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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Motorpsycho Set Feb. 15 Release for The Crucible LP

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 27th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

motorpsycho (Photo by Geir Mogen)

I’m not even going to pretend to know how many full-length albums Norway’s Motorpsycho have at this point released in their almost 30-year history, but The Crucible is the latest of the bunch, and it will follow behind 2017’s The Tower (review here), which marked a more rocking turn from the long-established progressive stylings of the band. Sort of a return to roots without forgetting the lessons learned along the way. Stickman Records, which released that album and will again stand behind this one, seems to posit The Crucible as pushing forward along those lines, and I’d believe it, given both the relatively quick turnaround (at least on general terms; Motorpsycho aren’t strangers to putting out multiple releases in a year, but they’ve also been touring) and the band’s penchant for moving ahead with ideas from one LP to the next.

Easy pick for your most-anticipated-of-2019 list, as well as my own, so keep an eye out for more to come as we get closer to February. I streamed a track from The Tower at the time, and I expect I’ll go begging for one for The Crucible as well to go with a review, if only because these guys are fun to write about, being such a nuanced kind of brilliant and all.

Stickman sent the following down the PR wire:

motorpsycho the crucible

New Motorpsycho album The Crucible to be released February 15th

We are beyond pleased to announce the coming arrival of a new Motorpsycho album, titled “The Crucible”! Release date is set for February 15th, 2019 on vinyl, CD and digitally. More details will follow, but here’s a little taster for you:


Crucible

noun

cru·?ci·?ble | \?krü-s?-b?l

1: a severe test

2 : a place or situation in which concentrated forces interact to cause or influence change or development

Both visually and musically, The Crucible starts where the last album The Tower ended, but it soon takes on its own hue, and it is clear that it cannot be called a ‘sequel’ as such: this is very much a step further out than anywhere the band ventured on The Tower. While it is broader lyrically speaking, it is even sharper focused musically and, if possible, even more idiosyncratic and insular than ever. Unarguably a Motorpsycho album, it is one that is going to make the novice Psychonaut’s head spin, but feel comfortingly unfamiliar to the acolyte. Motorpsycho was always too gnarly for prog nerds as well as too musically unwieldy for punks, and as their appeal becomes ever more selective, they are still proudly falling between all cracks, stools or chairs one might think of putting in their way. ‘Prog rock’? Call it Motorpsychodelia!

The Crucible was recorded at Monnow Valley Studios in Wales in August 2018 by Hans Magnus Ryan (guitars, vocals), Bent Sæther (bass, vocals, sundry) and Tomas Järmyr (drums), with co-producers Andrew Scheps and Deathprod. To these ears, and to the band’s satisfaction, this co-production ploy worked out wonderfully, and has resulted in a beautifully crafted record, smaller in size but at least equal in ambition to its celebrated predecessor. It is somehow both more focused, and denser in content, but also compositionally more ambitious than The Tower. One would perhaps think that this necessarily results in a diminished sonic assault, but the album still packs a wallop like a good rock record should. And – ‘for once’ some waggish tongues would say – does not outstay its welcome.

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

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Motorpsycho, “In Every Dream Home There’s a Dream of Something Else” Live at Bruis Festival 2018

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King Buffalo Post “Cosmonaut” Video; Last Shows of 2018 This Week

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 26th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

king buffalo (Photo by Mike Turzanski)

Just a bit of gorgeousness to make your day better. Because it’s precisely the kind of nerd I am, I’ve already been thinking of where to place King Buffalo‘s second album, Longing to Be the Mountain (review here), on my year-end list. Hey, you know, the poll goes up this Friday on here, so I’m not actually that early. But they’re pretty high up, and the more I listen to the record, the more that number seems to climb. The record hits such a perfect balance of the ephemeral and the ethereal, a cosmic lushness and an earthy undertone of groove playing out across its wide-ranging but still cohesive span. It is vast and welcoming in equal measure. I’m not sure yet where it’ll finally end up, but yeah, it’ll be up there somewhere among the bigger covers when the list goes live next month.

They have two shows left this year — Albany and Boston — and I haven’t heard much about tour plans for 2019, but it’s easy to imagine something’s in the works. Europe, maybe? Another US run? Whatever it is, King Buffalo are pushing themselves into new territories in sound and presence with Longing to Be the Mountain, and clearly the mission is to share that with as many people as possible.

Like the song “Cosmonaut” itself, I’ll keep it relatively short and leave it there. Some more info and those show details follow the video, courtesy of the PR wire.

