Maryland Doom Fest 2021 Announces Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 22nd, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Maryland Doom Fest 2021 is set for Halloween Weekend, Oct. 28-31, in Frederick, Maryland. Some of the acts on the newly announced bill are carryovers from the first-delayed-then-canceled 2020 edition — among them SasquatchWorshipper, and so on — but it’s worth noting that among those and others, the likes of The Age of Truth will have a new record out by this Fall, and pre-pandemic, Boozewa didn’t even exist. So yes, things have changed.

For further proof of the festival’s stylistic branching out — and with this many bands, they’d just have have to — you’ll note the departure in the poster art from the fest-standard purple toward a greater range of color. The music they’re pushing is likewise broader in palette, and to think of seeing the likes of Howling Giant and Revvnant alongside Arduini/BalichOmen Stones, and Place of Skulls is an encouraging thought indeed. This even was much-missed last year.

Expect a time-table sooner than later, as organizer JB Matson doesn’t screw around when it comes to that kind of thing. The lineup announcement — short and sweet, as ever — is further proof of same.

I don’t know what the world’s gonna look like come Halloween, but I know damn well this is one reason I’m glad I got that vaccine.

[UPDATE 04/30: Black Road and Vessel of Light can’t make it. Lo-Pan and When the Deadbolt Breaks have been added. If there are any further changes, I’ll probably just make a new post.]

To wit:

maryland doom fest 2021 new poster

Here is the Md Doom Fest 2021 roster folks!!!
Halloween weekend – Oct 28-31, 2021
WE CANNOT WAIT TO DOOM WITH YOU!!

Lineup:

Poobah, Sasquatch, Place of Skulls, Lo-Pan, Lost Breed, Cavern, Horseburner, Spiral Grave, The Age of Truth, Mangog, Wrath of Typhon, Helgamite, Almost Honest, Indus Valley Kings, VRSA, Monster God, Et Mors, Astral Void, Worshipper, Boozewa, Admiral Browning, Omen Stones, Formula 400, Molasses Barge, Arduini/Balich, Dirt Eater, Dyerwolf, Ol’ Time Moonshine, Shadow Witch, Revvnant, Bloodshot, Ritual Earth, Gardens of Nocturne, Conclave, Crow Hunter, Bailjack, Warmask, Akris, Alms, Thunderbird Divine, Strange Highways, Howling Giant, Yatra, Jaketehhawk, When the Deadbolt Breaks, Grave Huffer, Dust Prophet, Plague Wielder, Weed Coughin, Morganthus, Tines

www.marylanddoomfest.com
#4daysofdoom

https://www.facebook.com/MdDoomFest/
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The Obelisk Questionnaire Earl Walker Lundy of Shadow Witch

Posted in Questionnaire on February 15th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

earl walker lundy

The Obelisk Questionnaire is a series of open questions intended to give the answerer an opportunity to explore these ideas and stories from their life as deeply as they choose. Answers can be short or long, and that reveals something in itself, but the most important factor is honesty.

Based on the Proust Questionnaire, the goal over time is to show a diverse range of perspectives as those who take part bring their own points of view to answering the same questions. To see all The Obelisk Questionnaire posts, click here.

Thank you for reading and thanks to all who participate.

The Obelisk Questionnaire: Earl Walker Lundy

of Shadow Witch, Swarm of Flies, 0h Greenman

How do you define what you do and how did you come to do it?

I first found a “voice” through drawing, and then painting, but music always had the strongest pull on me.

I sang along with the radio, I sang in Church, I sang in my room while I was drawing, but when I finally got on stage with some loud guitars and a drummer everything made sense — I made sense.

It was like my “lightbulb” moment.

Describe your first musical memory.

My father was always singing; when I was really little we’d go walking way out in the country, near where he grew up. He would almost always sing hymns, like “I Come to the Garden Alone,” but occasionally folk songs.

I remember he liked singing Ledbelly’s “Goodnight Irene.”

Describe your best musical memory to date.

It’s been a while, but it still might have to be seeing The Mars Volta live.

The band was just on fire, and Cedric was channeling serious spirits that night. Like a soul possessed.

Otherwise, it would have to be walking (again with my dad) past a “sharecropper’s” house, and seeing the man on the porch of that house playing guitar using a knife for a slide.

THAT is a uniquely special memory.

When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?

In this context “tested” implies temptation to me, and temptation for me is always of a sexual nature.

So I guess leaving the moral constricts of my Judeo-Christian heritage behind me was an important “test.”

Where do you feel artistic progression leads?

Hopefully to more art. More work. More opportunities. More experience.

How do you define success?

How I’d define it now is definitely very different than I would have in my youth – fame and fortune and all that.

I would like to find a larger audience for the work I do, sure, but ultimately one makes “art for arts sake” – for ones self, so I suppose just having that opportunity is a success in itself.

What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?

My first thought would be that of seeing someone die in front of me, but in reality, that’s quite a powerful gift.

Memory is pain, but that pain is power.

Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.

I’d like to score films. I don’t read or write music in a classical sense, but Brian Eno was an early influence, and I know how to use the studio as an instrument.

What do you believe is the most essential function of art?

To convey emotion.

Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?

Walking into a bar and hanging with friends. And bearhugs, lots of bearhugs!

www.facebook.com/shadowwitch.band
www.shadowwitch.bandcamp.com
www.argonautarecords.com

Shadow Witch, Under the Shadow of a Witch (2020)

0h Greenman, “Grandchester Meadows” official video

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The Obelisk Presents: THE BEST OF 2020

Posted in Features on December 31st, 2020 by JJ Koczan

london-news-etching-1854-newcastle-upon-tyne

[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.]

Invariably, the ultimate measure of 2020 will be in lives and livelihoods lost around the world. I have nothing to add to the discourse of the COVID-19 pandemic that others haven’t said in more articulate and precise language. Suffice it to note that 2020 was the year that the very concept of “unprecedented” itself became trite.

One does not have to look far to find positives amid the devastation. Creativity continues to flourish. Art cannot be killed. Even locked away from each other in quarantine, artists will continue to reach out, to collaborate, to fulfill the human need for expression that has driven the species since cave drawings and will no doubt be the ruins we leave behind us when we’re gone.

In underground music, it was simply overwhelming. And though I’ll admit it was hard at times to listen to music and divorce it from the larger context of what was happening in the world — it was there like a background buzz — this year reinforced how necessary music is, not only as an escape or a source of income for those who make/promote it, but as an integral component of life and community. Absences have been keenly felt.

I won’t try to sate you with platitudes, to say “things will get better.” Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. One year turning to the next does not fix broken systems and it does not cure raging plagues. It’s just a number. Arbitrary except as a convenient marker for things like this, births, deaths, and so on. Bookkeeping.

