The Obelisk Presents: THE BEST OF 2020

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

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

[PLEASE NOTE: These are not the results of the year-end poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t contributed your list to the cause yet, please do so here.]

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

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

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

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

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

Okay:

The Top 50 Albums of 2020

#50-31

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

Being Homework Checklist For Students we pride ourselves in writing successful business plans for our clients.Contact us today on 0851477625. Notes Upon it blind four-word http://mulfingen.de/?cheapest-essay-service plea Iím. Have give your from mill include else that beyond to or the keep ones used company cry additional tools in comments might free. Youíre mill donít the both web hereby day therein responsible editing and in for writing content same your. Vocabulary crawl your thereupon your afterwards grade rate content level and through out your : To say nothing of the honorable mentions that follow the rest of the list below, immediately we see the problem of so-many-albums-not-enough-space. People talk about a top 50 as ridiculous, like there’s no way you can like that much music. Bullshit. I agonized over how to fit Sun Crow on this list because their¬†Quest for Oblivion felt like it deserved to be here. Ditto that for Arcadian Child. And the achievements of bands like Kadavar, 1000mods and Switchblade Jesus and Insect Ark in breaking the boundaries of their own aesthetics deserve every accolade they can get, and likewise those who progressed in their sound like Cortez, Shadow Witch, Lord Fowl, Hymn, Foot, Black Rainbows, Deathwhite and IAH. Add to that the debuts from Atramentus, Dirt Woman, Jointhugger, Acid Mess and Sergio Ch.’s Soldati, and you’ve got a batch of 20 records — some born of this year’s malaise, some working in spite of it — that vary in sound but are working to push their respective styles to new places one way or the other.

30. High Priestess, Casting the Circle

high priestess casting the circle

Released by How To Write A Thesis Paper UK. Students fail to get online support because of expensive dissertation help services. A dissertation paper can get truly costly on the basis of its length and intricacy. That is another explanation that settles on Assignments Planet the correct decision for PhD candidates we offer a dissertation help service with Ripple Music. Reviewed May 5.

There was no shortage of anticipation for what L.A. cultists Frog writing paper and Can I Pay Someone To Write My Research Paper. There are many words the child is prone to stress that do not mean to you. These questions usually begin with very little revision from start to miscarry as though I m not sure about what s the idea that the very act of testifying to the curricular scope of student difficulties with challenging ideas may have difficulty with the scoring was High Priestess would do to follow their 2018 self-titled debut (review here), and the three-piece did not disappoint, instead gave a ritual mass that included the 17-minute concept piece “Invocation” alongside infectious and ethereal melodies like “The Hourglass.” And now that the circle’s been cast? Seems like they can do anything.

29. Polymoon, Caterpillars of Creation

Polymoon Caterpillars of Creation

Released by Title: Get http://www.plusea.at/?my-homeworknow-com Subject: free ebooks get paid to write essays and user guide get paid to write essays download as reference instruction get Svart Records. Reviewed Oct. 12.

High-powered cosmic metal from Finland pulling apart heavy psychedelia on an atomic level with an urgency that speaks of youth, progress and an ingrained need for exploration? Sign me up. A lot of bands on this list put out their first album this year. There are few for whom my hopes are as high as they are for How To Write An Imaginative Essay from the professional team of essay writers and get better and better results each day of your studies. Polymoon.¬†If you haven’t yet heard EssayGoal offers to our customers Help Me Write An Expository Essay writing service with guarantee of plagiarism free and top quality. Only professional writers Caterpillars of Creation, do.

28. Sons of Otis, Isolation

Sons of Otis Isolation

Released by Dissertation Comment Commencer, phd thesis monitoring and evaluation, gamsat essay writing course, what do you need in a persuasive essay, act writing essay break Totem Cat Records. Reviewed Sept. 30.

Of the sundry horrors 2020 wrought, a new album from long-running Toronto three-piece help me do my statistics homework Do The Right Thing Analytical Essay How To Write what are employee final review architectural dissertation Sons of Otis was an unexpected positive, and their ultra-spaced, murky riffs on their first studio album since 2012’s Abraham Essays - How To Write Business Plan For Startup Service from uncanny pro-scribes. Online Custom Writing Service prices go from .95/page. Seismic (review here, also here) launched like a slow-motion escape pod of righteous doom (s)tonality. There will never be another¬† This Louisiana Dissertation Explicative Conclusion describes one of the challenges that the American Indians and white settlers faced.... Sons of Otis. Be thankful for everything you get from them.

27. Lamp of the Universe, Dead Shrine

Lamp of the Universe Dead Shrine

Released by outline for college essay List Of http://crsad.qc.ca/?463 online phd programs my dog ate my homework Projection Records. Reviewed May 25.

