The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2018

Posted in Features on December 20th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

the-top-30-of-2018

Please note: This post is not culled in any way from the Year-End Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2018 to that, please do.

It just wouldn’t be a year if it wasn’t completely overwhelming, right?

2018 has certainly met that standard and then some. The swath of output, whether it’s a new generation adopting and adapting established methods or out and out reinventing the stylistic wheel and then pushing it uphill on a seemingly endless barrage of tours, has been staggering, and it’s still happening. There’s a little more than a week to go in the year. You think a band isn’t putting something out today? Of course they are. It’s every day. It’s all the time.

But this year wasn’t just about quantity either. I think one of my biggest struggles in writing about albums in 2018 — and with the last Quarterly Review and various premieres and video posts that were basically album reviews in disguise, let’s estimate we’re somewhere past 300 records reviewed one way or another — was in conveying just how killer so much of the stuff coming through was. How many times can you say the word “awesome?” Well, I’m sure we’ll see it a few more times before this list is over, so there you go.

I say something like this every time I do a list, but please keep in mind these are my picks and I’m one person. But I am a person. I know there’s the whole internet-anonymity thing, but I assure you, I’m a human being (more of a cave troll, really) typing these words. I’m all for everyone sharing their own picks in the comments, and all for passionate advocating, but please, let’s keep it civil and respectful. These things can spiral out of control quickly, but let’s remember that we’re all human beings and worth of basic courtesy, even if some of us are dead wrong about a good many things. You should definitely punch nazis, though.

Thanks in advance for reading. Here we go:

[UPDATE: You’ll notice the inclusion of an ’18a.’ I had Stoned Jesus in my notes as number 18 initially and they got dropped as I was adjusting things along the way. I’ve added them back in, but it didn’t seem fair to bump everyone else down after the post had already been published. That was the best I could come up with for a solution. If you’re pissed about one more killer record being added, please feel free to email me and tell me all about it.]

30. The Skull, The Endless Road Turns Dark

The Skull The Endless Road Turns Dark

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Sept. 12.

Chicago’s The Skull had no small task before them in following up their 2014 debut, For Those Which are Asleep (review here) — let alone living up to their pedigree — but their second album demonstrated a creative growth that sacrificed nothing of memorability when it came to songs like “Breathing Underwater” and “All that Remains (Is True).” They got down to work and got the job done, which is what a working band does. 2018 was by any measure a fantastic year for doom, and The Skull were a big part of why.

29. Foghound, Awaken to Destroy

foghound awaken to destroy

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Nov. 21.

The Dec. 2017 murder of Rev. Jim Forrester was tragic. No other way to say it. Foghound, who were in the midst of making Awaken to Destroy at the time, put together an album that not only features Forrester‘s last recorded performance, but pays respect to his memory while the wound is still raw and manages to kick ass all the while. It’s a record that can’t ever be divorced from its circumstances — just can’t — and so it can be a heavy listen in more than just its tones, but it’s basically Foghound proving they’re unstoppable. And so they are.

28. Orange Goblin, The Wolf Bites Back

orange goblin the wolf bites back

Released by Spinefarm Records. Reviewed June 13.

Who among us here today is not a sucker for Orange Goblin? Come forward an be judged. I mean, really. Nine records deep, the London sceneforgers are nothing less than an institution, beloved by boozehounds, riffhounds, doomhounds, and really, a wide variety of hounds the world over. Also dudes. With its essential title-track hook and highlight cuts in “Ghosts of the Primitives” and “Burn the Ships” — or, you know, any of them — they added to one of heavy’s most unshakable legacies with an album as furious as it is welcoming to its generations-spanning fanbase.

27. Fu Manchu, Clone of the Universe

fu manchu clone of the universe
Released by At the Dojo Records. Reviewed Feb. 15.

There are two kinds of people in this world, and they’re both Fu Manchu fans. Clone of the Universe turned heads with a guest appearance from Rush‘s Alex Lifeson on the 18-minute side-B-consuming “Il Mostro Atomico,” but really to focus on that instead of “Intelligent Worship,” “(I’ve Been) Hexed,” “Don’t Panic,” “Slower than Light,” etc., is only seeing half the point of the album in the first place. The long-running lords of fuzz hit a new stride with 2014’s Gigantoid (review here), and Clone of the Universe was in every way a worthy successor.

26. Witch Mountain, Witch Mountain

Witch-Mountain-Witch-Mountain
Released by Svart Records. Reviewed May 16.

It was an unenviable task before Witch Mountain in replacing vocalist Uta Plotkin, but founding guitarist Rob Wrong and drummer Nathan Carson found the right voice in Kayla Dixon and solidified the lineup with her and bassist Justin Brown enough to make a declarative statement in Witch Mountain‘s self-titled LP. That’s the story of it. They pulled it off. Met with what was unquestionably a bummer circumstance, they pushed through and moved their sound forward through a new beginning — and not their first one. Watch out when their next record hits.

25. Windhand, Eternal Return

windhand eternal return

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed Oct. 3.

Richmond, Virginia, doomers Windhand‘s second collaboration with producer Jack Endino produced a marked and purposeful expansion of their sound, encompassing classic grunge influences and a heavy psychedelic swirl that added color their previously-greyscale sonic haze. Resonant in tone and emotionalism, Eternal Return readjusted Windhand‘s trajectory in such a manner that, where one might’ve thought they knew where the band were headed in terms of their progression, they’ve made themselves a less predictable outfit on the whole. For that alone, it’s a triumph. Then you have the songs.

24. Sun Voyager, Seismic Vibes

Sun Voyager Seismic Vibes

Released by King Pizza Records. Reviewed April 18.

I don’t even want to admit how long I was waiting for Sun Voyager‘s first long-player to show up, but when it finally did, the New York trio did not disappoint. Catchy, energetic, fuzzed-out tunes with driving rhythms and a heavy psych flourish, they tapped into shoegaze and desert vibes without losing any sense of themselves in the process, and if the extra wait was so they could be so remarkably coherent in their expression on their full-length, then I wouldn’t want it to have shown up any sooner. An easy pick to stand among 2018’s best debut albums. Now to wait for the next one.

23. Forming the Void, Rift

forming the void rift

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed July 27.

It should tell you something that after working quickly to produce three albums, Louisiana’s Forming the Void are still defined by their potential. If I had my druthers, I’d put the recent Ripple signees on tour for the bulk of 2019, across the US and in Europe for festivals and support-slot club shows, really give them an opportunity to hammer out who they are as a band and then hit the studio for LP four. I don’t know if that’ll happen, but they’d only be doing the universe a favor by kicking into that gear. As it stands, their progression is palpable in their material and they stand absolutely ready for whatever the next level might be for them.

22. Spaceslug, Eye the Tide

spaceslug eye the tide

Released by BSFD Records and Oak Island Records. Reviewed June 29.

Aside from the speed at which Spaceslug have turned around offerings — with Eye the Tide following 2017’s Mountains and Reminiscence EP (review here) and Time Travel Dilemma (review here) full-length and their 2016 debut, Lemanis (review here) — the Polish outfit have undertaken significant progression in their sound, moving from pure heavy psychedelic warmth to incorporating elements out of extreme metal as they did on Eye the Tide. Adding to the latest record’s accomplishment is the smoothness with which they brought seemingly opposing sides together, only adding depth to an approach already worthy of oceanic comparison.

21. Conan, Existential Void Guardian

Conan Existential Void Guardian
Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 14.

Conan‘s reign of terror has been unfolding for more than a decade now, and each of their albums has become a kind of step along a path of incremental growth. Consider the melody creeping into the shouts of founding guitarist Jon Davis, or the emergence of bassist Chris Fielding as a vocal presence alongside, the two sharing a frontman role more than ever before while welcoming drummer Johnny King to the fold of destructive tonality and doomly extremism. Existential Void Guardian may end up just being another stomp-print on their way to the next thing, but it affirmed the fact that as much as Conan grow each time out, their central violence continues to hold sway.

20. Pale Divine, Pale Divine

PALE DIVINE S/T
Released by Shadow Kingdom Records. Reviewed Nov. 21.

Look. A new Pale Divine record doesn’t come along every day, so yeah, their self-titled was probably going to be on my list one way or the other, but it definitely helps that not only was it their first outing in six years since 2012’s Painted Windows Black (review here), but it had the songs to live up to a half-decade-plus of anticipation. It marked the first studio appearance from bassist/backing vocalist Ron “Fezz” McGinnis alongside guitarist Greg Diener and drummer Darin McCloskey — now both of Beelzefuzz as well — and made a strong argument for how much Pale Divine deserve more than 20 years on from their initial demo to be considered classic American doom.

19. Mos Generator, Shadowlands

mos generator shadowlands
Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed May 11.

The return and rise to prominence of Washington pure heavy rockers Mos Generator might be the underground’s feelgood story of the decade, but it hasn’t by any means been easily won. In addition to rebuilding the band however many albums ago, guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed has put in innumerable hours on tour and worked to actually develop the group creatively in addition to in terms of stage presence. This is shown throughout some of the classic prog elements making their way onto Shadowlands, and perhaps some of the collection’s moodier aspects are born of the aforementioned road time as well. Hard for that kind of thing not to be a slog after a while, but at least they have killer tunes to play.

18a. Stoned Jesus, Pilgrims

STONED JESUS PILGRIMS

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 5.

The only safe bet about Stoned Jesus‘ fourth long-player, Pilgrims, was that it was going to sound different than the third. That 2015 outing, The Harvest (review here), preceded the band touring to celebrate the fifth anniversary and after-the-fact success of 2012’s Seven Thunders Roar (review here), but Pilgrims defied narrative in that instead of incorporating elements from the second record in more of a heavy psych or jam sound, Stoned Jesus instead showcased a tighter, more sureheaded sense of craft than they’ve ever displayed before, and arrived on Napalm Records with a collection of songs that demonstrated the growth and sense of creative will that drives them. While one can take a look at their moniker and think immediately they know what’s coming, Stoned Jesus have made themselves one of the least predictable bands in heavy rock.

18. Backwoods Payback, Future Slum

backwoods payback future slum

Self-released. Reviewed Aug. 15.

“Pirate Smile.” “Lines.” “Whatever.” “It Ain’t Right.” “Threes.” “Cinderella.” “Generals.” “Big Enough.” “Alone.” “Lucky. Mike Cummings, Jessica Baker, Erik Larson. Every player, every song, every minute. If you want to know what heart-on-sleeve sounds like, it fucking sounds like Backwoods Payback. In their line from hardcore punk to grunge to heavy rock, they encompass experiences and emotionalism that are both shown in raw form throughout Future Slum, and build all the while on the chemistry they set out in developing with 2016’s Fire Not Reason (review here), when they welcomed Larson to the lineup on drums and revitalized their mission. Also worth noting, they were the best live band I saw this year. Anywhere.

17. Corrosion of Conformity, No Cross No Crown

corrosion of conformity no cross no crown

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Jan. 3

No question the excitement of C.O.C. putting out their first record with frontman Pepper Keenan involved since 2005’s In the Arms of God was one of this year’s top stories in heavy. And No Cross No Crown tapped directly into the spirit of 1994’s Deliverance (discussed here) and 1996’s Wiseblood (discussed here) in terms of direction, while updating the band’s style with a four-part 2LP in mind. In some ways, it’ll be their next album that really gives listeners a sense of where they’re at and where they might be headed, but as welcome returns go, having Keenan alongside Mike DeanWoody Weatherman and Reed Mullin is in no way to be understated, and neither is the quality of their output together, then and now.

16. Naxatras, III

naxatras iii

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 14.

It is no simple feat to hypnotize an audience and convey serenity while at the same time holding attention with songcraft, so that the listener isn’t actually so much unconscious as malleable of mood and spirit in such a direction as the band suggests. Greek trio Naxatras have worked quickly to become experts at this, and their third full-length fosters tonal warmth and jammy progressions with an overarching naturalism that finds them so committed to analog recording that one can buy direct transfers of the tape master of III. Some acts take classic-style practices as an aesthetic choice. With Naxatras, it seems to be the stuff of life, yet their sound is only vibrant and human in a way that, at least one hopes, is even more representative of the future than the past.

15. Clutch, Book of Bad Decisions

clutch book of bad decisions

Released by Weathermaker Music. Reviewed Aug. 27.

It was time for Clutch to make a change in producers, and the Maryland overlords of groove seemed to know it. Known as a live band, they went with Vance Powell, who’s known a live band producer. The results on Book of Bad Decisions might not have been so earth-shatteringly different from 2015’s Psychic Warfare (review here), which was the too-soon follow-up to 2013’s Earth Rocker (review here) — both helmed by Machine — but the inimitable four-piece indeed succeeded in capturing the electricity of their stage performance and, as ever, treated fans to a collection of songs bearing Clutch‘s unmistakable hallmarks of quirky lyrics, funky rhythms and heavy roll. They may always be a live band, but Clutch‘s studio work is in no way to be discounted, ever, as this record reaffirmed. Plus, crab cakes.

