Tomorrow’s Dream 2015: 90 of the Year’s Most Anticipated Releases

Posted in Features on January 21st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

This is the longest list of anything I’ve ever done, and it might be the longest I ever do. The truth is, when I started keeping track of things coming out in 2015, back around October/November, I had no idea what I was getting into. More and more names just kept getting added to the list, and between solid release dates, bands entering the studio, writing sessions underway and the usual round of vague “they’re due”-type speculation, it kept growing. Even now, I’m quite sure that by the time I’m finished with this, I’ll add something else, and 90 will become 91, and then someone will point out something glaring I forgot and 91 will become 92, and so on.

I don’t think I could reasonably expect anyone to read 90 complete entries, so I’ve broken it down somewhat. There are 52 weeks in a year, so my thinking is that if you buy one record per week, I’ve got recommendations to carry through till December (with the acknowledgement that we’re already a couple weeks into 2015) and then more beyond that. Even asking you to skim 52 entries is a lot, but hell, we’ve got 12 months until 2016, so there’s plenty of time. We’ll do 52 entries and then list the others, both alphabetically.

Thank you in advance for reading.

1. Acid King, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere

Acid King Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere

If this was my year-end list instead of my year-start list, Acid King‘s Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere would be my album of the year. Best album of 2015 about 20 days into it? Maybe. The Oakland trio’s first outing in nearly a decade is a joy of languid riffing and heavy spaceout, songs like “Coming down from Outer Space” and “Center of Everywhere” reminding of just what it is we’ve been missing about Acid King all these years. They’ve continued to play live all that time, of course, and Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere, which is due April 14 on Svart, plainly demonstrates that they’ve lost none of the potency for years absent from studio work. More to come. Acid King on Thee Facebooks, Svart Records.

2. All Them Witches, TBA

all them witches tba

The Nashville four-piece blew up following the 2013 digital release of their second album, Lightning at the Door, which saw a physical pressing last year (review here), and with a growing public at their heels and a salivating underground press anxious to hear what they come up with next, All Them Witches hit the studio this month to put together their third full-length. They’re on tour in Feb., and it seems reasonable to expect they’ll be trying out new material on the road, but as free-flowing as Lightning at the Door was, it’s hard not to consider the follow-up one of 2015’s most anticipated records, whenever it arrives and whatever shape(s) it takes. All Them Witches on Thee Facebooks, official website.

3. Anthroprophh, U.F.O.

UFO Vinyl Sleeve.qxp

Guitarist/vocalist Paul Allen, formerly of The Heads, teamed up with Jesse Webb and Gareth Turner of the duo Big Naturals as his rhythm section for 2014’s Outside the Circle (review here), and for his new release under the Anthroprophh moniker for Cardinal FuzzAllen centers around different U.F.O. abduction reports from the UK between 1954 and 1978, each of the eight tracks taking its name from the date and location of a reported incident. Sound fucking awesome? Yeah, I agree. Expect raw psychedelic experimentation, heavy swing and interpretive instrumentalism galore on the two-sided release when it gets declassified on Feb. 2, pressed in an edition of 500 copies. Anthroprophh on Thee Facebooks, Cardinal Fuzz.

4. Arenna, TBA

arenna cover

Spanish heavy psych outfit Arenna will release the follow-up to their 2011 Nasoni Records debut, Beats of Olarizu (review here), and they just this week posted the 10-minute opener “Butes” from their sophomore outing (listen here). The first album earned them a hearty following, and it’s been four years since it came out, but somehow I doubt Arenna will have much trouble picking up where they left off in their wide-open, jam-heavy sound. They mark a decade together in 2015, and they seem to just be getting started, so I’m particularly interested to learn how the European heavy underground takes to their second LP, which is due to be mastered next month and released sometime thereafter. Arenna on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

5. The Atomic Bitchwax, Gravitron

the atomic bitchwax

New Bitchwax? Sold. The stalwart New Jersey three-piece — now featuring two members of Monster Magnet – will release Gravitron on April 21 via Tee Pee Records, just in time to make a stop a few days later at Desertfest London 2015. They toured Europe last summer as well, and I think the fact that they’ll be over that way when they put Gravitron out speaks volumes to their priorities at this point, but who can blame them? Perpetually underappreciated in the US, they’ll follow-up 2011’s The Local Fuzz (review here) in grand form at Desertfest (they play Berlin as well), finally getting their due even if they have to get on a plane to get it. The Atomic Bitchwax on Thee Facebooks, Tee Pee Records.

6. Black Cobra, TBA

black-cobra

Hints were dropped back in November that raging two-piece Black Cobra were working on material for a new album. Whenever it arrives, this year or next, it will be their sixth and first since 2011’s Invernal (review here), which I don’t think I’m alone in counting as their finest moment to-date. They’ll also be at Desertfest for a return appearance, and wherever they go, devastation follows. They posted this week that their tour van has passed the 300,000-mile mark, which is emblematic of the workout they’ve given it over the last decade-plus, and I’d expect no slowdown, tempo or itinerary-wise, from them in 2015, regular oil changes notwithstanding. Black Cobra on Thee Facebooks, Southern Lord Recordings.

7. Black Rainbows, Hawkdope

black rainbows hawkdope

There are 90-someodd bands included in this feature, all told. Might be over 100. I’m not sure anybody beats Italian trio Black Rainbows in the album-title department, however. Hawkdope, man. Hard to mess with that. Guitarist/vocalist Gabriele Fiori continues to keep his finger on the pulse of European heavy rock with his Heavy Psych Sounds imprint, and while I haven’t heard Hawkdope yet, it seems likely they’ll continue the push toward heavy psychedelia that 2013’s Holy Moon EP (discussed here) and their inclusions in last year’s four-way split (review here) spoke of, but of course, they can always throw down some top notch fuzz riffing as well. Black Rainbows on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

8. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth

brothers of the sonic cloth brothers of the sonic cloth

Six years after the arrival of their demo (review here), Brothers of the Sonic Cloth will make their self-titled debut through Neurot Recordings on Feb. 17. Immediately notable for being the brainchild of guitarist/vocalist Tad Doyle (ex-TAD), bassist Peggy “Pegadeth” Doyle and drummer Dave FrenchBrothers of the Sonic Cloth pushes plodding heavy into seething aggression with a lumber only made more potent by Billy Anderson‘s production. It’s been a while in the making, true, but the album’s execution leaves no room for argument in its lung-deflating tonal density. Justifies the wait and then some. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth on Thee Facebooks, Neurot Recordings.

9. Chiefs, Tomorrow’s Over

chiefs tomorrow's over

With vinyl to follow in May on Battleground Records, Arizona/SoCal heavy rockers Chiefs will release their debut LP, Tomorrow’s Over, via Roosevelt Row on Feb. 24. Its striking cover art by David Paul Seymour offers immediate intrigue, as did Chiefs‘ inclusion on their 2014 split 7″ with Fuzz Evil (streamed here). The song from that, “Stone Bull,” won’t be featured on the album, but all four cuts from Chiefs‘ 2013 Buffalo Roam demo will, which should give you some indication as to how much the trio got it right the first time around. The title-track of the demo opens, and the album takes its name from one of the demo tracks as well, so it all ties together. Chiefs on Thee Facebooks, Battleground Records, Roosevelt Row Records.

10. Clutch, TBA

clutch

Clutch‘s Earth Rocker (review here) was the undisputed high point of 2013, and the long-running Maryland four-piece have returned to the Machine Shop studio (now located in Texas) to record the follow-up to it. They’ve been playing new material live for a while now, as they’ll do, and while they always manage to change things up from album to album, the fact that they’ve going back to work with Machine again makes in plain that they’re where they want to be at this point sound-wise. As if there was ever any doubt. Their forever-tour will continue, but it’s good to know they’re taking a little break from the road to put together another slab for their always-expanding, always-frothing fanbase. Clutch on Thee Facebooks, Weathermaker Music.

11. Conan, TBA

conan

I’m not sure if it will be out before the end of 2015, but whenever it arrives, the next Conan should be a much different affair than we’ve yet heard from the UK thunderplodders, whose 2014 Napalm Records debut, Blood Eagle (review here), further established their dominance among the heaviest bands in doom. Since that album hit, guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis has traded out two-thirds of the trio, bringing in producer Chris Fielding on bass/vocals and new drummer Rich LewisDavis‘ riffs have always been at the core of what makes Conan the beast they are, so I wouldn’t expect much fixing of what isn’t broken, but don’t be surprised if some different personalities emerge in Fielding and Lewis as well. Conan on Thee Facebooks, Conan’s webstore.

12. Colour Haze, To the Highest Gods We Know

CH_TTHGWK_BOOKLET 4&1

Yeah, I’m sneaking this one in here. Sorry, but frankly, I think Colour Haze deserve more than a toss-it-out-there mid-December album release date, so instead of the CD release, which was last month, I’m choosing to think of the impending Feb./March vinyl issue as the official one for To the Highest Gods We Know (review here), which is both a fascinating and fitting answer to Colour Haze‘s 2012 outing, She Said (review here). Feels strange so early in the year to start calling out end-of-year highlights, but between this and Acid King, I feel like two of my top five are already set in stone, and that’s a pretty good start to any year. Colour Haze are one of the most important heavy rock bands of their generation, and they continue to expand their form and the genre as a whole. Colour Haze’s website, Elektrohasch Schallplatten.

13. Corrections House, TBA

corrections-house-logo

Their totalitarian fetishizing well intact, the it’s-a-supergroup-but-don’t-call-it-a-supergroup Corrections House announced back in November that they’d have a sophomore effort out this year to follow their 2013 debut, Last City Zero. The returning lineup of guitarist Scott Kelly (Neurosis), vocalist Mike Williams (Eyehategod), saxophonist Bruce Lamont (Yakuza) and keyboardist/programmer Sanford Parker (Buried at Sea, etc.) is enough to warrant attention in itself, and while their industrial tinged output isn’t really my thing sound-wise, they’re not an assemblage easily ignored. Hopefully a recently canceled round of tour dates doesn’t derail the new release plams. Corrections House on Thee Facebooks, at Neurot Recordings.

14. Corsair, One Eyed Horse

corsair one eyed horse

Virginian dual-guitar classic heavy rock/metallers Corsair are now three years removed from their Shadow Kingdom Records self-titled debut (review here), and their new album, One Eyed Horse, arrives with a striking-almost-disturbing cover and a refined progressive edge. Their melodic sensibility has never been in question, and guitarists Marie Landragin and Paul Sebring, bassist Jordan Brunk (who, like the guitarists, contributes vocals) and drummer Michael Taylor will look to expand their reach even further with the eight new vinyl-ready tracks. One looks forward to the album and hopes for a tour in equal measure. Corsair’s website, Shadow Kingdom Records.

15. Crypt Sermon, Out of the Garden

crypt-sermon-out-of-the-garden

Classic doom bleeds through the cover of Philly five-piece Crypt Sermon‘s debut full-length, Out of the Garden. Set to release Feb. 24 on Dark Descent Records, I’d expect Out of the Garden to be an early highlight for the year in doom despite being Crypt Sermon‘s first outing. Their Demo MMXIII (review here) found them well schooled in the tenets of the downtrodden, and while the record may end up a sleeper, it’s one that no doubt will find its way to the right ears; namely those of the old school doomers tired of psychedelic idolatry, who want something dark, beaten and grueling without concern for genre-melding or novelty. So, doom on. Crypt Sermon on Thee Facebooks, Dark Descent Records.

16. Ecstatic Vision, TBA

ecstatic vision

Also based in Philadelphia, heavy psych troupe Ecstatic Vision signed to Relapse on the strength of a demo and an apparent willingness to hit the road — they’ll do so this spring alongside YOB and Enslaved — and as just about any band who’s ever sent that label a rough recording will likely tell you, that’s no small feat. I was fortunate enough to catch them in Brooklyn last month (opening for YOB, as it happened), and the appeal was easy to see in their space rock jamming, lighting effects and propensity for deceptively quick rhythmic turns. A debut offering is reportedly due this year, and as it will come after they spend a month on the road, I expect it will be something to behold. Ecstatic Vision on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.

17. Elder, Lore

elder-lore

What to say about Elder? They’re a bright spot in the hope for the next generation of heavy rock, but they were that already. What really distinguishes their third album, Lore, is the fiercely progressive bent of the tracks, songs like “Compendium” (streamed here) taking the hypnotic rhythms of 2012’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here) and refining what Elder – the trio of guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto – do with a newfound clarity of purpose and precision execution. They make well-thought-out songs sound exciting front to back, and if you’ve ever dug anything they’ve done, you’re going to shit a brick when you hear the title-track of LoreElder on Thee Facebooks, Armageddon Shop, Stickman Records.

18. Enslaved, In Times

enslaved-in-times

I make no bones or apologies about being an Enslaved fan. The Norwegian progressive black metallers strip down their presentation with In Times, the follow-up to 2012’s Riitiir (review here), solidifying some aspects of their approach while nodding at the brutality of yore in a still-somehow-forward-thinking manner. They never fail to deliver, and they’ve long since hit a stride where they can deliver album after album and come up with ways to advance their sound each time out. Recording themselves has only made them bolder over their last couple records, and In Times benefits from this in its brought-to-fruition experiments as well. It would take a lot for these guys to do wrong in my eyes. Enslaved on Thee Facebooks, Nuclear Blast Records.

19. Eye, TBA

eye

They’re the Midwest’s inadvertent answer to the West Coast’s Moog-prog vibing, and Ohio’s Eye want for nothing in comparison to any of their coastal contemporaries. The photo above was taken recently in the studio — I’ll just assume the room is actually that color when they record and that that is not, in fact, an Instagram filter — tracking their third record and follow-up to 2013’s brilliant-yes-brilliant Second Sight (review here), which rightfully garnered attention far and wide. No release date yet for the new one from what I’ve seen, but the album is reportedly done, so hopefully it won’t be too long before it sees release, most likely on vinyl since that seems to be where the band’s heart lies. Eye on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

20. Freedom Hawk, TBA

freedom hawk

After an appearance last year at Roadburn and confirmation of a return trip to Europe this spring for Freak Valley in Germany, Virginia’s Freedom Hawk would seem to have considerably expanded their reach. Last year saw them lose guitarist Matt Cave and transition from a four-piece to a trio, and they were in the studio in the fall to record their second album for Small Stone behind their 2011 label debut, Holding On (review here), and while I’m not sure if it’s finished or if it will be out in time for the band’s sojourn abroad, one assumes it will be out sooner or later. Their late-2013 Live at the Jewish Mother download makes a decent stopgap if you’ve got a hankering, but they’re due for a new one for sure. Freedom Hawk on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.

