The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal Playlist: Episode 61

Posted in Radio on June 11th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

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Stuff that’s been on my mind lately or came in recently and caught my fancy. Nothing really too tricky to how this one came together. Heavy Temple and All Souls are the two most recent interviews I’ve done, and the King Buffalo and Moon Coven and Vokonis and Whims of the Great Magnet are also things I’ve covered lately. Ditto Cavern Deep. Electric Moon I bought a shirt from the other day — they’re putting together a new comp of their studio work — and the Somnuri record continues to demolish.

Déhà and Seputus and Gateway are killer and more extreme, Slomatics are recording, the Wooden Veins record is out on The Vinyl Division and was a record I wanted to give more attention to, and yeah, as far as motivation goes, this is basically what’s been circling around in my head for the last two weeks. More than that in some cases.

Without waxing poetic, I guess that’s kind of the point of the show. Hear new music, share new music. It’s not the most ambitious goal I’ve undertaken, but not to put too fine a point on it, it is essentially the rule by which I govern everything I do here. Next episode has more of a united theme (I already turned the playlist in; look at me being ahead of the game for once), but I think this flows well just the same.

Thanks for listening and/or reading. I hope you enjoy.

The Obelisk Show airs 5PM Eastern today on the Gimme app or at http://gimmemetal.com

Full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 06.11.21

Moon Coven Bahgsu Nag Slumber Wood
The Whims of the Great Magnet Share My Sun Share My Sun
Vokonis Through the Depths Odyssey
VT
King Buffalo The Knocks The Burden of Restlessness
Slomatics Proto Hag Split with Ungraven
Seputus The Learned Response Phantom Indigo
Déhà Blackness in May Cruel Words
Gateway Slumbering Crevasses Flesh Reborn
VT
Acid Magus Wyrd Syster Wyrd Syster
Heavy Temple A Desert Through the Trees Lupi Amoris
All Souls You Just Can’t Win Songs for the End of the World
Somnuri In the Grey Nefarious Wave
Wooden Veins Thin Shades In Finitude
Cavern Deep Waterways Cavern Deep
VT
Electric Moon The Doomsday Machine The Doomsday Machine

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal airs every Friday 5PM Eastern, with replays Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next new episode is June 25 (subject to change). Thanks for listening if you do.

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Review & Full Album Premiere: Somnuri, Nefarious Wave

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on June 2nd, 2021 by JJ Koczan

somnuri nefarious wave

[Click play above to stream Somnuri’s Nefarious Wave in its entirety. Album is out Friday on Blues Funeral Recordings.]

The dive into pummeling intensity isn’t quite immediate on http://www.bosolarcar.de/?custom-admission-essay-for-college for me today! From scratch and in less than a couple of hours, our professional homework writers will do your task to score 85% or more. Somnuri‘s Uk Dissertation Writers is a great solution to avoid writing a research papers. And our writing service is the best from others, due to team of Nefarious Wave. They give it about three seconds. And though the Brooklynite trio will showcase a number of different looks on their second album and There are many companies that are willing to provide great post to read service, but, they are not cheap at all. Such writing companies charge you a lot; which might be more than your expected budget. Here at our platform, you will surely get the prices as per your pocket. If in any case, the prices do not suit you, then we will make prices feasible and cheap for you so that you can Blues Funeral Recordings debut — their first LP, 2017’s self-titled (review here, also discussed here), came out through Admission to Mary Baldwin University Forums Arts cheap Complete Masters Thesis websites for masters This topic contains 0 replies, has 1 voice, and was last updated by Davinpact 2 years, 6 months ago. Viewing 1 post (of 1 total) Author Posts February 23, 2018 at 2:19 am #197944 Reply Davinpact Edgardo Ball [] Magnetic Eye, and they’ve since taken part in that label’s ‘Redux’ series twice, on tribute releases for Just send us your "http://typo3.ohrdruf.de/?essay-about-why-i-didnt-do-my-homework for me" request, and you'll get a comprehensive essay in a couple of hours. Our writers conduct profound research on the specified topic and use several reliable sources to create a high-quality paper. They analyze many sources, and then magic happens they start to create a perfect essay for you. When the work is finished, the members of Quality Control Pink Floyd (discussed here) and corporate social responsibility dissertation proposal Phd Thesis Industrial Engineering 6 Months essay competition online a tale of two cities essay help Alice in Chains (review here) in 2018 and 2020, respectively, and issued a split LP with fellow NYC noisebringers list of best resume writing services Dissertation Writing A Research Journey dj myke homework buy reserach paper Godmaker (review here) in 2018 through Custom How To Write The Literature Review Of A Dissertation from professionals. Jan 1, 2019. Table of Contents; Choosing the best dissertation help. High-quality writing; Revision guarantee; Money back guarantee; No plagiarism assurance; Hire professional dissertation writers; Creating a good custom dissertation on your own requires a tremendous amount of time, high level of professionalism and excellent The Company —  source link. 18 likes. This finance homework help page is meant to allow students to post finance homework questions for help. Nefarious Wave remains defined at least in part by its volatility, by the notion that at any moment the band can and might kick their sludge until it becomes mad enough to be the thrash and grind it is as they unleash “Tied to Stone” (3:54) and “Tooth and Nail” (2:26) at the outset.