Enjoy:

King Buffalo, “Cosmonaut” official video

We wanted to thank everyone for their overwhelming support for our new record Longing to Be the Mountain! We’ve already well surpassed our expectations and it’s only been out just over a month. We’re completely DIY, so to see so many people sharing and spreading the word means everything to us. We’re currently planning tours for 2019 across North America, Europe and beyond, so we hope to see you all soon. Stay tuned friends.

We’ve SOLD OUT of both the Deluxe and Standard Edition Vinyl, so we’ve put up a 100 copies of the Tour Edition while we wait for a repress. Grab a copy or some other merch and show your support for King Buffalo!

We only have two more shows for the rest of 2018. Don’t miss them!

King Buffalo live:
11/29 Albany, NY @ The Low Beat
11/30 Boston, MA @ O Briens Pub

King Buffalo is:
Sean McVay – vocals, guitar, synth
Dan Reynolds – bass, synth
Scott Donaldson – drums

King Buffalo, Longing to Be the Mountain (2018)

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Review & Track Premiere: Orango, Evergreens

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on November 23rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

orango evergreens

[Click play above to stream ‘Evergreen’ from Evergreens by Orango. Album is out Nov. 30 on Stickman Records.]

The tale of a band stripping down their approach is familiar enough. A group push in one direction, decide to go in another. There are degrees to which it’s perceptible to the listener and degrees to which it happens in an artist’s head or in how a recording is actually made in a studio, but it’s not a wild, unheard-of concept by any means. As it applies to Oslo’s Orango and their seventh full-length, Evergreens (released by Stickman Records), the trio effectively pull back on some of the more lush aspects they presented in the early hours of 2017 on The Mules of Nana (review here) in order to affect a more straightforward and driving approach. For the first six songs. Yes, Orango — comprised of guitarist Helge Bredeli Kanck, bassist Hallvard Gaardløs and drummer Trond Slåke, all of whom contribute to the oft-harmonized vocal pastiche — cut back on some of the more progressive leanings and dig into classic boogie and heavy rock. For the first six songs. It’s a hook-fest that taps into essential groove and memorable stretches like that in the particularly Southern-tinged “Hillside Man.” For the first six songs.

But when Evergreens flips over to side B after the tight three and a half minutes of “Sunny Bay,” it unfurls the 16:18 sprawl of the semi-title-track “Evergreen” and that seventh and final song completely changes the narrative of the record. Yeah, they execute taut and controlled songcraft even in the shuffling 2:40 of “Blue Heart,” the first minute of which is an intro to the forthcoming organ-and-fuzz-drenched boogie, but when the soft guitar introduces “Evergreen,” everything changes. It’s not just that it’s a shift in mindset. It’s that, on their seventh LP, Orango have willfully chosen to distinguish between two sides of their style that were closer together on a prior outing. Usually one thinks of a band melding disparate elements over time. Orango here perform a chemical separation, and the results are both fascinating as an experiment and in the material resulting.

Orango are by no means the first band to sit a much-longer piece at the end of an album of shorter and more straightforward tracks, but what stands out about their doing so on Evergreens is just how stark and purposeful they’ve made that separation. Not just in that it’s two different vinyl sides; it’s two different missions. But for the consistency of tone and the harmonies that seem to tie everything together no matter where the band might go in an individual track, it’s almost as though Evergreens was made as two separate mini-albums put together. From the Mountainous riff that starts “Glow Out of Time” and through the KISS-style urbanity of the subsequent “Loco,” also the catchiest of the bunch here, Orango set a path that even casts off some of the Southern rock vibe that their earlier work brought to bear on albums like 2004’s Villa Exile or 2011’s Confessions, and none of that feels like an accident.

orango

Seven records and a career that spans more than a decade, plus being a band who put so much time and clear thought into their arrangements, vocal and otherwise, it’s easy to give Orango the benefit of the doubt on knowing what they want to do in the studio and to have a fair conception of how an album will turn out when it’s done. Even if their songwriting process just naturally led to the disparity between one side of Evergreens and the other, they still would’ve been likely to understand how that would manifest when it was all pressed to the same platter. One can only assume, then, that the creation of that disparity was a part of the project, if not initially, then certainly by the end. So be it. “Evergreen” has its stretch of verses and choruses following its gradual intro and preceding a turn just after the six-and-a-half-minute mark to a quieter, organ-led section of meandering guitar and classic prog atmospherics.

