Quarterly Review: Slift, IIVII, Coogans Bluff, Rough Spells, Goblinsmoker, Homecoming, Lemurian Folk Songs, Ritual King, Sunflowers, Maya Mountains

Posted in Reviews on March 26th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Thursday. Everyone doing well? Healthy? Kicking ass? Working from home? There seems to be a lot of that going around, at least among the lucky. New Jersey, where I live, is on lockdown with non-essential businesses shuttered, roads largely empty and all that. It can be grim and apocalyptic feeling, but I’m finding this Quarterly Review to be pretty therapeutic or at least helpfully distracting at a moment when I very much need something to be that. I hope that if you’re reading this, whether you’ve been following along or not, it’s done or can do the same for you if that’s what you need. I’ll leave it at that.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Slift, Ummon

slift ummon

The second album from French space/psych trio Slift is a 72-minute blowout echoshred epic — too aware not to be prog but too cosmic not to be space rock. Delivered through Stolen Body Records and Vicious Circle, Ummon is not only long, it speaks to a longer term. It’s not an album for this year, or for this decade, or for any other decade, for that matter. It’s for the ongoing fluid now. You want to lose yourself in the depths of buzz and dreamy synth? Yeah, you can do that. You want to dig into the underlying punk and maybe a bit of Elder influence in the vocal bark and lead guitar shimmer of “Thousand Helmets of Gold?” Well hell’s bells, do that. The mega-sprawling 2LP is a gorgeous blast of distortion, backed by jazzy, organic drum wud-dum-tap and the bass, oh, the bass; the stuff of low end sensory displacement. Amid swirls and casts of melodic light in “Dark Was Space, Cold Were the Stars,” Slift dilate universal energy and push beyond the noise wash reaches of “Son Dong’s Cavern” and through the final build, liftoff and roll of 13-minute closer “Lions, Tigers and Bears” with the deft touch of those dancing on prior conceptions. We’d be lucky to have Ummon as the shape of space rock to come.

Slift on Thee Facebooks

Stolen Body Records store

Vicious Circle Records store

 

IIVII, Grinding Teeth/Zero Sleep

Two LPs telling two different stories released at the same time, Grinding Teeth/Zero Sleep (on Consouling Sounds) brings Josh Graham‘s aural storytelling to new cinematic reaches. The composer, guitarist, synthesist, programmer, visual artist, etc., is joined along the way by the likes of Jo Quail, Ben Weinman (ex-The Dillinger Escape Plan), Dana Schecter (Insect Ark), Sarah Pendleton (ex-SubRosa) and Kim Thayil (Soundgarden) — among others — but across about 90 minutes of fluidity, Graham/IIVII soundtracks two narratives through alternatingly vast and crushing drone. The latter work is actually an adaptation from a short sci-fi film about, yes, humanity losing its ability to sleep — I feel you on that one — but the former, which tells a kind of meth-fueled story of love and death, brings due chaos and heft to go with its massive synthesized scope. Josh Graham wants to score your movie. You should let him. And you should pay him well. And you should let him design the poster. And you should pay him well for that too. End of story.

IIVII on Thee Facebooks

Consouling Sounds store

 

Coogans Bluff, Metronopolis

coogans bluff metronopolis

Following the initial sax-laden prog-rock burst and chase that is opener “Gadfly,” Berlin’s Coogans Bluff bring a ’70s pastoralia to “Sincerely Yours,” and that atmosphere ends up staying with Metronopolis — their fifth album — for the duration, no matter where else they might steer the sound. And they do steer the sound. Sax returns (as it will) in the jabbing “Zephyr,” a manic shred taking hold in the second half accompanied by no-less-manic bass, and “Creature of the Light” reimagines pop rock of the original vinyl era in the image of its own weirdness, undeniably rock but also something more. Organ-inclusive highlight “Soft Focus” doesn’t so much touch on psychedelics as dunk its head under their warm waters, and “The Turn I” brings an almost Beatlesian horn arrangement to fruition ahead of the closer “The Turn II.” But in that finale, and in “Hit and Run,” and way back in “Sincerely Yours,” Coogans Bluff hold that Southern-style in their back pocket as one of several of Metronopolis‘ recurring themes, and it becomes one more element among the many at their disposal.

Coogans Bluff on Thee Facebooks

Noisolution store

 

Rough Spells, Ruins at Midday

rough spells ruins at midday

An underlying current of social commentary comes coated in Rough Spells‘ mysticism on Ruins at Midday, the Toronto unit’s second LP. Recorded by Ian Blurton and presented by Fuzzed and Buzzed and DHU Records, the eight-track LP has, as the lyrics of “Chance Magic” say, “No bad intentions.” Indeed, it seems geared only toward eliciting your participation in its ceremony of classic groove, hooks and melodies, even the mellow “Die Before You Die” presenting an atmosphere that’s heavy but still melodic and accessible. “Grise Fiord” addresses Canada’s history of mistreating its native population, while “Pay Your Dues” pits guitar and vocal harmonics against each other in a shove of proto-metallic energy to rush momentum through side B and into the closing pair of the swaggering “Nothing Left” and the title-track, which is the longest single cut at five minutes, but still keeps its songwriting taut with no time to spare for indulgences. In this, and on several fronts, Ruins at Midday basks in multifaceted righteousness.

Rough Spells on Thee Facebooks

Fuzzed and Buzzed store

DHU Records store

 

Goblinsmoker, A Throne in Haze, A World Ablaze

goblinsmoker a throne in haze a world ablaze

Upside the head extreme sludgeoning! UK trio Goblinsmoker take on the more vicious and brutal end of sludge with the stench of death on A Throne in Haze, A World Ablaze (on Sludgelord Records), calling to mind the weedian punishment of Belzebong and others of their decrepit ilk. Offered as part two of a trilogy, A Throne in Haze, A World Ablaze is comprised of three tracks running a caustic 26 minutes thick enough such that even its faster parts feel slow, a churning volatility coming to the crash of “Smoked in Darkness” at the outset only to grow more menacing in the lurch of centerpiece “Let Them Rot” — which of course shifts into blastbeats later on — and falling apart into noise and echoing residual feedback after the last crashes of “The Forest Mourns” recede. Beautifully disgusting, the release reportedly furthers the story of the Toad King depicted on its cover and for which the band’s prior 2018 EP was named, and so be it. The lyrics, largely indecipherable in screams, are vague enough that if you’re not caught up, you’ll be fine. Except you won’t be fine. You’ll be dead. But it’ll be awesome.

Goblinsmoker on Thee Facebooks

Sludgelord Records on Bandcamp

 

Homecoming, LP01

homecoming lp01

Progressive metal underpins French trio Homecoming‘s aptly-titled first record, LP01, with the guitars of second cut “Rivers of Crystal” leading the way through a meandering quiet part and subsequent rhythmic figure that reminds of later Opeth, though there’s still a strong heavy rock presence in their tones and grooves generally. It’s an interesting combination, and all the more so because I think part of what’s giving off such a metal vibe is the snare sound. You don’t normally think of a snare drum determining that kind of thing, but here we are. Certainly the vocal arrangements between gruff melodies, backing screams and growls, etc., the odd bit of blastbeating here and there, bring it all into line as well — LP01 is very much the kind of album that would title its six-minute instrumental centerpiece “Interlude” — but the intricacy in how the nine-minute “Return” develops and the harmonies that emerge early in closer “Five” tell the tale clearly of Homecoming‘s ambitions as they move forward from this already-ambitious debut.

Homecoming on Thee Facebooks

Homecoming on Bandcamp

 

Lemurian Folk Songs, Logos

lemurian folk songs logos

Tracked in the same sessions as the Budapest outfit’s 2019 album, Ima (review here), it should not come as a major surprise that the six-track/49-minute Logos from Lemurian Folk Songs follows a not entirely dissimilar course, bringing together dream-drift of tones and melodies with subtle but coherent rhythmic motion in a fashion not necessarily revolutionary for heavy psych, but certainly well done and engaging across its tracks. The tones of guitar and bass offer a warmth rivaled only by the echoing vocals on opener/longest cut (immediate points) “Logos,” and the shimmering “Sierra Tejada” and progressively building “Calcination” follow that pattern while adding a drift that is both of heavy psych and outside of it in terms of the character of how it’s played. None of the last three tracks is less than eight minutes long — closer “Firelake” tops nine in a mirror to “Logos” at the outset, but if that’s the band pushing further out I hear, then yes, I want to go along for that trip.

Lemurian Folk Songs on Thee Facebooks

Para Hobo Records on Bandcamp

 

Ritual King, Ritual King

ritual king ritual king

Progressive heavy rockers Ritual King display a striking amount of grace and patience across their Ripple Music-issued self-titled long-player. Tapping modern influences like Elder and bringing their own sense of melodic nuance to the proceedings across a tightly-constructed seven songs and 42 minutes, the three-piece of vocalist/guitarist Jordan Leppitt, bassist Dan Godwin — whose tone is every bit worthy of gotta-hear-it classification — and drummer/backing vocalist Gareth Hodges string together linear movements in “Headspace” and “Dead Roads” that flow one into the next, return at unexpected moments or don’t, and follow a direction not so much to the next chorus but to the next statement the band want to make, whatever that might be. “Restrain” begins with a sweet proggy soundscape and unfolds two verses over a swaying riff, then is gone, where at the outset, “Valleys” offers grandeur the likes of which few bands would dare to embody on their third or fourth records, let alone their first. Easily one of 2020’s best debuts.

Ritual King on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

 

Sunflowers, Endless Voyage

sunflowers endless voyage

You know what? Never mind. You ain’t weird enough for this shit. Nobody’s weird enough for this shit. I have a hard time believing the two souls from Portugal who made it are weird enough for this shit. Think I’m wrong? Think you’re up for it and you’re gonna put on SunflowersEndless Voyage and be like, “oh yeah, turns out mega-extreme krautrock blasted into outer space was my wavelength all along?” Cool. Bandcamp player’s right there. Have at it. I dare you.

Sunflowers on Thee Facebooks

Stolen Body Records store

 

Maya Mountains, Era

maya mountains era

Italian heavy rockers Maya Mountains formed in 2005 and issued their debut album, Hash and Pornography, through Go Down Records in 2008. Era, which follows a narrative about the title-character whose name is given in lead cut “Enrique Dominguez,” who apparently travels through space after being lost in the desert — as one does — and on that basis alone is clearly a more complex offering than its predecessor. As to where Maya Mountains have been all the time in between records — here and there, in other bands, etc. But Era, at 10 tracks and 44 minutes, is the summation of five years of work on their part and its blend of scope and straight-ahead heavy riffing is welcome in its more heads-down moments like “Vibromatic” or in the purposefully weirder finale “El Toro” later on. Something like a second debut for the band after being away for so long, Era at very least marks the beginning of a new one for them, and one hopes it continues in perhaps more productive fashion than the last.

