The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Singles, EPs, Splits and Demos of 2015

Posted in Features on December 29th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

top 20 short releases of 2015

Please note: This list is not culled in any way from the Readers Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2015 to that, please do.

What’s a short release? Anything that’s not a full-length. I’ve done this list in the past and given a small list — The Top 20 EPs, Splits, Demos and Singles, or whatever — but “Short Releases” seemed more concise, and believe it or not, that’s something I shoot for.

Essentially, what we’re taking a look at here is everything else a band might put out in a given year. No question that albums are where the greatest impact is made over the longer term, but from landmark 7″s to EPs that provide crucial experiments or serve notice of bands solidifying their sound or marking pivotal first impressions, the shorter offerings have tremendous value, and it’s worth considering them on their own merit, rather than in comparison to LPs directly.

I know for a fact that there are releases I’ve missed here. Particularly among the Bandcamp-only demos, there’s just so much out there that for any one person to keep up with all of it is even more impossible than it’s ever been before. Before you berate me immediately with, “Hey you forgot X Band!” and start throwing tomatoes at your computer or mobile device screen, please keep in mind The Obelisk is run by a single individual and there are only so many hours in the day. As always, I do the best I can.

Here we go:

foehammer foehammer

The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Short Releases of 2015

1. Foehammer, Foehammer EP
2. Mos Generator & Stubb, The Theory of Light and Matter Split
3. Sun Voyager, Lazy Daze EP
4. All Them Witches, A Sweet Release
5. Geezer & Borracho, The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter 1 Split
6. Fatso Jetson & Farflung, Split
7. Eggnogg & Borracho, Sludgy Erna Bastard Split 7″
8. Shroud Eater, Face the Master EP
9. Bedroom Rehab Corporation, Fortunate Some EP
10. Stars that Move, Demo Songs
11. Wight, Helicopter Mama 7″
12. Thera Roya, Unraveling EP
13. Shatner, EP
14. Cities of Mars, Cyclopean Ritual EP
15. Pyramidal & Domo, Jams from the Sun Split
16. Sandrider & Kinski, Split
17. Mount Hush, Low and Behold! EP
18. Godhunter & Amigo the Devil, The Outer Dark Split
19. Groan, Highrospliffics EP
20. Rozamov & Deathkings, Split

Honorable Mention

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Notes

It’s something of a break in routine for me to put any kind of debut in a top spot (other, of course, than on the list of debuts), but Foehammer simply would not be denied. The Virginia trio’s three-song EP release on Grimoire Records (LP on Australopithecus Records), it was a self-titled that seemed to be telling you the name of the band twice as if in a warning against forgetting it. And that warning was one to heed. Foehammer‘s first outing brought the Doom Capitol region to new heights of extremity, and while at over half-an-hour long it could’ve just as easily have been called a full-length, part of the overarching threat is what the band will bring to bear when they actually get around to their first LP.

A good number of splits included here, with Mos Generator and Stubb‘s The Theory of Light and Matter (HeviSike Records), Geezer and Borracho‘s The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter 1 (launching a series for Ripple Music), Fatso Jetson and Farflung‘s joint release (on Heavy Psych Sounds) and Eggnogg and Borracho‘s Sludgy Erna Bastard (on Palaver Records) all cracking the top 10. No coincidence that Washington D.C. heavy riffers Borracho show up twice in that mix. As Pyramidal and Domo‘s blissful Jams from the Sun, Sandrider and Kinski‘s one-two, Godhunter and Amigo the Devil‘s Battleground Records collaboration and Rozamov and Deathkings‘ joint single feature between #11-20, a total of eight out of the full included 20 releases here are splits. Last year it was only five.

Whether that means the form is growing in an attempt to capture fickle social-media-age attention spans while cutting individual vinyl pressing costs, I couldn’t say — likely a combination of the two and more besides — but it’s noteworthy that a split is more than just a toss-off, between-albums castaway at this point, something for songs to later be included on rare-tracks comps. One could easily say the same of EPs as a whole. To that end, Sun Voyager‘s Lazy Daze was a brutal tease for the NY psychgaze outfit’s first album, hopefully out in 2016. And while All Them WitchesA Sweet Release was over 50 minutes long — longer, actually, than their Dying Surfer Meets His Maker LP, which was also issued this year — they considered it an EP/live collection, and that indeed proved how it worked best, immersive though its stretch remained.

Shroud Eater and Bedroom Rehab Corporation both turned in impressive outings that showed marked progression from their last time out, while Shatner‘s first batch of tracks tipped off a songwriting process well-honed and Stars that Move, Cities of Mars, Thera Roya and Mount Hush — I’d put Mount Desert in this category as well — had compelling outings that, like Foehammer at the top, showed much potential at work in formative sounds. Not to be forgotten, Wight‘s Helicopter Mama 7″ gave listeners a heads up on the funkified stylistic turn their upcoming full-length, Love is Not Only What You Know, will take even further, and UK stoner miscreants Groan proved once and for all that, along with logic and reason, a constantly changing lineup can’t hold back their good times.

