Geezer Working on New Album; Announce Drummer Change

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 2nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

One tries not to read omens at the start of a year, but doesn’t the prospect of a new Geezer record in 2018 sound pretty awesome? The New York-based heavy psych blues trio made it almost too easy to get greedy after issuing Psychoriffadelia (review here) last year on such a quick turnaround from their 2016 self-titled (review here), so how can I really be blamed if I take the word from guitarist/vocalist Pat Harrington below that new material is in the works as a sign that something new could be out before 2018 is done. He floats the second half of the year as a possibility. That’s good enough for me.

Whenever it arrives, the next Geezer will mark the debut of new drummer Steve Markota alongside Harrington and bassist Richie Touseull. Markota hit the road with the band last Fall and they’ve been putting new songs together since. Hopefully by the time they get around to playing Maryland Doom Fest in June — which I’m very much hoping to attend this year — they’ll have some stuff ready for the stage. Fingers crossed on that one. In the meantime, they’ve got an Obelisk-presented gig Jan. 10 at Saint Vitus Bar with Sun VoyagerThe Hazytones and Heavy Traffic. Damn that’s a good lineup.

Here’s what the band has to say:


We hooked up with local heavy hitting drummer and all around cool cat, Steve Markota (Grape and the Grain, Nightmares for a Week) a few months ago to do the Doomed & Stoned Festival and September’s Ode To Doom in NYC. The three of us gelled pretty quickly. Once our gigging commitments were over, we started jamming and eventually songs started to take shape. Currently, we have three songs that we are actively working on and it feels like we are just scratching the surface to what this lineup can do. The music is what I would call “bombastically heavy & groovy” and we are really taking our time to flush out arrangements, fine tune riffs, etc. The process is shaping up to be much like what we did with the self-titled album.

We are playing a bunch of US festivals next year (Maryland Doom Festival, Descendants of Crom, and other as-yet-to-be-announced festivals), so we want to have new material up and running in time for these gigs. I have no idea what shape any future releases will take, however, knowing us, I’ll guess we’ll have something out during the second half of 2018.

In the meantime, we are stoked to be jumping onto The Hazytones tour for a gig on January 10th with Sun Voyager and Heavy Traffic at St. Vitus Bar in Brooklyn, as well as playing the local CD release party for our brothers in Shadow Witch at The Anchor in Kingston on January 27th.

Geezer is:
Pat Harrington – Guitar, Vocals
Richie Touseull – Bass
Steve Markota – Drums

Live photo by Johnny Hubbard.

Geezer, Psychoriffadelia (2017)

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2017

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


Please note: This post is not culled in any way from the Year-End Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2017 to that, please do.

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

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

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

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

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

Here goes:

30. Geezer, Psychoriffadelia
geezer psychoriffadelia

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

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

29. Orango, The Mules of Nana

orango the mules of nana

Released by Stickman Records. Reviewed March 27.

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

28. Radio Moscow, New Beginnings

radio moscow new beginnings

Released by Century Media. Reviewed Oct. 6.

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

27. Spaceslug, Time Travel Dilemma

spaceslug time travel dilemma

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

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

26. Mothership, High Strangeness

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

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

25. Eternal Black, Bleed the Days

eternal black bleed the days

Released by Obsidian Sky Records. Reviewed Aug. 1.

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

24. Kadavar, Rough Times

kadavar rough times

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Sept. 6.

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

23. Shroud Eater, Strike the Sun

shroud eater strike the sun

Released by STB Records. Reviewed June 28.

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

22. Enslaved, E

enslaved e

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Oct. 4.

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

21. Arc of Ascent, Realms of the Metaphysical


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

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

20. Causa Sui, Vibraciones Doradas

causa sui vibraciones doradas

Released by El Paraiso Records. Reviewed Oct. 20.

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

19. Telekinetic Yeti, Abominable

telekinetic yeti abominable

Released by Sump Pump Records. Reviewed April 10.

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

18. Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kozmic Dust

cloud catcher trails of kozmic dust

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

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

17. Ruby the Hatchet, Planetary Space Child

ruby the hatchet planetary space child

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Aug. 29.

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

16. Alunah, Solennial

alunah solennial

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 1.

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

15. Mindkult, Lucifer’s Dream


Released by Transcending Obscurity Records and Caligari Records.

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

14. Argus, From Fields of Fire

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

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

13. Uffe Lorenzen, Galmandsværk


Released by Bad Afro Records. Reviewed Nov. 6.

