Motorpsycho European Tour Starts Tonight

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 14th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Europe needs my American ass to tell it to go see a Motorpsycho gig like it needs a surge of right-wing populism — which is to say not at fucking all — but as the ultra-prolific Norwegian progressive heavy rockers begin their Spring 2019 tour this evening in support of their latest album, The Crucible, I’d like to point out that their tour will meet up with Elder‘s on May 16 in Hamburg, and together they’ll play a gig marked out as a 25th anniversary celebration for Stickman Records. Damn right. Motorpsycho and Elder sharing a bill is about as much as you could ask for in an evening, so yeah, I’d think if there’s going to be an anniversary party for their label, that would be the night to do it.

Motorpsycho are an institution when it comes to heavy prog, so while I don’t need to tell Europe to go see it, in the name of friendship, I will anyway. I’ll have a writeup for The Crucible in the next Quarterly Review at the start of July — which is much closer than it sounds like — but obviously, the short version is, “duh, it’s Motorpsycho.”

Here are the tour dates:

motorpsycho

Motorpsycho – European Tour Dates

Good news if you’re on the European continent – Motorpsycho and Elder have embarked on respective tours this spring/summer.

The two will team up on May 16th at the Markthalle in Hamburg, Germany for a special show to celebrate 25 years of Stickman Records!

Those in attendance will be able to enter into a raffle to win one of a number of test pressings offered up by the bands and Stickman. All proceeds from raffle ticket sales will be donated to One Earth One Ocean, an environmental organization that works to improve the health of our oceans by removing plastic waste.

For those of you who also want to do good and throw your hat in the ring for some rare test pressings, we will be holding another raffle online in the coming months.

Motorpsycho live:
14.05.19 Aarhus (DK), Train
15.05.19 Copenhagen (DK), Hotel Cecil
16.05.19 Hamburg (DE), Markthalle
19.05.19 Utrecht (NL), Tivoli
21.05.19 Groningen (NL), Vera
22.05.19 Leuven (B), Het Depot
23.05.19 Hannover (DE), Faust
24.05.19 Wiesbaden (DE), Schlachthof
25.05.19 Lausanne (CH), Les Docks
27.05.19 Wien (AUS), Arena
28.05.19 Trezzo Sull’Adda (IT), Live Club
29.05.19 Bologna (IT), Zona Roveri
30.05.19 Avelino (IT), Teatro Partenio
31.05.19 Ciampino (IT), Orion
01.06.19 Genova (IT), Goa Boa Preview
02.06.19 Reutlingen (DE), franz.K
28.06.19 Trondheim (NOR), Trondheim Rocks
31.07.19 Trondheim (NOR), Olavsfestdagene
06.08.19 Oslo (NOR), Øya Festival
29.09.19 Bremen (DE), Schlachthof
01.10.19 Köln (DE), Gloria Theater
15.10.19 Frankfurt (DE), Mousonturm
16.10.19 Leipzig (DE), Conne Island
17.10.19 Berlin (DE), Festsaal Kreuzberg

Motorpsycho is: Bent Sæther, Hans Magnus “Snah” Ryan, Tomas Järmyr.

https://www.facebook.com/motorpsycho.official/
https://twitter.com/motorpsychoband
http://motorpsycho.no/
https://www.facebook.com/Stickman-Records-1522369868033940/
https://www.instagram.com/stickmanrecords/
https://www.stickman-records.com/

Motorpsycho, “Lux Aeterna”

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King Buffalo Announce European Tour Dates with Child

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 9th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

king buffalo

I can’t help but notice that in the list of just-announced European tour dates that King Buffalo will undertake in the company of Australian blues rockers Child, there’s a four-day stretch between their stop at Black Deer Festival in the UK and a date in Caligari, Italy. Does that mean what I think it means? Perhaps a trip to Sardinia on the sly to take part in a certain ultimate-daydream unofficial festival? Yes, I’m talking about Duna Jam. Are King Buffalo playing it? With Child? Fucking take a second and imagine how incredible that will be. Take another second.

Speculation on my part. I know nothing about Duna Jam, or if it’s even happening. It might just be the bands needed a little time to travel after the UK stop. I don’t know. But man, even the thought of King Buffalo playing on the beach in Sardinia, well, it sounds like a really good idea to me, and just maybe I’m not the only one.

Whether you see them there or don’t, see them. I’ve been scratching my head for the last little bit trying to think of some of the most crucial up and coming acts in the varying stripes of American heavy, and King Buffalo are a name to which I continually return. See them.