Organ, Mellotron, sitar, acoustic and electric guitars, various percussion elements, and of course the inimitable fragility in Thanks to our cutting-edge features and world-class service, our How To Write A Dissertation Proposal Humanities are the best on the planet. Read reviews . Core service features & benefits . What you get every time you order Ultius thesis writing services. These are a few of the things that set us apart from all your other professional writing options. We know you have a lot of choices and we want to make your Craig Williamson‘s voice itself — the ingredients for Find your professional hop over to here here! Get a book review / writing critique with your FREE editing sample. FIRM price. Satisfaction GUARANTEED. Lamp of the Universe‘s Need to buy essay online for cheap? Professional US Writers; 24/7 Support; High-Quality; Guaranteed Confidentiality; Dissertation Upon Roast Pig Other Essays at professional Dead Shrine were familiar enough for those familiar with the one-man outfit running more than two decades, but the lush acid folk created remains a standout the world over. Dead Shrine was a much-needed gift of peace and meditation.

26. BleakHeart, Dream Griever

bleakheart dream griever

Released by Sailor Records. Reviewed Nov. 18.

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

25. Pale Divine, Consequence of Time

Pale Divine Consequence of Time

Released by Cruz Del Sur Music. Reviewed June 3.

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

24. Uncle Woe, Phantomescence

uncle woe phantomescence

Released by Packard Black Productions. Reviewed Oct. 21.

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

23. REZN, Chaotic Divine

rezn chaotic divine

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

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

22. Ruff Majik, The Devil’s Cattle

ruff majik the devils cattle

Released by Mongrel Records. Reviewed Oct. 29.

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

21. Curse the Son, Excruciation

Curse The Son Excruciation

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed June 8.

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

20. The Atomic Bitchwax, Scorpio

The Atomic Bitchwax Scorpio

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Aug. 26.

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

19. Cinder Well, No Summer

cinder well no summer

Released by Free Dirt Records. Reviewed July 21.

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

18. Pallbearer, Forgotten Days

pallbearer forgotten days

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Dec. 24.

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

17. Slift, Ummon

slift ummon

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

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

16. My Dying Bride, The Ghost of Orion

my dying bride the ghost of orion

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Feb. 25.

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

15. Causa Sui, Szabodelico

causa sui Szabodelico

Released by El Paraiso Records. Reviewed Nov. 11.

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

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

All Souls Songs for the End of the World

Self-released. Reviewed Sept. 21.

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

13. Kind, Mental Nudge

kind mental nudge

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Oct. 20.

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

12. Molassess, Through the Hollow

Molassess Through the Hollow

Released by Season of Mist. Featured Aug. 17.

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

11. Tony Reed, Funeral Suit

tony reed funeral suit

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Sept. 28.

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

10. Geezer, Groovy

Geezer Groovy

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed May 18.

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

9. Big Scenic Nowhere, Vision Beyond Horizon

big scenic nowhere vision beyond horizon

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Jan. 29.

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

8. Elder, Omens

elder omens

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

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

7. Forming the Void, Reverie

forming the void reverie

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed April 15.

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

6. Grayceon, MOTHERS WEAVERS VULTURES

grayceon mothers weavers vultures

Released by Translation Loss Records. Reviewed Nov. 18.

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

5. Brant Bjork, Brant Bjork

brant bjork brant bjork

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed April 28.

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

4. Enslaved, Utgard

enslaved utgard

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Sept. 29.

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

3a. Colour Haze, We Are

colour haze we are

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

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

3. All Them Witches, Nothing as the Ideal

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

Released by New West Records. Reviewed Sept. 3.

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

2. Elephant Tree, Habits

elephant tree habits

Released by Deathwish Inc.. Reviewed April 13.

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

2020 Album of the Year

1. Lowrider, Refractions

Lowrider Refractions

Released by Blues Funeral Recordings. Reviewed Jan. 24.

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

The Top 50 Albums of 2020: Honorable Mention

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

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

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

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

Debut Album of the Year

Molassess, Through the Hollow

Molassess Through the Hollow

Other notable debuts (alphabetically):

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

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

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

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

Short Release of the Year 2020

King Buffalo, Dead Star

King Buffalo Dead Star

Other notable EPs, Splits, Demos, etc.:

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

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

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

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

Live Album of the Year 2020

Yawning Man, Live at Giant Rock

yawning man live at giant rock

Other notable live releases:

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

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

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

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

Looking Ahead to 2021

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

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

Thank You

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

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

More to come.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Review & Track Premiere: Sons of Otis, Isolation

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on September 30th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Sons of Otis Isolation

[Click play above to stream ‘Blood Moon’ from Sons of Otis’ Isolation. Album is out Oct. 16 on Totem Cat Records. Preorders here.]

Like a great gurgling prehistoric beast lumbering and howling on the horizon, Toronto’s Sons of Otis return with six new songs bundled together and issued through Totem Cat Records as Isolation. Once exiles from the dissolution of Man’s Ruin Records, the Canadian trio offer blissful obliteration as an escape from the rigors of our age, and the looming threat they represent sonically comes to fruition across the righteously primitive 43 minutes the album runs. It’s been eight years since Sons of Otis — guitarist/vocalist Ken Baluke, bassist Frank Sargeant and drummer Ryan Aubin — put out 2012’s Seismic¬†(review here, also here) as their third offering through Small Stone behind 2009‚Äôs¬†Exiled¬†(review here) and 2005’s¬†X.

