. They’re the kind of band you can watch upwards of 15 gigs in a row — I’ve done it — and find them putting on a better show night after night, in defiance of science, logic and sobriety. Word of their signing to Century Media came just this past week and brought with it confirmation of a follow-up to 2014’s stellar Magical Dirt (review here), and for me to say hell yes, I’m absolutely on board, seems like the no-brainer to end all no-brainers. Can’t wait.

25. Roadsaw, TBA

Nearly six full years later, it’s only fair to call Boston scene godfathers Roadsaw due for a follow-up to their 2011 self-titled (review here). Granted, members have been busy in KindWhite Dynomite, and other projects, but still. Their upcoming outing finds them on Ripple Music after years under the banner of Small Stone Records, and though I haven’t seen a solid release date yet, my understanding is they hit Mad Oak Studio in Allston, MA, this past fall to track it, so seems likely for sooner or later. Sooner, preferably.

26. Rozamov, This Mortal Road

Speaking of albums by Boston bands a while in the making, This Mortal Road (out March 3 on Battleground Records and Dullest Records) is the debut full-length from Boston atmospheric extremists Rozamov. Haven’t heard it yet, but I got a taste of some of the material when I visited the band at New Alliance Audio in Aug. 2015, and the bleak expanses of what I heard seem primed to turn heads. I’m a fan of these guys, but in addition, they’ve found a niche for themselves sound-wise and I’m curious to hear how they bring it to fruition.

27. Samsara Blues Experiment, TBA

It’s been a pleasure over the last couple months to watch a resurgence of Berlin heavy psych trio Samsara Blues Experiment take shape, first with the announcement of a fourth album in October, then with subsequent confirmations for DesertfestRiff Ritual in Barcelona, and a South American tour. Reportedly due in Spring, which fits with the timing on shows, etc., the record will follow 2013’s righteous Waiting for the Flood (review here) and as much as I’m looking forward to hearing it, I’m kind of just glad to have these guys back.

28. Seedy Jeezus, TBA

Work finished earlier this month on Melbourne trio Seedy Jeezus‘ second full-length. As with their 2015 self-titled debut, the band brought Tony Reed of Mos Generator to Australia to produce, and after their blissed-out 2016 collaboration with Earthless guitarist Isaiah MitchellTranquonauts (review here), it’s hard not to wonder what experimentalist tendencies might show in the trio’s style this time out, and likewise difficult not to anticipate what guitarist Lex “Mr. Frumpy” Wattereus comes up with for the cover art.

29. Shroud Eater, Strike the Sun

Not to spoil the surprise, but Feb. 1 I’ll host a track premiere from Florida’s Shroud Eater that finds them working in a different context from everything we’ve heard from them to this point in their rightly-celebrated tenure. They also recently had a split out with Dead Hand, and their second long-player, Strike the Sun, will be their debut through STB Records. It’s been since 2011’s ThunderNoise (review here) that we last got a Shroud Eater album, so you bet your ass I’m dying to know what the last six years have wrought.

30. Sleep, TBA

If Sleep were any other band, they’d probably be in the “Would be Awfully Nice” category. But they’re Sleep, so even the thought of a new record is enough to put them here. The lords of all things coated in THC are reissuing their 2014 single, The Clarity (review here), on Southern Lord next month, but rumors have been swirling about a proper album, which of course would be their first since the now-legendary Dopesmoker. If it happens, it’ll automatically be a heavy underground landmark for 2017, but it’s one I’m going to have in my ears before I really believe it.

31. Stoned Jesus, TBA

Even as they tour playing their second album, 2012’s Seven Thunders Roar (review here), to mark its fifth anniversary and continued impact, Ukrainian trio Stoned Jesus are forging ahead with a fourth record behind 2015’s The Harvest (review here). The capital-‘q’ Question is whether or not looking back at Seven Thunders Roar and engaging that big-riffing side of their sound will have an impact on the new material, and if so, how it will meld with the push of The Harvest. Won’t speculate, but look forward to finding out.

32. Stubb, TBA

Since reveling in the soul of 2015’s Cry of the Ocean (review here) on Ripple, London trio Stubb have swapped out bassists, and they were in Skyhammer Studio this month recording a single that may be an extended psychedelic jam. I’ll take that happily, but I’m even more intrigued at the prospect of a third LP and what guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson, bassist/vocalist Tom Hobson and drummer Tom Fyfe might have in store as the band moves forward on multiple levels. Might be 2017, might not.