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

12. The Flying Eyes, Burning of the Season

the flying eyes burning of the season

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Oct. 11.

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

11. Bell Witch, Mirror Reaper

bell witch mirror reaper

Released by Profound Lore. Reviewed Dec. 27.

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

10. Monolord, Rust

monolord rust

Released by RidingEasy Records. Reviewed Oct. 26.

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

9. Vokonis, The Sunken Djinn


Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed June 5.

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

8. Electric Moon, Stardust Rituals

electric moon stardust rituals

Released by Sulatron Records. Reviewed April 7.

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

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


Self-released. Reviewed May 1.

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

6. The Atomic Bitchwax, Force Field


Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Dec. 7.

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

5. Atavismo, Inerte

atavismo inerte

Released by Temple of Torturous. Reviewed Feb. 21.

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

4. Samsara Blues Experiment, One with the Universe


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

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

3. Elder, Reflections of a Floating World


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

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

2. Colour Haze, In Her Garden

colour haze in her garden

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed March 9.

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

1. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War

all them witches sleeping through the war

Released by New West Records. Reviewed Jan. 27.

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

The Next 20

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

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

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

What’s that? More records? Okay…

Honorable Mentions

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

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

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

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

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

Thank You

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

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

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

And one more time, thank you for reading.

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Toke: Orange LP Preorders Start Dec. 9

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 20th, 2017 by JJ Koczan


If you go to the STB Records Bandcamp merch page to check out the different editions of the forthcoming Orange release from Southern sludge upstarts Toke, you’ll notice it says they’re all sold out. In truth, the preorders haven’t started yet — they begin Dec. 9 — for the STB version of the Wilmington, North Carolina, trio’s second full-length, but you can pretty much take that “sold out” to the bank since that’s invariably how the limited-numbers platters will end up when all is said and done. Orange was originally issued on Jan. 1 by the band and by Emetic Records and this year has done nothing at all to slow the three-piece’s significant momentum, having found them on the road a couple times over bringing their inheritance of Weedeater‘s energy and Sourvein‘s grit to stages along the Eastern Seaboard and well beyond.

The new version of Orange comes with bonus covers of Cream and Motörhead, so all the better. Here’s a pretty picture of the Die Hard edition and the details from the PR wire:

toke orange

STB Records Presents!! TOKE “Orange”

Pre-Order Starts 12noon Dec 9th EST .
Vinyl Release Info:

STB 28 – TOKE “Orange” – Repress comes with 2 new VINYL ONLY TRACKS
Sunshine of Your Love – Originally by Cream
Limb from Limb – Originally by Motorhead
Rick Contes from “Young And In The Way” did guest solos on limb from limb!

Test Pressing – 15 units – Comes hand numbered with a SUPER exclusive laser etched WOOD cover.

Die Hard -75 units – 180g vinyl – Half Transparent Orange / Half Clear – with black splatter in a heavy weight euro version jacket with two diff color foil stamping.. Comes with an exclusive TOKE “Orange” cast ring, a 4ft x 4ft TOKE “Orange” silk banner, and a TOKE “Orange” Back patch for your battle vest!

OBI Edition: – 100 units- Clear with a black center and orange splatter. Printed OBI Strip – Made to look like “Toke Brand” rolling papers. hand numbered. Jacket with – spot UV

Standard Edition – 125 units- Clear with black and orange splatter Jacket with – spot UV

Save your alarms and mark your calendars. These will go FAST!

1. Within The Sinister Void 03:58
2. Weight Of The World 03:43
3. Blackened 03:41
4. Weak Life (Feat. T-Roy of Sourvein) 03:17
5. Legalize Sin 03:53
6. Four Hours For Hours 05:05

Toke is:
Bass/Vocals – Bronco
Drums – Jeremy
Guitars – Tim

Toke, Orange (2017)

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Olde to Release Temple CD on Salt of the Earth

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 9th, 2017 by JJ Koczan


I have on a good many occasions made my feelings known about the compact disc as a format. I’m a fan. Not that I don’t enjoy spending the occasional day listening to vinyl records, but if I’m reaching for physical media, I generally feel way less neurotic about handling even the flimsiest of digipaks before I do the fragile, so-easily-bent corners of even the sturdiest of gatefold LPs. Plus they’re cheaper. Not as cheap as tapes, which are also cool, but still. I’m not going to say a bad word about the vinyl resurgence, because it’s helped a lot of really good music find an entire generation’s worth of ears at this point and of course that’s amazing; I guess it’s just the era I was born into was of the CD, and at this point, while I have a decent amount of 12″ and 7″ and 10″ platters around, the CD is what my archive is based around. It is my format of record.