21. Glowsun, Glowsun

glowsun glowsun

In a recent discussion about finally picking up Glowsun‘s 2012 outing, Eternal Season, I said I wasn’t going to miss their next record, so I guess you could call this me holding myself to that task. The French heavy psych outfit have a new one, apparently self-titled — though of course I could be wrong; I’m just going by the album art — due out for release this Spring. I haven’t seen an official date from Napalm for when it’s due, but it’s not one I’m going to let slip by one way or another as I did for far too long with Eternal Season. Some mistakes don’t bear repeating, and Glowsun‘s output is of a quality that demands immediacy. At least now I know it. Ha. Glowsun on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.

22. Goatsnake, TBA

goatsnake

Rumors abound about a new Goatsnake. They’re in the studio, this is done, that isn’t done, they’re over here, over there. They’re headlining Freak Valley and playing Psycho California, and they headlined Southwest Terror Fest III last fall, but the last official word I saw about a new album — it would be their first since their 2004 Trampled Under Hoof EP — was last Sept., when word came down that it was happening at all and that Southern Lord would put it out. A timetable on when would be convenient, but maybe that’s asking too much and I should be grateful it’s even being discussed. They remain on my bucket list of bands to see before I die. One of these days I’ll get there. Southern Lord Recordings, Southern Lord on Thee Facebooks.

23. Gozu, TBA

gozu

Probably the biggest change for Boston’s Gozu since the 2013 release of their second album for Small StoneThe Fury of a Patient Man (review here), is the solidification of their lineup. As they enter into the process for their third Small Stone outing, they’ll do so with bassist Joe Grotto and drummer Mike HubbardGrotto played on part of Fury, but Hubbard (ex-Warhorse) is a new presence entirely in the band. They’ve also experimented with a third guitarist, so they might not be so solidified, but they’ve got a monster of a core four-piece to work with in GrottoHubbard, guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney and guitarist Doug Sherman, and they seem poised to get the most out of the chemistry they’ve busted their collective ass to develop. Gozu on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.

24. High on Fire, TBA

high on fire

I feel like a new High on Fire record isn’t even just an event for heavy rock at this point but for metal as a whole. The Matt Pike-fronted three-piece hit the studio this month (this week?) after a quick tour up the East Coast, returning to Massachusetts to work with Converge‘s Kurt Ballou at his Godcity Studios, where they also busted out 2012’s De Vermis Mysteriis (review here). For anyone who heard that record, it should be plain why they’d want to work with Ballou again — even enough to go to Massachusetts in January — and whenever their next one shows up, no doubt it will do so as one of 2015’s most anticipated offerings. I’m not sure what to expect other than “heavy,” but that’s enough to go on for now. High on Fire on Thee Facebooks, eOne Metal.

25. Hollow Leg, TBA

hollow leg god-eater

My interest was piqued early last year when Floridian sludgers Hollow Leg issued their God-Eater single and spoke of it as the beginning of a change in direction. The change? More melody, a less outright aggressive style, more of an emphasis on thickness rather than rawness. As a starting point, the song “God-Eater” seemed to bode well, and I’m hoping in 2015 that Hollow Leg follow through at least partially on its promise. Not that the viciousness of 2013’s second LP, Abysmal (review here), left me particularly wanting, just that they seemed to be following a fulfilling new-ish path, and I thought the sound was one worth pursuing. They’ve said their third will be out this year, so I’ll take it. Hollow Leg on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

26. Horsehunter, Caged in Flesh

horsehunter caged in flesh

Australian four-piece Horsehunter made an impression a few weeks back with the 16-minute “Stoned to Death,” the opening track from their Magnetic Eye Records debut LP, Caged in Flesh, and it stands to reason why. Crushing tones, brutal vibes and hints of psychedelic wash abounded on what was a gripping sample of the album, which the band had recorded, scapped because it wasn’t heavy enough and then recorded again. There are four songs on Caged in Flesh, so “Stoned to Death” is literally just the beginning for Horsehunter, whose foreboding atmospherics come across no less punishing than their most weighted of tones. Horsehunter on Thee Facebooks, Magnetic Eye Records.

27. Kind, TBA

kind (Photo by JJ Koczan)

I’ve been lucky enough to see Boston four-piece Kind play twice, the lineup of vocalist Craig Riggs (also Roadsaw), guitarist Darryl Shepard (also Black PyramidBlackwolfgoat, etc.), bassist Tom Corino (also Rozamov) and drummer Matt Couto (also Elder) taking shape visibly from one show to the next. Their debut full-length is in progress now at the Riggs-owned Mad Oak Studios in Allston, and while I don’t think I can say yet what label it’s coming out on (it’s not Small Stone), the latest word I’ve gotten is that a summer release is booked. Definitely interested to hear how the jams I’ve seen live translate to a studio recording, and how Corino‘s tone comes through Mad Oak‘s board. Kind on Thee Facebooks, on Soundcloud.

28. Kings Destroy, Kings Destroy

kings destroy

So, you’d think the pic of Kings Destroy bassist Aaron Bumpus above is from some recent studio shot while they’re tracking their third album, right? Nope. The self-titled’s been in the can for months. It’s out in April on War Crime Recordings. What Kings Destroy are doing now is working on album number four, and I bet before it comes out, they’ll be on number five. Fiercely creative. I’ve had the KD record for I don’t know how long at this point, and it’s the best thing they’ve done yet. I can’t even pretend to feign impartiality after being asked to tour with them twice last year — a fucking blessing both times — but it’s the closest they’ve come to their live sound so far and that progress suits them remarkably well. Kings Destroy on Thee Facebooks, War Crime Recordings.

29. Lamprey, TBA

lamprey logo

The two-bass Portland trio Lamprey‘s recent stop-motion video for “Iron Awake” served due notice of their impending album, as yet untitled, and while it’s the shortest track on there by a considerable margin, it nonetheless represents the big-crash, big-impact severity of the outing as a whole. Not sure through what label it will surface if one at all or on what media it will be pressed — the word burning above, which I hope is the album cover, may or may not be — but the full-length seems poised to establish them as a force after 2012’s The Burden of Beasts EP (review here) brought their sometimes-plodding, sometimes-sprinting heavy rock into focus. Also, one of the songs is called “Lament of the Deathworm,” and that just rules. Lamprey on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

30. Lord Dying, Poisoned Altars

lord dying poisoned altars

The hard-touring Portlanders teamed up with Dark Castle drummer Rob Shaffer for their sophomore outing for Relapse RecordsPoisoned Altars (review here), and though he’s since out of the band, his presence bolsters the songs in Lord Dying‘s blend of High on Fire-style thrash and Crowbar-loyal sludge. A pervasive sense of simplicity helps the material achieve maximum force, but the hard-won nature of Lord Dying‘s cohesion isn’t to be understated or underappreciated — they did about 18 months of touring in support of their first effort, Summon the Faithless. At least they know their time wasn’t misspent. Seems likely they’ll continue to pound the pavement throughout 2015, so keep an eye open. Lord Dying on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.

31. Magic Circle, TBA

magic circle (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Rest assured, I’ve seen zero confirmation that a new Magic Circle album is under way. There’s been no word from the by-now-notoriously secretive Massachusetts-based band or their label, Armageddon Shop, on the subject of a follow-up to their 2013 self-titled debut (review here). This is rampant speculation. Their first 7″ was recently re-pressed, though, so there’s activity in their camp one way or another. They also made their way out to Seattle in October to open for Satan, which only emphasizes the fact that you never really know when they’re going to show up until they do. Ditto that their next album, I suppose. Hopefully this year it happens. Armageddom Shop website, on Thee Facebooks.

32. The Midnight Ghost Train, Cold was the Ground

Opmaak 1

Riotous Southern heavy rockers The Midnight Ghost Train have outdone themselves with their Napalm Records debut, Cold was the Ground, taking the rager blues of 2012’s Buffalo (review here) to new heights of manic push. After several years of steady touring, the Kansas-based trio of guitarist/vocalist Steve Moss, drummer Brandon Burghart and bassist Mike Boyne are an explosive live act, and as the recent video premiere for “Gladstone” showcased, their third album reaps the rewards of their labors. It’s due to release March 10 in North America, but I really don’t need to note the date, because you’ll hear it coming a mile away like the freight train that it is. The Midnight Ghost Train on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.

33. Minsk, TBA

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A new Minsk full-length is an utterly fascinating thought. Sorry if that sounds cold or overly clinical, but it’s true. Consider that it’s been six years since the Chicago post-metallers last released an album. That record, 2009’s With Echoes in the Movement of Stone (review here), hit at what was arguably the pinnacle of post-metal’s stylistic movement, the waters having since receded in no small part because Minsk wasn’t around to push forward creatively. Now, with slots booked at Roadburn and Desertfest, they’ll make a return to the studio as well, and I have absolutely zero idea of what to expect from them. A partially-revamped, Sanford Parker-less lineup only adds further intrigue. Minsk on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

34. Mondo Drag, Mondo Drag

mondo-drag-mondo-drag

This is one of I think two or three releases on this list that’s already out. The self-titled Mondo Drag (review here) nonetheless warrants inclusion for its heavy psych boogie concoctions and natural-toned spirit, not full-on retro but still well-indebted to the heavy ’70s in its use of organ and guitar and the swing of its rhythm section. That rhythm section? Zack Anderson and Cory Berry, who, fresh out of Radio Moscow, stepped in to record with fellow Iowans Mondo Drag in 2012 before founding Blues Pills. A shortlived moment in Mondo Drag‘s history, perhaps, but they got a killer record out of it, and while the recordings are already three years old, they’re well worth the time to appreciate. Mondo Drag on Thee Facebooks, Bilocation Records.

35. Monolord, Vaenir

monolord vaenir

Swedish trio Monolord won over hearts and minds bigtime with their 2014 RidingEasy Records debut, Empress Rising, earning a spot on the 2014 Readers Poll right between Eyehategod and Mastodon. That’s rather significant company to keep — and all the more so for a band’s first record — and with Vaenir, we’ll get to hear how the intervening year has seen them progress. They’ve already proven a favorite among the converted, and they’ll tour in Feb./March with Salem’s Pot ahead of an appearance at Roadburn prior to Vaenir‘s April 28 arrival date, so it looks like they’ll keep their momentum moving forward through the release and most likely beyond. Monolord on Thee Facebooks, RidingEasy Records.

36. Neurosis, TBA

neurosis

Okay. I don’t know that Neurosis‘ next album will be out in 2015. It’s just not a thing I know. What I know is that the ultra-seminal five-piece are getting together to write in Feb., and that they’re a no-bullshit band when it comes to writing and recording, so the timing works that, if they make new songs happen this winter, their record would probably be ready for release sometime in the summer or early fall. That’s what I’m going on. It might be that they write half the album now and half in 2016, but from what I hear they’re planning on doing some more significant touring this year, so it would stand to reason they’d want to do it with a follow-up to 2012’s Honor Found in Decay (review here) under their collective belt. We’ll see what we get. Neurosis on Thee Facebooks, Neurot Recordings.

37. Pentagram, TBA

pentagram

I saw Pentagram play 20 shows last year. Believe me when I say the pairing of frontman Bobby Liebling and guitarist Victor Griffin has never seemed stronger musically, and with bassist Greg Turley and drummer Sean SaleyPentagram head into the making of their next album firing on all proverbial cylinders. Metal Blade, who also issued their 2011 comeback album, Last Rites (review here), seems the likely outlet for the yet-untitled offering, which the band will herald with a headlining performance at Psycho California alongside Sleep and Cult of Luna on May 15-17, and which will no doubt dig deep into Pentagram‘s long history of doom for a trove of classic-style riffs. Pentagram on Thee Facebooks, Metal Blade Records.

38. Ruby the Hatchet, Valley of the Snake

ruby the hatchet valley of the snake

A not-so-subtle Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats influence permeates Ruby the Hatchet‘s Tee Pee Records debut, Valley of the Snake, which is something the Philly-based band seems to acknowledge willfully on “Vast Acid,” frontwoman Jillian Taylor crooning “I’ll cut you down” toward the end of the song in a call-out of one of the UK outfit’s most resonant hooks. Otherwise, the organ-laced five-piece get down on more psychedelic vibes, though the heavy ’70s swing in the drums could be taken as another common factor, if you really wanted to stretch it. Either way, a laid back, less murderous atmosphere persists, and that suits me just fine. Out Feb. 24. Bonus points for the gorgeous Adam Burke cover art. Ruby the Hatchet on Thee Facebooks, Tee Pee Records.

39. Saturnalia Temple, To the Other

saturnalia-temple-to-the-other

The entire meaning of being a “cult” band has changed since Sweden’s Saturnalia Temple released their UR demo in 2007, but after their 2011 debut, Aion of Drakon, hit with such a low-end wash of psychedelic obscurity, I’m intrigued to hear what they’ve come up with on To the Other, the cover’s foreboding darkness, consuming swirl and bizarre patterning seeming a fit for their sonic methodology. To the Other is out April 7 on The Ajna Offensive, and features Tim Call of The Howling Wind and Aldebaran on drums alongside Saturnalia Temple guitarist/vocalist Tommie Ericksson and bassist PeterSaturnalia Temple on Thee Facebooks, The Ajna Offensive.

40. Six Organs of Admittance, Hexadic

six organs of admittance hexadic

I’ll make no claims toward understanding the theoretical basis driving the latest outing from the Ben Chasny-helmed project Six Organs of Admittance, which in its 17-year history has gone from bedroom folk and avant electronics to the far-ranging heavy psych jamming of 2012’s Ascent (review here). Chasny, joined by members of Assemble Head in Sunburst Sound and Deerhoof on the album — which is due out Feb. 17 on Drag City – seems to have developed a compositional method based around a system involving playing cards and varying tonal intensities. No idea what the hell any of it means, but it sounds like a freakout to me, so I’m in. Six Organs of Admittance website, Drag City Records.

41. Snail, Feral

snail

Come on, Snail. Even if Feral‘s not coming out until later in the year, you can send it to me. I won’t tell anybody if you don’t want me to. I can keep it to myself. Hell, I won’t even review it until I get word that it’s cool to do so, I just want to hear the damn thing. Alright, Snail, have it your way. I’ll just sit here and remember how awesome Terminus (review here) was when that came out in 2012, and Blood (review here) before that in 2009 back when I did snarky headlines for reviews. That’s cool. I’ve waited this long for your Small Stone debut to make its way into my ears, I guess I’ll just keep waiting until it shows up. Which it would be awfully nice if it did as soon as possible. Today works. Now works. Snail on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.

42. Sourvein, Aquatic Fanatic

sourvein-aquatic-occult

At the risk of being sincere, I’ll say it warms my cold, doomed heart to know that Sourvein‘s next album is going to be released by Metal Blade Records. After trudging the Southern sludge underground for, what, 20 years?, the Cape Fear-based outfit led by T-Roy Medlin (whose lineage goes back to Buzzov*en, lest we forget their role in establishing the sound) are finally poised to get their due, and I think it’s fucking awesome. Mike Dean‘s producing the thing, and you know Sourvein are going to tour the hell out of it because that’s what they do whether they’ve got a new record or not. I’m calling it the feelgood story of the year, which is perfect since the music will most likely be utterly scathing. Sourvein on Thee Facebooks, Metal Blade Records.

