The Obelisk Presents: The Top 10 Debut Albums of 2014

Posted in Features on December 26th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Dudley-Street,-Seven-Dials.-Gustave-Doré-(1832-83) top 10

Please note: These are not the results of the Readers Poll. That’s still going on. Please feel free to submit your list.

Making and releasing a first full-length album is a special moment in the life of any band, and that’s why I wanted to single out some of the best debuts of the year. I’ve never done this before, and so maybe with a top 10 I’m testing the waters a bit, but it seemed a worthwhile project anyway. It was a long (inner) debate about whether or not to include EPs and singles here too, but in the end, it just seemed to work better with albums.

Not to take anything away from shorter releases, but putting out a debut EP is much different than a debut LP. First of all, a debut LP can come after several EPs or singles or demos or whatever and still be considered first. What a first album says to the listener is, “Okay, we’ve come this far and we’re ready to take this step.” Some bands, once they start putting out albums, never go back to EPs. Others who’ve been around for 30 years still release demos every now and then, but even so, a group only ever gets one crack at their first album, and it can be one of the most important things we ever do.

Compared to how many come out any given month, year, century, etc., very few debut long-players ever wind up being classics, and who knows what the future might hold for any of these acts on this list, but that not knowing and that excitement are part of the fun.

Let’s get to it:

the-well-samsara

The Top 10 Debut Albums of 2014

1. The Well, Samsara
2. The Golden Grass, The Golden Grass
3. Spidergawd, Spidergawd
4. Atavismo, Desintegración
5. Blues Pills, Blues Pills
6. Steak, Slab City
7. Comet Control, Comet Control
8. Elephant Tree, Theia
9. Black Moon Circle, Black Moon Circle
10. Temple of Void, Of Terror and the Supernatural

A couple honorable mentions. First to Valley of the Sun‘s Electric Talons of the Thunderhawk, which I still didn’t know what to do with the release date for. Officially 2014, but kinda released in 2013 too. I was back and forth on it. Also Wasted Theory‘s burly debut, Monolord‘s Empress Rising, Child‘s Child, the Silent Chamber, Noisy Heart sprawling one-song LP from Sylvaine.

Some notes: Actual time spent listening played a big role in the structuring of this list. More so than the Top 30 of 2014, I would say. The Well‘s Samsara and the self-titled debut from The Golden Grass featured pretty high on that list as well, and that’s because both of them were records that I continually went back to and found satisfying after they came out. In both bands I think there’s significant stylistic potential, but more importantly, they both came out of the gate with their mission solidified and ready to roll.

With Spidergawd‘s Spidergawd, the progressive take on classic heavy rock boogie was blinding, but righteous. Their second album is due early next year on Stickman and I’ll have more on it to come in the weeks ahead. Atavismo‘s Desintegración hit me like the proverbial ton of bricks. Just four songs, but the atmosphere was gorgeous enough that after listening I went back and asked the band if I could host a stream in hopes that more people would hear it. Fortunately for anyone who listened, they were kind enough to comply.

On sheer impact alone, I think Blues Pills‘ Blues Pills warrants inclusion on this list, but in my own listening, I put on the top four so much more often that I couldn’t really justify placing it any higher. But in terms of a first album coming out and really propelling a band to the next level, I think for a lot of people it’s probably the debut of the year. Fair enough. Steak‘s Slab City found the London four-piece physically and stylistically right in the heart of the California desert and their passion for that place and its sound came across heartfelt on the recording, which only heightened the appeal.

And while I’m still sorry to see Quest for Fire go, the debut from offshoot Comet Control helped ease that sorrow neatly with a blend of driving heavier space rock and psychedelic vibing. Cool album, bodes well. You could say the same for Elephant Tree‘s Theia, I suppose. Their take on psychedelia melded with screamy sludge successfully where I think a lot of bands would’ve fallen flat trying the same thing, and that’s definitely something noteworthy in an initial offering, particularly one not preceded by an EP or other kind of release.

To round things out, two very different records. Black Moon Circle‘s self-titled took a popular stylistic course — melding heavy rock and psychedelic jamming — and showed the trio beginning to make it their own. That’s something I hope will continue on their second outing, which, like that of Spidergawd, is coming on quick early in 2015. And finally, Temple of Void‘s extreme, deathly take on doom courted genres smoothly and delivered its punishment with efficiency while holding together a coherent atmosphere of darkness and aggression. It was a sadistic joy to behold.

If you missed it, there were a couple debuts included on the Top 20 Short Releases of 2014 list as well — Gold & SilverWrenDeath Alley, and so on — so if you’re looking for more of that kind of thing, you don’t have to look too far. I hope if there was a debut album this year that particularly caught your attention, you’ll let me know in the comments.