Earlier, “Old Shores” carried wistful nostalgia through in a hooky verse and the aforementioned “Sunny Bay” gracefully mellowed out following the all-go “Blue Heart,” moving into subdued wah guitar and a bluesier feel. So “Evergreen” isn’t without context. One of the most successful aspects of Orango‘s construction of the album as a whole is how well it flows, and that includes all seven of its tracks and the full 37 minutes they run. But still, in its intro and in the section after the already-noted break, “Evergreen” is inherently distinct from everything else on the record that pluralizes its name. They bring the flow almost to silence, and having gone all the way down, bring it all the way back up. Vocals are sparse but not absent, a flute shows up, and the guitar, bass, organ and drums surge forward after 11:45 into a secondary chorus that carries them further toward the apex of the track. After a last held-out note at 14 minutes in, they’re ready to take off, and they launch into a long, solo-topped instrumental finish that becomes increasingly noisy as it moves to its inevitable conclusion but cuts hard at 15:45 in order to make a sharp turn to a quiet blues lick that actually finishes out.

That sudden last turn is crucial to understanding Evergreens as a whole, because it’s so representative of the band’s overarching mindset of making their songs do exactly what they want them to do. It’s analogous to the release in how it puts two seemingly opposing ideas together and makes them function toward the same end — in this case, the end of the album. As noted, Orango are by no means the first band to strip down their approach, but the fact that they seem to have done so while transposing all the prog textures and structure that might’ve been in the other six tracks into the seventh makes Evergreens all the more an intriguing listen. And not to be lost in the discussion of the structure and mission at work throughout is the fact that Orango completely pull it off. Not only do they make “Evergreen” fit alongside its shorter companion pieces, but they remind throughout that in songwriting and performance they’re one of the most strikingly underrated acts in the European heavy underground. All this and a little bit of flute, too, saved for when its appearance is most effective. One would expect nothing less.

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Spidergawd Set Jan. 11 Release for V & Post New Single; Tour Dates Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 20th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

spidergawd

By the time it’s done, 2018 will be the first year since 2014 without a new Spidergawd LP. True, the Trondheim, Norway, heavy rock specialists — and as per 2017’s Spidergawd IV (review here), NWOBHM-dabblers — have a new single out called All and Everything and in the spirit of its title that’s not at all nothing, but they had a pretty unbelievable pace going and one can only wonder what the extra time taken to put together Spidergawd V will bring upon the album’s release in January 2019 through Crispin Glover Records. I’m not saying I’ve heard it or anything, but yeah, I have and it smokes.

As they’ll do, they have a sizable tour booked to coincide with the release, and you’ll find those dates below courtesy of social media along with some tantalizing “Lucy in the Hole in the Sky”-style info about the album from the PR wire.

Dig:

spidergawd v

Spidergawd – V

In 2018, Spidergawd vanished from the surface, but not to rest. Rather the opposite. On the 11th January they are back with their fifth studio album, not surprisingly titled ‘ Spidergawd V’.

Once again the band mates Rolf Martin Snustad (Barytonsax) Hallvard Gaardløs (Bass) Kenneth Kapstad (Trommer) and Per Borten (Gitar/Vokal) have managed to make an impressive album in their own unique sound.

Whereas Spidergawd I and II were documentations on an adult musical playground, Spidergawd III and IV headed the band towards a more serious and defined identity. With the NWOBHM- references from IV and the heavy weight from III, Spidergawd V is very much recognizable and keeping up with style. Imagine yourself in a boat on a river with spidergawd trees and black sabbath skies and you’ll be close enough to visualize what to expect in the beginning of 2019.

Spidergawd, with its fifth album under its arm, can be seen on tour in Norway and throughout Europe from January to the end of March 2019.

First single from Spidergawd V, ‘All And Everything’, and B-side ‘My Occupation’ is out on all streaming platforms!