43. Spidergawd, II

spidergawd ii

Just stop reading and go fucking listen to Spidergawd. Here, I did a track premiere a little bit ago for the song “Tourniquet.” It rules. Go listen to that. For the life of me I have no idea why this band’s name isn’t on the lips of every boogie-loving heavy rocker in the universe. Stickman has the new album, Spidergawd II, sold out in the special edition preorders, but there’s a regular version still available and apparently en route from the plant, and for the love of all things riffed, it’s glorious. So get on it. I implore you. And no, I don’t have any idea what’s going on with the album cover, so don’t ask. No time for questions anyway. Get listening. Spidergawd on Thee Facebooks, Stickman Records.

44. Stoned Jesus, The Harvest

stoned jesus the harvest

Ukrainian heavy rockers Stoned Jesus posted the opening track from their third album, The Harvest, a while back on their Bandcamp page, and my goodness it does swing. They’ll make their way to the US for the first time in support of The Harvest, appearing at the Psycho California fest and hopefully elsewhere, and they do so having built up a steady following with their first two long-players, 2010’s First Communion (noted here) and 2012’s Seven Thunders Roar (review here), their most stonerly of names spread far and wide ahead of the latest offering’s early March arrival following 2013’s jams collection, The Seeds, Vol. 1Stoned Jesus on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

45. Torche, Restarter

torche restarter

I haven’t heard it yet, but Torche‘s awaited Relapse Records debut, Restarter, is due out Feb. 24 and the band are kicking into gear once again to mark its coming. They’ve already announced US and European tours to carry them through June, and I don’t imagine there are many markets they’ll leave un-hit  by the time they’re through. Their last album, 2012’s Harmonicraft (review here), was a solid showing of what’s come to be expected of them in terms of hooks, upbeat heaviness and melodies, but especially with the ambitious title, the new label and the energized-seeming schedule, I’m hoping that Restarter gives the band the same kind of boot to the ass they’ve been to delivering the heavy underground for the last decade. Torche on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.

46. Ufomammut, Ecate

ufomammut (Photo by Andrea Tomas Prato)

Very, very much looking forward to hearing Ecate, the newest outing from Ufomammut and their “second” album for Neurot Recordings behind the 2012 two-parter Oro (reviews here and here). Why is kind of a silly question — new Ufomammut is its own excuse for anticipation — but truth be told, they’ve always managed to get bigger-sounding and more expansive with each LP, and after having to break their last album in half and release the two pieces months apart from each other, I’m dying to know where they go with Ecate, what shifts in their sound the last couple years — including last year, which was their 15th anniversary — have brought and where in the cosmos they might be headed now. Ufomammut on Thee Facebooks, Neurot Recordings.

47. Valkyrie, TBA

valkyrie

During what I guess we’ll call Valkyrie‘s original run, the Virginia two-guitar four-piece released a pair of albums, 2006’s Valkyrie and 2008’s Man of Two Visions – both of which were reissued through MeteorCity in 2010 — before guitarist Peter Adams, who founded the band with his brother, guitarist/vocalist Jake Adams, got signed to Relapse with his other group, Baroness. Now back with Earthling‘s Alan Fary on bass and drummer Warren Hawkins, they’ve got their new LP recorded with Sanford Parker and reportedly in the can for an early 2015 release, also through Relapse. They’ll no doubt be greeted as heroes when they play the Maryland Doom Fest in June, and understandably so. Valkyrie on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.

48. VA, Electric Ladyland Redux & The Best of James Marshall Hendrix

various artists the best of james marshall hendrix

Magnetic Eye Records launched a Kickstarter campaign last fall with the ambitious aim of paying homage to Jimi Hendrix by having current heavy rock artists (ElderEarthlessWo FatGozu and more; full list here) re-record Electric Ladyland in its entirety. The project, on track to be released this year to coincide with what would’ve been Hendrix‘s 73rd birthday in November, expanded to include a tribute best-of collection as well, and has grown in repute ahead of its actually being issued to stand as a gathering of some of the finest the underground has to offer playing some of the best rock and roll ever crafted. From the idea to the impending reality of it, there’s really no arguing with this one. Magnetic Eye Records on Thee Facebooks, Magnetic Eye webstore.

49. Wino & Conny Ochs, Freedom Conspiracy

wino and conny ochs

When Scott “Wino” Weinrich entered rehab late last fall, he mentioned in a public statement several projects in the works. Spirit Caravan‘s reunion is ongoing. Saint Vitus are due for a next album, but he also noted the second release for his collaboration with German singer-songwriter Conny OchsFreedom Conspiracy, as being in early 2015. Particularly after the ultra-intimate, solo feel of Wino‘s 2010 acoustic debut, Adrift (review here), the first collaboration with Ochs, 2012’s Heavy Kingdom (review here), was an unexpected expansion of the form that paid sonic dividends in both the songwriting and performance of both players. A second installment should benefit from the chemistry they built on the road for the debut. Conny Ochs on Thee Facebooks, Exile on Mainstream.

50. Wizard Eye, TBA
wizard eye

Heard it. Slays. Actually, I’m not sure if the version of Wizard Eye‘s sophomore full-length I got was final, but the songs were killer either way, and the Philly stoner-toner three-piece will have the album out on vinyl later this year through a newcomer label that I don’t think I’m supposed to mention yet so I won’t. Either way, they’re included here because the more heads they reach the better, their blend of rolling grooves, sludged out vocals and the occasional bout of theremin is just right for the riff-loving purist in all of us. Their recent live outing, Riff Occult Live (review here) says it better than I could, so make a note to yourself to dig into that at your next convenience. It’s name-your-price on Bandcamp. Wizard Eye on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

51. Wretch, TBA

wretch

Listed as the “bastard spawn” of The Gates of SlumberWretch finds that band’s guitarist/vocalist Karl Simon teamed with bassist Bryce Clark and drummer Chris Gordon, the prior outfit having been laid to rest in 2013 after what seemed like an excellent return to form in 2011’s The Wretch (review here) and subsequent Scion-sponsored EP. I haven’t heard the new band yet, but some demos have made their way out thus far, and you’d have to figure it won’t be too long before SimonClark and Gordon make their proper debut as Wretch and start a new chapter in one of modern traditional doom’s most pivotal legacies. Wretch on Thee Facebooks, Tone Deaf Touring.

52. Zun, TBA

zun

Early in 2013, a song called “Come through the Water” (review here) appeared as the first audio from a new project helmed by guitarist Gary Arce of Yawning Man called Zun. It was to be used as Zun‘s portion of a split with Fatso Jetson and while I’m not sure that ever materialized, it drew immediate attention for the collaboration between Arce and vocalist Sera Timms of Ides of Gemini and Black Mare, also formerly of Black Math Horseman. A significant duo for sure. With Bill Stinson (also Yawning Man) on drums, they’re set to debut later this year on Small Stone with their first album, and if Timms and Arce aren’t enough to draw your attention so late in the feature — the hazards of alphabetics — the one and only John Garcia is set for a guest appearance on the record. Dig that, desert rockers. Yawning Man on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.

 

Going Into Overload…

So, okay. At this point, you could literally buy a different record each week of this year and hear something that, unless there’s some disaster between the idea of the album and the actual thing itself, is most likely worth your time. That’s not too bad. But we’re not at 88 yet, so with those 52 already set, I’ve got 36 more that you might want to keep on your radar.

Some of these are solidly lined up, some are slated to be recorded, etc., so the same rule of “things don’t always work out the way they’re supposed to” applies. With that caveat:

 

53. Abrahma, TBA — Their second album for Small Stone is due sometime this year.

 

54. Bedroom Rehab Corporation, Fortunate Some — From what I hear, the Connecticut twosome have their second record in the can.

 

55. Black Black Black, TBA — Brooklyn outfit featuring former members of Disengage should have a sophomore album out in 2015.

 

56. Black Pyramid, New 7″ — The trio will release a new single to coincide with their Euro tour that includes a stop at Desertfest.

 

57. Bright Curse, New 10″ EP — It was mentioned the new lineup would record an EP before taking on their next album.

 

58. Camel of Doom, TBA — Was announced in December there’d be a new Camel of Doom along with a vinyl of their last album.

 

59. Cherry Choke, Raising the Waters — Should be out this month on Elektrohasch.

 

60. La Chinga, TBA — Vancouver group’s Small Stone debut is reportedly being mixed.

 

61. Curse the Son, TBA — I’m hoping this one gets out by the end of the year. It will be the CT trio’s first with their new bassist.

 

62. EgyptEndless Flight – North Dakota’s favored sons will return with a new full-length this summer. Album trailer posted with a clip of the new song “Tres Madres.”

 

63. Enos, TBA — Not sure where they’re at with it, but worth keeping an eye out.

 

64. Foghound, TBA — The Maryland rockers have finished tracking their new album with Mike Dean of Corrosion of Conformity at the helm.

 

65. Funeral Horse, TBA — They’ve been full of surprises on their first two releases and they work quick, so I wouldn’t be surprised if something new showed up.

 

66. Fuzz Evil, TBA — Interested to see where they go on an LP after their split with Chiefs.

 

67. The Glasspack, Moon Patrol — A snippet clip has been posted that bodes well. Supposed to be done recording in the spring. They’re currently sorting out label whatnots.

 

68. Graves at Sea, TBA — Yeah, it’s been more than a decade since their demo, but a split and an EP into their reunion, they just signed to Relapse, so now might be the time a debut album shows up.

 

69. House of Broken Promises, TBA — Should be a change from the first album after swapping out bassist/vocalists. They killed live last I saw.

 

70. Ice Dragon, TBA — No solid word of a new release from the Boston garage doom forerunners, but they’re always up to something.

 

71. Killer Boogie, Detroit — The debut from this Black Rainbows offshoot is out this month on Heavy Psych Sounds.

 

72. Krautzone, TBA — German synth-heavy prog-jammers have hit a groove and hopefully they continue to ride it as well as they have thus far.

 

73. Leeches of Lore, TBA — Wishful thinking on my part? Maybe. Got my fingers crossed, though.

 

74. Legion of Andromeda, Iron Scorn — They’re about as extreme as extreme doom gets. Album out next month.

 

75. Lord Fowl, TBA — I think they’re writing. Might be 2016 before it gets here, but I’ll take it whenever it comes. They’re worth a mention either way.

 

76. The Machine, TBA — Been a minute since we last heard from the Dutch heavy psych jammers. They were on this list last year as well.

 

77. Mirror Queen, Scaffolds of the Sky — Should be out in April on Tee Pee, and that suits me just fine. Choice grooves for springtime.

 

78. Mountain God, Forest of the Lost — A single-song EP from the Brooklyn post-sludgers is out in Feb. with a release show booked.

 

79. Om, TBA — I’ve yet to see solid evidence that a new Om is in the pipeline, but no one knew that Sleep single was coming last year either.

 

80. Planes of Satori, Planes of Satori — Dug their single, hope the full-length follows suit.

 

81. Pombagira, Flesh Throne Press – Their sixth album and Svart debut is due on March 23 as per this week’s announcement.

 

82. Righteous Bloom, TBA — My understanding was the Beelzefuzz offshoot are writing. Would be good if they can pick up where the prior act left off.

 

83. Royal Thunder, Crooked Doors – The Atlanta outfit’s second album for Relapse is due out April 7.

 

84. Sandrider/Kinski, Split — Don’t know much about Kinski, but new Sandrider is enough to sell me on it. Out Feb. 17 on Good to Die.

 

85. SardoniS, TBA — Expect big lumbering riffs from this Belgian duo, always. A new album is en route, last I heard.

 

86. Sun Voyager, TBA — Didn’t get to hear their last tape, but a five-song EP is due out sometime soon.

 

87. Sweat Lodge, Talismana — Not much word since they signed to Ripple, but they said this year, so until I hear otherwise…

 

88. Throttlerod, TBA — A teaser clip of new riffage came out over this past weekend. New Throttlerod is never something to complain about.

 

89. Venomous Maximus, Firewalker — When they signed to Shadow Kingdom in November, they gave it the ol’ “sometime in 2015.”

 

90. Weedeater, TBA — After a whole series of reissues, their Season of Mist debut is due.

 

91. Wight, Love is Not Only What You Know — Alphabetically last but not at all last in my heart, Germany’s Wight have their third record in progress. More in the comments.

 

92. Wo Fat, Live Juju at Freak Valley – Wo Fat‘s live set from the 2014 Freak Valley fest in Germany is due to release on vinyl March 17 in an edition of 500 copies.

 

Others to Keep an Eye On…

Guitarist Ian Gerber of Indianapolis’ The Heavy Co. has a couple side-projects going, but new stuff from his main band doesn’t seem unlikely either. New York’s Geezer might also have something new before December in addition to Ripple‘s CD version of their Gage release, and labelmates King Buffalo are continuing their relationship with STB Records via a new spit next month, so hopefully a debut LP follows that. Let it Breathe should make their debut on the label too in 2015.

Recently streamed trio Wake up Lucid release their EP on March 31. Last I heard The Body had a new one coming too in collaboration with Thou. Sixty Watt Shaman have plans to record tracks for a split due out later this year, and they’ll reissue their first album, 1998’s Ultra Electric, as well. Look out for Godhunter‘s split/collaboration with Amigo the Devil, and the second offering from Black Moon Circle is on the way. Balam‘s full-length should also be out sometime this year, and I anxiously await news of a solid release date for the third Clamfight record.

Murmurings abound also for new ones from GraveyardGreenleafThe Sword, Vhöl and others.

Plus, Sleep still exist and that simple fact probably makes them worth more of a mention than this quick aside. Their 2014 single The Clarity was an offering of pure Iommic idolatry. A sign of things to come? Who the hell knows.

If you don’t have enough to go by yet, labels like Sulatron, Tee PeeEl Paraiso, Ripple, Small Stone, STB, Napalm and so on are always worth a keen watch what’s next. There’s always something.

 

Which I guess is the point of this whole thing. I’m sure, even as huge as this list is, someone is going to drop a comment immediately that will make me slap my forehead and wonder how I ever forgot whatever it is. It’s always something. It looks like it’s going to be a tremendous year, so if you’ll pardon me, I’ll cut out quick and get started making my way through it.

No doubt I’ll add to this post over the next couple days, so if the numbers change, don’t be surprised. In any case, if you made it this far, thanks again for reading. May your 2015 be filled with excellent music and even better times.

 

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Lo-Pan and Against the Grain Announce Northeast Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 9th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

Before they split out for Europe in April and, presumably once reaching its shores decide never to return, Ohio fuzz rockers Lo-Pan will hit the road like they do with Detroit speedfreaks Against the Grain. The tour will be in the north and northeast, which should be almost thinking about thawing out by then, and is set to start March 12 and run until March 22. For Lo-Pan, they’re out supporting last year’s Colossus (review here), while the oft-touring Against the Grain will have by that time recorded their fourth album, which is set to release later in 2015.

