The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Debut Albums of 2016

Posted in Features on December 15th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk top 20 debut albums of 2016

bermuda triangle speech outline Best This Site personal statement essay for college application help writing master of arts thesis brock Please note: This post is not culled in any way from the Year-End Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2016 to that, please do.

Of all the lists I do to wrap up or start any given year, this is the hardest. As someone obviously more concerned with first impressions than I am and thus probably better-dressed once said, you only get one chance at them. For bands, that can be a vicious bite in the ass on multiple levels.

To wit, you put out a great debut, fine, but there’s a whole segment of your listeners who’re bound to think you’ll never live up to it again. You put out a meh debut, you sell yourself short. Or maybe your debut is awesome but doesn’t really represent where you want to be as a band, so it’s a really good first impression, but a mistaken one. There are so many things that can go wrong or go right with any LP, but with debuts, the stakes are that much higher because it’s the only time you’ll get the chance to engage your audience for the first time. That matters.

And when it comes to putting together a list of the best debuts of the year, how does one begin to judge? True, some of these acts have done EPs and singles and splits and things like that before, and that’s at least something to go on, but can one really be expected to measure an act’s potential based on a single collection of songs? Is that fair to anyone involved? Or on the other side, is it even possible to take a debut entirely on its own merits, without any consideration for where it might lead the band in question going forward? I know that’s not something I’ve ever been able to do, certainly. Or particularly interested in doing. I like context.

Still, one presses on. I guess the point is that, like picking any kind of prospects, some will pan out and some won’t. I’ve done this for enough years now that I’ve seen groups flame or fade out while others have risen to new heights with each subsequent release. It’s always a mix. But at the same time, it’s important to step back and say that, as of today, this is where it’s at.

And so it is:

KING BUFFALO ORION

The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Debut Albums of 2016

1. King Buffalo, Orion
2. Elephant Tree, Elephant Tree
3. Heavy Temple, Chassit
4. Holy Grove, Holy Grove
5. Worshipper, Shadow Hymns
6. Vokonis, Olde One Ascending
7. Wretch, Wretch
8. Year of the Cobra, In the Shadows Below
9. BigPig, Grande Puerco
10. Fuzz Evil, Fuzz Evil
11. Bright Curse, Before the Shore
12. Conclave, Sins of the Elders
13. Pale Grey Lore, Pale Grey Lore
14. High Fighter, Scars and Crosses
15. Spirit Adrift, Chained to Oblivion
16. Bellringer, Jettison
17. Church of the Cosmic Skull, Is Satan Real?
18. Merchant, Suzerain
19. Beastmaker, Lusus Naturae
20. King Dead, Woe and Judgment

Honorable Mention

There are many. First, the self-titled from PhD dog does my homework poem in UK by Regent Editing has been recommended by over 545 UK Universities. Enquire Now. Pooty Owldom, which had so much weirdo charm it made my head want to explode. And history dissertation online writing an essay for college application vcu writing a good abstract for dissertation written persuasive speeches Iron Man frontman We looked at all the best follow url and compared their features and pricing. Here is our in depth comparison and recommendations. Dee Calhoun‘s acoustic solo record was technically a debut. And http://aemurtosa.edu.pt/best-online-essay-editing-service/ - find main recommendations as to how to receive the greatest research paper ever All sorts of academic writings & research papers. Opt Atala‘s record. And http://ems-online.org/?literature-review-of-teenage-pregnancy - Business Plan Writing Services Australia Wide. Professional, Affordable Business Plans For Lenders and Investors: PH: +61 419 396 903 Horehound. And Discover how you can make use of the best http://alromeh-telecom.com/dev/?research-paper-related-to-management free of charge to reword your writing quickly and accurately Mother Mooch. And Scholarship essay is an important part of your way to success. Thats why you need to learn how our Research Paper On Music may help you to win Domkraft. And Best assignment help services in UK. 24/7 help with assignments online. Avail best price on writing services from top Retirement Plans For Business Owners in UK My Spaceslug. And A wide range of writing services are offered. web service master thesis. Providing students with a full assistance and quality support. Always Graves at Sea? Shit. More than a decade after their demo, they finally put out a debut album. And http://www.kvalitne-tepelne-cerpadla.sk/buy-a-book-report-online/ - Proofreading and proofediting aid from top professionals. Essays & dissertations written by top quality writers. Get to know Second Grave‘s full-length would turn out to be their swansong, but that doesn’t take away from the quality of the thing. There were a lot of records to consider in putting this list together. As always, it could’ve been a much longer list.

For example, here are 20 more: Phd Thesis On Video Compression, help to write essay, essay paper writing services | Complete set of services for students of all levels including Swan Valley Heights, define assignments - Order the necessary essay here and forget about your fears Let us take care of your Bachelor or Master Thesis. professional Arctic, Without patronage Scott stoked his corny and earwigging meanly! The expiratory and chronic Ozzy explana to How To Choose Online Essay Writing Service his congregate or guettoice Blues Funeral, If you are looking for paraphrase tool, then visiit our website to get the best parapharsing tool OR top writing services tool online for free. Teacher, Psychedelic Witchcraft, Nonsun, Duel, Banquet, Floodlore, Mindkult‘s EP, Mountain Dust, Red LamaRed Wizard, Limestone Whale, Dunbarrow, Comacozer, Sinister Haze, Pants Exploder, Akasava, Katla and No Man’s Valley. That’s not even the end of it. I could go on.

Notes

It was a fight to the finish. There’s always one, and as late as yesterday I could be found kicking back and forth between King Buffalo and Elephant Tree in the top spot. What was it that finally put King Buffalo‘s Orion over Elephant Tree‘s self-titled? I don’t know. Ask me tomorrow and the answer might be completely different.

They had a lot in common. Not necessarily in terms of style — King Buffalo basked in spacious Americana-infused heavy psych jams while Elephant Tree proffered more earthbound riffing and melodies — but each executed memorable songs across its span in a way that would be unfair to ask of a debut. The potential for what both bands can turn into down the line played a part in the picks, but something else they share between them is that the quality of the work they’re doing now warrants the top spots. Orion and Elephant Tree were great albums, not just great first albums.

From there, we see a wide swath of next-generation encouragement for the future of heavy rock, whether it’s coming from Sweden’s Vokonis or Philadelphia’s Heavy Temple, or London’s Bright Curse, or Los Angeles duo BigPig. The latter act’s punkish fuzz definitely benefited from guitarist/vocalist Dino von Lalli‘s experience playing in Fatso Jetson, but one hopes that as the years go on his own multifaceted songwriting style will continue to grow as well.