Why am I going through all of this again? Because I’m glad to see that with an upcoming of-course-gorgeous LP through STB Records and a cassette through Medusa Crush Recordings that also looks pretty rad, Toronto noisemakers Olde will release a CD of their 2017 album, Temple (review here), through Salt of the Earth Records. Nice to not have one’s preferred format left out in the cold, and all the better since it looks like we might get some extra tracks with this version too.

Here’s the announcement from Salt of the Earth:

olde temple

Olde – Temple – Salt of the Earth

SALT OF THE EARTH RECORDS is rabidly excited to announce the signing of Toronto, Canada’s OLDE.

With the impending vinyl release of their second full length record, “Temple”, through STB Records, and a release on cassette through Medusa Crush Recordings, OLDE sought a home for the CD release of this beastly album. SALT OF THE EARTH RECORDS was a perfect fit.

This special edition CD digipack version of OLDE’s much anticipated “Temple” record will be the first edition of the release to feature all the songs written and recorded for the “Temple” recording sessions – a definitive version of the album presented as it was originally conceived and featuring expanded artwork. These additional tracks really contribute to the overall sonic gravity of the album, making this an essential release for fans of the band. Stick this in your CD player, turn it all the way up, and let the waves of heavy crush you…come worship at OLDE’s “Temple”.


OLDE is:
Vocals- Doug McLarty
Guitars- Greg Dawson and Chris “Hippy” Hughes
Drums- Ryan Aubin
Bass- Cory McCallum

Olde, Temple (2017)

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Live Review: Shroud Eater, Eternal Black and Begotten in Brooklyn, 09.05.17

Posted in Reviews on September 7th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

shroud eater photo jj koczan

You ever have one of those bands you just can’t seem to see? I’ll try not to bore you with the barrage of internal links, but I’ve been writing about Miami’s Shroud Eater for eight years since their demo (review here) arrived on my doorstep in 2009, and yet, at every opportunity when I’d otherwise see them, something has come up, the show has been canceled, I’ve moved out of the state, whatever it might be — point is it’s always been something. Well not this time, god damn it. This time I was going to finally see Shroud Eater.

The good news is it worked out. The Floridian three-piece hit Brooklyn’s venerated Saint Vitus Bar with support from reformed riffers Begotten and the doomly Eternal Black for a Tuesday night lineup that had no dip front to back. The bad news? Pretty much the only reason I was able to be there was because I was on my way to New Jersey for my grandmother’s funeral later in the week. Further bad news? Shroud Eater canceled the rest of their tour and were turning back south after this show in order to prepare for Hurricane Irma, which had already been called the strongest storm ever seen in the Atlantic Ocean, begotten-Photo-JJ-Koczanto make landfall in their peninsular homeland.

Even with these things hanging overhead, though, the most was made of the night and I can’t speak for anyone else, but from where I stood the show was killer. Begotten were onstage when I walked in, guitarist/vocalist Matthew Anselmo immediately placing himself in the running for the title of “most New York dude ever” as he led the band through a soundcheck and asked afterward if that wasn’t the start of the set. Bassist/vocalist Amanda Topaz and drummer Rob Sefcik (the latter also of Kings Destroy) confirmed that, indeed, the show wasn’t yet starting, the sound guy told everyone to hit the bar for a couple minutes, and all seemed more than happy to oblige.

When they did get started with the show proper, Begotten‘s post-Sleep lumbering came through with due thickness, Topaz‘s Sunn amp sitting precariously atop her bass cabinet while Anselmo‘s Marshall JCM 2000 stood like a totem at the head of a full stack. This was only the second show Begotten have played since reuniting, begotten-2-Photo-JJ-Koczanand they did four songs in the set, among them “Apache,” which was among the lost tracks that premiered here last October to mark their getting back together, and “Judges,” which was the opener of their 2002 self-titled debut, released by Man’s Ruin Records. They actually had that disc for sale, as well as an original Frank Kozik poster for the release in metallic ink that was nothing short of stunning to behold, but the highlight was that they also played a new song, giving a clear signal that they’ll move ahead toward the creation hopefully of a second long-player.

