Review & Track Premiere: Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard & Slomatics, Totems Split

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on January 22nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

mammoth weed wizard bastard slomatics totems

Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, ‘Eagduru’ track premiere

[Stream Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard’s ‘Eagduru’ by clicking play above. The Totems split LP with Slomatics is out in March via Black Bow Records and available to preorder here.]

“Exceptional” can be a pretty lofty mark by its nature, but Totems, hits it on a number of levels. The split release between Welsh and Northern Irish crushers Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard and Slomatics — issued with the significant endorsement of founding Conan guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis through his Black Bow Records imprint — probably won’t offer an abundance of surprises to those familiar with the bands or their methods, but in coming together across the five tracks and two sides of this limited vinyl, they reach a degree of impact that not only few splits manage, but go even further convey a spirit of sonic kinship that the Samantha Muljat cover art would seem to recognize: a single figure standing with her back to the viewer, a sword raised to a surrounding landscape. We don’t know if it’s ritual, defiance or an attack, but there’s a sense of union between the woman and that weapon, and the same applies between Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard and Slomatics throughout Totems in a way that is genuinely rare.

Side A brings two tracks in the extended “The Master and His Emissary” (12:30) and “Eagduru” (11:03) from Wrexham’s Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, whose ethereal and melodically-focused brand of riff-rolling doom was last heard on their engaging sophomore long-player,Y Proffwyd Dwyll (review here), which came out via New Heavy Sounds in 2016 and lived up to the promise the band showed in the prior grimness of Noeth Ac Anoeth (review here), their 2015 debut. Comprised of vocalist/bassist Jessica Ball, guitarists Paul Michael Davies and Wez Leon, and drummer James “Carrat” Carrington — and perhaps as their moniker would indicate — Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard are no strangers to being willfully cumbersome.

Both of their full-lengths and the prior 2015 half-hour-long single-track EP, Nachthexen (review here), worked in longer forms, and so what they bring to Totems in “The Master and His Emissary” and “Eagduru” feels very much in their wheelhouse of grooving largesse and layers of otherworldly echoing vocals from Ball, whose harmonies lay out over top of the proceedings masterfully without dominating the mix, but there’s progression to be heard in their style as well. The elements they’re working with, from the deceptively active hook of “The Master and His Emissary” to the hypnotic tumble of “Eagduru,” which fades in with an intense build of chug before unfolding a sprawl that seems to ensnare the listener as it plays out, and, like some slow herbal poison, drain them of their consciousness — a compliment, mind you; this is precisely what the track is intended to do — are more recognizably their own, and while one can still draw a line from the likes of Windhand in terms of influence, Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard set themselves up here to fully establish their style as individual, and thereby greatly raise expectations for the kind of achievement they might attain with their next album proper. They may not think of it this way, and in fact one hopes they don’t, but they’re throwing down a gauntlet for themselves with these tracks and setting a high standard to be surpassed.

mammoth weed wizard bastard slomatics totems 8-bit

What they’re not doing — and this is perhaps where Totems is at its most exceptional — is competing with the side B onslaught from Belfast three-piece Slomatics. In its info for the release, Black Bow calls Totems a “collaboration” rather than a “split” and while I’d generally take that to indicate the two groups were working together as one unit — which, to the best of my knowledge, they didn’t — they are exceedingly well paired to complement each other’s work. In addition, having both recorded at Skyhammer Studio with Conan bassist Chris Fielding at the helm — who’s a stranger to neither act, having produced both Y Proffwyd Dwyll and Slomatics‘ 2016 fifth LP, Future Echo Returns (review here) — there’s a consistency of sound and a blend of spacious atmosphere in “Ancient Architects” (8:29), the ambient instrumental/interlude “Silver Ships into the Future” (3:49) and “Master’s Descent” (8:30) that helps create the full-album-style flow that so much bolsters the front-to-back listening experience of Totems.

This would seem to be something of which the bands themselves were aware going into the split’s making, since we see in Slomatics‘ closing “Master’s Descent” a mirror or at least a nod toward Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard‘s opener, “The Master and His Emissary.” Whether that’s indicative of an overarching narrative between the bands across the five tracks, I can’t confirm, but it speaks to the coherence of the delivery throughout Totems, which is yet another element making it an outlier from the norm as regards split releases in a positive way. Further, as Slomatics — the returning trio of guitarists Chris Couzens and David Marjury and drummer/vocalist Marty Harvey — tumble out riffs like they’re pushing their grooves down flights of stairs in the second half of “Ancient Architects” and roll through “Master’s Descent” in a fashion that recalls some of Future Echo Returns‘ most triumphant moments while still feeling expanded outward from them — “epic” is the word, though one is generally loath to use it — they remind via the curveball cinematic keyboard of “Silver Ships into the Future” that their approach is as much about reach as it is about crush.

While it’s easy to write off superficially as “just an interlude,” “Silver Ships into the Future”  is effective as well in emphasizing the linear feel of Totems and precisely the sort of sonic detail for which the split will no doubt stand as one of the finest joint offerings of 2018. There are a lot of reasons two groups might pair up. Maybe they’re touring together and need something for a merch table. Maybe they’re friends and just want to work together on a project. Maybe they were directed to do so by a label or shared management or something of that sort. Totems, at least going by the impression left behind from the release itself — boot-shaped-and-on-skull as it is — is once again of a rarer breed here, in that it comes across more as a creative expression than a matter of convenience or logistics. One finds shared intent between Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard and Slomatics in aesthetic drive, and that proves to be the ultimate difference when it comes to Totems‘ exceptionality. From concept to production to execution to presentation, it works so as to make itself utterly essential. Recommended.

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2017

Posted in Features on December 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan


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 2017 to that, please do.

We’re almost at the finish line for 2017, and if I’m honest, it’s not a minute too soon. I think if one more record comes out this year my head is going to explode.

A perpetual onslaught of cool music is, of course, nothing to complain about. It just seemed like every time I thought I had a handle on where the year was going, some other announcement came through and knocked me on my ass. What’s that? The Obsessed are putting out their first album in more than two decades? Oh and Monolord have a new one coming? Radio Moscow just signed to Century Media? Arc of Ascent are back? Samsara Blues Experiment are back? Causa Sui are putting out a live album and a studio album? Sasquatch are going to Europe and sneaking a record along with them? All of a sudden I’m out of breath feeling like I just ran a lap.

It’s been madness this year. Between an emergent neo-psych movement in the wake of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and others, and the ongoing and constant reshaping of doom and heavy rock from practitioners new and old, I don’t know how anyone could ever claim to keep up with any of it.

You know I do the best I can, so when you look through this list, please keep in mind that these are my picks and the result of applying my own standard, which if you’ve ever seen a list on this site before you probably already know is a combination of things like what I view as being important on a critical level and things like what kept me coming back as a listener. What were the year’s biggest releases and what couldn’t I get enough of? Sometimes those two things come together around one record and it’s beautiful. That’s usually your album of the year, or close to, anyhow.

No sense in delaying further. I hope if you haven’t heard some of this stuff you’ll give it a shot, and if you have something you felt strongly about it, you’ll let me know in the comments. Thanks in advance for keeping it civil, and of course for reading.

Here goes:

30. Geezer, Psychoriffadelia
geezer psychoriffadelia

Released by Kozmik Artifactz and STB Records. Reviewed May 16.

Coming off of what was their strongest album to-date in their 2016 self-titled (review here), New York heavy psych blues trio Geezer decided it was time to take the groove for a walk. And so they did. Psychoriffadelia is the result — a looser collection of jams and willfully unrefined heavy blues, reveling in the politically incorrect on “Dirty Penny” only after basking in the post-Monster Magnet hypnosis of “Red Hook” and the earlier roll of the more straightforward “Hair of the Dog” and “Stressknots.” Everything Geezer has done to this point has pushed their sound to new places. Psychoriffadelia is no exception.

29. Orango, The Mules of Nana

orango the mules of nana

Released by Stickman Records. Reviewed March 27.

More than a touch of twang on opener “Heartland” sets a tone of Americana-infusion for Orango‘s sixth LP, The Mules of Nana, but the 10-tracker is ultimately much more about harmony-laced classic heavy smoothness than playing to prairie-minded sensibilities, though roots spread wide through a natural, dirty blues just the same. However they get there, “Hazy Chain of Mountains,” the softshoe-ready funk of “Head on Down” and the peacefully progressive finish of “Ghost Rider” bring ’70s-style thrills in songwriting and their precise, gorgeous execution. Underrated record from an underappreciated band.