A few offerings weren’t necessarily unexpected but still lived up to the anticipation. High Fighter‘s EP prefaced their aggro sludgecore well. Ditto that for the grueling death-sludge of Massachusetts natives Conclave. The aforementioned Bright Curse, Merchant, Fuzz Evil, Atala, Bellringer, Holy Grove, Wretch and Worshipper all had offerings of one sort or another prior to their full-length debuts — in the case of Bellringer, it was just a series of videos, while Wretch had the entire The Gates of Slumber catalog to fall back on — but each of those albums offered surprises nonetheless.

It would’ve been hard not to be taken by the songwriting on display from the likes of Holy Grove, Year of the Cobra, Pale Grey Lore and Beastmaker, who between them covered a pretty broad variety of atmosphere but found ways to deliver high-quality crafted material in that. Those albums were a pleasure to hear. Put Boston’s Worshipper in that category as well, though they were just as much a standout from the pack in terms of their performance as what they were performing. Speaking of performance, the lush melodies from Church of the Cosmic Skull and classic progressive flourish were enough to make me a believer. Simply gorgeous. And one-man outfit Spirit Adrift shined, if in that matte-black doom kind of way, on an encouraging collection of modern melancholic heavy that seemed to hint at sprawl to come.

As we get down to the bottom of the list we find Pennsylvania ambient heavy post-rockers King Dead. Their Woe and Judgment was released digitally last year (2015) but the LP came out earlier this year, so I wasn’t quite sure where to place them ultimately. I know they got some mention on the 2015 lists somewhere, but while they’re an act who’ve flown under a lot of people’s radar as yet, I have good feelings about how they might continue to dig into their sound and the balance of bleakness and psychedelic color they bring to their material. They’re slated for a follow-up in 2017, so this won’t be the last list on which they appear in the next few weeks.

Like I said at the outset, putting out a debut album is a special moment for any band. Not everyone gets to that point and not everyone gets beyond it, so while a list like this is inherently bound to have some element of speculation, it’s still a worthy endeavor to celebrate the accomplishments of those who hit that crucial moment in their creative development. Hopefully these acts continue to grow, flourish, and build on what they’ve thus far been able to realize sonically. That’s the ideal.

And before I go, once again, let me reinforce the notion that I recognize this is just a fraction of the whole. I’d like it to be the start of a conversation. If there was a debut album that kicked your ass this year and you don’t see it here, please drop a note in the comments below. I’m sure I’ll be adding more honorable mentions and whatnot over the next couple days, so if you see glaring omissions, let’s have ’em.

Thanks for reading.

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Second Grave Announce Breakup

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 19th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

I’ll freely admit to being somewhat taken aback by this one. It was less than a week ago that Massachusetts doom metallers Second Grave released their debut album, Blacken the Sky (review here), and today they’re announcing that their time as a band has come to an end. That record, tracked by Benny Grotto at Mad Oak, showed noteworthy promise even beyond that of Second Grave‘s two prior EPs, 2013’s Antithesis (review here) and 2012’s self-titled (review here), so it seems all the more like a shame to lose the band now, just as they were entering a next phase of their potential as a unit.

The final lineup of Second Grave — guitarist/vocalist Krista Van Guilder, guitarist Christopher Drzal, bassist Maureen Murphy and drummer Chuck Ferreira — have one last show booked for Aug. 26 at RPM Fest in Greenfield, MA, and then they’re done, but already in the announcement below of their breakup, there’s a note about new projects in the works. Worth keeping an eye and ear out for what comes next, for sure. In the meantime, Second Grave will be missed.

Here’s what they had to say:

second grave (Photo by Samantha Fraulein-Thursday)

As all things must come to an end, Second Grave too is is being laid to rest. While we are all extremely proud of the new album “Blacken the Sky”, the time has come for us to part ways.

As true musicians, everyone has either already been actively playing in other bands, or will eventually re-join the metal scene in other forms. As SG has been a special project to us, we all remain friends and supportive of each other. We have one last show to play, RPM Fest on August 26th.

Tickets are selling fast, so if you want to see the full lineup with two guitars, this is your last chance.

That being said, we want to thank all of the promotors and venues who booked us, critics who reviewed us, bands we played with, friends we made, and most importantly everyone who has to come to a show, bought our merch, and just plain supported us these last 5 years. Doom on my friends, doom on.

https://www.facebook.com/secondgraveband
http://secondgrave.bandcamp.com/
http://www.secondgrave.com/

Second Grave, Blacken the Sky (2016)

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Second Grave, Blacken the Sky: March into Oblivion (Plus Track Premiere)

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on August 15th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

second grave blacken the sky

[Click play above to stream ‘Afraid of the Dark’ from Second Grave’s Blacken the Sky. Album is available now from the band.]

It is a dark and metallic churn that dominates Blacken the Sky, the ominously titled and awaited debut full-length from Massachusetts four-piece Second Grave. In its tone and structural cohesion, it is for all intents and purposes a metal record, but its pacing and atmosphere find their roots in classic doom as well — rarely does a “doom metal” tag serve to actually be so descriptive, but Second Grave cover both sides of that equation well across the formidable 55-minute/nine-track span of Blacken the Sky. Having been lucky enough to see Second Grave play on several occasions, it’s not really a surprise either that their first album would be so assured of its purpose or that it would display such poise in its execution.

If nothing else, it’s been three years since their second EP, Antithesis (review here), followed their 2012 self-titled initial offering (review here), so it’s not like the lineup of guitarist/vocalist Krista Van Guilder (ex-Warhorse), guitarist Chris Drzal, bassist Maureen Murphy and drummer Chuck Ferreira haven’t had time to compose the material and sculpt their aesthetic into what they want it to be, and as songs like opener “No Roam” and “Afraid of the Dark” and the 11-minute “Death March” demonstrate, they’ve clearly gotten there. Where Blacken the Sky meets its truest success is in melding moody ambience and oppressively heavy riffing — the way the band veers into extremity with Van Guilder‘s searing screams on “Bloodletting” or the loosely doomedelic initial two minutes of “Death March,” before the actual march begins and provides Second Grave‘s debut with a worthy crescendo.