Like I said, after this, Lo-Pan are off to Europe alongside Black Pyramid, but it’s worth noting that this will be their first tour with guitarist Adrian Zambrano, so it should be a chance for them to further solidify before they go. They’ve given themselves a high-energy companion in Against the Grain, who will no doubt keep them on their toes for the duration.

The PR wire brings details and dates, and we all like details and dates, right? Okay then:

lo-pan against the grain march tour 1

Lo Pan & Against The Grain to tour Northeast in March

Columbus riff titans Lo Pan will be pairing up with Detroit neck breakers Against The Grain for a ten date Northeast tour in the month of March in what will be a travelling showcase of two of the heaviest bands going from the Midwest.

Both bands coming off a successful campaigns in 2014 with Against The Grain seeing the release of Motor City Speed Rock on vinyl and nonstop touring throughout the year with dates that included runs with Guttermouth, Koffin Kats and Nashville Pussy and Valient Thorr to close out the year.

Against The Grain start the year doing a two shows with Detroit’s own Koffin Kats in Chicago (Reggie’s) and in Westland, MI (Token Lounge) and a local show with notable punk/metal band Gang Green in the Detroit area (Corktown Tavern).   From there, the four will be spending the month of February recording the follow up to 2012’s “Surrounded By Snakes” at Train – A Comin’ Studios in Mt. Clemens, Michigan which will be slated for a summer release.

Dates:
March 12 – The Loving Touch (Ferndale, MI)
March 13 – Grog Shop (Cleveland, OH)
March 14 – The Lost Horizon (Syracuse, NY)
March 15 – TT the Bears (Boston, MA)
March 16 – TBA
March 17 – TBA
March 18 – Saint Vitus Bar (Brooklyn, NY)
March 19 – Kung Fu Necktie (Philadelphia, PA)
March 20 – The Pinch (Washington D.C.)
March 21 – 31st St. Pub (Pittsburgh, PA)
March 22 – Spacebar (Columbus, OH)

https://www.facebook.com/lopandemic
http://smallstone.bandcamp.com/album/colossus
https://www.facebook.com/Againstthegraindetroit/
http://againstthegrain-atg.bandcamp.com/
http://selfdestructorecords.bandcamp.com/

Lo-Pan, Colossus (2014)

Against the Grain, Surrounded by Snakes (2013)

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 30 of 2014

Posted in Features on December 22nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

the-obelisk-top-30-of-2014

Please note: These are not the results of the Readers Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t added your list yet, please do.

This was a hard list to put together. The top three have been set in my mind for probably the last month, but trying to work my way backwards from there was a real challenge — what’s a top 10 record, a top 20 record, a top 30, honorable mentions and all the rest. I’ve never done a full top 30 before, always 20, but the truth is there was just too much this year to not expand.

I’m still juggling numbers even as I put together this post, and I’m sure that by the time I’m done several records will have switched places. That’s always how it seems to go. What I’m confident that I have is a list accurately representing critique and my own habits, both what I gravitated toward in listening throughout the year and what I feel is noteworthy on a critical level. This site has always been a blend of those two impulses. It’s only fair this list should be as well.

Before we dig in, you should note this is full-length albums only. I’ll have a list of short releases (EPs, singles, demos) to come, as well as a special list of debut releases, since it seemed to be a particularly good year for them. And since I’m only one person, I couldn’t hear everything, much as I tried.

Okay. Here we go:

30. Orange Goblin, Back from the Abyss

orange-goblin-back-from-the-abyss

Released by Candlelight Records. Reviewed on Nov. 17.

The kings of London’s heavy scene offered more powerhouse heavy rock with their eighth album and second for Candlelight, and their rabid and ever-growing fanbase ate it up. Back from the Abyss proved yet again that few can attain the kind of vicious force that seems to come so natural to Orange Goblin, and made it clear their domination shows no signs of losing momentum.

 

29. Mos Generator, Electric Mountain Majesty

mos-generator-electric-mountain-majesty

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed on March 14.

A darker affair from Port Orchard, Washington’s Mos GeneratorElectric Mountain Majesty still found its core in the songwriting led by guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed. They’re a band with some changes on the horizon, and I’ll be interested to hear what hindsight does to these songs. As it was, the hooks and downer vibes may have been in conceptual conflict, but the execution was inarguable.

 

28. Pilgrim, II: Void Worship

pilgrim-ii-void-worship

Released by Metal Blade Records. Reviewed on April 15.

Richer in the listening than 2012’s Misery Wizard debut, Pilgrim‘s II: Void Worship nonetheless held firm to the doomly spirit that’s made the Rhode Island outfit such a sensation these last couple years. Its longer songs, “Master’s Chamber,” “Void Worship” and the emotionally weighted “Away from Here,” were particularly immersive, and they remain a bright spot in doom’s future.

 

27. John Garcia, John Garcia

john-garcia-john-garcia

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed on July 7.

His long-awaited solo debut, John Garcia‘s John Garcia offered memorable tracks culled from years of songwriting from the former Kyuss, Slo Burn, Unida and Hermano frontman, performed in the classic desert rock style he helped define. I’m not sure it was worth trading a second Vista Chino record for, but it was hard to argue with “The Blvd” and “All These Walls.”

 

26. Swans, To be Kind

swans-to-be-kind

Released by Mute/Young God Records. Reviewed on May 9.

An overwhelming two-disc barrage from a relentless creativity that, more than 30 years on from its first public incarnation, is still to be considered avant garde. I’m not sure planet earth realizes how lucky it is to have Swans running around unleashing all this chaos, but I hope they don’t stop anytime soon. To be Kind was brutal and beautiful in like measure.

 

25. Sólstafir, Ótta

solstafir-otta

Released by Season of Mist. Discussed Oct. 11.

Icelandic four-piece Sólstafir hit on a rarely attained balance of gorgeousness and melancholy, and while Ótta is expansive, it’s also gripping front to back and is the best execution of its style I’ve heard since Anathema‘s Alternative 4, which is not a comparison I make lightly. A challenging record, but satisfying in kind and universal in its expressiveness.

 

24. Greenleaf, Trails and Passes

greenleaf-trails-and-passes

Released by Small Stone Records. Reviewed on April 25.

The follow-up to Greenleaf‘s stellar 2012 outing Nest of Vipers (review here) brought lineup changes and stripped away many of the textural elements of the band’s sound — guest appearances, arrangement flourishes — in order to get back to a classic heavy rock sound and translate better to the stage. With guitarist Tommi Holappa‘s songwriting ever at the core, it would be unfair to call the process anything but a success.

 

23. Earth, Primitive and Deadly

earth-primitive-and-deadly

Released by Southern Lord Recordings. Reviewed on Sept. 9.

Most of the headlines went to the fact that Primitive and Deadly had vocals, where the generally-instrumental Earth had avoided singers for 18 years prior, but even putting aside Mark Lanegan and Rabi Shabeen Qazi, whose performance on “From the Zodiacal Light” was the high point of the record, presented Earth‘s always progressive tensions in a rawer, heavier production, and was a joy for longtime fans.

 

22. Ogre, The Last Neanderthal

ogre-the-last-neanderthal

Released by Minotauro Records. Reviewed on March 10.

Six years and one breakup later, Portland, Maine, doom trio Ogre returned with The Last Neanderthal, neither afraid to revel in Sabbathian traditionalism or rock out a more upbeat cut like opener “Nine Princes in Amber.” For bassist/vocalist Ed Cunningham, guitarist Ross Markonish and drummer Will Broadbent, it was a welcome resurgence of pretense-free heavy riffs and grooves.

 

21. The Wounded Kings, Consolamentum

CANDLE415CD_BOOKLET.indd

Released by Candlelight Records. Reviewed on Jan. 30.

Of course, at the time we didn’t know it would be the final outing from this lineup of UK doomers The Wounded Kings, whose guitarist/founder Steve Mills has now reunited with original vocalist George Birch, but Consolamentum was a hell of a closing statement anyway for this era of the band, showcasing their murky, increasingly progressive style still waiting for wider appreciation.

 

20. Floor, Oblation

floor-oblation

Released by Season of Mist. Reviewed on April 22.

Wasn’t sure where to put Floor‘s reunion offering, Oblation, on this list at first, since I kind of fell off listening to it as the year went on, but I’ve gone back to it over the last couple weeks and it has held up to the revisit, whether it’s songs like the extended “Sign of Aeth” or shorter, catchy pummelers like “Rocinante” or “War Party.” Floor‘s 2002 self-titled holds an untouchable legacy in heavy rock, but I think the years will prove Oblation a worthy successor. Nobody knew what they had with Floor at the time either.

 

19. Druglord, Enter Venus

druglord-enter-venus

Released by STB Records. Reviewed on Feb. 14.

Little on 2011’s Motherfucker Rising (review here) or their 2010 demo (review here) prepared for the kind of assault that Druglord‘s Enter Venus brought to bear. Four stomp-laden slabs of tectonic crash and distortion, vocals buried under and calling up from the amp-bred fog. The Virginian trio were in and out on the 27-minute 12″ release, but had enough heavy for a record twice as long, and the tinges of darkened psychedelia made their songs like a lurking presence just on the edge of consciousness, a threat waiting to be unleashed.

 

18. Ararat, Cabalgata Hacia la Luz

ararat-cabalgata-hacia-la-luz

Released by Oui Oui Records. Reviewed on April 4.

For the sheer variety of Ararat‘s third album in rockers like “Nicotina y Destrucción,” “El Hijo de Ignacio,” the experimentalism of “El Arca” and the piano-driven “Los Viajes” and the acoustic closer “Atalayah,” and the assured, flowing manner in which the Argentina trio pulled it all off, Cabalgata Hacia la Luz should be higher on this list than it is. Part of that might be my frustration at my apparent inability to buy a copy, but don’t let that take away from the quality of the material here, which is wonderfully chaotic, memorable and engaging, rushing in some places and stopping to weep in others.

 

17. Radio Moscow, Magical Dirt

radio-moscow-magical-dirt

Released by Alive Naturalsound. Reviewed on May 29.

You won’t hear me deny that Radio Moscow‘s primary impact is as a live band, but their fifth album, Magical Dirt, managed to bring forth much of their psychedelic blues presence in “Death of a Queen,” “Before it Burns” and “Gypsy Fast Woman,” the blinding rhythmic turns and wah-soaked guitar supremacy of Parker Griggs front and center throughout. Together with bassist Anthony Meier (also Sacri Monti) and drummer Paul Marrone (also Astra and Psicomagia), Radio Moscow are hitting their stride as one of heavy rock’s most powerful power trios. One never knows what to expect, but hopefully they keep going the way they are.

 

16. Apostle of Solitude, Of Woe and Wounds

apostle-of-solitude-of-woe-and-wounds

Released by Cruz del Sur. Reviewed on Nov. 6.

Four years isn’t the longest time I’ve ever waited for a record to come out, but in the case of Indianapolis’ Apostle of Solitude, it felt like an especially long stretch. Their third full-length and first for Cruz del Sur, Of Woe and Wounds followed the anticipation-building Demo 2012 (review here) and a couple splits and brought aboard bassist Dan Dividson and guitarist/vocalist Steve Janiak (also Devil to Pay), who fit well with drummer Corey Webb and guitarist/vocalist Chuck Brown to result in a payoff worthy and indicative of the time that went into its making. Hands down one of the finest acts in American doom.

 

15. Stubb, Cry of the Ocean

stubb-cry-of-the-ocean

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed on Nov. 24.

Stubb‘s second long-player, also their debut on Ripple, gets a nod for the sense of progression it brought in answering the potential of the trio’s 2012 self-titled debut (review here), guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson, bassist Peter Holland and new drummer Tom Fyfe expanding the scope to include more heavy psych influence and soul along with the fuzz riffs and steady rolling while giving no ground in terms of the level of craft at work. Cry of the Ocean has become one of those albums where all I have to do is look at a title, be it “Cry of the Ocean Pt. I” or “Sail Forever” or “Heartbreaker,” and the song is immediately stuck in my head. With these tracks, that’s not at all a complaint.

 

14. Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, Black Power Flower

brant-bjork-and-the-low-desert-punk-band-black-power-flower

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed on Nov. 10.

Brant Bjork has worn many hats, literal and figurative, over the years, whether it’s drummer in Kyuss or Fu Manchu, producer, solo artist or bandleader. With Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, he steps once again into the latter role, and with guitarist Bubba DuPree, bassist Dave Dinsmore and drummer Tony Tornay, presents not only on his heaviest record to date, but what could easily begin a sustainable full-band progression that can go just about anywhere his songwriting wants to take it. “Stokely up Now,” “That’s a Fact Jack,” “Controllers Denied” and “Boogie Woogie on Your Brain” made for some of 2014’s best in desert rock, and Black Power Flower was an stellar return for Bjork to his “solo” work.

 

13. Dwellers, Pagan Fruit

dwellers-pagan-fruit

Released by Small Stone. Reviewed on May 22.

An earlier version of this list had Pagan Fruit at a lower number, but I couldn’t live with it not being closer to the top 10. Salt Lake City’s Dwellers pushed deeper into laid back psych and blues on their second album, and in doing so, crafted an atmosphere entirely their own. From “Creature Comfort” down to “Call of the Hollowed Horn,” with triumphs along the way like “Rare Eagle,” “Totem Crawler” (“Ohh, my queen… To whom, I crawl…) and “Son of Raven,” Pagan Fruit became a staple of my 2014, building off their 2012 debut, Good Morning Harakiri (review here), but presenting their stylistic growth with a confidence and poise that can only come from a band who’ve figured out what they want to be doing and how they want to do it. Front to back, Pagan Fruit sounds like an arrival.

 

12. The Golden Grass, The Golden Grass

the-golden-grass-the-golden-grass

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed on March 25.

What made Brooklyn trio The Golden Grass‘ self-titled debut such a special released wasn’t just that it was heavy, or that the tracks were catchy, or that guitarist Michael Rafalowich and drummer Adam Kriney could harmonize over Joe Noval‘s warm-toned basslines. That was all great, don’t get me wrong, but what really stood out about The Golden Grass was its irony-free positivity, the way it was able to capture an upbeat, sunshiny feel without having to smirk about it on the other side of its mouth. It was self-aware, to be sure — knew what it was doing — but the way I see it, consciousness only makes the stylistic choices more impressive. Add to that the nuance they brought to ’70s revivalism, and all that stuff about catchiness and the harmonies, and there just wasn’t a level on which the album didn’t work.

 

11. The Well, Samsara

the-well-samsara

Released by RidingEasy Records. Reviewed on Sept. 22.