Those two songs comprise just over six of  Search for jobs related to http://www.schmetterlinghaus.at/?college-essay-question-help or hire on the world's largest freelancing marketplace with 13m+ jobs. It's free to sign up and bid Nefarious Wave‘s total 36-minute run, and the rest of the seven-track outing moves from shortest to longest as it makes its way toward the seven-minute titular cut, and though there’s some letup in tempo and further fleshing out of melody in that process, beginning with third song “Desire Lines” and its blend of weighted crash and airier singing — vocals handled by guitarist Get academic essay visite site online from our proffesional writers. Our company is ready to offer college paper writing Qualified writers Low prices Justin Sherrell (ex- professional writers Format Of A Term Paper Outline guide to writing the perfect essay homework help martin luther king Blackout, etc.), who also handles bass here, and bassist Looking to http://www.blessgans.de/?fast-business-planss? We have American writers and know how to deliver essays that answer the question based on your instructions. Philippe Arman, while drummer One tool is enough to track issues & release great software. Try Jira for free. Fancy finding the Help With Economics Assignment writing, which is capable of Phil SanGiacomo (ex- [Writing Services] / Writers Wanted / Other A Powerhouse Team of Academic Writing and Research Experts from Cv Writing Service Reviews.com CustomPapers.com is the Family) supplies the crash and mixed — and culmination in a build into angular riffing and throaty shouts worthy of comparison to  Swarm of the Lotus. Perhaps it’s because they so very much nailed “Dirt” on the Alice in Chains tribute that one can’t help but hear an edge of grunge in their layered and harmonized vocals, but the context is different as Somnuri make these elements their own, and “Desire Lines” ultimately answers the unmitigated rush of “Tooth and Nail” with a massive lumber that opens wide enough to devour that false sense of security whole. What rough beast, its hour come at last, slouches toward Brooklyn to be born?

They’re not tricky about it. Somnuri aren’t trying to be clever for cleverness’ sake and the prog-noise-metal-sludge they choose at any given moment to inhabit is way more Lifesblood than even Remission, if one has to draw a line to Mastodon as the gallop in the beginning of centerpiece “Beyond Your Last Breath” would seem to warrant. But they wear brutality well, and just because it’s part of the plan rather than the entirety of it doesn’t make their proceedings any less brutal. As it moves into its midsection, a throaty bellow echoes out over a stomping procession, and soon the three-piece are twisting between one riff and the next as SanGiacomo gracefully handles change upon change, a quick stretch of melodic vocals giving way to a comedown before the chug surges forth again to round out. “Beyond Your Last Breath” is transitional no matter the format on which one listens.