28. Radio Moscow, New Beginnings

radio moscow new beginnings

Released by Century Media. Reviewed Oct. 6.

Cali boogie kingpins and all-around marvelous frenetic bastards Radio Moscow were in top form on their Century Media debut, and if it was a new beginning they were searching for, they met it head on with a sound as classic and organic as ever. Arguably the most powerful power trio in their game, they tore through cuts like “No One Knows Where They’ve Been” and “Deceiver” while offering flourish in the trip-out “Woodrose Morning” and subdued blues-psych on the penultimate “Pick up the Pieces.” Very much to form, but cast of a form that still manages to outclass all challengers.

27. Spaceslug, Time Travel Dilemma

spaceslug time travel dilemma

Released by Southcave Records, BSFD Records and Oak Island Records. Reviewed Feb. 10.

And so here we have the first of what will no doubt be several records about which I’m going to say they should be higher on the list. Poland’s Spaceslug have emerged from the moist ground created by their own tonality and on their sophomore full-length, they proffered warm depth of fuzz and a corresponding melodic and psychedelic reach that was resonant even before they brought in ex-Sungrazer bassist Sander Haagmans for a guest spot on the title-track. It’s been out for 10 months and still delivers every time I put it on, which is often.

26. Mothership, High Strangeness

mothership high strangeness
Released by Ripple Music and Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed March 7.

Three albums into a tenure marked by hard-driving riffs, scorching solos and relentless road work, there’s little Texas trio Mothership need to do at this point to prove themselves to their audience. At the same time, High Strangeness brought considerable expansion to their range overall, whether it was the exploratory “Eternal Trip” or the semi-metallic insistence behind “Midnight Express,” while staying tied together with lyrical and instrumental hooks. High Strangeness set a new standard for Mothership, plain and simple, and easily surpassed the considerable accomplishments of their 2012 self-titled debut (review here) and 2014’s Mothership II (review here).

25. Eternal Black, Bleed the Days

eternal black bleed the days

Released by Obsidian Sky Records. Reviewed Aug. 1.

There was a lot about Eternal Black‘s Bleed the Days that chugged its way into the post-Wino oeuvre of US-style trad doom, but the gruff, lumbering and impeccably riffed outing was nonetheless one of 2017’s best debut full-lengths, and it was the songwriting that got it there. Already sounding sure in the vibe captured, cuts like the plodding brooder “Sea of Graves” and “Stained Eyes on a Setting Sun” showed potential in mood and atmosphere as much as sheer sonic heft — though of course there was plenty of that to go around as well. Doomers missed it at their peril.

24. Kadavar, Rough Times

kadavar rough times

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Sept. 6.

It kind of feels like a slight to have Berlin trio Kadavar appear anywhere outside of at least a top 10 on any kind of list whatsoever, ever, but that’s not my intention at all. Rather, their fourth album and third for Nuclear Blast found them at an important stage in their progression — past the novelty of the vintage feel in their early work, after having proven their songwriting could translate to a modern context, and embarking on a process of expanding their sound. Rough Times, which was as current as current could be, met that goal and beat it easily with a barrage of memorable choruses and a dark streak one could only consider suitable for our age.

23. Shroud Eater, Strike the Sun

shroud eater strike the sun

Released by STB Records. Reviewed June 28.

The biggest surprise about Shroud Eater‘s long-awaited sophomore long-player was also its most encouraging aspect — namely how it found the Miami trio bringing together various impulses shown on a number of shorter releases over the course of the six years since their debut, ThunderNoise (review here), came out in 2011, and still managed to utterly crush when it so chose. With a swath from sludge to drone and back again, this was no minor feat, and that the songs they brought to bear were so memorable at their heart as well makes me hope all the more it’s not 2023 before their third album arrives.

22. Enslaved, E

enslaved e

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Oct. 4.

What’s left to say about Norwegian progressive black metal innovators Enslaved 14 records into their career? Plenty as it turns out. The introduction of new keyboardist/vocalist Håkon Vinje in place of Herbrand Larsen brought a new twist on a signature element of Enslaved‘s approach. Vinje utterly owned his role, and his performance alongside guitarist Ivar Bjørnson, bassist/vocalist Grutle Kjellson, guitarist Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal and drummer Cato Bekkevold resulted in a fresh urgency that made the band’s sound even more potent and set their ongoing creative evolution on a new branch of its self-directed path.

21. Arc of Ascent, Realms of the Metaphysical


Released by Astral Projection and Clostridium Records. Reviewed April 6.

Some five years on from 2012’s The Higher Key (review here) and seven out from their debut, Circle of the Sun (review here), and with bassist/vocalist Craig Williamson firmly entrenched in his always excellent Lamp of the Universe psych-drone-folk solo-project, I wasn’t sure there would be another offering from New Zealand heavy psych-rock trio Arc of Ascent, but Realms of the Metaphysical took shape from an ether of riffs and echoes atop resilient underlying structures and revitalized the group with new drummer Mark McGeady in the lineup with Williamson and guitarist Matt Cole-Baker. Remains to be seen if this marks a priority shift for Williamson or it’s a one-off, but its arrival was welcome either way.

20. Causa Sui, Vibraciones Doradas

causa sui vibraciones doradas

Released by El Paraiso Records. Reviewed Oct. 20.

With the various glories already offered in 2017 on the Live in Copenhagen (review here) 3LP, one didn’t necessarily expect a new studio outing from Danish instrumental psych masters Causa Sui, but Vibraciones Doradas found them as vibrant as ever, bringing forth a surprising amount of tonal weight on songs like “El Fuego,” warm fuzz for the basking on opener “The Drop” and spaciousness on the closing title-track. Somewhat more straight-ahead in its rocking groove than 2016’s Return to Sky (review here), the five-track/38-minute long-player showed yet again why Causa Sui are always welcome and that any news of a new release from them, live, studio, whatever, is good news. This was the kind of record that could make your day if you let it.

19. Telekinetic Yeti, Abominable

telekinetic yeti abominable

Released by Sump Pump Records. Reviewed April 10.

The Iowa-based duo of guitarist/vocalist Alex Baumann and drummer Anthony Dreyer, operating as Telekinetic Yeti, released what I considered to be the debut of the year, both for the fullness of its tonality and the accomplishment in songcraft it already showed. Powered by cuts like its lumbering title-track and the gloriously fuzzed runner “Stoned and Feathered,” it could’ve been another band’s second or third record for the level of cohesion on display and the obvious awareness on the part of the band of what they wanted to do with their sound and the just-as-obvious result of their bringing it to life.

18. Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kozmic Dust

cloud catcher trails of kozmic dust

Released by Totem Cat Records. Reviewed Dec. 9, 2016.

While I admit I’m still not 100 percent certain on whether to spell “kozmic” in the title with a ‘k’ or with a ‘c’ on the end, that question did nothing ultimately to diminish enjoyment of Denver emergents Cloud Catcher‘s sophomore outing. Topped off by one of the best album covers of the year, the follow-up to their 2015 debut, Enlightened Beyond Existence (discussed here), took the progressive casting of that record to a place entirely more raw and rock-driven, willfully roughing up the edges even as it showed marked creative growth on a relatively quick turnaround. The must-hear bass tone of “Beyond the Electric Sun” and “Super Acid Magick” was icing on a cake of choice riffing and Hendrixian lead swirl, and the shuffle they elicited was enough to make even the most stubborn of asses (i.e. mine) think about moving.

17. Ruby the Hatchet, Planetary Space Child

ruby the hatchet planetary space child

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Aug. 29.

After the neo-garage manifestations of their 2015 sophomore outing, Valley of the Snake (review here), it was clear Philly psych rockers Ruby the Hatchet were a force when it came to songwriting. What was less obvious was what they’d do with that going forward. On Planetary Space Child, at least, the answer is they’ll take it to Freaktown. The melody-happy, organ-laced swirlmasters conjured presence kosmiche enough to justify the album’s title, and around the cast-in-moon-rock structures of the swinging “Pagan Ritual” and the playfully doomed “Symphony of the Night,” Ruby the Hatchet built a multifaceted weirdoist triumph the likes of which simply doesn’t come along every year, establishing themselves as more reliable and less predictable than ever: an absolute win.