My appreciation continues to grow for The Well‘s Samsara, which successfully pulled together influences from garage doom and heavy psychedelia while crafting an identity for the Austin, Texas, three-piece at once raw and melodically accomplished, guitarist Ian Graham and bassist Lisa Alley sharing vocals to classic effect on “Refuge” while otherwise trading off lead position to bolster variety in the material. The high point might’ve been the eight-minute “Eternal Well,” on which GrahamAlley and drummer Jason Sullivvan conjured some of their grooviest demons, but the hooks of “Mortal Bones,” “Trespass” and the attitude-laced “Dragon Snort” were no less engaging. One of many strong releases from their label this year — Slow SeasonThe Picturebooks, etc. — they seemed to come ready to serve notice of a stylistic movement underway.

 

10. Montibus Communitas, The Pilgrim to the Absolute

montibus-communitas-the-pilgrim-to-the-absolute

Released by Beyond Beyond is Beyond. Reviewed on Dec. 4.

Peruvian psych adventurers Montibus Communitas more or less blew my mind when I heard their late-2013 offering, Harvest Times earlier this year, and the narrative, conceptual 2014 release, The Pilgrim to the Absolute, is even more of an achievement in its portrayal of improvised exploration, sonic ritualism and open creativity. The weaving of longer pieces against shorter ones with the various steps along the path as presented in the titles, some journeying, some arriving, some descriptive, almost all accompanied by nature in one form or another, gives The Pilgrim to the Absolute an almost impressionistic quality, so that even as you listen to it, you engage it as much as it carries you along its vibrant, breathtaking progression en route to the closing title-track, which is a destination every bit worthy of the journey. This is the most recently reviewed inclusion on this list, but Montibus Communitas‘ latest readily earns its place in the top 10. It is unique in its surroundings.

 

9. Fu Manchu, Gigantoid

fu-manchu-gigantoid

Released by At the Dojo Records. Reviewed on May 14.

Looking back at the last two Fu Manchu records, 2007’s We Must Obey and 2009’s Signs of Infinite Power, it seemed reasonable to expect the groundbreaking SoCal fuzz foursome to put out another collection of big-sounding riffs in a big-sounding production. Nothing to complain about, but probably not a landmark. By going the other way completely — stripping their buzzed-out riffing down to its punkish core thanks in no small part to recording with Moab‘s Andrew GiacumakisFu Manchu served up a raw reminder both of where they came from and how top notch their songwriting remains. Reissuing their earliest work and being on their own label might’ve had something to do with it, but whatever it was, the 35 minutes of Gigantoid was as efficient a heavy rock outing as one could hope from an already legendary band, whether it was the hook-prone opening salvo of “Dimension Shifter,” “Invaders on My Back,” “Anxiety Reducer” and “Radio Source Sagittarius” or the righteous ending jam “The Last Question.”

 

8. The Skull, For Those Which are Asleep

the-skull-for-those-which-are-asleep

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed on Nov. 5.

Given the origins of The Skull — ex-Trouble members Eric Wagner, Jeff “Oly” Olson and Ron Holzner joining with Lothar Keller and a series of other guitarists, finally Matt Goldsborough, working essentially as a tribute band to their former outfit — I think not only did the quality of the material and performance on For Those Which are Asleep surprise, as well as the classically doomed feel that resonates throughout the album, but the sheer heartfelt nature of songs like “Sick of it All,” “Send Judas Down” and the title-track itself. This wasn’t a cynical attempt to make a go of an already set legacy. It was an expression of appreciation both for what they accomplished as Trouble and a desire to continue that work. The Skull‘s whole thing has been that they’re “more Trouble than Trouble,” and in their lineup that’s been true since they brought Olson on board. For Those Which are Asleep demonstrated that the classic spirit of that band is alive and well, its address has just changed. Moreover, it’s the beginning of a new progression for that spirit, and I hope it continues.

 

7. Blood Farmers, Headless Eyes

blood-farmers-headless-eyes

Self-released on CD, LP on PATAC Records. Reviewed on March 24.

Nineteen years after releasing their self-titled debut, New York’s Blood Farmers contended for 2014’s comeback of the year with their sophomore outing, Headless Eyes — a morose, horror-obsessed six-track collection that on “Night of the Sorcerers” owed as much to Goblin as to Sabbath. The closing cover of David Hess‘ theme from The Last House on the Left, “The Road Leads to Nowhere,” was a late bit of melodic flourish to add depth, but how could the highlight be anything other than the 10-minute title-track itself, with its samples from the 1971 horror flick The Headless Eyes, bassist Eli Brown in a call and response with lyrics comprised of lines directly taken from the movie? That after playing shows the last several years, Blood Farmers managed to get a record out was impressive enough. That Headless Eyes turned out to be the year’s best traditional doom release was an entirely different level of surprise. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for their third, but Brown, guitarist David Szulkin and drummer Tad Leger gave plenty to chew on with Blood Farmers‘ second. It was better than would’ve been fair to expect.

 

6. Lo-Pan, Colossus

lo-pan-colossus

Released by Small Stone. Reviewed on Oct. 7.

A lot of what you need to know about Lo-Pan‘s fourth album you learn in the first five seconds of opener “Regulus.” There’s no fancy intro, no time wasted, nothing to take away from the directness of the song itself. Tones are crisp — the verse is already underway — and guitar, bass and drums are laser-focused in their forward movement. Even when vocalist Jeff Martin enters the song, roughly six seconds later, his arrival comes with no indulgence, no pomp. Colossus is easily Lo-Pan‘s most immediate work to date, and throughout, Martin, guitarist Brian Fristoe (since replaced by Adrian Zambrano), bassist Scott Thompson and drummer Jesse Bartz retain that focus no matter where the material takes them, delivering a clinic in how to kick as much ass as possible at any given moment on cuts like “Marathon Man” and “Eastern Seas,” or even bringing in guest vocalist Jason Alexander Byers, who also designed the album cover, for a spot on “Vox.” They had a hard task in following up 2011’s Salvador (review here), but the Columbus, Ohio, unit stood up to the challenge and met it and everyone else head-on.

 

5a. All Them Witches, Lightning at the Door

all-them-witches-lightning-at-the-door

Self-released. Reviewed on Sept. 25.

What to do with All Them Witches‘ Lightning at the Door? The Nashville four-piece released the album last fall digitally, but it wasn’t until this September that it saw a physical manifestation. In fact, if you go back, it was included on the Top 20 of 2013 as well. Which is the release date? I don’t know. What I know is that in terms of the sheer amount of time spent listening, I put on Lightning at the Door more than any other record this year. From where I sit, that alone gets it a place in the top five. Yeah, it might be a cop-out to do a “5a,” but sometimes exceptions have to be made, and All Them Witches have proved to be nothing if not exceptional in their still relatively brief, jam-laden history, the psych-blues dynamic between bassist/vocalist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod, Fender Rhodes specialist Allan van Cleave and drummer Robby Staebler pushing them quickly to the fore of American heavy rock’s innovators, their natural, improv-sounding material feeling brazen and exploratory while reshaping the elements of genre to suit their needs. One can only see this dynamic developing further as they continue to grow as a live band, so Lightning at the Door may just be the start, and that’s perhaps most exciting of all.

 

5. Witch Mountain, Mobile of Angels

witch-mountain-mobile-of-angels

Released by Profound Lore. Reviewed on Aug. 20.

A beautiful, stunning work made even more powerful by the honesty driving it. Portland, Oregon’s Witch Mountain completed a trilogy with the Billy Anderson-produced Mobile of Angels that brought about some of the best doom of this young decade, their 2011 return from a years-long hiatus, South of Salem (review here) serving as the foundation for a stylistic progression that continued on the following year’s Cauldron of the Wild (review here) and onto Mobile of Angels itself as the four-piece’s most accomplished album to date. The reason it feels like such a concluding chapter is because of the departure of vocalist Uta Plotkin, whose voice helped establish Witch Mountain both on stage and in the studio, leaving founders Rob Wrong (guitar) and Nathan Carson (drums) with the sizable task of finding a replacement. That situation will be what it will be, but Mobile of Angels remains a gorgeous, lonely testament. Plotkin gives a landmark performance on “Can’t Settle” and “The Shape Truth Takes,” which in the context of what was happening in Witch Mountain at the time ring with a truth that’s rare in or out of doom, and she seems to have left the band just as they were hitting their finest hour. So it goes.

 

4. Conan, Blood Eagle

conan-blood-eagle

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed on Jan. 22.

In all of heavy, there is no assault so severe as Conan‘s. With their second full-length and debut on Napalm Records, the UK trio solidified the two sides of the preceding 2012 outing, Monnos (review here), in constructing material that, fast or slow, short or long, retained an epic feel melded with their ungodly tonality and memorable songwriting. Their first recording at guitarist/vocalist Jon DavisSkyhammer Studio, it affirmed Conan‘s will to conquer in its two massive bookends, “Crown of Talons” and “Altar of Grief,” and in the High on Fire-worthy gallop of “Foehammer” — a bludgeon commandingly wielded by Davis, bassist/vocalist Phil Coumbe and drummer Paul O’Neil, the latter to of whom have since left the band to be replaced by longtime-producer Chris Fielding and Rich Lewis, respectively. What effect the changes might have on the band — except apparently more touring, which isn’t a bad thing — have yet to be seen, but Conan are already in the process of writing a follow-up to Blood Eagle, so it doesn’t seem like it’ll be all that long until we find out. With Davis still steering the band in songwriting and overall direction, one severely doubts they’ll be fixing what obviously isn’t broken anytime soon. None heavier.

 

3. Wo Fat, The Conjuring

wo-fat-the-conjuring

Released by Small Stone Records. Reviewed on June 18.

Dallas riff-rockers Wo Fat have grown steadily over the course of their five albums, from the nascent heavy roll of 2006’s The Gathering Dark, to the hooks of 2008’s Psychedelonaut (review here), the jamming that started to surface on 2011’s Noche del Chupacabra (review here) and was pushed further on 2012’s The Black Code (review here). And their approach has been as steady as the frequency of their releases. In making The Conjuring, the three-piece were simply engaging the next step in their progression, but the material on the five-track/48-minute outing goes further than just that. Putting aside (momentarily) the 17-minute closer “Dreamwalker,” the other cuts, “The Conjuring,” “Read the Omens,” “Pale Rider from the Ice” and “Beggar’s Bargain” each found a place for themselves in pulling together jammed-sounding elements with a memorable construction, and when guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, bassist Tim Wilson and drummer Michael Walter did kick into “Dreamwalker,” they hit on not only their longest piece yet, but their most accomplished showcase of the chemistry that has developed between them. That song is a beast unto itself, but as has been the case with Wo Fat each time out so far in their career, there’s nothing on The Conjuring to give the impression the band can’t or won’t continue to keep going on the path that’s worked so well for them on this point. They’ve spent the last eight years on the right track and have yet to waiver. The Conjuring should be played at top volume for anyone who contends there’s no life left in heavy rock and roll.

 

2. Mars Red Sky, Stranded in Arcadia

mars-red-sky-stranded-in-arcadia

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed on March 11.

Mars Red Sky‘s second LP and first for Listenable, Stranded in Arcadia was originally supposed to be recorded in the California desert, but visa problems kept the French trio of guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras, bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Matgaz in Brazil, where they’d previously been touring. Thus, “stranded in Arcadia,” which is basically another way of saying “lost in paradise.” Can’t say the Bordeaux three-piece didn’t make the most of it, though. Songs like “The Light Beyond” and “Hovering Satellites” — not to mention the utter melodic bliss of “Join the Race” — took cues from their 2011 self-titled debut (review here) in terms of memorable songwriting and melodic craft, but added to that heft and tonal richness more of a psychedelic vibe, so that not only was there fuzz and wah, but a spacious world in which the songs took place. With Kinast on lead vocals, the sneaky boogie of “Holy Mondays” became a highlight, and the one-two swing ‘n’ stomp of “Circles” and “Seen a Ghost” were a perfect demonstration by the band of the various sides of their sound, particularly following after the dreamy instrumental “Arcadia,” an echoing jam distinguished by Pras‘ wistful guitar lead and coming before the closing “Beyond the Light,” which reprises the opener’s resonant unfolding. It probably wasn’t the record they intended to make, but Stranded in Arcadia became one of my go-to albums for 2014, and like the best of any given year’s output, I’ve no doubt it will transcend the passage of time and continue to deliver for years to come. Hell, I was barely done with the debut when this one came out.

 

1. YOB, Clearing the Path to Ascend

yob-clearing-the-path-to-ascend

Released by Neurot Recordings. Reviewed on Sept. 3.

“It’s time to wake up.”

Can’t imagine this is any great surprise. Not only did Clearing the Path to Ascend – YOB‘s seventh album and first for Neurot — produce my pick for song of the year in its sprawling, emotionally weighted 18-minute closer, “Marrow,” but in the three full-lengths the Eugene, Oregon, trio of drummer Travis Foster, bassist Aaron Rieseberg and guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt have released since the latter reformed the band after breaking it up following 2005’s The Unreal Never Lived, all three have been my album of the year. The Great Cessation was in 2009, and Atma was in 2011. Consistency aside, I’ll point out specifically that each of the same three records has earned that position, perhaps Clearing the Path to Ascend most of all for its progressive feel, moving past genre even at its most raging moment, second cut “Nothing to Win,” the chorus of which proved that among everything else YOB could be, they could be anthemic. The cosmic, spiritual questing that has always been present in their songs, that feeling of searching, showed up in opener “In Our Blood,” but even there, it was evident YOB were pushing themselves beyond what they’ve done before, rewriting their own formulas incorporating lessons from their past in among their other points of inspiration. “Unmask the Spectre” could have easily been an album closer itself, with its patient exploration and feverishly intense payoff, but with the melodic progressivism of “Marrow” and the soul poured into every second of that track, every verse and chorus, solo and build — including the Hammond added to the last of them by producer Billy Barnett — YOB created a landmark both for themselves and the increasing many working under their influence. I’ve said on several occasions (bordering on “many” at this point) that YOB are a once-in-a-generation band, and it feels truer in thinking of Clearing the Path to Ascend than it ever has. Without a doubt, album of the year and then some.

 

 

Honorable Mention

First, special note to Colour Haze‘s To the Highest Gods We Know. I’ve decided to count it as a 2015 release since the vinyl will be out in Spring, but otherwise surely it would earn a place on this list. Blackwolfgoat‘s Drone Maintenance also deserves note.

A few other honorable mentions:

MothershipMothership II — It’s hard to argue with a classic heavy rock power trio kicking ass. I won’t try.

AlunahAwakening the Forest — Every time I make a list, no matter what kind of list it is, there’s a band I wind up kicking myself for forgetting about at the time. This is the case 100 percent with why Alunah aren’t in the Top 30. In fact, I might go in and swap them out with somebody.

Ice DragonSeeds from a Dying Garden — Boston experimental psych/garage doomers continue to defy expectation. May their weirdness last forever and continue to produce material so satisfying.