Maya Mountains on Thee Facebooks

Go Down Records store

 

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Friday Full-Length: Lords of the North, Lords of the North

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 13th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Lords of the North, Lords of the North (2008)

 

A proposal for a science experiment:

Some label — for hypothetical purposes let’s say it’s Cursed Tongue Records for the vinyl and Ripple Music for the CD, and maybe someone else does a limited tape version somewhere along the line too; I like King Volume, so let’s go with that — releases Lords of the North‘s self-titled debut. That’s it. That’s the experiment.

But here’s the thing. I’m not talking about a reissue. While I may have my fantasies about doing a curated series of reissues through this or that imprint — call me, RidingEasy! — I’m talking about putting out Lords of the North‘s Lords of the North with no mention whatsoever of the fact that the album originally came out in 2008. Sure, on the LP itself you’d probably need to mention when it was recorded or that the Seattle three-piece originally had it out on CD through their own not-really-a-label Tundra Music, but the theory I’m testing is that if you released this record today, 12 years on from its first arrival, it would still kill it.

Hell, put it on Bandcamp with a bare minimum of social media here-it-is-go-get-it-style promotion and I wouldn’t be surprised. The songs. The riffs. The grooves. It’s only 33 minutes long and six tracks, but it taps into the essential heart of what’s so appealing about heavy rock and roll. It has a classic groove and an atmosphere that’s rife for digging in, absolutely no pretense, and whether it’s the Zeppelin-style solo jam-out in the eight-minute “Beams of Light” or the mega-choruses of opener “Souls Come Rising,” the subsequent “Follow the Falcon” or the rougher-edged closing duo of “Loyal Legion” — the chug-verse-into-swing-hook of which is a highlight unto itself; if we’re picking tracks, this one might be the most likely to be stuck in your head for, say, somewhere in the neighborhood of 12 years — and the aptly-named knuckledragging finisher “The March.”

The influences are right there to be absorbed. Comprised of bassist/vocalist Pat Brian Kearney, guitarist Tony Tharp and drummer James Roche and recorded by the band with Chris Duryee, mixed by Phil Ek and mastered by Ed Brooks (cheers, Discogs), the band and record touched on familiar enough pieces from what was already a burgeoning heavy revival. Shades of High on Fire as distilled through The Sword‘s earliest riffing and the Melvins showed up in their work, so of Lords-of-the-North-self titledcourse there’s some Sabbath there too, but the prevailing theme of chilled-to-the-bone frozen wastes that comes through the artwork, the band’s moniker, the subjects of the songs themselves and even the name they picked for their not-really-a-label is all about being really, really, really cold, and that comes through in the tonality as a part of the record’s overarching personality as well.

Mostly it’s conveyed through largesse. Big riffs, big groove, big echo. It may have been their debut, but Lords of the North seem even now to have had no doubt about what they wanted to get across to their audience. There’s perfectly-timed boogie and enough variety in the jammier feel into which “Beams of Light” veers, first with its acoustic guitar and then its going-going-gone lead and the interlude “Steam Caves” that follows, not to mention the rougher-edged vocals that emerge in “Loyal Legion” and “The March,” to carry easily through the 33-minute run without the band coming close to overstaying their welcome. For its lack of pretense, the songwriting on display and the manner in which they put the album together — I wonder if a vinyl release would adjust the tracklisting so that “Beams of Light” and “Steam Caves” were on the same side, or if maybe “Loyal Legion” and “The March” would be split up so that each ended a half of the record to give it more symmetry, but those too are hypotheticals, and for the CD it was, it certainly worked — it was a collection that was has stood the test of time as a kind of refresher on how to make heavy rock sound simple and straightforward without losing sight of the need to find a sense of perspective within the genre.

Because that’s what Lords of the North were doing here. Yeah, it’s a bunch of songs put together to make a record, and that’s hardly a mystical process at this point in history — or, for that matter, in 2008 — but among the lessons the band might have take from what worked so well on their declarative self-titled is that they succeeded in crafting a vision to tie the material together, so that it wasn’t just songs, or just riffs, or crash, or stories about barbarian armies cresting the ice-covered hillside, it was all of it functioning together in order to create a striking and multi-tiered persona for the band and the album.

Would that persona have grown richer with time? I have no reason to think it wouldn’t, but of course, Lords of the North‘s debut was also their swansong. Their social media shows them in the studio in 2012 putting together a follow-up to the self-titled, and in 2014 they unveiled plans for a comic book to go with the album that resulted in some cool-looking panels in keeping with the cover art here — if I’m not mistaken, at some point in their history they worked with Mark Johnson from Snail, either before or after the album, I can’t remember which — though nothing came to fruition for whatever reason. One assumes the usual: life moves on, people move on, etc.

But I’ll stand by this album’s enduring quality and I honestly think that if it came out today — or with a proper promotional cycle befitting a new release — it would catch on in a way it never did during its time. Will that happen? Yeah, probably not. I don’t think labels are lining up yet to mine the late-aughts pre-social media “lost era” of heavy rock for the cause of scientific progress quite yet — there’s still so much of the ’90s to unearth first, underproduced as it all is — but when they get there, Lords of the North will be waiting. Until then, I’m happy to count myself in this record’s loyal legion.

As always, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.

What a fucking nightmare. Here’s the thing — am I talking about the ensuing noise and panic about coronavirus or am I talking about trying to feed my kid a peanut butter sandwich before he goes to kiddie-gymnastics class? See? You don’t even know which one it is.

Millions will die.

From the sandwich.

I don’t have any great observations about the pandemic to make that haven’t been said a thousand times by people more eloquent, so screw it. I’m tired. Don’t get sick. There. I said it.

I still don’t wash my hands with soap most of the time.

I still touch my mouth.

If I die of COVID-19, I want my grave to say, “It was biting his nails whut did him in.” Make sure you misspell “what” like that.

I’m so tired.

The Patient Mrs. took the The Pecan aka Dr. “NO!” out to that gymnastics class. That’s good for a few moments’ reprieve. There’s a new Lamp of the Universe album coming out in June. Whatever happens with Roadburn will happen. It will be what it is. Somehow I’m most anxious about that.

Next week is great. Not good. Great. Two more Dozer full album streams on Monday and Wednesday. Tuesday the new King Buffalo EP streams in full. Thursday is a review of Wednesday night’s Ode to Doom in Manhattan and a video premiere for Last Rizla from Greece. Friday is a Thunderbird Divine track premiere from their new EP. That’s right. Not fucking around. Great week.

Yesterday I had two bands tell their PR they wanted to do premieres with this site. That was the nicest thing that happened to me this week. Easily.

A new Star Trek book came out. It’s TOS, kind of meh, but fine. I feel like a lot of those are just trying to recombine episodes from different episodes, throw in an alien threat, maybe retcon some dumb shit they did on tv in 1967 and make Kirk the hero over the course of 200-plus pages and you’re set. I’d love to write one of those books. I’d love to write any book. I just keep writing news posts.

I was supposed to interview Chris Goss yesterday for the Desertfest London programme. Well, the interview didn’t happen and this morning I got an email they’re pulling the plug on the programme, I assume for financial considerations. This is life right now. New realities, none of them remotely believable.

The new Forming the Void record is so good I want to shit a brick.

That’s all I’ve got.

Great and safe weekend. Don’t get the fucking plague. I’m gonna go count the minutes until dinner and read about Spock and the Andorian from that one episode of The Animated Series where Spock goes back in time and sees himself as a kid. Curiously no Michael Burnham there. Funny how that goes.

Blah blah blah.

Love always,
JJ Koczan

PS: FRM.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

The Obelisk merch

 

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Review & Full Album Premiere: Sorcia, Sorcia

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on March 10th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

sorcia sorcia

[Click play above to stream Sorcia’s self-titled debut in full. Album is out this Friday, March 13.]

Sorcia unveil a host of influences in their self-titled debut and just the same manage to declare who they are as artists. To be sure, they’re children of the 1990s, either demographically or spiritually. In the AliceinChains-via-AcidBath clean vocals of guitarist Neal De Atley, who complements with harsh, sludgy grunts and is met head on by bassist Jessica Brasch, whose low end rumble makes a highlight of the overdose tale “Nowhere But Up,” second of the seven tracks on the 45-minute offering after “In the Head” sets a stomp-laden tone as the leadoff.

Production by West Coast noise figurehead Tad Doyle (of TAD, Hog Molly and Brothers of the Sonic Cloth) assures that De Atley, Brasch and drummer Bryson Marcey come through with as much density and the impact is only heightened through a Jack Endino (producer for Nebula, Nirvana, Windhand, High on Fire, etc.) mastering job, but if Sorcia are keeping such esteemed company on their first album, it only underscores the awareness the Seattle trio have of their own intent as a project.

To be sure, the three-part turns of “Nowhere But Up,” which goes from its quieter lumbering verses to a louder part and then chugs into a faster chorus, are clear delineations that mark Sorcia as a first album, at least so far as one imagines them as being lines so clearly drawn here that will inevitably blur in the band’s future work, but but the clarity with which Sorcia present their material, both early on in “In the Head” and “Nowhere But Up” and in the also-circa-five-minutes-long “Coffin Nails” and “Sunburn” that follow on side A, as well as the longer stretches of side B’s nine-minute “Stars Collide,” and the two seven-minute cuts that follow, “Stoned Believer” and “Repression,” which continue to flesh out the gritty-but-not-totally-raw atmosphere of the proceedings as a whole. Even the stark A/B divide, with four tracks on the first and three on the second, feels purposeful on the part of the band.

And yes, that’s a strength. Perhaps more subtle than Brasch‘s bass tone in terms of what comes across when one puts on the digital version of the album and lets it run through, but one that will carry through multiple formats of an eventual physical release — LP, tape, even CD; certainly the Mike Hawkins cover art works for all of them. But from the Electric Wizard-esque opening riff of “In the Head” onward, the signaling being done across Sorcia‘s Sorcia is of a vision of sludge rock that neither wants to be trapped by the confines of genre nor completely separate from them.

The lead cut swings through its guttural hook en route to its eventual slowdown/speed-up finish and shift into “Nowhere But Up,” which brings in Brasch on vocals in the shouty, chugging chorus — somewhere between a shuffle, a chug, and being punched in the face — and there is a sense of flow to the proceedings, but the brashness of the faster parts speaks to some influence from earlier, not-afraid-to-be-called-stoner High on Fire, and as the subsequent “Coffin Nails” makes the album’s first of two mentions of a blood red sky with a second to follow later in “Stars Collide,” it also finds De Atley and Brasch coming together more fluidly on vocals.

sorcia

A call and response verse led off by the bassist singing met by the guitarist’s shouts would seem like a direct portend of things to come as regards further developing the dynamic and sense of arrangement Sorcia already bring to this first offering. The Goatsnake-ian figure that caps “Coffin Nails” serves as reminder that it and “Nowhere But Up” were both included on Sorcia‘s 2019 demo and so might have been earlier compositions, but to put a narrative to the album that places the first four tracks as being written first and the last three longer, more complex pieces later feels too convenient, even with a record as up front about its purposes as Sorcia is. It is, however, the kind of thing one might ask the band in an interview.