 

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Steak, Slab City: The New Red Sun Blues

Posted in Reviews on September 11th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

steak slab city

After two ceremonious vinyl reissues for their 2012 Disastronaught (review here) and 2013 Corned Beef Colossus (review here) EPs, London heavy rock four-piece Steak make their proper debut on Napalm Records with Slab City, also their first full-length. In several ways, the album is a 10-track/49-minute homage to the glories of desert rock, and particularly, Slab City is indebted to Kyuss‘ 1994 genre classic Welcome to Sky Valley in both its mindset and execution, taking its name, as that record does (if unofficially) from a location in the Californian desert. Not only that, but Steak — vocalist Kippa, guitarist Reece Tee (also a principal organizer of the DesertFest in London), bassist James “Cam” Cameron and drummer Sammy Forway — traveled from London to Palm Springs in Southern CA in order to record at Thunder Underground with producer Harper Hug, who also recently engineered outings by Vista Chino and John Garcia, and co-producer Arthur Seay, guitarist of Unida and House of Broken Promises. In addition, John Garcia makes a guest vocal appearance on side A’s “Pisser,” underscoring that track’s particular Blues for the Red Sun-shine, and even unto the goof-off bonus track “Old Timer D.W.” — which, admittedly, is both less pull-you-out-of-the-album and more of an actual song than was “Lick Doo” on Sky Valley — Steak wear their influence on their sleeve. I’m not going to complain about that. With the general quality of their riffing and the compression brought to the recording — Vista Chino‘s Peace makes a decent comparison point, production-wise — by Hug and SeaySteak embark on their first long-player by continuing the progression from their EPs that serves as the steps toward creating their own identity out of that influence. And anyway, it’s not like they’re trying to tell you they wrote “Gardenia” or something.

I’ve been curious to hear how Steak would make the leap from their shorter releases to a full album. They do so reusing only two tracks — “Liquid Gold” from the second EP, and “Machine,” from the first. Each is the second song on its respective half of Slab City, which seems to have been structured with at least thoughts of vinyl. “Liquid Gold” in particular is an early highlight, coming off opener “Coma”‘s noisy and gradually solidifying atmosphere — the first couple minutes of the album, the band seem to be coalescing aurally before the track launches — more expansive sounding than the original and with a different treatment of Kippa‘s vocals, which here are deeper in the mix and piled in effects, whether it’s echo, compression, megaphone, reverb, etc. Sometimes that can signal a lack of confidence on the part of a singer, but I don’t think that’s necessarily the case here. While he’s got a gruff delivery and he’s prone to sticking to it, Kippa doesn’t strike as the kind of vocalist trying to hide behind studio trickery, and the impression across Slab City‘s first three tracks — “Coma,” “Liquid Gold” and the shorter push of the titular cut, “Slab City” — is that the band is trying to find different ways of changing things up around Tee‘s wall of fuzz and the laid back heavy grooves of Cameron (who once again serves as Steak‘s hidden weapon) and Forway, whose tight snare pop manages to ground the proceedings even at their most jammed out. And they do jam. Songs are structured, but even “Pisser” moves through its varied parts and into and out of Garcia‘s parts with a sense that any minute now Steak might just decide to ride a riff for the next eight minutes. They don’t go that far — at least not until closer “Rising,” and even that has purpose — but they make it known effectively that they could and reserve the right to at some future date. The noisy wash of “Quaaludes and Interludes” underscores the dynamic flow of Slab City‘s first half, setting up side B to keep the momentum moving forward.

steak

It does so successfully. “Roadhead,” which follows “Quaaludes and Interludes,” begins a trio of faster cuts that continues through “Machine” and “Hanoid” as Steak hit full throttle en route to the eight-minute “Rising” and Slab City‘s grandest statement of where they are as a band. Though I doubt you’ll be hearing about it on the radio anytime soon, “Roadhead” is one of the album’s catchiest songs — a solid opener for the second half — and with the familiar roll of “Machine” backing it up, there’s a bit of back and forth play going on with the energy of the material, despite a pretty consistent tempo. Tee alternates between airy lead lines in the verse and a more heads-down chorus rollout, but the groove is palpable either way, and he saves a scorching lead for “Hanoid,” which builds up quickly over a four-and-a-half-minute course and ends with a cymbal wash and feedback to signal the shift into “Rising,” the longest piece on the record and most expansive, bringing in a feedback start, some vague speech in there either sampled or not, drum thud taking hold to transition into the verse. The song is almost at its halfway point be the time they get to the chorus, Kippa raging out his lines over waves of distortion in the guitar and bass. More feedback serves as a transition back through the next cycle, and though it’s basically a verse and a chorus repeated, Steak approach “Rising” with a feel open enough to bring some chaotic vibing to the mix, which is as fitting an end to Slab City‘s movement as one could ask. That makes “Old Timer D.W.” a little extraneous, perhaps, but the bonus track, which begins with a cockney “Come on now, work for your money! Play another song!” and shifts into reverb-drenched slide guitar shenanigans, is clearly serving a purpose beyond what it might convey about the band’s songwriting. Its half-written feel is somewhat incongruous with Slab City‘s overall purposeful nature — if Steak had just been interested in screwing around, they probably would’ve saved the travel expense and stayed in London or at least the UK to do it — but as far as sending messages goes, “we don’t take ourselves too seriously” isn’t a bad thing for a band to say on their first album.