Like I said — like I always say — if I left something out, let me know about it in the comments. Really let me have it. Call me a jerk. It’s cool. I can take it.

Please note: I can, in no way, take it.

Still, if I left something/someone out, I hope you’ll let me know. And please don’t forget that if you haven’t yet, you can still contribute your list of 2015 favorites to the year-end poll until Dec. 31. EPs, LPs, whatever, however many, it doesn’t matter. All entries are welcome there.

Thanks for reading.

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The Obelisk Radio Adds: Primitive Man, Sandrider + Kinski, Hiram-Maxim, Obrero and Elbrus

Posted in Radio on February 16th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk radio

I know it’s not the usual custom to do Radio adds on Mondays, but what the hell, it’s not exactly like there are rules one way or another, and my desktop has hit eight rows deep of folders with albums in them, so whatever day it might be, it’s time to clear out as much of it as possible. A full 22 records join The Obelisk Radio playlist today. Some of it is very strange, some of it pretty straightforward, but one way or another, I think it all makes the stream better and more diverse, and that’s what it’s all about. For the full list of everything added, check out the Playlist and Updates page.

The Obelisk Radio adds for Feb. 16, 2015:

Primitive Man, Home is Where the Hatred Is

12 Jacket (3mm Spine) [GDOB-30H3-007}

After their destructive 2013 Relapse Records debut, Scorn (review here), Primitive Man‘s reputation for brutality precedes them. The Denver trio’s new EP, Home is Where the Hatred Is, is only likely to further that reputation, its four tracks alternating between grueling, unrepentantly slow-lumbering, ungodly-toned extremity and fits of grinding megaviolence. The release is arranged longest to shortest so that opener “Loathe” (11:03) is sure to weed out the weaker constitutions en route to the ensuing crushers “Downfall” (8:43) and “Bag Man” (7:09). The closer, “A Marriage with Nothingness” (4:17) is a collage of noise and fedback threat topped with a sample of a woman either in ecstasy or agony — in context it’s kind of hard to tell — but the message is plain either way. One might think of that cut as an answer to Primitive Man‘s 2013 P//M Noise Tape, which also explored droning forms between covers of PortisheadBlack Sabbath and Crowbar. Perhaps most foreboding of all is how smoothly Primitive Man shift between the facets of their increasingly diverse sound, since it speaks to a progression in progress in terms of bringing the various elements together. A beast is one thing, but a thinking beast seems all the more ominous. They may be in the process of outgrowing their name, but a savage force remains at the heart of their bludgeoning. Primitive Man on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.

Sandrider and Kinski, Sandrider + Kinski Split

sandrider kinski split

With geography in common in their Seattle base of operation, Sandrider and Kinski present their Sandrider + Kinski split on Good to Die Records with three new songs from the former, including a cover of Jane’s Addiction‘s “Mountain Song,” and two from the latter, working in instrumental, textured heavy psychedelic forms that complement Sandrider‘s bombastic approach as heard on their two full-lengths to date, 2013’s Godhead (review here) and 2011’s self-titled debut (review here). Both “Beyond in Touch with My Feminine Side” (8:42) and “The Narcotic Comforts of the Status Quo” (5:17) flesh out open spaces, rich in tone and flowing movement, with the closer more of a riffy, space-rock feel while “Beyond in Touch with My Feminine Side” is more exploratory, fading out at its end is the jam sort of deconstructs below lead guitar. As for Sandrider‘s “Rain” (4:47) and “Glaive” (4:40), for anyone who’s heard the rolling punk heaviness of their albums, it should be enough to say they sound like Sandrider — upbeat and catchy and furious and kinetic — and while I’m not sure anyone ever needed to hear a Jane’s Addiction song ever again (ever.), they take what was probably the band’s best riff and re-suit it to their own purposes, which if you’re going to do it at least is the right way to go about it. Sandrider on Thee Facebooks, Kinski on Thee Facebooks, Good to Die Records.

Hiram-Maxim, Hiram-Maxim

hiram-maxim hiram-maxim

Ultimately, Hiram-Maxim‘s self-titled Aqualamb debut reads more like an experiment in the deconstruction of sound than an album in the traditional sense, and perhaps I use the word “reads” because it’s a book. As has become Aqualamb‘s modus, the four-track release comes as a 100-page artbook and a download that contains its nonetheless-vinyl-ready darkened forms, whether it’s the brooding “One” (11:47) with backing drones and open guitars or the preceding “Can’t Stop” (11:55) with its rising current of abrasive, almost grating noise that gradually consumes whatever song was there to start with. It is a dark atmosphere, and the opener, “Visceral”  (7:14), is well titled, but the pervading vibe is more exploratory than theatrical; like the listener, the Cleveland four-piece are feeling their way through these deep reaches, and when they come around to the apex of closer “Worship” (6:25), the resolution they seem to find is frantic and desolate in turn. In another universe, one might call it punk rock. Here, it is gleefully and thoroughly fucked. Hiram-Maxim on Thee Facebooks, Aqualamb.