14. Ancestors, Suspended in Reflections

Ancestors Suspended in Reflections

Released by Pelagic Records. Reviewed Aug. 3.

After 2012’s In Dreams and Time (review here), I wasn’t sure Ancestors were going to put out another record. They kicked around word of one for a while, but it wasn’t until the end of last year that it really seemed to congeal into a possibility. And by then, who the hell knew what they might get up to on a full-length? With Suspended in Reflections, in some says, they picked up where they left off in terms of finding a niche for themselves in progressive and melodic heavy, but I think the time showed in the poise of their execution and the control of the material. Suspended in Reflections can’t help but be six years more mature than its predecessor, and that suits its contemplative feel. In tracks like “Gone,” and “The Warm Glow,” they tempered their expansive sound with an efficiency that can only be had with time.

13. High on Fire, Electric Messiah

high on fire electric messiah

Released by eOne Heavy. Reviewed Sept. 28.

The narrative here was hard to beat. Matt Pike spending an album cycle talking about Lemmy Kilmister and paying homage to his dirt-rock forebear and the gods of old? It doesn’t get much more perfect than that. Electric Messiah was the third collaboration between High on Fire and producer Kurt Ballou behind 2015’s Luminiferous (review here) and 2012’s De Vermiis Mysteriis (review here), and while it seemed after the last record that the formula might be getting stale, the band only sounded more and more lethal throughout the latest offering. Even putting aside their contributions to underground heavy, they’ve become one of the most essential metal bands of their generation. Metal, period. Doesn’t matter what subgenre you’re talking about it. If you’re listening to High on Fire, you know it. Usually because you’ve just been decapitated.

12. Yawning Man, The Revolt Against Tired Noises

yawning man the revolt against tired noises

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed July 2.

You know, if you take the time to separate Yawning Man from their 30-plus-year history and their legacy as one of the foundational acts of what later became desert rock, and you listen to The Revolt Against Tired Noises, you’re still left with basically a dream of an album. Mostly instrumental, as is their wont, they nonetheless had bassist Mario Lalli (also Fatso Jetson) sing this time around on a version of the previously-unreleased “Catamaran,” which Kyuss covered once upon a whenever although Yawning Man had never officially put it to tape. But really, that and all other novelty aside, guitarist Gary Arce, Lalli and drummer Bill Stinson are a chemistry unto themselves. I don’t know if they’ll ever be as huge as they should be, but every bit of acclaim they get, they’ve earned, and if The Revolt Against Tired Noises helps them get it, all the more so.

11. Greenleaf, Hear the Rivers

greenleaf hear the rivers

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Nov. 26.

Swedish heavy rock mavens Greenleaf have become an entirely different band than they once were. No longer a Dozer side-project from guitarist Tommi Holappa with a rotating cast of players, they’re a solidified, road-tested, powerhouse unit, and Hear the Rivers bleeds soul as a result. Holappa, frontman Arvid Hällagård, bassist Hans Fröhlich and drummer Sebastian Olsson sound like they’re absolutely on fire in the album’s tracks, and far from being staid or formulaic as one might expect a sixth long-player to be, Hear the Rivers built on what the band accomplished with 2016’s Rise Above the Meadow (review here) and came across as all the more vital and nearly frenetic in their energy. I won’t say Greenleaf has seen their last lineup change, because one never knows, but the band as they are today is the realization of potential I don’t think even Greenleaf knew was there.

10. Gozu, Equilibrium

gozu equilibrium

Released by Blacklight Media / Metal Blade Records. Reviewed April 4.

Five records deep into a career into its second decade, Gozu haven’t had a miss yet. Admittedly, some of their early work can seem formative considering where they are now, but still. And after the 2016 rager, Revival (review here), to have the band return to the same studio — Wild Arctic in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, where strides producer Dean Baltulonis — for the follow-up allows for the four-piece to directly show how their sound has grown more encompassing in the last couple years. And it has. Equilibrium is a rich and varied listen that holds true to Gozu‘s well-established penchant for soulful vibes and crunching, hard-hitting riffs and groove, but while it shares the directness of approach with Revival, it makes moves that a band could only make moving from one record to the next. I expect nothing less their next time out as well, because a decade later, that’s Gozu‘s proven track record.

9. Monster Magnet, Mindfucker

monster magnet mindfucker
Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Feb. 23.

The battle for the best album title of 2018 ended early when New Jersey everything-rockers Monster Magnet announced the release of Mindfucker. And what else to call a Monster Magnet LP at this point? They’ve stopped writing to genre. They’re driven by the creative mania of frontman/founder Dave Wyndorf, and they’ve seen psychedelic expanses and commercial success the likes of which would serve the tenure of four lesser bands. What’s left to do but whatever the hell you want? So that’s what Monster Magnet are doing. It just so happens that while they’re doing it, they’re still basically outclassing the entirety of the former planet earth as songwriters. As Monster Magnet fan in 2018, there was nothing more I could’ve asked than what Mindfucker delivered. And if you’re still trying to get your brain around it however many months later, you’re not alone. I think that’s the idea.

8. Apostle of Solitude, From Gold to Ash

Apostle of Solitude From Gold to Ash

Released by Cruz del Sur Music. Reviewed Feb. 20.

Best doom album of 2018. The combination of craft and passion behind the delivery. The way the dark tones fed into the emotions so clearly on display and sheer presence of it in listening to songs like “Keeping the Lighthouse,” “Ruination by Thy Name” and “My Heart is Leaving Here.” Apostle of Solitude never seem to be the highest profile band out there, but their work seems never to be anything less than outstanding, and I refuse to accept them as anything less than among the most pivotal American acts out there making traditional doom. And not just making it, but making it their own, with a sense of new pursuits and individualism that extends to playing style as well as atmosphere. I know doom isn’t exactly in short supply these days — figuratively or literally — but if you miss out on what Apostle of Solitude are doing with it, you’ll only regret it later. I’ll say it one more time: Best doom album of 2018.

7. Holy Grove, Holy Grove II

holy grove ii
Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Oct. 31.

Every now and again, anticipating the crap of an album really pays off, and such was the case with Holy Grove II, the Ripple Music debut from the Portland outfit whose 2016 self-titled (review here) seemed like such a herald of excellence to come while also, you know, being killer. Holy Grove II brought the four-piece of vocalist Andrea Vidal, guitarist Trent Jacobs, bassist Gregg Emley and drummer Eben Travis to entirely new levels of composition and execution. In songs like “Blade Born,” the shorter, sharper “Aurora,” the patiently rolling “Valley of the Mystics,” “Solaris” and closer “Cosmos,” which boasted a not-really-necessary-but-definitely-welcome guest vocal appearance from YOB‘s Mike Scheidt, — and oh wait, that’s all of the tracks — Holy Grove entered a different echelon. Anticipation will likewise be high for Holy Grove III, but it’ll be hard to complain with this record to keep company in the meantime.

6. All Them Witches, ATW

all them witches atw
Released by New West Records. Reviewed Sept. 18.

Over five All Them Witches albums, the Nashville four-piece have gone from a nascent heavy Americana jam band to one of the most distinct acts in the US underground. Their development in sound is chemistry-driven, so it was a risk when the founding trio of bassist/vocalist Charles Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod (who also produced) and drummer Robby Staebler welcomed new keyboardist Jonathan Draper into the lineup to take the place of Allan van Cleave. Amid a more naturalist production than that of 2017’s Sleeping Through the War (review here), the revamped four-piece flourished in terms of songwriting and conveying their stage-born sonic personae. From the gleeful fuckery of opener “Fishbelly 86 Onions” to the memorable moodiness of “Diamond” and the back-end jam “Harvest Feast” en route to the stretched-out end of “Rob’s Dream,” All Them Witches essentially confirmed they could do whatever they wanted and make it work.

5. YOB, Our Raw Heart

yob our raw heart
Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed June 7.

Actually, if you want a sample of YOB‘s raw heart, the place to go is probably 2014’s Clearing the Path to Ascend (review here), but whatever the Eugene, Oregon, shapers of cosmic doom might’ve lacked in titular accuracy on their eighth long-player, they made up for in a new, statesman-like posture. Their approach was mature, hammered out to a professionalism working completely on its own terms, and they never sounded so sure of who they are as a band or as confident of their direction. In extended cuts “Beauty in Falling Leaves” and “Our Raw Heart,” they explored new and progressive textures and melodies, and managed to reaffirm their core aspects while finding room for conveying emotion that came across as nothing but ultimately sincere. They have been and still are one of a kind, and as they continue to move forward, they remain a band that makes one feel lucky to be alive to witness their work. Our Raw Heart was perhaps more refined than it let on, but the heart was there for sure, as always.

4. Brant Bjork, Mankind Woman

brant bjork mankind woman

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Sept. 13.

I’m not going to say I wasn’t a fan of the (relatively) harder-hitting approach Brant Bjork and his Low Desert Punk Band took on 2014’s Black Power Flower (review here) and 2016’s Tao of the Devil (review here), but Mankind Woman brought in some more of his soul influences, and whether it was the subtly subversive funk of “Chocolatize” and “Brand New Old Times” or the callout “1968” and laid back vibes of the title-track and “Swagger and Sway,” Bjork — working with guitarist Bubba DuPree on songwriting and production — offered a definitive look at what has made his 20-year solo career so special and demonstrates not only his longevity and his legacy, but his will to continue to progress as an artist honing his craft. His discography is well populated by now to be sure, but Mankind Woman represents a turn from the last couple records, and if it’s in any way portentous of things to come, it bodes well. Bjork is right at home nestled into classic-style grooves, and his legacy as one of the principal architects of desert rock is continually reaffirmed.

3. Earthless, Black Heaven

earthless black heaven

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed March 15.

They’ve been great, not just good, for a long time now, and as forerunners of the San Diego heavy scene, they’re godfathers to an up and coming generation of bands taking their influence — let alone acts from the rest of the world — but Black Heaven is a special moment for them because of its departure. No, it wasn’t not the first time guitarist Isaiah Mitchell sang on an Earthless recording, but it did represent a tip of the balance in that direction for the band on a studio full-length, and that resulted in a special moment. Album opener “Gifted by the Wind” was one of the best songs I heard this year, and while “End to End” and the all-thrust “Volt Rush” affirmed that more traditional songwriting was well within the grasp of Mitchell, bassist Mike Eginton and drummer Mario Rubalcaba, they still found space for a sprawling jam or two, keeping their claim on the instrumentalism that’s (largely) fueled their tenure to date. Earthless don’t want for acclaim, but every bit of it is earned, and while their primary impact has always been live, Black Heaven saw them construct a traditional-style LP that still bore the hallmarks of their collective personality. It was the best of all worlds.

2. King Buffalo, Longing to Be the Mountain

king buffalo longing to be the mountain
Self-released/released by Stickman Records. Reviewed Sept. 27.

In the dark early hours of 2018, the Rochester, New York, trio of guitarist/vocalist Sean McVay, bassist Dan Reynolds and drummer Scott Donaldson issued the Repeater EP (review here) as a follow-up to their 2016 debut, Orion (review here), so Longing to Be the Mountain didn’t exactly come out of nowhere, but even with Repeater preceding its arrival, I don’t think anyone necessary expected King Buffalo‘s second album to have such a scope or to be so engrossing with it. In its melody, patience, atmosphere and heft, it was an absolute joy to behold. Its songs were memorable at the same time they were far-reaching, and while Orion was already my pick for the best debut of 2016, Longing to Be the Mountain realized even more potential than that record had hinted toward. It could be intimate or majestic at its whim, and its dynamic set an individual characterization of heavy psychedelia and blues-style sprawl that the band wholly owned. With production by Ben McLeod of All Them Witches behind them, they worked to serve notice of a progression undertaken the results of which are already staggering and still seem to be looking ahead to the next stage, literally and figuratively. One of the principal standards I use in constructing this list every year is what I listen to most. That’s this record.

1. Sleep, The Sciences

sleep the sciences

Released by Third Man Records. Reviewed May 1.

