Posted in Whathaveyou on March 9th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Great news that Iceland’s Sólstafir are returning to North America this Spring for a coast-to-coast tour. I mean, it’s not great news if you live in the often-shafted vicinity of Boston, which I do, but so it goes. I’d even have been stoked to have them come as far north as Providence, but alas, no dice. If you didn’t hear it, last year’s Ótta album (review here) was a gem, and probably worth traveling for, or, if you’re lucky enough, catching them at Roadburn. They’ll be joined on this run by Ancient Wisdom.
The PR wire something something blah blah blah god damn Massachusetts bites:
SOLSTAFIR announce North American tour
Enigmatic Icelandic rock band SOLSTAFIR have announced a headlining North American tour. The month-long tour kicks on April 22, and a full list of confirmed tour dates can be found below. SOLSTAFIR are touring in support of their critically-acclaimed new album, ‘Otta’.
SOLSTAFIR are also streaming their recent KEXP radio in-studio session here. The session sees the band performing material from their new album ‘Otta’, and was recorded during their previous US tour. SOLSTAFIR recently appeared on Icelandic national television’s Studio A program, performing two songs off ‘Otta’. Footage of the band playing Dagmál (at the 12:23 mark) and Rismál (at 32:40) can be found at the official Icelandic National Television’s Studio A website.
SOLSTAFIR 2015 North American tour 4/22 BROOKLYN, NY @ THE SHOP 4/23 MONTREAL, QC @ L’AIL’ZE 4/24 OTTAWA, ON @ MAVERICKS 4/25 TORONTO, ON @ GARRISON 4/26 ROCHESTER. NY @ BUG JAR 4/27 PITTSBURGH, PA @ 31st ST PUB 4/28 COLUMBUS, OH @ ACE OF CUPS 4/29 GRAND RAPIDS, MI @ PYRAMID SCHEME 4/30 MILWAUKEE, WI @ TBD 5/1 MINNEAPOLIS, MN @ NETHER BAR 5/3 CHICAGO, IL @ REGGIES 5/4/ KANSAS CITY, MO @ RIOT ROOM 5/5 DENVER, CO @ LARIMER 5/6 SALT LAKE CITY, UT @ BAR DELUXE 5/8 SPOKANE, WA @ THE PIN 5/9 VANCOUVER BC @ RICKSHAW 5/10 SEATTLE, WA @ EL CORAZON 5/12 SAN FRANCISCO, CA @ OAKLAND OPERA 5/13 LOS ANGELES, CA @ LOS GLOBOS 5/14 SCOTTSDALE, AZ @ PUB ROCK LIVE 5/15 ALBUQUERQUE, NM @ SISTER 5/16 FORT WORTH, TX @ SONS OF HERMANN 5/17 AUSTIN, TX @ RED 7 5/18 NEW ORLEANS, LA @ ONE EYED JACKS 5/20 RICHMOND, VA @ STRANGE MATTER
Posted in Whathaveyou on February 23rd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Some pretty surprising word from Season of Mist concerning an upcoming summer European tour for Saint Vitus brings the news that the hugely influential doom outfit will be joined by original vocalist Scott Reagers on the run, including their stop at Hellfest in France this June. I haven’t seen other dates for the tour, will post when I do, but the news of Reagers joining his fellow original members Dave Chandler (guitar) and Mark Adams (bass), as well as drummer Henry Vasquez, is striking in itself. His last recording with the band was 1995’s Die Healing, and even that was a reunion, Reagers having left the band after the release of their 1985 sophomore outing, Hallow’s Victim.
Of course, Reagers‘ taking part in the tour — and it is, at least as of now, just listed as being for this one tour — comes after the arrest of current Vitus frontman Scott “Wino” Weinrich in Norway near the end of their fall 2014 35th anniversary tour, co-headlining with Orange Goblin. What Weinrich‘s legal status might be in Europe and whether or not he’s banned from performing there, I don’t know, but it would explain why Reagers is being brought in for the tour after about 20 years absent from the band.
More as I hear it, but for now, here’s the announcement from Season of Mist with some comment from Vitus themselves:
Saint Vitus have announced that vocalist Scott Reagers will be joining them on their 2015 summer dates in Europe. The band comments: “We will play a special set for the fans; one comprised mostly of Reagers’ pre and post era as SAINT VITUS’ singer. We hope that the Vitus family, fans and friends, are eager to revisit the Reagers sound for this brief tour and we especially thank you for your continued support!” The doom legend has already been confirmed for Hellfest Open Air Festival and more dates will follow in due time.
Posted in audiObelisk on February 9th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
French heavy rockers Soundcrawler will release their debut full-length, The Dead-End Host, on Feb. 20. Out through Klonosphere Records, it is an album underscored by a current of brooding progressive metal, not necessarily aggressive — unless one counts the ending of the penultimate “Infinite Genocide” — but tense and purposeful in its arrangements, both instrumental and vocal, and cohesive despite markedly varied influences. The Périgueux-based five-piece of vocalist Rémy Pocquet, guitarists Paul Parsat and Clément Reviriego, bassist Firouze Pirolley and drummer Robin Cauchois seem just as likely to draw on Soundgarden as Kyuss in setting a ’90s vibe, but there’s an awareness of modern heavy as well, as the Mars Red Sky-style wah of “A God to Feed” and generally fuzzy overtones of cuts like the opener “Raiders” and the plus-sized riffing of “Souls from the Trash” demonstrate.
What stands The Dead-End Host out is its primarily moody spirit and the atmospherics through which Soundcrawler attain it. The fivesome may be a relatively recent advent in terms of putting out records — this debut was preceded by a 2012 EP called The Sandcrawler that came together before the lineup was finalized — and their sound is thoroughly modern, but there’s something “old soul” about The Dead-End Host as well. It’s not upbeat songs about drinking and monsters, but it’s got moments where it could be. I’ll point to Pirolley‘s bass as a key factor in setting the ambience of “The Plastic Truth,” which I have the pleasure of hosting today for streaming. Starting the track with Cauchois‘ drums in what almost sounds like a noise rock rollout, it is a dense slab of tone, and even after the guitars and vocals join in, it remains a defining presence, its push of air never really abating throughout “The Plastic Truth”‘s five-minute course.