Dates follow:

king buffalo euro tour

We’re European bound this summer with our good friends CHILD!! All dates below:

21.06 GER – Siegen, Freak Valley Festival**
22.06 UK – Royal Tunbridge Wells, Black Deer Festival
27.06 I – Cagliari, Corto Maltese
28.06 I – Bologna, Freak Out
29.06 I – Allesandria, Cascina, Bellaria
30.06 A – Innsbruck, PMK
01.07. GER – Munich, Feierwerk
02.07. A – Vienna, Viper Room
03.07. GER – Cottbus, Fauler August
04.07. GER – Berlin, Badehaus
05.07. GER – Münster – Rare Guitar
06.07. A – Salzburg, Rockhouse
07.07. GER – Cologne, MTC
08.07. GER – Darmstadt, Oetinger Villa
09.07. GER – Hamburg, Hafenklang
10.07. SWE – Motala, Bomber Bar
11.07. NOR – Oslo, Bla
13.07. LIT – Anyksciai, Devilstone
**only KB

Previously announced East Coast shows:
4/20 Toronto, ON @ Velvet Underground
4/26 Boston, MA @ Middle East Upstairs
4/27 Newport, RI @ Rusty’s
5/3 Baltimore, MD @ Windup
5/4 Philadelphia, PA @ Kung Fu Necktie
5/26 Joshua Tree, CA @ Stoned & Dusted
6/1 Brooklyn, NY @ Saint Vitus
6/8 Montreal, QC @ Tattoo Nouvelle Ere

Info & ticket links: http://kingbuffalo.com/

Lineup:
Sean McVay – vocals, guitar, synth
Dan Reynolds – bass, synth
Scott Donaldson – drums

kingbuffalo.com
facebook.com/kingbuffaloband
instagram.com/kingbuffaloband
twitter.com/kingbuffaloband
kingbuffalo.bandcamp.com

King Buffalo, Longing to be the Mountain (2018)

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The Devil and the Almighty Blues, Tre: Salting the Earth

Posted in Reviews on April 2nd, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the devil and the almighty blues tre

The Devil and the Almighty Blues‘ third album, titled simply Tre, arrives through Blues for the Red Sun Records almost exactly two years after its predecessor, II (review here). That in turn came out two years after their 2015  self-titled debut (review here). They are, it would seem, like clockwork. And just as II showed up and demonstrated a marked growth from the first record, so too does Tre push the Oslo, Norway, five-piece to a new echelon in their craft. It shares some methods with the preceding outing, including opening with its longest track (immediate points) in the 12-minute “Salt the Earth,” but finds the band — a returning lineup of vocalist Arnt O. Andersen, guitarists Petter Svee and Torgeir Waldemar Engen, bassist Kim Skaug and drummer Kenneth Simonsen — refining their style to a point of moving beyond their influences and truly stepping into their own style.

Oh, there’s the devil, and there’s the blues, and if you hold your breath long enough, you might even get a glimpse of the almighty, but much of what the band does so well throughout Tre can be heard in the eight-minute side B opener “Heart of the Mountain,” which finds the perfect tempo so that the measures of its verses don’t even seem cyclical so much as an unfolding line, and which bleeds soul from Andersen‘s vocals as well as the lead guitar and metered groove. The Devil and the Almighty Blues aren’t in a rush, and even when they offer up a bit of boogie, as on the hook-laden “Lay Down” or the penultimate “No Man’s Land,” they do so with a sense of poise that speaks not only to the confidence of their delivery, but how well they know what they want out of their songwriting. To listen to the background gospel vocals in second track “One for Sorrow” or even the quiet break in “Salt the Earth” that follows the chorus at about the 6:40 mark, one of The Devil and the Almighty Blues‘ greatest assets on Tre is the sense of space in the recording, and almost as important as how they fill it is how and when they choose to not fill it.