After 15 years since the debut, I don’t think anyone will be in a rush to put a timeline on that, but it was welcome news all the same. When they were done, Eternal Black took the stage quickly, sharing drum gear — guitarist/vocalist Ken Wohlrob noted the Kings Destroy kickdrum head on the kit through which drummer/best-guy-ever Joe Wood was playing, eliciting a chuckle from all, including bassist Hal Miller — and set about rolling forth their likewise dense-toned doomer grooves. Their self-released debut, Bleed the Days (review here), came out Aug. 8 and was still pretty fresh in mind, and their straightforward and roughed-upeternal-black-photo-jj-koczan take on classic, traditionalist riff-led doom was no less welcome from the stage than from that disc. If anything, more so for the voluminous onslaught through which the persistent roll seemed to emanate.

I dug that record — I dig that record. A lot. And granted, I’m biased as regards the band because of my overarching love of Joe Wood (who really is the best guy ever; it’s like his thing) and because I find the gritty edge they bring to Maryland-esque doomery speaks to a particularly Northeastern, particularly New York intensity that always seems to remind me of home. Music like Eternal Black‘s has to come from someplace crowded. Population density is a factor, and I don’t think you could produce a song like the downtrodden “Sea of Graves” without it. One way or another, Bleed the Days is easily among the best doom offerings I’ve heard in 2017, first album or not, and the three-piece made it clear at the Vitus Bar as they had when I saw them at Maryland Doom Fest last year (review here) that the process of their coming together as a band is still veryeternal-black-photo-jj-koczan much at its beginning stages. That is to say, they killed and they sound like they’re only going to keep getting better.

And then my brain finally got to process Shroud Eater live. I’ve had bands-I-should’ve-already-seen out the wazoo over the years, but few have had the kind of consistent stretch of Shroud Eater. Yet, as I stood in front of the Saint Vitus Bar stage and tried my best to snap photos of them in the drawn-down lighting, I couldn’t help but feel like it was somehow serendipitous to catch the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Jean Saiz, bassist/vocalist Janette Valentine and drummer Davin Sosa in support of 2017’s Strike the Sun (review here). Released through STB Records — whose honcho, Steve, was also on-hand for the show and someone else I was long overdue to meet in-person — the second Shroud Eater full-length is hands down the band’s best work yet, and though it was shroud-eater-photo-jj-koczanobvious in talking to them that concerns of family back in Florida and the impending potential for storm destruction were weighing heavily on them, let alone the general bummer of having to cancel shows in the first place, they were nonetheless devastating onstage.

A performance that galloped and slammed and crashed and careened and lumbered and did all that stuff that means it basically kicked the living shit out of the room, Shroud Eater‘s set came through with density to match either of the acts that preceded them and a sense of motion that was all their own. Songs like “Awaken Assassin” from the new record and the furious 2015 single “Face the Master” (video premiere here) brought forth groove and pummel in kind, and with samples between various tracks, traded vocal parts from SaizValentine and Sosa, and an overarching intensity that came through even the most atmospheric of stretches, Shroud Eater made me so fucking happy I was finally getting to see them that I’m not sure I can shroud-eater-photo-jj-koczanhonestly say I’d trade having done so at any point in the last eight years for the experience of watching them play this set. That’s as sincere as I can be about it.

So — clearly not a night for critical impartiality. From feeling lucky to see Begotten on their second show back to having Eternal Black in the middle as the icing on an evening the cake of which just happened to be a long, long, long-awaited Shroud Eater set bludgeoning my consciousness, what the proceedings might’ve lacked in my emotional distance from them, they more than made up for in my raw enjoyment — which, if it’s going to be one or the other, I’ll take. When Shroud Eater were done, I’m fucking proud to say I was the first person to shout for one more song and even prouder to say they played it, and as I stood among friends in the crowd like Kings Destroy vocalist Steve Murphy and guitarist Carl PorcaroClamfight drummer/shroud-eater-photo-jj-koczanvocalist Andy MartinDave from Made in Brooklyn SilkscreenersSteve from STB Records and others, I was reminded of how special some nights can become when the planets finally align just so in order to make them happen.

The rest of the week? We’ll see how it goes for things like familial grief and category five storms — I wished Shroud Eater safe home and safe afterwards; spent the last eight dollars I had to my name on a copy of their Three Curses and Strike the Sun tapes (wanted the CD but didn’t have the requisite $10 and wasn’t about to be like, “Hey you need to buy bottled water for survival this week, can I get a free disc?”) — but this one was restorative on just about every level possible and a show I hope not to forget anytime soon.