Obviously, right? To some extent, when Sleep surprise-announced on April 19 they’d release their first album in 15 years the next day, and then did, they took ownership of 2018. Even with records still to come at that point from YOB and Sleep guitarist Matt Pike‘s own High on Fire, there was no way that when the end of the year came around, it wasn’t going to be defined by the advent of a new Sleep record. And even if it sucked, it would probably still be Album of the Year, but fortunately, as Pike, bassist/vocalist Al Cisneros (also Om) and drummer Jason Roeder (also Neurosis) took their long-running stage reunion to the studio, they brought material that highlighted the best elements from all players. Pike‘s wild soloing, Cisneros‘ meditative vocals and Roeder‘s intricate but smooth style of roll all came together in older pieces like “Antarcticans Thawed” and “Sonic Titan” and newer highlights “Giza Butler” and “Marijuanaut’s Theme,” and aside from the excitement at their existence, they showed the mastery of form that Sleep had been demonstrating live since 2009 and which they hinted toward in the 2014 single, The Clarity (review here). A new Sleep full-length was something long-discussed, long-rumored and long-considered, but when it finally happened, I think the results vaporized expectation in a way no one could’ve anticipated. There’s a reason Sleep are Sleep. Having The Sciences as a reminder of that brought about the defining moment of 2018.

The Next 20

Indeed, it wouldn’t be much of a Top 30 at all if it didn’t go to 50. Don’t try to make sense of it, just look at the records.

31. Atavismo, Valdeinfierno
32. Grayceon, IV
33. Clamfight, III
34. Seedy Jeezus, Polaris Oblique
35. Megaton Leviathan, Mage
36. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Wasteland
37. Arcadian Child, Superfonica
38. Freedom Hawk, Beast Remains
39. The Machine, Faceshift
40. Messa, Feast for Water
41. Black Rainbows, Pandaemonium
42. Church of the Cosmic Skull, Science Fiction
43. Domkraft, Flood
44. Träden, Träden
45. Mythic Sunship, Another Shape of Psychedelic Music
46. Samavayo, Vatan
47. Foehammer, Second Sight
48. Bongripper, Terminal
49. Mansion, First Death of the Lutheran
50. Sunnata, Outlands
51. Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters, Come and Chutney

Believe me when I tell you, I sweated over this section more than I did the actual top 30. Mansion should be higher. So should Chubby Thunderous, though something in me thought they might like being #50 on a list of 30. Church of the Cosmic Skull, Clamfight, Black Rainbows, Foehammer, Seedy Jeezus, Messa, Domkraft. All of these were fucking awesome. And there are more (we’ll get there). Eventually numbers add up. I won’t say a bad word about any of these. That’s it.

Honorable Mention

This section always winds up expanded as other people point out things I missed and so on, but here’s what I’ve got in the immediate, alphabetically:

  • Alms, Act One
  • Ape Machine, Darker Seas
  • Belzebong, Light the Dankness
  • Black Moon Circle, Psychedelic Spacelord
  • Blackwater Holylight, Blackwater Holylight
  • Bong, Thought and Existence
  • Carpet, About Rooms and Elephants
  • Churchburn, None Shall Live… The Hymns of Misery
  • Deadbird, III: The Forest Within the Tree
  • Dead Meadow, The Nothing They Need
  • Death Alley, Superbia
  • Drug Cult, Drug Cult
  • Dunbarrow, II
  • Electric Citizen, Helltown
  • Eagle Twin, The Thundering Heard: Songs of Hoof and Horn
  • Evoken, Hypnagogia
  • Funeral Horse, Psalms for the Mourning
  • Fuzz Evil, High on You
  • Graven, Heirs of Discord
  • Graveyard, Peace
  • Green Dragon, Green Dragon
  • Green Druid, Ashen Blood
  • Here Lies Man, You Will Know Nothing
  • High Priestess, High Priestess
  • Horehound, Holocene
  • IAH, II
  • JIRM, Surge ex Monumentis
  • Killer Boogie, Acid Cream
  • Lonely Kamel, Death’s Head Hawkmoth
  • MaidaVale, Madness is Too Pure
  • Moab, Trough
  • Mountain Dust, Seven Storms
  • Mouth, Floating
  • Mr. Plow, Maintain Radio Silence
  • T.G. Olson, Earthen Pyramid
  • Onségen Ensemble, Duel
  • Orango, Evergreen
  • Owl, Nights in Distortion
  • Pushy, Hard Wish
  • Rifflord, 7 Cremation Ground/Meditation
  • River Cult, Halcyon Daze
  • Rotor, Sechs
  • Somali Yacht Club, The Sea
  • Sumac, Love in Shadow
  • Sundrifter, Visitations
  • Svvamp, Svvamp II
  • Thou, Magus
  • Thunder Horse, Thunder Horse
  • Weedpecker, III

Special Note

Somehow it didn’t seem appropriate to include these in the list proper because they’re not really underground releases, but there were two more records I especially wanted to highlight for their quality:

  • Alice in Chains, Rainier Fog
  • Judas Priest, Firepower

Best Short Release of the Year

Normally I’d do this as a separate post, but as a result of being robbed earlier this year, I feel like my list is woefully incomplete. If you have any demos, EPs, splits, singles, etc., to add to it, please feel free to do so in the comments below. Still, the top pick was clear:

  • Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard & Slomatics, Totems Split

Rarely do two bands work in such coherent tandem to their mutual benefit. Here are a few other essential short releases for 2018, alphabetically:

  • All Them Witches, Lost and Found
  • Alunah, Amber & Gold
  • Canyon, Mk II
  • Demon Head, The Resistence
  • Destroyer of Light, Hopeless
  • Ecstatic Vision, Under the Influence
  • Godmaker & Somnuri, Split
  • Holy Mushroom, Blood and Soul
  • King Buffalo, Repeater
  • Minsk & Zatokrev, Split
  • Sleep, Leagues Beneath
  • Stonus, Lunar Eclipse
  • Sundecay, Gale

Looking Forward

A good many albums have already been announced or hinted at for 2019. I in no way claim this to be a complete roundup of what’s coming, but here’s what I have in my notes so far, in absolutely no order:

Kings Destroy, Lo-Pan, Cities of Mars, Heavy Temple, Mr. Peter Hayden, Curse the Son, High Fighter, Destroyer of Light, Year of the Cobra, Buffalo Fuzz, Zaum, The Sonic Dawn, Alunah, Candlemass, Elepharmers, Grandier, Dorre, Abrahma, Mars Red Sky, Eternal Black, Elephant Tree, Atala, No Man’s Valley, Sun Blood Stories, Crypt Sermon, The Riven, Hibrido, Snail, Red Beard Wall, 11Paranoias, Dead Witches, Monte Luna, Captain Caravan (LP), Swallow the Sun, Oreyeon, Motorpsycho, Vokonis, Hexvessel, Saint Vitus, Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Kind, Mastiff, Shadow Witch, Om.

Okay, That’s It

Yeah, no, I’m serious. List is done. Everybody go back to your lives. Your families miss you.

Really though, while this is by no means my last post of 2018, I can’t let it pass without saying thank you so much to everyone for checking out the site this year, or for just digging into this, or for sending me music, or hitting me up on social media, sharing a link, anything. Thank you. Thank you. I could never have imagined when it started out where it would be now. Or that I’d still be doing it. Your support means more to me than I can say, and I thank you so much for being a part of this with me.

So thanks.

If you have something to add to the list, please do so by leaving a comment below, but keep in mind as well the above note requesting civility. Please don’t make me feel stupid because I forgot your favorite record. I forgot a lot of people’s favorite records. I’m one dude. I’m doing my best.

And please keep in mind if you’ve got a list together that the Year-End Poll is open and results will be out Jan. 1.

Everybody have a great and safe 2019.

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Godmaker & Somnuri, Split LP: Excerpts and Edges

Posted in Reviews on November 13th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

godmaker somnuri split

Madness ensues. Some splits seem like a nightmare to set up. Bands are on opposite sides of the planet, have disparate sounds, there are different labels involved, all this extra whatnot before anyone actually gets to the process of writing songs. I’d imagine Godmaker and Somnuri getting together for a split LP released through The Company was easier. Like sending a text: “So, split?” “Sure.” Followed by the booking of studio time. The two bands, both of whom are based in Brooklyn, tap into a progressive take on New York’s long-established concrete-crunch noise rock, and both bands showcase considerable forward-forward-forward aesthetic ambition in their two included songs on this 30-minute offering. But even more than whatever commonalities exist in terms of geography, sound and intent, these dudes know each other. They’re not strangers assembled together haphazardly.

Check the lineups. Godmaker is guitarist/vocalists Pete Ross (ex-Cleanteeth) and Carmine Laietta (ex-Hull), bassist/keyboardist/vocalist Andrew Archey (Fashion Week) and drummer Jon Lane (ex-Bröhammer), and their 13-minute “An Excerpt” features guest vocals from Kurt Applegate (Family). Meantime, Somnuri are guitarist/vocalist Justin Sherrell (ex-Bezoar, Blackout), bassist Drew Mack (ex-Hull) and drummer Phil SanGiacomo (ex-Family). If you took everyone’s bands and put them all on a bill together you could have a festival at the Saint Vitus Bar. Granted you’d have to get a couple reunions going, but I think the point stands; it isn’t exactly anyone’s first time at the dance. And frankly, both Godmaker and Somnuri sound like it.

Godmaker released their self-titled debut (review here) in 2014, and Somnuri had their own (review here) last year, but regardless of the timing, the two bands both inhabit the modern sphere of New York noise, informed not only by the likes of Unsane, but by sludge and post-metal, by sundry other genres and experiences. The result is a sense of atmosphere to complement the aggressive push in both acts that remains coherent from one to the next, and as Godmaker‘s cover of Portishead‘s “Over” gives way to Somnuri‘s “Over and Out,” the ties there seem to extend beyond the title similarities.

So okay, they fit well together. Fair enough. Actually makes a lot of sense they’d get together for a joint release. As for the madness noted at the outset, that’s really more down to the audio itself. The chief impression I carried out of Godmaker‘s self-titled four years ago was one of scathe. It was skin-peelingly abrasive, but their “An Excerpt” hones a more patient delivery, unfolding with a buzzing tension beneath a steady guitar line and nonetheless enacting a fluidity around this darker theme. Recorded and mixed by Tom Tierney at Spaceman Sound, when it kicks in with a full-toned nod at about 90 seconds, barking vocals over top for a first verse that soon shifts into a chorus that reminds of Meatjack taking on the Melvins — that’s pretty specific, so I’m going to guess it’s sonic coincidence — it makes a return to the verse and the chorus for a second runthrough before shifting into the more complex aspects of its structure, introducing cleaner vocals amid screams and a chugging instrumental surge that gives way to winding triumph and, right about at the halfway mark, a falling apart of the proceedings entirely.

They crash out to near-silence with quiet bass and guitar setting the stage for the build back up — one can’t help but be reminded of Hull‘s layered-vocal victories here — as they shove toward and through the apex and set themselves on the final outward march that consumes the last two minutes, dedicating the final of them to sustained crashes and noise. After that, I’d question the necessity of the Portishead cover, but it’s listed as a “bonus track,” and I guess if you’ve got the space on the record, use it. They bring a beefed-up arrangement to “Over,” which appeared on Portishead‘s 1997 self-titled full-length, and include samples and a current of foreboding that comes through the cleaner vocals early and the later screams the accompany. It’s a welcome enough touch and shows a breadth of influence on the part of Godmaker, which is no doubt part of the reason it’s there, but “An Excerpt” is the highlight without question.

Somnuri answer back with two originals of their own in “Over and Out” and “Edge of the Forest,” neither of which hits the runtime of Godmaker‘s “An Excerpt,” but both of which find the trio building on the promise of their first record and bringing together a dynamic that benefits from the chemistry burgeoning among the players. Sherrell, who drummed in Bezoar and plays bass in Blackout, seems to be the kind of player who can handle just about any task he might take on in a band. Vocallly he’s in easy command in switching between clean and harsh lines, and his tone and that of Mack are both righteously thick without being indistinguishable from each other — Jeff Berner recorded at Studio G, while SanGiacomo mixed. “Over and Out” moves in its second half to a tight chug and weaves a lead line overhead to give a tonal contrast, and concludes with a full-brunt crush that’s absolutely punishing.

“Edge of the Forest” is longer by nearly three full minutes at 7:21, and uses some of that time to set up a more patient buildup à la Godmaker earlier with the crash-in happening right around the two-minute mark with far-back clean vocals reminding of the last Akimbo (yes, I know: wrong coast, but they were writing about New Jersey, so eat me) before the slow roars and screams drop in the midsection to atmospheric guitar leading not to a build, but a sudden slam forward that is propelled by the drums through a fierce but still controlled crescendo given vicious screams before a final return to the chug that first enveloped after that midsection quiet part gives a last-minute sense of symmetry and the piece ends on a notably progressive assault. The temptation with a split is to think of the bands involved in competition with each other, and maybe that’s what’s happening with Godmaker and Somnuri here, but the fact of the matter is both offer an intricacy of style that adds depth to their raw and sometimes angular heaviness. They work better together than they do as adversaries, in other words, and the aim in this split seems not to be to find them pitted against each other, but acting in unison toward their shared goal of conveying some of the best aspects on New York’s modern noise movement. It’s a thoughtful madness.