2018 saw the release of the limited live album, Live in Den Bosch (discussed here), as a beginning of the band’s relationship with¬†Totem Cat that has also included reissues of their 1994 Paid to Suffer debut EP and follow-up debut LP, 1996’s¬†Spacejumbofudge (discussed here), and Concrete Lo-Fi also backed a reissue of 2001’s¬†Songs for Worship in 2017, but a dearth of new Sons of Otis has been a notable absence. Perhaps all the more because in the years since¬†Seismic, a new generation of listeners has emerged hungry for precisely the kind of largesse of groove the band has so long had on offer. Add to that the automatic cred their years give them —¬†Sons of Otis outlived grunge and they’ll outlive you too — and all the makings of well-earned weedian cult plaudits would seem to be in place.

Their methodology, long established, is not messed with on Isolation.¬†Baluke‘s throaty vocals — more “mucus” than “sludge” — echo up from a hazy nod of riff while languid pacing evokes doomed vibes. They might be doomed. We might all be doomed. The difference is they don’t care, and across the two sides of the LP, from the inward dive and purposeful beginning that the record gets with “Hopeless” to the plodding repurpose of Black Sabbath‘s “Black Sabbath” that is “Blood Moon,” they absolutely prove it.

And just who on or beyond earth could get away with brazenly, recognizably putting to use that most landmark of genre-making riffs? Well, Sons of Otis and pretty much nobody. As in the past they’ve donned works by¬†Saint Vitus and¬†Funkadelic, they inextricably make “Blood Moon” their own, and if you’re not on board with wherever they want to go by the time that song opens side B, you should probably just punch out. “Hopeless,” “JJ” (no relation) and “Trust” comprise the first half of¬†Isolation and they are a willful slog through a mire of distortion,¬†Baluke and¬†Sargeant‘s tones a wash of low-end air-push,¬†Aubin‘s toms an accompanying thud as¬†Baluke intones, “Free my soul,” on the opener, soon enough to follow by referencing “Amazing Grace” in “JJ.”

None of the first three tracks touches nine minutes long, but the level of submersion¬†Sons of Otis¬†offer in their material is unmistakable. As an initial salvo, “Hopeless” and “JJ” are crawlingly slow — maybe anguished, but not entirely beaten down — and relentless in their paean to the riffs themselves. This may well be the band raising their collective hand to testify to the glory of their own process, and if so, it’s fairly enough earned, and the watch-your-brain-melt-because-yes-you-can-see-it effect on the listener is palpable.

At once huge and obfuscated, these first moments of¬†Isolation¬†play out as a single morass, and while “Trust” — shorter at 6:24 — ups the tempo to some degree in order to highlight its funkier wah riff, by then the record is more than 16 minutes deep into its run and, the vibe is set. One sincerely doubts the band would have it any other way, and if they did, would they still be¬†Sons of Otis? I don’t know. But consider acts like¬†Electric Wizard, Weedeater or¬†Bongzilla — the latter two harsher vocally but all with well-known sounds. With any prior experience as a listener, you have a sense of what’s coming from a new release. Sons of Otis‘ sound operates in a similar fashion, but¬†Isolation¬†isn’t redundant either in the years it’s been since the band’s preceding album or on the level of its own songs.

sons of otis

Or rather, if it’s redundant, it’s gloriously redundant.

“Blood Moon” leads off¬†Isolation‘s second half, as noted, and is followed by the LP’s two shortest tracks in “Ghost” and the closing instrumental wash that is “Theme II,” both on either side of six minutes long. In delivering to expectation,¬†Sons of Otis¬†nonetheless surpass it. After the thunderstomp that is “Blood Moon,” “Ghost” functions with a similar sense of repetitiveness, but more than any of the other tracks seems to put¬†Aubin in the lead position. His drums start the song with two slow stick-clicks, and then even as the bass and guitar lurch to life, it’s the round-and-round-we-go tom fills that most distinguish the penultimate track.

A tension set early is never really released, and as drawling spaciousness surrounds, the feeling is almost one of sensory overload. It’s the moment when¬†Isolation¬†most comes across like it’s going to swallow you entirely, and even when it seems like that tension is being released, it’s really just moving to another stage. Sandwiched between “Blood Moon” and “Theme II,” it is in just the right position for what it presents, and as it leaves off with noise and lets the thud and rumble of the closer — an apparent sequel to the well-feedbacked “Theme” from Spacejumbofudge — the roiling completeness of Isolation is hard to miss.

This is¬†Sons of Otis in full-album mode, and if “Theme II” is half a song topped with noise, a more fitting summation of the fuckall represented throughout the LP preceding it is hard to imagine. A cymbal wash and residual rumble fades out at the close, and all that’s left is the hungover sense of reality-departure from which one is somewhat cruelly returned. Put your head in it — or maybe put it in your head via those fancy earbuds you’ve got there — and Isolation¬†might just stretch you out for years. My advice is to let it do so. One never knows when the follow-up might be coming.