No doubt Blacken the Sky will be the introduction for many listeners to Second Grave, but because it’s so put together it’s almost difficult to think of it as the band’s debut. Recorded by Benny Grotto at Mad Oak over the course of just four days — an immediately impressive feat given the amount and depth of the material — the sound is full but not at all unnatural, and some late variety in the interlude “Processional of Lies” and the quiet, layered harmonies of the closing title-track reinforce the brooding sentiment while also building outward from it and expanding the overall context from what the earlier onslaught of “No Roam,” “17 Days” and “Below the Seas” established at the start.

second grave (Photo by Samantha Fraulein-Thursday)

Whether or not Second Grave are planning a vinyl release, I don’t know — they’d either have to shorten the record or go 2LP, which seems prohibitively expensive; a limited run of 100 CDs is being pressed — but there is a notable change of intent signaled with “Bloodletting” at the album’s midpoint, following the melodically rich “Afraid of the Dark” and chugging “Below the Seas” with some mindful scorch and viciously dark energy, and the progression only continues to grow from there. That shift is welcome after the initial trio, which seem to put up a wall of forceful doom and dare listeners to scale it in order to reach the rest of what Second Grave have to offer. Atop the steady roll of Ferreira‘s drums and Murphy‘s bass, Drzal and Van Guider offer fluid riffs and intricate solos, and Van Guilder is steadfast in her vocal command, but the intent is clearly that those three songs should start Blacken the Sky with plodding miseries, and they do. One might say they’re living up to the title in setting the tone.

From their first EP and through the 18-minute two-songer that followed, Second Grave have always shown an affinity for form and structure, and Blacken the Sky does likewise, using the screams in “Bloodletting” and “Death March” to send a clear signal of apex in much the same way that instrumentals introduced each half of their self-titled. The central difference here is the context in which that symmetry arrives. If “Bloodletting” is the peak of the album’s first half — it’s the centerpiece in the tracklisting — and “Death March” the peak of the second — it arrives with two cuts still to go — then those two peaks would seem to serve remarkably different purposes overall. Of course, “Death March” is paying off the album as a whole, but one might say the same thing of “Blacken the Sky” itself, though the means there takes a significant shift.

I wouldn’t call the ending a departure necessarily, since it keeps to Second Grave‘s structural tenets pretty firmly, but in its sheer sound it offers something different from even the droning interlude “Into Oblivion” before it, and while doubtless some will compare it to the subdued side of Windhand — because, you know, ladies — the truth is that Second Grave are coming from someplace else entirely in terms of influence. It’s especially telling that after so much tumult and rage, they would finish quietly, underscoring the patience that’s been present in the songs all along beneath that tempestuousness. One doubts they built the album structure with the intent of giving a glimpse at their progression under way, but after three years, it doesn’t seem impossible to think they have some plan in motion for their future development. Certainly the consciousness at root in these tracks is the work of a band aware of who and what they want to be. As a debut, there’s nothing more one could ask of Blacken the Sky, but by no means is that the sum total of what is delivered.

Second Grave on Thee Facebooks

Second Grave on Bandcamp

Second Grave website

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Live Review: Second Grave, Lord Fowl, Wasted Theory and Birch Hill Dam in Worcester, MA, 04.02.15

Posted in Reviews on April 6th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

second grave 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Ralph’s Rock Diner had the lights on, which has been the case consistently enough to make it far and away my favorite room of its size in the state of Massachusetts. In all seriousness, the place is a godsend. Killer, huge, professionally-run sound that seems to adjust quickly to the strengths of the band playing, a good-size stage with enough room to backline as need be, space to stand, a long bar with seats if you want them, food and a whole other bar downstairs, and lighting enough so that if you want to take a picture of the band you come out with more than a red blur. If it was in Boston, it would embarrass the venues surrounding (likely it wouldn’t have nearly parking space either, but that’s a different story), but tucked away in post-industrial, heroin-plagued Worcester, it’s a secret kept mostly to locals and those passing through on self-booked tours. So it was with Delaware’s Wasted Theory, stopping in with MA natives Second Grave and Birch Hill Dam and bringing up Connecticut firebrands Lord Fowl for a front-to-back four-band bill of the kind that might incite someone like myself to drive the requisite 90 minutes to get there.

Right bands, right place, right time, it was all the makings of a solid night — kind of a mini-Stoned Goat fest, actually — and that’s pretty much how it worked out. Here’s the rundown:

Birch Hill Dam

Birch Hill Dam (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Though they hit with formidable thud either way, Birch Hill Dam are a bit warmer in tone live than on record, and that has proven to make a big difference in the couple of times I’ve caught them at shows. A double-guitar five-piece, they skirt the line between heavy rock and Southern metal, Down-style riffing delivered with Nor’easter aggression, vocalist Mike Nygard tossing in occasional screams to drive the point of a metallic underpinning home as guitarists Sam Barrett and Alex Sepe, bassist Pete Gelles and drummer Matt Neely nail down lockstep nodding grooves. “Defenders of the Cross” and “Balance” from their late-2014 outing, Reservoir, were hard-hitting highlights, but they dipped back to 2011’s Colossus for a run through the title-track and, with a little extra time on their hands, closed out their set with “Boozehound” from their 2009 self-titled debut, a chorus that has been a landmark for them over the years since meeting a culmination that, true to the sense of humor underlying a lot of what they do, ended with a growling “shave and a haircut — two bits.” Charm has, in my experience, always been one of Birch Hill Dam‘s assets, on the list with riffs, songwriting and intensity, and they did well to emphasize all of the above as they kicked off the show.

Wasted Theory

Wasted Theory (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I give credit to Wasted Theory on this one. After apparently sampling one of New England’s myriad existential delicacies — its traffic — the four-piece from Delaware showed up during Birch Hill Dam‘s set, and as they were playing second, had to roll their gear in, set up on the quick and basically go from zero to 100 with little-to-no mental preparation or squaring up. They seemed to catch their breath and hit their stride at once in the second or third song, which was to be expected, guitarists Dave McMahon and Larry Jackson (the latter also vocals), bassist Jonathan Charles and drummer Brendan Burns tapping into a style of heavy that coincided well with what Birch Hill Dam had offered up, cuts like “Hellfire Ritual” from last year’s Death and Taxes (review here) reminding of their blend of boogie and groove. Jackson introduced the band as being from “the Mason-Dixon,” which probably sounds more exciting than “Delaware” so long as you don’t think too hard about what that border actually did, and led the way into another solid hook on “Skeleton Crew,” a bonus track from a forthcoming vinyl release for Death and Taxes, due out May 10. Last I’d seen Wasted Theory was July 2013 in Brooklyn at The Eye of the Stoned Goat 3, organized by Burns, which meant this was the first I’d caught them with their current lineup, McMahon having stepped in on guitar in the interim. The sound at Ralph’s certainly didn’t hurt, but the band itself was fluid onstage even as they were getting their feet under them, and “Black Widow Liquor Run” made as suitable a closer for their set as it did for Death and Taxes. Hell of a way for them to start their three-night weekender with Birch Hill Dam and Lord Fowl, but they made the most of it in the end.