Before I turn you over to the lists: Please be kind in the comments if you choose to leave one. To me. To other people. To yourself. These lists are culled from my listening preference and what I consider of critical importance. But I’m one person. If there’s something you feel has been left out, say so. I ask you only to do so in a spirit of friendship rather than argument. Thank you in advance.

ukmedsnorx.com/zopiclone
ukmedsnorx.com/zolpidem

Okay:

The Top 50 Albums of 2020

#50-31

50. Sun Crow, Quest for Oblivion
49. Atramentus, Stygian
48. Arcadian Child, Protopsycho
47. Fuzz, III
46. Jointhugger, I Am No One
45. Dirt Woman, The Glass Cliff
44. Switchblade Jesus, Death Hymns
43. Foot, The Balance of Nature Shifted
42. Hymn, Breach Us
41. IAH, III
40. Lord Fowl, Glorious Babylon
39. Acid Mess, Sangre de Otros Mundos
38. 1000mods, Youth of Dissent
37. Deathwhite, Grave Image
36. Soldati, Doom Nacional
35. Cortez, Sell the Future
34. Kadavar, The Isolation Tapes
33. Black Rainbows, Cosmic Ritual Supertrip
32. Shadow Witch, Under the Shadow of a Witch
31. Insect Ark, The Vanishing

Notes: To say nothing of the honorable mentions that follow the rest of the list below, immediately we see the problem of so-many-albums-not-enough-space. People talk about a top 50 as ridiculous, like there’s no way you can like that much music. Bullshit. I agonized over how to fit Sun Crow on this list because their Quest for Oblivion felt like it deserved to be here. Ditto that for Arcadian Child. And the achievements of bands like Kadavar, 1000mods and Switchblade Jesus and Insect Ark in breaking the boundaries of their own aesthetics deserve every accolade they can get, and likewise those who progressed in their sound like Cortez, Shadow Witch, Lord Fowl, Hymn, Foot, Black Rainbows, Deathwhite and IAH. Add to that the debuts from Atramentus, Dirt Woman, Jointhugger, Acid Mess and Sergio Ch.’s Soldati, and you’ve got a batch of 20 records — some born of this year’s malaise, some working in spite of it — that vary in sound but are working to push their respective styles to new places one way or the other.

30. High Priestess, Casting the Circle

high priestess casting the circle

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed May 5.

There was no shortage of anticipation for what L.A. cultists High Priestess would do to follow their 2018 self-titled debut (review here), and the three-piece did not disappoint, instead gave a ritual mass that included the 17-minute concept piece “Invocation” alongside infectious and ethereal melodies like “The Hourglass.” And now that the circle’s been cast? Seems like they can do anything.

29. Polymoon, Caterpillars of Creation

Polymoon Caterpillars of Creation

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed Oct. 12.

High-powered cosmic metal from Finland pulling apart heavy psychedelia on an atomic level with an urgency that speaks of youth, progress and an ingrained need for exploration? Sign me up. A lot of bands on this list put out their first album this year. There are few for whom my hopes are as high as they are for Polymoon. If you haven’t yet heard Caterpillars of Creation, do.

28. Sons of Otis, Isolation

Sons of Otis Isolation

Released by Totem Cat Records. Reviewed Sept. 30.

Of the sundry horrors 2020 wrought, a new album from long-running Toronto three-piece Sons of Otis was an unexpected positive, and their ultra-spaced, murky riffs on their first studio album since 2012’s Seismic (review here, also here) launched like a slow-motion escape pod of righteous doom (s)tonality. There will never be another Sons of Otis. Be thankful for everything you get from them.

27. Lamp of the Universe, Dead Shrine

Lamp of the Universe Dead Shrine

Released by Projection Records. Reviewed May 25.

Organ, Mellotron, sitar, acoustic and electric guitars, various percussion elements, and of course the inimitable fragility in Craig Williamson‘s voice itself — the ingredients for Lamp of the Universe‘s Dead Shrine were familiar enough for those familiar with the one-man outfit running more than two decades, but the lush acid folk created remains a standout the world over. Dead Shrine was a much-needed gift of peace and meditation.

26. BleakHeart, Dream Griever

bleakheart dream griever

Released by Sailor Records. Reviewed Nov. 18.

The debut album from Colorado’s BleakHeart collected pieces united by melody and overarching atmosphere, positioned stylistically somewhere around heavygaze or heavy post-rock, but feeling less limited to genre bounds than some others working in a similar sphere. As a first outing, it brought a promise of things to come even as the depths of its mix seemed to swallow the listener entirely, equal parts serving claustrophobia and escapism.

25. Pale Divine, Consequence of Time

Pale Divine Consequence of Time

Released by Cruz Del Sur Music. Reviewed June 3.

There is not enough space here to properly commend Pale Divine founding guitarist/vocalist Greg Diener on how much he opened up the band by bringing in his and drummer Darin McCloskey‘s former Beelzefuzz bandmate Dana Ortt on shared guitar, vocal and songwriting duties. Completed by Ron “Fezz” McGinnis on bass/vocals, Pale Divine are a refreshed and ready powerhouse of American traditional doom.

24. Uncle Woe, Phantomescence

uncle woe phantomescence

Released by Packard Black Productions. Reviewed Oct. 21.

One is going to have to get used to the idea of Uncle Woe residing in the places between, I think. An inward-looking cosmic doom that’s likewise morose and reaching, opaque and translucent, Phantomescence could be almost troubling in its feeling of off-kilter expression. Yet that’s exactly what multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Rain Fice was going for. Thriving on contradiction, exploratory, and individualized. Start from doom, move outward.

23. REZN, Chaotic Divine

rezn chaotic divine

Released by Off the Record Label. Reviewed Oct. 15.

I don’t feel like I’m cool enough to offer any substantive comment on what Chicago’s REZN do, but their sax-laced heavy psychedelia comes across warm and is invitingly languid while still delivered with a sense of energy and purpose. It rolls and you want to roll with it, so you do. They were clearly hurt by not being able to tour this year, as were audiences for not seeing them. Call them neo-stoner metal or whatever you want, these songs deserve to be played live.

22. Ruff Majik, The Devil’s Cattle

ruff majik the devils cattle

Released by Mongrel Records. Reviewed Oct. 29.

A revamped lineup for South African desert-ish heavy rockers Ruff Majik brought producer Evert Snyman in as co-conspirator with frontman/principal songwriter Johni Holiday, and found the former trio working as a five-piece with a broader sound underscored by an electric sense of purpose and willingness to push themselves to places they hadn’t gone before. Their third record, it seemed as well to be a new beginning, and they met the challenge head-on.

21. Curse the Son, Excruciation

Curse The Son Excruciation

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed June 8.

The underheralded children of rolling fuzz riffage, Connecticut’s Curse the Son found new depths of emotion to bring to Excruciation — and I do mean “depths.” Dark times for dark times. Fueled by personal hardship, turmoil, motorcycle accidents and a pervasive sense of struggle, the LP was nonetheless a triumph of their songwriting and brought new melodic character to their established largesse of tone. Your loss if you missed it.

20. The Atomic Bitchwax, Scorpio

The Atomic Bitchwax Scorpio

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Aug. 26.

Business as usual in ferocious heavy/speed rock from The Atomic Bitchwax on Scorpio — and that was only reassuring since the band’s eighth full-length marked the first since the departure of guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan and his replacing with Garrett Sweeny, a bandmate of founding bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik and drummer Bob Pantella in Monster Magnet. They barely stopped to cool their heels and yet still managed to be catchy as hell. How do they do it? Jersey Magic.

19. Cinder Well, No Summer

cinder well no summer

Released by Free Dirt Records. Reviewed July 21.

Such pervasive melancholy could only be derived from Irish folk, and so it was on Cinder Well‘s No Summer, which managed to move between singer-songwriter minimalism from Amelia Baker and arrangements of deceptive and purposeful intricacy. Wherever it went, from traditional songs “Wandering Boy” and “The Cuckoo” to originals like “Fallen” and the nine-minute “Our Lady’s,” it was equal parts gorgeous and sad and resonant. It remains so, despite the fleeting season.

18. Pallbearer, Forgotten Days

pallbearer forgotten days

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Dec. 24.

Their fourth album and first since crossing the decade-mark since their inception, Pallbearer‘s Forgotten Days wasn’t just heavy, emotional or big-sounding; it was the most their-own of anything they’ve done. It felt exactly like the record they wanted it to be, and reconfirmed that the generation of listeners being introduced to doom by their music is going to be just fine if they follow the cues laid out for them here.