But don’t mistake them, Steak might be up for tossing off a riff here and there, but even when they do so, they’re playing to a very specific idea, and Slab City — desert hued and desert captured — is a record by a group of players who knew precisely what they wanted to accomplish in making it. It is not haphazard. The two EPs set up a comic-book-style narrative between them, and I don’t know if Slab City continues that or not (hazards of digital promos), but in terms of their overarching progression, it proves just how ready they were to take on the long-player task, and justifies the ambitious method by which they recorded the album through high-grade riffs, memorable songs and a molten flow between its component tracks. Steak leave themselves room to grow, but don’t let that take away from the fact that Slab City is a markedly impressive debut and as true a work of desert rock as one is likely to find no matter the geography.

Steak, “Rising” official video

Steak on Thee Facebooks

Steak at Napalm Records

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audiObelisk Transmission 039

Posted in Podcasts on August 26th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Click Here to Download

 

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

This one’s a couple minutes shorter than the last few have been, but lacks nothing for substance, and particularly after YOB‘s “Marrow,” anything I put at the end would’ve just been filler to meet some imaginary obligation on my part. If you feel like you’re lacking the four minutes, give me a call and we’ll chat about records for the rest of that time. It’ll be a hoot. In any case, I think there’s plenty here to sink into — stuff that for a lot of people, myself included, will be on year-end lists and albums for which 2014 will be remembered when all is said and done. Two of my four current contenders for Album of the Year are featured, first and last.

Parts of this podcast are gorgeous, parts are ugly, but I think everything here holds up in terms of quality and listening back, I like the way this one gets immersive with a mix of longer tracks and shorter ones, slower and faster, etc. As always, I hope you enjoy, and I thank you sincerely for taking the time to check it out.

First Hour:
Lo-Pan, “Regulus” from Colossus (2014)
Steak, “Liquid Gold” from Slab City (2014)
The Well, “Mortal Bones” from Samsara (2014)
Orange Goblin, “The Devil’s Whip” from Back from the Abyss (2014)
Kvlthammer, “Hesh Trip” from Kvlthammer (2014)
Snailking, “To Wonder” from Storm (2014)
Earth, “From the Zodiacal Light” from Primitive and Deadly (2014)
Pallbearer, “Watcher in the Dark” from Foundations of Burden (2014)
Sorxe, “Her Majesty” from Surrounded by Shadows (2014)

Second Hour:
Humo del Cairo, “Tres” from Preludio EP (2014)
Joy, “Miles Away” from Under the Spell Of… (2014)
Megaton Leviathan, “Past 21” from Past 21: Beyond the Arctic Cell (2014)
Bong, “Blue at Noon” from Haikai No Ku – Ultra High Dimensionality LP (2014)
YOB, “Marrow” from Clearing the Path to Ascend (2014)

Total running time: 1:53:47

 

Thank you for listening.

Download audiObelisk Transmission 039

 

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Steak Premiere Video for “Rising” from New Album Slab City

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 14th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

UK heavy rockers Steak may have gone to the desert to record Slab City, but they went to the woods to film the video for “Rising.” Their full-length debut is due out Sept. 9 on Napalm Records, following two successful EPs, 2013’s Corned Beef Colossus (review here) and 2012’s Disastronaught (review here), and a host of European tours and festival slots. The London-based four-piece of vocalist Kippa, guitarist Reece Tee, bassist Cam and drummer Sammy will join forces with their labelmate John Garcia — who also puts in a guest appearance on the album — for a round of dates with his solo live band this fall. I’m not sure how many sjpws they’re doing together, but posters have started to surface, and what it all rounds out to is the next stage of progression for one of the fertile UK scene’s most potent up and coming acts.

Dudes in comics.Slab City was tracked at California desert hotspot Thunder Underground in Palm Springs, and I don’t know where the “Rising” clip was captured, but there isn’t a speck of sand to be seen. Off in the woods at night, there’s magical drug/artifact smoking, weird reincarnation rituals, and in the meantime, with spotlights behind branches like they used to do on the X-Files, Steak can be found jamming out with tree-falls-in-the-forest abandon. If you’re looking to get a feel for what Slab City is all about, the song itself is a more than suitable representation of its desert-minded grooves and bulk supply of spacious riffage. It is the apex of the record as well as its longest track and one of its most powerful executions, the band tackling the form of desert rock and invariably bringing something of their own to it.

“Rising” was directed by Samuel Smith and produced by Smith and Kieron Allender. Please enjoy:

Steak, “Rising” official video

Steak‘s Slab City will be out Sept. 9 on Napalm Records. The album is available now for pre-order. More info at the links.

Steak on Thee Facebooks

Slab City at Napalm Records

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30 Before ’15: Records Not to Miss Before the New Year Hits

Posted in Features on July 8th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

Before I even start, let’s get one thing out of the way. I want a new Sleep album too. My not including them on this list isn’t due to the fact that I don’t think a new Sleep album is a good idea, but just because I haven’t seen anything about it being recorded or released in the next five-plus months. If it hits on Jan. 1, 2015, I’ll be the happiest Baby New Year you ever saw, but that’s a different list altogether.

Ditto that Om and High on Fire. The latter were writing as of May, and I know Om did some recording way back in January, but I’ve yet to see solid word of new records at all, let alone before the end of the year. Either or both or all three may happen, but until I see some hint of it, all I can go on is the info I can find.