somnuri

It not only finishes side A of the vinyl, but taking Nefarious Wave as a linear entirety — CD/DL — it functions as a lead-in to the three longer pieces that comprise the remaining circa 20 minutes of the release. The longer half, as it were, made up of fewer tracks. Particularly, it’s easy to pair “Beyond Your Last Breath” and “Watch the Lights Go Out,” which follows, in terms of theme. The latter track trades cleaner verses for a harsher pre-chorus before the soaring hook, and feels not quite patient in its execution, but not far off. Its apex, which arrives around 4:40 into its 6:09, is as furious as it is restrained, lurching back and forth on drawn out lines of guitar topped with hard growls, where the beginning of the song, with its ride cymbal and engaging bludgeonry, seemed to recall the impulses that drove “Tied to Stone” and “Tooth and Nail” in we-like-to-start-fast fashion. Can’t blame them, given how well it works.

But “Watch the Lights Go Out,” whatever it carries over from side A and however malevolent its crescendo proves to be, moves Nefarious Wave into its next stage, bringing on the at-first-hypnotic-then-destructive-then-righteously-melodic-then-everything-all-together-then-breakdown-elbow-to-your-face “In the Grey,” the penultimate inclusion on the album and by no means its first tour de force. It’s true that Somnuri save actual patience for the title-track that finishes, but already coming from “Watch the Lights Go Out,” there’s a sense of the reach going wider that sets that up, so that the melodies that top “Nefarious Wave” aren’t out of place and the echoing solo in its first half is no more random than the are-those-keyboards-or-guitar-effects? layer that accompanies the last crashes before the title-track gives over its last minute to noise. One might be tempted to think of that as time to process, but it’s hardly enough for the head-spinnery Nefarious Wave has had on offer throughout.

What carries the album, however, is the sense of control with which the band deliver the material. The songs certainly are not without an element of danger — there’s a feeling at times like they’re pushing themselves physically as well as creatively — and of course a certain amount of confrontationalism is a regional delicacy of NYC, but Somnuri find a niche for themselves amid that tempest, and they’re able to create both a purpose in the album’s structure and a flow within and between the songs to enact that purpose. It would be easy to have Nefarious Wave unfold as base chaos, an extreme-sludge onslaught running the length of an LP, in and out and done. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but the mission here is different and one finds the richness of melody that ensues leaving no less an impression in the end than did the outright violence of the first two songs. You can hear as much in Nefarious Wave as you want to put into hearing it, and any such effort on the part of the listener is given due reward.

Somnuri, “Beyond Your Last Breath” official video

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Magnetic Eye Day of Doom Livestream Set for May 15

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 4th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

There isn’t one stinking band on here I don’t want to watch. I went down the whole list. Certainly Howling Giant have made themselves virtually available in this era of no in-person gigging, doing various streams and jams and so on, but even them too, I’m like, “Yeah, I’d watch them again.” That’s pretty much how I feel every week. But to see Domkraft, Heavy Temple and Somnuri all playing, each one with a new album either out (that’s you, Domkraft) or on the way is a boon, and that’s before you get to an unveiling for whatever shenanigans Caustic Casanova have been cooking up over the past year.

Yeah, I’m on board here. Of course I’ve got fond memories of Magnetic Eye‘s Nov. 2019 ‘Day of Doom’ showcase (review here), and if the label wanted at some point to bring these groups together on a stage, that’d be just fine. But while at this point it’s probably not even a question of me putting on jeans — I think those days are gone; I’ve only ever had like two pairs of jeans I ever liked anyhow — to go be in a place with people, there’s a definite appeal to dropping ass on the couch and putting this one on the ol’ wallmount for a bit of matinee-style afternoon delight.

Granted, if it was happening in Brooklyn, I’d drive there for it, and I know it’s not the same for performers, but even after shows start up again as they at some point invariably will, I don’t think livestreaming is going to completely disappear, and Magnetic Eye putting something like this together is a good example of how to do it moving forward.