Lord Fowl

Lord Fowl (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Apparently at some point in the last couple years, at some show, Lord Fowl guitarist/vocalist Vechel Jaynes said something to me in passing about having a cold, it wound up in the subsequent review of that gig. Whoops. When he saw me Thursday, it was, “Oh no, I’m not even talking to you,” which is fair. Good to see him and the rest of Lord Fowl — guitarist/vocalist Mike Pellegrino, bassist John Conine and recently-added drummer Mike Petrucci, also of Curse the Son, King of Salem, and so on — anyhow, the band having also hit Ralph’s in May 2014 at day one of The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 (review here). They always deliver a tight, energetic set, so to have that be the case this time around wasn’t really a surprise, but it was welcome all the same. My understanding is they’re working on new material over the next couple months, piecing together and finalizing songs before they actually get down to recording a follow-up to their excellent 2012 sophomore LP and Small Stone debut, Moon Queen (review here), but in the meantime, they dipped back to throw in “Bird of Good Omen” and opener “Cheetah” from their 2008 debut, Endless Dynamite. Both were right on, again unsurprisingly, but the one-two finale punch of “Quicksand” and “Pluto” from the second album were hard to beat, though when one gets down to talking about a Lord Fowl set, picking highlights is kind of missing the point. The whole thing is the highlight. Sit back and enjoy it. Though they’re still pretty clearly working on tightening the dynamic with Petrucci on drums — they’ll get there and when they do, watch out — Lord Fowl delivered the kind of quality stomp and roll, the brazen hooks and the onstage vitality that has become their hallmark. Seems redundant to say I’m looking forward to their next record, but I am, anyway.

Second Grave

Second Grave (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Since moving to Massachusetts almost two years ago, I’ve managed to see Second Grave three times — this show, day one of last year’s Stoned Goat (review here) and with Elder in Allston (review here) — and this was easily the best of the bunch. Of the four songs they played — “17 Days,” “Death March,” “Bloodletting” and “Afraid of the Dark,” according to the setlist — none to my knowledge has yet appeared on an official release, neither 2012’s self-titled EP (review here) or its 2013 follow-up, Antithesis (review here), and while it was also my first show seeing them with bassist Maureen Murphy (ex-Dimentianon) in place of Dave Gein, the shift in their approach seems more than one member’s difference might cause. Their new material is a little bit faster, yes, but also more cohesive, more integrated in its influences, less morose and switching off between heavy parts and quiet parts and more about rolling, swinging, sludgy grooves. It suited them well and was the most fun I’ve seen guitarist/vocalist Krista Van Guider, guitarist Chris Drzal, and drummer Chuck Ferreira have onstage, and Murphy‘s inclusion into that dynamic was seamless. And they were still very, very heavy. “Death March” lived up to its name, though “Afraid of the Dark” had a march of its own, but built to a rocking groove emblematic of what seemed to be a stylistic shift in progress, Van Guilder continuing to work in a blend of screams and clean vocals with equal command. Their material remained dark, but was less theatrical about it, and as they seemed to be allowing themselves to have a good time, they did. Their four songs was a complete set, and the blend of chugging nod and viciousness seemed to find new life in the new songs. I don’t know what their recording plans might be, but I left Ralph’s newly resolved to keep an eye out for word of whatever they do next.

More pics after the jump. Thanks as always for reading.

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Front to Back: Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 in Worcester, MA, 05.03.14

Posted in Reviews on May 5th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

It was a 20-band bill spread out evenly across two days, so right away, The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 was going to be a considerable undertaking. Fortunately for me, it was close. Worcester is precisely 75 minutes from where I live. I’ve driven further to see three bands, let alone 20, so a trip down the Masspike and there I was, back in Worcester. It had been a decade-plus since the last time I was in that town — famed in metal circles most probably for the New England Metal and Hardcore Festival held at the Palladium — and it was way less of a dump than it was back then, though with much to see in Ralph’s Rock Diner, I obviously wasn’t taking a tour of the local infrastructure. Ralph’s had plenty to catch the eye anyway, even apart from the Saturday lineup with Birch Hill Dam, SET, John Wilkes Booth, Second Grave, Beelzefuzz, Lord Fowl, Ogre, Kings Destroy, Cortez and Sixty Watt Shaman.

There is, sure enough, a classic-style dining car when you walk in, and building that’s sort of sprouted up out of it, the way one tree grows out of another. Turn a corner, you’re in a bar, tv on, pool table, etc., but find your way up a flight of stairs and you’re in the venue itself. Decent-size stage, bar in back along the side wall with plenty of room for merch, a little side-stage area for equipment, and the best lighting I’ve seen since I moved to this state last year — this being my first time at Ralph’s, I was immediately relieved at the quality of the place. Very, very cool room, and sound to match. It made a fitting home for Eye of the Stoned Goat, which last nestled itself into Brooklyn’s The Acheron in July 2013 (review here) and this year was expanded to two days for the first time, organizer Brendan Burns of Snakecharmer Booking and the band Wasted Theory pulling out the stops in mixing locals and out-of-towners, which I’ve found is a balance one should be careful to maintain around these parts. Fortunately there’s no shortage of quality acts.

A 5PM start got underway on time with Birch Hill Dam leading off, and there was no turning back from there:

Birch Hill Dam

As I made my way through the downstairs part of the venue and bought my weekend pass, I was handed a copy of Birch Hill Dam‘s 2011 CD, Colossus, which the MA natives had donated as a door giveaway. A nice touch. I had known I wanted to see them anyway — been more or less waiting to run into Birch Hill Dam again since I moved here — but even if I hadn’t, that would certainly make me more inclined to check them out. My last experience with the band was in 2012 at Stoner Hands of Doom XII in Connecticut, and my prevailing impression was a Kyuss influence. That was far less the case this time around. With some Down/C.O.C. chug in their thick-toned riffs and some double-guitar antics featured later on in the set, Birch Hill Dam were way further into their own sound than when last we met. Frontman Mike Nygard was one of the weekend’s few standalone vocalists (six out of the 20 bands, most of them on Saturday), and he held down his position well with unforced throatiness and just a hint of metal underneath all that rock. They played a decent amount of new material along with “2600” and finale “Boozehound,” both culled from Colossus, and as slick as that album was, I’ll be fascinated to hear the direction their new stuff takes in the studio.

SET

There were two bands on the Saturday bill I’d never seen before — Worcester’s SET (which they seem to prefer written all-caps) and headliners Sixty Watt Shaman — and SET were the surprise of the weekend. Part of that owes to the fact that in my head, I had imagined they were a completely different band, but to find their newer-class doom tempered with thrash and even some crusty black metal, I was blown away by the quality and cohesion in what they were doing, and how natural they made it sound. A two-guitar, two-vocal four-piece, they seemed to have clearly worked on their tone and presentation, and if it had been the West Coast instead of the East, I’d call the results “gnarly.” They were tight, worked fluidly in moving between fast and slower tempos, and looked to be working from a fairly wide swath of influences. They had tapes for sale in the back at $3 each, but I missed my shot at one. Still, I’ll look forward to seeing them again and knowing a little bit more of what I’m getting when they kick into the badass roll of “Wolves behind the Sheep,” taken from their Valley of the Stone debut long-player, apparently set to release on vinyl this summer. I don’t know if they tour, but they should.