Seriously though, how badass would it be if all three put out albums before the New Year? That excitement is kind of what this list is about. Some of these records I’ve heard, but most I haven’t, so it’s just basic speculation about what I think could be some of the best releases in the next couple months. You’ll note that while there are plenty of dates TBA, nothing listed arrives in November, so as 2014 winds down, there’s bound to be even more quality stuff than appears here.

In fact, I struggled to take things out to get it down to 30. And it still goes to 31! I figured no one would mind. They’re numbered, but the list is in alphabetical order.

If I left something out you’re dying to hear, please let me know in the comments.

Thanks in advance for reading:

 

1. Alunah, TBA (Sept.)


Birmingham’s Alunah, like several others below, are a holdover from the Most Anticipated Albums list back at the start of the year. The difference between now and then is that, while its title still hasn’t been revealed so far as I know, their Napalm Records debut has been recorded, mixed and mastered, the latter by Tony Reed, the former by Greg Chandler of Esoteric, and given a September release date. Two years after Alunah made riffy doom sound easy on their sophomore outing, White Hoarhound (review here), I look forward to hearing how they’ve grown and shifted in their approach to warm-sounding tones and memorable hooks. They’ve set a pretty high standard for themselves. Alunah on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.

2. Apostle of Solitude, Of Woe and Wounds (Oct.)


These guys. I don’t mind telling you it was a thrill when Indianapolis doomers Apostle of Solitude were announced as having signed to Cruz del Sur to release their third album, Of Woe and Wounds, this fall. Their second outing, 2010’s Last Sunrise (review here), didn’t get the attention it deserved, but the handful of songs they’ve made public since have shown much promise, and as the first Apostle of Solitude full-length to feature guitarist/vocalist Steve Janiak (also Devil to Pay) in harmony with guitarist/vocalist Chuck Brown — the band is completed by bassist Dan Davidson and drummer Corey Webb — this is definitely going to make for a doomly autumn. Apostle of Solitude on Thee Facebooks, Cruz del Sur Music.

3. Blackwolfgoat, Drone Maintenance (Aug. 26)


Recorded late last year at Amps vs. Ohms in Boston, the third album from Maple Forum alum Blackwolfgoat — the prog-drone alter ego of guitarist Darryl Shepard (Milligram, Black Pyramid, The Scimitar, Roadsaw, etc.) — is the project’s most expansive outing yet, and it seems Shepard is moving more in a song-based direction, rather than some of the building loops of the past two offerings. Of course, there will be plenty of those as well, but watch out for some acoustic guitar, and deep-in-the-mix vocals, as they could easily hint of things to come. Or Darryl could turn it on its head and do a calypso record. Either way, I’m on board with no pretense of impartiality. Blackwolfgoat on Bandcamp, Small Stone’s Bandcamp.

4. Blues Pills, Blues Pills (Aug. 5)


The much-heralded Swedish/French/American psych-blues conglomeration Blues Pills will make their self-titled debut (short review here) next month, and while it’s probably going to be a bigger deal in Europe than in the States — at least until Nuclear Blast brings them over here for a tour, then the country is going to go apeshit for them — the songwriting and soulful execution of their tracks justifies the hype. There’s a bit of retro posturing to what they do, some Graveyard shuffle (it feels inevitable at this point with a ’70s-influenced band), but the grooves are easy to dig into and the potential is basically limitless for where they want to go. It’s scary to keep in mind, but this is just the beginning. Blues Pills on Thee Facebooks, Nuclear Blast.

5. Bongripper, Miserable (July 7)


You may notice something strange about the date above for a list of upcoming albums in that July 7 was yesterday. Well, Chicago’s Bongripper posted their new three-track full-length monster Miserable on their Bandcamp for stream and download ahead of the vinyl’s arrival, and it was just too righteous to leave out. Those seeking landmark riffing need look no further than the 19-minute centerpiece “Descent,” which meters out stomp enough that future “scientists” will study its footprint, and closer “Into Ruin” (28:25) is guaranteed to be the heaviest half-hour you’ll spend today. Miserable feels like a no-brainer, but maybe that’s just because Bongripper have such a propensity for pounding skulls into mush. Bongripper on Thee Facebooks, Miserable on Bandcamp.

6. Botanist, VI: Flora (Aug. 11)


I feel like I missed a couple numbers from San Francisco-based environmentalist black metal unit Botanist along the way, but they’ll nonetheless issue VI: Flora on The Flenser next month, furthering their marriage of destruction and beauty and insistent percussive expression. The spaces Botanist — a one-man project from Robert Martinelli — create feel ritualistic without the dramatic posturing that pervades much of the genre, and sound, somewhere between raging and mournful, is hypnotic. Whatever your expectation might be, Martinelli seems pleased to use it to their advantage, and ultimately, defy it. Post-human, hammered dulcimer-laden black metal. It would be harder for Botanist to not be unique. Botanist on Thee Facebooks, The Flenser.