That’s my take. It’s free to watch. Maybe they’ll do a live box set like last time. I better get some good screengrabs. Ha.

Info:

magnetic eye day of doom live stream

Magnetic Eye and Blues Funeral Recordings present a virtual Day of Doom, featuring:

Howling Giant
Caustic Casanova
Somnuri
Domkraft
Heavy Temple

HOW TO WATCH:

Each band will be broadcasting their set on their Facebook pages and all of them can also be watched in this event or on Magnetic Eye’s page.

Event page: https://www.facebook.com/events/523418811982271/

Set times announced soon.

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Heavy Temple, “The Maiden”

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal Playlist: Episode 56

Posted in Radio on April 2nd, 2021 by JJ Koczan

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Good stuff, almost entirely new. Hell, three of these records came out on the same day last Friday, so yeah, it’s fresh stuff one way or the other, even if I think I’ve played Genghis Tron three times now since they announced the release of their Dream Weapon album. And Yawning Sons definitely more than once too. Whatever. Call me repetitive. I like doom. “Repetitive” is a compliment to me.

The show opens and closes north of 10 minutes, but only hits that mark one other time, which is in “Fawn” by Body Void. Fair enough for the ultra-sludge charred-black morass that track elicits. With new King Buffalo, Somnuri and Domkraft singles and that hidden gem by Alastor tucked in ahead of Acid Mothers Temple-offshoot Mainliner’s massive jam at the end, this is a good god damn show. If I’d heard the new Heavy Temple in time to include that, I probably would have. Note to self for the next one.

Thanks for listening and/or reading. As always I hope you enjoy.

The Obelisk Show airs 5PM Eastern today on the Gimme app or at http://gimmemetal.com

Full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 04.02.21

Chamán Concreto Maleza
VT
Lammping Other Shoe New Jaws EP
Domkraft Seeds Seeds
King Buffalo Hebetation The Burden of Restlessness
DVNE Court of the Matriarch Etemen AEnka
Jess and the Ancient Ones Summer Tripping Man Vertigo
Greenleaf Bury Me My Son Echoes From a Mass
VT
Yawning Sons Gravity Underwater Sky Island
Genghis Tron Great Mother Dream Weapon
Arepo Nonmaterial Arepo
Body Void Fawn Bury Me Beneath This Rotting Earth
Somnuri Beyond Your Last Breath Nefarious Wave
Alastor Death Cult Onwards and Downwards
VT
Mainliner Hibernator’s Dream Dual Myths

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal airs every Friday 5PM Eastern, with replays Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next new episode is April 16 (subject to change). Thanks for listening if you do.

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Somnuri Post “Beyond Your Last Breath” Video; Nefarious Wave Preorder Available

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 25th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

somnuri

June 4 is the release date for Somnuri‘s second long-player and Blues Funeral Recordings debut, Nefarious Wave, and to correspond with announcing the details and preorders and so on they’ve got a new video now for “Beyond Your Last Breath,” which is the centerpiece of the record. Neat, sign me up. The Brooklynite trio made their self-titled debut (review here) in 2017 and followed that months later with a split with Godmaker (review here). Not to take away from anyone else’s work, but they pretty much owned Magnetic Eye‘s Alice in Chains Dirt: Redux (review here) last year, and I’ve been looking forward to whatever was coming next from them ever since. New record, you say? That’ll do nicely, thanks.

Preorders are up through the ol’ Bandcamp there, and you can dig into “Beyond Your Last Breath” below as well. And you should. I’ll hope to have more on the album prior to the release.

Until then, the PR wire:

somnuri nefarious wave

Brooklyn progressive sludge metallers SOMNURI release new video “Beyond Your Last Breath” + details for new album on Blues Funeral Recordings

Brooklyn, NY’s sludge metal juggernauts SOMNURI arise to unleash the first video from their awaited new album ‘Nefarious Wave’, out June 4th on Blues Funeral Recordings. Watch the trio’s cathartic “Beyond Your Last Breath” video now!