That course is complex, but ultimately accessible, and with its persistent melody, ebbs and flows, nod, break in the midsection and rebuild to a double-kick apex, it serves well to give an impression of what The Dead-End Host has to say and from where Soundcrawler are coming stylistically. I won’t say it’s a complete summary, but you’ll likely get the idea, and as a sample, it functions with efficiency coinciding to that of the band’s songwriting.
Some bio background follows “The Plastic Truth,” which you’ll find on the player below. Please enjoy:
Soundcrawler initially formed in 2011 as a two-piece project by vocalist Rémi Pocquet and guitarist Clément Revieriego. Influenced by the likes of Kyuss, Mastodon and Karma To Burn, the duo soon started working on their first studio effort, “The Sandcrawler” EP, which was released one year later, in July 2012.
In 2013, Soundcrawler expanded into a quintet with the addition of Robin Cauchois on drums, Firouze Pirolley on bass and Paul Parsat on guitar and were able to test their riff-centric heavy-rock before a live audience for the first time.
2015 will finally see the release of their first full-length album “The Dead-End Host”, a powerful collection of nine new songs filled with infectious riffs, groovy rhythms and dark, bluesy melodies that will surely impress fans of Queens Of The Stone Age, Soundgarden, Alice In Chains and Truckfighters.
Posted in Radio on February 6th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
I have continued to enjoy putting together these posts, and hopefully, whether you listen to The Obelisk Radio or you don’t, you get some use out of them. The fact is that it’s a pretty overwhelming amount of music being released these days — I feel like I’ve been behind all week, and for good reason — but it’s a good problem to have, and all you can really do is your best to keep up as much as you can. Accordingly, some of the stuff joining the playlist this week isn’t out yet, some is newly released and some of it has been out for a long time. Months are irrelevant. Riffs are timeless.
Let’s get to it.
The Obelisk Radio adds for Feb. 6, 2015:
UK heavy proggers Hark – also stylized in all-caps and with spaces between the letters — have all the noodly twists and turns one might expect in the shouty post-Mastodonic sphere of modern heavy, but what the trio do even better is use those turns toward building crescendos, so that songs like “Palendromeda,” the opener from their 2014 Season of Mist debut, Crystalline, isn’t just a mash of technical indulgence, but it actually moves somewhere too. Later cuts like “Sins on Sleeves” and “All Wretch and No Vomit” have some straightforward heavy rock to them as well –guitarist/vocalist/cover artist Jimbob Isaac used to play in Taint — but as one might expect, neither he nor bassist Nikolai Ribnikov (who seems to have since been replaced by Joe Harvatt, unless I have that backwards; things like who plays on what don’t matter in the age of digital promos) and drummer Simon Bonwick stay in one place too long. A guest appearance from Clutch‘s Neil Fallon on 10-minute closer “Clear Light of…” follows some particularly fervent tapping and presages another in Crystalline‘s series of crescendos, a long fade following topped by heady swirl that finishes out. Parts can be a bit much, but the full-on sprint that starts “Breathe and Run” and the weighty groove that follows make Hark‘s debut a solid fit for those seeking blinding fretwork that doesn’t necessarily sacrifice dynamic on the altar of technicality. HARK on Thee Facebooks, Season of Mist.
Born out of last year’s hot-shit-and-then-gone The Oath, London/Berlin four-piece Lucifer make their Rise Above debut with the Anubis/Morning Star 7″, vocalist Johanna Sadonis crooning out vaguely devilish incantations over The Wizards‘ riffs, Dino Gollnick‘s bass and Andrew Prestidge drums. The results on “Anubis” are probably the most Sabbathian bit of Sabbathery that’s come along since Orchid wandered along — the progression of “Anubis” is almost singularly indebted to “Snowblind.” “Morning Star” is likewise familiar, nestled somewhere between a theatrical take on ’80s proto-doom and ’70s cultistry and bolstered by the craft of Sadonis and former Cathedral guitarist Gary “Gaz” Jennigs. Hey, if it works, fair enough. One imagines that by the time the single arrives in April, word of Lucifer‘s coming will have spread far and wide, and if the single is meant to intrigue and pique interest ahead of a full-length to be issued later in 2015, I’ve no doubt it will do precisely that. Lucifer on Thee Facebooks, Rise Above Records.
Diesel King, Concrete Burial
If you’ve got a quota for burl, London sludge metallers Diesel King will likely meet it with their When Planets Collide debut long-player, Concrete Burial, an album that hands out grueling, ultra-dudely chugging like a beefed-up Crowbar, vocalist Mark O’Regan offering shouting and growling extremity bordering at times on death metal. Shit is heavy, and it lives up to the violent threat of its title on songs like the catchy “Inferis” and “Horror. Disgust.,” the latter of which actually manages to make the lumbering guitar tones of Geoff Foden and Aled Marc move, propelled by the metallic drumming of Bill Jacobs while bassist Will Wichanski adds to the already pummeling low end. The 80-second “Mask of the Leper” is straight-up grind, but don’t be fooled by shifts in tempo — Diesel King‘s bread and butter is in sludged-out chug-riffing and growled chestbeating, like a testosterone supplement you take via your ears. Diesel King on Thee Facebooks, When Planets Collide.
Planes of Satori, Planes of Satori
Made for vinyl and pressed in that manner by Who Can You Trust? Records as the follow-up to last year’s Son of a Gun 7″ (review here), Planes of Satori find easy sanctuary on uneasy ground, smoothing out jagged edges and uncautious twists on their self-titled debut full-length. Bassist Justin Pinkerton doubles as the drummer in Golden Void, but though Planes of Satori share a West Coast affinity for the golden age of krautrock, cuts like “Eyes,” “Gnostic Boogie” and “The Ballad of Queen Milo” are on a much different trip, psychedelic afrobeat rhythms unfolding their insistence under the echoed out vocals of Alejandro Magana while Raze Regal tears into jazzy solos and Chris Labreche somehow manages to make it swing. The airier, more rhythmically settled “KTZ” retains a progressive feel both in the underlying tension of its bassline and in the open, creative vibe through which it careens. Call it “manic peace,” but it works well for Planes of Satori on a cut like the earlier “If You Must Know,” which reimagines ’90s indie weirdness through a lens of what-if-it-wasn’t-so-cool-not-to-give-a-crap, and “Green Summer,” which follows a building course without tipping off its hand until you’re already wrapped up in Regal‘s live-sounding leads. The closing solo guitar echo of “The Snake and the Squirrel” speaks to yet-unexplored drone dynamics and further delving into psychedelia to come. Sign me up. I have the feeling that the more bizarre Planes of Satori get, the more satisfying the trip is going to be. Their debut already shows a pervasive adventurous spirit. Planes of Satori on Thee Facebooks, Who Can You Trust? Records.