Whenever it was put together, “Sunburn” is both the centerpiece and a plod-laden highlight, holding to a mid-tempo push for most of its duration but picking up near the end and giving something of a streamlined impression with De Atley at the fore on vocals. The fact that Sorcia are so willing to change up their approach vocally speaks not only to multiple contributions to songwriting, but only more potential, and as “Stars Collide” offers a surprising bit of drift and Brasch takes her turn invoking the blood red sky lyrically, the emergent thud seems to hit even harder for the quiet spaciousness that it offsets.

They shift smoothly back and forth and find a roll to lock in as “Stars Collide” moves into its second half and opens to its solo, and a final slowdown brings back the crashing central riff delivered with a stage-style energy that resonates into the speedy beginning of the penultimate “Stoned Believer,” brazen in its speed with De Atley‘s throaty vocal grit moving into a cleaner approach effectively in mid-verse. A quieter stretch in the middle-third brings about an echoing guitar solo with Marcey driving a return to the full thrust in the last 90 seconds or so of the song and still finding room to shift back into the slower part before they’re done.

It’s a choice bit of songwriting that answers a question or two about room for complexity amid Sorcia‘s sludge, much like the track before it, and with a direct lead into the finale of “Repression,” the album finds its fluidity at just the right time, with “Repression” shoving toward an inevitable big finish that comes and is not overblown but gets the point across enough to justify rounding out with rumbling feedback. As it will no doubt be the first impression the band makes on a number of listeners, Sorcia functions very much as a first album should. It brings forward the basic foundations upon which the three-piece set about their aesthetic construction, and it showcases the potential for progression and several of the sonic avenues they might pursue going forward.

Prospective aspects aside, the meld of influences they play toward, whether native to their own Pacific Northwestern home or not, can already heard being consciously brought into their own context via craft, performance and the nascent De Atley/Brasch vocal dynamic. Being concrete-slab heavy doesn’t hurt either, and Sorcia most definitely is that.

Sorcia on Thee Facebooks

Sorcia on Instagram

Sorcia on Bandcamp

Sorcia website

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Sorcia to Release Self-Titled Debut March 13; Streaming “Nowhere But Up”

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 19th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

sorcia

A bit of the ol’ sludge-nasty coming from Seattle-ish three-piece Sorcia on their self-titled debut. Recorded by none less than Tad Frickin’ Doyle with mastering by Jack Goshdarn Endino and set to issue March 13 through the former’s Incineration Ceremony label, it’s a seven-track outing that word of which comes accompanied by the teaser cut “Nowhere But Up.” It’s easy enough to imagine in listening that the title speaks regarding the perspective of the album as a whole, but one doesn’t necessarily want to speculate based on one song, even if that song is a shouty roller with a sound that, if you cut it, would bleed mud.

More to follow on this one? Oh most definitely. I already signed on to stream the whole thing on March 10. Keep an eye/ear out for it.

PR wire news and tour dates below:

sorcia sorcia

Seattle’s SORCIA Reveal Debut Self-Titled Album Coming March 13th via Incineration Ceremony Records!

SORCIA hails from the Snoqualmie Valley in the Eastern outskirts of Seattle, Washington. After solidifying their lineup in 2018, SORCIA hit the ground running, releasing a two-song demo in January 2019. Combining blues-laden groovy riffs into the raw heaviness of doom metal with the added dynamic of dual vocals, they deliver their own method of Pacific Northwest heavy stoner sludge metal.

SORCIA entered Witch Ape Studio with Tad Doyle (Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, TAD) in June of 2019, to begin recording their debut full-length album; and completing the album with Jack Endino (High On Fire, Windhand, Nirvana) at the mastering helm.

So says SORCIA regarding their new album:
“Tad Doyle was an absolute pleasure to work with and did an incredible job capturing the essence of our sound. He gave us confidence and had a true understanding of our vision that was key in the bringing that vision to life. and it exceeded all our expectations. Having the legendary Jack Endino at the mastering helm was a complete honor and he did a fantastic job putting on the final touch. The creation of this album has been a long time coming and we are very proud and excited to finally share it. It is our tribute to the genre that inspired us and it embodies the sound we love.”

The debut full-length album ‘Sorcia’ will be available on March 13th, from Incineration Ceremony Recordings. With stunning cover art from Mike Hawkins, the new album will be released on CD, digital download, and streaming on most major outlets. Pre-order available soon…

Incineration Ceremony Recordings founder Tad Doyle had this to say:
“Sorcia is focused and has a vision of what they want to convey in their music which comes across with depth and power.”

‘Sorcia’ Tracklist:
01. In The Head
02. Nowhere But Up
03. Coffin Nails
04. Sunburn
05. Stars Collide
06. Stoned Believer
07. Repression

SORCIA Upcoming Live Dates:
Feb. 20 – Seattle, WA @ Chop Suey
Feb. 28 – Port Angeles, WA @ Little Devils Lunchbox
Mar. 06 – Portland, OR @ High Water Mark (Adv. Album Release)
Mar. 07 – Seattle, WA @ Slims Last Chance Saloon (Adv. Album Release)
Apr. 02 – Tacoma, WA @ The Plaid Pig
Apr. 03 – Duvall, WA @ Twin Dragon
Apr. 04 – Portland, OR @ Bunk
Apr. 14 – Seattle, WA @ Substation
May 20 – Seattle, WA @ Screwdriver Bar
Jun. 12 – Olympia, WA @ Cryptatropa

SORCIA
Neal De Atley – Guitar, Vocals
Jessica Brasch – Bass, Vocals
Bryson Marcey – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/SorciaBand/
https://www.instagram.com/sorciaband/
sorcia.bandcamp.com
https://sorciaband.com/
https://www.facebook.com/Incinerationceremony/
https://www.instagram.com/incineration.ceremony/
https://incineration-ceremony.bandcamp.com/
https://www.taddoyle.com/incineration-ceremony-recordings/

Sorcia, Sorcia (2020)

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Friday Full-Length: Snail, Blood

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 31st, 2020 by JJ Koczan

snail blood

At the core of the album, the lessons of Snail‘s Blood (review here) are relatively straightforward: rhythm and melody. The mostly languid grooves and the overlaid stoner drift from the originally-Seattle-based then-four-piece came across as revelatory in 2009, but their roots of course went back much further in that Blood was the first Snail record in 16 years. That time differential, and the fact that most the 11 songs on the 57-minute offering dated back that far — only opener “Mental Models,” “Underwater” and “Via/Penny Dreadful” don’t appear on Snail‘s The ’93-’94 Blood Demos collection released in 2012 (the band talk about their demo process here) — are important for understanding where the album was coming from at the time of its release. Indeed, 16 years before 2009 was 1993, and that was when Snail issued their self-titled debut (review here), following the next year with the All Channels are Open EP (review here) before the trio of guitarist/vocalist Mark Johnson, bassist Matt Lynch and drummer Marty Dodson called it quits, leaving the demos for what would’ve been Blood at the time unrealized.

When they came back and finally recorded the album proper, JohnsonLynch and Dodson recruited second guitarist Eric Clausen, who fleshed out the riffs and leads fluidly, meshing well with the founding members. Really though, the overarching atmosphere of Blood is so laid back that, even 11 years after its release, it still feels like all are welcome. True, Blood‘s just-under-an-hour runtime feels honest to its CD-era origins and borders on unmanageable by today’s standards, but they use the vast majority of that time well, setting up immersive tonality and an underlying psych-grunge atmosphere that permeates “Relief” and the speedier, hookier second track “Sleep” — originally “Sleepshit” on the demos — as well as the later push of “Cleanliness” and the nonetheless-airy “Not for Me” which appears ahead of the predominantly-mellow-but-still-volatile eight-minute closer “Blacklight,” itself a testament to Snail‘s ability to change up their songwriting approach while staying united by tone and general sonic resonance, the use of effects and so on. Even now, the depth of mix Blood conjures draws the listener in, and the strength of the underlying structures in place — the verses and choruses to songs like “Underwater” or the especially-blissed “Relief” — gave Snail the ground on which to build this towering sound. The initial surge and chug of “Mental Models,” following a quick intro, is righteous, but doesn’t by any means tell the whole story of the album. It really does require the time it takes to flesh out.

And the patience of Snail‘s tempos when they’re not meting out punkish rush is especially noteworthy. Dodson sets a march in “Mental Models” and a push in “Sleep” and a crash and thud and shuffle in “Underwater” and a pull-back, in-pocket riff-surfing progression in “Committed” that could easily serve as a clinic in heavy rock drumming, and while Johnson‘s vocals and riffs, Clausen‘s leads and Lynch‘s oh-hell-yes bass tone are of course no less crucial, the drums are somewhat understated but accomplished in their versatility and able to find just what the song most needs at any given time, whether it’s the rim hits in “Cleanliness” like a ticking clock counting down to the next explosion of soloing and Johnson repeatedly urging “get high! get high!” or the masterful roll in “Via/Penny Dreadful” and “Screen” that becomes a defining element of Blood as a whole. With the shifts in tempo and style, it’s the tone and songwriting that bring cohesion, and Snail‘s consistency in that regard is at a high level from front to back, and they use that diversity in their approach as an asset in shifts like those between the nodder “Blood” and the more upbeat “Cleanliness,” which on vinyl would probably be side C of a 2LP version that, frankly, feels like it’s ripe for some label to get behind.

Blood appeared during an era of rebirth for MeteorCity after original owners Jadd Shickler (now of Blues Funeral Recordings) and Aaron Emmel sold it, Stonerrock.com and the All That is Heavy webstore to Dan Beland and Melanie Streko (now of Hellmistress Records). Along with Snail, releases from Let the Night RoarLeeches of LoreHumo del CairoFreedom Hawk — not to mention the first Elder record — helped reestablish the label’s presence in the heavy underground, so in that regard, Blood was all the more a good fit for the label, given that it was essentially a rebirth for the band as well.

It’s worth noting in listening to Johnson‘s wailing on “Screen” just how dated Blood doesn’t sound. To give some context to revisiting the album, I went back and listened again to the self-titled as well as The ’93-’94 Blood Demos and it’s kind of astonishing how much the songs hadn’t changed when one considers the modern feel of Blood as a whole. The production is more fleshed out, certainly clearer, etc., but the underlying method is largely intact. Its grunge-era origins aren’t forgotten — Seattle? yup. early ’90s? yup. — but the band succeeded in drawing a line to the past while representing a forward potential as well, and one that, thankfully, they’d go on to realize on subsequent offerings.