More pics after the jump. Thanks for reading.

Read more »

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Shroud Eater Announce East Coast Tour Dates; Strike the Sun out Now

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 9th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

shroud eater

Beginning on Sept. 2, Miami trio Shroud Eater will head out on an East Coast tour supporting their new album, Strike the Sun (review here). Booked by Midnite Collective, it’s a week-long stint to herald the arrival of the STB Records release back in July, and if you’ve yet to check out the record, you can hear in the stream at the bottom of this post that it’s a cause well worth supporting. Some six years-plus after the atmospheric sludge three-piece offered up their debut, ThunderNoise (review here), Strike the Sun benefits from all of the experimentation they’ve taken on since in a bevvy of shorter releases, singles, EPs, splits and so on.

It shames me to say that I’ve been writing about this band since their 2009 demo and I’ve still never seen them live. They’re not coming north of the Wall this time around (the Wall, if you’re wondering, is just on the other side of Providence, Rhode Island on I-95 North; everything above that is officially wildling territory), but given how right on Strike the Sun is, I feel pretty comfortable recommending you check them out anyway should you be able to do so.

Dates follow as culled from the social medias:

shroud eater tour

Shroud Eater Pilgrimage Nor’East

First stop of our northeastern pilgrimage is at The Jinx 912 in Savannah for Statts Pre-Game and Punk Rock Garage Sale, where we’ll be joining ROYAL THUNDER, Black Tusk, The Gumps, Reconsiler and more!

Thanks to the Wizards at @midniteclv for their incredible effort booking this tour for us… we are hitting the eastern coast in support of STRIKE THE SUN – hope to see y’all out there.

Saturday September 2
The Jinx, Savannah, GA

Sunday September 3
Test Pattern, Winston-Salem, NC

Monday September 4
Ottobar, Baltimore, MD

Tuesday September 5
St Vitus, Brooklyn, NY

Wednesday September 6
KungFu Necktie, Philadelphia, PA

Thursday September 7
McCormacks Irish Pub, Richmond, VA

Friday September 8
Harbor Tavern, Jacksonville, FL

Saturday September 9
The Brass Mug, Tampa, FL

Shroud Eater is:
Jean Saiz – guitar/vocals
Janette Valentine – bass/vocals
Davin Sosa – drums/vocals

Shroud Eater, Strike the Sun (2017)

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Year of the Cobra Announce First Leg of US Tour; New EP Due Oct. 29

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 21st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

year of the cobra

Leading up to and through an appearance at Psycho Las Vegas on Aug. 20, Seattle duo Year of the Cobra will once again hit the road in support of last year’s stunner debut album, …In the Shadows Below (review here). The band, who were recently interviewed here, have wrapped up tracking a new EP with none other than Billy Anderson, and they’ll have that out Oct. 29 to follow-up the album and hopefully lead into more good stuff to come.

As to that, they note below “some other big news” that’s forthcoming — in addition to a second leg of the US tour. Anyone care to speculate with me? They’ve got the EP, so it’s early for second album plans. Could be word on a different label releasing the EP. The long-player was released by STB Records, who did a killer job with it, but neither would it surprise me if someone picked up Year of the Cobra like Relapse or Napalm. They’ve broken their collective ass on the road supporting the album and, well, they’re a good band, which also never hurts when it comes to that kind of thing. Could also just be details of the EP release, art, tracks and whatnot. Or a return trip to Europe, perhaps for Fall festival season and to coincide with the EP release?

So many different possibilities. And of course I could be way off on all of the above and it could be something else entirely. If I had to place one, that would probably be my bet. Ha.

The band sent the following down the PR wire:


Year of the Cobra – US Tour First Leg

Year of the Cobra hits the road in August for the first leg of their US tour, including an appearance at Psycho Las Vegas. The band also just finished recording a new EP with Billy Anderson. Tentative release date for that is October 29th. Expect an announcement soon about the second leg of their tour, along with some other big news.