17. Slift, Ummon

slift ummon

Released by Stolen Body and Vicious Circle Records. Reviewed March 26.

Less a reinvention of space rock than a kick in its ass, Slift‘s Ummon pushed well past the line of manageability at 72 minutes and reveled in that. The French outfit were greeted as liberators when they released the album, and with the way the respect has been maintained in the months since they’ve given themselves a high standard to meet, but there’s only promise to be heard as you get lost in the nebular wash of this sprawling 2LP. They’ll have two more records out before this one’s fully digested.

16. My Dying Bride, The Ghost of Orion

my dying bride the ghost of orion

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Feb. 25.

The first album in half a decade from long-established UK death-doom forebears My Dying Bride found vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe coping with his daughter’s cancer diagnosis and translating that into the morose poetry for which the band is so well known and with which they’ve been so influential. My Dying Bride has never wanted for sincerity, but to call them affecting here would be underselling the quality of their craft and the heart they put into it. Follow-up EP is already out with extra non-album tracks.

15. Causa Sui, Szabodelico

causa sui Szabodelico

Released by El Paraiso Records. Reviewed Nov. 11.

Denmark’s Causa Sui may be on a mission to unite jazz and heavy psychedelia — and blessings on them for that — but the mellow jammy vibes they conjured on Szabodelico only emphasized how much it’s the character of what they do and the chemistry they’ve brought as bandmates that has allowed them to branch thusly in terms of aesthetic. It was the kind of album you wanted to put on again even before it was over, and its sweet instrumentals felt born to a greater timeline than a single year can encompass.

14. All Souls, Songs for the End of the World

All Souls Songs for the End of the World

Self-released. Reviewed Sept. 21.

I’m not a punk rocker, but All Souls make me wish I was. Their emotive and engaged heavy rock looks out as much as in on Songs for the End of the World — their second LP behind a 2018 self-titled debut (review here) — but it’s undeniably punk in its foundation, and what the four-piece of Antonio Aguilar and Meg Castellanos (both ex-Totimoshi), Erik Trammell (Black Elk) and Tony Tornay (Fatso Jetson) have put together builds on that in exciting, inventive and individualized ways, while staying nonetheless true to its roots.

13. Kind, Mental Nudge

kind mental nudge

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Oct. 20.

Five years after their debut album, Rocket Science (review here), Boston four-piece Kind return with Mental Nudge. And despite the different situations in which it finds the band’s members — bassist Tom Corino is now ex-Rozamov, drummer Matt Couto now ex-Elder — the group’s focus remains on carving memorable, mostly structured tracks out of ethereal heavy psychedelia, guitarist Darryl Shepard (Milligram, etc.) and vocalist Craig Riggs (RoadsawSasquatch, etc.) adding space and melody to the crunching, driving grooves.

12. Molassess, Through the Hollow

Molassess Through the Hollow

Released by Season of Mist. Featured Aug. 17.

Founded by vocalist Farida Lemouchi (ex-The Devil’s Blood) and guitarist Oeds Beydals (ex-Death Alley, also ex-The Devil’s Blood) and commissioned as a project for Roadburn Festival 2019 (review here), Molassess are inextricably tied to Lemouchi‘s groundbreaking former outfit and its tragic ending, but the musical branching out into darkened progressive textures on Through the Hollow isn’t to be understated. It was an album that pushed past the past, not overlooking it, but finding new ways of moving forward in life and sound.

11. Tony Reed, Funeral Suit

tony reed funeral suit

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Sept. 28.

While of course the Mos Generator frontman is no stranger to writing or recording on his own, Funeral Suit was Tony Reed‘s debut as a solo artist and it carried his progressive stamp in melody and arrangement. It was not just a guitarist playing acoustic instead of electric, and it was not a manifestation of self-indulgence. Whether it was reworking a Mos Generator song like “Lonely One Kenobi” or pursuing a new piece like the title-track or “Waterbirth,” Reed found balance between personal and audience, evoking traditional songsmithing even as he reminded listeners of his dual role as a producer.

10. Geezer, Groovy

Geezer Groovy

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed May 18.

Spectacular showing from Kingston kingpins Geezer with Groovy as their first offering for Heavy Psych Sounds. Led by guitarist/vocalist Pat Harrington, the three-piece brought material that flowed with the organic feel of jams despite being structured and catchy songs. In pieces like “Dead Soul Scroll” and “Drowning on Empty,” they melded stonerized groove with what felt like genuine emotional expression, and “Dig” and “Groovy” still managed to be a heavy fuzz-blues party. And they still had room at the end to jam out on “Slide Mountain” and “Black Owl.” It was nothing but a win, rising to the occasion on every level.

9. Big Scenic Nowhere, Vision Beyond Horizon

big scenic nowhere vision beyond horizon

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Jan. 29.

So Bob Balch from Fu Manchu and Gary Arce from Yawning Man have a band. They get Tony Reed from Mos Generator on board. Mario Lalli from Yawning Man/Fatso Jetson comes and goes. Nick Oliveri comes and goes. Bill Stinson from Yawning Man plays drums. Alain Johannes sits in on vocals. Reed does a bunch of vocals; his kid does a track too. Per Wiberg from Spiritual Beggars, Opeth, Candlemass, etc., lends some keys. What do you call such a thing? Who cares? You call yourself lucky it exists. They called the record Vision Beyond Horizon. Can’t wait to find out what they call the next one.

8. Elder, Omens

elder omens

Released by Armageddon Shop and Stickman Records. Reviewed April 27.

Omens marked a new beginning for Elder as the band pushed deeper into the realm of progressive rock and beyond their weightier beginnings. The arrival of Georg Edert (also Gaffa Ghandi) on drums in place of Matt Couto shifted the band’s dynamic in a number of ways, providing not a swinging anchor for the rhythm section necessarily, but another avenue of prog fluidity. Bassist Jack Donovan brought a steady presence in the low end as guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo and guitarist/keyboardist Mike Risberg embarked on new melodic explorations while staying loyal to the band’s established penchant for sweeping changes. Omens may live up to its name as a sign of things to come, but either way, it was a strong display of the band’s will to pursue new ideas and methods.

7. Forming the Void, Reverie

forming the void reverie

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed April 15.

First words that come to mind here: “eminently listenable.” With seven tracks and 36 minutes, Reverie may not have taken up much of your afternoon… once. But by the time you gave it its proper respect and listened through three times in a row, the situation was somewhat different. The Lafayette, Louisiana, four-piece gracefully brought together structured songwriting with proggier leanings and were able to bring together rampaging hooks like “Trace the Omen” and “Manifest,” casting a sense of sonic hugeness without forgetting to add either melody or personality along with that. The band — who here welcomed bassist Thorn Letulle alongside guitarist/vocalist James Marshall, guitarist Shadi Omar Al-Khansa and drummer Thomas Colley — have worked quickly and evolved with a sense of urgency. Is Reverie the goal or another step on that path?

6. Grayceon, MOTHERS WEAVERS VULTURES

grayceon mothers weavers vultures

Released by Translation Loss Records. Reviewed Nov. 18.

Vocalist/cellist Jackie Perez Gratz (interview here), guitarist Max Doyle and drummer Zack Farwell comprise Grayceon, and with their fifth record, the band looks around thematically at environmental devastation through the lens of record-breaking California wildfires from their vantage point in the Bay Area. Even as the world shifted priorities (at least most of it did) to yet another global crisis in the COVID-19 pandemic, genre-melting-pot songs like “Diablo Wind,” “The Lucky Ones,” and “This Bed” reminded of the horrors humanity has wrought on its battered home, and still managed to find hope and serenity in “And Shine On” and “Rock Steady,” a closing duo that shifted to a more personal discussion of family and one’s hope for a better future for and by the next generation. 2020 had plenty of horror. At least we got a new Grayceon record out of it.