John Wilkes Booth


Among the few things I’ll never argue against is a chance to catch John Wilkes Booth live. The house band of Mr. Beery’s out on Long Island and I go way back at this point, but they were another one I hadn’t seen since SHoD in Connecticut, so I felt somewhat overdue. They were doing their thing, which is fine by me since they’re good at it. They had a fair amount of what seemed to me to be newer material, and as he stood in front of the weekend’s most elaborate pedal board, vocalist Kerry Merkle plugged a new EP in the works that would BE done “as soon as [they] get [their] shit together.” I had thought that was going to be a full-length, but it’s been long enough at this point that I’d take whatever came. I’ve seen them burn rooms to the ground with brash riffing, thick groove and megaphoned-incantations, but this was a somewhat moodier set, more exploratory feeling, and that suited them just as well, as they managed to maintain their underlying crunch. I’ve said it of the Booth before that they’re a ’90s NYC noise rock band and they just don’t know it, and I got that vibe again at Ralph’s, but they showed a brooding side to complement, and that made the heavier parts land that much harder in comparison. Made me wonder where their EP might be headed.

Second Grave


Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 marked two last shows, both of them for Massachusetts’ own David Gein. The now-former Black Pyramid four-stringer was playing his final (never say never in rock and roll, but at least for the time being) gigs with Second Grave on Saturday and with The Scimitar on Sunday ahead of a move to the West Coast, so it was twice the occasion. I don’t know if you could really call anything Second Grave do “celebratory,” however, unless you’re celebrating slow, plodding and every now and again viciously extreme metal — which, now that I think about it, is fun to do — but the four-piece did justice to their bass player in delivering a crisp, tight-wound set, the clean vocals and apex-topping screams of guitarist Krista Van Guilder cutting through a morass of tonal bite courtesy of her own and Chris Drzal‘s guitars and Gein‘s bass while drummer Chuck Ferreira shoved the lumbering progressions forward. During their last song — was it “Mountains of Madness?” — the lights went blood red and the visual change helped put their final payoff over the top. I’m not sure how, being in a band that can be so utterly ruthless, they resist the temptation to be that way all the time, but Second Grave‘s restraint, however momentary it may or may not be in a given track, is part of why the band works so well.

Beelzefuzz

Maryland trio Beelzefuzz released one of 2013’s best in the form of their self-titled debut (review here), and having spent so much time with that material since the record came out last August, I felt like I was seeing them in a different context than before. I wasn’t the only one in the crowd who knew the songs, whether it was “Hard Luck Melody,” or “Hypnotized” and “All the Feeling Returns” from the album, they got a welcoming response from the ESG4 crowd. Between Dana Ortt‘s guitar tone, bassist Pug Kirby‘s trancelike-state stage presence and the classy, carefully-understated drumming of Darin McCloskey (also of Pale Divine), Beelzefuzz took the stage at Ralph’s well in command of their sound and bizarre, progressive take on traditional doom. Ortt thanked the audience for being so “cool,” and mentioned he’d taken some pills before going on — Claritin, for hay fever — but if he was under the weather, there was little sign of it as they tackled “Ride the Sky” by Lucifer’s Friend to close out. I couldn’t help but think of their taking on the same song last year at Days of the Doomed III in Wisconsin with Trouble‘s Eric Wagner joining in on vocals, but they handled it well on their own as well, though I’m not sure if that was as much a highlight as “Reborn” from the self-titled, which would remain stuck in my head for the rest of the evening.

Lord Fowl

Granted, after Beelzefuzz just about anything is a left turn, but I was curious to see how Connecticut’s Lord Fowl — who, if you’ve never seen them, are a boot to the ass; an absolutely kinetic live band — would follow their more languid predecessors. I’m not sure what I was hung up on, but about two seconds into Lord Fowl‘s set, they had the crowd on their side, and they had no trouble keeping them there for the duration of their all-too-short half-hour set. It hasn’t quite been a year since the last Stoned Goat fest, which the two-guitar foursome also played, but I would’ve hoped to see them again before this weekend, fantastic as they are on stage. I was glad to see them get a response when they kicked into the title-track from 2012’s excellent Small Stone debut, Moon Queen (review here), with guitarists Vechel Jaynes and Mike Pellegrino trading vocals back and forth in the chorus while bassist John Conine and drummer Don Freeman thrashed suitably on the Ralph’s stage. For an act who puts so much effort into their shows, it’s worth noting that Lord Fowl don’t come across as forced, or like they’re trying to cloy their way into fan-appreciation. It’s just a good time, and that goes even more for the boogie-fied new jam they locked into. Still instrumental and formative though it was, it was also plain to see why they’d want to break it out.

Ogre

The Portland, Maine, trio were pretty fresh on my mind, having seen them in March at the release show for their fourth album, The Last Neanderthal (review here), but a quick check-in was cool by me, particularly with “Nine Princes in Amber” as the opening song — that hook was among the day’s most irresistible. They dipped back to their 2003 Dawn of the Proto-Men debut for “The Jaded Beast,” and “Dogmen (of Planet Earth)” from 2006’s Seven Hells was time well spent, but as had been the case last time, it was the new stuff that had them excited, the raw Sabbathery of “Bad Trip” and the classic metal of “Warpath” coming through with what felt like an especially fervent delivery. For Ogre to emerge as the most singularly indebted to Sabbath on a fest like this is saying something — and they did, at least for Day One if not for both — but the closing cover of The Bags‘ “Naked Lady” which they once again squeezed in the few remaining minutes of their time found them in a higher gear distinct from some of the doomy wanderings of “Bad Trip” and “The Jaded Beast,” formidable as the impressions those tracks left were, particularly “The Jaded Beast” with bassist Ed Cunningham moving into and out of screams in the chorus while guitarist Ross Markonish belted out a steady series of solos and drummer Will Broadbent stomped away behind.