The verse of “One for Sorrow” wants nothing for sounding full. Its lead and rhythm guitar and bass tones are rich, its drums are understated but not absent, and its vocals are forward in classic fashion, yet even when the song — which is the shortest on Tre at 5:13, so well paired with the opener before it — sweeps into its more raucous solo section in the second half, there is still a bit of what seems to be space in the mix. Mastered at lower overall volume for vinyl, maybe? If that’s the case, then the adage about doing so letting a more natural and classic-style dynamic shine through certainly holds, as The Devil and the Almighty Blues have never sound so in charge of their direction as they do on this 48-minute six-tracker, but either way, the impression isn’t that the band are somehow holding back, but almost like they’re struggling against something bigger than themselves.

the-devil-and-the-almighty-blues

“Salt the Earth” very much sets the tone for this, from its soft opening to how its memorable chorus playing out in an echo cutting through held-out lumbering progression with a layer of backing vocals behind, a depth that seems only to go deeper in the aforementioned break, which they build up to a consuming place and still remain well in control, as shown in the melancholy guitar harmonies that take the place where a grandiose apex solo might otherwise show up. This is the band serving the song, the song serving the album and the album serving the expression. Tre casts the most resonant vibe The Devil and the Almighty Blues have yet conjured, and whether it’s the particularly Scandinavian-sounding classicism of “No Man’s Land” or closer “Time Ruins Everything” seeming to lose itself — but not actually getting lost — in the downtrodden soul of its chorus before it breaks à la “Salt the Earth” in order to set up the last push, which does feature the solo that might otherwise have come too soon in the opener.

Everything has its place, the band have a place in the moody aspect they create throughout Tre. The performance they give throughout “Lay Down” and “Heart of the Mountain” as side A gives way to side B isn’t to be missed, for its naturalism as well as the fluidity of the band’s conversing with aesthetic, and the atmosphere that results isn’t ever forced or overly dramatic; it just is. With subtlety and care, The Devil and the Almighty Blues build the world in which their tracks inhabit — and, I’d argue, thrive — and even more than two years ago, those tracks are able to affect the listener in multiple ways, whether its the well-placed upticks in motion with “Lay Down” and “No Man’s Land,” the crescendos in “Heart of the Mountain” and “Time Ruins Everything” or the organic feel that serves to tie it all together as a single work.

One thing to note. I went back and looked at the review for II, and it was laced with comparisons to other bands. I have none to make for Tre. One can hear shades of this and that, but nothing stands out so much as the level to which The Devil and the Almighty Blues have left their own mark on this material. Listening to the album, it is easy to believe this is to what their work up till now has been leading, and that may be the case, or Tre might just be another step forward on their path, but the sense of arrival here is palpable, and in kind with the quality of the songs, it makes The Devil and the Almighty Blues come across as all the more powerful in their approach. Not because they’re the loudest, or because they’re the most aggressive, or they have the nastiest tones, but because they give life to something that is theirs entirely, and because you can’t hear it and imagine you’re listening to someone else.

The Devil and the Almighty Blues on Thee Facebooks

The Devil and the Almighty Blues on Bandcamp

Blues for the Red Sun Records on Thee Facebooks

Stickman Records website

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The Devil and the Almighty Blues to Release Tre March 29; Touring Europe in April & May

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

the-devil-and-the-almighty-blues

Maybe you know this and maybe you don’t, and maybe I’ve said it before and maybe I haven’t, but it bears repeating: The Devil and the Almighty Blues are hot shit. I was fortunate enough to see them live when they played Roadburn supporting their second album, II (review here), and if the gods are generous, I’ll be able to see them again in their native Norway this Fall at Høstsabbat 2019 supporting their third, Tre, which is due out late next month on Blues for the Red Sun Records. Cue me sending an email to try and chase down a track premiere without even having heard the record yet in three, two, one…

And why, you ask? Because The Devil and the Almighty Blues are, as noted, hot shit. They own the stage and their records bring together classic songcraft with a heavy blues rock mentality and a willingness to stretch out of the confines of genre that only makes their work less predictable on the whole. Sign me up. Seriously. I’m in. New record. Let’s do this.

Before I forget, here’s album info from the PR wire:

the devil and the almighty blues tre

Heavy blues conjurers THE DEVIL AND THE ALMIGHTY BLUES return with new album ‘TRE’ this spring ; European tour announced!

Oslo bluesy quintet THE DEVIL AND THE ALMIGHTY BLUES unveil details for their third album ‘TRE’, coming March 29th on Blues For The Red Sun. The band also announced a European tour, including Desertfest appearances and dates with Stoned Jesus and Earthless.