Year of the Cobra live:
8.9 – Kalispell, MT at Old School Records
8.10 – Billings, MT at Smiling Dog Records
8.11 – Denver, CO at Squire Lounge
8.12 – Omaha, NB at The Lookout Lounge
8.13 – St. Paul, MN at Agharta Records (in-store performance during the day)
8.13 – Minneapolis, MN at Nomad
8.14 – Chicago, IL at Reggies
8.15 – Lawrence, KS at The Bottleneck
8.17 – Albuquerque, NM at Launchpad
8.18 – El Paso, TX at Boomtown
8.19 – Tempe, AZ at Yucca Tap Room
8.20 – Las Vegas, NV at Psycho Las Vegas
8.21 – Salt Lake City, UT at Urban Lounge
8.22 – Idaho Falls, ID at The Roadhouse Saloon
8.23 – Bozeman, MT at The Filling Station

Year of the Cobra, …In the Shadows Below (2016)

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Quarterly Review: Ecstatic Vision, Norska, Bison, Valborg, Obelyskkh, Earth Electric, Olde, Deaf Radio, Saturndust, Birnam Wood

Posted in Reviews on July 14th, 2017 by JJ Koczan


It turns out that, yes indeed, I will be able to add another day to the Quarterly Review this coming Monday. Stoked on that. Means I’ll be trying to cram another 10 reviews into this coming weekend, but that’s not exactly a hardship as I see it, and the stuff I have picked out for it is, frankly, as much of a bonus for me as it could possibly be for anyone else, so yeah, look out for that. In the meantime, we wrap the Monday-to-Friday span of 50 records today with another swath of what’s basically me doing favors for my ears, and I hope as always for yours as well. Let’s dig in.

Quarterly Review #41-50:

Ecstatic Vision, Raw Rock Fury


Hard touring and a blistering debut in 2015’s Sonic Praise (review here) quickly positioned Ecstatic Vision at the forefront of a Philadelphia-based mini-boom in heavy psych (see also: Ruby the Hatchet, Meddlesome Meddlesome Meddlsome Bells, and so on), and their Relapse-issued follow-up, Raw Rock Fury, only delves further into unmitigated cosmic swirl and space-rocking crotchal thrust. The now-foursome keep a steady ground in percussion and low end even as guitar, sax, synth and echoing vocals seem to push ever more far-out, and across the record’s four tracks – variously broken up across two sides – the band continue to stake out their claim on the righteously psychedelic, be it in the all-go momentum building of “You Got it (Or You Don’t)” or the more drifting opening movement of closer “Twinkling Eye.” Shit is trippy, son. With the echoing-from-the-depths shouts of Doug Sabolik cutting through, there’s still an edge of Eastern Seaboard intensity to Ecstatic Vision, but that only seems to make Raw Rock Fury live up to its title all the more. Still lots of potential here, but it’ll be their third record that tells the tale of whether they can truly conquer space itself.

Ecstatic Vision on Thee Facebooks

Ecstatic Vision at Relapse Records website


Norska, Too Many Winters


Issued through Brutal Panda, Too Many Winters is the second full-length from Portland five-piece Norska, and its six tracks/48 minutes would seem to pick up where Rwake left off in presenting a progressive vision of what might be called post-sludge. Following an engaging 2011 self-titled debut, songs like the title-track and “This is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things” churn and careen through Sourvein-style abrasion, vaguely Neurosis-style nod and, in the case of the latter or closer “Fire Patience Backbone,” soundscaping minimalism that, in the finale, is bookended by some of the record’s most intense push following opener “Samhain” and the subsequent “Eostre.” That salvo starts Too Many Winters with a deceptive amount of thrust, but even there atmosphere is central as it is to the outing as a whole, and a penultimate interlude in the 2:22 “Wave of Regrets” does well to underscore the point before the fading-in initial onslaught of “Fire Patience Backbone.” Having Aaron Rieseberg of YOB in the lineup with Jim Lowder, Dustin Rieseberg, Rob Shaffer and Jason Oswald no doubt draws eyes their way, but Norska’s sonic persona is distinct, immersive and individualized enough to stand on its own well beyond that pedigree.

Norska on Thee Facebooks

Norska at Brutal Panda Records website


Bison, You are Not the Ocean You are the Patient


Think about the two choices. You are Not the Ocean You are the Patient. Isn’t it the difference between something acting – i.e., an object – and something acted upon – i.e., a subject? As British Columbian heavy rockers Bison return after half a decade via Pelagic Records, their fourth album seems to find them trying to push beyond genre lines into a broader scope. “Until the Earth is Empty,” “Drunkard,” “Anti War” and “Raiigin” still have plenty of thrust, but the mood here is darker even than 2012’s Lovelessness found the four-piece, and “Tantrum” and closer “The Water Becomes Fire” bring out a more methodical take. It’s been 10 years since Bison issued their debut Earthbound EP and signed to Metal Blade for 2008’s Quiet Earth, and the pre-Red Fang party-ready heavy rock of those early works is long gone – one smiles to remember “These are My Dress Clothes” in the context of noise-rocking centerpiece “Kenopsia” here, the title of which refers to the emptiness of a formerly occupied space – but if the choice Bison are making is to place themselves on one side or the other of the subject/object divide, they prove to be way more ocean than patient in these songs.