SOMNURI’s sound weaves together breakneck energy, infectious melodies and slow-burning aggression, a cacophony of bludgeoning riffs and pounding grooves that shares DNA with High on Fire, Mastodon, Torche, even Soundgarden. Elements of the city surface throughout: brutality and spaciousness, stark dissonance, and delicate hush.

About the video, drummer Phil SanGiacomo comments: “Beyond Your Last Breath is about the cyclical and intertwined nature of life and death, and how the struggle to survive and find light can bring you to the brink of darkness and beyond. The video, directed by Susan Hunt of Five Sigma Films, weaves through a dreamlike environment and shows both the grittiness and beauty of Brooklyn and New York City, all through a surrealistic lens. The song also ties into the greater theme of the ‘Nefarious Wave’ album title, which alludes to a process that repeats endlessly throughout time. The idea of facing that wave head-on is prevalent throughout the record.”

A sprawling record full of time and tempo shifts, ‘Nefarious Wave’ is a story of survival and resilience. As naysayers flee the city, claiming the scene is dead and will never be what it used to, SOMNURI is alive, breathing, adapting and mutating into something greater, and continues to push the possibilities of heavy music and the ideals of how a DIY band fights for their place. Embodying their refusal to concede or compromise, ‘Nefarious Wave’ is a reflection of their undeniable ethic, a devastating musical worldview ready for those willing to inhabit it with them.

‘Nefarious Wave’ was mixed by Phil SanGiacomo, and mastered by Justin Mantooth at Westend Recording Studios KC. The artwork was designed by Dani Otrajki. It will be released on June 4th, 2021 worldwide on various vinyl formats, CD and digital through Blues Funeral Recordings.

SOMNURI New album ‘Nefarious Wave’
Out June 4th, 2021 on Blues Funeral Recordings
PREORDER NOW: https://somnuri.bandcamp.com/album/nefarious-wave-4

TRACK LISTING:
1. Tied To Stone
2. Tooth & Nail
3. Desire Lines
4. Beyond Your Last Breath
5. Watch The Lights Go Out
6. In The Grey
7. Nefarious Wave

SOMNURI is:
Justin Sherrell — guitars/vocals (also bass on the album)
Philippe Arman — bass
Phil SanGiacomo — drums

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https://somnuri.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/bluesfuneral/
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Somnuri, “Beyond Your Last Breath” official video

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Review & Track Premiere, Various Artists, Alice in Chains: Dirt [Redux]

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on September 9th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

dirt redux

[Click play above to stream Howling Giant’s “Rooster” from Magnetic Eye Records’ Dirt [Redux] Alice in Chains tribute. LP/CD/DL out Sept. 18 with preorders here.]

Says Howling Giant’s Zach Wheeler:

“To be honest, getting ‘Rooster’ was a bit intimidating as it’s one of their most popular songs. We wanted to pay tribute to Alice in Chains as much as possible while giving the song that special Howling Giant sauce. We changed a few things around, but tried to reinforce the melodies that make the song so memorable in the first place.”

Says Howling Giant’s Tom Polzine:

“When I was growing up in Buffalo, Minnesota, there was a local band called Blood Root Mother made up of some dudes that were probably four or five years older than me. I remember sneaking out of my house to see them perform at this rundown venue called The Vault. The Vault was run by some 20 year olds that skipped college in order to renovate that old antique shop into a dirty DIY venue. If dirty and uncomfortable was the vibe they were going for, they nailed it. Anyway, Blood Root Mother were tight as hell and I’ll always remember their cover of ‘Rooster’ as one of the most moving performances I witnessed from a bunch of local, lovable scumbags. The energy was so raw, and the volume was overwhelming. I think that witnessing those guys performing that song in particular is the reason I started playing in rock bands in high school, and why I still play today.”