16. Alunah, Solennial

alunah solennial

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 1.

It’s been the case more or less all along with UK forest rockers Alunah that their nature-minded material and heavy rolling grooves have had their haunting aspects, but with the production of Conan‘s Chris Fielding behind it, Solennial — their fourth LP and first on Svart — brought this to new levels entirely. The songs, memorable like footprints in the woods, are somewhat bittersweet in context now, since founding guitarist/vocalist Sophie Day announced in September she was leaving the band, but as the group will move forward led by guitarist Dave Day and recently acquired new singer Siân Greenaway, intrigue remains high at what the future might bring and the impact of Solennial is undiminished.

15. Mindkult, Lucifer’s Dream


Released by Transcending Obscurity Records and Caligari Records.

Virginia-based doomgazing garage cult solo-project Mindkult has thus far managed to keep some of the mystique around its sole inhabitant, Fowst, which is admirable in a way. As the multi-instrmentalist, vocalist and producer this year answered the promise of last year’s Witch’s Oath (review here) debut, he did so around a swath of purposeful miseries, loose devil worship and other dark thematics, casting an atmospheric darkness matched head-on by the tonal murk of his riffs. Through this, however, the songwriting was no less memorable than on the first offering, and as the project moves forward, one can only hope that Fowst will continue to use that as the core aspect buried six feet under his other, formidable stylistic achievements. That certainly was how it worked out on Lucifer’s Dream.

14. Argus, From Fields of Fire

argus from fields of fire
Released by Cruz del Sur Music. Reviewed Sept. 1.

Behold ye perhaps the most underrated band in heavy metal. Regardless of subgenre, style, strata, whatever, it’s hard to listen to From Fields of Fire and think of Pittsburgh’s Argus as anything else. The five-piece’s fourth album continued to owe part of its sound to doom, but was much more encompassing than simply that, touching on aspects of classic metal with a command that left one wondering how they hadn’t yet been tapped to open for Judas Priest on that band’s next tour. Victory abounds on a per-song basis throughout the nine-tracker, and whether it was the emotional crux of “Hour of Longing” or the catchy fistpump righteousness of “Devils of Your Time” or the 11-minute progressive reach of “Infinite Lives/Infinite Doors,” Argus once again crafted a work nigh-unmatched in poise and class.

13. Uffe Lorenzen, Galmandsværk


Released by Bad Afro Records. Reviewed Nov. 6.

For the first outing ever to be issued under his real name, Denmark’s Uffe Lorenzen — aka Lorenzo Woodrose of garage-psych pioneers Baby Woodrose — danced between acid folk singer-songwriterisms like “Flippertøs” and more expansive jamming on “På Kanten Af Verden,” all the while retaining his distinct structural and arrangement sensibilities and creating a flowing vibe that was nothing less than a pure joy of classic-form psychedelia. The most serene and pastoral freakout one was likely to witness in 2017, easily, Galmandsværk resounded in the Mellotron-laced “Høj Som Et Højhus” and was no less at home in the acoustic spaciousness of the earlier “Remits Tyranni,” able to wander where it pleased and find steady ground in molten surroundings.

12. The Flying Eyes, Burning of the Season

the flying eyes burning of the season

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Oct. 11.

A welcome return from a viciously underappreciated band, The Flying EyesBurning of the Season marked the Baltimore four-piece’s first offering for Ripple Music and first since 2013’s Lowlands (review here), a four-year stretch during which the band kept busy touring Europe and South America, the latter also being where they recorded these songs with Gabriel Zander at Estudio Superfuzz in Brazil. The tonal depth resulting from that process was enough to make the collection a highlight, but it was the songs themselves that most stood out, benefiting from the band’s expanded reach and legitimate, hard-won maturity. Especially for a group who’ve done so much work on the road over their years — to be fair, the US has been pretty low priority in that regard — they remain a secret kept too well.

11. Bell Witch, Mirror Reaper

bell witch mirror reaper

Released by Profound Lore. Reviewed Dec. 27.

Doomed extremity simply unmatched in its scope. The song of the year for 2017. An accomplishment the likes of which is prone to happen maybe once or twice in a generation. None of this seems to really speak to the entirety of the achievement that is Bell Witch‘s Mirror Reaper — the single-song, 83-minute full-length issued by the Seattle duo like a challenge in the face of mortality itself. Beautiful, devastating and weighted like the grave, its sprawl utterly consumed the listener, and I firmly believe it will be years before its depths are fully processed. Some offerings are bigger than the year in which they’re released. Mirror Reaper would seem to function on a scale of its own, and though it could easily be read as a litmus test for audience punishment, the truth of the listening experience is both more emotionally complex and more fulfilling than simple hyperbole can capture.

10. Monolord, Rust

monolord rust

Released by RidingEasy Records. Reviewed Oct. 26.

The story all along with Gothenburg’s Monolord has been tone. Tone tone tone. Crush crush crush. Riffs riffs riffs. Nothing wrong with any of that, but their third album, Rust, proves once and for all that there’s more to the trio than “cool riffs bro” and post-Electric Wizard nod. Catchy cuts like “Dear Lucifer” and rolling opener “Where Death Meets the Sea” brought a sense of space leading to the later sprawl of “Forgotten Lands” and “At Niceae,” and the band settled into an individualized, lumbering psychedelia that moved forward from 2015’s Vænir (review here), not leaving behind the heft that earned them their reputation, but not at all being limited by it either in scope or overall approach. Three records in, Rust brought forth Monolord‘s greatest sonic expansion yet and gave rise to the feeling that their true potential was just starting to come to fruition. Also, crush crush crush. Cool riffs, bro.

9. Vokonis, The Sunken Djinn


Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed June 5.

The Sunken Djinn is Vokonis‘ second full-length in as many years, and in addition to serving as their Ripple debut where 2016’s Olde One Ascending (review here) landed via Ozium Records, it was a feast for hungry riff hounds. In defiance of its quick turnaround, it showed a firm evolution taking place within the upstart Swedish trio of guitarist/vocalist Simon Ohlsson, bassist/backing vocalist Jonte Johansson and drummer Emil Larsson, whose range overall was greater in tracks like “Rapturous” and the torrential “Blood Vortex” while nonetheless controlled in its delivery. Their Sleep-y origins still a factor sound-wise, Vokonis were able just the same to push themselves ahead into new sonic ground in fittingly lumbering fashion, and the character they brought to “The Sunken Djinn,” “Calling from the Core” and the noise-caked “Maelstroem” seemed to speak to a burgeoning sense of atmospheric focus taking hold as well. Still so much potential here.

8. Electric Moon, Stardust Rituals

electric moon stardust rituals

Released by Sulatron Records. Reviewed April 7.

Do I even need to remotely justify having Electric Moon‘s first studio album in six years on this list? Was it not just like a love-letter issued by the cosmos itself? What more explanation could possibly be necessary? Not that the German trio haven’t dropped copious, glorious live outings all the while, but to have Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt, “Komet Lulu” Neudeck and Marcus Schnitzler follow-up 2011’s The Doomsday Machine (review here) with four cuts culminating in the 22-minute sprawl of “(You Will) Live Forever Now” was high on the list of the year’s most satisfying psychedelic journeys. Constantly exploring, their methods always seem geared toward finding the molten essence of space rock itself, and though the songs on Stardust Rituals were a little more crafted than some of their straight-up improv jams, they nonetheless showed there are many avenues one might take to get to the heart of the sun.

7. Sun Blood Stories, It Runs Around the Room with Us


Self-released. Reviewed May 1.

This one is personal, and by that I mean I love this fucking band. Similar to my experience with their 2015 sophomore outing, Twilight Midnight Morning (review here), the third record by Boise-based trio of Ben Kirby (vocals, guitar, synth, percussion), Amber Pollard (vocals, guitar, theremin, percussion) and Jon Fust (drums, keys, percussion, noise) was one that I simply could not put down. Even now, seeing the name of the record is all I need to have songs like “The Great Destroyer” and the immersive midsection in “Come Like Rain” and “Time Like Smoke” stuck in my head, let alone the ultra-brazen, searingly-pissed “Burn” noise assault that finished the album and in the span of 90 seconds turned all the psychedelic warmth and serenity on its face with a visceral anger completely unforeseen and jarring, turning it from a depth-laden execution of adventurous neo-psych and indie into a project of conceptual artistry with all the efficiency of the chemical reaction it sought to portray. If you missed it, your loss.