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Bison at Pelagic Records website


Valborg, Endstrand


With its churning, swirling waves of cosmic death, one almost expects Valborg’s Endstrand (on Lupus Lounge/Prophecy Productions) to be more self-indulgent than it is, but one of the German trio’s greatest assets across the 13-track/44-minute span of their sixth album is its immediacy. The longest song, “Stossfront,” doesn’t touch five minutes, and from the 2:14 opener “Jagen” onward, Valborg reenvision punk rock as a monstrous, consuming beast on songs like “Blut am Eisen,” “Beerdigungsmaschine,” “Alter,” “Atompetze” and closer “Exodus,” all the while meting put punishment after punishment of memorable post-industrial riffing on “Orbitalwaffe,” the crashing “Ave Maria” and the noise-soaked penultimate “Strahlung,” foreboding creeper atmospherics on “Bunkerluft” and “Geisterwürde,” and landmark, perfectly-paced chug on “Plasmabrand.” Extreme in its intent and impact, Endstrand brings rare clarity to an anti-genre vision of brutality as an art form, and at any given moment, its militaristic threat feels real, sincere and like an appropriate and righteous comment on the terrors of our age. Fucking a.

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Valborg at Prophecy Productions website


Obelyskkh, The Providence


Probably fair to call the current status of German post-doomers Obelyskkh in flux following the departure of guitarist Stuart West, but the band has said they’ll keep going and their fourth album, The Providence (on Exile on Mainstream) finds them capping one stage of their tenure with a decidedly forward-looking perspective. Its six-song/56-minute run borders on unmanageable, but that’s clearly the intent, and an air of proggy weirdness infects The Providence from the midsection of its opening title-track onward as the band – West, guitarist/vocalist Woitek Broslowski, bassist Seb Fischer and drummer Steve Paradise – tackle King Crimson rhythmic nuance en route to an effects-swirling vision of Lovecraftian doomadelia and massive roll. Cuts like “Raving Ones” and 13-minute side B leadoff “NYX” play out with a similarly deceptive multifaceted vibe, and by the time the penultimate “Aeons of Iconoclasm” bursts outward from its first half’s spacious minimalism into all-out High on Fire thrust ahead of the distortion-soaked churn of closer “Marzanna” – which ends, appropriately, with laughter topping residual effects noise – Obelyskkh make it abundantly clear anything goes. The most impressive aspect of The Providence is that Obelyskkh manage to control all this crunching chaos, and one hopes that as they continue forward, they’ll hold firm to that underlying consciousness.

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Exile on Mainstream Records website


Earth Electric, Vol. 1: Solar


Former Mayhem/Aura Noir guitarist Rune “Blasphemer” Ericksen leads breadth-minded Portuguese four-piece Earth Electric, and their devil-in-the-details Season of Mist debut, Vol. 1: Solar, runs a prog-metal gamut across a tightly-woven nine tracks and 35 minutes, Ericksen’s vocals and those of Carmen Susana Simões (Moonspell, ex-Ava Inferi) intertwine fluidly at the forefront of sharply angular riffing and rhythmic turns from bassist Alexandre Ribeiro and drummer Ricardo Martins. The organ-laced push of “Meditate Meditate” and “Solar” and the keyboard flourish of “Earthrise” (contributed by Dan Knight) draw as much from classic rock as metal, but the brew Earth Electric crafts from them is potent and very much the band’s own. “The Great Vast” and the shorter “Set Sail (Towards the Sun)” set up a direct flow into the title cut, and as one returns to Earth Electric for repeat listens, the actual scope of the album and the potential for how the band might continue to develop are likewise expansive, despite its many pulls into torrents of head-down riffing. Almost intimidating in its refusal to bow to genre.