5. Brant Bjork, Brant Bjork

brant bjork brant bjork

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed April 28.

When Sho’Nuff asked Bruce Leroy “who’s the master?,” dude should’ve said Brant Bjork. It would’ve been a confusing end to Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon, but ultimately more accurate, as Brant Bjork‘s homegrown kung fu was unfuckwithable as ever on the album that shares his name. After two decades of solo releases in one form or another, Bjork is not just a pivotal figurehead for desert rock, he’s a defining presence, as well as one of its most treasured practitioners. Brant Bjork, the album, brought initial waves of funk in “Jungle in the Sound,” explored weedy worship in “Mary (You’re Such a Lady)” and toyed with religious dogma in offsetting that with “Jesus Was a Bluesman” while still tossing primo hooks in “Duke of Dynamite” and “Shitkickin’ Now” ahead of the more open “Stardust and Diamond Eyes” and the acoustic closer “Been So Long.” With Bjork recording all the instruments himself, a due feeling of intimacy resulted, and yet he still found a way to make it rock. How could it be otherwise?

4. Enslaved, Utgard

enslaved utgard

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Sept. 29.

Why do I feel the immediate need to defend this pick? I’m not sure. Norway’s Enslaved are an institution, not just of black metal, but of bringing an ideology of creative growth to that style that often willfully resists it. They are iconoclastic even unto their own work. Utgard was released as the band stood on the precipice of 30 years together and yet it stood as their most forward-looking offering yet, as co-founders Grutle Kjellson (bass/vocals) and Ivar Bjørnson (guitar/sometimes vocals), as well as longtime lead guitarist Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal backed up the change from 2017’s E (review here) that brought in new keyboardist/vocalist Hakon Vinje with the incorporation of drummer Iver Sandøy, who doubles as a vocalist (and triples as a producer). The “new blood” made all the difference on Utgard, allowing Enslaved to piece together new ranges of melody in their work and offset instrumental shifts into and out of krautrock-derived progressions. Simply the work of a band outdoing itself from a band who does so at nearly every opportunity.

3a. Colour Haze, We Are

colour haze we are

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten and Ripple Music. Reviewed Dec. 3, 2019.

Every year I allow myself one addendum pick, and this is it. We Are was on last year’s list because it was digitally released, but the vinyl came out this year and it received its North American release this year as well, so it seemed only right to acknowledge that. So here it is in its proper place.

3. All Them Witches, Nothing as the Ideal

All-Them-Witches-Nothing-as-the-Ideal

Released by New West Records. Reviewed Sept. 3.

This is a band controlling their own narrative. Instead of Nothing as the Ideal being ‘the one they made as a three-piece,’ the Nashville outfit decided to make it ‘the one they recorded at Abbey Road.’ Were they thinking of it on those terms? Yeah, likely not, but it goes to demonstrate all the same just how much of themselves All Them Witches put into what they do musically, since not only are they continuing to refine and define and undefine their approach, but they’re setting the terms on which they do it. Each of their records has been a response to the one prior, but that conversation has never been so direct as to make them predictable. So what are they chasing? Apparently nothing. I’m not entirely sure I buy that as a complete answer, but I am sure I love these songs and the experiments with tape loops and other sounds that fill these spaces. Whatever they do next — or even if nothing — their run has been incredible and exciting and one only hopes their influence continues to spread over the next however many years.

2. Elephant Tree, Habits

elephant tree habits

Released by Deathwish Inc.. Reviewed April 13.

There was a high standard set by Elephant Tree‘s 2016 self-titled debut (review here), but their second LP, Habits, surpassed even the loftiest of expectations. With vocals centered around harmonies from guitarist Jack Townley and bassist Peter Holland, the former trio completed by drummer Sam Hart brought in guitarist/keyboardist John Slattery (also sometimes vocals), and the resultant breadth gave the material on Habits spaciousness beyond even what the first album promised. Drifting, rolling, unflinchingly melodic and somehow present even in its own escapism, Habits was not just an early highlight for a rough 2020, but a comforting presence throughout, and the further one dug into tracks like “Sails,” “Exit the Soul,” “Faceless,” “Wasted” and the acoustic “The Fall Chorus,” the more there was to find — let alone “Bird,” which I’ll happily put against anything else one might propose for song of the year. As their former UK label crumbled, Habits emerged unscathed and Elephant Tree‘s future continues to shine with ever more hope for things to come. Being able to say that about anything feels like a relief.

2020 Album of the Year

1. Lowrider, Refractions

Lowrider Refractions

Released by Blues Funeral Recordings. Reviewed Jan. 24.

Twenty years ago, Sweden’s Lowrider put out what would become a heavy rock landmark in their 2000 debut, Ode to Io (reissue review here). A follow-up years in the making even after the band got back together to play Desertfest in London (review here) and Berlin in 2013, Refractions first saw limited release in 2019 as part of Blues Funeral‘s PostWax series (discussed here), but its proper arrival was in early 2020, and there was really no looking back after that. It wasn’t just the novelty of a new Lowrider album that made Refractions such a joy, but the manner in which the band went about its work. There was no pretending that 20 years didn’t happen. There was no attempt to recapture the bottled lightning that was the first record, and Lowrider did not sound like a band “making a comeback” rife with expectations and fan-service. Refractions acknowledged the legacy of Ode to Io, sure enough, but as a step toward adding to it in meaningful and engaging ways. The songs — “Red River,” “Ode to Ganymede,” “Sernanders Krog,” “Ol’ Mule Pepe,” “Sun Devil/M87” and the 11-minute finale “Pipe Rider” — were fashioned without pretense and came across as the organic output of a band with nothing to prove to anyone but themselves. They made it their own. In a wretched year, Lowrider shined.

The Top 50 Albums of 2020: Honorable Mention

Yeah, okay. There are a lot of these, so buckle in. Last year I just threw out a list of bands. This year I’m a little more organized, so here are bands and records alphabetically.

Across Tundras, LOESS ~ LÖSS
Across Tundras, The Last Days of a Silver Rush
Alain Johannes, Hum
Arboretum, Let it All In
Bell Witch & Aerial Ruin, Stygian Bough Vol. 1
Black Helium, The Wholly Other
Boris, No
Brimstone Coven, The Woes of a Mortal Earth
CB3, Aeons
Celestial Season, The Secret Teachings
Crippled Black Phoenix, Ellengæst
Cruthu, Athrú Crutha
Domo, Domonautas Vol. 2
DOOL, Summerland
Dopelord, Sign of the Devil
Dwaal, Gospel of the Vile
Elder Druid, Golgotha
Ellis Munk Ensemble, San Diego Sessions
Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou, May Our Chambers Be Full
EMBR, 1823
Familiars, All in Good Time
Forlesen, Hierophant Violent
Galactic Cross, Galactic Cross
The Heavy Eyes, Love Like Machines
Hum, Inlet
Human Impact, Human Impact
Humulus, The Deep
Jupiterian, Protosapien
Kariti, Covered Mirrors
Khan, Monsoons
Kingnomad, Sagan Om Ryden
King Witch, Body of Light
Kryptograf, Kryptograf
Light Pillars, Light Pillars
Lord Buffalo, Tohu Wa Bohu
Lord Loud, Timid Beast
Lotus Thief, Oresteia
Malsten, The Haunting of Silvåkra Mill
Mindcrawler, Lost Orbiter
Motorpsycho, The All is One
Mountain Tamer, Psychosis Ritual
Mr. Bison, Seaward
Mrs. Piss, Self-Surgery
Mugstar, GRAFT
Murcielago, Casualties
Oranssi Pazuzu, Mestarin Kynsi
Paradise Lost, Obsidian
Parahelio, Surge Evelia Surge
The Pilgrim, …From the Earth to the Sky and Back
Pretty Lightning, Jangle Bowls
Psychlona, Venus Skytrip
Puta Volcano, AMMA
Ritual King, Ritual King
River Cult, Chilling Effect
Rrrags, High Protein
Shores of Null, Beyond the Shores (On Death and Dying)
Sigiriya, Maiden – Mother – Crone
Six Organs of Admittance, Companion Rises
16, Dream Squasher
Slomosa, Slomosa
Somnus Throne, Somnus Throne
Steve Von Till, No Wilderness Deep Enough
Stone Machine Electric, The Inexplicable Vibrations of Frequencies Within the Cosmic Netherworld
Sumac, May You Be Held
Temple of the Fuzz Witch, Red Tide
Temple of Void, The World That Was
The Kings of Frog Island, VI
Tia Carrera, Tried and True
Turtle Skull, Monoliths
Uffe Lorenzen, Magisk Realisme
Ulcerate, Stare Into Death and Be Still
Vessel of Light, Last Ride
Vestal Claret, Vestal Claret
Vinnum Sabbathi, Of Dimensions and Theories
Wight, Spank the World
Wino, Forever Gone
Yatra, All is Lost
Yuri Gagarin, The Outskirts of Reality