Kings Destroy

I had missed hearing “Embers.” After being so lucky to accompany Kings Destroy on their West Coast run earlier this Spring, I guess I had been spoiled hearing their new material each night, but I took out my earplugs for song on the first day of Eye of the Stoned Goat 4, and that was for “Embers,” from the New York five-piece’s reportedly-recorded but as-yet-untitled third album. Aside from being good to see them, as people, I was delighted to catch them on stage for the eighth time this year. All the more for the new songs “W2” and “Smokey Robinson,” which I hadn’t heard yet, as well as opener “Old Yeller,” and the closing whallop of “Blood of Recompense” — another one I’d missed — and “Turul,” which is so wonderfully strange that I almost enjoy watching people hear it as much as hearing it myself. Probably goes without saying that the follow-up to 2013’s A Time of Hunting is among my most anticipated releases for the rest of 2014, but I’ll say it anyway and add to that how fortunate I feel to have seen this band come into their own over the last few years. They’ve hit the point where their sound is utterly separate from what one might classify it genre-wise, and the weirder they go into their blend of slow, mournful heavy, brash confrontationalism and dead-on rock — watch out for “Mr. O.” when the album hits — the more righteous they become. There’s not a lot about New York that I miss, but I miss Kings Destroy.

Cortez

When the weekend was over, it would be Cortez who pulled the best crowd. Massachusetts’ reputation for loving its own is well earned, but even more than that, the four-turned-fivesome legitimately rocked the pants off of Ralph’s, guitarists Scott O’Dowd and Alasdair Swan trading leads as the set progressed with a completely fluid charge, bassist Jay Furlo joining vocalist Matt Harrington on vocals in a chorus here and there all the while sticks tossing into the air behind from drummer Jeremy Hemond. Putting Cortez in the context of outfits like Roadsaw and Lamont, they’re just about everything right in Boston’s brand of heavy rock. They opened with “Johnny” from their 2012 self-titled debut (review here), which Darryl Shepard and I agreed should be the closer, and offered new material in “Vanishing Point” from their split 7″ with Borracho (discussed here) and “Keeping Up,” which carried no shortage of swagger. It was “Monolith” that finished out their time in grand fashion, and propelled by Hemond‘s cymbal wash, theirs was as big a big-rock-finish as the two days of Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 would boast. They played the veterans they are despite only having one LP out, and that’s my polite way of saying they should do more. Frankly, they’re a better band than most people know. Fortunately, the crowd at Ralph’s seemed reasonably well informed.

Sixty Watt Shaman

Before they went on, Sixty Watt Shaman drummer Chuck Dukehart III — who’d pull double-duty on Sunday in Foghound — had the room cracking up with some classic Paul Stanley stage rants: “Do you people like the taste of AL-CO-HOL?” “Alright listen,” and so on. Fucking great. The reunited Maryland (etc.) bruisers were in a rough spot following Cortez and starting after midnight as the headliners, and while they started out to a packed house, by the time they were done much of the evening was as well. Still, for a band who haven’t played more than a handful of shows in the last decade, it was hard to argue with what Sixty Watt Shaman — bassist Rev. Jim Forrester (interview here), Dukehart, guitarist Todd Ingram (also of King Giant) and vocalist Daniel Soren — were getting up to with a barrage of dudely grooves that only underscored the influence they’ve had on Maryland and Southern heavy rock in general over the last 10-plus years. Though still newly-reactivated, they were tight and fresh from the London and Berlin Desertfest‘s as well as Dukehart‘s own Moving the Earth festival in Baltimore (go O’s!) prior. The title-track from 2000’s Seed of Decades was a highlight for me, though neither “Cactus Mexicali,” “Southern Gentleman” nor “Pull the Strings” from 1998’s Ultra Electric prompted argument. As they’d have to, they closed out with “Red Colony” from Seed of Decades and capped a day full of heavy with some of its burliest groove. Some bands you don’t expect to ever get the chance to see, and given the limited nature of their doings as of now — two shows in Europe, two in the US, this being one — I felt lucky to see them and they were fitting closer for a raucous night.

I pulled out of the Ralph’s Rock Diner parking lot at 1:30AM, having left shortly after Sixty Watt Shaman finished. The ride home was uneventful, which is probably for the best, and I managed to knock two or three minutes off the trip. That doesn’t seem like much now, but as I crashed out in anticipation of waking up and making my way back to Worcester for Day Two of Eye of the Stoned Goat 4, I knew every little bit was going to count.

Day Two coverage tomorrow, and more pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 Lineup and Runtimes Finalized

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 3rd, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Though one hesitates to ever use the word “final” when it comes to a festival lineup, particularly when we’re still a few months out from the event taking place, The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 looks pretty damn complete. Some recent upheaval in the lineup has brought in Lord Fowl as a replacement for Phantom Glue and Kings Destroy for Kingsnake, but things seem solid and ready to proceed otherwise. Should be a packed weekend May 3 and 4 at Ralph’s Rock Diner in Worcester, Mass., and it’s definitely one I’m looking forward to with a killer blend of bands local to New England and not.

Complete lineup as it stands today follows, along with the runtimes for each set. Feel free to dive in:

Snake Charmer Booking proudly presents: THE EYE OF THE STONED GOAT 4 Festival

Saturday, May 3rd – Sunday May 4th 2014

2 Days! 20 Bands! 20 Bucks!

Ralphs Rock Diner
148 Grove St.
Worcester, MA 01605

Saturday, May 3rd 2014
Doors: 4:30pm
Admission: $20 (ALL WEEKEND)
Line-Up and Set Times:

SIXTY WATT SHAMAN (The Reunion!!!)
12:20am-1:15am

CORTEZ (Boston, MA)
11:20pm-12:00am

KINGS DESTROY
10:25pm-11:05pm

SUMMONER (Boston, MA)
9:30pm-10:10pm

LORD FOWL (New Haven, CT)
8:45pm-9:15pm

BEELZEFUZZ (Church Within Records – Maryland)
8:00pm-8:30pm

SECOND GRAVE (Massachusetts)
7:15pm-7:45pm

JOHN WILKES BOOTH (Long Island, NY)
6:30pm-7:00pm

SET (Worcester, MA)
5:45pm-6:15pm

BIRCH HILL DAM (Fitchsburg, MA)
5:00pm-5:30pm

Sunday, May 4th 2014
Doors: 3:30pm
Admission: $20 (ALL WEEKEND)
Line-Up and Set Times:

ORDER OF THE OWL (Atlanta, GA)
11:20pm-12:00am

THE SCIMITAR (Boston, MA)
10:20pm-11:00pm

CURSE THE SON (Connecticut)
9:25pm-10:05pm

VOLUME IV (Ripple Music – Atlanta, GA)
8:30pm-9:10pm

ICHABOD (Boston, MA)
7:45pm-8:15pm

ROZAMOV (Boston, MA)
7:00pm-7:30pm

NEON WARSHIP (Small Stone Records- Ohio)
6:15pm-6:45pm

FOGHOUND (Baltimore, MD)
5:30pm-6:00pm

GEEZER (Kingston, NY)
4:45pm-5:15pm

SKROGG (New Hampshire)
4:00pm-4:30pm

Tickets On-Sale NOW!!!!
http://www.showclix.com/event/3788105/listing

$20.00 for the ENTIRE WEEKEND!!!