Stonebride, Heavy Envelope
Late 2014’s Heavy Envelope is the third Stonebride record behind 2010’s Summon the Waves (review here) and their 2008 debut LP, Inner Seasons. Released by Setalight Records, it finds the Zagreb, Croatia, four-piece’s sound way solidified as compared to the psychedelic sprawl of the prior release, a ’90s-style rolling crunch riff to “Lay Low” following the distinctly Alice in Chainsian vocal melodies of “Lowest Supreme” and preceding the effectively replicated Queens of the Stone Age bounce of “Coloured Blue.” Some intervening solidification in the four years between the second and third albums might explain the shift in sound — the opposite could also be true — but drummer Steps and guitarist Tjesimir, bassist Alen and vocalist Sinisawork well within their newfound sphere, even finding room to branch out a bit on the more extended closing duo of “Sokushinbutsu” and “Venomous,” never quite hitting the same psyched-out feel of Heavy Envelope‘s predecessor, but definitely adding further individual sensibility to an engaging take on heavy rock. Stonebride seem ripe for a new beginning, and Heavy Envelope boasts precisely that kind of energy. Stonebride on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp, Setalight Records.
For the complete list of what went up today and everything else that’s been added recently and everything played going back I don’t even remember how long at this point, be sure to check out The Obelisk Radio Updates and Playlist page. Hope you find something you dig and that you think is worth hearing.
Posted in audiObelisk on January 15th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Moorpark, California, four-piece Black Sheep Wall will issue their third album, I’m Going to Kill Myself, on Jan. 27 via Season of Mist (preorders available here). It is a full-length as distinguished by its brazen sonic assault as by its unfuckwithable cover art, comprised of just four tracks that total 64 minutes, more than half of which is dedicated to 34-minute closer “Metallica.” Billed as doom, Black Sheep Wall are probably even more in league with sludge, bringing a post-hardcore sensibility and irreverence to disaffected themes and massive dual-guitar chugging. Opener “The Wailing and the Gnashing and the Teeth” (the title of which I can’t help but hear in Professor Frink’s voice) begins with a single cymbal hit from drummer Jackson Thompson and proceeds to fade in guitars and bass around it, but ultimately cuts back when Brandon Gillichbauer‘s vocals enter to a steady march and ambient, subdued notes. Those vocals, by the way, are vicious. So what you have is Gillichbauer (also bass) screaming over a military snare and the sparse guitars of Scott Turner and Andrew Hulle. I’m pretty sure the line “Fuck this band” features in the first verse.
The tension is excruciating, and made more so by Trae Malone‘s guest vocals in the midsection, but they finally pay it off in the second half of the track, ending with feedback and piercing, abrasive noise that continues into the immediate start of “Tetsuo the Dead Man,” the chug of which soon takes full hold with consciousness-demolition in mind, a tonal largesse sliced through by the screams, Thompson‘s drum fills past the three-minute mark not so much trying to anchor the piece as push it off the pier. Already, I’m Going to Kill Myself has shown a tendency toward brutal weight and attack, and there’s very little letup as the album plays out. “Tetsuo the Dead Man” stomps past its midpoint with insert-your-favorite-CGI-monster-here abandon and seems to celebrate its destructive triumph with a riff change around six minutes in that will consume the next two minutes before Black Sheep Wall devolve the track into a savagery of noise and feedback, peppered by what my or may not be a wail of crowd noise. The change into “White Pig” comes from a stop, but is ultimately no less fluid than that which brought on “Tetsuo the Dead Man,” the third track’s tension coming from a series of stops and starts that would almost be breather moments if you weren’t just waiting the whole time for the next pounding to arrive.
It does, without fail. And even with a second, clean-vocal guest spot from Malone in the second half, “White Pig” retains its extremity, rounding out with more amp noise punishment that bleeds into the opening riff of “Metallica.” The song, at 34 minutes, is a beast unto itself, centered largely around one riff accompanied by vicious screams in what proves an absolutely unhinged execution. Quite simply, Black Sheep Wall lose their shit. 2012’s No Matter Where it Ends and their 2008 debut, I am God Songs, also had closers longer than what preceded them, but the scale of “Metallica” is something different entirely. What, if anything, it has to do with the band of the same name, I don’t know — somehow asking would feel like missing the point — but the song is an overwhelming album-unto-itself onslaught, breaking around 24 minutes in to vague conversation and sparse guitar only to resume its bludgeoning course and give I’m Going to Kill Myself the riotous ending it deserves, repeating the title line along the way as a kind of final argument over that last riff, by then molded and remade into something other than what it started as, an off-time sludgeshuggah chugging that cuts out as brashly as it arrived.
Today, I have the pleasure of hosting “Tetsuo the Dead Man” for streaming. These songs are not going to be for everyone, but the second track serves as more than solid summary of what I’m Going to Kill Myself has on offer. Black Sheep Wall‘s latest is out, once again, Jan. 27 on Season of Mist. Ready your ears and enjoy “Tetsuo the Dead Man” on the player below:
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
SoCal doom-dirge purveyors BLACK SHEEP WALL deliver their most oppressive and challenging material to date with their newest album ‘I’m Going to Kill Myself’. ‘I’m Going to Kill Myself’ is a unique take on the modern doom/sludge paradigm. It’s at once stark, oppressive, unsettled, despondent, and unwavering: wholly unlike any of their big-volume/down-tempo contemporaries.
Tracklisting: 1. The Wailing and The Gnashing and the Teeth (9:58) 2. Tetsuo the Dead Man (10:03) 3. White Pig (10:12) 4. Metallica (34:24)
Lineup: Brandon Gillichbauer – Vocals/Bass Scott Turner – Guitar/Bass Andrew Hulle – Guitar Jackson Thompson – Drums
Additional vocals on “The Wailing and The Gnashing and the Teeth” and “White Pig” performed by Trae Malone.