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Feature: Going Deep on The Wall [Redux]; Band Commentaries, Track Premieres and More

Posted in Features on October 26th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

va magnetic eye pink floyd the wall redux

Two things you should know about this post. First: It’s huge. Apart from the year-end lists that get posted each Jan. 1, it’s the longest post I’ve ever put up. The Q&As alone are 11,000 words. It’s more compendium than interview.

Second: That’s entirely on purpose.

What on earth would possibly earn such a vast landscape of text if not The Wall [Redux]? The third and most ambitious yet of Magnetic Eye Records‘ series of [Redux] compilations captures Pink Floyd at arguably (or, really, inarguably) their most iconic and comes accompanied by The Best of Pink Floyd, another Various Artists take on a swath of tracks from the generation-defining British band’s storied discography.

Like few records before it and even fewer since, The Wall is a landmark for what rock and roll could be, and the enduring emotional and sociopolitical relevance of a work of art that’s the better part of 40 is only part of what makes it so timeless when one considers the actual songwriting itself. Even for rock heads who aren’t Pink Floyd fans, it’s undeniable.

Before we get down to business on this thing, I need to thank Jadd Shickler of Magnetic Eye and Blue Heron (who take on “Stop”) for essentially putting it all together. He chased down the commentaries from the bands and we went back and forth about whether to run the whole thing or edit it down, but in the end, it seemed too crucial to me to not include everybody’s every word. I won’t be so self-aggrandizing as to call this a companion for The Wall [Redux] or The Best of Pink Floyd or anything like that, but it’s a look at the bands talking about how Floyd came into their lives, how they got to do the songs they did, and how they view the album in the context of today. Some take a political angle, some just dig the record. Both are valid, and The Wall stands up to scrutiny on both levels.

I’ve put the bands in alphabetical order, so you’ll get to see comments from: ASG, Blue Heron, Creepers, Los Disidentes del Sucio Motel, Domkraft, Forming the Void, Ghastly Sound, Greenleaf, Howling Giant, Mark Lanegan, Low Flying Hawks, Mars Red Sky, the Melvins, Mos Generator, Open Hand, Pallbearer, Red Mesa, Scott Reeder, Ruby the Hatchet, Sasquatch, Solace, Somnuri, Summoner, Church of the Cosmic Skull, Sergeant Thunderhoof, The Slim Kings, Spaceslug, Sunflo’er, T-Tops, WhiteNails, Worshipper, Yawning Man, Year of the Cobra. That’s nearly everybody involved in the project.

The copy is pretty raw — if you have time to precisely edit 11,000 words, congratulations on your life — but I’ve done a bit of formatting to hopefully make it clear. You’ll find it all beneath the track premieres below for Solace‘s take on “In the Flesh” and Red Mesa‘s version of “Breathe.” The Wall [Redux] and The Best of Pink Floyd are out Nov. 9 on Magnetic Eye Records. Preorders are available here.

Solace, “In the Flesh”

Red Mesa, “Breathe”

Behind The Wall [Redux]:
Inspirations and Motivations

Jason / ASG / Mother

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

I think for us as musicians, Pink Floyd was there in the beginning of learning how to play guitar, drums etc. The relative simplicity of many Floyd tunes went hand in hand with the primitive stages of guitar lessons-if you knew a handful of chords you could play many of their songs. So as a teenager that was a big deal, being able to play one of your favorite band’s songs in the early stages of playing an instrument – it kind of cemented a lifelong bond of influence and fandom with Pink Floyd.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering “Mother?”

In our attempt of covering “Mother” we chose to stay relatively true to the original- we recorded out in the desert of Texas so perhaps a bit of country western influence slipped in with some guitar tremolo and mandolin making their way on to the track. And as a vocalist trying to do both the Waters and Gilmour “voices” it provided a bit of a challenge – but hopefully our version retained the intriguing and beautiful dichotomy their voices created in many classic Floyd tunes.

Does today feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

I think any time or year is a good time to revisit Pink Floyd!

Jadd / Blue Heron / Stop

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

I was late getting turned onto Pink Floyd, I think in my late 20s… I’d always heard the hits on rock radio but never spent any time going deeper. For some reason, I decided to buy an unauthorized biography about Pink Floyd while at a big bookstore in Denver when I was 27 or so. And then, who knows why, I read it from cover to cover while driving cross-country from Erie, Pennsylvania to Albuquerque, NM. I don’t mean I read it at rest stops and hotels or listened to the audio version, I mean I read the physical book perched on my steering wheel while driving 80 miles per hour across the width of the United States – it was that engrossing, and I heard and learned things about constructing songs and being in a band that would affect me forever.

How did you arrive at your approach to your song?

Well, we claimed this song as a way to be part of the record but not feel like we were taking the more sought-after songs away from anyone. No one was fighting over the 42-second piano and vocal instrumental, but that was nice, we were free to kind of ingest it and blast out something uniquely us. Chav basically took on the heavy lifting of turning that sparse piano melody into multiple layers of texture and fuzz, and then we drew it out a little bit so it didn’t feel rushed. There are very few lyrics, so I really just tried to find a different point of view on them… Roger Waters does plaintive well, I was aiming more for resignation and self-disgust as the character recognizes his errors in judgement and skewed perspective… I like to think that came across in what we did.

Does 2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

As soon as Mike told me his plan to make The Wall the next Redux album, I was on board. It was February of 2017, and we were maybe a month into the Trump presidency, hearing about the wall he was going to build on the border and feeling completely alienated in our own country. Even though Floyd’s album was maybe not as political originally in its message, it seems like it took on more of that position over the years as it came to be associated with East Germany and such. So, given how powerless we were feeling after the most recent presidential election, the idea of re-building and re-imagining such a seminal album couldn’t have been a better way to make a statement about totalitarianism, divisiveness, and the kind of ignorance and hatred this administration makes people feel empowered to embrace. We should probably Redux the Sex Pistols next just to drive the point home.

Bill / Church of the Cosmic Skull / The Trial

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

Although Dark Side and the Syd Barrett era are the usual ‘way in’, The Wall was played a lot around the house when I was younger, so it was my introduction to the band. As we’re all aware it’s something of a marmite album, and certainly more Waters than anything else, but it’s undeniably a great concept album, from one of the many incarnations of Pink Floyd.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

I love the old story that Dark Side syncs up with The Wizard of Oz if you press play at the right time. The Trial has some of Gerald Scarfes darkest animation visuals as part of the feature film, so we have synced up the cover version with the original, so you can play both simultaneously and it will fit together. Musically we have changed the verses considerably, and as the original has parts from all the different characters on the album it made sense we gave each one to different singers in the band:

The Prosecutor – Brother Sam
The Teacher – Brother Michael
The Wife – Sister Caroline
The Mother – Sister Joanne
Pink & The Judge – Brother Bill

Does 2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

Politically it makes sense, and the increasing awareness of mental health issues, especially in the music industry, makes it all the more poignant.

Shiv Mehra / Creepers / Us and Them

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

As musicians and music fans Pink Floyd has been one of the most inspiring bands of a lifetime. I connected to them personally from the early days of Syd Barrett to the latter. They’ve pushed sonic boundaries for rock into a realm of psychedelia that opened the doors for so much of our music today.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

Well “Us and Them” was one of our first picks for covering because it sits in a range for us vocally and reflects our own personal taste and sound as a band.

Does 2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

2018 is a perfect time for revisiting The Wall because it has been 39 years and music has transformed in so many ways since, but The Wall paved the path for psychedelic bands like us.

Nicolas / Los Disidentes Del Sucio Motel / Welcome to the Machine

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

My connection with PF is huge! This band has been part of my main influences for years. I have all Floyd albums and a lot of solo albums of each member. Unfortunately, I never had the chance to see the whole band performing together, but I was lucky enough to see David Gilmour and Roger Waters in concert. I saw the last tour of The Wall at the Stade de France in Paris in 2013. This concert was a turning point in my life. Probably the biggest concert I’ve ever seen and will ever see. Recently I saw Waters with my dad, it was also a wonderful moment. Pink Floyd is one of those timeless groups that cross generations. My father loves PF, I love PF and I hope my son will love PF too!

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

Pink Floyd is one of the few bands that connects us all in LDDSM. We all listen to this band on a daily basis, really. For each new album, we work on a cover that we play at the end of our concerts. For the album “Human Collapse”, it was “Welcome to the machine”. This appeared quite obvious by itself, because HC was written under the influence of PF from the start and is composed somewhat like “The Wall”. The way of composing and Gilmour’s guitar playing guided me a lot during the writing of this album. This man is a real god and I have immense respect for him. The sound he has created, his way of placing always the right notes at the right time, the sensitivity he puts in it, is pure genius. When we cover a song, we like to make it our own, as if the song could have been written by ourselves. But above all, we are always looking to keep its original identity. We don’t like to leave its uniqueness behind. People must be able to recognize it in the first seconds and have to say at the end “goddam, it really sounds like an LDDSM song!” That’s the point, make LDDSM stuff with the composition of another and respect the original song.

Does today feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

It is obvious that we are in a sadly perfect context for that. The political scope of the album has never been so justified. What we do with our planet is a shame. Trump is a shame, a monstrosity. But he is unfortunately not the only one. We live in an extremely violent and difficult world and I worry a lot, every day for the future of my children. In the manner of Waters, we might be tempted to build a wall around us to protect ourselves from others, but isolation is never the answer. We must break this wall, open ourselves to the unknown, reach out to others, it’s the only way for humanity to survive. This is the message of this album and it must be heard today more than never before.

Martin W. / Domkraft / Empty Spaces / One of These Days

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

As a band, we probably would not sound the way we do had it not been for Floyd. They have been THE band for our guitar player Martin, who basically has listened to them all his life and they were the sole reason for him picking up the guitar in the first place. The rest of the band are also fans, but we both discovered them at a later stage in life.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

We right away decided that we wanted to do something in the vein of “Domkraft interpreting Floyd” rather than note-perfect cover versions. Why try to match something that is already perfect? Let’s do our own take instead and create alternate versions of classic tracks. Like, we found ourselves stretching short segments of the songs into actual parts of our versions. Small sounds and vibrations from the originals getting more space and importance. When we got to do “Empty Spaces”, we immediately knew that we wanted to go even deeper into the brooding, desolate aspects of the song. We soaked it in reverb to achieve an almost drone-like vibe to emphasize the lonely, bare and exposed feeling of the track.

“One of these Days” is such a seminal track and probably one of our absolute favorites from the Floyd catalog, so that one felt like an obvious and insane choice at the same time. With both the studio and the Pompeii versions just oozing perfection, we just decided to just go for it, not look back, and do our own take – more fuzz-drenched and with the same kind of psych-inspired over-the-top guitar work that is to be found in most Domkraft songs. Plus, we took some liberties and incorporated a segment from another “Meddle” classic – the falling note arpeggio break from “Echoes” – which worked really nicely and gave it some breathing space in the freight train section of the track.

Does 2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

Oh, hell yes. Frighteningly good. These are Orwellian times, possible more in the Animal Farm sense than 1984, though. That particular album has gone from being political (at the time of its release) to being “just” a classic (post-Glasnost) to being super-political again. A super political classic.

Shadi / Forming the Void / Fearless

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

The first time I heard Pink Floyd was when I was 12. I had been studying music for a while and my father decided I was “ready” to hear them. We sat down together, and he played me the entire Wish You Were Here album. That moment changed my life forever. Pink Floyd became the band that I studied obsessively for the next few years. They sparked my lasting passion and serious pursuit of music and influences me deeply to this day.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

We had a short list of favorite Pink Floyd songs we might hypothetically cover one day. When we got this opportunity, it was with two weeks’ notice. From our list, ‘Fearless’ adapted the most naturally to our sound and fit most readily the time constraints we were given so it was an easy choice.

Does today feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

Anytime is a good time to revisit Pink Floyd! They are timeless.

TJ / Ghastly Sound / Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 1

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

Pink Floyd was one of the first and most important bands we were introduced to as children. I remember seeing posters for “The Wall” hanging up in my uncle’s bedrooms and being completely captivated by the artwork. In the 90’s, my father was really into home theater systems. When the Pink Floyd Pulse Live DVD came out, I was 8 years old. Our entire house would shake as we watched this and the cinematic adaptation of The Wall. This stuck with me until my teenage years and I began to discover cannabis. Thankfully, my parents were really open-minded about this specific substance and one summer night in my 13th year, they gifted me and a friend a half a bowl to smoke in the garage. Following our consumption of this gift, my friend and I got into my dad’s car and listened to Comfortably Numb on full blast in the driver and passenger seat. This experience was honestly a crucial moment in my development as a person and a musician.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

Approaching this cover was one of the most challenging experiences I’ve ever had as a musician. I think I threw away 3 or 4 instrumental versions before we landed on what we have now. Approaching a cover from such an iconic album is intimidating enough on its own. We had an extra challenge given that our specific track is more of an interlude; and comprised almost exclusively of David Gilmour playing guitar. Me, not being a guitarist, faced with executing something so clean in tone and performance was nothing short of terrifying. Our two main focuses were keeping true to the pace of the album and trying to maintain the feeling of crescendo as the album moves from Another Brick in the Wall Part 1 to Happiest Days of Our Lives. Ultimately, we decided that starting off true to the original and utilizing the ambient section of the song to take some liberties and transition into the next track was the best possible scenario. Hopefully we’ve succeeded and added something special for the listener to experience.