33. Sun Blood Stories, It Runs Around the Room with Us

sun blood stories it runs around the room with usIt Runs around the Room with Us seems to find peace in its resonant experimentalist drones, loops, open, subdued spaces, but there’s always some underlying sense of foreboding to its drift, as if Boise’s Sun Blood Stories could anticipate the moment before it happened. Toward the end of the follow-up to 2015’s Twilight Midnight Morning (review here), they execute the 90-second assault “Burn” and turn serenity to ash. Look for it in April and look for it again on my best of 2017 list in December.

34. Ufomammut, TBA

Any new offering from the Italian cosmic doom magnates is worth looking forward to, and while Ufomammut have left the 15-year mark behind, they’ve never stopped progressing in style and form. To wit, 2015’s Ecate (review here) was a stunner after 2012’s two-part LP, Oro (review here and review here), tightening the approach but assuring the vibe was no less expansive than ever. They started recording last summer, finished mixing in November, so I’m hoping for word of a release date soon.

35. Vokonis, The Sunken Djinn

Born out of Creedsmen Arise, whose 2015 demo, Temple (review here), offered formative thrills, Swedish trio Vokonis debuted with last year’s Olde One Ascending (review here) and proved there’s still life in post-Sleep riffing when it’s wielded properly. They signed to Ripple in November and confirmed the title of their sophomore effort as The Sunken Djinn, as well as a reissue for the first album, which will probably arrive first. I don’t know how that will affect the timing on this one, but keep an eye out anyway.

Gonna Happen and/or Likely Candidates

Obviously some of these are more likely than others. Some have solidified, announced release dates — Dopelord‘s out this month, Demon Head‘s out in April, etc. — and others come from social media posts of bands in studios and hints at upcoming releases and so on. A big tell is whether or not a band has an album title with their listing, but even some of those without have their new albums done, like Atala and Royal Thunder, so it’s not necessarily absolute.

Either way, while I’m spending your money, you might want to look into:

36. Against the Grain
37. Amenra
38. Atala
39. Attalla, Glacial Rule
40. Ayahuasca Dark Trip, II
41. Beastmaker
42. Beaten Back to Pure
43. Blackout
44. Bretus
45. Buried Feather, Mind of the Swarm
46. The Clamps
47. Cold Stares
48. Coltsblood, Ascending into the Shimmering Darkness
49. Come to Grief, The Worst of Times EP
50. Cortez
51. Cruthu, The Angle of Eternity
52. The Dead-End Alley Band, Storms
53. Dead Witches, Dead Witches
54. Dealer
55. Death Alley, Live at Roadburn
56. Demon Head, Thunder on the Fields
57. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, II
58. Devil Electric
59. Doctor Cyclops, Local Dogs
60. Dool, Here Now There Then
61. Dopelord, Children of the Haze
62. Doublestone, Devil’s Own/Djævlens Egn
63. Dread Sovereign, For Doom the Bell Tolls
64. Drive by Wire
65. Elbrus, Elbrus
66. Electric Age
67. Electric Moon, Stardust Rituals
68. Endless Floods, II
69. Five Horse Johnson
70. Forming the Void, Relic
71. Funeral Horse
72. Greenbeard
73. Green Desert Water
74. Greenleaf
75. Grifter / Suns of Thunder, Split
76. Hair of the Dog, This World Turns
77. Heavy Temple, Chassit
78. Here Lies Man, Here Lies Man
79. Hollow Leg, Murder EP
80. Holy Mount, The Drought
81. Hooded Menace
82. Horisont, About Time
83. Hymn, Perish
84. Lecherous Gaze
85. Magnet, Feel Your Fire
86. Mastodon
87. Merlin, The Wizard
88. Merchant
89. Mindkult, Lucifer’s Dream
90. Mirror Queen
91. Moonbow, War Bear
92. Mos Generator
93. The Moth
94. MotherSloth
95. Mouth, Vortex
96. My Sleeping Karma, Mela Ananda – Live
97. Orango
98. Papir
99. PH, Eternal Hayden
100. Psychedelic Witchcraft, Magick Rites and Spells
101. Royal Thunder
102. Saturn, Beyond Spectra
103. Season of Arrows, Give it to the Mountain
104. Siena Root
105. Six Organs of Admittance, Burning the Threshold
106. Six Sigma, Tuxedo Brown
107. Sólstafir
108. The Sonic Dawn, Into the Long Night
109. Spelljammer
110. Spidergawd, IV
111. Steak
112. Stinking Lizaveta, Journey to the Underworld
113. Sula Bassana, Organ Accumulator
114. Summoner
115. Sun Voyager, Sun Voyager
116. Sweat Lodge, Tokens for Hell EP
117. Thera Roya, Stone and Skin
118. Toke
119. Troubled Horse, Revelation on Repeat
120. VA, Brown Acid The Third Trip
121. Weedpecker
122. Youngblood Supercult, The Great American Death Rattle