6. The Atomic Bitchwax, Force Field


Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Dec. 7.

Songs like “Alaskan Thunder Fuck,” “Humble Brag” and “Earth Shaker (Which Doobie U Be?)” assured that the defining character of Force Field, the sixth album from New Jersey’s The Atomic Bitchwax, was pure scorch. That made the 12-cut outing a more than worthy follow-up for 2015’s  Gravitron (review here), which introduced this more speed-rock-minded, aggressive delivery from the tight-as-nails trio, and while they proved they could still lock in a slower groove on the organ-topped finisher “Liv a Little,” head-spinners like the instrumental “Fried, Dyed and Layin’ to the Side” and “Houndstooth” came across like the fruit of the band pushing themselves to the limits of their physical ability in terms of tempo, and their ride along the edge of that line brought thrills at every turn. And make no mistake, there were a lot of turns. Fortunately, bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik, guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan and drummer Bob Pantella seemingly had a corresponding hook in their pocket for each one of them. This band is a national treasure.

5. Atavismo, Inerte

atavismo inerte

Released by Temple of Torturous. Reviewed Feb. 21.

Warm, fuzzy tones, rhythmic shifts right out of classic progressive rock, melodic intricacy and periodic excursions into glorious psychedelic drift: I’m not sure what wasn’t to like about Inerte, Atavismo‘s second full-length behind 2014’s Desintegración (review here). Comprising five tracks of unmistakable flow and jam-laden fluidity, it was immersive with landmarks along the way to keep the listener from getting too lost, and whether or not one spoke Spanish, the three-piece of Jose “Poti” Moreno (ex-Viaje a 800Mind!), bassist/vocalist Mateo and drummer/vocalist Sandri Pow (also ex-Mind!) made it easy to follow along their purposefully meandering path, offering guidance no less skillful on the 11-minute fuzz-freaker “El Sueño” than the dream-toned linear build of “Belleza Cuatro.” There were very, very few albums I listened to more this year than this one, which is precisely why it is where it is on this list.

4. Samsara Blues Experiment, One with the Universe


Released by Electric Magic Records and Abraxas Records. Reviewed May 4.

Four years between records isn’t at all an unheard of stretch. It’s not the longest on this list by any means. But with Berlin heavy psych rockers Samsara Blues Experiment, it really seemed like the band was done, so to have them come back with such force on One with the Universe was, as I know I said at several points throughout the last 12 months, one of the year’s total highlights. Tracked by former bassist Richard Behrens, the group’s fourth album answered the extended-track spread of 2013’s Waiting for the Flood (review here) with a deeper sense of sonic variety, and while the 15-minute title-cut and opener “Vispassana” still had plenty of room for jamming out and even six-minute centerpiece “Glorious Daze” found room for some flourish of organ and sitar, guitarist/vocalist Christian Peters, drummer Thomas Vedder and bassist Hans Eiselt rightly featured the chemistry they’ve built as a trio live and brought to the songs a renewed sense of vigor, sounding — and hopefully being — truly inspired. Waiting for the Flood capped a period of marked productivity across several years. Fingers crossed One with the Universe begins that cycle anew.

3. Elder, Reflections of a Floating World


Released by Armageddon Shop and Stickman Records. Reviewed May 23.

You just can’t consider Elder‘s Reflections of a Floating World outside the context of the progressive achievement that was their prior outing, 2015’s Lore (review here). Where the trio — based now between Massachusetts and Berlin, Germany — took their first two outings, 2008’s self-titled debut (discussed here) and 2011’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here), to find their sound, which they began to showcase on the 2012 Spires Burn/Release EP (review here), it was Lore that brought to fruition the potential that had always been waiting to be unleashed by the trio of guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto, and Reflections of a Floating World had the daunting task of being the next further step from that landmark moment. To say the band rose to the occasion is perhaps to undersell the cohesion at work in consuming-but-cohesive pieces like opener “Sanctuary” or “Blind” or “Staving off the Truth,” which brought together clear-headed psychedelia around a wash that seemed to stem as much from rhythm as melody. As they’ve matured stylistically and become a major touring presence, Elder have made themselves perhaps the most pivotal American heavy rock act going, and Reflections of a Floating World brings them to the discovery of yet another apex while at the same time giving zero indication it will be the last one they find.

2. Colour Haze, In Her Garden

colour haze in her garden

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed March 9.

Of course, the bonus of writing about Colour Haze in just about any context is that you get to put Colour Haze on while you’re doing it, and in the case of the 12th LP from these Munich heavy psych forebears, that’s an even more appealing prospect. After stripping down some of the arrangement flourish with 2014’s To the Highest Gods We Know (review here), the 13-track/73-minute 2LP In Her Garden brought a revitalized sonic expansion, but as ever, it wasn’t just the horns or the strings or the blend of keys and acoustics that made In Her Garden the unbridled joy that it was and continues to be — it was the underlying performance from guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek, bassist Philipp Rasthofer and drummer Manfred Merwald that gave the album the stem on which its garden grew. That’s not to say Jan Faszbender‘s work on modular synth, Rhodes, and Hammond or the arrangements of strings, tuba, bass-clarinet and trombone throughout hurt anything, just that as Colour Haze have grown into incorporating these elements into their groundbreaking aesthetic, they haven’t left behind the organic chemistry and necessary live feel that has helped them influence a generation of followers over their more than 20-year career. One came through as much as the other on In Her Garden, and that balance gave the overarching warmth of their self-recorded tonality yet another level on which to engage their audience. I’ll be a sucker for Colour Haze for as long as I live, and I have absolutely no problem admitting to and owning that.

1. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War

all them witches sleeping through the war

Released by New West Records. Reviewed Jan. 27.

It was clear early on that Nashville four-piece All Them Witches were contending hard for Album of the Year with Sleeping Through the War, their fourth long-player and second for New West following the mellow vibes of 2015’s Dying Surfer Meets His Maker (review here). What finally sealed it? The songs. Working with producer Dave Cobb, the each-member-essential lineup of bassist/vocalist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod, key-specialist Allan van Cleave (Rhodes, Mellotron, piano, organ, etc.) and drummer/graphic artist Robby Staebler solidified their approach in exciting new ways on early cuts like the grunge-crunching “Don’t Bring Me Coffee” and the shuffling “Bruce Lee,” which hit in succession following the fluid lead-in of opener “Bulls,” an introduction of the organic psychedelia and heavy blues that the loose-swinging of “3-5-7″‘s nigh-on-gospel chorus and subsequent, almost maddeningly catchy “Am I Going Up?” would continue to push outward, thereby setting a linear course into a consciousness-capturing side B with “Alabaster” and the jammier “Cowboy Kirk” and “Internet” playing between melodic nuance and mindful, go-with-it drift. The unflinching strength of the material was matched perhaps only by the understatement of its delivery, which was the more staggering considering how easily the arrangements of background vocals on “Am I Going Up?” or  “3-5-7” could have come through as overblown or self-indulgent, and by the time they got down to the light weirdo-bluesy stomp of “Internet” — the key lyric and hook being, “Guess I’ll go live on the internet” — there was no doubting the genuine nature of the realization Sleeping Through the War represented for All Them Witches. Coupling that feeling of achievement with the sheer repeatability of the listening experience itself left no doubt that 2017 belonged to these tracks and the marvelous way the band wove between them, and that whatever other sounds All Them Witches may go on to explore and whatever else they may accomplish as a result, Sleeping Through the War was a truly special moment in their evolution that, as with the best of offerings in any year, will continue to resonate long after the calendar page has turned.