Does 2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

2018 is a great time to introduce this album to a new generation of listeners. Not only because of the juxtaposition of the current political climate, but because guitar-based music is coming back in a huge way. It’s my hope that people can take these adaptations and use them to expand upon more traditional approaches to songwriting in the stoner or doom genres.

Tommi Holappa / Greenleaf / Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 3 / Goodbye Cruel World

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

For me it all started with seeing the Live at Pompeii DVD. The musicianship, the sound landscapes, the songwriting, it’s just simply amazing! Since then I have bought all their albums and yes You can easily say the I have been influenced by them. On each Greenleaf album there is at least one or two songs that has a little bit of Pink Floyd influences in them, it could just be a little reverb/delay thing, a riff or just the mood of the song.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

Well we knew that we couldn’t just do ”covers” of the songs because nothing can beat the originals. So, we decided to not try to copy the songs too much and try to make them sound more like Greenleaf, a bit more bluesy and a bit more heavy.

Does 2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

Yes, it does! If you look all the stupidity that is going on in the world today it could drive any sane man crazy…

Tom and Zach / Howling Giant / Matilda Mother

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

They pioneered the idea of the concept album. While each song can stand alone, everything they wrote had a specific purpose within the album. Pink Floyd also showed us that you don’t have to fit within a certain genre, they were all about writing what they wanted, when they wanted.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering “Matilda Mother?”

It’s a weird song, and its focus on fairytales and escapism is something that appeals to us. ‘Piper at the Gates of Dawn’ is often overlooked in the Pink Floyd catalogue and we wanted to represent that era.

Does today feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

The songwriting on The Wall is definitely worth revisiting, especially with the resurgence of classic rock influence on the heavy scene.

Mark Lanegan / Nobody Home

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

As a teenager, I stole a record one day. Walking out of the store carrying it behind an empty record cover I’d brought in with me. When I heard the store clerk shouting behind me to stop, I turned a corner and out of his vision for a second, I threw it like a knife into a bank of deep snow. Not finding it, the guy let me go. Hours later I returned to retrieve my copy of ‘The Wall’ and listened to it nonstop for a long time. One of the great records of all time, I’m pleased I was able to participate in this tribute. Legally, of course.

Low Flying Hawks / The Thin Ice

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

There’s always been a connection, we’ve always been into Pink Floyd, mostly the early years, the Syd Barrett stuff, atom heart mother, more, meddle, etc. probably up until the wall. We feel the true magic obviously after Syd left (cause Syd was the magic) was the mix of Roger and David, but once Roger started to lead we thought it was too rigid to forced and the other way around when David was in the lead it got too honey-dripped, too forced to the exact opposite, so together it was a perfect balance.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

We wanted to do something very simple, stripped to the core, the opposite of the operatic circus approach roger gave the album and obviously the song.

Does 2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

We’re not political at all so we really never mix politics and music etc., we get the connection and the timing, but we feel you can always revisit an album if the bands are good and the songs are interesting.

Mars Red Sky / Comfortably Numb

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

Mat: To be honest, Pink Floyd belongs for me to the generation of my parents, they had some of their records, so it has always been familiar, and it took years to rediscover it by myself. Also, songs like “division bell” was constantly on the air in the early ’90s when I was digging Punk Rock and Grunge… One day I listened to ‘The Piper at the Gates of Dawn”, and I went crazy about what was coming out from the speakers!

Julien: My dad had ‘Dark Side of The Moon’ in his record collection, I liked that a lot. Later I got more into them through a couple of friends when I was twenty and was a bit fascinated by the whole Syd Barrett mystery. I like most of their albums a lot, with a preference for some of the earlier ones (‘A Saucerful of Secrets’ especially)

Jimmy: ‘The Piper at the Gates of Dawn’ and ‘Atom Heart Mother’ are two of my favorite albums ever…

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

Julien: We got the opportunity to pick Comfortably Numb, that was great because it’s one of our favorites. We had fantasized on covering this song for a long time, I had tried it awkwardly with a previous band. Here we put it all together fairly quickly, and we really like the way it came out. Our friend Benjamin Mandeau did a killer job at recording and mixing it.

Does 2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

Mat: Definitely there’s always a good reason to revisit such an album like that!

Dale Crover / The Melvins / In the Flesh?

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

I’ve been into the Floyd since I was in grade school, thanks to older brothers. The first record I had of theirs was “Animals.”

How did you arrive at your approach in covering “In the Flesh?”

We always put our own spin on the song we’re covering. We came up with a genius idea for this one. If I tell you it will spoil the surprise. You’re just going to have to hear it.

Does today feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

Sure, why not now? Roger Waters keeps revisiting it for his mega buck tours. They didn’t really tour that record when it came out. In the US they only played New York and LA. Here’s a fun fact: when we recorded Stoner Witch we used the same Fender Precision bass that Roger used on The Wall. I believe it belonged to Bob Ezrin, producer of the Wall.

Tony Reed / Mos Generator / Goodbye Blue Sky

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

There is no getting away from the influence of Pink Floyd. Their music has always seemed to be there and growing up in the 70s helped make them a part of the soundtrack of my youth. I have to be honest, when I first started playing music in around 1982, I was really burned out on the Pink Floyd “radio” songs and had never taken the time to explore the catalog. It wasn’t until about 15 years later that I heard the Meddle album and I was hooked on “Echoes”. Soon after, I took very little time hunting down the discography and studying it. Now they hold a very high place in my top bands.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

My usual approach at a cover is to try and replicate the song as close as I can, in performance and production. Using that technique, I come away from the project learning something about the recording and playing of the song. It makes me take an approach that I may not have chosen if I had written the song. In the end, I learn something that can possibly be applied to my own producing and writing. Not everybody agrees with this approach but it’s fun for me.

Does 2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

The Wall is a timeless piece of music. It’s a human album, that to me, speaks about a struggle that we all go through as we move through life. It doesn’t manifest itself as intensely in most people as it does in the “Pink” character, but we’ve all been “through some sh**” at one time or another. Some more than others and years of it can change a person into a different soul. It’s seriously heavy thinking for a rock ‘n’ roll album.

Justin / Open Hand / The Show Must Go On

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

What always has drawn us in to Floyd is Gilmour… his guitar playing and his voice … for those of us lucky enough to be exposed to Floyd at a young age (by our dads) you can’t help but be inspired by that band for the rest of our lives … and when you start playing guitar, Gilmour is a must study.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

We based our approach on the live version of “Show Must Go On” … it is a little longer live (extended) … they added another verse etc. … the live version of that song is better than the album version actually … so we went with that. As far as working with past Pink Floyd touring sax player Scott Page… I have known him for decades…met him when I was 13 or 14 … he was always involved in amazing bands (reo speedwagon… Supertramp…etc.) and Floyd … he gave me my first instrument … a saxophone… still have it … when it came time to record this cover … it was an obvious choice to go to the source … and even though there was never sax on the original he jumped at the chance to add some shit to it … recorded in the bathroom of my apartment…

Does today/2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

It’s a great time to revisit… having a whole new generation be turned on to Floyd via modern relevant bands that kick ass. … and Mike does an amazing job collecting those bands for these killer redux records… to be a part of two of these redux series for our favorite artists (Jimi Hendrix and pink Floyd) … so fucking cool man.

Pallbearer / Run Like Hell

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd generally or The Wall specifically?

Pink Floyd has been a major source of inspiration for us, since long before we started Pallbearer. The experimentation, the innovative production, and most importantly the great songwriting has always been a benchmark for us to strive for since we started this band

How/why did you choose “Run Like Hell,” and how did the amped-up take on it come about?

When we were approached about doing this project, we initially inquired about 3 or so tracks to see if they had already been claimed by other artists, RLH being one of them. We were excited to take on RLH because it would give us the opportunity to totally subvert the notion that we would end up doing something obvious. The song is already kind of outside of the realm of our already-Floyd-indebted style. It was different for them, so it gave us a chance to really think outside the box.

Our initial inspiration on how to approach it actually came from watching as many early live performances of it as we could find. We found that all of them were really vicious sounding, and a bit unhinged. They just felt off the rails, so we decided to just go full steam in that direction.

Does today/2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall, and why or why not?

The Wall is very much an album that explores different aspects of isolation. In 2018, our world is essentially more “connected” than ever before via technology, yet it feels like we are also becoming more and more isolated from one another as individuals. Additionally, nationalist tendencies are increasing globally at a terrifying rate. It seems like a perfect time to revisit and re-examine this classic album.

Brad / Red Mesa / Breathe

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

I started listening to Pink Floyd in high school in the mid-nineties. The first two albums I owned were on CD. ‘The Wall’ and ‘Dark Side of the Moon.’ I didn’t start paying music until after high school, so I was just a rabid fan of rock and roll, hungry to listen all the classic stuff. Both albums completely blew my mind. I spent hours in my room after school listening and reading the lyrics. I felt that Pink Floyd was the most intelligent band. Besides being phenomenal musicians, Roger Water’s lyrics spoke to me. He somehow managed to take philosophical concepts and weave them into a rock and roll band. It wasn’t just about women, drugs, and fast cars. Nothing wrong with that as subject matter, but Pink Floyd made you think about and question existence. As my younger brother and I digested The Wall and Dark Side, we discovered the rest of their albums. I fell in love with Meddle and Animals. The song “Echoes” on Meddle is my favorite psychedelic song of all time.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

We covered the song “Breathe” from Dark Side of the Moon. Picking the right song for the band was a challenge. We wanted to play to the strength of the band. Roman, our drummer texted me “How about Breathe?!” as I was looking at the guitar tab and plucking out the chords and rhythm. I thought that was a sign. I sent the band a voice memo of guitar stuff, they liked it, said we should make it heavier. We ran through it in practice and it felt great! We all love Pink Floyd so much. We felt honored to be asked to cover one of their songs. We wanted to do our very best and pay our respects.

In the studio, we played all the rhythm section ‘live’. It has a very organic feel to it. We really liked how it came out. I went back over and doubled the guitar track. For the iconic Dave Gilmour slide part, I played lap steel with a bunch of delay and reverb and heavy overdrive. We had a blast recording this one.

Matthew from Empty House Studio orchestrated us for “On the Run” the trippy instrumental song that comes in directly after “Breathe” ends. I stuck my head inside a grand piano banging away on the strings, while Roman was holding down that super cool drum part. At that point we had already polished off a bottle of Jameson, Matthew says “be careful, that piano is worth more than a house”. And I’m just banging away in there. Matthew was pushing us to get more creative and weirder. Super fun.

Does today/2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

Yes, absolutely. Politically, spiritually, and environmentally things are fucked in the US. It seems that The Wall’s concept and message is timeless. It came out in 1979. It could have been released in 2018 without altering a single word. As much as that album is brilliant, it’s sad we haven’t seemed to have evolved much in the past 40 years. However, revisiting this album will hopefully bring Pink Floyd’s message and music to a younger generation of fans.

Scott Reeder / Is There Anybody Out There?

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

When The Wall was released, it was my entry into Pink Floyd’s universe; and to this day is probably my biggest musical influence… right up there with The Beatles. My solo stuff always draws comparisons to Floyd. The damage is done deep – they were all I listened to for a long time! I feel lucky to have seen them a couple of times. Roger Waters quite a few times, too. Oddly enough, I had dinner with their final long-time bassist, Guy Pratt, and his wife few years ago at a Warwick Bass party. We were showing each other pictures of our properties and horses and had an awesome time. I didn’t realize at the time that his lady was Richard Wright’s daughter, Gala. She was very sweet.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering “Is There Anybody Out There?”

There’s not much to it… You’ve got the title question asked a few times, and then that iconic guitar run that I struggled to do some justice to. Structure-wise, that’s it. My fretting hand had developed trigger finger – my pinky and ring finger were locking closed, and after every take, it got worse, but I patched it up alright. The ambient stuff I constructed to reflect the desolate feeling out here on the ranch – I recorded guns in the distance, and our dog Rocky was scared and whimpering next to me, while his pal Harry was barking in the distance. My Chihuahua Scooter is in the mix towards the end, too – she passed shortly after this was finished – I’m so glad she’s on it! Got my 8-string bass in there for the scrapes run through a Whammy pedal to raise the tension. And it’s my first time using trombone on a track!