7. Brant Bjork, TBA (TBA)


When Brant Bjork‘s next album might show up, I don’t know. I know he’s signed to Napalm, and I know the photo above was snapped as he finished some vocals before going on tour with his Low Desert Punk band that includes guitarist Bubba DuPree, bassist Dave Dinsmore and drummer Tony Tornay, but whether or not the album they made is the funk-inspired Jakoozi that’s been in the offing for a while, or another collection of songs, and if Napalm will get it out before the end of the year remain a mystery. I do find it interesting that for his first “solo” outing post-Vista Chino (that band being on hiatus), Bjork has assembled a new band to work with rather than record multiple instruments himself, but no matter who’s involved, when it’s Brant Bjork writing the songs, it’s gonna be high rock from the low desert. Can’t wait to dig into whatever comes. Brant Bjork on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.

8. Earth, Primitive and Deadly (Sept.)


The headline for Earth‘s new album is it’s the one where they experimented with vocalists. And hey, if you’re going to toy around with the idea, you might as well get Mark Lanegan involved. The former Screaming Trees frontman is one of several singers appearing on Primitive and Deadly, due in September on Southern Lord, and it would appear that Earth‘s sound — always evolving, always somehow changing — is about to take another considerable turn. Fortunately, the Seattle band, led by guitarist Dylan Carlson and now approaching their 25th year, have long since proven worthy of trusting with their own direction. Earth will never be huge, by the simple nature of what they do, but their influence resounds and the quality of their output is unmatched. Earth on Thee Facebooks, Southern Lord Recordings.

9. Electric Wizard, Time to Die (Sept.)


“Wake up baby/It’s time to die.” So goes the title-track hook of Electric Wizard‘s new album and Spinefarm Records debut, Time to Die. As ever, it’s simple, hateful, drenched-in-fuzz misanthropy, and Electric Wizard revel in it accordingly. Their witchcult continues to grow in their native UK and abroad, and while their last two records have divided some listeners, they’ve invariably gained more ground than they’ve lost. A legal dispute with Rise Above finds them on the new label, and if there’s even the slightest chance that change will bring them to the US for a tour, I’ll take it. Expect 66 minutes of glorious filth. Electric Wizard on Thee Facebooks, Spinefarm Records.

10. Fever Dog, Second Wind (TBA)


Palm Desert youngsters Fever Dog have been kicking around the last few years finding their sound in varying elements of heavy rock and psychedelic experimentation. Most recently, they impressed with the single “Iroquois” (review here) taken from their new album Second Wind, and in looking forward to the full-length, I’m eager to learn how their style has solidified and what sort of vibes they conjure over its course. They’ve shown plenty of propensity for jamming in their prior work, so hopefully there’s a bit of that on hand as well. I’ve said before they’re a trio of marked potential, and nothing I’ve yet heard has dissuaded me from that impression. Fever Dog on Thee Facebooks, Fever Dog on Bandcamp.

11. Goat, Commune (Sept. 23)


Somehow, a band from Sweden who dress up in tribal costumes (problematic) and play Afrobeat psychedelia became a very, very big deal. I couldn’t explain it if I wanted to, and I won’t try, but I know that when Sub Pop releases Goat‘s second album, Commune, it’s going to be to a flurry of hype and heaps of critical fawning. It would be tempting to call Goat a novelty act, but their 2012 debut, World Music (discussed here), showcased a legitimately creative musical approach to go with the visual aspects of their presentation, and I find the fact that I have no idea what to expect from Commune to be refreshing. Goat on Thee Facebooks, Sub Pop Records.

12. Grifter, The Return of the Bearded Brethren (Aug. 11)


UK heavy rockers Grifter will make a welcome resurgence on Ripple Music with The Return of the Bearded Brethren, an album that builds on the straightforward, catchy sounds of their 2011 self-titled label debut (review here) and takes their infectiousness to new places lyrically, such as exploring issues of aging via an ode to Princess Leia from Star Wars. That particular brand of humor and is writ large on Grifter‘s second Ripple outing, and the trio set to work refining their take without losing the engaging feel of their self-titled. It feels like a long three years since that record hit, and I’ll be glad to have a follow-up in-hand. Grifter on Thee Facebooks, Ripple Music.

13. Ice Dragon and Space Mushroom Fuzz, New Blue Horizon/A Peak into the Future (TBA)


Unclear at this point whether Boston outfits Ice Dragon and Space Mushroom Fuzz collaborated on New Blue Horizon/A Peak into the Future, or if it’s a split. Either way, the prolific acts make a sound pairing. Both are vehemently creative and exploratory, psychedelic and progressive each in their way, and if what’s presumably a single finds them working together, all the better, but even if not, new material from either is nothing to balk at, particularly when topped off by such gorgeous artwork. Neither act is ever long from putting something out, so to have them come together one way or another makes a weird brand of sense, which I’m relatively sure the songs will as well. Ice Dragon on Thee Facebooks, Space Mushroom Fuzz on Thee Facebooks.

14. Ides of Gemini, Old World New Wave (Sept. 16)


Ides of Gemini‘s 2012 Neurot Recordings debut, Constantinople (discussed here), established the three-piece as freely inhabiting either side of the imaginary line between ambience and heaviness, J. Bennett and Kelly Johnston providing sometimes minimal, sometimes consuming foundations for vocalist Sera Timms (ex-Black Math Horseman, also Black Mare) to cast ethereal melodies. What Old World New Wave will hold sound-wise, I don’t yet know, but Ides of Gemini‘s otherworldly resonance and ultra-patient approach makes it well worth finding out. Ides of Gemini on Thee Facebooks, Neurot Recordings.