Posted in Features on December 22nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Please note: These are not the results of the Readers Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t added your list yet, please do.
This was a hard list to put together. The top three have been set in my mind for probably the last month, but trying to work my way backwards from there was a real challenge — what’s a top 10 record, a top 20 record, a top 30, honorable mentions and all the rest. I’ve never done a full top 30 before, always 20, but the truth is there was just too much this year to not expand.
I’m still juggling numbers even as I put together this post, and I’m sure that by the time I’m done several records will have switched places. That’s always how it seems to go. What I’m confident that I have is a list accurately representing critique and my own habits, both what I gravitated toward in listening throughout the year and what I feel is noteworthy on a critical level. This site has always been a blend of those two impulses. It’s only fair this list should be as well.
Before we dig in, you should note this is full-length albums only. I’ll have a list of short releases (EPs, singles, demos) to come, as well as a special list of debut releases, since it seemed to be a particularly good year for them. And since I’m only one person, I couldn’t hear everything, much as I tried.
The kings of London’s heavy scene offered more powerhouse heavy rock with their eighth album and second for Candlelight, and their rabid and ever-growing fanbase ate it up. Back from the Abyss proved yet again that few can attain the kind of vicious force that seems to come so natural to Orange Goblin, and made it clear their domination shows no signs of losing momentum.
A darker affair from Port Orchard, Washington’s Mos Generator, Electric Mountain Majesty still found its core in the songwriting led by guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed. They’re a band with some changes on the horizon, and I’ll be interested to hear what hindsight does to these songs. As it was, the hooks and downer vibes may have been in conceptual conflict, but the execution was inarguable.
Richer in the listening than 2012’s Misery Wizard debut, Pilgrim‘s II: Void Worship nonetheless held firm to the doomly spirit that’s made the Rhode Island outfit such a sensation these last couple years. Its longer songs, “Master’s Chamber,” “Void Worship” and the emotionally weighted “Away from Here,” were particularly immersive, and they remain a bright spot in doom’s future.
His long-awaited solo debut, John Garcia‘s John Garcia offered memorable tracks culled from years of songwriting from the former Kyuss, Slo Burn, Unida and Hermano frontman, performed in the classic desert rock style he helped define. I’m not sure it was worth trading a second Vista Chino record for, but it was hard to argue with “The Blvd” and “All These Walls.”
An overwhelming two-disc barrage from a relentless creativity that, more than 30 years on from its first public incarnation, is still to be considered avant garde. I’m not sure planet earth realizes how lucky it is to have Swans running around unleashing all this chaos, but I hope they don’t stop anytime soon. To be Kind was brutal and beautiful in like measure.
I initially made this list without Alunah‘s excellent third album and Napalm Records, but when it came down to it, not having the UK four-piece on here haunted me to the point where I had to come back in and swap them out with somebody else. Just couldn’t live with myself for not giving this record its due, which, to be frank, I’m still not since it should be higher on the list than it is. At least it’s here though, so the mistake is somewhat corrected.
The follow-up to Greenleaf‘s stellar 2012 outing Nest of Vipers (review here) brought lineup changes and stripped away many of the textural elements of the band’s sound — guest appearances, arrangement flourishes — in order to get back to a classic heavy rock sound and translate better to the stage. With guitarist Tommi Holappa‘s songwriting ever at the core, it would be unfair to call the process anything but a success.
Most of the headlines went to the fact that Primitive and Deadly had vocals, where the generally-instrumental Earth had avoided singers for 18 years prior, but even putting aside Mark Lanegan and Rabi Shabeen Qazi, whose performance on “From the Zodiacal Light” was the high point of the record, presented Earth‘s always progressive tensions in a rawer, heavier production, and was a joy for longtime fans.
Six years and one breakup later, Portland, Maine, doom trio Ogre returned with The Last Neanderthal, neither afraid to revel in Sabbathian traditionalism or rock out a more upbeat cut like opener “Nine Princes in Amber.” For bassist/vocalist Ed Cunningham, guitarist Ross Markonish and drummer Will Broadbent, it was a welcome resurgence of pretense-free heavy riffs and grooves.
Of course, at the time we didn’t know it would be the final outing from this lineup of UK doomers The Wounded Kings, whose guitarist/founder Steve Mills has now reunited with original vocalist George Birch, but Consolamentum was a hell of a closing statement anyway for this era of the band, showcasing their murky, increasingly progressive style still waiting for wider appreciation.
Wasn’t sure where to put Floor‘s reunion offering, Oblation, on this list at first, since I kind of fell off listening to it as the year went on, but I’ve gone back to it over the last couple weeks and it has held up to the revisit, whether it’s songs like the extended “Sign of Aeth” or shorter, catchy pummelers like “Rocinante” or “War Party.” Floor‘s 2002 self-titled holds an untouchable legacy in heavy rock, but I think the years will prove Oblation a worthy successor. Nobody knew what they had with Floor at the time either.
Little on 2011’s Motherfucker Rising (review here) or their 2010 demo (review here) prepared for the kind of assault that Druglord‘s Enter Venus brought to bear. Four stomp-laden slabs of tectonic crash and distortion, vocals buried under and calling up from the amp-bred fog. The Virginian trio were in and out on the 27-minute 12″ release, but had enough heavy for a record twice as long, and the tinges of darkened psychedelia made their songs like a lurking presence just on the edge of consciousness, a threat waiting to be unleashed.
For the sheer variety of Ararat‘s third album in rockers like “Nicotina y Destrucción,” “El Hijo de Ignacio,” the experimentalism of “El Arca” and the piano-driven “Los Viajes” and the acoustic closer “Atalayah,” and the assured, flowing manner in which the Argentina trio pulled it all off, Cabalgata Hacia la Luz should be higher on this list than it is. Part of that might be my frustration at my apparent inability to buy a copy, but don’t let that take away from the quality of the material here, which is wonderfully chaotic, memorable and engaging, rushing in some places and stopping to weep in others.