TruckfightersUniverse – I thought at some point I’d go back to Universe again, but never really did. A problem with me more than the album.

SteakSlab City — An impressive debut following two strong EPs.

GodfleshA World Lit Only by Fire — I never got a review copy, so I never reviewed it. Its name is here because I’m a fan of the band and glad they’re back.

ThouHeathen — Just recently purchased this and am only getting to know it, but a ridiculously strong album.

Corrosion of ConformityIX — Everybody who gets a boner whenever Pepper Keenan is mentioned in connection with this band has missed out. This record and the self-titled kick ass.

SpidergawdSpidergawd — Holy shit they’re over here! No they’re over there! No wait over here again! Oh my god I’ve just gone blind!

Monster MagnetMilking the Stars — I wasn’t sure what to do with this since technically it’s not a new album, mostly reworked songs from the last one. I still listened to it a ton though, whatever it is.

SlomaticsEstron — Another one I’m just getting to know, but am very much digging.

Electric WizardTime to Die — People seem to do this thing where Electric Wizard puts out a record, everyone slathers over it for a few months and then spends the next two years talking about how it sucked. I guess I’ll be on the ground floor with not having been that into Time to Die.

PallbearerFoundations of Burden — Had to put their name somewhere on this list or someone would burn my house down. Album of the year for many.

The list goes on: Monolord, Comet Control, Mammatus, Triptykon, Eyehategod, Fever Dog, Moab, Karma to Burn, Atavismo, Grifter, 1000mods, Megaton Leviathan, Wovenhand, Mr. Peter Hayden, Primordial, and many more.

Before I check out and go sit in a corner somewhere to try and rebuild brain power after this massive dump of a purge, I want to sincerely thank you for reading. If you check in regularly, or if you’ve never been to the site before, if you don’t give a crap about lists or if you’re gonna go listen to even one band on here, it’s fantastic to me. Thank you so much for all the support this site receives, for your comments, for sharing links, retweeting, whatever it is. I am a real person — I’m sitting on my couch at this very moment — and being able to do this and have people see it and be a part of it with me is unbelievable. I realize how fortunate I am. So thank you. Thank you.

Thank you.

More to come as we close out 2014. I’ll have a list of short/split/demo releases, a year-end podcast, a list of the best debuts, a round up of the best live shows I saw, as much more as time allows. Please stay tuned.

And again, thank you. If I left anyone off the list, I hope you’ll let me know in the comments and contribute your own top albums, however many there are, to the Readers Poll.

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Wrapping up 2014: The Year in Darryl Shepard

Posted in Features on December 18th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

darryl shepard

I knew already when I moved to the Boston area that Darryl Shepard was an exceedingly good guy. We’d been in touch for years at that point and I’d helped press up the CD run of Blackwolfgoat‘s second album, Dronolith, plus been a fan of his work in that one-man outfit as well as past bands like MilligramRoadsaw, and so on. What I didn’t know was how universally respected he is. It’s not a celebrity thing, and part of that I’ll attribute to his own down-to-earth sensibility, but whether it’s people showing up to watch him play, peers in other bands, musicians he plays with or just people he knows from having been around the city’s rock underground for as long as he has, there’s a deep-running appreciation for who he is and what he does. The only person I’ve ever heard talk shit about Darryl, is Darryl, and even he’s doing it for laughs.

He’s had a busy 2014, between releasing albums with The Scimitar and Blackwolfgoat, recording Kind‘s first demo, playing shows and so on, and it seems only fitting to wrap up “The Year in Darryl” (not literally in him, in a Martin Short/Inner Space kind of way, but at very least in his work) by giving a rundown of the things he’s done over the last 12 months. Here goes:

Blackwolfgoat, Drone Maintenance

blackwolfgoat drone maintenance

After Dronolith, I knew I probably wouldn’t get to review Drone Maintenance, Shepard‘s third outing under the Blackwolfgoat moniker (released by Small Stone) since I was still pretty close to it, only one record removed from direct-ish involvement in its making, but don’t think for one second that’s a statement about the quality of Drone Maintenance itself. To be honest, the third record blows the second one out of the water. In cuts like “Sunfall,” “White Hole” and the relatively brief “Night Heat,” his tendency toward songwriting comes out, and structures begin to show themselves amid tracks that are varied in mood and feel while still largely instrumental — he vocalizes bleak, feedback-laden closer “Cyclopean Utopia” in a vaguely black metal kind of way — and tied together by three spoken interludes that foster Drone Maintenance‘s underlying concept: The drone is broken, and Shepard is the repair man sent to fix it, as portrayed in Alexander von Wieding‘s cover art. Though the plotline works out otherwise, Shepard fixes the drone in wonderfully progressive fashion, an experimental feel pervading the material that — miraculously, given the context — avoid pretense even at its most ambient moments. I was lucky to be invited to the studio while it was being recorded, and could tell then that Darryl had something special on his hands and that the first two Blackwolfgoat releases were just scratching the surface of what he was looking to accomplish with the project. To hear the finished product after the release party at O’Brien’s in Allston was to see that realization affirmed. Blackwolfgoat on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.

The Scimitar, Doomsayer

the scimitar doomsayer

Though it was released on gorgeous clear/bone vinyl by Hydro-Phonic Records (also digipak CDR and a name-your-price download from the band’s Bandcamp), it seemed for a minute there that The Scimitar was over before Doomsayer could get started, having been effectively derailed when bassist Dave Gein moved to the West Coast, his last show with the band coming at The Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 (review here) in early May. This supposition was, in a word, mistaken. True to their slaughterhouse doom sound, the trio of ShepardGein and drummer Brian Banfield wouldn’t be so easily ended. Doomsayer‘s seven tracks earned their centerpiece Motörhead cover, both continuing the warrior mentality Shepard fostered when he stepped into the guitarist/vocalist role alongside Gein in Black Pyramid for 2013’s Adversarial (review here) and branching out to distinct triumphs on songs like “Void Traveler” and “World Unreal,” finding a balance between the catchy and the brutal that, even on their first outing, The Scimitar made their own. Gein being on the opposite side of the country may have made weekly practice unlikely, but The Scimitar played both Northeastern shows to support the release with a stand-in bassist and, earlier this month, traveled out west for a weekender in California with the album’s lineup. It would seem they’re hardly done, and all the better for the chance to get more of both the raw explosiveness of “Babylon” and the exploratory heavy of Doomsayer instrumental closer “Crucifer” as The Scimitar continues to come into their sound. The Scimitar on Thee Facebooks, Hydro-Phonic Records.

Kind

kind (Photo by Doug Sherman)

I’ve been fortunate this year to see Kind play twice (reviews here and here), and both times have been markedly different. The roots of the project go back (I’m pretty sure) to late last year, when Shepard and Elder drummer Matt Couto began to jam with an intent toward not much more than that. Bassist Tom Corino of Rozamov was brought in to handle low end and vocalist Craig Riggs of Roadsaw rounded out the four-piece, whose style still finds its basis in those wide-spaced jams. They’ve recorded a demo, with Benny Grotto at Mad Oak, from which the 10-minute “Hordeolum” has surfaced, showcasing both their heavy psych and more forward-driving tendencies, the balance they find and seem to gleefully upset between the two. I hear a full-length is in the works for a summer release via a respected American outlet who, since it hasn’t been announced yet, shall remain nameless, but until that happens, Kind will continue to hone their live sound regionally, opening for Karma to Burn next month at Geno’s in Portland, Maine. Not sure if it will ever be anyone’s main project — ElderRoadsawRozamov and Shepard‘s bevvy of other bands make for some significant commitments — but Kind have quickly found a stylistic niche for themselves and I’m interested to find out what they do with it on their debut. Kind on Thee Facebooks.

Solid-Color Demos

roadsaw 98 demos

There are many for whom three active bands would be enough projects, but in the middle part of 2014, Darryl also found time to release a slew of accumulated recordings from over the years, all as name-your-price downloads via Bandcamp. Each recording — most were demos, but a Milligram radio appearance (review here) was also included — was given a different solid color as a cover, and a total of six have made their way out to date, including a completely solo acoustic album (with vocals) recorded by Andrew Schneider in 1998, the aforementioned Milligram performance, some Roadsaw demos also from ’98 (first streamed here), the final three songs tracked by instrumental outfit Hackman, early ’90s demos from Deslok and various collected four-track demo/experiments from the early ’00s on which some of the roots of Blackwolfgoat can be heard. These weren’t put out for any kind of profile, just made available for anyone who might want to explore them, but in both the stylistic variety and the performance value Shepard brings to each project, there’s much to dig into. Perhaps most impressive of all is that, though they cover a considerable swath of ground, they’re still just a fraction of Shepard‘s total output. Hopefully he has more tapes/hard drives in a closet somewhere and the series can continue, or maybe even get added to with newer material over time. Just a thought. Darryl Shepard on Bandcamp.

Looking Ahead

darryl shepard by alexander von wieding

Well, despite Gein living in California and drummer Clay Neely living in Georgia while Shepard continues to reside in Massachusetts, Black Pyramid will once again spring to life in 2015. They’re already confirmed for Desertfest in London and Berlin alongside Lo-Pan, and from what I hear, they’ll have a new 7″ on Hydro-Phonic to mark the occasion. There’s a mysterious Soundcloud demo called “Donor Kebab” by an outfit named Iron Malden, and who knows what that portends. As noted, Kind will also continue to play shows ahead of their full-length debut release, tentatively set for the summer, and one imagines Darryl will continue to keep busy otherwise gigging and recording as he always seems to do, his work ethic as admirable as the results it produces.

Keep up at the following:

Darryl Shepard on Thee Facebooks

Darryl Shepard on Soundcloud

Darryl Shepard on Bandcamp

Black Pyramid on Thee Facebooks

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Freedom Hawk Added to Freak Valley 2015

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 16th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

freedom hawk

Now a trio after parting ways this year with guitarist Matt Cave – his brother, Mark, still handles bass — Virginia Beach heavy rockers Freedom Hawk have been announced as the latest addition to the 2015 Freak Valley festival in Germany. Their appearance at Freak Valley 2015 follows a quick run through parts of Europe this past spring that included a stop at the Roadburn festival in the Netherlands. Freedom Hawk also recently were in the studio recording for the follow-up to their 2011 Small Stone label debut, Holding On (review here). No word on a release date yet or whether the Freak Valley gig will be part of another round of European tour dates, but there’s time yet for such things to align and be revealed. In any case, if you’re keeping a running list of stuff to look forward to in 2015, Freedom Hawk isn’t a name to be left out.

Freak Valley put it thusly:

freedom hawk freak valley 2015

We are stoked to announce that Virginia Riff-Wranglers FREEDOM HAWK will play Freak Valley Festival 2015 !!

Hailing from the barrier dunes of Virginia, this quartet blends heavy riffs, a rolling groove, and soulful guitar melodies to produce the sound that is Freedom Hawk. Their brand of heavy rock coupled with a high energy live show, leaves many wondering if they’ve stepped through a time warp that has taken them to rock’s heyday of the 70’s by the power of their dark music fueled by the sun.

FREEDOM HAWK’s sound is large, like trying to force an elephant to fit in a closet. It’s also melodic for such heavy-handed playing. Walls of guitar riffs were pushed out heavy, soaring and moving like swells and waves at the same time.

Mindblowing cover art by Antoine Defarges // Headbang Design

FREAK VALLEY FESTIVAL – 4th-5th-6th June 2015

FVF tickets are selling like Blues Pills vinyls already – get yours in time – the first 3 editions have been sold out early!!
We are selling tix to all parts of this planet!!

Tickets: www.freakvalley.de | Only 66€ for 3 days incl. Camping!!

Hardtickets now @ our onlineshop: http://shop.rockfreaks.de/

Also: http://kozmik-artifactz.com/ | Kozmik Artifactz

FREAK VALLEY FESTIVAL: No Fillers – Just Killers

Goatsnake – Earthless – Crippled Black Phoenix – The Vintage Caravan – Electric Moon – Gas Giant – Monkey3 – Danava – Egypt – Siena Root – Bröselmaschine – Sigiryia – Kamchatka – Purson – Dead Man – Freedom Hawk – Mountain Witch – Tuber – Valley of the Sun – Tombstones – more tba soon!!

https://www.facebook.com/freedomhawkmusic
http://freedomhawk.net/
https://freedomhawk.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/freakvalley

Freedom Hawk, Holding On (2011)

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Saturday Full-Length: Sasquatch, II

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 13th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Sasquatch, II (2006)

At the time, I was still so hung up on Los Angeles trio Sasquatch‘s 2004 self-titled debut that I don’t think I properly appreciated the classic-rock-is-ours-now feel and heaviness of “Let it In,” “The Judge,” the vinyl-style symmetry of “Nikki” and “Catalina” and the rawness of character on display. Where the first album is kind of an outlier now in terms of sound for them, made formative by hindsight where at the time it seemed nothing if not accomplished — their songwriting was always top notch — II became more of the model with which they’d work, their ’70s-meets-’90s vibe running a riffy current through the tracks. Both 2010’s III (review here) and 2013’s IV (review here) built off what they did here, and their craft has never wavered.

They played one of Small Stone‘s by-then-legendary SXSW showcases as well during this era, and it was the first time I got to see the band, which only solidified my fandom. They haven’t been out east much — though they hit the Uninvited festival this year in Brooklyn; from what I hear it was a “Pleasure to Burn” — but I’ve been fortunate enough to see them once or twice more over the years and they’ve always delivered. II is a work of straightforward, perpetually-underrated heavy rock, and it’s easy to look at a band like Sasquatch and think about “oh, if X and Y and Z, these guys would be huge,” and I wouldn’t begrudge them making a ton of money or anything, but these guys make for an excellent underground secret too, like a litmus for those who know.

Small Stone put this one out on vinyl not too long ago, but I’m pretty sure they’re gone by now. Not bad for a record eight years later to continue to inspire such devotion, and I’ve no doubt that II will continue to do so no matter how high Sasquatch‘s numbers end up going. Please enjoy.

So, why a day late? I left home yesterday at 12:30PM to go to Brooklyn and see the first of YOB‘s two nights at the St. Vitus bar. I got to the venue around 6PM. That’s usually a four-hour trip. I was utterly fried after the show — turns out that not eating or drinking anything all day was the wrong choice; I was dizzy and nauseous in the packed room and stayed up front through “Marrow” but had to move back after that and get some water — and then afterwards, there was a solid hour of traffic getting to the Lincoln Tunnel. Got in to Jersey at about two in the morning. It was far less thrilling than the show itself, which was fantastic. I’ll be going back for round two tonight.