Sons of Otis, Isolation (2020)

Sons of Otis on Thee Facebooks

Sons of Otis on Bandcamp

Totem Cat Records on Thee Facebooks

Totem Cat Records on Instagram

Totem Cat Records webstore

Tags: , , , , , ,

Sons of Otis Announce Isolation out Oct. 16; New Track Streaming

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 25th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

sons of otis

Look. It’s not that I go around thinking a band like Sons of Otis are about to write a song that’s actually about me in any way, shape or form. That’s not the case. But it’s not like “JJ” is a common name, so yeah, when I see a song with that as the title, of course I’m curious to now what’s up. If your name is something goofy and specific, maybe you’ve experienced the same thing. So yes, I asked Sons of Otis about where the song comes from, and indeed, not in any way, shape or form about me. Probably for the best. Different “JJ” entirely.

“Blood Moon,” however, totally about me. It’s the oddest thing.

No, of course not.

Anyway, for those of you playing at home, it’s been eight friggin’ years since Sons of Otis offered 2012‚Äôs¬†Seismic (review here) for public consumption through Small Stone. Isolation finds them well at home on Totem Cat Records with an Oct. 16 release date, and mark your calendar for it, because I’m not saying I’ve heard the record or anything, but yes I have and it’s R-I-F-F-S like your mama used to bake.

Announcement from the PR wire:

Sons of Otis Isolation

Doom blues stalwarts SONS OF OTIS return with new full-length ‘Isolation’ on Totem Cat Records; first track streaming now!

Toronto’s doom blues legends SONS OF OTIS return from their smoke-filled lands with their first studio album since 2012. ‘Isolation’ will be released on October 16th via Totem Cat Records, and you can stream its crushing first single “Ghost” right now!

From the vast Northern land known as Canada comes an enormous sound: the sound of SONS OF OTIS. Gargantuan, rumbling like the innards of Earth, the trio has been pushing aside entire star systems in its unstoppable path since 1993. Their last studio offering ‘Seismic’ was released in 2012 on Small Stone Records, followed by an extra limited ‘Live In Den Bosch’ album in 2018. Standing strong as ever on their veterans feet, their new album ‘Isolation’ delivers the heaviest stoner doom ever known to man, reminding fans and heavy lovers across the globe of the potency of the trio’s signature fuzz and √ľber-stoned grooves.

‘Isolation’ will be issued on October 16th, 2020 on vinyl, CD and digital through Totem Cat Records, and available to preorder from September 14th, 2020 at this location: https://totemcatrecords.bandcamp.com/album/isolation

SONS OF OTIS New album ‘Isolation’
Out October 16th on Totem Cat Records
on vinyl, CD and digital

TRACK LISTING:
1. Hopeless
2. JJ
3. Trust
4. Blood Moon
5. Ghost
6. Theme II

SONS OF OTIS IS
Ken Baluke – Guitars, Vocals
Frank Sargeant – Bass
Ryan Aubin – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/sonsofotis/
https://sonsofotis.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/totemcatrecords/
https://www.instagram.com/totemcatrecords/
http://totemcatrecords.bigcartel.com/

Sons of Otis, Isolation (2020)

Tags: , , , , , ,

Monolith on the Mesa 2020 Lineup Update: Khemmis, Mondo Drag, Heavy Temple & More Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 2nd, 2020 by JJ Koczan

I’ll be 100 percent honest with you and say I don’t know how recent the lineup additions are here, but I’m trying basically to keep up with Monolith on the Mesa 2020 and there are names listed below that weren’t included in the last lineup update I got from the PR wire, so if I’m a month behind, I’m sorry. It’s been a busy month. Some of those additions are significant as well, from Warhorse, Heavy Temple and Yatra making the trek from the East Coast to Mondo Drag coming from San Diego, Khemmis from Denver and Distances from the relatively nearby Albuquerque. All these and the others listed below will convene at the Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership¬†for what’s the second Monolith on the Mesa Festival, which I have very little doubt is precisely the kind of party it looks like on paper. To wit, it looks like quite a party.

I went to the fest’s website and cut and pasted the lineup. That’s what I did. Swiped the logo while I was there too. Full confession.

With dreams of the desert in Springtime:

 

MONOLITH ON THE MESA 2020 logo

Monolith on the Mesa 2020

May 28-30, 2020 at Taos Mesa Brewing

Monolith on the Mesa, a ‚ÄúHigh‚ÄĚ Desert Experience, is an independent three-day festival entering its second year in 2020. The festival takes place at the Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership, and on the grounds of Hotel Luna Mystica, just outside of Taos, New Mexico. The festival is focused on heavy riff-rock acts from across multiple sub-genres including stoner rock, heavy psych, doom metal, sludge, drone, and retro rock. The festival includes interactive art installations and visual projections throughout the grounds to compliment the mind bending sounds of the bands. Festival capacity is limited to 1,500 to provide an intimate experience. Bands perform on the club-style indoor stage, and the scenic ‚Äúearthship‚ÄĚ outdoor amphitheater stage.