Definitely Could Happen

Maybe a recording process is upcoming (Gozu, Cities of Mars, YOB), or a band is looking for a label (The Flying Eyes), or they’ve said new stuff is in the works but the circumstances of an actual release aren’t known (Arc of Ascent, Dead Meadow, High on Fire), or I’ve just seen rumors of their hitting the studio (Freedom Hawk, La Chinga, Ruby the Hatchet). We’ve entered the realm of the entirely possible but not 100 percent.

So, you know, life.

Dig it:

123. The Age of Truth
124. Ape Machine
125. Arc of Ascent
126. At Devil Dirt
127. Bantoriak
128. Bask
129. BCAD
130. BoneHawk
131. La Chinga
132. Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters
133. Cities of Mars
134. Crypt Sermon
135. Dead Meadow
136. Death Alley (Studio LP)
137. Dee Calhoun
138. Destroyer of Light
139. Devil
140. Devil Worshipper
141. Duel
142. Dustrider
143. Egypt
144. Electric Moon
145. Elephant Tree
146. Farflung
147. The Flying Eyes
148. Freedom Hawk
149. Gozu
150. The Great Electric Quest
151. Green Meteor, Consumed by a Dying Sun
152. High on Fire
153. Horrendous
154. Insect Ark
155. In the Company of Serpents
156. Iron Monkey
157. Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus
158. The Judge
159. Killer Boogie
160. King Dead
161. The Kings of Frog Island
162. Lords of Beacon House, Recreational Sorcery
163. Mangoo
164. Mondo Drag
165. Monolord
166. Mountain God
167. The Munsens
168. Naxatras
169. Never Got Caught
170. Ommadon
171. Orchid
172. Ordos
173. Pilgrim
174. Poseidon
175. Purple Hill Witch
176. Ruby the Hatchet
177. Sasquatch
178. Satan’s Satyrs
179. Serpents of Secrecy
180. Shabda
181. Shooting Guns
182. Sleepy Sun
183. Slow Season
184. Snowy Dunes, Atlantis
185. Spectral Haze
186. The Sweet Heat
187. Switchblade Jesus
188. Superchief
189. Tÿburn
190. YOB
191. Zone Six

Would be Awfully Nice

This last category is basically as close as I’m willing to come to rampant speculation. Endless Boogie have hinted at new material, and Queens of the Stone Age have talked about hitting the studio for the last two years. There were rumors about Om, and though Kings Destroy just put out an EP, they have new songs as well, though I doubt we’ll hear them before the end of 2017. I’ll admit that Across Tundras, Fever Dog, Lord Fowl, Lowrider and Hour of 13 are just wishful thinking on my part. A boy can hope:

192. Across Tundras
193. Eggnogg
194. Elephant Tree
195. Endless Boogie
196. Fever Dog
197. Fu Manchu
198. Halfway to Gone
199. Hour of 13
200. Kadavar
201. Kings Destroy
202. Lord Fowl
203. Lowrider
204. Masters of Reality
205. Om
206. Orodruin
207. Queens of the Stone Age

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading. Whatever this year brings, I hope it’s been great so far for you and I hope it continues to be so as we proceed inexorably to 2018 and all the also-futuristic-sounding numbers thereafter. At least we know we’ll have plenty of good music to keep us company on that voyage.

As always, comments section is open if there’s anything I’ve left out. I’m happy to add, adjust, etc., as need be, so really, have at it, and thanks in advance.

All the best.

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