Sponsored By:

Ripple Music
Electric Beard Of Doom
Grip of Delusion Radio
Three Thirteen Inc Artist Management
Heavy Planet

https://www.facebook.com/events/586404324760804/
https://www.facebook.com/TheEyeOfTheStonedGoat
http://www.theeyeofthestonedgoat.com/

Cortez, “Johnny”

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 EPs, Demos and Singles of 2013

Posted in Features on January 2nd, 2014 by JJ Koczan

I’ve been trying to get this one on the page for a couple weeks now — really since last year if you want to go back that far — and I finally just decided to do it. Granted, it’s already 2014, but I’m pretty used to being behind the times, so I hope you’ll indulge me on this one.

The thing is, of course we already did the Top 20 Albums of 2013, but that leaves an awful lot out in terms of quality shorter releases. Demos, singles, EPs, splits — whatever it might be — there’s a lot more to the story of a year in music than who’s putting out what full-length. That might be true now more than ever, with digital releases and artists having the ability to more or less give a song-by-song feed of new material should they so choose. Since this is the first time I’ve done this list, I’ve kept the presentation pretty basic, but there’s a lot to dig into here anyway in terms of the quality of the music and what people were able to accomplish in, in some cases, just one or two tracks.

My basis for judgment here is basically the same as with the full-albums list, and by that I mean how much I listened to something played a huge role, and it’s not just how important I think an EP or a split or a demo was that got it included on this list — though of course that stuff matters as well. Like spelling, repeat listens count. And it goes without saying these are my picks and have nothing to do with the Readers Poll, the results of which are here.

Okay, let’s do this:

The Top 20 Short Releases of 2013

1. The Machine/Sungrazer, Split
2. Dozer, Vultures
3. Mars Red Sky, Be My Guide
4. Black Thai, Seasons of Might
5. Wo Fat/Egypt, Cyclopean Riffs Split 12″
6. Young Hunter, Embers at the Foot of Dark Mountain
7. Shroud Eater, Dead Ends
8. Steak, Corned Beef Colossus
9. Geezer, Gage
10. The Golden Grass, One More Time b/w Tornado 7″
11. Trippy Wicked and the Cosmic Children of the Knight, Underground
12. King Buffalo, Demo
13. Groan, Ride the Snake
14. Crypt Sermon, Demo MMXIII
15. Stubb, Under a Spell b/w Bullets Rain 7″
16. Salem’s Pot, Watch Me Kill You Tape
17. Undersmile/Coma Wall, Wood and Wire Split
18. Second Grave, Antithesis
19. Sinister Haze, Demo
20. Olde Growth, Owl

Honorable mention has to go to the Fatso Jetson/Yawning Man split, C.O.C.‘s Megalodon EP, which was right on but which I didn’t really hear enough to include. The Gates of Slumber‘s Stormcrow as well.

Just a couple notes: In the case of Olde Growth, putting them last was actually more about not being sure when the official release date of Owl was than anything else. I actually listened to that quite a bit, and “Tears of Blood” remains my favorite work of the duo’s to date. In terms of demos, it was a good year for doom debuts, with Crypt Sermon and Sinister Haze both showing some malevolent classicism, and King Buffalo‘s demo grew on me almost immediately upon hearing it and right away made me look forward to whatever might come next from them.

I was a little hesitant to put a split in the number one spot, but The Machine‘s riff for “Awe” alone made it necessary. I’ve kept this disc on my person for almost the entire year and continue to have no regrets in doing so. For Dozer, yeah, it was a collection of older material, but I still enjoyed the crap out of it. Both Mars Red Sky and Black Thai signaled considerable creative growth in four-song EPs, and the Wo Fat and Egypt split more than lived up to its mission. The riff lives in bands like that, and as we get further into stylistic nuance and subgenre development, it’s those groups who are holding on to the Heavy.

Young Hunter are one of the most promising bands I’ve heard in the last three years. Flat out. Killer release. Ditto that in a much different context for Shroud Eater, whose take on heavy only got more sinister and more effective with Dead Ends. Steak emerge as tops among the five British bands — a quarter of the list! — here. Their Corned Beef Colossus also had the best title I heard all year, and though Trippy Wicked, Groan, Stubb, and Undersmile/Coma Wall (the latter earning bonus points for putting out a split with themselves) all thrilled, Steak‘s potential got them that spot. Time for a full-length, guys.

Not to leave out New York — though the geographical alignment is a coincidence — Geezer‘s Gage tapped into a jammier feel that I thought suited the band remarkably well, and The Golden Grass‘ debut single offered one of the most charming irony-free good times I’ve heard in a long while. The Salem’s Pot cassette was one of my most-listened-to tapes this year, last mentioned but not at all least, Second Grave‘s Antithesis probably would’ve clocked in higher if I’d had more time with it, but was definitely one I wanted to put in here anyway.

As I said, a lot of really astounding shorter outings, and worthy of attention in their own right. If I missed anything, I hope you’ll let me know in the comments.

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If You Only Download Seven Releases Today…

Posted in Features on November 19th, 2013 by JJ Koczan

It happened at the start of last month that there was a Tuesday during which I was so overwhelmed by the sheer awesomeness of the releases available that I had no choice but to present a rundown of all of them. No choice. You would ask, “Couldn’t you just –” and I would cut you off to say, “No I couldn’t.” It had to be all of them.

So it is today. Last night, Young Hunter posted a new EP, and Across Tundras guitarist/vocalist Tanner Olson released a new folk/Americana solo outing, and today has been more or less an onslaught of “out today!” and “don’t miss it!” and so on. Well, I’ve whittled what I’m sure is an incomplete list down to seven brand new releases currently available for download. Some of them — like the Stone Machine Electric and Tanner Olson — are pay-what-you-will, but even those asking for a cash deposit should prove well worth the investment. You can always get a sampling beforehand, and I’ve included players below to facilitate.

Here we go:

1. Black Skies, Circadian Meditations


This one’s a gem. The North Carolina duo of guitarist/vocalist Kevin Clark and bassist/vocalist Michelle Temple teamed up with Caltrop drummer John Crouch and the result is a more patient collection and exploratory feel than that which reared itself on 2011’s On the Wings of Time debut. Progressive but not pretentious, atmospheric but not letting go of its rocking side, it’s an album that begs for multiple listens and satisfies even more with them. Both Clark and Temple come off as more confident on vocals, and extended bookends “Lifeblood” (the 10-minute opener) and “The Dusk/Invisible Figures” (the nine-minute closer) showcase a burgeoning affinity for heavy psych mindgaming. It’s as much fun as it is a journey. Get it here.