Does today/2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

At almost 30 years out… why not? It’s my favorite album of all time – probably the only album that I could sing all the words to! It’s an honor to be a part of this tribute to the greatest album of all time, and it’s absolutely killing me waiting to hear how the whole thing plays out!

Jillian Taylor / Ruby the Hatchet / Vera / Pigs (Three Different Ones)

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

Pink Floyd was one of the bands I was brought up on and a favorite of my father’s. I remember thinking they were really weird and scared me when I was young; especially The Wall movie which seemed to always play in the wee hours when I was sneaking TV. My mother’s side is from England and there are so many crossovers with Floyd lingo and English pride and reprimand (cue “hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way…”). When I was a teenager, and after an ugly divorce between my parents, my father gave me The Wall for my birthday. It was then that I felt like I understood their strangeness and the rebellious and political undertones. I even went through a rough year where I had to listen to The Dark Side of the Moon every single day to relate to all the beauty and pain in it.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your songs?

Everyone dove in to their respective parts. Pigs was a huge labor of love by all parties; especially Sean (keys) who recorded and engineered both tracks for us. It’s a lengthy track that we made even longer (additional apologies to Sean for having to mix down a 12-minute song dozens of times). We didn’t veer off course with Pigs much, it was fun to play it straight and make small twists with the organ, harmonies and vocals in female register. Vera was completely different as it’s a very short interlude (we managed to at least triple the length of it, of course). It came naturally to play around with Vera. I’ve always thought that song was so hauntingly pretty and used to hum an additional part I’d imagine there which we made happen in a bridge.

Does today/2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

I’d say yes, and until we reach some kind of Utopian society which doesn’t seem like it will realistically arrive; then maybe always. There’s a George Orwell quote from 1984 that always reminds me of The Wall: “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.”

Cas, Keith and Riggs / Sasquatch / Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

Riggs: PF is one band that has consistently punctuated moments in my life from the age of 8 to whatever I am now. My brothers got tickets to The Wall at Madison Square Garden when I was a wee lad. I was completely bummed that I didn’t get to go, and I have spent the rest of my song-writing life trying to rip them off.

Keith: Floyd has had a big influence in many ways on me personally and our music. I guess it might not come through so much in our songs themselves, but I think about PF when I’m incorporating dynamics and textures into the songwriting. It’s definitely played into having Unger come in and drop more Hammond and B3 on our new record, Maneuvers.

Cas: To be honest, I’m the young buck in the band. Growing up as a metal kid in the late 80s, my first exposure to PF wasn’t a direct connection, but through Voivod’s cover of Astronomy Domine. Obviously, I had heard PF hits on classic rock radio, but hadn’t paid attention until I heard this tune in 8th grade. That take on that song drove me to dive into the PF catalog and I haven’t looked back since. Waters may not be flashy, but he writes some of the most memorable bass lines out there in rock. Huge influence on how I approach the instrument.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

Riggs: Another Brick in The Wall has always been an odd song for PF. I remember kids in school singing the song to be rebellious, but the disco beat always freaked me out. We wanted to change it up in a more soulful way and lose the kid chorus and disco beat. It’s the same approach we would take if we were to cover Money.

Cas: Keith and Riggs played around with several different versions. We thought about both extremes: a) keeping it true to form or b) deconstructing it to the point where it would be completely unrecognizable. We eventually ended up slowing it down and beefing it up but kept the melodies intact. The guys were definitely adamant about pulling out the Bee Gees beat from the original. In the end, we decided pulling the drums completely out of the verses gave the choruses a much larger impact. Then Riggs tried out his best (worst?) Academy Award-winning English accent on the wrap-up. Made me crave some pudding.

Does today feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

Riggs: It’s always a good time to revisit any PF album. Just as Roger Waters is accentuating the current political aspects on his tours, it’s great to see a bunch of talented bands give it their own take.

Keith: I think anytime you can cobble together such a great list of bands like the roster here, why not do it?

Cas: Given the current climate, there’s no better time than the present.

Dan / Sergeant Thunderhoof / The Happiest Days of Our Lives / Time

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

They were a mainstay in my household as a child. Those songs are so solidly imprinted within me that they’ve almost taken on another dimension. Floyd have a sound of their own that is pretty hard to pigeonhole and I guess we try to emulate that philosophy.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

“Happiest Days of our Lives” was a fun song for us to do, I even got to mimic the teacher’s voice at the beginning which was cool. We wanted to add a little bit of our theatricality to it which was quite hard given how short the song is, but we’re happy with what we did. Essentially the song acts as prelude to probably the most notable song on the album so our job was to set that up in the best way possible.

As for “Time,” this was really just a song that we all love. When it came to messing around with it, we found that by trying to make it more ‘hoof’ it simply sounded trite and a bit ‘try-hard.’ In the end after trying out different ideas, we pretty much just played it straight. In a way, this was us not trying to emulate Floyd but instead showing some respect to the song and humbly admitting that we can’t do any better that the original!

Does today/2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

I guess it depends on what it is you think The Wall is. For me the album represented a rejection of indoctrination, whether that be the education system, political structures or financial institutions. What we’ve seen over the last few years is a complete breakdown of social interaction. There is such a divide between what we perceive to be the two sides of the argument. For me, The Wall represents a mental prison, not a physical one. Some people are so quick to assume the worst in everyone and everything, it would be nice to get back to a place where we can all respectfully disagree with each other but still enjoy a beer and a good riff without fighting!

The Slim Kings / Young Lust

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

They are musically up there with the best. One of the bands to be studied in their song writing, production. They set up a mood that is undeniably Pink Floyd. Great teenager headphone music.

How did you arrive at your approach to your song?

So, there is no pressure to compete and make it sound like an original hit that people are used to – but we tried to cop most of the tricky licks so nobody would call us out. We recorded it live to tape quickly. Kacie Marie is a burlesque influenced singer and Instagram star who was hanging in the studio that day. She was the perfect woman to sing those background vocals.

Does 2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

There is never a bad time to listen to the wall. Particularly when you are on this side of it! Joking aside, the country is in a cold civil war right now, so anything ever written about people being divided and conquered is relevant.

Tommy Southard / Solace / In the Flesh

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

They’re an iconic band that influenced me as a young kid long before I even picked up a guitar. It helps when your cool uncle lives with you and has a copy of Ummagumma and it blows your mind in 2nd grade.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering In the Flesh?

Plug in and play like ourselves, hope for the best! I think we put our take on a classic tune from a masterpiece of an album. Tried to do it justice while still sounding like Solace.

Does today feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

Any day of any year is a good time to revisit any of the classic Floyd albums!

Somnuri / Sheep

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

We all have an appreciation for Pink Floyd but if you asked us individually, our favorite albums would probably vary. As a whole, there’s no denying Pink Floyd’s sound and aesthetic as being an influence on us as musicians and artists.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering “Sheep?”

This project was interesting because there weren’t many songs left to choose from and given the timeframe to complete it, ‘Sheep’ was a very ambitious choice. As much as we tried to make it our own, we felt we had to honor the original song as much as possible. Ultimately, recreating the vibe and atmosphere was the most intensive part of the process. We feel proud of the way we conveyed the song and took it above and beyond what we expected.

Does today/2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

Absolutely. With our current political and societal climate, the stories and concepts from the album seem as relevant as ever. One of the things that makes an album iconic is the sense of timelessness, and The Wall certainly has that feel, at least topically.

Bartosz Janik / Spaceslug

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

It’s very personal music for me. A lot of good and bad memories. Floyds were with me in hard times and help me stand on the ground. Love this band and David Gilmour is in fact a big inspiration for my guitar playing.

How did you arrive at your approach to your song?

We managed to make our version of it and reverse the structure. The original has more doodling and ambient sound and this massive guitars on the end. We managed to make it little different and change that to have less ambient and more guitars and factures.

Does today feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

It’s always good! My dream is to be on Dark Side of The Moon Redux in some future! Hope this will happen! Also, that kind of initiative will keep good vibe that Floyds deliver years ago. Great band and this was really an honor to be part of this re-edition!

AJ / Summoner / Hey You

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

I think our connection to Floyd is similar or the same to everyone else who plays this style of music. We’ve all been exposed to Pink Floyd our whole lives. I personally can say that it started with my parents listening to them when I was a kid. Followed by me taking that torch and running with it. Learning their discography as a teenager and striving to emulate them in the music I still write today. Summoner takes a lot from PF musically. When we get into our more ambient/atmospheric writing Floyd is always in the front of our minds. Not only do we draw from them musically, we are also influenced by their production style and studio magic.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering “Hey You?”

If I remember correctly, when we were asked to be a part of this we all agreed unanimously that “Hey You” should be our tune. You always have to be careful when covering a band like Pink Floyd. Everything they did was done right. You can’t expect to make one of their songs “better” you can only take what they have done and expand upon it and make it your own. We kept it tight to the template on our version because it was already so damn good. What we thought we could add was our style and texture to the tune and I think we did that well.

Does today/2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

It’s as good a time as any. As I said previously, it’s always a risky venture to cover such an iconic band/album. Those songs are engrained in everyone’s mind and to switch that up almost seems like a losing battle. But done right it can be pulled off and I think MER has done just that with the bands they have chosen to do this project. We were just so happy to be a part of it. I guess the timing is kind of right since (I think) we are coming up on the 40th anniversary of the release.

Carter / Sunflo’er / Bring the Boys Back Home

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

The riff in seven at the beginning of “Money” is a legendary use of odd meter. There’s so few solid examples of it in mainstream radio and making the realization as a youth leads to asking other questions about rhythm and where it comes from.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering “Bring the Boys Back Home?”

The original recording features a full marching band and choir, which we weren’t going to compete with, so the obvious choice for the cover was playing as minimally as possible. We wrote a chord melody for the guitar, reduced drum hits to only the most necessary, Ethan played saxophone and nailed it. Bohren & Der Club of Gore vibes were sought and achieved.

Does 2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

For all the obvious geopolitical reasons: yes.

Patrick / T-Tops / Nile Song

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

The Wall was my first introduction to Pink Floyd. When I first dug into the album 20+ years ago, the thing that struck me most was the overt loneliness & desolation at the heart of the record. This theme runs throughout much of their music, but obviously this is especially true with The Wall. What separates it from other Floyd records for me, is how it’s just a really solid, well-focused rock album (rock opera?) about brutal isolation & loss. These two themes are universally identifiable.

Though this album was inspired by WWII & the horrendous grief and loss it caused, I identify most with the songs about fractured relationships & the war & desolation that exists inside the narrator’s mind. Lyrically, my favorite songs on The Wall are “One of My Turns” which explores the madness & absurdity someone can exhibit to a loved one. First “love turns gray” then the narrator admits to being bored out of his skull and just going through the motions until he snaps into a manic scatterbrained episode of violence and destruction, scaring the hell out of the other person & then asks, “why are you running away?” Brilliantly followed by the backhanded apologetic begging of “Don’t Leave Me Now” where he reminds his partner about the “flowers I sent” & goes on to plead with them that he needs them (if only to “beat to a pulp” or “put through a shredder”) while simultaneously begging them not to leave.

How did you arrive at your approach to your song?

The Nile Song is possibly the most “straightforward” rock song in Pink Floyd’s catalog which is what drew me to it. The simplistic musical pattern and yelled/half screamed lyrics make it stand out from other Floyd songs and made it an easy choice for a cover. I was surprised no one else snagged this one before we were given the chance to. Of course, I’m aware of The Melvins covering this song in the early ’90s. Not that we (or anyone) could ever sound like the Melvins, but we kind of took a similar approach to covering it in just playing it basically the same as Pink Floyd just with louder more distorted guitars.

Does today/2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

It’s never a bad time to revisit a classic.

Taylor / WhiteNails / Waiting for the Worms

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

Pink Floyd is one of the quintessential musician’s bands. Their level of creativity and pushing boundaries has always been an inspiration to us. David Gilmour is one of our all-time favorite guitarists and there aren’t many musicians who have the taste and flair that he does. As well as one of the greatest guitar tones of all time!!!

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

Covering “Waiting for the Worms” was sort of a trial and error process. We wanted to add our own touch but really didn’t want to stray too far from the original work. We ended up changing the verses musically and tried to stray somewhat true to the vocal melody. We generally beefed up most of the guitar work and allowed Darcy to really sing on the track.

Does today/2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

Releasing an album like the Wall again seems entirely appropriate in the political and social climate we find ourselves in today. Pushing against the powers that be has never run out of fashion and it stands equally as true today.