By the time Clausen left the band in 2013, they had already put out the follow-up CD, Terminus (review here), and they signed to Small Stone for Feral (review here) in 2015, which subsequently saw them come to the East Coast for the first time in 2016 to play The Obelisk All-Dayer in Brooklyn and other shows around that, as well as do Psycho Las Vegas and more besides. They’ve never been a heavily touring band whether a four-piece or trio, but they bring a chemistry to the stage just the same that, from my own experience as a fan of their work, adds another layer of enjoyment to the proceedings. Some bands work together. Snail come across more like a family, eyes rolling at each other and all.

They reportedly have a new album in the works — they’re recording — that will see release this year, and that’s only good news as far as I’m concerned. Feral was their best work to-date, and five years after that and some 27 years after their debut, it’ll be exciting to hear where they take what has become their signature style. You can dig on Snail or don’t, but if you don’t, you’re missing out.

As always, I hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.

New episode of The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio today. 1PM. It’s moving to 5PM and will be on every week at that time with new episodes every other week. That’s starts Valentine’s Day. Because love.

Next week is totally full. I can’t talk about some of it yet, but holy shit it’s gonna be awesome. Cool streams, cool announcements. Couple good reviews thrown in. Really, stay tuned.

The week after already has reviews and premieres booked too. And the Monday and Wednesday after that. And shit is happening today like Elder announcing their record and Candlemass announcing an EP. What’s a boy to do about trying to keep up? Even if I had a staff of 20 writers they’d look at my notes and tell me to kiss my ass.

Oh my poor notes.

I went to the doctor this morning, got a flu shot. I needed to update my prescriptions since I ran out of refills from my primary care doctor in Massachusetts, and hell, Boston’s a long way to go for pills. There was a whole hullabaloo with switching insurance plans. I take 40mg of Citalopram a day for depression, and I have off and on for the better part of a decade. At this point it’s been at least the last three years? Something like that. When I think about it I find it amazing I still manage to be such a miserable bastard on the regular. Nothing like overachieving.

There was a lag of about 10 days between running out of one supply of pills though and convincing our insurance to give us the month we were still owed — I’d be totally lost without The Patient Mrs.; imagine a human being, but like, actually competent; she’s like a higher lifeform — and in that time, if I’m totally honest, I could feel it. The first couple days were fine, but there’s a kind of severity that emerges in my framing of myself and what’s around me. I can feel it. It’s hard to explain, but I know when it’s there. They call it a weight — that’s a whole different issue for me, of course — and that’s fair, but it’s like if your blood got more viscous.

I also mentioned the doc some trouble I’ve been having with anxiety, and contrary to my being anxious about mentioning it — dude knows my history; he was my doctor when we lived in NJ previously and treats most of my family — and I thought maybe it was time to do something about it. The way I’ve seen it manifest is big-time reticence to go to shows at unknown venues. I’ve been to Saint Vitus Bar a few times, and Ode to Doom at Arlene’s Grocery in Manhattan, but social anxiety and the thought of being in a new place and a strange place, even at a gig, right now already I can feel the hair on my arms stand on end. I’ve missed several good gigs. I didn’t go see Om in New York.

So yeah. Try something out to help. We’ll see how it goes.

Maybe I’ll be a little easier to live with.

I am going out tomorrow though. It’s Warhorse at Saint Vitus Bar with Yatra and Green Dragon. I’ve never seen Green Dragon and I like their recorded stuff a lot, so that’s a bonus, and I know Yatra and Warhorse will destroy. I expect it to be crowded. Hydration, as ever, will be key. As will earplugs.

Review of that on Monday.

The Pecan started preschool this week, which I’ll note mostly for self-posterity — I might happen upon this post years from now writing about Snail and appreciate seeing the memory; to that end, I was also reminded of feeding him off my finger when he was super-little. He’ll go Wednesday and Thursday to a place about 10 minutes from my ancestral homestead for four hours each day. He apparently got frustrated and tried to bite another kid (or two, ugh) on his first day, but he sat at the table for lunch, which he never does with me. You take the bad with the good. Some you win, some you lose.

Alright, this post has already gone on longer than I’ve intended. I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Have fun, be kind. Please don’t forget The Obelisk Show is on at 1PM Eastern (which is coming right up). Thanks if you check it out.

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The Obelisk Presents: THE BEST OF 2019

Posted in Features on December 24th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk best of 2019

[PLEASE NOTE: These are not the results of the year-end poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t contributed your list to the cause yet, please do so here.]

Make no mistake, my friends. 2019 was the year it went off the rails.

Every 12-month period brings a lot of records, and they all seem overwhelming, but this was the first year I’ve ever felt quite so helpless when it came time to sit down and actually make my list. Of course, I keep running notes all year long, but even so, ordering everything, bringing it all together? What a mess.

I almost thought of breaking it down into smaller lists in addition to the big one, subgrouped by style. But then, where does doom end and sludge begin? What about psych and heavy rock? Should prog get its own list? And what the hell counts as prog?

In the end, that didn’t seem like it would be doing me any favors, so we’ll stick with the one big list and then others for debut releases and another for EPs, splits, demos and so on. You know, the usual.

Pretty sure I say this every year too, but it bears repeating: if you read any of the below — and thanks if you do — and have a response, be nice. If I’ve forgotten something — and yes, I have; I’m sure of it — that you think needs to be included, and you want to leave a comment that says so, please, by all means. But keep it civil. I know people are passionate about this stuff and so am I, but consider there are probably over 200 offerings covered here by the time you get through all the lists and honorable mentions, and I’m one person. I’m doing my best, and though I try not to, I tend to take being called a dumbass personally. So yeah, chill out and please be constructive in calling me a dumbass. Words matter.

A few hard choices here, most especially for album of the year. I was back and forth with each of the top three in the top spot for a good long while, and it might change again between now and when this post goes up. But it’s been that kind of year. In 2018, there was no question. It was Sleep all the way. The question was what came after that. This year has been different without that kind of duh, punch-in-the-face obvious pick. Relative parity isn’t a bad thing though.

Enough delay. The usual parameters apply. These are a combo of my personal listening habits and what I think are the most important records/achievements of the year, critical importance, etc.

Here we go:

The Top 50 Albums of 2019

#50-31

50. Hazemaze, Hymns of the Damned
49. Lightning Born, Lightning Born
48. Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree, Grandmother
47. PH, Osiris Hayden
46. Thunderbird Divine, Magnasonic
45. Abrahma, In Time for the Last Rays of Light
44. Uffe Lorenzen, Triprapport
43. Swallow the Sun, When a Shadow is Forced into the Light
42. Caustic Casanova, God How I Envy the Deaf
41. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, Tre
40. SÂVER, They Came With Sunlight
39. Ogre, Thrice as Strong
38. Lamp of the Universe, Align in the Fourth Dimension
37. Vokonis, Grasping Time
36. Sacri Monti, Waiting Room for the Magic Hour
35. Across Tundras, The Rugged Ranges of Curbs and Broken Minds
34. Duel, Valley of Shadows
33. Orodruin, Ruins of Eternity
32. Zaum, Divination
31. Inter Arma, Sulphur English

Notes: Honestly, if this had been the top 20 of the year, I’d still call 2019 a win. Aside from the fact that I somehow thought Caustic Casanova would enjoy coming in a number 42, the sheer quality of this stuff should tell you what kind of year 2019 was. Inter Arma’s Sulphur English was a significant achievement in genre melding, and Orodruin’s return after more than a decade since their last LP was a masterclass in doom worship. Debut albums from SÂVER and Thunderbird Divine and Lightning Born showed marked promise of things to come — and there’s more on them below as well — while Zaum’s, Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree’s and Lamp of the Universe’s meditations, Vokonis’ noise, Abrahma’s emotive progressivisim, Swallow the Sun’s melodic melancholy, Sacri Monti’s boogie, and whatever the hell PH were doing on Osiris Hayden remind just how much the word “heavy” can encompass. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, Duel and Uffe Lorenzen and Hazemaze were musts here, and Ogre are perennial favorites whose work always brings a doomly grin. Don’t sleep on any of it.

30. Sun Blood Stories, Haunt Yourself

sun blood stories haunt yourself

Self-released. Reviewed Sept. 6.

Until they put out a complementary follow-up record of such fare, one might’ve accused Idaho three-piece Sun Blood Stories of becoming less experimentalist/droned-out/noisy on Haunt Yourself, but they seem to have met their quota one way or the other with the Oct. 2019 advent of Static Sessions Vol. 1. Still, it’s melody, heavy post-rock/psychedelic drift and emotive soul that rule the day on the crushing and enriching Haunt Yourself, and no complaints from me on that.

29. Church of the Cosmic Skull, Everybody’s Going to Die

Church of the Cosmic Skull Everybodys Going to Die

Released by Septaphonic Records. Reviewed Dec. 10.

I don’t have to do anything more than read the name of the album to have the chorus of the title-track stuck in my head, and it’s a reminder that although the Nottingham troupe put so much into their progressive style and vocal harmonies and arrangements, and a more conceptual theme in the case of Everybody’s Going to Die — their answer to 2018’s excellent Science Fiction (review here) — their roots are in songcraft, and it’s the foundation of songcraft that lets them soar. Would be higher on the list if it weren’t so new.

28. Devil to Pay, Forever, Never or Whenever

devil to pay forever never or whenever

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Nov. 4.

With their sixth album, Indianapolis’ Devil to Pay collect 10 tracks of unpretentious-almost-to-a-fault of straightforward heavy rock songwriting that continues to be woefully underappreciated. They have become utterly reliable in that regard — you know, to a certain extent, what’s coming — but the vocals of guitarist Steve Janiak (also Apostle of Solitude) and some more metallic turns to the riffing give Forever, Never or Whenever a subtlety that holds up all the more on repeat visits. I don’t know if Devil to Pay will ever get their due, but suffice it to say, they’re due.

27. Howling Giant, The Space Between Worlds

howling giant the space between worlds

Released by Blues Funeral Recordings. Reviewed Oct. 11.

If you’re of a certain age, you remember when the first Playstation came out and everyone looked around at their Nintendos and Segas like, “What the hell am I messing around with Mario Golf for? I could be playing Resident Evil!” That’s kind of what Howling Giant are as compared to “regular” rock bands. They’re the Playstation of heavy: that next progressive step forward carrying an inhuman amount of swagger and personality while still delivering a stepped-up product from their would-be peers. The scariest thing about The Space Between Worlds is it’s their first LP. One looks forward to the next generation.