You won’t hear me deny that Radio Moscow‘s primary impact is as a live band, but their fifth album, Magical Dirt, managed to bring forth much of their psychedelic blues presence in “Death of a Queen,” “Before it Burns” and “Gypsy Fast Woman,” the blinding rhythmic turns and wah-soaked guitar supremacy of Parker Griggs front and center throughout. Together with bassist Anthony Meier (also Sacri Monti) and drummer Paul Marrone (also Astra and Psicomagia), Radio Moscow are hitting their stride as one of heavy rock’s most powerful power trios. One never knows what to expect, but hopefully they keep going the way they are.
Four years isn’t the longest time I’ve ever waited for a record to come out, but in the case of Indianapolis’ Apostle of Solitude, it felt like an especially long stretch. Their third full-length and first for Cruz del Sur, Of Woe and Wounds followed the anticipation-building Demo 2012 (review here) and a couple splits and brought aboard bassist Dan Dividson and guitarist/vocalist Steve Janiak (also Devil to Pay), who fit well with drummer Corey Webb and guitarist/vocalist Chuck Brown to result in a payoff worthy and indicative of the time that went into its making. Hands down one of the finest acts in American doom.
Stubb‘s second long-player, also their debut on Ripple, gets a nod for the sense of progression it brought in answering the potential of the trio’s 2012 self-titled debut (review here), guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson, bassist Peter Holland and new drummer Tom Fyfe expanding the scope to include more heavy psych influence and soul along with the fuzz riffs and steady rolling while giving no ground in terms of the level of craft at work. Cry of the Ocean has become one of those albums where all I have to do is look at a title, be it “Cry of the Ocean Pt. I” or “Sail Forever” or “Heartbreaker,” and the song is immediately stuck in my head. With these tracks, that’s not at all a complaint.
14. Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, Black Power Flower
Brant Bjork has worn many hats, literal and figurative, over the years, whether it’s drummer in Kyuss or Fu Manchu, producer, solo artist or bandleader. With Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, he steps once again into the latter role, and with guitarist Bubba DuPree, bassist Dave Dinsmore and drummer Tony Tornay, presents not only on his heaviest record to date, but what could easily begin a sustainable full-band progression that can go just about anywhere his songwriting wants to take it. “Stokely up Now,” “That’s a Fact Jack,” “Controllers Denied” and “Boogie Woogie on Your Brain” made for some of 2014’s best in desert rock, and Black Power Flower was an stellar return for Bjork to his “solo” work.
An earlier version of this list had Pagan Fruit at a lower number, but I couldn’t live with it not being closer to the top 10. Salt Lake City’s Dwellers pushed deeper into laid back psych and blues on their second album, and in doing so, crafted an atmosphere entirely their own. From “Creature Comfort” down to “Call of the Hollowed Horn,” with triumphs along the way like “Rare Eagle,” “Totem Crawler” (“Ohh, my queen… To whom, I crawl…) and “Son of Raven,” Pagan Fruit became a staple of my 2014, building off their 2012 debut, Good Morning Harakiri (review here), but presenting their stylistic growth with a confidence and poise that can only come from a band who’ve figured out what they want to be doing and how they want to do it. Front to back, Pagan Fruit sounds like an arrival.
What made Brooklyn trio The Golden Grass‘ self-titled debut such a special released wasn’t just that it was heavy, or that the tracks were catchy, or that guitarist Michael Rafalowich and drummer Adam Kriney could harmonize over Joe Noval‘s warm-toned basslines. That was all great, don’t get me wrong, but what really stood out about The Golden Grass was its irony-free positivity, the way it was able to capture an upbeat, sunshiny feel without having to smirk about it on the other side of its mouth. It was self-aware, to be sure — knew what it was doing — but the way I see it, consciousness only makes the stylistic choices more impressive. Add to that the nuance they brought to ’70s revivalism, and all that stuff about catchiness and the harmonies, and there just wasn’t a level on which the album didn’t work.
My appreciation continues to grow for The Well‘s Samsara, which successfully pulled together influences from garage doom and heavy psychedelia while crafting an identity for the Austin, Texas, three-piece at once raw and melodically accomplished, guitarist Ian Graham and bassist Lisa Alley sharing vocals to classic effect on “Refuge” while otherwise trading off lead position to bolster variety in the material. The high point might’ve been the eight-minute “Eternal Well,” on which Graham, Alley and drummer Jason Sullivvan conjured some of their grooviest demons, but the hooks of “Mortal Bones,” “Trespass” and the attitude-laced “Dragon Snort” were no less engaging. One of many strong releases from their label this year — Slow Season, The Picturebooks, etc. — they seemed to come ready to serve notice of a stylistic movement underway.
10. Montibus Communitas, The Pilgrim to the Absolute
Peruvian psych adventurers Montibus Communitas more or less blew my mind when I heard their late-2013 offering, Harvest Times earlier this year, and the narrative, conceptual 2014 release, The Pilgrim to the Absolute, is even more of an achievement in its portrayal of improvised exploration, sonic ritualism and open creativity. The weaving of longer pieces against shorter ones with the various steps along the path as presented in the titles, some journeying, some arriving, some descriptive, almost all accompanied by nature in one form or another, gives The Pilgrim to the Absolute an almost impressionistic quality, so that even as you listen to it, you engage it as much as it carries you along its vibrant, breathtaking progression en route to the closing title-track, which is a destination every bit worthy of the journey. This is the most recently reviewed inclusion on this list, but Montibus Communitas‘ latest readily earns its place in the top 10. It is unique in its surroundings.
Looking back at the last two Fu Manchu records, 2007’s We Must Obey and 2009’s Signs of Infinite Power, it seemed reasonable to expect the groundbreaking SoCal fuzz foursome to put out another collection of big-sounding riffs in a big-sounding production. Nothing to complain about, but probably not a landmark. By going the other way completely — stripping their buzzed-out riffing down to its punkish core thanks in no small part to recording with Moab‘s Andrew Giacumakis — Fu Manchu served up a raw reminder both of where they came from and how top notch their songwriting remains. Reissuing their earliest work and being on their own label might’ve had something to do with it, but whatever it was, the 35 minutes of Gigantoid was as efficient a heavy rock outing as one could hope from an already legendary band, whether it was the hook-prone opening salvo of “Dimension Shifter,” “Invaders on My Back,” “Anxiety Reducer” and “Radio Source Sagittarius” or the righteous ending jam “The Last Question.”