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Earth Electric at Season of Mist website


Olde, Temple


After debuting in 2014 with I (review here), Toronto’s Olde return via STB Records with Temple, proffering sludge-via-doom vibes and a center of weighted tonality around which the rest of their aesthetic would seem to be built, vocalist Doug McLarty’s throaty growls alternately cutting through and buried by the riffs of guitarists Greg Dawson (also production) and Chris “Hippy” Hughes, the bass of Cory McCallum and the rolling crashes of drummer Ryan Aubin (also of Sons of Otis) on tightly constructed pieces like “Now I See You” and the tempo-shifting “Centrifugal Disaster,” which reminds by its finish that sometimes all you need is nod. Olde have more to offer than just that, of course, as the plodding spaciousness of “The Ghost Narrative” and the lumbering “Maelstrom” demonstrate, but even in the turns between crush and more open spaces of the centerpiece title-track and the drifting post-heavy rock of closer “Castaway,” the underlying focus is on capital-‘h’ Heavy, and Olde wield it as only experts can.

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STB Records webstore


Deaf Radio, Alarm

deaf radio alarm

Based in Athens and self-releasing their debut album, Alarm, in multiple vinyl editions, the four-piece of Panos Gklinos, Dimitris Sakellariou, Antonis Mantakas and George Diathesopoulos – collectively known as Deaf Radio – make no bones about operating in the post-Queens of the Stone Age/Them Crooked Vultures sphere of heavy rock. To their credit, the songwriting throughout “Aggravation,” “Vultures and Killers” and the careening “Revolving Doors” lives up to that standard, and though even the later “Oceanic Feeling” seems to be informed by the methods of Josh Homme, there’s a melodic identity there that belongs more to Deaf Radio as well, and keeping Alarm in mind as their first long-player, it’s that identity that one hopes the band will continue to develop. Rounding out side B with the howling guitar and Rated R fuzz of the six-minute “…And We Just Pressed the Alarm Button,” Deaf Radio build to a suitable payoff for the nine-track outing and affirm the aesthetic foundation they’ve laid for themselves.

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Deaf Radio on Bandcamp


Saturndust, RLC

saturndust rlc

The further you go into Saturndust’s 58-minute second LP RLC, the more there is to find. At any given moment, the São Paulo, Brazil-based outfit can be playing to impulses ranging from proggy space rock, righteously doomed tonal heft, aggressive blackened thrust or spacious post-sludge – in one song. Over longform cuts like “Negative-Parallel Dimensional,” “RLC,” “Time Lapse of Existence” and closer “Saturn 12.C,” the trio cast a wide-enough swath to be not quite genreless but genuinely multi-tiered and not necessarily as disjointed as one might expect in their feel, and though when they want to, they roll out massive, lumbering riffs, that’s only one tool in a full arsenal at their apparent disposal. What tie RLC together are the sure hands of guitarist/vocalist Felipe Dalam, bassist Guilherme Cabral and drummer Douglas Oliveira guiding it, so that when the galloping-triplet chug of “Time Lapse of Existence” hits, it works as much in contrast to the synth-loaded “Titan” preceding as in conjunction with it. Rather than summarize, “Saturn 12.C” pushes far out on a wash of Dalam’s keyboards before a wide-stomping apex, seeming to take Saturndust to their farthest point beyond the stratosphere yet. Safe travels and many happy returns.

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Saturndust on Bandcamp


Birnam Wood, Triumph of Death

birnam wood triumph of death

Massachusetts doomers Birnam Wood have two prior EPs under their collective belt in 2015’s Warlord and a 2014 self-titled, but the two-songer single Triumph of Death (kudos on the Hellhammer reference) is my first exposure to their blend of modern progressive metal melody and traditional doom. They roll out both in able fashion on the single’s uptempo opening title-track and follow with the BlackSabbath-“Black-Sabbath” sparse notemaking early in their own “Birnam Wood.” All told, Triumph of Death is only a little over nine minutes long, but it makes for an encouraging sampling of Birnam Wood’s wares all the same, and as Dylan Edwards, Adam McGrath, Shaun Anzalone and Matt Wagner shift into faster swing circa the eponymous tune’s solo-topped midpoint, they do so with a genuine sense of homage that does little to take away from the sense of individuality they’ve brought to the style even in this brief context. They call it stoner metal, and there’s something to that, but if we’re going on relative balance, Triumph of Death is more doom-stoner than stoner-doom, and it revels within that niche-within-a-niche-within-a-niche sensibility.

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Birnam Wood on Bandcamp


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