26. Saint Vitus, Saint Vitus

saint vitus saint vitus

Released by Season of Mist. Reviewed March 19.

I know for a fact that bassist Pat Bruders and drummer Henry Vasquez had a hand in writing some of the material on Saint Vitus’ second self-titled LP, and yet the album so much bears the indelible mark of guitarist Dave Chandler that it’s hard not to think of it all as his. The album marked their first release with original singer Scott Reagers since 1995’s Die Healing (discussed here) and featured among their trademark low-tuned slog, an actual punk song, which showed the grinning glee that underlies all they do. Four decades on, Saint Vitus sound like they’re having fun. How is that not a win?

25. Ealdor Bealu, Spirit of the Lonely Places

ealdor bealu spirit of the lonely places

Self-released. Reviewed July 10.

Woodsy Rocky Mountain psychedelia abounded on Boise foursome Ealdor Bealu’s second full-length, and their blend of landscape meditations and grounded heavy progressive melodicism made Spirit of the Lonely Places as much about impact as about space, though of course the real joy was the experience of the entirety. Very much a sophomore album, it learned lessons from 2017’s Dark Water at the Foot of the Mountain (review here) that one only hopes the band will continue to push forward in scope as they so gracefully did here.

24. Yatra, Death Ritual

yatra death ritual

Released through Grimoire Records. Discussed Nov. 13, 2018..

Though hard- and to-date quick-working Maryland trio Yatra have already moved on and are looking ahead to releasing their second album, Blood of the Night (review here), their Grimoire-delivered debut, Death Ritual, is impossible to ignore for the impact it had on reminding listeners of the impact that primeval extreme sludge can have. Another couple tours and some bigger label — Relapse, Prosthetic, eOne, Season of Mist, whoever — will decide they’re “ready,” whatever that means, and then sign them and I won’t be cool enough to do track premieres for them anymore, but as far as accolades go, Yatra earn whatever they get and Death Ritual stands among 2019’s most landmark debuts. They’ve already outdone it, but it’s a stunner just the same.

23. Ecstatic Vision, For the Masses

ecstatic vision for the masses

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Sept. 17.

Ecstatic Vision frontman Doug Sabolik has cast himself in the mold of Arthur Brown or Dave Wyndorf or probably seven or eight dudes who were in Hawkwind at some point as a manic-but-stoned space rock preacher with as he and his band behind him plunge headfirst-or-feetfirst-it-doesn’t-matter-because-your-body-is-an-illusion-man into the molten multicolor void. For the Masses. The ‘masses,’ such as they are, should be so lucky, but the double-meaning is the real tell for where the Philly unit are coming from. Their shows are the masses — gatherings of spirit and song to give praise to the willful expansion of mind. If you can’t get behind that, you might as well go get a job or something. This ain’t no lightweight party for squares and dabblers. This is a high-potency happening for werewolves on motorcycles and freaks of all stripes. Get weird stay weird. Ecstatic Vision are one mostly-mellow 15-minute “Spine of God”-style psych-epic away from perfection.

22. Beastwars, IV

beastwars iv

Released by Destroy Records. Reviewed June 27.

But for the circumstances that brought it about — i.e. Beastwars vocalist Matt Hyde’s cancer — the unexpected fourth installment in the Beastwars trilogy was nothing if not welcome. An grand-feeling sense of largesse was nothing new to the New Zealand four-piece, but after breaking up and getting back together to make the album, the grim sincerity with which they presented this exploration of mortality and betrayal by one’s own body was no less palpable than the undulating riffs that threatened, as ever, to consume all in their path. I don’t know their future plans in terms of continuing to write and/or record, but there are reports of touring beyond Aus/NZ for 2020, so one way or another, stay tuned for more from them. Whether or not they do anything else, IV was a triumph in spirit and execution.

21. Eternal Black, Slow Burn Suicide

eternal black slow burn suicide

Self-released. Reviewed June 7.

With the nine songs of Slow Burn Suicide, Brooklyn’s Eternal Black began to unveil the true depth of their project. Their 2017 debut, Bleed the Days (review here), was well received, and rightly so, but operated more in a straight-ahead doom sphere. The second outing, by contrast, delved into a particular vision of the style informed by the crunch of peak-era New York noise and crossover hardcore, and it succeeded not just because it did this, but because it did so around a conjuration of memorable riffs and tracks building on accomplishments carried over from its predecessor. Is this an awaited arrival of next-generation ‘New York doom’? Will theirs be a blueprint others will follow? It’s impossible to know now, and their next album will be telling either way, but the course they’ve set is significant.

20. Candlemass, The Door to Doom

candlemass the door to doom

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Feb. 22.

It may have been the Tony Iommi guest appearance that got Swedish doom legends Candlemass — the world’s earliest and foremost purveyors of doom both classic and epic — their recent Grammy nomination, but it was the long-overdue reunion with original vocalist Johan Längquist that made the album as a whole as powerful as it was. Pairing Längquist’s theatrical and vital approach with founding bassist Leif Edling’s second-to-none doomcraft, The Door to Doom was a catapult not to the bygone days of the band’s landmark debut, 1986’s Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, but an inspired look at not just what might’ve been had Längquist remained with the band longer, but what might still be if he does this time around. Candlemass have been through their share of singers, but as fresh as The Door to Doom sounded, it’s hard not to hope for something more than a one-off with he who got there first. The songs, the spirit, the sheer heart poured into Candlemass’ doom some 35 years past the band’s start only emphasizes how special they have always been.

19. Nebula, Holy Shit

nebula holy shit

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed June 13.

Anyone who might’ve predicted Nebula getting into the studio and making a new album was either in the room when it happened or talking out their ass. And speaking of, was Nebula’s Holy Shit named for the shock one might’ve felt at its existence, or the surprise at how good it actually sounded when you put it on? I don’t know. I probably won’t ever know. It was the best title I saw all year, but more than that, it was a Nebula record, fueled by the classic riffing and unmitigated desert punk soul of founding/guitarist Eddie Glass, whose absence from the heavy underground for the last decade left a void only too many others whiffed on filling. Holy Shit showed just how singular a player Glass was and is, and how much character there is in his style, particularly in solos, but also in rhythmic changes, and so on. I won’t discount the work of bassist Tom Davies and drummer Mike Amster in making Nebula what they are in this incarnation — they’re essential, obviously — but there’s simply no denying that presence at the band’s core.

18. Valley of the Sun, Old Gods

valley of the sun old gods

Released by Fuzzorama Records. Reviewed May 21.

This was a heavy rock record that had everything. Everything. It had songs, style, ups, down, purples, greens, ins, outs, all kinds of whathaveyou. Riffs forever. Valley of the Sun should keep their eyes on Sasquatch, because if they want it, that path is theirs. I know the Cincinnati outfit have had trouble keeping lineups together, but if they can hold onto one, and maybe after their next record start touring more, domestically and abroad — not at all a minor ask, I know — then people will catch on. Old Gods is evidence of the fact that they genuinely have something to offer, and frankly, it’s not at all the first such effective case they’ve made in their career. But they’ve never put anything out that wasn’t a step forward, and yet they’ve never lost sight of the roots of their initial inspiration. And they’ve never sacrificed the song for the riff, which so many do. They’ve only ever gotten better. Let Old Gods be a step toward them getting attention they’ve long since deserved.

17. Kadavar, For the Dead Travel Fast

Kadavar For the Dead Travel Fast

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Oct. 28.

In style and production, For the Dead Travel Fast is the most vintage-sounding offering Berlin trio Kadavar have made in over a half decade, yet neither is it looking backward wistfully toward 2013’s Abra Kadavar (review here) or giving up the modern clarity of 2017’s Rough Times (review here) or 2015’s Berlin (review here). Instead, it strikes a balance with a more sinister edge à la Uncle Acid in songs like “Children of the Night” and “Demons in My Mind” — both singles — and makes a home for itself between proto-metal and garage doom. Whatever genre tag you want to give it — and that might vary from track to track, mind you — it’s unmistakably Kadavar, with the signature hooks and memorable craftsmanship that have made them one of the decade’s most pivotal heavy bands. The real challenge at this point in their career is not to take for granted that Kadavar will produce material of such quality, because, frankly, that’s all they’ve ever done.

16. Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Yn Ol I Annwn

mammoth weed wizard bastard yn ol i annwn

Released by New Heavy Sounds. Reviewed Feb. 7.

Welsh sci-fi cosmic doomers Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard billed Yn Ol I Annwn as the final installment of a trilogy that includes their two prior LPs, 2015’s Noeth Ac Anoeth (review here) and 2016’s Y Proffwyd Dwyll (review here), and while that may be true thematically, there’s also no question the third is a marked step forward from anything they’ve done before. They’re one foot out of the airlock and into space as their synth-laden longform riffing and melodies take them to places they’ve not yet gone, explorations of sight as much as sound, aural translation of colors humans aren’t gifted to see. Their songs across the 65-minute span unfold with the grace of a gravity spiral, pulling the listener deeper into the proceedings with each new phase that emerges until, what, obliteration? Stellar genesis? I’m not sure. They’ve reportedly got one more record to make and then they’re done. If that’s true, they’ll be missed then they’re gone.

15. Magic Circle, Departed Souls

magic circle departed souls

Released by 20 Buck Spin. Reviewed April 3.

They’ve found their way to die, and it’s upon an altar of classic metal and doom. And honestly, they make a pretty good case for it. Departed Souls is the third full-length from the Boston unit and their most stylistically realized work yet, with vocalist Brendan Radigan giving a standout performance alongside the guitars of Chris Corry and Renato Montenegro, the bass of Justin DeTore and Michael “Q” Quartulli’s drums, as the entire band taps into vibes from mid-’70s Black Sabbath and brings them to bear with an energy that is unlike anything in Magic Circle’s history. 2015’s Journey Blind (review here) brought in NWOBHM flash in the guitar work, sure enough, but Departed Souls doesn’t so much carry the torch of classic metal as it does use it to burn down the whole village and rebuild it in the five-piece’s image. From their doomed beginnings on their 2013 self-titled debut (review here) to now, they’re an act who’ve genuinely earned cult status. If you can find a backpatch, buy it.

14. Spaceslug, Reign of the Orion

Spaceslug Reign of the Orion cover

Released by BSFD Records. Reviewed Nov. 22.