Heavily inspired by Delta blues, and standing at the crossroads of both American and British blues-based rock, The Devil and the Almighty Blues hail about as far from that unmarked place where Robert Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil as one can be: Oslo, Norway. By infusing all the world’s other sub-genres of rock, from punk to garage rock, and from heavy psych to southern sludge, The Devil and the Almighty Blues sounds heavy without becoming too metal, slow without being doom, slow and raw, fucked up and bluesy without being predictable, or losing the blues’ muddy origins. – Walter Hoeijmakers, Roadburn.

With their third full-length ‘TRE’, the Norwegian five-piece conjure up some of their finest bluesy licks and heavy grooves while keeping their trademark mid-tempo songcraft — the very one sound that has held all crowds spellbound and made the band stand out from the underground heavy rock scene. Each one of the songs on ‘TRE’ is as soulful as it is filled with electricity: from stomp-inducing anthems (‘No Man’s Land’), bewitching female vocals (‘One For Sorrow’) to tenebrous and emotional ballads (‘Heart Of The Mountain’), it arouses such a wide range of emotions that it instantly gets the listener all speechless and fulfilled at once.

THE DEVIL AND THE ALMIGHTY BLUES – ‘TRE’
New album out March 29th on Blues For The Red Sun

TRACK LISTING:
1. Salt The Earth
2. One For Sorrow
3. Lay Down
4. Heart Of The Mountain
5. No Man’s Land
6. Time Ruins Everything

The Devil and the Almighty Blues European tour:
28.04.19 – Hamburg (DE) w/ Stoned Jesus
29.04.19 – Groningen (NL) w/ Stoned Jesus
30.04.19 – Dresden (DE) w/ Stoned Jesus
01.05.19 – München (DE) w/ Earthless
02.05.19 – Wiesbaden (DE) w/ Earthless
03.05.19 – Berlin (DE) Desertfest
04.05.19 – Nijmegen (NL) Sonic Whip
05.05.19 – London (UK) Desertfest
08.05.19 – Wien (AU) Arena
09.05.19 – Salzburg (AU) Rockhouse
10.05.19 – Stuttgart (DE) Universum
11.05.19 – Cologne (DE) Helios

TDATAB IS
Arnt O. Andersen – Vocals
Kim Skaug – Bass
Petter Svee – Guitar
Torgeir Waldemar Engen – Guitar
Kenneth Simonsen – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/thedevilandthealmightyblues/
https://thedevilandthealmightyblues.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/BLUES-FOR-THE-RED-SUN-645295312258485/
https://www.stickman-records.com/

The Devil and the Almighty Blues, II (2018)

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Sunnata and Weedpecker Touring Later This Month

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 6th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

That’s a solid pairing, Sunnata and Weedpecker. I’d call both bands progressive heavy psychedelic rock, but they don’t really tread a lot of the same ground when it comes right down to the nitty-gritty of their respective approaches. I’d imagine they’ll complement each other well on tour as they head through the Balkans and into Greece en route to playing the SoundArt Festival in Bucharest, Romania. Both acts put out records last year, so all the better they’re joining forces for the run, and while I’m sad to say I’ve never seen either live, at least I can appreciate two such forward-thinking bands getting out and delivering their wares from door to door for about two weeks. I would not expect this to be either of their only shows this year, but still would be cool to catch them together. Plus the poster is awesome and that never hurts either.

The dates were posted as follows on the social medias, and there’s audio at the bottom of this post to get your brain expanded:

sunnata weedpecker tour

Sunnata & Weedpecker – 2019: A Balkan Odyssey Tour

2019: A Balkan Odyssey Tour. Conjoined journey of Weedpecker and sunnata to the south. We are bringing you the finest oriental/psychedelic/stoner trips you might get in February/March. Prepare your spacesuits and see you at:

27.02 – Vienna: Sunnata, Weedpecker, Ozymandias
28.02 – Zagreb: Weedpecker & Sunnata na Good Vibrationsu u Mocvari!
01.03 – Budapest: Sunnata /pol/ & Weedpecker /pol/ koncert Budapesten!
02.03 – Timisoara: Sunnata [POL] + Weedpecker [POL] live at Reflektor
03.03 – TBA / Serbia
05.03 – Sofia: Weedpecker & Sunnata live in Mixtape 5
06.03 – Thessaloniki: Sunnata [PL] & Weedpecker [PL] live in Thessaloniki
07.03 – Athens: Sunnata [PL] & Weedpecker [PL] live in Athens
09.03 – Bucharest: SoundArt Festival 2019
10.03 – Cluj-Napoca: Live / Sunnata [POL], Weedpecker [POL]

This one is going to be trippy.