Released in September 1992, Alice in Chains‘ second full-length, Dirt, is a generational landmark. It remains one of a select few records of its era — along with Nirvana‘s Nevermind, Pearl Jam‘s Ten, Soundgarden‘s Badmotorfinger, and maybe one or two others — that helped define the “grunge” sound for which Seattle, Washington, would become almost inextricably known. With an underlying-and-at-times-right-up-front theme of drug addiction and ensuing personal fallout, Dirt was grimmer and could be more aggressive than most of its still-commercially-viable major label contemporaries, and as a result always had some more appeal to metal fans than, say, Pearl Jam, who were strictly a hard rock band at the time. Guitarist Jerry Cantrell‘s now-classic riffs and vocals, Sean Kinney‘s inventive drums, the fluid bass work of Mike Starr and Layne Staley‘s voice that would prove inimitable despite the attempts of three decades’ worth of singers — these essential elements came together around a group of particularly memorable songs, some radio hits, some B sides, and of course, “Iron Gland” for good measure, and served as the proverbial lightning in the bottle and the standard by which the band’s output ever since has been judged.

In continuing its tribute series of full album releases by embarking on a Dirt [Redux]Magnetic Eye Records takes on a no less crucial album than when the label put together compilation tributes to Pink Floyd or Jimi Hendrix. There are some recognizable acts from the Magnetic Eye stable as well as others clearly given to celebrating the work itself, and those who remain loyal to the original versions of the songs while other groups prefer to bring their appointed track into their own sonic context. Like the original DirtDirt [Redux] of course boasts 13 tracks — it’s a whole-album tribute; it wouldn’t do to leave something out — though its runtime is longer than the original, at 63 minutes as opposed to 57. The tracklisting reads as follows:

1. Thou – Them Bones
2. Low Flying Hawks – Dam That River
3. High Priest – Rain When I Die
4. Khemmis – Down in a Hole
5. These Beasts – Sickman
6. Howling Giant – Rooster
7. Forming the Void – Junkhead
8. Somnuri – Dirt
9. Backwoods Payback – God Smack
10. Black Electric – Iron Gland
11. -(16)- – Hate to Feel
12. Vokonis – Angry Chair
13. The Otolith – Would?

Their take on “Would?” — tracked by Alice in Chains first for an appearance on the soundtrack of the film Singles then reused on the album — marks the debut recording from post-SubRosa outfit The Otolith, and arrives with no shortage of anticipation. Bookending with “Them Bones” as interpreted by New Orleans art-sludgers Thou, the atmospheric breadth brought to the finale is a standout on the release and, at that point, one more instance of a band making the track their own. Thou‘s blend of harsh and cleaner vocals notwithstanding, they largely keep to the original tempo and arrangement of the leadoff track, whereas Low Flying Hawks take the subsequent “Dam That River” — a hooky follow-up to the opener — and turn it into an ambient drone only vaguely related to the original.

dirt redux vinyl

And why not? There’s no rule that says a band has to do an impression rather than an interpretation, and as Dirt [Redux] plays out, the likes of KhemmisThese Beasts, Howling GiantForming the Void-(16)- and Vokonis bring their own spin. Khemmis could hardly be a better fit for the emotive doom of “Down in a Hole,” and the crunch These Beasts deliver on “Sickman” is an intense precursor to what L.A.’s -(16)- do with “Hate to Feel” later on. Feeling very much like the vanguard of an up and coming generation of progressive heavy rock, Howling GiantForming the Void and Vokonis boldly tackle their respective cuts, with “Rooster” getting a bolstered melody (no easy feat), “Junkhead” receiving a newfound nodder groove, and “Angry Chair” highlighting a rhythmic complexity that is both a late surprise and oh, oh, oh so very Swedish.