15. John Gallow, Violet Dreams (Aug. 4)


Frontman of Blizaro and Orodruin guitarist John James Gallo adds a ‘w’ to his last name and steps out solo on the I, Voidhanger Records release, Violet Dreams, the title hinting at some of his on-his-sleeve affinity for Italian psych-doom master Paul Chain and Swedish legends Candlemass. Gallo‘s work in Blizaro has a tendency to lean toward the progressive and cinematic, but as John Gallow, the focus is more on classic doom riffing and darkened metallurgy. As one would expect, he’s well in his element on the hour-long album, and I hope he decides to call the next one Ancient Theatre. Also note the incredible artwork of Costin Chioreanu. John Gallo on Thee Facebooks, I, Voidhanger Records.

16. John Garcia, John Garcia (Aug. 5)


A long-discussed solo debut for the former Kyuss frontman following a stint alongside Brant Bjork in Vista Chino, John Garcia‘s John Garcia (review here) finds the singer right in his comfort zone, topping desert rock riffs with his trademark guttural vocals. To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure I’d trade a second Vista Chino outing for it if given the choice — that band seemed to be on course for a sound of its own, separate from Kyuss‘ legacy, and that struck me as worth pursuing — but these songs have a similar enough production style that it’s easy to think of the one as an offshoot of the other, and of course Garcia calls his shots well throughout. John Garcia on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.

17. King Buffalo, TBA (TBA)


Including King Buffalo here was pretty speculative on my part, but I dig the Rochester, NY, outfit and didn’t want to leave the prospect of their STB Records debut long-player out. It probably won’t land until 2015 — the future! — but their demo (review here) still gets regular plays around these parts, and I’m very much looking forward to catching them with similarly-minded Nashville blues rockers All Them Witches when they tour together next month. Whatever King Buffalo‘s recording/release plans might be, they’re definitely one to keep an eye on in the back half of this year. King Buffalo on Thee Facebooks, STB Records.

18. Kings Destroy, Kings Destroy (TBA)


Love these guys, love this band. I make no bones about it. Their third record, self-titled and produced as the last two were by Sanford Parker, is as close as they’ve yet come to capturing their live sound, and while they’ve yet to nail down an exact release date, they have a couple very cool tours in the works for this fall, including dates next month with Eric Wagner‘s Blackfinger, that will make a fitting lead-in to their best outing yet. I’ve heard this and had the chance to see some of the material live, and they’ve outdone themselves again, which, considering the esteem in which I continue to hold their 2013 sophomore full-length, A Time of Hunting, is really saying something. Kings Destroy on Thee Facebooks, War Crime Recordings.

19. The Kings of Frog Island, V (Fall)


Easily one of the LPs I’m most eager to hear over the next few months, and specifically on vinyl. The Kings of Frog Island have shown themselves to be so dedicated to the format that their early-2013 album, IV (review here), was presented as two bundled sides even digitally. They recently gave a taste of what their fifth album will in-part hold via a video for “Sunburn” and I’m told more jamminess ensues elsewhere to complement that track’s easygoing flow and platter-ready hook. All the better. The Kings of Frog Island on Thee Facebooks, The Kings of Frog Island on YouTube.

20. Lonely Kamel, Shit City (Sept. 9)


I’d be lying if I said part of my immediate interest in Oslo heavy rockers Lonely Kamel‘s fourth record wasn’t due to the cheeky title, but it’s been three years since the Napalm Records four-piece released their last album, Dust (track stream here), and as they’ve put in plenty of road-time, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to go into this time around with elevated anticipation. I’m not sure you could get away with calling an album Shit City unless you meant business. Got my fingers crossed that’s precisely the case with Lonely Kamel. Lonely Kamel on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.

21. Lo-Pan, Colossus (Oct. 7)


Fucking a. Doing the research for this list was the first I’d seen the Jason Alexander Byers cover art for Lo-Pan‘s fourth album, Colossus, or its Oct. 7 Small Stone release date. I haven’t heard the tracks yet — they recorded in Brooklyn back in March, and while I got 2012’s Salvador (review here) pretty early, the Columbus four-piece seem to be keeping a tighter lid on the follow-up — and I can’t help but feel like that’s my loss. Judging by what I’ve heard of the material live, Lo-Pan have dug further into their individual brand of riff-led soulful heavy, and I’ve got a high wager that a few months from now, Lo-Pan‘s latest will make an appearance on another list. More to come. Lo-Pan on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.

22. Novembers Doom, Bled White (July 15)


One of doom’s most fascinating and largely ignored progressions is that of Chicago melancholists Novembers Doom, who, when they started out 25 years ago, did so largely as a death metal band, and then moved on to pioneer an American interpretation of what’s commonly thought of as European doom, until, over their last several records, as they’ve started to move back to a more extreme, double-kick-drummed style. Bled White, on The End Records, continues along this path, but especially in the cleaner vocals of frontman Paul Kuhr there remain shades of the morose emotionality that typified what’s now become their mid-period doom idolatry. Unheralded, Novembers Doom keep exploring deeper, darker terrain. Novembers Doom on Thee Facebooks, The End Records.