The Next 20

You know, I used to feel like once you got past a top 20, the numbers were arbitrary. Then I felt that way about the top 30. This year, I think I agonized more about what to include in numbers 31-50 than I did between 30 and the album of the year. Put that in your “go figure” file while you chew on these picks:

31. Cities of Mars, Temporal Rifts
32. The Midnight Ghost Train, Cypress Ave.
33. Snowy Dunes, Atlantis
34. Rozamov, This Mortal Road
35. PH, Eternal Hayden
36. Sasquatch, Maneuvers
37. Young Hunter, Dayhiker
38. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, II
39. Ufomammut, 8
40. John Garcia, The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues
41. Paradise Lost, Medusa
42. Beastmaker, Inside the Skull
43. Arduini / Balich, Dawn of Ages
44. Primitive Man, Caustic
45. Motorpsycho, The Tower
46. Arbouretum, Song of the Rose
47. Hymn, Perish
48. Youngblood Supercult, The Great American Death Rattle
49. Pallbearer, Heartless
50. Dool, Here Now There Then

There’s so, so much good stuff here. So much. The Cities of Mars debut was a treasure and the only reason it wasn’t on my top debuts list was because I haven’t had the chance to go back in and put it on. The Young Hunter record? Some of their best work yet. Hell, that Arduini / Balich album alone! Then you’ve got huge releases by Pallbearer, Ufomammut, Paradise Lost, Primitive Man, on and on. Like I said at the outset, one more album and my head was gonna explode this year. Way too much to ever hope to keep up with. One thing though I felt like I really wanted to emphasize including was Dool. They’re in the last spot, but make no mistake, in atmosphere and songwriting that album was something really special and loaded with potential. It’s not there because it came in last. It’s there to highlight the point of how much it should be on this list.

What’s that? More records? Okay…

Honorable Mentions

In case you also weren’t completely overwhelmed this year, maybe another batch of records will do the trick. Here’s some presented alphabetically:

Anathema, The Optimist
Blackfinger, When Colors Fade Away
Child, Blueside
Cortez, The Depths Below
Demon Eye, Prophecies and Lies
Elbrus, Elbrus
Electric Wizard, Wizard Bloody Wizard
Ecstatic Vision, Raw Rock Fury
Five Horse Johnson, Jake Leg Boogie
Mirror Queen, Verdigris
The Obsessed, Sacred
T.G. Olson, Foothills Before the Mountain
Outsideinside, Sniff a Hot Rock
Queens of the Stone Age, Villains
Siena Root, A Dream of Lasting Peace
Six Organs of Admittance, Burning the Threshold
Steak, No God to Save
Summoner, Beyond the Realm of Light
Valborg, Endstrand
With the Dead, Love from With the Dead

Plus: Abronia, Lewis and the Strange Magics, Iron Monkey, Band of Spice, Puta Volcano, Galley Beggar, Heavy Traffic, Coltsblood, REZN, Green Meteor, Demon Head, Lord, Grigax, The Raynbow, Carpet, Norska, Les Lekin, Slow, Ixion, and I’m sure more that I’ll add as the names continue to pop into my head.

I did this back in June as well, but I also want to draw attention to a swath of quality live albums that came out this year. The top pick should be no surprise if you’ve been hanging around the site of late:

Live Albums:
1. SubRosa, Subdued Live at Roadburn
2. Causa Sui, Live in Copenhagen
3. Slomatics, Futurians Live at Roadburn
4. My Sleeping Karma, Mela Ananda – Live
5. Wight, Fusion Rock Invasion
5. Death Alley, Live at Roadburn

Thank You

It’s been a hell of a year, obviously. Musically and otherwise. As always, I cannot possibly come close to thanking you enough for your incredible and ongoing support of The Obelisk, of what this site is, what it’s become over its nearly nine-year run, what it will continue to become going forward from here. It is astounding to me and deeply humbling that you would possibly take time out of your busy day and your busy life to check out what’s going on here, and words fail me continually when it comes to feeling like I can properly convey my appreciation for that. Thank you for reading. Thank you for reading. Thank you for reading. Tattoo it on my forehead.

Thank you to The Patient Mrs. for understanding how much I need to be doing this, to Slevin for keeping the site running on the technical end, to Behrang Alavi for taking over hosting earlier this year, to my family for their ongoing support, to The Pecan for sleeping late some mornings and giving me time to write, and to everyone who ever shared a link on social media or made a comment on a post or anything like that. To long-time readers and to newcomers alike — thank you so much. This year has seen a fair share of ups and downs, but the support this site gets sustains me in ways I never expected it could, and that would be impossible without you. Please know how crucial that is to me.

Well, that should do it. I know there are probably disagreements about where things landed on the list, what was included, what was left out, etc., as there always are. All comments are of course welcome — only thing I’d ask is you please keep it civil and respectful of the opinions of others. Otherwise, have at it. Please.

And one more time, thank you for reading.

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Roadburn 2017 Audio Streams Mega-Batch Posted Featuring Bongzilla, Slomatics, Valborg, Warning and More

Posted in audiObelisk on September 15th, 2017 by JJ Koczan


It’s been tradition around these parts for I don’t even know how long to post the annual audio streams as they come out from each Roadburn, and I hope the case will be no different as we move further away from Roadburn 2017 this past April in Tilburg, the Netherlands, and inexorably toward the first announcements for Roadburn 2018 to come. This process — the posting — used to require a slew of links and media players, which I actually kind of liked because it allowed for emphasis on just how much material there was emerging from the festival, how much work Marcel van de Vondervoort and his team put into the recording and mixing of these sets for all the bands, and so on.

Well, it’s the future now — or I guess it was the future like five years ago? I may have missed when it actually became the future; whatever — and we apparently don’t even need to have 22 different media players to post 22 different streams from Roadburn 2017. We need one. Netherlands-based media company 3voor12, which has always hosted the sets, brings forth a mega-batch today featuring the likes of (alphabetically) Atala, Author and Punisher, Bongzilla, Carpenter Brut, Casual Nun, Cobalt, Disfear, Forn, GNOD, Inter Arma, Joy, Les Discrets, Nadra, Pontiak, Serpent Venom, Slomatics, Temple ov BBV, Trans Am, Ultha, Valborg, Warning and Wolvennest.

Not inconsiderable. It’s been mere hours since Slomatics‘ Futurians: Live at Roadburn was reviewed here, but I also had occasion to see Warning (pictured above), JoyLes DiscretsAtalaValborg and others on that list, and I can attest to their being a joy to behold. Part of the fun of these streams is also getting some sense of what you missed at Roadburn due to making the inevitable hard choice of a schedule conflict, so I guess this is my shot at hearing what Bongzilla got up to during their time on stage. If you need me I’ll be doing that.

Hope you enjoy as well:

Thanks as always to Walter for sending the embed my way. For all this site’s Roadburn 2017 coverage, click here.

Roadburn’s website

Marcel Van De Vondervoort on Thee Facebooks

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Review & Track Premiere: Slomatics, Futurians: Live at Roadburn

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on September 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan


[Click play above to stream the premiere of ‘Tramontane’ from Slomatics’ Futurians: Live at Roadburn. Album is out next month on Burning World/Roadburn Records with preorders posted here.]

Look. Sometimes in life you just have to do yourself a favor, and I have no problem admitting that’s my motivation behind reviewing the Futurians: Live at Roadburn release by Belfast, Northern Ireland, trio Slomatics. No problem whatsoever. I was fortunate enough to bear witness to earlier this year to the set captured at Roadburn 2017 in the Green Room of the 013 in Tilburg, the Netherlands, and as Roadburn Records/Burning World Records gears up to release it to the wider public, I feel no shame in being as stoked on it as I am. Does that make me impartial to the experience or the release itself? Fuck no. Do I every now and again enjoy approaching an album with unmitigated joy and hoping to convey some small sense of that revelry in what still might ostensibly pass as a “review?” Yeah. Every now and again. This is one of those cases.

So if you want a harsh critique of Slomatics‘ set minute-by-minute, or if you want some bland judgment about the level of their play overall throughout the eight-song/42-minute pummelfest of a set, feel free to look elsewhere. For me, much like seeing the three-piece of guitarists David Majury and Chris Couzens and drummer/vocalist/synthesist Marty Harvey taking that stage in the first place, listening to Futurians: Live at Roadburn is a complete pleasure, front to back from the “Good evening Roadburn!” that Harvey tosses in four minutes into “Electric Breath” to the guest vocal appearance from Conan frontman Jon Davis on the finale “March of the 1,000 Volt Ghost.”