SUNNATA is:
Szymon Ewertowski – vocals, guitar
Adrian Gadomski – vocals, guitar
Michal Dobrzanski – bass
Robert Ruszczyk – drums, percussion

Weedpecker is:
Wyro – guitar,vocals
Bartek – guitar,vocals
Karol – bass
Kuks – drums

https://www.facebook.com/sunnataofficial
https://twitter.com/followsunnata
http://sunnataofficial.bandcamp.com/
https://www.youtube.com/user/sunnataofficial/videos

https://www.facebook.com/Weedpecker-349871488424872/
https://weedpecker.bandcamp.com/
http://weedpecker.bigcartel.com/
http://weedpecker.8merch.com/

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King Buffalo Announce East and West Coast Touring, Hint at More to Come

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 10th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

king buffalo (Photo by Mike Turzanski)

I know it’s a New Year and all, and hey, that’s nifty, but lest we forget that King Buffalo put out two of the finest releases of 2018 in the form of their Repeater EP (review here) and their second full-length, Longing to Be the Mountain (review here). One might want to keep this in mind when it comes to mapping out where you’re going to be the night King Buffalo hit your town.

You can apply whatever cliche you want about them hitting their stride or coming into their own sound, but the fact is that King Buffalo are quickly making themselves one of the US underground’s most crucial up and coming heavy bands, and it’s the kind of thing where you see them now and brag about it later. For years. If I need to say it outright, I will: You should find a show and go to it. It is not a thing you’ll regret.

They’re on the second pressing of the LP already. More info follows:

King Buffalo West Coast and East Coast Dates

We’re excited to be heading back out on the road for our Third and Fourth legs of the Longing To Be The Mountain Tour. We’ve received a lot of support for the new record and we can’t thank everyone enough. Please keep spreading the word! We’re amazed to hear how many people find out about us through word of mouth.

We have a lot of touring planned for 2019, so if these dates aren’t in your area, stay tuned. We look forward to seeing everyone soon.

The 2nd pressing of Longing To Be The Mountain is now available. Get a copy at kingbuffalo.bigcartel.com

JUST ANNOUNCED WEST AND EAST COAST 2019 TOUR DATES
Tickets on sale at 10am est on 1/11/19.

2/7 Ottawa, ON @ House of Targ
2/8 Montreal, QC @ L’Esco
2/9 Burlington, VT @ Higher Ground
2/22 New York, NY @ Mercury Lounge
2/23 Buffalo, NY @ Mohawk Place
3/14 Grand Rapids, MI @ Founders Brewing Co.
3/15 Chicago, IL @ The Hideout
3/16 Milwaukee, WI @ Cactus Club
3/17 Minneapolis, MN @ 7th Street Entry
3/20 Spokane, WA @ The Pin
3/21 Seattle, WA @ Barboza
3/22 Vancouver, BC @ Wise Hall
3/23 Portland, OR @ White Eagle Saloon
3/24 San Francisco, CA @ Café Du Nord
3/26 Los Angeles, CA @ Catch One
3/27 Phoenix, AZ @ Rebel Lounge
3/28 Las Vegas, NV @ Beauty Bar
3/29 Salt Lake City, UT @ The Loading Dock
3/30 Denver, CO @ Lost Lake Lounge
4/2 Kansas City, MO @ Riot Room
4/3 St Louis, MO @ Duck Room
4/4 Louisville, KY @ Zanzabar
4/5 Cincinnati, OH @ Motr Pub
4/6 Pittsburgh, PA @ Café Club
4/20 Toronto, ON @ Velvet Underground
4/26 Boston, MA @ Middle East Upstairs
5/4 Philadelphia, PA @ Kung Fu Necktie

Info & ticket links: http://kingbuffalo.com/

Lineup:
Sean McVay – vocals, guitar, synth
Dan Reynolds – bass, synth
Scott Donaldson – drums

kingbuffalo.com
facebook.com/kingbuffaloband
instagram.com/kingbuffaloband
twitter.com/kingbuffaloband
kingbuffalo.bandcamp.com

King Buffalo, Longing to be the Mountain (2018)

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Review & Track Premiere: Spidergawd, V

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on January 4th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

spidergawd v

[Click play above to stream the premiere of Spidergawd’s ‘Knights of CGR.’ Their new album, Spidergawd V, is out Jan. 11 on Crispin Glover Records.]