To complement these forays, Somnuri find a glorious and elusive middle-ground on the album’s title-track, the Brooklynite trio not giving “Dirt” a total makeover so much as an organic-feeling performance that captures the subtle spaciousness that was so much a part of Dirt‘s lonely feel in the first place — all those sometimes empty reaches of its mix. Earlier, Chicago’s High Priest offer perhaps the most impressive vocal included on the redux with “Rain When I Die,” with the as-yet-underrated, very-much-need-to-put-an-album-out group play to their own Alice in Chains influence. Ditto that Backwoods Payback, who bleed their love of the original through their raw interpretation of “God Smack,” finding a space somewhere between punk, post-hardcore and heavy rock that is theirs alone on this release and in the wider underground sphere. These cuts serve the vital function of bringing Dirt [Redux] its sense of homage, making the tribute a tribute, and giving a listener who might not be familiar with all the bands on the Magnetic Eye roster a chance to reorient before, say, These Beasts unfurl their pummeling rendition of “Sickman” or Low Flying Hawks taffy-pull “Dam That River” to suit their own whims.

One would be remiss not to point out that the 43-second interlude “Iron Gland” is here covered by Black Electric, which features Magnetic Eye Records‘ own Mike Vitali (also ex-Ironweed and Greatdayforup) on guitar. Their version is almost eerily reminiscent of the original, on which Slayer‘s Tom Araya sat in for vocals, and gives way to -(16)-‘s roughed-up “Hate to Feel” with a similar flow to the progression between the two tracks on Dirt proper. If you come out of this Dirt [Redux] with a hankering to listen to Alice in Chains, don’t be surprised. I’ll admit to having an attachment to the album that borders on the familial, and whatever they do with it arrangement-wise, I have nothing but respect for anyone brave enough to cover songs that have so much specific heart and style behind them. Inevitably a listener’s experience with Dirt [Redux] will depend on their own context with the original record as well as with the bands involved, but when all is said and done, it is a more than worthy inclusion in Magnetic Eye‘s [Redux] series — Black Sabbath would seem to be next — and it points to just how broadly Alice in Chains‘ influence has spread over the last three decades. You can’t really go wrong.

Various Artists, Dirt [Redux] (2020)

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Live Review: Ode to Doom with Leather Lung, Mother Iron Horse, Somnuri & Grandpa Jack, 09.18.19

Posted in Reviews on September 19th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Leather Lung (Photo by JJ Koczan)

The third anniversary celebration of NYC-based curated show series Ode to Doom was a special occasion. The bands knew it, the venue knew it, and the people who showed up knew it. Everyone who played had new material and was excited to share. Everyone said thanks. The vibe was chill from before the show even started, and even as heavy and as raucous as things got as the bluesy opening Grandpa Jack delivered gave way to the noisier likes of Somnuri, Mother Iron Horse and Leather Lung, it stayed chill for the duration. For being what Somnuri guitarist/vocalist Justin Sherrell referred to as, “a school night” — can’t argue with facts — it was also a welcome escape from midweek blues; all parties involved seemed happy to shed the uphill slump from their shoulders, or maybe that’s just me projecting.

One way or the other, it was the best argument I’ve encountered in a while for sitting in workday-evening traffic. The air was crisp but not bitingly cold. When I signed on three years ago to have The Obelisk be among the presenters for Ode to Doom, which is run with clear dedication by Claudia Crespo at Arlene’s Grocery with input from indomitable entrepreneur Vadim Dyadyuk of Made in Brooklyn Silkscreeners, who’s done merch for this site and will again — new colors coming for the holiday season, plus did I hear you asking for Obelisk sweatpants? no? well they’re happening anyway — part of the appeal for me was nostalgic. I remembered great times at Precious Metal in the basement at Lit Lounge and other Manhattan-based shows. I don’t think it’s a bad thing that it’s all moved to Brooklyn over the last generation and now is headed to Queens, but someone keeping the flame of a Manhattan underground alive felt like an idea well worth preserving. Turns out I was right.