Those two cuts also represent the divide between the latest Slomatics studio LP, last year’s stellar Future Echo Returns (review here), and their 2005 debut, Flooding the Weir, and though the last several years especially have brought them to prominence in greater underground consciousness thanks in part to a 2011 split with Conan (review here) and the aforementioned Davis‘ work promoting them through his Black Bow Records imprint, citing (correctly) their influence on his work, etc., the set as a whole basks in the fullness of Slomatics‘ discography, with material from 2014’s Estron (review here) like “And Yet it Moves,” “Return to Kraken” and “Tramontane” from 2012’s preceding A Hocht, “Ulysses My Father” from the late-2014 split with Holly Hunt, and “Running Battle,” also taken from the debut.

It’s a lot of ground to cover and not a lot of time to do it, but Slomatics, who’ve been proffering tonal demolition since 2004, are well up to the task. Still, given that Future Echo ReturnsEstron and A Hocht comprise a thematic and narrative trilogy — the storyline of which is still unclear, though we know that with “Supernothing” and “Into the Eternal” capping the latest record, the main character seems to at least be resigned to death if not actually dead — it’s something of a surprise they’d dip back to Flooding the Weir or the split at all, though one can hardly argue with the flow they set up across the eight tracks of Futurians: Live at Roadburn. It is a total cliché to say of heavy two-guitar bands without bass that they’re missing nothing for low end — and frankly, kind of a shitty thing to say about bassists in general, who add to the dynamic of a group even when the tonal space can be otherwise filled via effects or various methods of amplification, running guitars through bass heads, and so on — but with just Majury and Couzens as the string section, Slomatics‘ material is united regardless of its source by the unbridled weight of their distortion.

slomatics at roadburn photo jj koczan

I said in watching them at the time that they were the heaviest band I’d heard so far over the weekend. They would turn out to be the heaviest band — period — that I’d see at Roadburn this year, and that comes through in the massive roll of “Electric Breath” and the gallop of “Return to Kraken” alike, and as it did on Estron, “And Yet it Moves” lives up to its title — perhaps even more with the energy of the live delivery behind it. Indeed, one of the greatest assets that emerges from the band across Futurians: Live at Roadburn is that energy, and while my hearing it in the recording of “Tramontane” and “Supernothing” and “Ulysses My Father” may be due in part to having stood in front of the stage as it was happening, the vitality of their execution and how simply glad Slomatics were to be there comes through just the same and I believe is palpable whether a given listener saw them or not. Textual evidence? Go back to Harvey engaging the crowd in “Electric Breath,” or as they close out the set with “March of the 1,000 Volt Ghost.” The trio seem no less thrilled to be onstage than the cheering crowd is to have them.

And in kind with the bludgeoning, crushing tonality they bring to bear in the material — recorded in the Roadburnian tradition by Astrosoniq drummer Marcel van de Vondervoort and his team — it’s that spirit of joy that most pervades the release. There have been plenty of Live at Roadburn albums over the years, which is a credit in no small part to van de Vondervoort, and while some simply offer a glimpse of a professionally captured stop on a tour, or a curated setlist, whatever it might have been for a given band in a given year, with Slomatics, it was the show itself and the obvious extra effort put into the set that made it something special.

In other words, playing Roadburn clearly meant something to HarveyCouzens and Majury, and accordingly, it meant more to the audience to see it as well. I can’t speak for everyone who was there and I wouldn’t try to, but I know that for me, Slomatics hit on a particular vibe and sense of communion that in my experience only the very best of fully-bought-in Roadburn performances are able to hone. Thus it seems only more fitting that it should be preserved not only so that those who were there can have it for nostalgic purposes and the band can keep the momentum of their growth going post-Future Echo Returns, but in order to document a singular level of expression as a template for others to hopefully follow in years and fests to come.

Slomatics on Thee Facebooks

Slomatics on Bandcamp

Slomatics website

Burning World Records on Thee Facebooks

Burning World Records on Twitter

Burning World Records on Bandcamp

Roadburn Festival website

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Slomatics to Release Futurians: Live at Roadburn in October

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 19th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

slomatics (photo jj koczan)

How good were Slomatics at Roadburn 2017? Oh, they were mighty good indeed. All the more reason to put a note in your phone or mark your calendar or do whatever it is to do to remind yourself about shit — maybe just preorder it when that goes live on Sept. 12? — that the Northern Irish riff-crushing trio will issue their set from this year’s fest in Tilburg this October via Burning World/Roadburn Records under the title of Futurians: Live at Roadburn. I’m telling you, I was there. It was awesome enough that when they were done I jumped on stage and took the photo above. I never do that kind of extroverted shit. Usually my ass is hiding in the back, pronto.

Point is Slomatics killed it on this one, as they will, and whether you were there to catch it or not, keep your eye out for Futurians: Live at Roadburn because the proof, as the saying goes, is in the pudding. The riffy, riffy pudding.

The PR wire fills in on the particulars:

slomatics futurians live at roadburn


Slomatics will release Futurians: Live At Roadburn on vinyl and digital this october on Roadburn Records.

The band commented on their performance on the legendary festival beforehand:

“To say we’re excited about playing Roadburn would be an understatement,” says guitarist David Majury. “It’s funny how something like a music festival can take on almost mythical proportions, but if any festival has done so it’s definitely Roadburn! We’ve had an association with the festival through our records being on Burning World Records, so it feels good to be finally hauling our fuzz pedals over to Tilburg.”

With Majury and Chris Couzens on guitar and drummer / vocalist Marty Harvey also handling synth, Slomatics defy logic with their sheer amount of low-end output. As the follow-up to 2014’s Estron and 2012’s A Hocht, Future Echo Returns (2016) was the third in a trilogy of albums, rounding out an extended story that the band purposefully leaves open for interpretation.

“I’m delighted we’ll be joining the 2017 edition of Roadburn,” echoes Couzens. “We’ve seen some incredible performances in Tilburg over the years and been blown away how the locals embrace the hordes of music fans that descend on them. It’ll be fantastic to join that special atmosphere as a performer in April!”

* 300 copies on clear vinyl worldwide
* pre-sale starts september 12th 2017 on

Slomatics, “And Yet it Moves” live at Roadburn 2017

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Desert Survival: How to Do Psycho Las Vegas on a Budget

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 18th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

psycho las vegas 2017 banner

Hey, if you’re going to go broke, let’s face it: You’re not likely to run into many causes as worthy as the lineup culled together for Psycho Las Vegas. It ain’t cheap — any event that advertises a payment plan obviously knows it’s a considerable ask — but whether you’re going to see Slo Burn for their only US gig or King Diamond doing Abigail or Mulatu Astatke because going to see Mulatu Astatke is a life-event, the arguments in favor are plentiful and convincing. Whatever else you want to say, Psycho Las Vegas is the first annually-held American festival with a focus on heavy and underground rock to really establish itself as world class.

That in itself is a reason to support the cause, whether it’s through a day ticket or a pass for the entire weekend, but it doesn’t necessarily lesson the expense of making the trip or staying in one of the US’ most lucrative tourist traps, let alone things like band merchandise, meals and the occasional adult beverage if you’re inclined to have one. The thought of seeing NeurosisSleep and Carcass share a stage over the course of a weekend or watching Conan, the new trio-incarnation of Pentagram and Yawning Man poolside or from the balcony of a room in the Casino Tower is incredible, and after hearing stories from those who undertook the journey in 2016 or attended the prior Psycho California in 2015, the idea wants nothing for appeal. Fiscal issues can be a bummer. By the time August rolls around, I’ll have been out of paid work for two months. I know how it goes.

And I’m hardly the most responsible person when it comes to money, but the truth of the matter is there are ways to mitigate costs for travel, lodging and other concerns, and if the thing preventing you from picking up a ticket to the show has been the seeming impossibility of affording a stay at the Hard Rock or of finding a cheap-enough flight to get there, maybe it’s worth trying to shift finances around to make it happen. Music is important, and when debt collectors are spamming your phone it’s hard to think about the non-cash value of life experiences, but the fact is the bills you need to pay will still be there. The bill with Corrosion of Conformity in a lineup alongside Kylesa‘s Laura Pleasants, Domkraft, Swans, Elephant Tree and Heavy Temple? Much less so.

Here are a few pointers that hopefully can save you a couple bucks. Some of it’s day-one stuff, but things like hotel picks and transportation nuances are good to know either way.