By no means is that list exhaustive. And to look at stuff like Psychlona, Oranssi Pazuzu, Wight, Wino, Puta Volcano, Kingnomad, Ellis Munk Ensemble, Paradise Lost, Alain Johannes, Arbouretum, Uffe Lorenzen, Tia Carrera — on and on and on — I can definitely see where arguments are to be made for records that should’ve been in the list proper. I can only go with what feels right to me at the time.

Together with the top 50, this makes over 110 albums in the best of 2020. If you find yourself needing something to hang your hat on, be glad you’re alive to witness this much excellent music coming out.

Debut Album of the Year

Molassess, Through the Hollow

Molassess Through the Hollow

Other notable debuts (alphabetically):

Atramentus, Stygian
Bethmoora, Thresholds
BleakHeart, Dream Griever
Crystal Spiders, Molt
Dirt Woman, The Glass Cliff
Dwaal, Gospel of the Vile
Electric Feat, Electric Feat
Familiars, All in Good Time
Galactic Cross, Galactic Cross
Human Impact, Human Impact
Jointhugger, I Am No One
Light Pillars, Light Pillars
Love Gang, Dead Man’s Game
Malsten, The Haunting of Silvåkra Mill
Might, Might
Mindcrawler, Lost Orbiter
Mrs. Piss, Self-Surgery
Parahelio, Surge Evelia Surge
Polymoon, Caterpillars of Creation
Ritual King, Ritual King
SEA, Impermanence
Slomosa, Slomosa
Soldati, Doom Nacional
Somnus Throne, Somnus Throne
SpellBook, Magick & Mischief
Spirit Mother, Cadets
Temple of the Fuzz Witch, Red Tide
The Crooked Whispers, Satanic Melodies
White Dog, White Dog

Notes: I sparred with myself every step of the way here. The last couple years I’ve tried to give the top-debut spot to not just a new band, but a new presence. Green Lung, King Buffalo, etc. Molassess, with members from The Devil’s Blood, Death Alley and Astrosoniq, isn’t exactly that. So what do I do? Do I go with something newer like Polymoon, Dirt Woman, BleakHeart, SEA, White Dog or The Crooked Whispers, or something with more established players like Molassess, Soldati, or even Light Pillars?

In the end, what made the difference was not just how brilliant the songs on Molassess’ Through the Hollow, but how honestly the band confronted the legacy they were up against. The songs had a familiar haunting presence, but they were also moving ahead to somewhere new. It was that blend of old and new ideas, and the resonant feeling of emotional catharsis — as well as the sheer immersion that took place while listening — that ultimately made the decision. Turns out I just couldn’t escape it.

And why not a list? Because this feels woefully inadequate as it is. I reviewed over 250 records this year one way or another — and that’s a conservative estimate — but a lot gets lost in the shuffle and somehow it just seemed wrong this time around to call something the 13th best first record of the year. I wanted to highlight the special achievement that was the Molassess album, but really, all of these records kicked my ass one way or the other.

Short Release of the Year 2020

King Buffalo, Dead Star

King Buffalo Dead Star

Other notable EPs, Splits, Demos, etc.:

Big Scenic Nowhere, Lavender Blues
Coma Wall, Ursa Minor
Conan/Deadsmoke, Doom Sessions Vol. 1
Fu Manchu, Fu30 Pt. 1
Grandpa Jack, Trash Can Boogie
Howling Giant/Sergeant Thunderhoof, Masamune/Muramasa (split)
Oginalii, Pendulum
Kings Destroy, Floods
Lament Cityscape, The Old Wet
Limousine Beach, Stealin’ Wine +2
Merlock, That Which Speaks
Monte Luna, Mind Control Broadcast
Mos Generator/Di’Aul, Split
Pimmit Hills, Heathens & Prophets
Rito Verdugo, Post-Primatus
Rocky Mtn Roller, Rocky Mtn Roller
Spaceslug, Leftovers
10,000 Years, 10,000 Years
The White Swan, Nocturnal Transmission
Thunderbird Divine, The Hand of Man
Witchcraft, Black Metal

Notes: If you were wondering why King Buffalo’s Dead Star (review here) wasn’t on the big list, this is why. It was pitched to me as an EP and that’s how I’m classifying it. I’m taking the out. Is it an EP? Not really, but neither is it a full-length album, given its experimental nature and focus around its extended two-part title-track. Whatever it was, it was the best that-thing, and this is the category where such things go.

Again, tough choices after King Buffalo. Thunderbird Divine’s EP was wonderfully funk-blasted and woefully short (new album, please). The newly-issued Spaceslug EP branches out their sound in fascinating ways as a result of the lockdown. Witchcraft’s acoustic EP, Coma Wall’s EP and Big Scenic Nowhere’s EP all signaled good things to come, and Howling Giant’s split with Sergeant Thunderhoof was a highlight of the most recent Quarterly Review. There really isn’t a bummer on the list there, from the bitter psych of Oginalii to the industrial metal of Lament Cityscape, the unadulterated riffery of Merlock to the live-captured rawness of Monte Luna.

So again, why no list? Same answer. I want to highlight the progression King Buffalo made in their sound and leave room open elsewhere for things I missed. Please let me know what in the comments. Cordially.

Live Album of the Year 2020

Yawning Man, Live at Giant Rock

yawning man live at giant rock

Other notable live releases:

Ahab, Live Prey
Amenra, Mass VI Live
Arcadian Child, From Far, for the Wild (Live in Linz)
Author and Punisher, Live 2020 B.C.
Cherry Choke, Raising Salzburg Rockhouse
Dead Meadow, Live at Roadburn 2011
Dirty Streets, Rough and Tumble
Electric Moon, Live at Freak Valley Festival 2019
Kadavar, Studio Live Session Vol. 1
King Buffalo, Live at Freak Valley
Monte Luna, Mind Control Broadcast
Orange Goblin, Rough & Ready: Live and Loud
Øresund Space Collective, Sonic Rock Solstice 2019
Pelican, Live at the Grog Shop
SEA, Live at ONCE
Sumac, St Vitus 09/07/2018
Sun Blood Stories, (a)Live and Alone at Visual Arts Collective
Temple Fang, Live at Merleyn
YOB, Pickathon 2019 – Live From the Galaxy Barn

Notes: In this wretched year (mostly) void of live music, marked by canceled tours and festivals, the live album arguably played a more central role than it ever has, whether it was a band trying to keep momentum up following or leading into a studio release, taking advantage of the emergence of the Bandcamp Friday phenomenon or just trying to maintain some connection to their fans and the process of taking a stage. Or even playing in a room together. Or not a room. Anything. What was once a tossoff, maybe an afterthought companion piece became an essential worker of the listening experience.