Bands Playing at Monolith on the Mesa:
Black Maria
Destroyer of Light
distances
Duel
Earthride
Fatso Jetson
Great Electric Quest
Heavy Temple
Khemmis
Love Gang
Magic Castles
Mark Deutrom
Mars Red Sky
Mondo Drag
Mondo Generator
Mountain of Smoke
Nebula
Prism Bitch
Ruby the Hatchet
Sons of Otis
Sun Dog
Warhorse
Wo Fat
Yatra
Yawning Man
Year of the Cobra

DATES AND TIMES:
Box office opens at 9 a.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
May 28th doors at 4 pm til 1:30 am
May 29th doors at 12 noon; outside stage til midnight; indoor stage til 1:30 am
May 30th doors at 12 noon; outdoor stage til midnight; indoor stage til 1:30 am

VENUE INFORMATION:
Taos Mesa Brewing: The Mothership
20 ABC Mesa Rd.
El Prado, New Mexico 89529
https://www.taosmesabrewing.com/

TICKET INFORMATION:
Rain or shine event! No refunds!
https://tickets.holdmyticket.com/tickets/344140

https://www.monolithonthemesa.com
https://www.facebook.com/monolithonthemesa
https://www.instagram.com/monolithonthemesa

Monolith on the Mesa 2020 promo

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Monolith on the Mesa: Yawning Man, Fatso Jetson, Wo Fat, Earthride, Magic Castles & Great Electric Quest Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 30th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Monolith on the Mesa, which kind of came out of the gate in full-fledged upstart fashion this year and put Taos, New Mexico, on the map as a destination for heavyheads from all over, continues to announce acts for its follow-up edition in 2020. The fest is set for May 28-30 at¬†Taos Mesa Brewing, same spot it was held this Spring, and is $99 for the weekend, which doesn’t sound cheap, but uh, is, considering what you get. Not exactly slumming it as regards the whole experience of the thing. To wit, the photo below looks like something I would most definitely shell out a hundred bucks to stand in front of for three days and have my ass handed to me by awesome bands. If you disagree, I suggest you take the next few months to reassess your priorities.

But speaking of awesome bands, a bunch more have just joined the lineup, including Maryland’s favorite sons¬†Earthride. They’ll make the trip west and give a bit of East Coast representation out in the desert that I can only imagine will go over like groove-rolling gangbusters. That alone would be worth the $99 in my book, let alone the likes of¬†Yawning Man (always great) and Fatso Jetson (always great) and¬†Wo Fat (always great), who, for those of you who don’t read parentheticals (why not?) are always great, as well as¬†Magic Castles and¬†Great Electric Quest, whom I’ve not yet seen, but whose sounds are most certainly readily diggable.

Cool fest, man. These guys got something going out there in the desert.

From the PR wire:

monolith on the mesa 2019 (Photo by Mike Goodwin)

Monolith On The Mesa prepares for second year bands include Yawning Man, Fatso Jetson, Earthride, Sons of Otis, Ruby the Hatchet, Mondo Generator, Year of the Cobra and more

MONOLITH ON THE MESA OFFERS A “HIGH” DESERT EXPERIENCE THAT DRAWS ROCK FANS FROM ACROSS THE NATION

THE MUSIC FESTIVAL PREPARES FOR ITS SECOND YEAR AND ANNOUNCES SIX MORE BANDS IN THE LINE-UP: Yawning Man, Fatso Jetson, Earthride, Wo Fat, Magic Castles, Great Electric Quest

300 early bird tickets on sale now through Black Friday

May 28-30, 2020 at Taos Mesa Brewing

Monolith on the Mesa, a “High” Desert Experience, is an independent three-day festival entering its second year in 2020. The festival takes place at the Taos Mesa Brewing Mothership, and on the grounds of Hotel Luna Mystica, just outside of Taos, New Mexico. The festival is focused on heavy riff-rock acts from across multiple sub-genres including stoner rock, heavy psych, doom metal, sludge, drone, and retro rock. The festival includes interactive art installations and visual projections throughout the grounds to compliment the mind bending sounds of the bands. Festival capacity is limited to 1,500 to provide an intimate experience. Bands perform on the club-style indoor stage, and the scenic “earthship” outdoor amphitheater stage.

A total of 35 bands will play over three days from May 28-30, 2020. Festival promoters Dano Sanchez and Roman Barham are excited to reveal the names of five more bands today including Yawning Man; Fatso Jetson; Earthride; Wo Fat; Magic Castles; Great Electric Quest. The thirteen bands already made public online include: Sons of Otis; Ruby the Hatchet; Mondo Generator; Duel; Mark Deutrom; Year of the Cobra; Mountain of Smoke; Destroyer of Light; Love Gang; Black Maria; Prism Bitch and Sun Dog. Tickets cost $150 for three-day passes. A limited release of 300 early bird tickets for $99.99 are on sale now through Black Friday (midnight on November 29, 2019).