Given the origins of The Skull — ex-Trouble members Eric Wagner, Jeff “Oly” Olson and Ron Holzner joining with Lothar Keller and a series of other guitarists, finally Matt Goldsborough, working essentially as a tribute band to their former outfit — I think not only did the quality of the material and performance on For Those Which are Asleep surprise, as well as the classically doomed feel that resonates throughout the album, but the sheer heartfelt nature of songs like “Sick of it All,” “Send Judas Down” and the title-track itself. This wasn’t a cynical attempt to make a go of an already set legacy. It was an expression of appreciation both for what they accomplished as Trouble and a desire to continue that work. The Skull‘s whole thing has been that they’re “more Trouble than Trouble,” and in their lineup that’s been true since they brought Olson on board. For Those Which are Asleep demonstrated that the classic spirit of that band is alive and well, its address has just changed. Moreover, it’s the beginning of a new progression for that spirit, and I hope it continues.
Nineteen years after releasing their self-titled debut, New York’s Blood Farmers contended for 2014’s comeback of the year with their sophomore outing, Headless Eyes — a morose, horror-obsessed six-track collection that on “Night of the Sorcerers” owed as much to Goblin as to Sabbath. The closing cover of David Hess‘ theme from The Last House on the Left, “The Road Leads to Nowhere,” was a late bit of melodic flourish to add depth, but how could the highlight be anything other than the 10-minute title-track itself, with its samples from the 1971 horror flick The Headless Eyes, bassist Eli Brown in a call and response with lyrics comprised of lines directly taken from the movie? That after playing shows the last several years, Blood Farmers managed to get a record out was impressive enough. That Headless Eyes turned out to be the year’s best traditional doom release was an entirely different level of surprise. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for their third, but Brown, guitarist David Szulkin and drummer Tad Leger gave plenty to chew on with Blood Farmers‘ second. It was better than would’ve been fair to expect.
A lot of what you need to know about Lo-Pan‘s fourth album you learn in the first five seconds of opener “Regulus.” There’s no fancy intro, no time wasted, nothing to take away from the directness of the song itself. Tones are crisp — the verse is already underway — and guitar, bass and drums are laser-focused in their forward movement. Even when vocalist Jeff Martin enters the song, roughly six seconds later, his arrival comes with no indulgence, no pomp. Colossus is easily Lo-Pan‘s most immediate work to date, and throughout, Martin, guitarist Brian Fristoe (since replaced by Adrian Zambrano), bassist Scott Thompson and drummer Jesse Bartz retain that focus no matter where the material takes them, delivering a clinic in how to kick as much ass as possible at any given moment on cuts like “Marathon Man” and “Eastern Seas,” or even bringing in guest vocalist Jason Alexander Byers, who also designed the album cover, for a spot on “Vox.” They had a hard task in following up 2011’s Salvador (review here), but the Columbus, Ohio, unit stood up to the challenge and met it and everyone else head-on.
What to do with All Them Witches‘ Lightning at the Door? The Nashville four-piece released the album last fall digitally, but it wasn’t until this September that it saw a physical manifestation. In fact, if you go back, it was included on the Top 20 of 2013 as well. Which is the release date? I don’t know. What I know is that in terms of the sheer amount of time spent listening, I put on Lightning at the Door more than any other record this year. From where I sit, that alone gets it a place in the top five. Yeah, it might be a cop-out to do a “5a,” but sometimes exceptions have to be made, and All Them Witches have proved to be nothing if not exceptional in their still relatively brief, jam-laden history, the psych-blues dynamic between bassist/vocalist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod, Fender Rhodes specialist Allan van Cleave and drummer Robby Staebler pushing them quickly to the fore of American heavy rock’s innovators, their natural, improv-sounding material feeling brazen and exploratory while reshaping the elements of genre to suit their needs. One can only see this dynamic developing further as they continue to grow as a live band, so Lightning at the Door may just be the start, and that’s perhaps most exciting of all.
A beautiful, stunning work made even more powerful by the honesty driving it. Portland, Oregon’s Witch Mountain completed a trilogy with the Billy Anderson-produced Mobile of Angelsthat brought about some of the best doom of this young decade, their 2011 return from a years-long hiatus, South of Salem (review here) serving as the foundation for a stylistic progression that continued on the following year’s Cauldron of the Wild (review here) and onto Mobile of Angels itself as the four-piece’s most accomplished album to date. The reason it feels like such a concluding chapter is because of the departure of vocalist Uta Plotkin, whose voice helped establish Witch Mountain both on stage and in the studio, leaving founders Rob Wrong (guitar) and Nathan Carson (drums) with the sizable task of finding a replacement. That situation will be what it will be, but Mobile of Angels remains a gorgeous, lonely testament. Plotkin gives a landmark performance on “Can’t Settle” and “The Shape Truth Takes,” which in the context of what was happening in Witch Mountain at the time ring with a truth that’s rare in or out of doom, and she seems to have left the band just as they were hitting their finest hour. So it goes.
In all of heavy, there is no assault so severe as Conan‘s. With their second full-length and debut on Napalm Records, the UK trio solidified the two sides of the preceding 2012 outing, Monnos (review here), in constructing material that, fast or slow, short or long, retained an epic feel melded with their ungodly tonality and memorable songwriting. Their first recording at guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis‘ Skyhammer Studio, it affirmed Conan‘s will to conquer in its two massive bookends, “Crown of Talons” and “Altar of Grief,” and in the High on Fire-worthy gallop of “Foehammer” — a bludgeon commandingly wielded by Davis, bassist/vocalist Phil Coumbe and drummer Paul O’Neil, the latter to of whom have since left the band to be replaced by longtime-producer Chris Fielding and Rich Lewis, respectively. What effect the changes might have on the band — except apparently more touring, which isn’t a bad thing — have yet to be seen, but Conan are already in the process of writing a follow-up to Blood Eagle, so it doesn’t seem like it’ll be all that long until we find out. With Davis still steering the band in songwriting and overall direction, one severely doubts they’ll be fixing what obviously isn’t broken anytime soon. None heavier.