Controversy! Drama! Well, probably not, but at very least some respectful disagreement on my part. You see, Poland’s Spaceslug have stated publicly that their latest release, the late-2019 surprise Reign of the Orion is an EP. Their albums regularly top 50 minutes, and at 36 minutes, I guess relative to that, you can see where they’re coming from. However, with the flow of these five songs and the ease with which they carry the listener from front-to-back through the listening experience, I’m sticking to my guns and calling Reign of the Orion an album. Sorry guys. True, it’s shorter than the other full-lengths, but it’s got everything you could ask an album to have in terms of how tracks like “Spacerunner” and the shouty “Half-Moon Burns” play into each other, and the fluidity of the outing on the whole is inarguable. An LP by any other name? Whatever you or they want to call it, there’s no question in my mind Reign of the Orion is one of 2019’s best records. If they insist on it being an EP, then it’s the best one of the year, but I still say it belongs in another category altogether, so here it is.

13. Green Lung, Woodland Rites

green lung woodland rites

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed Jan. 28.

As hyper-crowded as London is with bands at this moment in history, there continue to be acts who sneak through with an individualized and intriguing perspective on doom and heavy rock, and Green Lung are a perfect example, learning from fellow Brits like Alunah and Elephant Tree and incorporating folk and forest goth vibes to their debut album, Woodland Rites. Laced with organ and stuck-in-the-head choruses like “Let the Devil In” and the creeper “Templar Dawn,” the record also pushed into drifting verses on “Into the Wild,” setting up future experimentation with atmospheric variety and genre manipulation. If part of any first album’s appeal is the potential it represents, Green Lung’s offers plenty, but wherever their subsequent course may or may not take them, their accomplishments here shouldn’t be overlooked. Woodland Rites is nothing less than the heavy rock debut album of the year, and though they emerge from a packed field, the work they do to stand themselves out already carries their mark and an apparent will toward progression. They’re on their way.

12. Lo-Pan, Subtle

lo-pan subtle

Released by Aqualamb Records. Reviewed May 9.

My head immediately goes to the hooks of “Ten Days” and “Ascension Day” and “Savage Heart,” but the up-down surges of guitar in “Old News/New Fire” and the midtempo soulfulness in “A Thousand Miles” are no less resonant when it comes to the actual listening experience of the fifth Lo-Pan LP. Subtle, when it came to living up to its name, as much wasn’t as it was. Flourishes of harmony in the vocals of Jeff Martin, the pops in Jesse Bartz’s snare punctuating and propelling in kind, turns in Scott Thompson’s bass work twisting around the guitar of Chris Thompson, a relative newcomer to the fold making his debut with the band and showing no apparent trouble fitting in. I don’t imagine Lo-Pan is an easy band to join, especially at this point. They thrive on personality clash and, through years of touring, have a chemistry they’ve built between them that comes through even on their recordings. Nonetheless, Subtle is their clearest, sharpest-edged work yet, and as tight as their songwriting has become, they still groove and groove mightily. They are a treasure of American heavy rock and roll. Believe it.

11. Roadsaw, Tinnitus the Night

roadsaw tinnitus the night

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed June 12.

While members of Roadsaw have spent the intervening years in projects like Kind, White Dynomite, Sasquatch and Murcielago, the Boston heavy rock kingpins have indeed been missed, and Tinnitus the Night works quickly to show why. It’s been well over 20 years since their first LP — hell, it’s been eight since they put out their 2011 self-titled (review here) — but their craft is at its own level, and Tinnitus the Night comes barreling through with “Shake” and “Along for the Ride” and “Final Phase” before opening up to broader fare on side B with “Find What You Need,” “Under the Devil’s Thumb” and “Midazolam” ahead of the subdued finale “Silence,” and the result is nothing less than a classic heavy rock LP structure as befitting what is itself a classic heavy rock LP. What’s Roadsaw’s future? I don’t know. It took them the better part of a decade to make this one happen, so take from that what you will, but to me, all it says is there’s even more reason to be grateful they got it done and out. To say the songs deserve that is putting it mildly.

10. Worshipper, Light in the Wire

worshipper light in the wire

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed April 24.

I’m not doing a ‘song of the year’ post, but if I was, Worshipper’s “Coming Through” might be it. The opening track from the Boston four-piece’s second album, Light in the Wire, marries classic pop drama in its melody with careening progressive riffing, and sets the tone for a record that is of both future and past, twistingly complex and yet immediately accessible, immersive as an entirety and still comprised of standout moments. These aren’t contradictions in Worshipper’s skillful hands, but the stuff of what’s already becoming their own take on rock. Tied together through melody, skillful rhythmic intricacy and solid structural foundations, “Light in the Wires,” “Visions from Beyond,” “Wither on the Vine” and others throughout post their own triumphs en route to enhancing the album as a whole, while “Nobody Else” and closer “Arise” underscore the emotive basis from which the perspective of the whole LP emanates. There are a lot of “next-gen” heavy rock bands out there weaving prog elements and traditional riffing together to some degree or other. Few, if any, can write a song like Worshipper can. I mean it. This band is something special.

9. Solace, The Brink

solace the brink

Released by Blues Funeral Recordings. Reviewed Nov. 21.

What is there to say about Solace? A band who, nine years after revealing the expectation-slaughtering masterpiece A.D. (review here), return with three-fifths of a swapped-out lineup and simply do it again? This band is explosive. Really. Like, they might explode at any minute. It’s a miracle The Brink ever happened. I’ll be honest, I had my doubts. But Solace are a force like nothing else I’ve ever encountered in music. They take metallic aggression, hardcore’s sense of self-righteousness and heavy rock’s groove, set it all to a doomly swing and they play it in such a way as to leave you utterly dumbfounded by what you just experienced. Here’s a challenge though, for the band personally. From me to them. Do another one. Go ahead. Put out another album. You don’t even have to do it in 2020. Do it 2021. Write the songs and give me a no-holds-barred 45-minute LP of the tightest, meanest shit you’ve ever written. Because massive as the accomplishments are on The Brink, it’s the potential to build from them that resonates most here. So do it, guys. Step up and take advantage of the moment. Call me greedy if you want, I don’t care. Give me another Solace record. I dare you.

8. Brume, Rabbits

brume rabbits

Released by Doom Stew Records & DHU Records. Reviewed Nov. 6.

Simply a case of a band wildly outdoing themselves. Easy story, yeah? In some ways, maybe, but the truth of what Brume achieve on Rabbits. Their second long-player behind 2017’s Rooster (review here), the five-track offering sees the San Francisco three-piece of vocalist/bassist Susie McMullan, guitarist/vocalist Jamie McCathie and drummer Jordan Perkins-Lewis working with producer Billy Anderson to bring theatricality and emotionalism together in a flowing post-heavy context that’s neither derivative nor working at cross purposes. Instead, it is a gorgeous and blooming undertaking across its 43-minute span, working in its own light/dark spectrum and bringing not just the sense of trapped fragility evoked by the cover art, but a corresponding sureness of intent to its ascendant heavy surges. Like Rooster before it, it is loaded with potential, but in “Scurry” and “Lament” and “Despondence” and “Blue Jay and “Autocrat’s Fool,” there’s a patience and command that absolutely does not waver. So yes, a band outdoing themselves. But so much more too.

7. Mars Red Sky, The Task Eternal

mars red sky the task eternal

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed Sept. 20.

This may forever be known as the Mars Red Sky album they wrote in a cave, but the Bordeaux three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras and bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Matieu “Matgaz” Gazeau nonetheless plunged forward along the progressive course they charted back on 2014’s sophomore outing, Stranded in Arcadia (review here), and continued to manifest in 2016’s Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul) (review here). Their blend of melody and tonal heft has become a hallmark of their work to this stage in their career, but The Task Eternal continues to add a sense of breadth to the proceedings, giving their sound a full three-dimensional pull that feels tailor-made for headphones and is consuming in its entirety. With experiments in structure like the pairing of “Recast” and “Reacts,” and the rushing sweep of melody in “Hollow King,” Mars Red Sky’s latest is, as ever, their finest. Outdoing themselves would seem to be the task from which the record derives its title. Fine. Just keep going. Please.

6. Kings Destroy, Fantasma Nera

Kings Destroy Fantasma Nera

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 15.

Every time I think I understand where Kings Destroy want to go as a band, they pull the rug out. That’s what Fantasma Nera is. After their 2015 self-titled (review here) third LP seemed to declare them once and for all in a space between doom and noise rooted in their respective hardcore pasts, the Brooklynite five-piece hooked up with producer David Bottrill (Tool, etc.) and composed a rock album. A real live rock album! With progressive undertones in the guitar work and the most accomplished melodicism of their career, Kings Destroy put everything they had into making Fantasma Nera and one need look no further than the title-track to hear the result of that monumental effort. It is the realization of a band challenging themselves to go so far out of their comfort zone as to be only recognizable in the most rudimentary of ways, and to say it as plainly as I can, “Dead Before” on its own is enough of an accomplishment — and enough of a full-length, at all of 4:25 — to make this list on its own, whatever surrounds it. Song of the year. I’ll say every time I’m a Kings Destroy fan, but I’ve never been gladder to say it than I am in talking about Fantasma Nera.

5. Colour Haze, We Are

colour haze we are

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed Dec. 3.

If you’re saying to yourself, “Ah come on, Colour Haze are always on the list when they put out records,” I have two answers. One, you’re right, and two, if you have a problem with that, blow it out your ass. The Munich forefathers of the European heavy psychedelic underground — yup — marked their 25th anniversary this year, and did so not just by putting out an album, but by putting out We Are, which introduces a full-fledged fourth member to what’s been a three-piece since 1998. Granted, it’s not the first time guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek, bassist Philipp Rasthofer and drummer Manfred Merwald have worked with organist/keyboardist/synthesist Jan Faszbender, but never has the presence of keys been so integral to their work, and never has the dynamic between players shifted in the way it does on tracks like “The Real” and “Life” and “I’m With You,” with keys fleshing out melodies and enriching the bass and guitar. Add to that the Spanish-style guitar on centerpiece “Material Drive” or the operatic flash in the penultimate “Be With Me,” and it’s one more example of one of the best bands on earth refusing to rest on their laurels. Which, as it happens, is why they’re one of the best bands on earth. So hell yes, they’re on all my lists. Fact is my lists are lucky to have them.

4. Blackwater Holylight, Veils of Winter

blackwater holylight veils of winter

Released by RidingEasy Records. Reviewed Sept. 26.

Like nothing else I heard in 2019, Veils of Winter had repeat listenability. It was the album that, most often, when I was choosing something I actually wanted to hear, I went back to time and again. Its dark, moody psychedelic and heavy vibe stands alone among the year’s releases, and is a stylistic milestone that one only hopes other artists will pick up on. Toying with pop melodies on tracks like “Death Realms” and bringing hypnosis and clarity in kind to the subtly traditionalist winding riff of “Moonlit” — would it have been out of place on the first Witchcraft LP? — the Portland, Oregon, five-piece worked on a speedy turnaround and squashed even the significant expectations I had after their self-titled debut (review here) last year. They’ve begun to tour, so I don’t know if another full-length is in the works for 2020, but their craft is enviable in its flow and their songs are shimmering in tone and cohesion alike. Given how bold a step forward Veils of Winter is, I hear nothing in their material to this point to make me think their momentum won’t continue to carry them forward. But, you know, if not, I’d also take about six or seven records just like this one. That’d be fine too. Whatever they want, really.