Suitably enough given my recent move, the unstated theme for the evening was NY-meets-MA, with Brooklyn’s Grandpa Jack and Somnuri getting started and Salem, Mass, heavybringers Mother Iron Horse and Boston’s Leather Lung closing the night. If you don’t know Grandpa Jack — and I’ll admit I didn’t hear their self-titled debut LP last year; my loss — give it time. You will. The three-piece turned classic heavy rock shades of doomly purple with vintage tone emanating from the finger-picked guitar of Johnny Strom, who also shared vocal duties with drummer Matt C. White while Jared Schapker provided warm and engrossing low end to suit their blues-infused spirit. Their periodic dips into melody on vocals were welcome and hopefully telling of things to come, and the languid pace of their material brought to mind Radio Moscow played at two-thirds speed, with jammy intent. They were a more than welcome start to the proceedings.

I hadn’t seen Somnuri yet, but was excited to. having so thoroughly dug their late-2017 self-titled debut (discussed here) and subsequent split with fellow purveyors-o’-noise Godmaker (review here). They’ve got a new album mastered as of earlier this month and will cover “Dirt” on Magnetic Eye‘s upcoming Alice in Chains redux (presumably that’s what the cover they posted a snippet of on social media is for, unless they’re just going rogue with it, which might be fun too), and the aforementioned Sherrell, bassist Philippe Arman (also of Tower) and drummer Phil SanGiacomo both brought and demolished the evening’s crowd. The new material had more melody in a post-grunge, still-volatile kind of way that made me really excited to hear it in recorded form, but there was plenty of crushing going on as well, and as wheelhouses go, that’s a good one to be in. I’ll go out on a limb and say that barring disaster this won’t be the last time I see them play, but knowing that and knowing there’s a new record in the offing only made me enjoy their set more. Until next time.

There was time for a quick walk around the block between bands, which beat staring at the baby monitor on my phone — did it? — so I walked out of the venue for a minute to get some air, made it back well in time for Mother Iron Horse, who released their debut, The Lesser Key, in May and who seem primed to get picked up by some label or another if they haven’t yet. Their energy built on what Somnuri had been doing, but their sound was more rock-based, and the double-guitar riffing was complemented by right-on classic-style lead work and excursions into more uproarious stretches. Comprised of Adam Luca, Marco Medina, Devin Fields and Chris Kobialka, they made it easy to get into what they were doing in cuts like “Gehenna” and “Scepter of Ice” from the album, and as they’re on tour with Leather Lung — they’ll play Montclair, NJ’s The Meatlocker tonight, of course with Dutchguts — they started off that run in top form with what was still a good crowd who stuck around after Somnuri‘s set. Another band I’d never seen before, another one I’ll try to see again. That’s three for three on the night so far at Ode to Doom.

By contrast, I had seen Leather Lung before, but it was upwards of four years ago in Boston and they’ve got a new record out through Magnetic Eye called Lonesome, On’ry and Evil that produced the set-highlight “Miscreant,” which perfectly summarized the band’s approach rooted in mosh-ready riffs and massive aggro-sludge tones. Coming out to the familiar strains of Waylon Jennings, frontman Mike Vickers had apparently busted his arm and had it in a sling. He left the audience to guess how he’d done it, so insert here whatever pulled-a-ligament hyperbole you’d like to about him lifting the riffs of guitarist Zach and lumbering bass of Jesse — whose backing vocals also added a sense of extremity throughout the set. Set to the crash of drummer Ben, Leather Lung‘s willfully lunkheaded sludge metal was nothing short of a hit on a Wednesday night in Manhattan, which if that doesn’t sound like an accomplishment absolutely was one. Dudes up front lost their mind, and even standing in the back, beat as I was, the groove was palpable. And by “palpable” I mean shaking the floor. They’re going to kill at Descendants of Crom this weekend in Pittsburgh.

So what did we learn? I hadn’t planned on sticking around through the entirety of Leather Lung‘s set, as I’d been up since 4AM and knew I still had the drive back to my ancestral homestead ahead of me, but I did, and so did a lot of others who no doubt had trains, Ubers, hoverboards or Citibikes to catch. And I won’t take away from what Leather Lung were doing, but the vibe of the whole night was a big part of what kept me there. It felt like I had showed up to a party three years late and still been welcomed. That’s a rare thing.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

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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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