Check it out:


Flying In
• Buy tickets on a Tuesday for the cheapest rates.
• Use a discount flight search.
• If you can, fly in on Thursday and leave on Monday for better rates, search different days and times to come in and leave.
• Book early. Rates go up in the summer.

Getting There
• Ride apps cost less than cabs.
• The Hard Rock is less than a mile from the airport. Cheap trip anyway.
• There are free shuttles from most Vegas hotels to the strip and tourist attractions.

Staying There
• This one is huge… don’t stay at the Hard Rock if you can’t afford it! Alexis Park, RUMOR, Red Roof Inn are all across the street and cheap. Scope out a position on a map if you need to; that’s what Street View is there for.
• Partner up to share rooms. You’ve got social media and it’s not like you’re going to do more than sleep and (hopefully) shower there anyway. Might as well join forces and save expense where you can.

• BYO. Vegas has open-container laws. If you think hooch is too expensive at the Hard Rock, get loaded on the sidewalk before you go in.
• One way or another, hydrate. You’re staying in the desert in August. Don’t be stupid.

Psycho Las Vegas 2017 Lineup
Abbath, Ace Frehley, Black Anvil, Blood Ceremony, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Buzzov*en, Carcass, Celeste, Chelsea Wolfe, Cirith Ungol, Cloud Catcher, Code Orange, Conan, Corrosion of Conformity, Cough, Cult Leader, Cult Of Luna With Julie Christmas Diamond Head, Domkraft, Earthless, Elephant Tree, Eternal Tapestry, Fister, Floorian, Gatecreeper, GEQ, Gojira, Gost, Graf Orlock, Heavy Temple, Hollow Leg, Inter Arma, Khemmis, King Diamond, Laura Pleasants & Special Guests, Magma, Manilla Road, Merlin, Minsk, Morne, Mothership, Mouth of the Architect, Mulatu Astatke, Murder City Devils, Mustard Gas & Roses, Myrkur, Neurosis, North, Oathbreaker, Pelican, Pentagram, Psychic TV, The Rods, Ruby the Hatchet, Sasquatch, Saturndust, Sleep, Slo Burn, Slomatics, Snail, Sons of Otis, Sumac, Summoner, Swans, The Skull, Toke, Urchin, Usnea, Vhol, Weedeater, Windhand, Wizard Rifle, Wolves in the Throne Room, Yawning Man, Year of the Cobra, Youngblood Supercult, Zeal & Ardor.

Pentagram, “Relentless / Broken Vows” Live in Richmond, VA, 2017

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ROADBURN 2017 Day Three: And Yet it Moves

Posted in Features, Reviews on April 22nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan


04.22.17 — 22.23 — Sat. night — Hotel room

I don’t mind telling you I was a total wreck this morning. There we were, finishing up the third issue of Weirdo Canyon Dispatch (get the PDF here), and holy macaroni, I just couldn’t hack it. I’d gone to sleep at a semi-reasonable time, circa 2AM — which is pretty good, considering — but woke up at around three and was up past 4:30. Just up. Weirdo Canyon Dispatch Saturday issue.Brutally, brutally awake. I could’ve cried.

Instead, I put my head down on the desk in the 013 office while we waited for the test-print of today’s ‘zine and was granted a generous reprieve from the folding process that followed. I folded three copies of today’s WCD: my own. After that, I made the most of my special dispensation and high-tailed it back to the hotel to sleep for another two and a half hours, at the end of which time I pounded water, a protein bar and ibuprofen and it was enough to temporarily trick my body into believing it was human. This weekend has been pure madness, and there’s one day yet to go.

By the time I got back to the 013, I knew I’d missed my chance to hit the photo pit for day-openers The Bug vs. Dylan Carlson of Earth, the somewhat cumbersomely-named collaboration between, well, The Bug and Dylan Carlson, but I still had plenty of opportunity to be assaulted by their combined volume of drone and beats, soundscapes thick enough to swim through and handed out with enough force to vibrate the plugs in my ears and the teeth in my skull. Really. I think I lost a filling. They were very, very loud.

Two experimentalists like that working together, even as a one-off, carried an air of being something special to start the day, and so it was. The Bug‘s rig, flanked on either side by bass cabinets with two more laid down in front in such a manner as to make Carlson half-stack look positively minimalist in comparison, shook the upstairs The Bug vs. Dylan Carlson (Photo by JJ Koczan)balcony where I set up shop for the duration, and the clear impression that came through was that although they used different means of expression — Carlson with his guitar, The Bug with his laptop and mixing board — their work together was way less of a “vs.”-type situation than the name led one to believe. They were very definitely on the same side, but while they played, spotlights slowly hovered over Main Stage crowd, feeding the air of suspicion and paranoia in such a way that was eerily appropriate for what they were doing.

Speaking of collaborations, over at the PatronaatRazors in the Night — AKA John Dyer Baizley of Baroness and Scott Kelly of Neurosis playing oldschool punk and hardcore covers — were just getting started. I stayed put in the big room, however, because I knew I didn’t want to miss a second of Oranssi Pazuzu. The Finnish progressive/psychedelic black metallers have been an increasingly steady presence at Roadburn over the last five years, and after their own slots at the church, they managed to pack out the Main Stage to an admirable degree. People stood outside the open doors for not the last time today in order to catch a glimpse of their malevolent, ultra-deep swirl.

As immersive as it was dark, I couldn’t argue. Oranssi Pazuzu, who released their fourth album, Värähtelijä (review here), in 2016, may have conjured the finest blackened psychedelia I’ve ever seen. It was so much of both, so chaotic and yet purposeful, that to Oranssi Pazuzu (Photo by JJ Koczan)consider it anything less than the work of masters would be completely underselling it. When I was done taking photos, I went out into the hallway to walk around to the other side of the room and I couldn’t believe it was still daytime. And more over, the sun had come out! Something so cosmically abysmal just seemed like it should be swallowing any and all light around it, but so it goes. Stately and ferocious, they cast their waves of of bleakness over a sea of nodding heads, and after years of missing them here, I was finally glad to have been clued in, even if I seemed to be the last one in the entire Main Stage space to have caught on. Which I probably was, because that’s the kind of hip I am. Which is to say, not at all.

Maybe it was partially a case of going easy on myself, but I once again didn’t budge from the Main Stage following the conclusion of Oranssi Pazuzu. Today was minimal back and forth, actually, which suited me just fine after two busy days of Roadburn 2017 bouncing from this venue to that one. I’d hit the Green Room twice before my evening was over, but was at the 013 the whole day, which after all the Extase and Het Patronaat yesterday almost made me feel insecure and restless — “Don’t you have somewhere you need to be, sir? Oh yeah, here,” and so on. Sometimes this festival plays tricks on your mind.

My reasoning in staying put was more than justified, though, with Warning coming on to play 2006’s Watching from a Distance in its entirety. I knew some of what to expect from a Patrick Walker performance after seeing him front 40 Watt Sun here in 2012, but of course Warning brought a presence all their own in addition to his melancholic emotionalism. They struck a hard balance between sonic weight and sheer heft-of-sadness, and yet as morose as they were, and as understated as their aura was on stage, they were never anything but engaging. Rare band, rare album, rare set. Warning (Photo by JJ Koczan)This Roadburn has had its share of special moments, and Warning fit that bill as well. There was something empowering about them, or at least validating, and as deep into their own headspace as they went, they never seemed to get lost there.

It’s not often you see a band play a full album and then want to go and put on that album directly afterward, but Warning doing Watching from a Distance had that effect. I can’t claim to know the record inside and out, but I felt fortunate to have had the chance to see the band bring it to life, which much to their credit, they did without losing the heart-wrenching resonance of the studio versions of the material.

Next door in the Green Room, the focus would soon be about an entirely different kind of crushing execution, as Belfast dual-guitar three-piece Slomatics made ready to take the stage. I got there about 20 minutes before they went on and was still too late to get a spot right up front. Should’ve figured. I’d heard people talking about how stoked they were to see them, and after being lucky enough to see them in Norway last September at Høstsabbat (review here), I also knew they weren’t to be missed. My timing being what it was, I still got there to see Jon Davis from Conan soundcheck the guest vocals he’d provide for closer “March of the 1,000 Volt Ghost,” and it was good to know that was coming.