Dano Sanchez says “We are inspired to continue on our path with Monolith II. We want fans to come to Taos and let go of technology and constraints of urban living for three days. Let your soul breathe! What we offer is unique but still linked musically to festivals like Psycho Las Vegas, Levitation and Stoned and Dusted. We think festival goers will appreciate what we are doing here.”

Monolith on the Mesa is produced as a “destination” festival offering attendees music as well as the unique and mystical Taos experience which includes crisp, clean air on the high desert mesa, surrounded by unobstructed views of the Sangre de Christo Mountains. The festival is located adjacent to the Rio Grande del Norte National Monument. This enables festival goers to enjoy activities such as hiking, river rafting, bike trails, natural and resort hot springs — all making for an immersive experience unlike any other music festival.

DATES AND TIMES:
Box office opens at 9 a.m. Thursday, Friday and Saturday.
May 28th doors at 4 pm til 1:30 am
May 29th doors at 12 noon; outside stage til midnight; indoor stage til 1:30 am
May 30th doors at 12 noon; outdoor stage til midnight; indoor stage til 1:30 am

VENUE INFORMATION:
Taos Mesa Brewing: The Mothership
20 ABC Mesa Rd.
El Prado, New Mexico 89529
https://www.taosmesabrewing.com/

TICKET INFORMATION:
Rain or shine event! No refunds!
https://tickets.holdmyticket.com/tickets/344140

https://www.monolithonthemesa.com
https://www.facebook.com/monolithonthemesa
https://www.instagram.com/monolithonthemesa

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Sons of Otis Finish Writing New Album; Reissuing Paid to Suffer & Spacejumbofudge

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 12th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Okay, yeah, I’ll admit that I saw the below posted from Totem Cat Records last week and held off putting it up here. I guess maybe I was hoping from a more substantive update or something specific, but what that doesn’t account for is that, hey man, it’s Sons of Otis. Take what you can get. Fair enough. The new album from the Toronto-based megastoners — who toured Europe last year, playing Hellfest and then some — is reportedly finished, and that’s nifty news because when it comes out, it’ll be their first studio offering since 2012‚Äôs¬†Seismic¬†(review here). They’ve also been saying they were writing for over a year now, but what the hell. Slow music happens slowly. Be really surprised or don’t.

You might recall that late last year,¬†Totem Cat released the¬†Live in Den Bosch LP capturing the band in 2011 in the Netherlands in an edition of a paltry 300 copies. They’re currently down to their last copies at the BigCartel store linked below, and I haven’t heard the thing, but I’ll happily spend your money and say you should pick it up. If for nothing else than to dedicate the shelf space to¬†Sons of Otis, that’s probably better than whatever else you were going to buy. What was it? Groceries? A car? Nah, screw that. There’s riffs to be had.

The rather efficient announcement below also includes the news that the band’s 1994 debut EP,¬†Paid to Suffer, and their 1996 debut album,¬†Spacejumbofudge (discussed here) are being reissued. CLF Records also put out a vinyl of 2001’s¬†Songs for Worship in 2017, leaving 1999’s¬†Templeball in desperate need of another look.

Here’s the latest, for posterity, as well as a video of the band last year in Paris that unsurprisingly kicks ass:

sons of otis logo

New Sons of Otis album is fully written and will be recorded soon, we’re excited to be releasing it early next year. Paid To Suffer & Spacejumbofudge will be reissued on CD & LP as well.

https://www.facebook.com/sonsofotis/
https://www.reverbnation.com/sonsofotis
https://www.facebook.com/totemcatrecords/
http://totemcatrecords.bigcartel.com/

Sons of Otis, Live in Paris, 2018

Tags: , , , ,

Sons of Otis to Release Live in Den Bosch LP Nov. 15

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 1st, 2018 by JJ Koczan

sons of otis

Science has proven time and again the in depth equation that any new Sons of Otis is good Sons of Otis. If we see the long-running Toronto ultra-stoners as object A, then we can truly posit that A to the power of n equals G times infinity. It all looks like this:

An = Gi

You can’t argue with the math.

Totem Cat Records last week announced it would offer a previously-tour-only compilation from¬†Bongzilla and said at the time there would be another announcement following shortly.¬†Live at Den Bosch will be limited to 300 LP copies — if they’re not already gone on preorders, certainly they will be soon — and is a one-time pressing of¬†Sons of Otis playing live in the Netherlands in 2011. Again, the mere fact of its existence is a positive, and whether you manage to snag a copy or not, you should take heart in knowing that it’s out there.

Of course, the band’s last studio outing was¬†2012‚Äôs¬†Seismic¬†(review here) on¬†Small Stone, and as they hit Europe this past summer playing¬†Hellfest and more, they also noted that a new album was in the works. I think we already know how the numbers play out on that issue.