More year-end stuff next week. Look out for a list of the year’s best debuts at some point, and maybe one of the best live gigs and some other stuff. I’ll also be reviewing these two nights at the Vitus bar, and anything else I might have time for. I feel like I say this all the time, but if you’re waiting on a review of something, I’m sorry. I’m one person. Most other sites have a staff of writers working on stuff, or at least a few people. I have me. If something takes me longer, or if I don’t get to it, I wholeheartedly and sincerely apologize. I’m doing the best I can to do as much as I can. If I had eight of me, it would be easier. As it is, I can barely answer email.

But anyway, I hope you dig the Sasquatch and I hope you have a great and safe weekend, wherever you’re at. Thanks for checking in, and please don’t forget to hit up the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Lo-Pan Welcome New Guitarist Adrian Zambrano

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 24th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Following announcements that they’ll take part in next year’s Roadburn festival and the Desertfests in London and Berlin, Ohio heavy rockers Lo-Pan have made it official that Adrian Zambrano will take over the guitarist position previously occupied by Brian Fristoe. The word came quick and to the point from the band, who’ve spent much of the last five years touring hard on a steadily ascending line in terms of audience and their own approach, steadily becoming a wider known, tighter and more accomplished group. They haven’t done anything the easy way.

Zambrano comes to Lo-Pan via space rocking Columbus natives Brujas del Sol, whose airy tones and synth-heavy sound were last brought to bear on 2013’s Moonliner, on which Zambrano also handled vocal duties. No word yet on whether he’ll back up Lo-Pan‘s Jeff Martin singing, but there can be little question that the dynamic in Lo-Pan will shift with a new player introduced into what was one of the country’s highest-grade fuzz units. Regardless of how Zambrano fits in the band, it’s going to be a change. Lo-Pan‘s advantage at this point is that, if you’re a musician who wants to tour and go to Europe and play shows that people come to see, they’re in the process of making all those things happen.

And by the time next Spring rolls around and Lo-Pan head abroad for the first time, Zambrano will be that much more acclimated to being on stage with Martin, drummer Jesse Bartz and bassist Scott Thompson. Really, if they were going to bring someone in, this was the time to do it. Good luck to the band, to Zambrano, and to Fristoe as well.

Here’s the announcement and the Small Stone stream of their latest album, Colossus (review here), in case you haven’t yet had your ass kicked this morning:

lo-pan

Lo-Pan has parted ways with guitarist Brian Fristoe. We wish Brian all the best in his future endeavors. Taking over guitar duties is Adrian Zambrano of Columbus, Ohio. Adrian is a gifted, dynamic musician with an exciting style. Join us in welcoming Adrian to the party.

https://www.facebook.com/lopandemic
https://twitter.com/LoPandemic614
https://www.facebook.com/BrujasdelSol
http://smallstone.bandcamp.com/album/colossus

Lo-Pan, Colossus (2014)

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Lo-Pan Join Lineup for Desertfest Berlin 2015

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 6th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Hot off the release of their fourth album, Colossus (review here), Ohio fuzz rockers Lo-Pan have been announced as taking part in Desertfest Berlin 2015. The announcement follows a recent schism/split with guitarist Brian Fristoe, and since Lo-Pan are also slated to play Roadburn and have shows booked before then and will be touring Europe as well, one can’t help but wonder who’ll be handling guitar for them going forward. No word has come out yet in that regard, but I’ll let you know when I hear what’s up.

In the meantime, good for the band — who killed when they came through recently with Black Cobra – for getting over to Europe. Feels a little overdue for how hard they’ve slogged it out in the States, but better late than never, and I’m sure they’ll find open arms waiting for them at DesertfestRoadburn and wherever else they might wind up.

lo-pan desertfest berlin

Two-in-one news: first, we are pleased to tell you that fuzz rockers Lo-Pan join the SOL family and will be touring in April! Then, we are proud to add them to our DesertFest Berlin line-up! Stay tuned for more news!

We stoked to announce that fuzz rockers Lo-Pan are now confirmed to kick a good deal of ass at Desertfest Berlin 2015!

With “Colossus”, LO-PAN’s last album – released about a month ago on Small Stone Records – the Columbus’ four-piece have moved beyond their influences and arrived at their own sound – a “style built on aggression without caricature, fuzz without cliché, melody without redundancy and their meanest groove to date.” (The Obelisk)

Do not miss them! DESERTFEST TICKETS available on :
http://woolheads.com/cms/produkt-kategorie/festivalmerchandise/desertfestberlin/tickets-desertfestberlin/
(83€ + shipping)

DESERTFEST BERLIN #4 – APRIL 23th, 24th, 25th 2015
ASTRA KULTURHAUS / F-HAIN/X-BERG BERLIN (GER)

Red Fang + Orange Goblin + My Sleeping Karma + Brutus + Dopethrone + Lo-pan + Mountain Witch + many many more acts

www.desertfest.de
www.soundofliberation.com
https://www.facebook.com/lopandemic
https://www.facebook.com/DesertfestBerlin
http://smallstone.bandcamp.com/album/colossus

Lo-Pan, Colossus (2014)

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Lo-Pan, Colossus: A Sharpened Edge

Posted in Reviews on October 7th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

lo-pan colossus

I’ll make no attempt to hide my appreciation for Ohio’s Lo-Pan, who over the last six years or so have emerged to take a place among the hardest-working American heavy rock bands out there, slogging back and forth across the country to deliver their fuzz one town, one venue at a time, but the fact of the matter is that if they didn’t have the songwriting to match their work ethic, they wouldn’t have come as far as they have. Plenty of bands tour, and even more bands kick ass. Lo-Pan distinguish themselves not only by what they do, but how they’ve done it and what they’ve gained from it. Since their 2007 sophomore outing, Sasquanaut, which was reissued as their first release on Small Stone in 2010 (review here), the four-piece of guitarist Brian Fristoe, vocalist Jeff Martin, bassist Scott Thompson and drummer Jesse Bartz have essentially been grinding themselves down to their essential parts. If one examines the progression from their 2006 self-titled debut through Sasquanaut, the subsequent 2011 full-length Salvador (review here) and their latest, the newly arrived Colossus, the path cut across these records is pretty clear, Lo-Pan moving from a relatively upbeat stoner rock sound to something much more focused, leaner, meaner sounding. Colossus, which at 10 tracks/43 minutes shaves a song and three minutes off Salvador‘s runtime, is their most pointed work yet. Their road time has made them tighter than they’ve ever sounded, and an Andrew Schneider production helps play up a more aggressive feel overall. They are not laying back on Fristoe‘s riffs so much as propelling them forward at the listener, and while pace varies throughout, the overarching whole of Colossus – named in honor of the Colossus of Rhodes, marking a triumph, perhaps simply of the band having come out of the last several years intact — has a breakneck feel and urgency that comes through even more than it did on Salvador, which when this decade is over I’ve no doubt will go down among its best heavy rock albums.

There’s continuity of structure between the two, and Lo-Pan‘s penchant for hooks remains strong, but opener “Regulus” signals the immediacy of Colossus quickly, shifting from the first verse into the chorus all within the first 30 seconds. Like Salvador‘s “El Dorado,” “Regulus” begins an opening salvo of four songs that boasts some of the album’s strongest material, its five minutes gone in breeze and rushing into the tighter, faster “Land of the Blind,” which is marked by a standout performance from Martin in its hook. Lo-Pan‘s singer has never skimped on soul or attitude either on record or from behind the drum kit on stage, but Colossus easily stands as his best recorded output in the band, and the graceful but forceful layering in “Land of the Blind” is among his most effective called-shots here; I’d also add the later call-and-response of “Relo,” “Marathon Man” and the commanding sway of “Eastern Seas” to that list, but it’s true elsewhere as well. Likewise, Bartz, Thompson and Fristoe have stepped up their game, drums picking up the start of “Black Top Revelation” from the end of “Land of the Blind,” a winding riff taking hold as Colossus‘ momentum continues to build. To call the album front-loaded would presume a dip in quality, but no question Lo-Pan bring Colossus up to full speed before throttling back as they did on Salvador‘s “Bird of Prey” with the six-and-a-half-minute “Marathon Man,” which fittingly enough begins with a vehicle — presumably their tour van, but I don’t know that — revving its worn-sounding engine before Fristoe‘s shuffling riff takes hold and the band remind that though the focus has been on push up to now, they still know how to boogie. After four minutes in and satisfying verse/chorus tradeoffs, there’s a turn to a bridge instrumentally that Martin ties to the original chorus well, his layering once again providing a highlight moment with this revamped hook and a play off the initial verse part. Before you can catch up to what just happened with “Marathon Man,” though, Bartz launches “N.P.D.” with another forward surge that slams Colossus‘ first half to a raucous but still controlled finish.

lo-pan (Photo by Meghan Ralston)

If there were any doubts about Lo-Pan‘s confidence or the cohesiveness of their approach, let the knock-you-on-your-ass crispness within the delivery of “N.P.D.” be testimony in their favor. But for the fact that it closes side A, it feels like an afterthought movement following “Marathon Man,” and on most albums it would be an apex. The title-track begins the second half and is a song that Lo-Pan have played live for the last couple years — “Eastern Seas” still to come is another — sounding more reminiscent of the last time out than most of Colossus, though both Thompson‘s place in the mix and the fluidity of Martin‘s integration with the music behind him mark its progress. That’s not to mention Schneider‘s treatment of Bartz‘s snare; as a producer/engineer, the Brooklyn-based Schneider has consistently delivered excellence in drum sounds and Colossus is no exception. Side B feels thicker between “Colossus,” “Vox” and “Eastern Seas,” less of a thrust, but the hooks are still there, and “Vox” delivers in that regard both vocally and in its riff and crash, Martin‘s voice echoing in an open space and Black Black Black‘s Jason Alexander Byers (who also contributed the cover art) coming in for a guest spot later in the track. There’s a ringing sound I can’t quite make out that coincides with the drum roll at the start of “Eastern Seas,” but the song’s prevailing impression is in its more languid rhythm — its first part is the slowest in tempo but still mid-paced by most standards — and bigger groove, Martin still in whatever cave he recorded “Vox.” “Eastern Seas” splits almost evenly in half, everyone else dropping out as Fristoe‘s guitar establishes the riff and then kicking back in soon with a faster pace, vocals layered, Thompson getting a turn to stand alone as they push into a secondary hook and through to repetition of the line “Straight on till morning.” It feels like the end of the album, but isn’t. As “N.P.D.” jumped into action after “Marathon Man,” so does “Relo” punch into gear after “Eastern Seas,” though “Relo” is the more memorable of the two — “N.P.D.” and “Relo” share a 2:28 runtime, if you’d like another reason for the comparison — marked out by Fristoe‘s lead-as-rhythm in the verse and the aforementioned call and response near the end, the uptick in pace effective after “Eastern Seas”‘ slowdown in reinforcing the dynamic within Lo-Pan‘s sound at this point in their tenure.

Another likewise vague sample is inserted at the beginning of closer “The Duke,” which caps Colossus like a victory lap, underscoring much of what has made the album work — the meaner push, Martin‘s accomplished layering, the across-the-board energetic delivery, their attacking the beat — but is distinguished from the rest of the collection by the solo Fristoe takes beginning at 2:37, which comes to the head of the mix almost to the point of abrasiveness and wails over a steady rhythm from Bartz and Thompson, who return about a minute later with Martin to round out with a last hook and crashing end. That solo in particular seems to have been residing in Lo-Pan‘s pocket the whole time; in the context of Colossus as a whole, they seem to have saved it for last. And fair enough — it’s as raging a finish as Colossus in its entirety calls for. Perhaps because so much of the album moves, and moves fast, and shoves the listener along its course, and perhaps because four records deep, Lo-Pan show few signs of stagnating creatively, Colossus feels less like a destination than another point along the way. It’s their tightest, tensest outing, but in scrutinizing it on those terms, one can hear the potential for them to move further on the line of their progression, to continue to dig toward the heart of what it is they’re trying to convey. Still, it’s an album that changes who they are as a band and stands as their most refined, precise collection to date. It captures them at a different moment than did Salvador — one can see that even in the sharpened edges of the logo that appears on the album cover — but showcases a forward step in a pursuit that seems thus far unrelenting. I’ve said before that I consider them one of the finest currently active heavy rock acts in the US, and Colossus only strengthens that opinion.

Lo-Pan, Colossus (2014)

Lo-Pan on Thee Facebooks

Small Stone Records

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audiObelisk Transmission 040

Posted in Podcasts on September 26th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Click Here to Download

 

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

This one’s beamed in from a universe of all good times. I don’t want to walk around tooting my own horn like I actually did anything, but you’ll pardon me if I say that once you get on board here, you might not want to jump back off. The flow is up and down, alternately drawn out and rushing, and right up to the last song which is a bit of a return to earth, the second hour is the most spaced out it’s ever been around these parts. I’m way into it. I hope you’re way into it.

Like last time, I tried to get a mix of excellent stuff upcoming with other recent items you might’ve missed. One of these days I’m gonna do another one of these where I talk, but this is straight-up track into track the whole way through and I think it moves really well that way. Please feel free to grab a download or hit the stream and dig in and enjoy.

First Hour:
The Melvins, “Sesame Street Meat” from Hold it In (2014)
Fever Dog, “One Thousand Centuries” from Second Wind (2014)
Lo-Pan, “Eastern Seas” from Colossus (2014)
Witchrider, “Black” from Unmountable Stairs (2014)
Alunah, “Awakening the Forest” from Awakening the Forest (2014)
Craang, “Magnolia” from To the Estimated Size of the Universe (2014)
Slow Season, “Shake” from Mountains (2014)
Lucifer in the Sky with Diamonds, “Guillotine” from The Shining One (2014)
The Proselyte, “Irish Goodbye” from Our Vessel’s in Need (2014)
Flood, “Lake Nyos” from Oak (2014)
Lord, “Golgotha” from Alive in Golgotha (2014)

Second Hour:
My Brother the Wind, “Garden of Delights” from Once There was a Time When Time and Space were One (2014)
Spidergawd, “Empty Rooms” from Spidergawd (2014)
The Myrrors, “Whirling Mountain Blues” from Solar Collector (2014)
Witch Mountain, “Your Corrupt Ways (Sour the Hymn)” from Mobile of Angels (2014)

Total running time: 1:54:28

 

Thank you for listening.

Download audiObelisk Transmission 040

 

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Isaak Announce European Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 23rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

isaak (Photo by Jessica Matri)

Italian heavy rock four-piece Isaak are getting ready to tour in Europe once again. They released their Small Stone label debut, The Longer the Beard the Harder the Sound, last year, and are currently working on a follow-up, though what stage it’s actually in remains a mystery. Still, if you, say, had a post-it note with impending 2015 releases on it so you could remember them for later when you wanted to put together some kind of larger list/feature on the subject, Isaak‘s next record would be another one to add.

Not that such a post-it note exists or is already becoming overcrowded or anything. I can neither confirm nor deny, and so on.