Davis also released Slomatics‘ fucking excellent 2016 album, Future Echo Returns (review here), on Slomatics (Photo by JJ Koczan)his Black Bow Records imprint, so all the better to have him there alongside guitarists Chris Couzens and David Majury as well as drummer/vocalist Marty Harvey, who even before Davis showed up stomped out the most pummeling tones I’ve heard over the course of the last three days. “Electric Breath,” “Return to Kraken,” “And Yet it Moves,” “Supernothing” — this is the stuff of lumbering, rolling, molten doom supremacy, and as they’re five records deep into a tenure that one hopes continues into perpetuity, Slomatics know how to wield these weapons to glorious effect. I felt like I was going to pass out and ran downstairs to hammer down a quick dinner — chicken in some kind of tomato-based sauce with green and red peppers, jalapenos and cheese over lettuce; two plates in about five minutes — and was back in the Green Room in time to catch Davis‘ guest spot from the side of the stage and jump up to take a picture of the band when they were done playing. I never do that kind of thing, but Slomatics were nothing if not an occasion worth savoring.

Shit would only get more doomed from there. Like I said yesterday, everyone here makes their own Roadburn, and I knew how I wanted my night to go. I wanted it to go doom. That meant hanging out in the Green Room more for Ahab, which I was more than happy to do. The nautically-themed German funeral doomers were not a band I ever really expected to be able to see, and knowing how packed it got for Slomatics, I assumed much the same would ensue. I was right. Ahab probably Ahab (Photo by JJ Koczan)could’ve filled the Patronaat if the press of the crowd behind me half an hour before they even went on was anything to go by, but as it was they beat the Green Room into submission with their guttural, ultra-slow lurch and churning devastation.

It was by no means the same kind of grind that Memoriam were doling out on the Main Stage, but watching Ahab play was like witnessing the giant, five-foot-thick gears of some industrial revolution shipyard turning the assembled audience into powder. The very means of production brought to bear on all of our caved-in skulls. Yes, they were hyperbole-level heavy. Unremittingly so, and to a claustrophobic degree. I don’t know if it was during “Old Thunder” or “To Mourn Job,” but there was a point at which I had to remind myself that I’d actively wanted to be so brutally overwhelmed and so overwhelmed by brutality. Did that make the effect any less punishing? Not in the slightest, but thanks for asking.

There was only one place left to go to continue my downer trajectory: back to the Main Stage for My Dying Bride. Having the UK doom legends play 1993’s Turn Loose the Swans in full made an awful lot of sense after special sets in 2016 from Paradise Lost and in 2015 from Anathema and Fields of the Nephilim — I’m keeping my fingers crossed for Katatonia in 2018; never seen them and they’d seem to be next in line, despite not being British — and the drama unfolded early as frontman Aaron Stainthorpe hit the stage with violinist/keyboardist Shaun Macgowan for “Sear Me MCMXCIII.” Soon enough, founding guitarists Andrew Craighan and Calvin Robertshaw, bassist Lena Abé and drummer Shaun Taylor-Steels would join, and the full fray would be unleashed. Chances are I don’t need to tell you how influential My Dying Bride have been on the trajectory of the last two decades of doom, but suffice it to say I’m not sure I could’ve found a darker way to round out myMy Dying Bride (Photo by JJ Koczan) Roadburn 2017 Saturday night than to watch them deliver that level of scathe with that level of professionalism.

And no, I’m not just saying that because Stainthorpe wore a tie. With animation by Costin Chioreanu behind them, My Dying Bride were the consummate headliners. Mysticum were still to follow on the Main Stage with a production I’d caught in soundcheck earlier in the day that was probably the most elaborate I’ve ever seen in the 013 venue, but for me, My Dying Bride marked a culmination of what I wanted the evening to be, and so I knew my night was done. There’s always more to see at Roadburn. Always something you don’t get to. Always someone who, years down the road, you wonder, “What the hell was I doing that I missed that?” but sometimes when you’re in Tilburg, you’ve crafted your experience in such a way that makes sense at the time, and that was me tonight. Would’ve been hard pressed to find anything to top My Dying Bride anyway.

One day left in Roadburn 2017, which is something I know to be true because I only have two protein bars remaining — one for before the show, one for after. Tomorrow’s another early start to fold Weirdo Canyon Dispatch issues, so I’ll leave it there once again and say thank you for reading and if you’re so inclined, you can check out more pics after the jump.

Which is right frickin’ here:

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audiObelisk Transmission 060

Posted in Podcasts on December 22nd, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk podcast 60

Click Here to Download


Consider this your usual disclaimer that, like any of this site’s coverage of year-end whatnottery, this podcast is by no means attempting to capture all of 2016’s best tracks. It is, however, over four hours long, and frankly that seems like enough to ask. If you decide to take it on and sample what I found to be some of the best material to come down the line over the last 12 months, please know you have my thanks in advance. For what it’s worth, it was a lot of fun to put together, and that’s not always the case with these.

But about the length. I’ve done double-sized year-end specials for a while now. It’s always just seemed a fair way to go. And the last few at least have been posted the week of the Xmas holiday as well, which for me is of dual significance since it just so happens four hours is right about what it takes to drive from where I live to where my family lives, so when I look at this massive slew of 34 acts, from the riff-led righteousness of Wo Fat and Curse the Son to the crush of Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard and SubRosa to the psychedelic reaches of Zun and Øresund Space Collective (who probably show up in podcasts more than anyone, oddly enough), I also think of going to see my family, which has become my favorite part of the holidays.

Whatever associations you might draw with it, I very much hope you enjoy listening. Thanks for taking the time.

Track details follow:

First Hour:

0:00:00 Wo Fat, “There’s Something Sinister in the Wind” from Midnight Cometh
0:09:35 Greenleaf, “Howl” from Rise Above the Meadow
0:14:57 Elephant Tree, “Aphotic Blues” from Elephant Tree
0:20:49 Brant Bjork, “The Gree Heen” from Tao of the Devil
0:26:27 Sergio Ch., “El Herrero” from Aurora
0:29:44 Child, “Blue Side of the Collar” from Blueside
0:35:31 Geezer, “Bi-Polar Vortex” from Geezer
0:43:59 Zun, “Come Through the Water” from Burial Sunrise
0:49:27 Baby Woodrose, “Mind Control Machine” from Freedom
0:54:11 Curse the Son, “Hull Crush Depth” from Isolator
0:59:31 Borracho, “Shot down, Banged up, Fade Away” from Atacama

Second Hour:

1:05:50 Scissorfight, “Nature’s Cruelest Mistake” from Chaos County
1:09:19 Truckfighters, “The Contract” from V
1:16:30 Spidergawd, “El Corazon del Sol” from III
1:21:24 Fatso Jetson, “Royal Family” from Idle Hands
1:26:13 Worshipper, “Step Behind” from Shadow Hymns
1:30:57 Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, “Y Proffwyd Dwyll” from Y Proffwyd Dwyll
1:39:42 Druglord, “Regret to Dismember” from Deepest Regrets
1:46:34 Moon Coven, “New Season” from Moon Coven
1:52:03 Gozu, “Tin Chicken” from Revival
1:59:49 Year of the Cobra, “Vision of Three” from …In the Shadows Below

Third Hour:

2:06:53 The Munsens, “Abbey Rose” from Abbey Rose
2:14:56 Lamp of the Universe, “Mu” from Hidden Knowledge
2:21:26 1000mods, “On a Stone” from Repeated Exposure To…
2:26:45 Church of the Cosmic Skull, “Watch it Grow” from Is Satan Real?
2:30:43 Vokonis, “Acid Pilgrim” from Olde One Ascending
2:37:35 Slomatics, “Electric Breath” from Future Echo Returns
2:43:02 Droids Attack, “Sci-Fi or Die” from Sci-Fi or Die
2:47:20 King Buffalo, “Drinking from the River Rising” from Orion
2:56:51 Comet Control, “Artificial Light” from Center of the Maze

Fourth Hour:

3:06:37 Øresund Space Collective, “Above the Corner” from Visions Of…
3:22:51 Naxatras, “Garden of the Senses” from II
3:33:14 SubRosa, “Black Majesty” from For this We Fought the Battle of Ages
3:48:23 Seedy Jeezus with Isaiah Mitchell, “Escape Through the Rift” from Tranquonauts

Total running time: 4:07:32


Thank you for listening.

Download audiObelisk Transmission 060


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