3. Slomatics, Canyons

Slomatics Canyons

Released by Black Bow Records. Reviewed May 15.

Belfast, Northern Ireland, three-piece Slomatics — guitarists David Marjury and Chris Couzens and drummer/vocalist/synthesist Marty Harvey — finished a narrative trilogy with 2016’s Future Echo Returns (review here), and though the storyline was always vague throughout that and the preceding two offerings, the question of how they would proceed nonetheless hung over Canyons prior to its release. The answer is in the songs themselves. From the sci-fi majesty of lumbering, rolling groove in opener and longest track “Gears of Despair” — oh, they grind — through the mega-stomp of “Telemachus, My Son” and the righteously synth-laden wash that consumes “Mind Fortresses on Theia,” Slomatics bring together concept and execution with a readiness that highlights the fact of their 15th anniversary. They are mature in their approach, yes, but the fact is their approach is so much their own and so given to their particular mode of progression that it almost can’t help but feel fresh. How could something so utterly crushing also feel rejuvenating? As they plod through finale “Organic Caverns II” ending with more waves of synth and tectonic guitar — no bass, remember — they are as restorative as they are punishing, and they stand astride that duality with neither mercy nor pretense. Canyons, whether it’s setting up a new story, building from the old, or doing something completely different, stands on its own.

2. Year of the Cobra, Ash and Dust

year of the cobra ash and dust

Released by Prophecy Productions. Reviewed Oct. 24.

My anticipation for and expectations of Year of the Cobra’s second long-player were high most especially after 2017’s Burn Your Dead EP (review here), which along with the dead, set alight the notion that the Seattle duo of bassist/vocalist Amy Tung Barrysmith and drummer Jon Barrysmith were simply a heavy/doom band. With elements of post-punk, psych wash, minimalist stretches and propulsive gallop, Ash and Dust cast itself out over an aesthetic range that set a new standard not just for Year of the Cobra, but for anyone who’d dare match them at their own game — and that list will grow with time, absolutely. As their first outing through Prophecy Productions, Ash and Dust threw itself into the very melting pot of its own ambition and emerged with songs that didn’t just bring together disparate ideas, but made them flourish and engage and challenge the listener while still proving consistent in tone and underlying groove. For a two-person, two-instrument outfit (not counting voice, though I should), they proved more malleable than many with more than twice the number of hands on deck, and pushed the notion of what heavy rock is and does forward without stopping to look back or ask for permission. They just did it, and maybe Ash and Dust is the aftermath of all that burning.

2019 Album of the Year

1. Monolord, No Comfort

monolord no comfort

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed Sept. 12.

Look back over the course of this list, and you will find no shortage of bands and releases that surpassed the group in question’s past work. With Gothenburg, Sweden’s Monolord, it wasn’t just about No Comfort — their debut on Relapse, fourth full-length overall — being better than 2017’s Rust (review here), because that was pretty jolly gosh darn enjoyable, but about the band reaching a moment of transcendence to which Rust and all their prior work across 2015’s Vænir (review here) and 2014’s Empress Rising has been leading. With the six tracks of No Comfort, guitarist/vocalist Thomas Jäger, bassist Mika Häkki and drummer Esben Willems not only overcome the influences that launched them — taking full ownership of their sound and defending that claim with the sheer quality of their songwriting — and they not only become as identifiable as those influences themselves, but they overcome themselves. No Comfort means no comfort. Monolord take the simplicity that once fueled their riffing, the willful primitivism of their earliest work, and with songs like “Larvae” and “The Bastard Son” and the closing title-track use it as the foundation it was apparently always intended to be. Monolord have toured plenty and certainly their studio output has shown an increasing complexity from one LP to the next, so progression isn’t unexpected, but the manner in which Monolord have executed that progression has been. Even on “The Last Leaf,” which is arguably the most straightforward fare on the album, one hears it as them rather than the manifestation of the acts that inspired them. The same holds for “Skywards” later on, and for the immersion that takes hold as the mournful “Alone Together” plays into “No Comfort” itself. Monolord take their place among the best bands on the planet, and deliver an Album of the Year for 2019 that, like the absolute best, will have an impact lasting much longer than any period of 12 months might convey.

The Top 50 Albums of 2019: Honorable Mention

You didn’t think we’d stop at 50, did you? Come on. You know me better than that. The fact is that the list itself, humongous as it is, is just the start of the tip of an iceberg attached to a glacier that’s somewhere on an entire planet constructed of ice.

Honorable mentions, you say? Yeah, a few. Here they are in no order whatsoever:

Lord Vicar, Goatess, The Lord Weird Slough Feg, Zone Six, Lykantropi, Earth, White Manna, Atala, Tia Carrera, Merlin, WEEED, Híbrido, Cities of Mars, Stone Machine Electric, Bretus, Blackwolfgoat, The Black Wizards, Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, Alunah, V, Pale Grey Lore, Leeds Point, Sons of Alpha Centauri, Spidergawd, Bus, Death Hawks, BBF, Vessel of Light, Crypt Trip, The Pilgrim, Uffe Lorenzen, Brant Bjork, Doomstress, Black Lung, Kandodo3, Monkey3, Bask, Horseburner, Zed, Bright Curse, Spillage, Sigils, Papir, Dune Sea, Destroyer of Light, Mastiff, Warp, Centrum, Varego, Lord Dying, Volcano, Saint Karloff, Firebreather, High Reeper, Bible of the Devil, Obsidian Sea, Torche, Motorpsycho, Sunn O))), Deadbird, Russian Circles, El Supremo, Pyramidal, Holy Serpent, Elizabeth Colour Wheel, Demon Head, Red Beard Wall, Onhou, Kamchatka, Iguana, Arrowhead, The Whims of the Great Magnet, Serial Hawk, Scissorfight, Monte Luna, Lingua Ignota, Valborg, Sageness, Ruff Majik, The Giraffes, High Fighter, Comacozer, Burning Gloom, Swan Valley Heights, Mark Deutrom, Cable, AVER, Superlynx, The Munsens, No Man’s Valley, Old Mexico, Skraeckoedlan, Godsleep, Øresund Space Collective Meets Black Moon Circle.

Seems cruel to leave it to you to sort through those, but I’m tempted to do just that. You might notice some bigger names there in bands like Earth, Russian Circles, Torche and Sunn O))). Nothing against those bands, but I think we’re seeing a moment where a different group of artists are taking point in terms of innovating heavy styles across an entire swath of microgenres. Either way it’s not a slight that something is here instead of above. And of course, there are plenty of up and coming groups here as well, with Ruff Majik, Elizabeth Colour Wheel — who I’m sure would be a top 30 if I knew the record better than I do — Pale Grey Lore, Monte Luna, Papir, Destroyer of Light, The Munsens, No Man’s Valley, Skraeckoedlan, and so on, but hell’s bells, there’s already a list of 50 and I’m only one man. How high is the list supposed to go and still be a list?

Bottom line: Music is as endless as space and has as much beauty in it for those willing to hear. Do more digging.

The Top 20 Debut Albums of 2019

green lung woodland rites

1. Green Lung, Woodland Rites
2. Yatra, Death Ritual
3. Howling Giant, The Space Between Worlds
4. Thunderbird Divine, Magnasonic
5. SÂVER, They Came with Sunlight
6. Lightning Born, Lightning Born
7. Elizabeth Colour Wheel, Nocebo
8. The Pilgrim, Walking into the Forest
9. Sigils, You Build the Altar You Lit the Leaves
10. E-L-R, Maenad
11. Hey Zeus, X
12. Bellrope, You Must Relax
13. Asthma Castle, Mount Crushmore
14. Thronehammer, Usurper of Oaken Throne
15. Inner Altar, Vol. III
16. Infinity Forms of Yellow Remember, Infinity Forms of Yellow Remember
17. Hippie Death Cult, 111
18. Faerie Ring, The Clearing
19. Gone Cosmic, Sideways in Time
20. Haze Mage, Chronicles

Honorable Mention: Warp, Pelegrin, Lucy in Blue, Volcano, The Sabbathian, Red Eye Tales, Dune Sea, Dury Dava, Pharlee, Giant Dwarf, Ghost:Hello, Surya, Workshed, Children of the Sün, Burning Gloom, Temple of the Fuzz Witch.

Notes: As ever, I consider a band’s debut album something unique and separate from everything else they’ll ever do, and so worthy of highlighting in its own category. It’s a different standard in my mind, one that takes into account what a group might accomplish going forward as well as what they do on the record itself. Plus, putting out an album is hard. Getting two, three, four, five or more people to agree on anything is an accomplishment. Making a cohesive album? Come on. So yes. We see some crossover from the main list above, but I want to draw attention to Howling Giant, Thunderbird Divine and SÂVER particularly here. There’s a swath of genres represented and I feel like a couple of these releases — Sigils, Bellrope, Thronehammer, Inner Altar, Faerie Ring, Infinity Forms of Yellow Remember — didn’t get their due attention. It’s a busy year, I get it. But if you’re skimming through looking for stuff to check out, DON’T IGNORE THIS LIST. Aside from whatever line about the best of tomorrow you want to trot out, there’s important work being done by these acts today. As somebody who’s constantly behind the times, I urge you not to

The Top 20 Short Releases of 2019

geezer spiral fires

1. Geezer, Spiral Fires
2. Ufomammut, XX
3. All Them Witches, 1×1
4. Mount Saturn, Mount Saturn
5. Dopelord, Weedpecker, Major Kong & Spaceslug, 4-Way Split
6. Horehound, Weight
7. Molasses, Mourning Haze
8. Saint Karloff & Devil’s Witches, Split
9. Here Lies Man, No Ground to Walk Upon
10. The Golden Grass, 100 Arrows
11. Mount Atlas, Mistress
12. Midas, Solid Gold Heavy Metal
13. Glory in the Shadows, Glory in the Shadows
14. Hot Breath, Hot Breath
15. Crystal Spiders, Demo
16. Red Wizard, Ogami
17. Thermic Boogie, Fracture
18. Pinto Graham, Dos
19. High Priest, Sanctum
20. Set Fire, Traya
21. Seedium, Awake

Honorable Mention: Love Gang & Smokey Mirror Split, Forebode, Land Mammal, Very Paranoia, Plague of Carcosa, Daal Dazed, Komodor, Mourn the Light & Oxblood Forge Split, High on Fire, Mount Soma.