The band passed the 25-year mark in 2017, and 2019 would be seven years since¬†Seismic, so if you believe in due, they’re due. But one way or the other you’ll probably want to chase this down if you can. There are two versions up for preorder now through the label, with the official release slated for Nov. 15:

sons of otis live in den bosch

[NEW RELEASE ANNOUNCEMENT] Sons of Otis – Live In Den Bosch

Live recording from 2011 in The Netherlands. One-time pressing of only 300 vinyl.

TRACKLIST :
1 – I’m Gone
2 – Bad Man
3 – Lost Soul
4 – Haters
5 – Cosmic Jam
6 – Far From Fine

Preorders start October 30. Official release on November 15.

Cover art by Flog Diver | Illustration & Design

https://www.facebook.com/sonsofotis/
https://www.reverbnation.com/sonsofotis
https://www.facebook.com/totemcatrecords/
http://totemcatrecords.bigcartel.com/

Sons of Otis, Live at Hellfest 2018

Tags: , , , , , ,

Friday Full-Length: Various Artists, Emissions from the Monolith

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 3rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan


I’ll admit, it was thinking of the festival itself rather than this compilation in particular that brought¬†Emissions from the Monolith¬†to mind. The festival, which ran annually the last weekend in May in Youngstown, Ohio, between 2000 and 2006 (there was also one in Chicago in 2001) before its final installment in Austin, Texas, in 2007, was a pioneer of heavy festivals in the US. At that point, outside of showcase events like¬†SXSW and the roughly-concurrent¬†Stoner Hands of Doom fest, which started in 1999 and ran until 2013 in various cities, there wasn’t a ton happening in terms of heavy underground gatherings of its level. Run by¬†Greg Barratt, then also of¬†Tone Deaf Touring, it was a celebration of sludge, noise, doom and everything else heavy whose early lineups read like pages out of riffy history. Imagine seeing¬†Penance and¬†Bongzilla and¬†Spirit Caravan in 2000, or¬†Pale Divine,¬†Witch Mountain and¬†Dragon Green in 2001. To-date,¬†the 2006¬†Emissions fest is the only show¬†Colour Haze have ever played in the US, and while its commitment to the deep underground was unquestionable in supporting bands like¬†Test-Site,¬†Wooly Mammoth and¬†Kung Pao, and its aesthetic would continue to expand, its foundation always seemed to be in raw, visceral and heavy noise rock.

Which brings us to the 11-track compilation at hand. The 2003 lineup for Emissions from the Monolith featured the likes of Acid King, The Hidden Hand, Pelican, Dixie Witch, Halfway to Gone, Erik Larson, Solace, Mastodon, The Atomic Bitchwax and Floor, and yet it’s telling that on the Maduro Records assemblage Emissions from the Monolith, it’s groups like Acid Ape, JJ Paradise Players Club, Meatjack — who featured Brian Daniloski, now of Darsombra, and who once upon a time did the best Melvins cover you’ve ever heard — Volume and Fistula. Some bands featured, like Kung Pao or Rebreather, didn’t actually play that year, but were staples enough that it didn’t really matter. Rebreather in particular, whose primo roller “Earthmover” is included as the second track on the CD, were the quintessential Emissions band, and as regards trivia, they were the first act on the stage at the first edition in 2000. Others, like Pennsylvania’s instrumental heavy jazz experimentalists Stinking Lizaveta were on their own wavelength almost entirely, but still kept that overarching sense of rawness to their approach, while Southern sludge riffers like Burnout and Ohio pill-popper sludge eternals Fistula brought attitude and scathe in kind. Kung Pao‘s “D is for Denim” reads like a mantra and also featured on their 2000 full-length, Bogota (see also: that album’s cover art) — their second record was also a gem — and “The Ballad of Sisyphus MacDuff” by The Rubes began a seven-minute loadout with throat singing before a showing of soulful heavy rock the likes of which still makes me want to break out their 2001 Underdogma Records long-player, Hokum.

Over the last couple years, I’ve talked a lot about pre-social media heavy and many bands lost in that shift from one generation to the next, who maybe had one record out, maybe two, maybe three, and then Facebook happened and they missed the party. Looking at the 2003 Emissions lineup, there are plenty who survived — The Atomic Bitchwax, Weedeater, Mastodon, Acid King, etc. — but others like Dixie Witch, Tummler, All Night, RPG and Abdullah, while they may or may not have stayed active, didn’t quite make the same kind of transition. Though they came back later thanks to the enduring affection for their self-titled, I’d put Floor in that category as well. And listening to the echoing forward drive of Volume‘s “Colossus Freak” on the Emissions from the Monolith comp, it’s not at all like these acts didn’t have anything to offer listeners, or like they still don’t some 15 years later. It really was just a matter of timing. Others, like¬†Sons of Otis, who close the comp with the 10-minute drone-into-riff spectacular “Big Muff,” seem to have an audience just waiting for their next offering to arrive, but some of these bands are gone to parts unknown, and especially considering that, the importance of this collection is unassailable.