You might accuse desert rock progenitors Yawning Man of playing to their base with Live at Giant Rock (featured here), and if so, fine. At no point in the last 50 years has that base more needed playing-to. And in the absence of shows, being able to hear (and watch, in the case of the accompanying video) Yawning Man go out to the landscape that spawned them and engage with their music was a beautiful moment of reconciliation. An exhale for the converted that didn’t fill one with empty promises of better tomorrows or tours to come, but served to remind what’s so worth preserving about the spirit of live music in the first place. The fact that anything can happen. A replaced note here, a tuning change there — these things can make not just an evening, but memories that go beyond shows, tours, to touch our lives.

There were a ton of live records this year. Some were benefits for worthy causes between saving venues, Black Lives Matter, voting rights organizations, and so on. And whether these were new performances from captured livestreams (Monte Luna, Kadavar) or older gigs that had been sitting around waiting for release at some point (Sumac, Dead Meadow), this, very much, was that point, and these live offerings kept burning a fire that felt at times very much in danger of being extinguished.

Looking Ahead to 2021

A list of bands. Some confirmed releases, some not. Here goes:

Dread Sovereign, Sasquatch, Year of Taurus, Apostle of Solitude, Weedpecker, Borracho, Love Gang, Jointhugger, Demon Head, Iron Man, Greenleaf, Samsara Blues Experiment, The Mammathus, Evert Snyman, Wo Fat, Conclave, Here Lies Man, Kabbalah, Komatsu, Hour of 13, Wedge, Amenra, La Chinga, Spidergawd, Wolves in the Throne Room, Vokonis, Freedom Hawk, Masters of Reality, ZOM, Eyehategod, Sanhedrin, Green Lung, The Mountain King, Albatross Overdrive, Elder, King Buffalo, Sunnata, Howling Giant, SAVER, Conan, Slomatics, Ruff Majik, Kind, Mos Generator, Yawning Sons, Lantlôs, Brant Bjork, Spiral Grave, Crystal Spiders, Lightning Born, Samavayo, Wovenhand, Merlock, Comet Control, The Age of Truth, Eight Bells, BlackWater Holylight, DVNE, Monte Luna.

Thank You

You’ve read enough, so I will do my best to keep this mercifully short. Thank you so much for reading — whether you still are or not — and thank you for being a part of the ongoing project that is The Obelisk. I cannot tell you how much it means to me to have such incredible support throughout not just this year, but all the years of the site’s existence. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you most of all to The Patient Mrs. for her indulgence in letting me get this done. I’m am amazed forever.

More to come.

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Shadow Witch Premiere “Spearfinger” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 28th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

shadow witch spearfinger

Just by way of a refresher, New York dark heavy rockers Shadow Witch released their latest album, Under the Shadow of a Witch (review here), this year. That’s right. This year. 2020. It was Feb. 14, for Valentine’s Day. Except of course people were less concerned with the love in the air than the looming threat of a global pandemic that in the ensuing eight months has gone on to claim the lives of over 225,000 Americans, because…. freedom? But yeah. This year. I swear to you, in all honesty I thought it was October 2019.

Maybe that’s because it was around this time last year that my feed on thee social medias started getting flooded with pics of the Kingston-based outfit in blacklight regalia, playing a couple special gigs with the due color effects to match the onstage theatrics of frontman Earl Walker Lundy, who’s joined in Shadow Witch by bassist David Pannullo, guitarist Jeremy Hall and drummer Justin Zipperle. They did it as a Halloween-time thing, and since obviously the same won’t be happening this weekend for that most Reese’s-minded of pagan harvest festivals, they’ve gone ahead and put together a likewise neon-burst video for the track “Spearfinger” from the — again, wow — 2020 full-length. At three minutes, it’s a rush but it’s got one of the record’s best hooks, and since they can’t get out and do the shows, the reminder is welcome.

Fun fact: when I worked at KB Toys Store #1051 in Morris Plains, NJ — about two minutes from where I now live, if you hit the red light; it’s right by where they whacked Phil Leotardo on The Sopranos — we sold blacklights and I used my employee discount to do my whole 18-year-old bedroom in them. It was fun but mostly it just showed all the lint on my t-shirts. Shadow Witch are way better at it than I ever was.

So with that, think back to the Before Time and the shows that might’ve been, and get ready to have this one stuck in your head for the rest of your day. Also don’t go into the forest.

Enjoy the clip:

Shadow Witch, “Spearfinger” official video premiere

Since we were unable to do our usual season of (HALLOWS) blacklight gigs, we wanted to make a celebrational video for the Holy(holi)Day. We invited a friend Esther Gin, she’s a real drag, to have a go at lip-syncing to the song. We wanted to make something fun, trippy, and colorful, and I think we’ve accomplished that. Happy Halloween & Samhain Blessings !

Shadow Witch, Under the Shadow of a Witch (2020)

Shadow Witch on Thee Facebooks

Shadow Witch on Instagram

Shadow Witch on Bandcamp

Argonauta Records website

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Days of Rona: Jeremy Hall of Shadow Witch

Posted in Features on April 21st, 2020 by JJ Koczan

The statistics of COVID-19 change with every news cycle, and with growing numbers, stay-at-home isolation and a near-universal disruption to society on a global scale, it is ever more important to consider the human aspect of this coronavirus. Amid the sad surrealism of living through social distancing, quarantines and bans on gatherings of groups of any size, creative professionals — artists, musicians, promoters, club owners, techs, producers, and more — are seeing an effect like nothing witnessed in the last century, and as humanity as a whole deals with this calamity, some perspective on who, what, where, when and how we’re all getting through is a needed reminder of why we’re doing so in the first place.

Thus, Days of Rona, in some attempt to help document the state of things as they are now, both so help can be asked for and given where needed, and so that when this is over it can be remembered.

Thanks to all who participate. To read all the Days of Rona coverage, click here. — JJ Koczan

shadow witch jeremy hall (Photo by Jeanine Ortt)

Days of Rona: Jeremy Hall of Shadow Witch (Kingston, New York)

How are you dealing with this crisis as a band? Have you had to rework plans at all? How is everyone’s health so far?

Shadow Witch has had to cancel a few shows, but it’s a wait-and-see approach as to when we’ll be back out there. It’s certainly started affecting some of the upcoming festivals we were counting on to be out there supporting our new album. The other thing has been a cessation of practices for now, but we’re starting to share files online to work on new songs. The ideas are starting to flow. Everyone’s health has been okay so far and we’re taking lots of precautions especially considering my wife suffers from an autoimmune inflammatory disease. We’re all practicing our social isolation as best we can. I live in the woods, so I can go outside and take lots of walks.

What are the quarantine/isolation rules where you are?

Well, I’m from upstate NY, so the quarantine rules are pretty strict. We’re about 90 minutes from New York City, so it’s definitely a scary time. We’re supposed “shelter in place” essentially but Cuomo, the governor, calls it “NY on Pause” because “shelter in place” is only used for active shooters. But you get the idea. That’s where we are and where we will be for a while. But it’s important to do it. I am a librarian and professor at a college with epidemiologists and infectious disease specialists and value their opinions. This is what they say we should be doing.