Notes: This is probably the least complete of the lists, because it’s the hardest category for me to keep up with. EPs, singles, demos, splits and basically anything else that isn’t an album, all lumped together. Still, I stand by the picks here, and I don’t think anyone who takes on any of them will regret doing so, whether it’s All Them Witches’ surprisingly weighted first single as a trio, Mount Saturn’s debut release, or Geezer’s cosmic jams. Felt a little like cheating putting Ufomammut on there, since technically XX wasn’t new material so much as reworked stuff captured live, but if you want to call me out on it, my own listening habits also factor in, and I’ve spent plenty of time with those reimagined tracks. But anyway, I’m sure there’s a ton of stuff that hasn’t been included here, so please feel free to let me know in the comments and I’ll work accordingly.

Postwax

I haven’t felt comfortable with the idea of writing about it editorially, since I’ve been involved in discussions about it since before it came together and since I did the liner notes for each of the six releases (plus one to come), but I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the incredible work done on the Postwax vinyl subscription series by Blues Funeral Recordings. Label head Jadd Shickler and design specialist Peder Bergstrand (also of Lowrider) put together six offerings that came out in the span of this year and when you hold the LPs in your hand, you can feel the passion that went into making them, from the artists in question to those curating the series in the first place. I hear tell there’s going to be a Postwax Year Two, and I don’t know if I’ll be involved or not, but I’m proud of my miniscule part in the work that went into making these and wanted to bring them to your particular attention. They are something special for those who got to partake:

  • Elder, The Gold and Silver Sessions
  • Daxma, Ruins Upon Ruins
  • Besvärjelsen, Frost
  • Big Scenic Nowhere, Dying on the Mountain
  • Domkraft, Slow Fidelity
  • Lowrider, Refractions

And while we’re talking about projects I was proud to be involved with, I also did liner notes for Acrimony’s The Chronicles of Wode box set from Burning World Records and was honored to do so. Thanks to any and everyone in question for having me involved and dealing with me blowing past deadlines one after the next. It is humbling.

Looking Ahead to 2020

A few names and nothing more about what definitely is and/or might be in the works for next year. Woefully incomplete, so feel free to add to it:

1000mods, Wolves in the Throne Room, Deathwhite, Mondo Drag, Drug Cult, Ocean Chief, Soldati, Sergio Ch., Mitochondrial Sun, Geezer, Mirror Queen, Mondo Generator, The Otolith, Asteroid, Yatra, Vestal Claret, Farer, Ryte, Shadow Witch, Six Organs of Admittance, Naxatras, Wolftooth, Snail, Elder, Pale Divine, Grey Skies Fallen, Ruby the Hatchet, Yuri Gagarin, Sasquatch, Godthrymm, Wo Fat, Red Mesa, CB3, Onsegen Ensemble, Insect Ark, Acid Mammoth, Ritual King, Ulls, Om.

Thank You

Thank you for reading, and please, if you have a thought or something you want to share in the comments, please remember to be kind to each other. We are all human beings behind our phones and keyboards, and while we’ll disagree, often in some ways and some cases, a basic level of respect is always appreciated. At least by me.

I am not so deluded as to think anyone might still be reading, but I want it on record how much I appreciate you being a part of this site and a part of my experience in making it. I’ve been ruminating all year since marking the 10th anniversary back in January about how much The Obelisk has become a part of who I am, and it’s utterly essential to my every day. The way I continue to think about it — and myself, as it happens — is a work in progress, and that would not be possible without you. One more time. Thank you. Always. Always thank you. Thank you.

More to come.

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Stahv Premiere “Voyage of the Dawndraper”; The Sundowner EP out Feb. 21

Posted in audiObelisk on December 9th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

stahv

Today, Seattle one-man outfit Stahv announce the Feb. 21 release of a new EP, The Sundowner, streaming where stuff streams and on limited edition tape through Solid 7 Records. Out as the follow-up to the project’s early-2018 self-titled debut (review here), it’s a quick instrumentalist run through a variety of anti-genre influences, maintaining a heft of atmosphere while exploring further reaches of echoing guitar in darkened progressive form. One might not know that from the noise-rock-origins-giveaway opener “Voyage of the Dawndraper,” which takes its skronk and you-go-here-while-you-go-here rhythm-making with jazzy seriousness and virtuosity, but from there, the prior single “All Seeing I” takes seven of the total 22 minutes of the offering and introduces a more willfully fluid course of post-heavy, upon which “Evhgot” builds with an added sense of churn and the finale title-track resolves in interweaving layers of guitar and drone, drums or drum sounds sitting out the final four and a half minutes to leave room for strumming breadth and undulating waves of keys or synth or effects or other noise.

It’s a course designed to be linear, I think. At lest that’s how it seems on listening. The leadoff is the outlier, which is a particularly progressive and — dare I say it? — fun move on the part of Stahv and Solomon Arye Rosenschein, who is the lone figure at the stahv the sundownerhelm of the band. It’s a purposeful act of disorientation. Meant to throw the listener off. Maybe that would happen wherever “Voyage of the Dawndraper” went, but it’s pretty clear that “All Seeing I,” “Evhgot” and “The Sundowner” all run together as a unified work, and before you get there, you have this bumpy two-and-a-half-minute ride through brash noise-jazz and, yeah, I’m sorry, but that’s just a blast. From the surf guitars to the freakout organ and the snare shuffle and the theremin-esque fuzz lead, it’s a rush and a head-spinner that by the time you’re two minutes into “All Seeing I” seems to have been a dream only to be led away by the melancholy YawningMan-of-the-Pacific-Northwest spirit of what follows, but that contrast, the sheer brazen nature of the incongruity, makes the whole release as far as I’m concerned.

That’s not to take away from the scope of what follows, however. Honestly, if Stahv put out The Sundowner without “Voyage of the Dawndraper,” I’d probably praise it anyway for its fluidity and the open-feeling nature of its course, the patience of its execution and the sense of atmosphere it builds. The fact that all of that happens after a two-minute blastoff, however, only adds an element of joy and celebration to the proceedings, even if those proceedings aren’t especially celebratory themselves. It is a surge of artistic honesty and playfulness that’s rare in underground music or otherwise, and as I find doing-whatever-he/she/they-want to be one of the most respectable drives a creative person or project can follow, it’s hard not to admire the entirety of The Sundowner all the more for the fact that it lets itself have a bit of a good time before getting down to business.

Again, the EP’s not out for another three months, so maybe sit tight for a bit until they get there, but between the premiere of “Voyage of the Dawndraper” below and the prior stream of “All Seeing I” (also at the bottom of the post), maybe you can get some idea of what’s going on with the thing. Listen to them back-to-back and you’ll get some sense of what I’m talking about.

However you go, enjoy:

STAHV – The Sundowner

On February 21st, STAHV will release The Sundowner EP, a 22-minute head trip dusted with traces of Meddle-era Floyd, Oxbow-style polyrhythms, bleak post-metal atmospherics, and auditory hallucinations a la Can. The Sundowner is the followup to STAHV’s self-titled 2017 debut.

A post-metal solo project by multi-instrumentalist Ari Rosenschein, STAHV expands its palette on The Sundowner to incorporate slide guitar, synth textures, even a smattering of vocals–new for the primarily instrumental act. The EP will appear on all streaming platforms with a limited-edition cassette version arriving via Solid 7 Records (Sons of Alpha Centauri, Yawning Man, Gary Lee Conner of the Screaming Trees).

The Sundowner’s opening salvo, “The Voyage of the Dawndraper,” pushes off the dock with odd-metered riffs and unhinged vocals. Included on The Sundowner, last year’s single “All-Seeing I” is a jumping-off point for the rest of the EP which takes STAHV into darker dimensions. At seven and a half minutes, the penultimate “Evhgot” incorporates both contemplative passages and frenetic soloing.

Live, STAHV has supported Scott Kelly of Neurosis, Sixes, Yamantaka//Sonic Titan, Mirrors for Psychic Warfare, Mondo Generator, Yawning Man, Indian, Usnea, and Conan. The band has also appeared on curated festivals like Northwest Terror Fest, Rat City Recon, and Freakout Fest.

Music: Solomon Arye Rosenschein
Image: Detail of Sundowner Moth by Bernard Dupont
Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic

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Snail Recording Pink Floyd Cover “Fearless”; New LP in the Works

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 3rd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

snail in studio

As 2019 starts to wind down, it’s time to start looking ahead at some of what next year will offer, and I can pretty much tell you right now that if a new Snail full-length actually materializes, there’s just about no damn way I’m not going to spend a lot of time telling you to listen to it. Now then, the three-piece based in Los Angeles and Seattle aren’t quite recording the LP yet — that starts next month. But they’re currently tracking a take on Pink Floyd‘s “Fearless” as well as a new song called “Nothing Left for You” that will feature alongside it on a precursor single. Digital release seems to be how it’s going to happen, given the timing, but of course they’re open to a 7″, because why wouldn’t they be, should someone be up for releasing. Can’t imagine there wouldn’t be a taker there.

So we’re not to titles or release dates for the album yet. Hold your horses and I’ll do the best to do the same, but realizing it will have been five years since 2015’s Feral (review here) was released by the time the new one arrives, well, I think you’re almost justified in letting the anticipation run wild. It’s officially “a while in the making” as far as I’m concerned.

Bassist/vocalist/recording engineer Matt Lynch — pictured above with drummer/vocalist Marty Dodson this past weekend, while vocalist/guitarist Mark Johnson will track his parts in the Pacific Northwest — was kind enough to give an update on the proceedings:

We are recording Pink Floyd’s Fearless and a song I wrote that has lyrics partially inspired by Fearless [“Nothing Left for You”]. We have been wanting to cover Fearless for over 20 years now and feel the time is finally right. This will be released as an advanced digital single for the coming LP. Unless of course someone wants to put it out on a 7”, which would rule.

Currently no working title for the LP. We want to release this advance single for the new year, so early January. We are recording the rest of the basic tracks for the LP the second week of January. The material’s direction is similar to Feral in that it is varied with a wide range of sound and influences. There is melodic psych and heavy doom. Straight up Camaro stoner rock to galloping metal.

These two [tracks] Mark will do his parts from home in Seattle. The rest of the LP we will all do together at [Mysterious Mammal Recording/All Welcome Records] as much as possible with continued overdubs for Mark’s parts at home as usual.

SNAIL IS
Mark Johnson – Guitars, lead vocals, keys
Matt Lynch – Bass, keys, vocals
Marty Dodson – Drums, percussion, vocals

www.snailhq.com
www.facebook.com/snailhq
https://www.instagram.com/snail_hq/
www.smallstone.com
http://www.facebook.com/smallstonerecords
http://www.smallstone.bandcamp.com

Snail, “Nothing Left for You” drum recording

Snail, Feral (2015)

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