23. Pallbearer, Foundations of Burden (Aug. 19)


Foundations of Burden is unquestionably among the second half of 2014’s most anticipated albums. Arkansas-based doom four-piece Pallbearer will mark its release with extensive European and North American tours, and where their 2012 Profound Lore debut, Sorrow and Extinction (review here), came out and caught listeners off-guard with its unabashed emotional core, their sophomore outing finds them positioned at the forefront of American doom. Already the hype machine is rolling out the red carpet for the Billy Anderson-produced Foundations of Burden, but no one can say these guys haven’t put their work in, and the record is indeed one to look forward to. Pallbearer on Thee Facebooks, Profound Lore Records.

24. The Skull, TBA (TBA)


For The Skull to put out an album of original material is a unique challenge. Their earlier-2014 first single (stream/review here) found them standing up to it on the new song “Sometime Yesterday Mourning,” but at least half the point of the band since its inception has been to pay homage to legendary doomers Trouble, from whence vocalist Eric Wagner, bassist Ron Holzner and drummer Jeff “Oly” Olson come. For their Tee Pee Records debut full-length — yet untitled and hopefully out before 2015 — it’ll be most interesting to see how guitarists Matt Goldsborough (ex-Pentagram) and Lothar Keller (Sacred Dawn) rise to the occasion of building off some of doom metal’s most celebrated tones. Fingers crossed on this one. The Skull on Thee Facebooks, Tee Pee Records.

25. Snail, Feral (TBA)


Nothing has been formally announced yet, but on Small Stone Records‘ website, they list Snail‘s Feral among their upcoming releases. It would make a suitable pairing, the West Coast riffers having previously worked with MeteorCity on their 2009 post-reunion outing, Blood (review here), prior to independently releasing 2012’s Terminus (review here), and Small Stone seems like a good home for their fourth overall record and return to form as a trio, which was their original incarnation before their original dissolution circa 1994. How they expand on the heavier crunch of Terminus remains even more a point of fascination, and surely their cult following will be glad to find out. I know I will. Snail on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.

26. Steak, Slab City (Sept. 9)


After two strong EPs in 2012’s Disastronaught (review here) and 2013’s best-title-ever-boasting Corned Beef Colossus (review here), it’s time for London stoner rockers Steak to step up their game for their Napalm Records debut full-length. The four-piece headed to the Californian desert to record Slab City, and so it’s fair to think some of that atmosphere may have worked its way into the material. Would be an awfully long way to go, otherwise. In either case, Steak have showcased considerable songwriting chops already, now it’s just a matter of sustaining it for a full album’s runtime and keeping enough variety in their approach. I have no doubt they’re ready for this next step. Steak on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.

27. Stubb, Cry of the Ocean (TBA)


It is with simple, unabashed warm feelings that I look forward to hearing Cry of the Ocean, the second long-player and Ripple Music debut from UK riffers Stubb. They’ve traded out drummers since 2012’s self-titled (review here), bringing aboard Tom Fyfe with guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson and bassist/vocalist Peter Holland, but I’m excited to hear what changes and shifts in sound Cry of the Ocean might have in store to match its provocative title. Goes without saying the photo above isn’t the final artwork, but instead Tony Reed‘s mastering sheet from back in May when he worked on the tracks. No solid release date yet, but hopefully soon. Stubb on Thee Facebooks, Ripple Music.

28. Torche, TBA (TBA)


Torche‘s new album and Relapse Records debut was originally slated for the end of the summer. Given that no official word has come out about a title or anything like that and the members of the band have been busy with other projects, it seems unlikely as of now that they’ll hit that target, but after something of a break so frontman Steve Brooks could focus on the resurgent trio Floor, Torche are in fact getting going again, beginning with their first tour of Australia this fall. Maybe their LP will be out by the time they go and maybe it won’t, but word on the street is that whenever the thing arrives, it’s gonna be heavy, which I have no problem believing. Torche on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.

29. The Well, Monomyth (Late Summer)


I’ve been waiting since the March announcement that Austin trio The Well signed with RidingEasy Records for further word of their debut full-length, Monomyth (pretty sure that’s not the cover above), but thus far to no avail. Their 2012 single, Seven (review here), was a repeat-listen thriller, and anticipation abounds for what sort of psychedelic garage riffing they’ll conjure up for the album itself. It’s been a couple months at this point, and maybe it’ll be 2015 before Monomyth gets out, but screw it, a boy can hope. The Well on Thee Facebooks, RidingEasy Records.

30. Witch Mountain, Mobile of Angels (Sept.)

Please note: The original cover art with this post was not final and has been replaced with the above band photo.

Portland, Oregon’s Witch Mountain have spent much of the two years following their 2012 third LP, Cauldron of the Wild (review here) on tour in the US and abroad, playing fests, headlining, supporting, but generally putting in a lot of time. As such, Mobile of Angels, which will be out on Svart in Europe and Profound Lore in North America, comes as the end product of a considerable touring cycle. Has all that gigging worn Witch Mountain into the ground, or will they rise above it with metal-loving doom-blues supremacy? They’ve got a vinyl-ready 38 minutes on tap for September and if they’ve ever been in a position to make their case, it’s now. Watch out for the killer sway in “Can’t Settle,” the title of which seems a fitting theme for the band. Witch Mountain on Thee Facebooks, Profound Lore Records.