Dallas riff-rockers Wo Fat have grown steadily over the course of their five albums, from the nascent heavy roll of 2006’s The Gathering Dark, to the hooks of 2008’s Psychedelonaut (review here), the jamming that started to surface on 2011’s Noche del Chupacabra (review here) and was pushed further on 2012’s The Black Code (review here). And their approach has been as steady as the frequency of their releases. In making The Conjuring, the three-piece were simply engaging the next step in their progression, but the material on the five-track/48-minute outing goes further than just that. Putting aside (momentarily) the 17-minute closer “Dreamwalker,” the other cuts, “The Conjuring,” “Read the Omens,” “Pale Rider from the Ice” and “Beggar’s Bargain” each found a place for themselves in pulling together jammed-sounding elements with a memorable construction, and when guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, bassist Tim Wilson and drummer Michael Walter did kick into “Dreamwalker,” they hit on not only their longest piece yet, but their most accomplished showcase of the chemistry that has developed between them. That song is a beast unto itself, but as has been the case with Wo Fat each time out so far in their career, there’s nothing on The Conjuring to give the impression the band can’t or won’t continue to keep going on the path that’s worked so well for them on this point. They’ve spent the last eight years on the right track and have yet to waiver. The Conjuring should be played at top volume for anyone who contends there’s no life left in heavy rock and roll.
Mars Red Sky‘s second LP and first for Listenable, Stranded in Arcadia was originally supposed to be recorded in the California desert, but visa problems kept the French trio of guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras, bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Matgaz in Brazil, where they’d previously been touring. Thus, “stranded in Arcadia,” which is basically another way of saying “lost in paradise.” Can’t say the Bordeaux three-piece didn’t make the most of it, though. Songs like “The Light Beyond” and “Hovering Satellites” — not to mention the utter melodic bliss of “Join the Race” — took cues from their 2011 self-titled debut (review here) in terms of memorable songwriting and melodic craft, but added to that heft and tonal richness more of a psychedelic vibe, so that not only was there fuzz and wah, but a spacious world in which the songs took place. With Kinast on lead vocals, the sneaky boogie of “Holy Mondays” became a highlight, and the one-two swing ‘n’ stomp of “Circles” and “Seen a Ghost” were a perfect demonstration by the band of the various sides of their sound, particularly following after the dreamy instrumental “Arcadia,” an echoing jam distinguished by Pras‘ wistful guitar lead and coming before the closing “Beyond the Light,” which reprises the opener’s resonant unfolding. It probably wasn’t the record they intended to make, but Stranded in Arcadia became one of my go-to albums for 2014, and like the best of any given year’s output, I’ve no doubt it will transcend the passage of time and continue to deliver for years to come. Hell, I was barely done with the debut when this one came out.
Can’t imagine this is any great surprise. Not only did Clearing the Path to Ascend – YOB‘s seventh album and first for Neurot — produce my pick for song of the year in its sprawling, emotionally weighted 18-minute closer, “Marrow,” but in the three full-lengths the Eugene, Oregon, trio of drummer Travis Foster, bassist Aaron Rieseberg and guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt have released since the latter reformed the band after breaking it up following 2005’s The Unreal Never Lived, all three have been my album of the year. The Great Cessation was in 2009, and Atma was in 2011. Consistency aside, I’ll point out specifically that each of the same three records has earned that position, perhaps Clearing the Path to Ascend most of all for its progressive feel, moving past genre even at its most raging moment, second cut “Nothing to Win,” the chorus of which proved that among everything else YOB could be, they could be anthemic. The cosmic, spiritual questing that has always been present in their songs, that feeling of searching, showed up in opener “In Our Blood,” but even there, it was evident YOB were pushing themselves beyond what they’ve done before, rewriting their own formulas incorporating lessons from their past in among their other points of inspiration. “Unmask the Spectre” could have easily been an album closer itself, with its patient exploration and feverishly intense payoff, but with the melodic progressivism of “Marrow” and the soul poured into every second of that track, every verse and chorus, solo and build — including the Hammond added to the last of them by producer Billy Barnett — YOB created a landmark both for themselves and the increasing many working under their influence. I’ve said on several occasions (bordering on “many” at this point) that YOB are a once-in-a-generation band, and it feels truer in thinking of Clearing the Path to Ascend than it ever has. Without a doubt, album of the year and then some.
First, special note to Colour Haze‘s To the Highest Gods We Know. I’ve decided to count it as a 2015 release since the vinyl will be out in Spring, but otherwise surely it would earn a place on this list. Blackwolfgoat‘s Drone Maintenance also deserves note.
A few other honorable mentions:
Mothership, Mothership II — It’s hard to argue with a classic heavy rock power trio kicking ass. I won’t try.
Sólstafir, Ótta — They were originally on the list proper but had to be moved to make room for Alunah. I didn’t really get to know this record in 2014 anyway.
Ice Dragon, Seeds from a Dying Garden — Boston experimental psych/garage doomers continue to defy expectation. May their weirdness last forever and continue to produce material so satisfying.
Truckfighters, Universe – I thought at some point I’d go back to Universe again, but never really did. A problem with me more than the album.
Steak, Slab City — An impressive debut following two strong EPs.
Godflesh, A World Lit Only by Fire — I never got a review copy, so I never reviewed it. Its name is here because I’m a fan of the band and glad they’re back.
Thou, Heathen — Just recently purchased this and am only getting to know it, but a ridiculously strong album.
Corrosion of Conformity, IX — Everybody who gets a boner whenever Pepper Keenan is mentioned in connection with this band has missed out. This record and the self-titled kick ass.
Spidergawd, Spidergawd — Holy shit they’re over here! No they’re over there! No wait over here again! Oh my god I’ve just gone blind!
Monster Magnet, Milking the Stars — I wasn’t sure what to do with this since technically it’s not a new album, mostly reworked songs from the last one. I still listened to it a ton though, whatever it is.
Slomatics, Estron — Another one I’m just getting to know, but am very much digging.
Electric Wizard, Time to Die — People seem to do this thing where Electric Wizard puts out a record, everyone slathers over it for a few months and then spends the next two years talking about how it sucked. I guess I’ll be on the ground floor with not having been that into Time to Die.
Pallbearer, Foundations of Burden — Had to put their name somewhere on this list or someone would burn my house down. Album of the year for many.