Worshipper / One of My Turns

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

ALEJANDRO: I don’t recall a time when Pink Floyd wasn’t a part of my awareness. My father was an avid music fan and record collector, so Floyd was often on the record player when I was young. “The Wall” was one of the first gatefold records I held as a kid. The towering butt overlord was mesmerizing. As a musician, my appreciation for the band goes in cycles. There was a time in my 20s when I couldn’t get away from The Wall or Dark Side because they were everywhere. Friends couldn’t wait to gift me a copy of “The Wall” the movie on VHS or DVD which is difficult because, let’s face it, it’s a dark movie. Who has the emotional fortitude to watch this Pink guy slice his eyebrows off? It’s tough. But, at some point a revisit of The Final Cut or Relics b-sides or Echoes or Shine on or Animals sends me back into another Floyd-obsession phase. For some reason I never got around to seeing the Pompeii stuff until recently, when we started writing our current record, so I climbed into that rabbit hole for a bit. The connection, for me, is the fearlessness in songwriting and the immense power four guys can make together and all the inventiveness that goes along with that. I think if you’re going to be in a band you need to see what Floyd was all about. They invented a lot of what you need to make it work. If you don’t you’re just being an asshole to yourself and your bandmates.

JB: It’s funny, my dad is a GIGANTIC Floyd fan and that is probably the #1 reason. He had all the records and a bunch of bootlegs (which he has since passed along to me) and while he would play them around the house while I stared in amazement at the back cover of Ummagumma, he never forced them on me or anything. It wasn’t until I borrowed his van in college and found a tape of a bootleg from ‘72 under the seat that it really sealed the deal for me. We had Live at Pompeii on Laser Disc and everything, but it wasn’t until I discovered what I liked about them on my own terms that it all clicked for me in a personal way. I tend to gravitate toward the early stuff like Obscured by Clouds, MORE, Relics, and Meddle, but I love it all. But, to answer your question more concisely, they have basically been a part of my life for as long as I can remember and a huge part of my relationship with my dad.

I think all of us are into Floyd in different ways, which is cool, as well. Like, Jarvis is a maniac about the Wall, but not much appreciation for the Syd stuff, while I am sort of the opposite. I like all of that ridiculous British 60s acid-damaged tea and crumpets stuff.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering “One of My Turns?”

ALEJANDRO: It was a different type of song for us. We do covers all the time but this one was a challenge since it’s kind of two songs in one. The front half is a bit of a theatrical vignette, so we debated if we should stick to the actual narrative from the record, where we use the dialogue of Pink’s guest in his room while he’s watching “The Dam Busters” on TV. In the end we ditched the groupie and focused on the significance of what a protagonist in “The Wall” in 2018 might be watching which, in our version, is the scene from “All the President’s Men” where Robert Redford gets the “follow the money” speech from Deep Throat. Seems an appropriate commentary right now. On top of that, there was the opportunity to record and build a section based on John’s synth and keys treatment which we did separately from the second, more-straightforward half of the song.

JB: I had to really dissect this one, personally, to get to the bones of it and figure out what was going on. With such a grand production, it was a little tricky to pick apart. Al said that he was working on the strategy for the front half, and I kind of took the lead with the back half, doing a demo at home and trying to figure out how to put our stamp on it and how to approach the vocals without trying to imitate Roger’s utterly unhinged performance. I basically had to reharmonize the vocal melody a little (ok, a lot) to make it work with my range and demeanor. And then the front half was really our first attempt at creating something from scratch in the studio (not working from playing live.) I’m really into synths, so I had fun doing the pads in the intro and making more of a “headphone experience” … Al had a map of the chord structure of the intro, so he kind of yelled out chords and we built it up piece by piece until the vibe was right. I really wasn’t sure I would be able to pull off such an intimate vocal like Roger does, but, I’m happy with how that came out. It should be noted that Chris Johnson did an amazing job recording and producing it. Especially since we had to kind of graft the front half onto the back half, but he made it work!

Does today feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

ALEJANDRO: It does. There’s never a bad time to revisit “The Wall,” but today seems a particularly good time. The Wall as Roger Waters conceived it was metaphorical, right? A dude with dad-issues and a lifetime of intimacy problems? Now the idea of “a wall” is an analogue for the ideologies of greed, division, nationalism, fear that, in America, play out constantly on social media, tv, newspapers, it’s everywhere. Working with MER to add a voice to a commentary about it and celebrate the music and message of Pink Floyd? Sounds right. Sign us up. This is one of the reasons we play in a band. It’s a shitshow out there and it’s time to get dressed and show up to the party. America is pretty happening party, but insane assholes are soiling the punch and passing out bad drugs, and the DJ is a punishing monster right now. I’m glad I got a band that wants to kick down the door, squeeze off a few rounds on the fire extinguisher, and put some Floyd on the stereo ‘cause whatever’s on at the moment has got to stop.

JB: Did you see Roger Waters on that last tour? If anything, this is a PERFECT time to revisit this album. All of his lyrics can be interpreted as being completely current in today’s political climate. Maybe the Animals record more than this one, but wow, he really created some timeless lyrics that make sense in pretty much any era. Until everybody gets along, I think Roger’s lyrics will always resonate. This has also been great for me, personally, because The Wall was never really “my Floyd album” so it gave me a reason to really dig into it again and learn to really appreciate it. Not that I didn’t appreciate it, I just always found it to be a little on the “emotionally draining” side. Now, I don’t see it that way anymore, so thanks for helping me with that!

Gary Arce / Yawning Man / Outside the Wall / Mudmen

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

To be honest we grew up with punk rock and we were very young when we started doing music, not caring much for references. As for Pink Floyd I can see how we share a similar approach to guitar sounds and spatiality, as well as riffs and tempo with some of their songs. It’s that they started with blues and you can hear rock is a part of us. I think some members of Pink Floyd also kind of grew up together as we did. Playing in the desert with our mates, most of them are luckily still around doing their thing, that’s what pushed us.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

Our approach is usually very instinctive. We love jamming and see what we come up with. That’s how we did the covers, too. We‘re not like wracking our brains too much before we start, that’s not how we play. We just start and the music keeps flowing. It was fun and lots of Mexican food kept us going.

Does today feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

The Wall made the history of music. Many have been if you want it or not (consciously or unconsciously) influenced by it. On tour I talk to many fans after concerts or they come up and talk to me. They know a lot about music and love to establish connections between their idols and the younger bands. Psych sounds are having a huge revival in Europe, the US and Canada. We see that when we play live and most of the shows are sold out. So I guess it’s a good moment to revisit The Wall and see what it’s got to tell us now.

Amy Tung / Year of the Cobra / When the Tigers Broke Free / Have a Cigar

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

The funny thing about Pink Floyd is that they’re not one of my favorite bands, but they’re certainly one of the most influential bands in my life. If I think about the time in my life where music influenced me the most, like as a preteen or a teenager, they’re certainly one of the top 5. They’re one of those bands that, at some point in your life, you have to dive into, head first, and in doing so, you become a more fulfilled human being. It obviously doesn’t apply to everyone, but to most of the people that I relate to, it does. It is impossible to not have the utmost respect for them and never in my life did I imagine I would be asked to cover any of their music. I never thought I would be able to, but to have the opportunity to do so was outrageously challenging and exciting. I don’t expect anyone to find our take on their music better than what already existed. I just hope people find it interesting and inventive and I hope it opens their minds to something different and new.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

My approach to covering any song is to find a way to change it. I feel like you can never make a song exactly like the original because it will never sound better than it already does. The only option you have is to change it. My goal is to find a way to keep the essence of the song intact but insert a little bit of me in it. Covering the songs “Have a Cigar” and “When the Tigers Broke Free” as Year of the Cobra was certainly limiting, seeing that we’re only a drum and bass duo, but it was also fun trying to find a way to do justice to the music, while also doing justice to us as a band. In the studio, we added some more instrumentation (I.e. keyboards), but I feel like it’s still something we could play (and maybe… hopefully… will play) live, one day.

Does today feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

The Wall will always be an album to revisit; today, tomorrow, in the future. It’s timeless. There are no contemporary bands that even come close to writing an album of epic proportions like The Wall and there are too many kids that have grown up listening to the formulaic music that is spewed out on modern radio these days, it’s depressing to think what their lives would be like if they weren’t introduced to albums like The Wall. It is imperative that we keep these albums alive in any way we can, so they are never forgotten. Finding bands to cover them, breathe new life into them, is such an exciting way to keep them alive, to keep us talking about them. I hope in 10 years, more bands are covering this album and keeping it alive for more generations to come.

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Six Dumb Questions with Somnuri

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on January 31st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

somnuri

You really wanna know what took me so long to come around to Somnuri‘s Somnuri (review here)? Why I wasn’t immediately on the Brooklyn trio’s Magnetic Eye self-titled debut the way I should’ve been? Is the suspense killing you?

Probably not, but the truth is I knew that when it came to Somnuri, a three-piece featuring guitarist/vocalist Justin Sherrell (Blackout, ex-Bezoar, etc.), bassist Drew Mack (ex-Hull) and drummer Phil SanGiacomo (Family), there was just about no way I wasn’t going to dig the album. Then it was just going to be one more CD that I really wanted that I couldn’t really afford to shell out for, and that would only lead to frustration and ultimately I didn’t immediately give the digital promo the time of day it very much deserved because, well, it was going to kick ass. And you know what? It did.

Released in Sept. 2017, Somnuri‘s Somnuri builds outward atmospherically from the traditions of intensity that permeate New York’s particular brand of noise rock. One can hear shades of modern progressive metal noodling in Sherrell‘s guitar — I don’t know this for a fact, but he strikes as the kind of guy who can pick up just about any instrument in front of him and wail on it — and the accompanying turns in Mack‘s bass and SanGiacomo‘s drumming. The proceedings are furious and contemplative in kind, a thoughtful onslaught that runs about 40 minutes and yeah, makes me want to pick up the CD as soon as possible.

Because, by the way, I still buy CDs. Maybe you’ve got room for all your vinyl in that mansion of yours, but I’m working with what I’ve got here.

Somnuri, who could’ve easily blown my ass off and been like, “yeah buddy, you’re way late on our record and you suck therefore bite it,” were kind enough to tackle the following short interview to give some background on how the songs and the album came together, and where they might be headed from here.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

somnuri somnuri

Six Dumb Questions with Somnuri

Tell me about Somnuri getting together. How did the band form and how did the sound start to take shape? Was there a concept behind the sound before you got started?

Phil SanGiacomo: We all knew each other from playing in local bands and it was probably bound to happen. Justin had a longtime project he wanted to bring to life and asked me to try some drum grooves over his ideas. We’re both natural drummers that play guitar, so the dynamic was great. I was really into the rawness and rhythmic intensity of the riffs and tried to emulate them as best I could on drums. Drew came in to play second guitar but I think we all quickly realized that the low end was priority. Being an adaptive and versatile player, Drew filled this role perfectly and added more texture. We all agreed that we liked the rigidness of the power trio and we were on our way. We’ve never really discussed any defining concepts, but those things do develop naturally over time. Nothing is off the table with Somnuri and in many ways, the sound has shaped itself.

What was the songwriting process like for the self-titled? How long did it take for the album to come together and how much did everyone contribute to the tracks?

Justin Sherrell: I had been writing riffs knowing that they wouldn’t necessarily fit with bands I was in at the time and kind of putting them in the vault. At some point, the vault started to get to full, so when Drew and Phil came in the mix there was maybe three or four pretty complete tunes with skeletons of a few more. It was a little difficult at first, being able to take criticism on things that I never intended for anybody to hear. It didn’t take long to settle into our perspective roles and really push and pull each other to get new, fresh takes on ideas that were kind of just sitting around. All in all, it took about two years to write and record this album. At the end of recording, we ended up with more material than could fit on a record, which we plan on using for a split or an EP. Or fuck it, maybe just give it away.

How was your time in the studio with Jeff Berner? He did the guitars and drums, but who did the bass and vocals? How long were you in the studio altogether and what was the vibe like as the album started to take shape?

Drew Mack: Recording in Studio G with Jeff Berner was like meeting some lost lover in a newly built version of your favorite bar. We all immediately became good pals and Jeff really didn’t seem to mind how much nerding out we did over all of Studio G‘s extensive gear selection. We were however on somewhat of a time crunch/budget so the idea was to mainly just get drums in an awesome room and do most of everything else in our practice space. As it turned out, not only did we settle into the process so easily and quickly, we also have a complete beast of a drummer who does everything in one take with no clicks, no flubs, no prisoners. So we just kept moving right along and decided to track some of the guitars there as well! I think we basically had a total of three whole days in Studio G and then moved on to our practice space where we could spend as much time as we wanted capturing more guitar, bass, and all the vocal layers. Having Phil mix the record gave us a lot of freedom to experiment and get the right takes. Most importantly, we feel we captured our sound well.