31. YOB, Clearing the Path to Ascend (Sept. 2)


Yet again — as was the case back in January — alphabetical order forces me to end with YOB, whose seventh full-length and Neurot debut might just be my most anticipated of all on this list. The recently-unveiled Orion Landau cover speaks to a brooding sentiment, and from the one time I was fortunate enough to hear it to-date, the four-track album from the Eugene, Oregon, natives corresponds to its visual side in being a more aggressive push than was 2011’s Atma (review here), but also more exploratory and contemplative in its approach. Now statesmen in American doom and the forebears of a cosmic-minded sound, YOB stand ready to showcase a creative progression that has yet to find its end point. YOB on Thee Facebooks, Neurot Recordings.

Other Notable Mentions

Just a couple of these I’d be remiss if I didn’t note. Some were carried over from earlier this year, others just come up along the way. Not sure on all the release dates, but these are worth keeping an ear out for:

Acid King — Were listed in January, but their record has a Feb. 2015 release date.

Bright Curse — Second album recorded at Skyhammer Studios.

Brothers of the Sonic Cloth — My understanding is the album is done and they’re waiting to secure a label. Seems like a good occasion for Southern Lord to step forward, if not Profound Lore or Neurot.

Eggnogg — Not sure if it’s their full-length, You’re all Invited, or something else that’s coming, but whatever. More stoner-funk riffing needs to be had.

40 Watt Sun — There was some word of this early in the year, but nothing since.

Godflesh — Their first in 15 years, A World Lit Only by Fire, will be out Oct. 7. A fuckup not including them on the list proper.

It’s Not Night: It’s Space — Eagerly awaiting the Small Stone debut from this instrumental outfit, but it might be next year.

Karma to Burn — New album, Arch Stanton, out in August. I emailed for a review promo and never heard back. Always a great feeling.

Larman Clamor — Solo-project from Alexander von Wieding has a new one in the can, but I’m not sure on the release schedule.

Lowrider — They’re working on it, but don’t hold your breath to have it out by December.

The Machine — Kind of a slow year for Elektrohasch, but the new one from these Dutch fuzzers would be a nice way end up.

NachtmystiumCentury Media releases their final album, The World We Left Behind, on Aug. 5.

Orange Goblin — Seriously debated putting them on the list, since I know they’ve recorded, but they seem to be promoting a recent reissue of 2007’s Healing through Fire and their upcoming European tour with Saint Vitus rather than their new album, so unless news comes out about it like this week from Candlelight, I wouldn’t expect it until early in 2015.

Pink Floyd — Believe it when I see it, but I honestly couldn’t care less either way if I tried.

Ruby the Hatchet — Their full-length Tee Pee debut is due sometime in the next couple months.

Sun Voyager — Upstate NY youngsters had hinted at new recordings.

Again, if I forgot anything — and I’m sure I did — please let me know in the comments.

Thanks for reading.

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Steak to Release Slab City this September

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 19th, 2014 by JJ Koczan

After probably more than a year and countless email reminders, I’ve finally upgraded the WordPress back end to this site. I was up half the night doing so, and it’s a process that’s not yet finished. A serious pain in the ass, and as usual, for everything that works about the new version, there’s some minor tweak made that fucks up something I used all the time that was in no way broken to start with. Ugh.

Nonetheless, as the dudely dudes of London’s Steak remind us, life goes on. In their case, it goes on to the desert, where it records a full-length debut for Napalm Records called Slab City that’s due out in September. I’m looking forward to hearing this one, as both of Steak‘s EPs to date have been dead-on ragers, all riffs and ass-kickery and whatnot. The London outfit have also put in steady road time these last several years, so it should be interesting to hear what they’ve come up with.

The artwork and tracklisting have been unveiled for Slab City and you can see both below. I had no idea drummer Sammy had four arms. That’s probably a big help:

STEAK Unveil Title, Track Listing, Artwork & Release Dates of Upcoming Album!

They say the British prefer their steak bloody; almost most of them still eat it raw. However, here lies an English piece of STEAK ahead, which is really nice and dry. The Stoner Rockers have just unveiled the artwork, title, track listing & release dates of their upcoming album Slab City (01.09.2014 in the UK & 09.09.2014 CAN/USA, Napalm Records):

Track Listing:
1. Coma
2. Liquid Gold
3. Slab City
4. Pisser
5. Quaaludes and Interludes
6. Roadhead
7. Machine
8. Hanoid
9. Rising
10. Old Timer D.W.

Release Dates:
01.09.2014 UK
05.09.2014 G/A/S, BENELUX & FIN
08.09.2014 Rest of Europe
09.09.2014 USA/CAN
10.09.2014 NOR/SWE/ESP

For More Info Visit:
https://www.facebook.com/steakuk
http://www.napalmrecords.com
http://www.facebook.com/napalmrecords

Steak, “Liquid Gold” Live, Feb. 2014

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