How have you seen the virus affecting the community around you and in music?

A lot of bands we’re friends with have had to cancel tours. Festivals are starting to get postponed. Merch people aren’t getting jobs. Venues and bars are shut down. One effect I really worry about is losing a lot of venues in the scene as an outcome of this. People need to get out there and support local bars and restaurants if they can — get takeout! Another thing is that I’ve been spending less time on social media for band stuff because there’s so much rampant misinformation. It just makes a tough situation even worse. It’s going to take some time for the community to bounce back after this, but I think there’s a desire in everyone to come back stronger than ever.

What is the one thing you want people to know about your situation, either as a band, or personally, or anything?

One thing is taking care of your friends and family in a time like this. I know this gets said often, but it’s important to realize that we all have a role in this. Even if it’s staying home sitting on your ass binge-watching Tiger King. I’ve been working remote and honestly I’m busier than ever. And I’m lucky. I have friends who’ve had to shut down their businesses and friends who’ve been laid off. So I think it’s important for everyone to just be more mindful of how all our lives impact each other. Help out where you can. My wife and I sewed a bunch of masks to donate to the local hospital — well, she sewed them and I cut out the fabric. But each little part makes a difference. We all have a chance right now to make a difference. That’s one thing I’d like people to know.

www.facebook.com/shadowwitch.band
www.shadowwitch.bandcamp.com
www.argonautarecords.com

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Review & Full Album Stream: Shadow Witch, Under the Shadow of a Witch

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on February 12th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Shadow Witch Under the Shadow of a Witch

[Click play above to stream Under the Shadow of a Witch by Shadow Witch in its entirety. Album is out Friday on Argonauta Records.]

The two halves of Shadow Witch‘s Under the Shadow of a Witch break just about evenly into vinyl sides, each one bearing its own subtitle. The first is ‘Spearfinger and Other Cautionary Tales’ and the second is ‘Fountain and Other Love Songs.’ In this way, the Kingston, New York, four-piece of vocalist/Mellotronist/noisemaker Earl Walker Lundy, guitarist Jeremy Hall, bassist David Pannullo and drummer Doug Beans (since replaced by Justin Zipperle) introduce the two central concepts with which their third album is working, largely through metaphor, bluesy, distinctly Southern-rooted storytelling, but rife with a realization of the dark heavy rock aesthetic the band have been building toward over the course of their two prior LPs, 2017’s Disciples of the Crow (review here) and 2016’s Sun Killer (discussed here), as they’ve moved from labels like Snake Charmer Coalition, Salt of the Earth and Kozmik Artifactz to find a home on Argonauta Records.

Under the Shadow of a Witch contains nine songs and altogether runs just under 40 minutes in total, indeed opening with “Spearfinger” in immediate and intense fashion, the four-piece clearly rushing to get their audience swept up in the energy of their shortest inclusion, while on the other end, “Fountain” closes at over eight minutes as the longest cut. All between, their songs are crafted, arranged thoughtfully, and very much playing with a studio presentation toward a live energy. That is, they’re not trying to ape a live show by being overly or needlessly raw, but there is attention given in the recording by Paul Orofino at Millbrook Sound to maintaining to one degree or another the vitality with which “Spearfinger” casts such a striking initial impression. Even as the penultimate “Sour” leads into the finale, it does so on a swell of noise and layered soloing from Hall with crashing cymbals behind.

As there would be on a record with such consideration underlying its execution, there is no shortage of dynamic at play in terms of tempo and general style, whether it’s the subdued acoustic beginnings of early highlight “Demon’s Hook” or side B leadoff “Saint Magdalene” — fleeting though they may be — or the effectively-placed emergence of Mellotron in the final-minute slowdown of the former, the chorus of which lives up to its title, i.e., that hook is for sure a demon in its potential to possess. It would perhaps be the catchiest song on Under the Shadow of a Witch — the great irony of the album is that for as much as it’s meant to be taken as Side Caution and Side Love, as it were, the component tracks do so much work to stand out individually — but for the subsequent “Wolf Among the Sheep,” begun with a spoken preach and working along an anti-dogmatic theme critiquing organized religion in a manner well presented if familiar.

While we’re talking about ironies, it’s hard to imagine Shadow Witch, in terms of listeners, aren’t preaching to the converted there, but again, it’s the chorus that’s the real sway of the piece as it rounds out the launchpoint salvo with “Spearfinger” and “Demon’s Hook,” portraying Shadow Witch as a band sure in their approach and ready for consideration at another level from where they’ve been before. They have, in terms of sound, found what they’ve been looking for this whole time.

shadow witch (photo by Kristin Troost Hall)

A third album is a natural place for that to happen, but more specifically, one can’t help but be drawn to the sense of frontman presence Lundy brings to his performance here. Part of that is that his voice, presented often in layers, with harmonies and other nuances of arrangements — dude can sing, and that always helps — is forward in the mix as to stand out from Hall‘s guitar, Pannullo‘s bass and Beans‘ drums, but the storytelling elements that begin with “Spearfinger” continue throughout that lead salvo and into the lush and nodding riff of “Witches of Aendor,” which touches on metal in its later reaches as Shadow Witch are wont to do without ever giving in entirely to aggressive posturing. Through that careening, chugging finish and into the more straightforward side A finale “Shifter” — another chorus not to be discounted — Lundy‘s task is to unite the material through whatever variety surrounds, and he does so impressively while donning a host of characters and perspectives along with ample melodic command.

There are moments where the balance tips one way or the other between band and frontman, but that ends up adding to the overarching dynamic of Under the Shadow of a Witch as a whole. As “Saint Magdalene” introduces the notion of a more patient side B about to unfold, it does so with a stepped-back Lundy (relatively speaking) and a stepped-up groove, an airier guitar returning temporarily in the second half of the song amid soulful, bluesy-almost-in-spite-of-themselves vocals that lead to a rousing solo. The brashest and most aggro of the nine inclusions, “6×6” is call-and-response through the verse and crunch in the rhythm — all business — as it makes its way to the chorus and a jarring strike of guitar after the title line is delivered. If Shadow Witch are metal anywhere on their third LP, it’s in “6×6,” but that doesn’t come at the expense of songwriting, which remains top priority.

It and “Sour” make a fitting pair for a dug-in vibe ahead of the closer, keeping momentum rolling without losing the thread of complexity coinciding, even if less infectious than “Demon’s Hook” or “Wolf Among the Sheep” earlier. The eight minutes of “Fountain” that follow are time well spent, with guest slide guitar from fellow Kingstonian Pat Harrington of Geezer that’s built toward with a payoff of the bluesy aspects both in Lundy‘s singing and in the progression behind him. They cap with howling wails and intertwining solos in a fitting wash atop the solid rhythmic foundation that’s underscored the various moves made all along, and give Under the Shadow of a Witch an earned sendoff into the ether of its own making.

True to its side’s subtitle, “Fountain” is a love song ultimately, and while I’m not sure I’d say the same about “6×6” — I’m not sure I wouldn’t, mind you — Shadow Witch‘s performance across the span of the full-length as a whole, taken in sides or song-by-song, shines with the feeling of an intention fulfilled. It is the work of a band who went into the studio with a purpose, and who realized that purpose in righteous form. Preach on, Shadow Witch.

Shadow Witch, “Wolf Among the Sheep” official video

Shadow Witch on Thee Facebooks

Shadow Witch on Instagram

Shadow Witch on Bandcamp

Argonauta Records website

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Shadow Witch Unveil “Wolf Among the Sheep” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 12th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

shadow witch

It’s a Feb. 13 release date for Shadow Witch‘s awaited new album, Under the Shadow of a Witch, through Argonauta Records. So be it. I’ve seen some pics around thee social medias of blacklight shows the band have been doing of late, and they look fairly insane as one would imagine. A touch of the otherworldly or alternate-reality suits Shadow Witch‘s sound well, as does the video for “Wolf Among the Sheep,” which plays up the religious commentary of the track itself.