Talk about the cover art. The piece by Miriam Corothers is striking and gives the album a very progressive look. Where did it come from and how was it chosen to represent the record? What is the significance of its use to the band?

PS: We loved Miriam’s enthusiasm about the music and ultimately trusted her vision, which was a sort of collage of different shapes, each containing juxtaposed elements of nature. The result was a dreamscape like image. I think it’s a great visual representation of how fluid our sound can be, but still bold and unforgiving.

You guys cast a pretty broad sound throughout these tracks. Can you give me any idea where Somnuri might head from here in terms of sonic direction? Is there anything in particular you want to try next time around coming off of this record?

DM: I personally find it extremely exciting to cast a large sonic shadow over all the silly, albeit usefully coined genres in heavy music today. I think all three of us listen to an extensive range of music styles and personally, I find it more difficult in these sonically saturated times to remain excited throughout an entire album. My only hope in moving forward is that we continue to explore ways to stay excited and proud of the music we create, and, for me, that usually means we have to try to remain DIFFERENT.

Any plans or closing words you want to mention?

JS: Our plans at this point are to keep writing new tunes and keep it fresh! We‘re gonna start hitting the road more and playing out of NYC. Right now, starting with East Coast runs and then putting together some more extensive tours. We’re excited to meet new bands and potential fans alike.

Somnuri, Somnuri (2017)

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Quarterly Review: Iron Monkey, Deadsmoke, Somnuri, Daira, Kavrila, Ivan, Clara Engel, Alastor, Deadly Vipers, Storm of Void

Posted in Reviews on January 11th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Lodewijk de Vadder (1605-1655) - 17th Century Etching, Landscape with Two Farms

Day Four of the Quarterly Review! Welcome to the downswing. We’re past the halfway point and feeling continually groovy. Thus far it’s been a week of coffee and a vast musical swath that today only reaches even further out from the core notion of what may or may not make a release or a band “heavy.” Is it sound? Is it emotion? Is it concept? Fact is there’s no reason it can’t be all of those things and a ton more, so keep an open mind as you make your way through today’s batch and we’ll all come out of it better people on the other end. Alright? Alright. Here we go.

Quarterly Review #31-40:

Iron Monkey, 9-13

iron monkey 9-13

I’ll admit to some level of skepticism at the prospect of an Iron Monkey reunion without frontman Johnny Morrow, who died in 2002, but as founding guitarist Jim Rushby (now also vocals), bassist Steve Watson (who originally played guitar) and new drummer Brigga revive the influential UK sludge outfit with the nine songs of 9-13 on Relapse, it somehow makes sense that the band’s fuckall and irreverence would extend inward as well. That is, why should Iron Monkey find Iron Monkey an any more sacred and untouchable property than they find anything else? Ultimately, the decision will be up to the listener as to acceptance, but the furies of “OmegaMangler,” “Mortarhex,” “Doomsday Impulse Multiplier” and the nine-minute lumber-into-torrent closer “Moreland St. Hammervortex” make a pretty resounding argument that if you can’t get down with Iron Monkey as they are today, it’s going to be your loss and that, as ever, they couldn’t care less to see you stick around or see you go. So welcome back.

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Relapse Records on Bandcamp

 

Deadsmoke, Mountain Legacy

deadsmoke mountain legacy

Mountain Legacy, which is the second Deadsmoke album for Heavy Psych Sounds, might be the heaviest release the label has put out to-date. For the band, it marks the arrival of keyboardist Claudio Rocchetti to the former trio, and from the lumbering space of aptly-titled post-intro opener “Endless Cave” to the later creeping lurch of “Wolfcurse,” it’s an outing worthy of comparison to the earlier work of Italian countrymen Ufomammut, but still rooted in the gritty, post-Sleep plod the band elicited on their 2016 self-titled debut (review here). The central difference seems to be an increase in atmospheric focus, which does well to enrich the listening experience overall, be it in the creepy penultimate interlude “Forest of the Damned” or side A finale “Emperor of Shame.” Whether this progression was driven by Rocchetti’s inclusion in the band or the other way around, it’s a marked showing of growth on a quick turnaround from Deadsmoke and shows them as having a much broader creative reach than expected. All the better because it’s still so devastatingly weighted.

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Somnuri, Somnuri

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To call Somnuri a formidable trio is underselling it. The Brooklynite three-piece is comprised of guitarist/vocalist Justin Sherrell (Blackout, ex-Bezoar, etc.), bassist Drew Mack (ex-Hull) and drummer Phil SanGiacomo (Family), and the noise they make on their Magnetic Eye-released self-titled debut is as progressive as it is intense. Recorded by Jeff Berner and mixed my SanGiacomo, cuts like “Kaizen” and “Same Skies” land with a doomed heft but move with the singular fury of the Northeastern US, and even as eight-minute closer “Through the Dead” balances more rock-minded impulses and seems to touch on a Soundgarden influence, it answers for the ultra-aggro tumult of “Pulling Teeth” just before. A flash of ambience in the drone interlude “Opaque” follows the plodding highlight “Slow Burn,” which speaks to yet another side of Somnuri’s potential – to create spaces as much as to crush them. With an interplay of cleaner vocals, screams, growls and shouts, there’s enough variety to throw off expectation, and where so much of New York’s noise-metal history is about angry single-mindedness, Somnuri’s Somnuri shows even in a vicious moment like “Inhabitant” that there’s more ground to cover than just being really, really, really pissed off.

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Magnetic Eye Records website

 

Daira, Vipreet Buddhi

daira vipreet buddhi

Time to get weird. No. Really weird. In the end, I’m not sure Mumbai semi-improvisationalist troupe Daira did themselves any favors by making their sophomore LP, Vipreet Buddhi, a single 93-minute/16-track outing instead of breaking it into the two halves over which its course is presented – the first being eight distinct songs, the second a flowing single jam broken up over multiple parts – but one way or another, it’s an album that genuinely presents a vibe of its own, taking cues from heavy psych, jazz, funk, classic prog, folk and more as it plays through its bizarre and ambient flow, toying with jarring stretches along the way like the eerie “Apna Ullu Seedha” but so dug in by the time it’s jammed its way into “Dekho Laal Gaya” that it seems like there’s no getting out. It’s an overwhelming and unmanageable offering, but whoever said the avant garde wasn’t supposed to be a challenge? Certainly not Daira, and they clearly have plenty to say. Whatever else you listen to today, I can safely guarantee it won’t sound like this. And that’s probably true of every day.

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Kavrila, Blight

kavrila blight

Chest-compressing groove and drive will no doubt earn Hamburg four-piece Kavrila’s second album, Blight (on Backbite Records), some comparisons to Mantar, but to dig into tracks like “Gold” and “Each (Part Two)” is to find a surprising measure of atmospheric focus, and even a rage-roller like “Abandon” has a depth to its mix. Though it’s just 24 minutes long, I’d still consider Blight a full-length for the two-sided flow it sets up leading to the aforementioned “Gold” and “Each (Part Two),” both being the longest cut on their respective half of the record in addition to splitting the tracklisting, as well as for the grinding aspects of songs like “Apocalypse,” “Demolish” and “Golem” on side B, the latter of which takes the rhythmic churn of Godflesh to a point of extremity that even the earlier thrust of “Lungs” did little to foretell. There’s a balance of sludge and hardcore elements, to be sure, but it’s the anger that ultimately defines Blight, however coherent it might be (and is) in its violent intent.

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Backbite Records webstore

 

Ivan, Strewn Across Stars

ivan strewn across stars

Employing the session violin services of Jess Randall, the Melbourne-based two-piece of Brodric Wellington (drums/vocals) and Joseph Pap (guitar, bass, keys) – collectively known as Ivan – would seem to be drawing a specific line in the direction of My Dying Bride with their take on death-doom, but the emotionalist influence goes deeper than that on Strewn Across Stars, their second LP. Shades of Skepticism show themselves in opener and longest track (immediate points) “Cosmic Fear,” which demonstrates a raw production ready for the limited-cassette obscurism the band conjured for their 2016 debut, Aeons Collapse, but nonetheless fleshed out melodically in the guitar and already-noted, deeply prevalent string arrangement. The subsequent “Ethereal” (12:41), “Hidden Dimensions” (12:25) and “Outro” (8:18) dig even further into plodding shattered-self woefulness, with “Hidden Dimensions” providing a brief moment of tempo release before the violin and keys take complete hold in “Outro” to give listeners one last chance to bask in resonant melancholia. A genre-piece, to be sure, but able to stand on its own in terms of personality and patience alike.

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Clara Engel, Songs for Leonora Carrington

clara-engel-songs-for-leona-carrington

Toronto singer-songwriter Clara Engel pays ambient folk homage to the Mexican surrealist painter/author with the five-tracks of Songs for Leonara Carrington, fleshing out creative and depth-filled arrangements that nonetheless hold fast to the intimate human core beneath. Engel’s voice is of singular character in its melding of gruff fragility, and whether it’s the psychedelic hypnosis of opener and longest track (immediate points) “Birdheaded Queen” or the seemingly minimalist drift of the penultimate “The Ancestor,” her confident melodies float atop gorgeous and sad instrumental progressions that cast an atmosphere of vast reaches. Even the more percussively active centerpiece “Microgods of all the Subatomic Worlds” feels informed by the gradual wash of guitar melody that takes hold on the prior “Sanctuary for Furies,” and as Engel brings in guest contributors for drums, bass, guitar, theremin and choir vocals alongside her own guitar, pump organ, flute and singing, there seems to be little out of her reach or scope. It is a joy to get lost within it.

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Wist Records website

 

Alastor, Blood on Satan’s Claw

alastor-blood-on-satans-claw

I don’t know whether the title-cut of Blood on Satan’s Claw, the new two-songer EP from dirge-doomers Alastor, is leftover from the same sessions that bore their 2017 debut album for Twin Earth Records, Black Magic (review here), but as it’s keeping company with a near-11-minute take on Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising,” the four-piece’s return is welcome either way. Unsurprisingly, not much has changed in their approach in the mere months since the full-length was issued, but that doesn’t mean the swing of “Blood on Satan’s Claw,” the central riff of which owes as much to Windhand as to Sleep as to C.O.C.‘s “Albatross” as to Sabbath, isn’t worth digging into all the same, and with psychedelic vocals reminiscent of newer Monolord and flourish of creeper-style organ, its doom resounds on multiple levels leading into the aforementioned cover, which drawls out the classic original arrangement with a wilfully wretched tack that well earns a nod and raised claw. Alastor remain backpatch-ready, seemingly just waiting for listeners to catch on. If these tracks are any indication, they’ll get there.

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Deadly Vipers, Fueltronaut

deadly-vipers-fueltronaut

Give it a couple minutes to get going and Fueltronaut, the debut full-length from French four-piece Deadly Vipers, is more than happy to serve up energetic post-Kyuss desert rock loyalism that’s true to form in both spirit and production. Shades of earliest Dozer and the wider pre-social media older-school Euro heavy underground show themselves quickly in “Universe,” but in the later mid-paced reach of “Stalker,” there’s more modern bluesy vibing and as the mega-fuzzed “Meteor Valley,” the driving jam of “Supernova,” and the let’s-push-the-vocals-really-high-in-the-mix-for-some-reason “Dead Summer” shove the listener onward with righteous momentum toward pre-outro closer “River of Souls,” each track getting longer as it goes, the melody that emerges there indeed feels like a moment of arrival. My only real complaint? The intro “Fuel Prophecy” and (hidden) outro, “Watch the Road End.” Especially with the immediacy that strikes when “Universe” kicks in and the resonant finish of “River of Souls” at its six-minute mark, having anything before the one and after the other seems superfluous. A minor quibble on an impressive debut (one could also ramble about cartoon tits on the cover, but what’s the point?) and showcase of potential from an exciting newcomer outfit clearly assured of the style for which they’re aiming.

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Storm of Void, War Inside You

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Tokyo duo Storm of Void make their full-length debut with the nine-track/48-minute War Inside You, a full-length that might first snag attention owing to guest vocal spots from Napalm Death’s Mark “Barney” Greenway and Jawbox’s J. Robbins, but has no trouble holding that same attention with its progressive instrumental turns and taut execution. Released by Hostess Entertainment, it’s instrumental in bulk, with eight-string guitarist George Bodman (Bluebeard) and drummer Dairoku Seki (envy) coming together to deliver brisk and aggressive prog metal centered around chugging riffs and a tension that seems to take hold in “Into the Circle” and let up only for the momentary “Interlude” in the midsection before closer “Ghosts of Mt. Sleepwalker” finally allows for some exhalation. As for the guest spots, they’re nothing to complain about, and they break up the proceedings nicely placed as they are, but if Storm of Void are going to hook you, it’s going to be on their own merits, which are plentiful.

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Hostess Entertainment website

 

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