Consistency of the kind Spidergawd have honed across their now-five albums never just happens. The Trondheim, Norway, outfit may have missed putting out a full-length in 2018, but mostly because they were busy touring, and otherwise, their discography has been built on a per-year basis, with Spidergawd IV (review here) in 2017, Spidergawd III (review here) in 2016, Spidergawd II (review here) in 2015 and Spidergawd (review here) in 2014. Released as ever through Crispin Glover RecordsSpidergawd V is the band’s second outing with Hallvard Gaardløs on bass alongside the remaining founding trio of guitarist/vocalist Per Borten, baritone saxophonist Rolf Martin Snustad and drummer Kenneth Kapstad, and from its blindingly colorful cover art — also a regular feature of their work, as provided by Emile Morel — to its driven classic heavy rock feel, it is immediately recognizable as Spidergawd songcraft.

Comprised of eight tracks for a crisply-produced 38-minute long-player, Spidergawd V is absolutely air tight. No fluff. No filler. No time for messing around. Every minute of every song has its purpose, whether it’s the wah in “Green Eyes” or the sax-led intro to album opener and longest track (immediate points) “All and Everything,” or the sax and guitar seeming to lockstep later in the penultimate “Whirlwind Rodeo” to touch on “Hole in the Sky”-style riffing en route to some of the NWOBHM-isms that showed up on the last record, and as a unit, they are given to the kind of road-born sharpness that only touring and experience can provide. And for all their consistency, for all their recognizable aspects, and for the sheer fact that they’ve put out five albums essentially with the same title and the same style of art based around similar elements with straightforward structures, Spidergawd never seem to be repeating themselves. Their songs vary in mission and vibe, and the spirit of Spidergawd V underscores the fact that while there’s definitely some carryover from one offering to the next, the band have never actually failed to grow between their releases.

And they’ve done it quickly. Granted, they very clearly knew the band they wanted to be when they made the 2014 self-titled. The years since have only made that more apparent, but as “All and Everything” careens through its propulsive hook on its way to the first of any number of classy-as-hell, festival-ready guitar solos to be found throughout the album, the sheer ease with which they deliver their material is staggering, and it only becomes more so as “Ritual Supernatural” touches on Thin Lizzy troublemaking and “Twentyfourseven” reimagines chugging KISS strut-and-chorus vibes with an edge of the ’80s metal that followed in its wake. With Borten‘s voice and the structure of the verses and choruses he’s singing as a grounding factor, Spidergawd are free to follow whatever whims they might want and still find themselves on solid footing. And over their amassed discography, they’ve done that, with flourishes of psychedelia and metal playing out alongside their core of heavy rock.

spidergawd

Following “Twentyfourseven,” “Green Eyes” fills out more of the metal side of their approach, with layers of acoustic and electric guitar working together in an arrangement that only makes one wonder how the hell the song isn’t about “the night,” though one way or the other it kind of is anyway. With Snustad‘s sax wailing away as Kapstad pushes “Green Eyes” to its apex, side A wraps with an adrenaline surge that resolves itself in half-shouted lyrics and a controlled-as-ever crashout. Even in their most unhinged moments, Spidergawd hold tight on the reins of their sound. That’s not to say there’s no danger in what they’re doing, just that the way through that terrain is no less efficient and no less guided by a sure hand. Same is true as “Knights of CGR” — note the name of the label if you’re wondering what the acronym might stand for — takes hold at the outset of side B and works its way more patiently into its first verse. There’s a subtle shift in vibe, a pullback from some of the all-go-go-go of the first half of the album, but Spidergawd are hardly taking it easy with the Dio Sabbath riff — or is it “Stand up and Shout?” — that carries them to the song’s conclusion.

But even that shift has its purpose in the scope of Spidergawd V, which started out side A with a figurative-deep-inhale intro before “All and Everything” kicked in. “Avatar,” which follows “Knights of CGR” is a straightforward classic swinger, a subtle highlight for its melody and the interplay between Borten‘s guitar and Gaardløs‘ bass, the pace somewhat drawn down, but still moving through smoothly on its well-charted path, with Snustad‘s sax topping a later crashing finish that prefaces the aforementioned “Hole in the Sky”-ness of “Whirlwind Rodeo” to come. There is more Thin Lizzy in there with the steady bassline beneath the winding lead lines in the guitar and the sax blowing steady overarching notes in the verse, but the break in the second half of the song is a departure and might account for some of the time difference between “Whirlwind Rodeo” at 5:10 and everything else, which is between four and five minutes long, the opener notwithstanding. Still, they make their way back to the verse and the chorus to finish and start the closer “Do I Need a Doctor” at an ultra-rush that turns to punctuating jabs of guitar and sax in the verse before finding its melodic and memorable personality in the hook an reviving the push.