You know the really fucked thing about Christianity? They tell that shit to kids. Imagine having a kid and being like, “Yo, you better be good because there’s an all-powerful white dude watching you ALL THE TIME EVEN WHILE YOU SLEEP OR PEE and if you’re bad you’ll be set on fire and also that happens forever and ever.” Think about it. That is insane. And I’m speaking as someone who was one of those kids. No wonder people hate each other.

Anyway, you’ll see the snakes, the grainy footage, the speaking in tongues, and yes, the children taking part, as well as the band integrated among the fray — can’t miss them. For further viewing, go back and watch Jesus Camp again. For further listening, stay tuned and I hope it’s not all that long before another track from Under the Shadow of a Witch surfaces. Maybe in January? Hell, I’ll take it whenever it comes. I’m not looking to interrupt anyone’s holiday dinner or anything. Whenever they get around to it is good by me.

Shadow Witch will be at New England Stoner & Doom Fest and will return to Maryland Doom Fest 2020 as well. Because hell yes they will. More dates are reportedly forthcoming, and I believe it.

Dig:

Shadow Witch, “Wolf Among the Sheep” official video

New York Heavy Doom And Stoner Metal Veterans, SHADOW WITCH, Premiere Brand New Music Video!

Under the Shadow of a Witch coming in February 2020 on Argonauta Records!

Shadow Witch, who inked a worldwide deal with Argonauta Records last year, are a heavy rock/stoner metal band from the Hudson Valley region of New York. Forming in the autumn of 2015, the band released their first full-length album Sun Killer to excellent reviews from the international heavy music community in the summer of 2016. A diverse assemblage of songs pulling in Doom, Thrash, NWOBM, and psychedelic and stoner metal, the band backed it up with intense and explosive live shows, opening for King Buffalo, Mothership, and Corrosion of Conformity among others.

Shadow Witch began a new chapter with the release of their second full-length album Disciples of the Crow in December 2017, again gaining excellent reviews from the heavy music community. Countless explosive shows later, the band returns with their highly anticipated third album, titled Under the Shadow of a Witch, coming out on February 13th via Argonauta Records !

To shorten the wait for its official album release, Shadow Witch have just unleashed a brand new video from their upcoming magnum opus! Watch the new clip for Wolf Among The Sheep HERE!

Get ready to kick of into a heavy as hell 2020 with Shadow Witch, and watch out for many more news and album pre-sale infos to follow soon!

Shadow Witch live:
May 15-16, 2020 (US) – NEW ENGLAND STONER AND DOOM FEST
June 18-20, 2020 (US) – MARYLAND DOOM FEST
with many more dates to follow soon!

SHADOW WITCH is:
Justin Zipperle – drums
David Pannullo – bass
Earl Lundy – voice / mellotron / loops
Jeremy Hall – guitars

Shadow Witch on Thee Facebooks

Shadow Witch on Instagram

Shadow Witch on Bandcamp

Argonauta Records website

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Maryland Doom Fest 2020 Announces Full Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 31st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

maryland doom fest 2020 banner

In the immortal words of one Peter Steele: Happy Halloween, baby. Those playing along at home know that today means one thing to the realms of doom, and it’s that it’s time for Maryland Doom Fest to unveil next year’s lineup. Maryland Doom Fest 2020 has some significant shoes to fill in following up this year’s, which of course was held in June in Frederick, Maryland, and they’ve lined up a full four-dayer onslaught to make a go of it.

Headlining sets from Cirith UngolBlood CeremonySpeedealer and Mondo Generator, with direct killage from The SkullVictor Griffin‘s Death Row Assembly (this will be incredible, especially there), Witch Mountain and Sorcerer, the fest is pretty much blowing its own prior reach out of the water. I’ll especially look forward to Arduini/Balich and hope that this performance accompanies a new album, but return appearances from The Age of TruthBailjackEarthride (yes!), Shadow WitchSpiral GraveKnoxxville and Helgamite will be awesome as well, and I’ve no doubt the likes of Vessel of Light, Galactic Cross (with Dave Sherman of Earthride), YatraBlack LungPlainrideCavernMolasses BargeAdmiral BrowningBlack RoadPoobahOmen Stones and Crystal Spiders will be made to feel welcome into the MDDF family vibe, at least those who aren’t already a part of it. I guess particularly in the case of Admiral Browning, it’s more like family reunion.

Keeping with the festival’s no-dragged-out-staggered-announcements spirit, I’ll be up front about this: it’s gonna be a good ‘un. You should do whatever you need to do to make it happen.

Check it:

maryland doom fest 2020 poster

MARYLAND DOOM FEST Announces 2020 Lineup: June 18-21 – Feat. CIRITH UNGOL, BLOOD CEREMONY, MONDO GENERATOR, SPEEDEALER + MORE! EarlyBird Sales Start Dec. 17!

The Maryland Doom Fest celebrates its 6th anniversary next June and today brings you its confirmed roster of over 50 of today’s heaviest bands to hit its stages in 2020.

Maryland Doom Fest brings both U.S. and international artists from all over the map into Frederick, MD for a full four days of mayhem, featuring the legendary Cirith Ungol and Blood Ceremony, to Speedealer and Mondo Generator set to headline the four nights of top shelf doom metal and heavy underground sounds! This year includes more than fifty bands to cover every dark and dank corner of metal subgenres across every inch of the stage from start to finish each night.

A few words from JB Matson, founder and organizer of The Maryland Doom Fest:

“I simply could not be more excited about the fifty-plus band roster for the Maryland Doom Fest’s 6th annual show in 2020!! This will be a splendid #4daysofdoom!!!”

We invite all to become part of the family at the Maryland Doom Fest 2020 weekend events! Please support the Doom and Heavy Music scene and come share in this epic event with us. We will see you at #4daysofdoom!!

THE MARYLAND DOOM FEST 2020

CIRITH UNGOL + BLOOD CEREMONY + SPEEDEALER + MONDO GENERATOR

THE SKULL + SORCERER + DEATH ROW ASSEMBLY + WITCH MOUNTAIN

Ol’ Time Moonshine + Arduini/Balich + Dirt Eater + Switchblade Jesus
Doperider + Condenados + Cultic + Yatra + Bailjack + Poobah
Earthride + Black Lung + Jake The Hawk + Black Road + Warmask
Admiral Browning + Sourpuss + Molasses Barge + Thunderbird Divine
Dust Prophet + Wolftooth + Vessel Of Light + Wrath Of Typhon + Spiral Grave
Plainride + Mangog + Cavern + Galactic Cross + Shadow Witch + Burgan
Akris + Plague Wielder + The Age Of Truth + Knoxxville + The Astral Void
Serpents Of Secrecy + Omen Stones + Crystal Spiders + Helgamite
VRSA + Conclave + Et Mors + Strange Highways + Alms + Dyerwulf

June 18th – 21st, 2020 + Frederick, MD

www.marylanddoomfest.com

Early Bird Discount tickets are available from December 17th through 31st.

Standard ticket sales start January 2020.

RSVP: https://www.facebook.com/events/827407774319811/

https://www.facebook.com/events/827407774319811/
https://www.facebook.com/MdDoomFest/
https://www.instagram.com/marylanddoomfest/
www.marylanddoomfest.com

Cirith Ungol, “I’m Alive” live at Up the Hammers Festival 2017

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