The list goes on: Monolord, Comet Control, Mammatus, Triptykon, Eyehategod, Fever Dog, Moab, Karma to Burn, Atavismo, Grifter, 1000mods, Megaton Leviathan, Wovenhand, Mr. Peter Hayden, Primordial, and many more.
Before I check out and go sit in a corner somewhere to try and rebuild brain power after this massive dump of a purge, I want to sincerely thank you for reading. If you check in regularly, or if you’ve never been to the site before, if you don’t give a crap about lists or if you’re gonna go listen to even one band on here, it’s fantastic to me. Thank you so much for all the support this site receives, for your comments, for sharing links, retweeting, whatever it is. I am a real person — I’m sitting on my couch at this very moment — and being able to do this and have people see it and be a part of it with me is unbelievable. I realize how fortunate I am. So thank you. Thank you.
More to come as we close out 2014. I’ll have a list of short/split/demo releases, a year-end podcast, a list of the best debuts, a round up of the best live shows I saw, as much more as time allows. Please stay tuned.
And again, thank you. If I left anyone off the list, I hope you’ll let me know in the comments and contribute your own top albums, however many there are, to the Readers Poll.
Posted in Whathaveyou on December 18th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
After delivering 2014 an elephantine boot to the ass with their much-anticipated reunion full-length, Oblation (review here), Floor are set to continue their run in 2015. The Miami trio will launch a European tour at Roadburn on April 9 and be joined by Minsk for shows in Germany, the Czech Republic, France, Austria, Belgium, Italy and a stop in London for Desertfest. It’s a stint that ends on April 25, which is just enough time to give guitarist/vocalist Steve Brooks a breather before Torche‘s own recently-announced European tour kicks off on May 2 in Leipzig, where Floor will have been less than a month earlier for the Doom over Leipzig festival.
A cruel schedule for Brooks, perhaps, but sure to be time well spent in Floor alongside guitarist Anthony Vialon and drummer Henry Wilson meeting the riffy demands of a hungry public. If you need a refresher, Oblation can be heard in full under the PR wire news below:
FLOOR announce European tour
Cult underground rock outfit FLOOR (Steve Brooks (also of TORCHE)- Guitar, Vocals, Anthony Vialon – Guitar, Henry Wilson – drums) have announced a European tour. The European tour, their first, sees them travel throughout a half dozen countries and play several European festivals, including Roadburn, Desert Fest London, Doom over Leipzig, and Solomacello Fest. Support on this tour comes from MINSK, and a full list of confirmed tour dates can be found below.
FLOOR are touring in support of ‘Oblation’, their first new album in over ten years. ‘Oblation’, which is available for purchase here, and for digital download here.
FLOOR Tour Dates: (All dates with MINSK) 4/9 Tilburg, Holland @ Roadburn (FLOOR ONLY) 4/10 Leipzig, Germany @ Doom Over Leipzig 4/11 Hamburg, Germany @ Hafenklang 4/12 Berlin, Germany @ Cassiopeia 4/13 Warsaw, Poland @ Hydrozagadka 4/14 Prague, Czech Rep @ 007 4/15 Innsbruck, Austria @ p.m.k. 4/16 München, Germany @ Feierwerk 4/17 Bologna, Italy @ Freakout 4/18 Milano, Italy @ Lo Fi Club, Solomacello Fest 4/20 Paris, France @ Espace B 4/21 Nantes, France @ La Scene Michelet 4/22 Lille, France @ La Peniche 4/23 Dortmund, Germany @ FZW 4/24 London, UK @ Desertfest 4/25 Antwerp, Belgium @ Kavka
Please note: For visual continuity with other Friday Full-Length posts, I’m using the YouTube post of the record, but the band also has it up on Bandcamp here, where it is available for stream and purchase.
I don’t usually like to close out a given week with something so recent, but after just really giving Sólstafir‘s Ótta album a shot the other day for the first time, I couldn’t really not. The Icelandic post-black metallers’ fifth full-length, it came out at the end of August on Season of Mist, and for somebody like me who’s always been a fan of Alternative 4-era Anathema, it plays off some of the same kind of melancholy well. It’s an undertaking at nearly 80 minutes — this version seems to have a couple bonus tracks — but worth the effort and though I’m late to the party, it’s one I’m glad I didn’t miss entirely before the year ended. I’ll probably have more in the next couple weeks, maybe a writeup with a radio add or something, just to basically get something in about it before too long as passed. But yeah, oof that’s good.
It’s Fall now, leaves changing and the dark getting earlier and the air getting colder, so something like this sits well with the season. And Sólstafir play to that cohesively, from the windswept cover art to the chill in the songs themselves. I’m only just really getting to know it, but I look forward to digging deeper into the songs. It made sense to me to close the week with it, both because it made such a strong impression when I posted that Roadburn update yesterday and in case maybe you hadn’t had the chance yet to check it out. Either way, of course I hope you enjoy listening.
In Jersey this weekend with The Patient Mrs. to see family. The lack of posts today is owed to the fact that what part of the day we didn’t spend on the road, we were sitting with my 99-year-old grandmother. That basically took priority on the day. It’s been a minute at this point since the last time I was down here — I popped into NYC from Connecticut to catch Uncle Acid a couple weeks ago, true, but drove back to CT that night, didn’t get into Jersey at all — and it’s good to see everybody. I’ve had a cold the last couple days, but I took some DayQuil and toughed it out because I have neither the energy nor the money to make this trip as often as I’d like, and I need to get it in while I can.
That could mean I’m starting next week at a deficit, but aside from being way, way behind on emails, I don’t think it matters. Tomorrow night is a big family dinner with my family and The Patient Mrs.‘ mother, who’s her only family around here at this point, so that will be good and maybe Sunday I’ll catch up a bit on email if I have the brainpower for it. Sometimes I even manage to put the computer down andnot do stuff. It happens rarely, but on occasion.
Streams next week for Weed is Weed and Vodun. Reviews of The Asound and Alunah and probably one or two other bands who may or may not start with the letter ‘a.’ Maybe Monster Magnet. That’d be fun. Need to do a tape too. They’re starting to stack up.
For now though, sleep. Wherever you are and however good the pizza is there, I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Be well, enjoy, and we’ll see you back here Monday.