Obrero, The Infinite Corridors of Time

Obrero The Infinite Corridors of Time

The Infinite Corridors of Time, the second long-player from Stockholm old-schoolers Obrero should — contrary to their logo — appeal to fans of Hour of 13 and Argus and others who’ve made preservation of classic metal their mission, skirting the fine line between doomly Sabbath worship and proto-NWOBHM stylized forwardness of purpose. The double-guitar five-piece show some penchant for ’70s heavy rock on cuts like “Oneironaut” (6:20) and “The Axial Age” (5:40) but by and large their purposes are more metallic, meshing AC/DC and Judas Priest impulses into the keyboard-laden “Manchester Morgue” (5:01) or “Phobos and Deimos” (5:42), which stands out for its hook and successful blend alike. At eight tracks/52 minutes, The Infinite Corridors of Time is no minor undertaking — there is no song under five minutes long — but their use of keys allows Obrero to work in various moods, and for those seeking purity in their metal, the Swedish outfit offer glimpses without being wholly derivative of what’s come before. Obrero on Thee Facebooks, To the Death Records.

Elbrus, Far Away and into Space Pt. 2

Elbrus Far Away and into Space Pt. 2

If you feel like you missed out on Far Away and into Space Pt. 1, don’t worry about it. Melbourne, Australia, four-piece Elbrus are actually starting out with Pt. 2, and it’s their debut single, an 11-minute psychedelic push of heavy blues rock, stoner rollout and organ-blessed jamming. I’m not sure it’s safe yet to call what’s happening in Melbourne right now a “heavy blues revival” as acts like Elbrus and Child delve into such sonic territory — if only because with bands like Horsehunter and Hotel Wrecking City Traders out there, the city’s take on heavy isn’t so easily categorized — but one rarely recognizes such things until beaten over the head by them. Either way, “Far Away and into Space Pt. 2” gracefully looses a molten flow over its 11:06 stretch, vocalist/organist Ollie Bradley-Smith unafraid to cut through the natural-sounding, weighted tones of guitarist Ringo Camilleri and bassist Mafi Watson while Tom Todorovic‘s drums smooth the way between volume and tempo changes and add cymbal-crash swing to both. It’s a smooth-grooved nod, and aside from making me curious to hear the first installment of “Far Away and into Space,” it makes me wonder what Elbrus might next encounter as that journey unfolds. Elbrus on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

One more time, this is not even a quarter of what’s been added today. There’s also stuff from Black Rainbows, Felipe Arcazas, Headless Kross, Warhorse, Twingiant and others, so please make sure you hit up the Obelisk Radio Playlist and Updates page to see the full list.

Thanks as always for reading and listening.

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Sandrider and Kinski to Release Split in February

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 6th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

sandrider

I was never a huge Jane’s Addiction fan, but I’d be willing to bet that Seattle’s Sandrider have a pretty interesting take on “Mountain Song,” all punked out and shouty and heavy. Good to Die Records will have that song and two originals out on a split with fellow Seattleites Kinski in Feb. 2015. For Kinski, the split arrives ahead of a new full-length to be released in April on Kill Rock Stars, and for Sandrider, it’s the first new studio material to be heard since 2013’s riotous sophomore album, Godhead (review here).

By all accounts, the split will be LP/download only, so if you’re into CDs, you’re SOL, but if you needed one more for your list of releases you’re looking forward to in 2015, it seems an easy bet regardless of format. The PR wire has word from Good to Die:

sandrider kinski split

We are very excited to officially announce and reveal the artwork for an upcoming split LP with SANDRIDER and KINSKI, set for release February 17th, 2015 on vinyl and digital formats.

The SANDRIDER side was engineered by Matt Bayles (Russian Circles, KEN Mode, Mastodon) at Red Room Studio in Seattle and features 2 originals and 1 cover. The KINSKI side was engineered by Phil Manley (Les Savy Fav, Rye Coalition, Oneida) at El Studio in San Francisco and features 2 new tracks with a run time over 15 minutes.

Side A: SANDRIDER
1. Rain
2. Glaive
3. Mountain Song (Jane’s Addiction cover)

Side B: KINSKI
1. Beyond in Touch With My Feminine Side
2. The Narcotic Comforts of the Status Quo

Both bands have a couple of performances booked before the end of the year. Check the dates!

SANDRIDER shows:
11/14 – Sandrider w/ Ben Verellen of Helms Alee, Constant Lovers @ Chop Suey for A Tribute To Nirvana
http://www.strangertickets.com/events/18841684/a-tribute-to-nirvana

12/19 – Sandrider w/ He Whose Ox Is Gored, Leatherdaddy @ Sunset Tavern
http://www.ticketweb.com/t3/sale/SaleEventDetail?dispatch=loadSelectionData&eventId=4245094&pl=sunset

KINSKI shows:
11/21 – Kinski w/ Unnatural Helpers @ Blue Moon Tavern
12/19 – Kinski w/ Spoils, Low Hums @ Blue Moon Tavern

Sandrider, “Gorgon” official video

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