Black Skies, Circadian Meditations (2013)

2. T.G. Olson, The Bad Lands to Cross


If you haven’t yet started to obsessively keep tabs on the Across Tundras/T.G. Olson Bandcamp page, it’s a worthwhile endeavor. Olson is a prolific and experimental songwriter, and as much as he works in the traditional forms of country twang and Americana spaciousness, so too does he bend those elements to the will of his material. His latest outing, The Bad Lands to Cross, is a relic waiting to be unearthed. Recorded live with one Shure SM57 microphone, it’s an hour long collection as prone to beauty as tragedy, songs like “Return from the Brink” hovering somewhere between the canyon sides of the anxious and secure. He sings, which he doesn’t on all of his solo releases (see The Complete Blood Meridian for Electric Drone Guitar), and one might consider The Bad Lands to Cross a spiritual companion to Across Tundras‘ 2013 outing, Electric Relics (review here), but it more than stands on its own, whether it’s the minimalist folk of “Rarefied Blue” or the harmonica-laden melancholy of the Gene Clark cover, “Some Misunderstanding.” Get it here.

T.G. Olson, The Bad Lands to Cross (2013)

3. Sandrider, Godhead


Sandrider are the antidote to stagnation. Their second album for Good to Die Records, Godhead (review here), pummels with reckless glee and abandon, but don’t let that lead you to believe it isn’t also precise. The post-Akimbo three-piece of drummer Nat Damm, guitarist/vocalist Jon Weisnewski and bassist/vocalist Jesse Roberts returned to Matt Bayles to record the follow-up of their clarion 2011 self-titled debut (review here), and the continued partnership found Sandrider all the more gnarly and aggressive, but also with a development in their melodic sensibility to match. Songs like the opener “Ruiner” and punkish “Champions” are an unabashed good time — get loaded and call them “epic” — and cuts like “Godhead” and the closer “Traveler” work in more complex terrain, showing the dynamic at work between all three members of the band, each of whom proves essential in crafting the atmosphere of the whole. Listen to it for a party or for thinky-thinky bludgeoning. Either way you don’t lose. Also available on gatefold vinyl. Get it here.

Sandrider, Godhead (2013)

4. Second Grave, Antithesis

They call it an EP, but it eats like a full-length. Fronted by former Warhorse guitarist/vocalist Krista van Guilder and featuring Black Pyramid/The Scimitar bassist Dave Gein along with guitarist Chris Drzal and drummer Chuck Ferreira, Second Grave revel in doomed atmospheres and heavy metal stoicism. Their Antithesis EP follows last year’s self-titled debut outing (review here) and over the course of its two tracks, “Mourning Light” (6:37) and “Drink the Water” (11:41), it showcases what’s working in the band’s quickly solidifying approach, whether it’s the solo and riff interplay of the two guitars, undulating heavy grooves in the bass and drums, or van Guilder‘s propensity for throwing in ripping screams along with her melodic clean singing. The more rocking “Mourning Light” and “Drink the Water” play out the duality shown on the Cory John Heisson artwork, and recording by Black Pyramid‘s Clay Neely at Black Coffee Sound and a mastering job from Revelation‘s John Brenner wrap Antithesis up as a doom metaller’s delight in style and affiliation. Get it here.

Second Grave, Antithesis (2013)

5. Stone Machine Electric, 2013.02.07


When Arlington, Texas, riffers Stone Machine Electric released their self-titled full-length (review here) in January 2013, they had recently added third member Mark Cook on Warr guitar. Cook didn’t appear on that album, which was produced by Wo Fat‘s Kent Stump, and is seemingly since out of the band, but was on board alongside guitarist/vocalist William “Dub” Irvin and drummer Kitchens for this recorded show, which as the title would indicate was taped on Feb. 7, 2013. They were at The Grotto that night in Ft. Worth, and they played a considerable set. 2013.02.07 clocks in at 53 minutes, and extended pieces like “Carve” and “No/W/Here” give the trio plenty of space to jam out. Naturally, they take advantage, and though the lineup was new and the recording is rough, what purports to be the first in a series of free live albums from Stone Machine Electric seems to come as a document of an already bygone moment. One hopes their lineup issues get sorted soon one way or another so they can follow 2013.02.07 and the self-titled in good time. Get it here.

Stone Machine Electric, 2013.02.07 (2013)

6. Summoner, Atlantian


Didn’t I just write about this album? Well yes, yes I did. Summoner‘s second offering under the moniker and third overall, Atlantian (released by Magnetic Eye Records), is an ambitious and unrepentantly proggy heavy rock record. You’ll find some riffy thrust on “Horns of War,” but notice that they lead with “The Gatekeeper,” a track which couples its big-bigger-biggest plod with some of Summoner‘s most accomplished melodicism to date. Atmospheric explorations like “Changing Tides” (presumably the end of side A on the vinyl) and peaceful closer “Taken by the Sea” show the Boston foursome branching out beyond the reaches even of 2012’s Phoenix, and while the crushing progressions of “Into the Abyss” and the forward rush of “The Prophecy” offer contrast to these sleepier stretches — too substantial and precariously placed to be interludes — the full-album flow that runs across Atlantian demonstrates in no uncertain terms just how far Summoner have come since starting out as Riff Cannon with 2009’s Mercury Mountain. Get it here.

Summoner, Atlantian (2013)

7. Young Hunter, Embers at the Foot of Dark Mountain


With no more ceremony than a quick, “Hey this is out now,” Young Hunter casually released a three-song follow-up to their wildly impressive 2012 full-length, Stone Tools (discussed here). I’ve gone back to that album often since I first heard it, and Embers at the Foot of Dark Mountain is a terrifyingly solid answer to the formative work the doubly-drummed seven-piece did on their debut, whether it’s the mountain gothic stomp of “Welcome to Nothing” or spacious sway of the ensuing “Trail of Tears,” which is dark and otherworldly but tied to the cold clarity of a desert night all the same, picking up in its second half to a joyous guitar-led ritualizing that legitimately earns a Neurosis comparison more than most of what gets compared to Neurosis these days. Rounding out with the moody, percussion-led “Dreamer,” Young Hunter showcase a bit of drama to go with the intensity presented elsewhere, launching into full-bore thickness and fervent, desperate shouts. Someone needs to sign this band immediately. Tee Pee? Hell, Neurot? Someone’s gotta step up. This is too good. Reportedly a new lineup is in construction as guitarist/vocalist Benjamin Blake (and maybe others) has relocated from Arizona to Portland, Oregon (of course), and these tracks will be used as part of a split tape with Ohioan, but they’re free now, so go to. Get it here.

Young Hunter, Embers at the Foot of Dark Mountain (2013)

Happy listening. If there’s anything I missed, please let me know in the comments.

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