Here’s the news:

isaak logo

*ISAAK* on tour ( Small Stone Records / HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS)

Isaak , born from the ashes of Gandhi’s Gunn, immediately signed a worldwide contract for two albums with the American label Small Stone Records: the critically acclaimed debut “The Longer The Beard The Harder The Sound” released in 2013 and a second one that is going to be recorded very soon. “Having the chance to release two albums for an American label and reaching metal fans all over the world it’s a great honor but also a confirmation: we always thought we had an international sound since the beginning. And you will hear it even more in the new album.”

We also managed to tour in Europe for the first time this year. Thanks to this growth and to our love for bands like Clutch, Big Business, Torche, Red Fang the sound of our next album will be something really special. With the first single “The Frown” from the imminent new album, we tested the reaction of our fans receiving amazing responses. So we realized this was the right direction to follow”.

Isaak, who developed from a stoner rock into a promising international power sound band, are ready for the challenge, determined and strong just like their music. Are you ready?

04/12/2014 IT Rome-Init “HPS Rec Label Party”
06/12/2014 IT Milano-LoFi
07/12/2014 CH
08/12/2014 D
09/12/2014 D Augsburg-Blue Box Skate Park
10/12/2014 CH Winterthur-Gaswerk
11/12/2014 CH
12/12/2014 CH Mühledorf Niedergösgen-No Mute Bandraum
27/12/2014 IT Savona- Officine Solimano Christmas Show

www.heavypsychsounds.com
www.facebook.com/isaakband
https://www.facebook.com/events/577755778996510/
https://smallstone.bandcamp.com/album/the-longer-the-beard-the-harder-the-sound

Isaak, The Longer the Beard the Harder the Sound (2013)

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Thank You to Everyone Who Took Part in the Small Stone Fundraiser

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 22nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

small stone records office

Look, I could tell you how much I appreciate everyone giving up a little bit of their hard-earned to help out Small Stone in the label’s time of need, but the fact is it’s not about me. It’s about Scott Hamilton, who runs the label, being able to continue putting out some of the finest heavy rock and roll the world has to offer, him worrying more about getting the Lo-Pan pressing back from the plant in time for the October release rather than if his basement is going to have mold in it leftover from the flood. Priorities. Getting things to where they need to be.

All told, the Small Stone fundraiser brought in over eight thousand dollars, and that wouldn’t have been possible without your help, so thank you. If you donated, that’s amazing. Some gave $100 at a clip, some gave $5, but what really matters is that when it came to it and someone who has been a major contributor to this weird, pan-global community required assistance, people stepped up and pulled together and showed they were willing to support somebody who needed it when they needed it. I know there have been crossover bands and every now and then some mainstream entity deigns to not completely ignore this genre, but heavy rock and roll is still a very underground phenomenon, and if we don’t help each other, it’s not like there are a million people lined up outside to pick up the slack.

So thank you for being a part of this. Even if you didn’t get to donate and you just spread the link around, that’s huge. I know Scott‘s repairs are ongoing after the flood, but the water’s gone and he’s got a desk and a shelf for label product and his amps and gear set up down there, and that’s definitely a start. As somebody who’s spent years nerding out on Small Stone‘s output, I’m just happy to know I’ll be able to keep doing that.

Now bring on the Snail record!

Small Stone Records

Small Stone on Thee Facebooks

Small Stone on Bandcamp

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Live Review: Blackwolfgoat Album Release with Bedroom Rehab Corporation, Sea and Shutup!! in Allston, 09.12.14

Posted in Reviews on September 15th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

blackwolfgoat

It was just over a month ago I last saw Blackwolfgoat, in Portland, Maine, opening for We’re all Gonna Die‘s final reunion gig, so I’d say the stuff was pretty fresh in my brain, even aside from listening to the new album, Drone Maintenance, for an I’ll-get-there-I-swear-I-will review, but this was the release show for that record and sometimes you feel like maybe you need to show up. Another chance to scope out Connecticut duo Bedroom Rehab Corporation was added appeal, and it was the live debut from Sea, which boasts bassist/vocalist Stephen LoVerme of Olde Growth and guitarist Liz Walshak, formerly of Rozamov, so put that together with noise-riff duo Shutup!! opening, and yeah, it’s a night. A Friday, in Allston, in September. College kids, hip youngsters, and me, rolling down Harvard Ave. like a forest troll looking for parking. Around and around and around Allston’s designed-for-the-crowded-populace-of-1700 blocks I went, ducking drunk undergrads and Bruins fans. There were other shows around town. I knew where I wanted to be.

O’Brien’s was much as I left it whenever the last time I was there was. Low, red lights, equipment along the wall. They played Floor between bands, which was a nice touch, and people shuffled in and out over the course of the evening in various degrees of stupor. It wasn’t a rock show entirely, but there was a bit of that going on. Here’s how it all went down:

Shutup!!

Shut Up (Photo by JJ Koczan)

One of the issues with going to see drone live is that the crowd, especially after a couple minutes in, invariably starts to chatter, and you hear it over the performance, still very much in progress. The guitar/bass two-piece Shutup!! avoided this issue neatly by being so fucking loud you could barely hear yourself think, let alone transmit those thoughts verbally to another human being. Clever. Bassist Aarne Victorine is set to debut with another band, UXO (featuring Steve Austin of Today is the Day and Chris Spencer of Unsane), next year, but paired with guitarist Jon Christopher in Shutup!! the modus was forceful low-end rumble all the way. They were on as I was walking into O’Brien’s and clearly audible from outside, tossing in a few lumbering riffs to go with the massive wash of amp noise, feedback and effects that seemed to bite right past one’s earplugs — the cheap foam kind, but still. It was a short set, less than 20 minutes, but I doubt anyone there would argue they didn’t get their point across. Exploratory but vicious, heavy drone not for the faint of heart or the weak of tolerance.

Sea

sea (Photo by JJ Koczan)

It is a cruelty to judge a new band or anything they do by their first show, so I won’t, but don’t take that to mean newcomer four-piece Sea didn’t come across well or like they knew what they were going for. With a blend of flowing doom and some post-metal churning inflection, as well as a strobing desk lanp on top of guitarist Mike Blasi‘s amplifier timed to be’chopped drummer Andrew Muro‘s kit, Sea seemed to be on their way toward solid construction and an aesthetic in the making. LoVerme varied his vocals between post-Mastodon shouts and more subdued melodies, and Walshak and Blasi added ambient sprawl to quieter sections to contrast and complement the heavier push. Their songs, as I understand, are as yet untitled, but one could hear an oceanic theme at work, and while the project is nascent, there seemed to be potential at work as well. They were the fullest band of the night with twice as many members as anyone else, but received a warm welcome that, especially for a debut gig, didn’t seem like it could’ve left them disappointed. Will be interesting to see where they go as they continue to hammer out their sound (and light show).

Bedroom Rehab Corporation

Speaking of good bands getting better, the night also re-confirmed for me how far ahead of their 2013 debut, Red over Red (review here), are bassist/vocalist Adam Wujtewicz and drummer Meghan Killimade of Bedroom Rehab Corporation. After seeing them for the first time earlier this summer, this was already apparent, but no less so in Allston, the New London, CT, twosome engaging in varying doomly methods, Melvins-style crunch and a bit of noise punk to boot, the gruff shouts of Wujtewicz adding a sense of burl to the set. He announced their intention to record with Justin Pizzoferrato, who also helmed Red over Red as well as past and upcoming efforts from Elder and many others, in the coming months, and though they’ve worked together before, I wouldn’t be surprised if the next Bedroom Rehab Corporation is a much different affair than was the first. They seem to be in the process of discovering their sound and that only makes watching them play, even the older material with its seafaring thematic — New London is on the no-less-ambitiously-named Thames River, and is a town with a port history — more enjoyable.

Blackwolfgoat

blackwolfgoat

After stints in recent years in HackmanBlack PyramidThe Scimitar and most recently KindBlackwolfgoat seems all the more like the vehicle through which guitarist Darryl Shepard can express unmitigated joy in his craft. He’s all alone up there — wasn’t at this show, but we’ll get there in a second — looping guitar pieces on top of each other and feeling out the spaces his tones create. The project has proved more progressive over time. His first album on Small Stone, 2010’s Dragonwizardsleeve (review here), was rife with darkened noise, while the subsequent 2012 outing, Dronolith (CD released by The Obelisk’s in-house label, The Maple Forum), branched out to more varied atmospherics. With the new Drone Maintenance, the release this show was celebrating and a record I was fortunate enough to see in the makingShepard again pushes himself toward traditional songwriting ideology, but maintains a full-headed sense of purpose to each piece, each one accomplishing a goal of its own feeding into the larger whole of the album. At O’Brien’s, new works like “Axxtrokk” and “White Hole” led to Shepard bringing up his Kind bandmate Matthew Couto (also Elder) for an entirely improvised jam that ended the set in a chaotic swirl of effects noise that refused to be grounded, either by Couto‘s drumming or the crowd’s expectation. Having seen Kind recently, I had some sense of what to expect from the collaboration, but the results were still the highlight of the evening and something special that hadn’t been done before. If that jam foretells a direction Blackwolfgoat might take, it’s one of any number possible for the wide open creativity on display.

Turns out Allston hadn’t gotten any less fucked up while I was inside O’Brien’s, but I mowed down zombies with video-game accuracy and grooved out to the Masspike without further incident. A couple close calls here and there, but easily a trip worth the risk.

Few more pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

Read more »

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It’s Not Night: It’s Space Launch New Video for “The Gathering”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on September 4th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

it's not night it's space

New Paltz final-frontiersmen It’s Not Night: It’s Space released their debut and most recent full-length, Bowing Not Knowing to What (review here), back in 2012. They were announced as having signed to Small Stone at some point last year and their new album is reportedly in progress, but no solid release date has been given yet. One imagines the instrumental trio will get there sooner or later, and in the meantime, Bowing Not Knowing to What still has plenty of cosmic delights to offer those who’d take it on, as the new video for “The Gathering” demonstrates.

The clip, which appropriately enough features a slug laced in with spaced-out B-roll, was put together by John Lutomski, brother of It’s Not Night: It’s Space drummer Michael Lutomski, and like the song itself, it’s a peaceful but increasingly foreboding build, cinematic in the sense of having grandeur, but ultimately weirder than you’d find in most movies. “The Gathering” does well in blending natural elements — flute, percussion — and a steady effects wash as it builds up, which makes sense considering it’s the leadoff on Bowing Not Knowing to What and the introduction to the rest of the album, but the languid ritualism is what carries through most of all, and in that it’s a fitting representation for what It’s Not Night: It’s Space have to offer.

That record, as well as the band’s 2011 debut EP, East of the Sun and West of the Moon, is available as a name-your-price download through Bandcamp, so there’s plenty of opportunity to get acquainted if you’ve yet to do so. It’s Not Night: It’s Space is Lutomski, bassist Tommy Guerrero and guitarist Kevin Halcott. and their new LP was recently performed in full at the New Paltz Rocks Fest over Labor Day weekend. More to come on the release, I’m sure.

Until then, enjoy “The Gathering” on the player below:

It’s Not Night: It’s Space, “The Gathering” official video

It’s Not Night: It’s Space on Thee Facebooks

It’s Not Night: It’s Space on Bandcamp

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Lo-Pan Premiere “Vox” from Colossus

Posted in audiObelisk on September 4th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

lo-pan (Photo by Meghan Ralston)

If you’re looking for Lo-Pan, they’re on tour. That’s where you’ll usually find the Columbus, Ohio, heavy rockers. They’ve spent the better part of the last five years kicking up dirt across this fair land in pursuit of riffy glory, and the time and effort have paid off. Their new album, Colossus — their fourth overall and second for Small Stone Records – finds them a tighter and more efficient-sounding unit than they’ve ever been, and where their last full-length, 2011’s Salvador (review here), was a pinnacle for their songwriting’s blend of fluid groove, soulful vocals and memorable tracks, Colossus reaps the reward of all that touring in pushing Lo-Pan‘s methods even further.

So it’s a meaner, more precise Lo-Pan this time around — the band is still comprised of vocalist Jeff Martin, guitarist Brian Fristoe, bassist Scott Thompson and drummer Jesse Bartz – but they’re also branching out in terms of what their songs do. That will probably make no sense until you listen to “Vox” below. Lo-Pan have done big songs before, but “Vox” gives a spacious feeling in Martin‘s echoing voice that’s genuinely new for them — not to mention a guest spot near the end from Black Black Black‘s Jason Alexander Byers (also ex-Disengage) — and they blend it well with Fristoe‘s smooth-running riffs, Thompson‘s viscous but always moving basslines and the ever-raucous stomp from Bartz. In its hook, and in its subtle — and not so subtle — rhythmic shifts, “Vox” emphasizes a lot of the progression in Lo-Pan‘s approach, and less surprisingly, kicks a good deal of ass along the way.

Please find “Vox” on the player below, prepare yourself to spend the rest of the day listening to it on repeat, and enjoy:

Lo-Pan recorded Colossus with Andrew Schneider at Translator Audio in Brooklyn and will release the album Oct. 7 on Small Stone Records. Cover art is by Jason Alexander Byers. Lo-Pan have been on tour with Black Cobra since Aug. 28. Remaining dates for the run are as follows:

LO-PAN w/ Black Cobra:
9/04/2014 Siberia – New Orleans, LA
9/05/2014 Handlebar – Pensacola, FL
9/06/2014 Orpheum – Tampa, FL
9/07/2014 Gramps – Miami, FL
9/08/2014 Back Booth – Orlando, FL
9/09/2014 529 – Atlanta, GA
9/10/2014 The Mothlight – Asheville, NC
9/11/2014 Chop Shop – Charlotte, NC
9/12/2014 Strange Matter – Richmond, VA
9/13/2014 The Metro – Baltimore, MD
9/14/2014 Dusk – Providence, RI
9/15/2014 Nectars – Burlington, VT
9/16/2014 TT The Bears – Boston, MA
9/17/2014 Kung Fu Necktie – Philadelphia, PA
9/18/2014 Saint Vitus – New York, NY
9/19/2014 Lost Horizon – Syracuse, NY
9/20/2014 Bug Jar – Rochester, NY
9/21/2014 The Outpost – Kent, OH *
9/22/2014 Howlers – Pittsburgh, PA
9/23/2014 Reggie’s – Chicago, IL
9/24/2014 7th St Entry – Minneapolis, MN
9/26/2014 Replay – Lawrence, KS
9/27/2014 Lost Lake Lounge – Denver, CO
9/28/2014 Burt’s Tiki Bar – Salt Lake City, UT
9/29/2014 Dive Bar – Las Vegas, NV
9/30/2014 The Alley – Sparks, NV
10/01/2014 The Garage – Ventura, CA
10/02/2014 New Parish – Oakland, CA
10/04/2014 Downtown Lounge – Tulsa, OK *
*LO-PAN headlining date/No Black Cobra

Lo-Pan on Thee Facebooks

Colossus at Small Stone’s Bandcamp

Small Stone Records

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