Here too, Spidergawd have it all under control, and even though they hit the brakes for a dream-toned bridge in the back end, they pick the tempo up again to round out and once more reinforce the notion that’s been the case with the band all along: that it’s the songwriting. Of all the pieces of their approach that have crossed the line from one LP to the next, when it comes to Spidergawd, by far the most crucial has been their songwriting. And five records deep, the challenge isn’t so much whether Spidergawd are going to put out a killer collection of songs, but whether their audience is going to be caught up to the last one by the time they do. That may be less of a challenge with Spidergawd V having the extra year out from its predecessor, but frankly, it may not. Looking back over what they’ve done in the last half-decade, it may well be a much longer time before their work is giving its full level of appreciation. But as of now, they are relentless on all fronts, and if we’re lucky, they’ll continue to outpace the rest of the planet for a long time to come.

Spidergawd website

Spidergawd on Thee Facebooks

Stickman Records

Crispin Glover Records

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2018

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

the-top-30-of-2018

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks in advance for reading. Here we go:

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

30. The Skull, The Endless Road Turns Dark

The Skull The Endless Road Turns Dark

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Sept. 12.

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

29. Foghound, Awaken to Destroy

foghound awaken to destroy

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Nov. 21.

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

28. Orange Goblin, The Wolf Bites Back

orange goblin the wolf bites back

Released by Spinefarm Records. Reviewed June 13.

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

27. Fu Manchu, Clone of the Universe

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

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

26. Witch Mountain, Witch Mountain

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

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

25. Windhand, Eternal Return

windhand eternal return

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed Oct. 3.

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

24. Sun Voyager, Seismic Vibes

Sun Voyager Seismic Vibes

Released by King Pizza Records. Reviewed April 18.

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

23. Forming the Void, Rift

forming the void rift

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed July 27.

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

22. Spaceslug, Eye the Tide

spaceslug eye the tide

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

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

21. Conan, Existential Void Guardian

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

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

20. Pale Divine, Pale Divine

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

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

19. Mos Generator, Shadowlands

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

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

18a. Stoned Jesus, Pilgrims

STONED JESUS PILGRIMS

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 5.

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

18. Backwoods Payback, Future Slum

backwoods payback future slum

Self-released. Reviewed Aug. 15.

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

17. Corrosion of Conformity, No Cross No Crown

corrosion of conformity no cross no crown

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Jan. 3

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

16. Naxatras, III

naxatras iii

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 14.

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

15. Clutch, Book of Bad Decisions

clutch book of bad decisions

Released by Weathermaker Music. Reviewed Aug. 27.

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

14. Ancestors, Suspended in Reflections

Ancestors Suspended in Reflections

Released by Pelagic Records. Reviewed Aug. 3.

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

13. High on Fire, Electric Messiah

high on fire electric messiah

Released by eOne Heavy. Reviewed Sept. 28.

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

12. Yawning Man, The Revolt Against Tired Noises

yawning man the revolt against tired noises

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed July 2.

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

11. Greenleaf, Hear the Rivers

greenleaf hear the rivers

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Nov. 26.

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

10. Gozu, Equilibrium

gozu equilibrium

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

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

9. Monster Magnet, Mindfucker

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

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

8. Apostle of Solitude, From Gold to Ash

Apostle of Solitude From Gold to Ash

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

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

7. Holy Grove, Holy Grove II

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

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

6. All Them Witches, ATW

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

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

5. YOB, Our Raw Heart

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

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

4. Brant Bjork, Mankind Woman

brant bjork mankind woman

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Sept. 13.

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

3. Earthless, Black Heaven

earthless black heaven

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed March 15.

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

2. King Buffalo, Longing to Be the Mountain

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

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

1. Sleep, The Sciences

sleep the sciences

Released by Third Man Records. Reviewed May 1.

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

The Next 20

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

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

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

Honorable Mention

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

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

Special Note

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

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

Best Short Release of the Year

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

  • Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard & Slomatics, Totems Split

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

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

Looking Forward

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

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

Okay, That’s It

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

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

So thanks.

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

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

Everybody have a great and safe 2019.

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