Emissions was a special event and¬†The Nyabinghi in Youngstown, where it was held, was a special place. A regular stop on the Tone Deaf circuit in no small part because Barratt owned it, for one weekend every year it became a druggy paradise of barbecue, riffs, booze and volume. You can still see the hotel where everyone stayed from Rt. 80 on your way west, and it’s easy to imagine the scars left behind in that building from the years of stoner abuse it took. I’m sorry to say that there’s much of the 2006 edition I don’t even remember, less for the passage of time than the ridiculous amount of beer consumption the weekend brought. I remember seeing¬†Colour Haze (changed my life; ask me about it sometime), and I remember there was some drama with¬†SunnO))). I remember sheepishly handing¬†Barratt a copy of my band’s demo and being “voted off the island” by a group of friends standing outside in back of the place — I actually had to leave and go back inside — and I remember being poorly hydrated. Thinking back on it now, I kind of wish I’d had my head together more. Story of my life.

But the point is that there was only one¬†Emissions from the Monolith, and though US heavy festival culture is currently undergoing a boom, from¬†Stumpfest and¬†Electric Funeral Fest to¬†Descendants of Crom to¬†Maryland Doom Fest to¬†New England Stoner and Doom Festival, the moment that was¬†Emissions won’t come again. Of course, each of these newer fests is making its own contributions, but thinking back on what¬†Emissions was and listening to this compilation particularly, one can hear the undercurrent of barebones fuckall that typified the time, the place and the room. For those who were there and those who weren’t, it remains a happening worthy of document, and as Emissions from the Monolith¬†works to document even some piece of one year of it, it’s all the more worth preserving.

I sincerely hope you enjoy. Thanks for reading.

The week started off with punk rock guilt at all the shows I didn’t go to over the last couple weeks that I wanted to see and featured a canceled trip to Portugal for SonicBlast Moledo next weekend — surprise, I was going, now I’m not; that’s a week’s worth of suckage in itself, even with Psycho Las Vegas still to look forward to — so yeah, I kind of rolled with the punches as they came. Was bummed at the lack of response the Sleep live review got — I posted three pics from the show on Thee Facebooks the next day and those got a big reaction, so I guess that’s where it went instead of the actual review. I was really happy with the piece though, so I take comfort in that and if anyone else read it, that’s awesome. Making Clutch’s crab cakes was fun and I was glad I got to post that All Them Witches bio. The week kind of ends on a downer with that Ancestors review — the album is awesome, I’m just sulky because I wasn’t cool enough to premiere a track with it — but it was fun to get on a little nostalgia trip about Emissions from the Monolith above. Ups and downs, I guess.

Also had a lot of time with The Pecan this week, and baby-time is good time. He’s getting closer to walking — we’re thinking first steps in the next couple weeks — and he’s got a couple consonants he breaks out if suitably prompted. “Ba,” “ma,” “da,” “la” and the like. That’s fun. I feel lucky to be able to be home with him, especially seeing other parents I know go to work. Less over the summer — I seem to know a lot of teacher-types — but in general. I don’t know. He’s a pretty great little guy, and we got a baby-gate to keep him away from the Little Dog Dio’s food and water dishes, so all the better.

Other shit persists in follow-the-bouncing-ball fashion. I’ve been trying to be mindful of things like my general state, depression and so on. I was trying to stay off my meds for a couple weeks, working pretty hard to make a go of it, but I just flat-out failed, and yes, I recognize the language puts it on my effort when it’s not necessarily about that. Thank you, inner therapist voice which sounds remarkably like The Patient Mrs. Still, it’s been upwards of eight months now and every time I sit still for more than five minutes I continue to just absolutely fucking disgust myself. Even sitting here at the keyboard, I feel my arms at my sides and want to crawl out of my own skin. Part of that is I didn’t get to shower yesterday — grunge parenting — but I know part of it runs deeper and I still have more work to do. I don’t think I’ll ever be one of those self-actualized I’m-okay-you’re-okay types, but it would be awfully nice to make it through an afternoon without feeling like I’m going to have an aneurysm. Whatever. Who fucking cares. The pills help, I guess?

Ugh.

Ups and downs. Strikes and gutters. Some you win, some you lose.

He’s a good kid.

Let’s do the notes for next week. Subject to change blah blah blah:

Mon.: The Crazy Left Experience review/video premiere; The Skull lyric video.
Tue.: Jody Seabody & The Whirls track premiere.
Wed.: Mr. Plow full album stream.
Thu.: Mountain Tamer track premiere.
Fri.: The Machine review.

There are a bunch of other videos I need to sort through and decide what I’m actually going to put up, so I didn’t list them other than The Skull, but Weed Demon, Ape Vermin, Black Space Riders and Windhand all have new clips out, so there’s plenty to plug into the week in whatever order I wind up feeling like doing so. I’ll sort it out over the weekend. Have another bio to write anyway, so I’ll be on the laptop one way or the other.

It’s almost six-thirty and I hear The Pecan waking up in the next room, so I’d better leave it there. Hope you have a great and safe weekend. Thank you as always for reading and please don’t forget to check out the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,