Spidergawd live:
18/01 STORSTUGGU / RØROS / NO
19/01 GREGERS / HAMAR / NO
24/01 VERA / GRONINGEN / NL
25/01 JC DE KLINKER / AARSCHOT / BE
26/01 TBA / NL
27/01 AMSTERDAM / MELKWEG SUGAR FACTORY / NL
07/02 FLYTTEN / HAUGESUND / NO
08/02 FOLKEN / STAVANGER /NO
09/02 TEATERET / KRISTIANSAND / NO
15/02 TERMINALEN / ÅLESUND / NO
16/02 BYSCENEN / TRONDHEIM / NO
21/02 ÆLVESPEILET / PORSGRUNN / NO
22/02 ENERGIMØLLA / KONGSBERG / NO
23/02 ROCKEFELLER / OSLO / NO
27/02 TBA / MO I RANA / NO
28/02 SINUS / BODØ / NO
01/03 DRIV / TROMSØ / NO
02/03 TBA / BERGEN / NO
06/03 POSTEN / ODeNSE / DK
07/03 1000 FRYD / AALBORG / DK
08/03 BETA / COPENHAGEN / DK
09/03 FZW / DORTMUND / DE
10/03 TOWER / BREMEN / DE
12/03 TBA
13/03 LUX / HANNOVER / DE
14/03 NATCHLEBEN / FRANKFURT / DE
15/03 FORUM / BIELEFELD / DE
16/03 LUXOR / COLOGNE / DE
17/03 STADTMITTE / KARLSRUHE / DE
19/03 TBA
20/03 GASWERK / WINTERTHÜR / CH
21/03 ROCKHAOUSE / SALZBURG / AT
22/03 ARENA / WIEN / AT
23/03 STROM / MÜNCHEN / DE
24/03 TBA
26/03 HIRSCH / NÜRNBERG / DE
27/03 UT CONNEWITZ / LEIPZIG / DE
28/03 KNUST / HAMBURG / DE
29/03 BEATPOL / DRESDEN / DE
30/03 MUSIK & FRIEDEN / BERLIN / DE

https://www.facebook.com/spidergawd/
https://www.instagram.com/spidergawdofficial/
http://www.spidergawd.no/
https://www.stickman-records.com/
http://www.crispingloverrecords.com/

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Feature: King Buffalo Interview… Me…?

Posted in Features on October 5th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

king buffalo

Before we get to anything else, I want to say this: I am really, really, really uncomfortable with this whole idea.

I mean it. I’ve been kicking myself in the ass since it was brought up. King Buffalo are about to putout their second full-length, Longing to Be the Mountain (review here), on Oct. 12, and the record’s just great. 2018 has produced a glut of fascinating, exciting and kickass albums, but especially when it comes to potential lasting appeal, I’ll put King Buffalo up against any of them, including Sleep. Big words, I know, but I’m serious. At this point, I’ve been doing this long enough to know when a release is going to stick.

So it’s kind of a big deal. I didn’t get to do a track premiere for Longing to Be the Mountain or the album stream, which I assume will be on some cooler site with a wider reach next week. Okay. That happens to me all the time, and the truth is, King Buffalo neither owe me anything nor are exactly an unknown quantity around these parts. If you’ve been reading for any length of time, you might recall their early-2018 EP Repeater had a track stream with the review, and I hosted the premiere of their debut LP, Orion, when that came out in 2016. I’ve also covered them in live reviews, their 2016 digital live release Live at Wicked Squid Studios (review here), their 2015 split LP with Lé Betre (review here) and their 2014 demo (review here), and it goes back further than that if I felt like searching out more links. But I think I’ve made the point. In terms of reaching an audience, King Buffalo have “done” The Obelisk. They’re a known quantity, and with a record like Longing to Be the Mountain, which has the potential to catch ears not already familiar with the band, it deserves as much of a chance as possible to do that.

This interview, where drummer Scott Donaldson asks me questions and I answer instead of how it should be, which is the other way around, was not my idea. It wasn’t. Please know that. It was pitched to me and I was hemming and hawing on it until I spoke to my wonderful and brilliant wife, The Patient Mrs., and she told me in her sweet, diplomatic way to get over myself and do it. I did the latter, obviously not the former, and I still feel a little bit like my fragile writerly ego is being placated for the stream I didn’t get to do. I don’t deserve to be interviewed — least of all on this site! Jesus. It feels so self-indulgent. I’ve had a couple rare occasions where I’ve been fortunate enough to have someone want to talk to me about what I do, and that’s always massively appreciated, because absolutely, I’ll run my mouth (or at least my fingers on the keyboard) if you’ll let me. But to have to then post it myself? Oof.

That’s a bummer way to start a piece that’s actually pretty fun, with silly questions and silly answers and whatnot, but all I can do is be honest about where I’m coming from, and even after I did the interview and sent it back, the thought of putting it up on my own, here, has continued to feel weird and self-indulgent. They call me “important.” Cringe.

So I’ll throw The Patient Mrs. under the bus. It was her idea.

Thanks for reading. Here’s the Q&A, which I titled myself:

jj obelisk

Longing to Be Relevant: A Wrong-Sided Conversation with King Buffalo

So in an exciting twist, I (Scott from King Buffalo) have the privilege to interview one of the most important gentleman in the entire stoner, psych, and doom etc. community, Mr. Obelisk himself, JJ Koczan. If you don’t know JJ, then you’ve probably been listening to your Spice Girls cassette on repeat and should stop reading now. For everyone else, on to the interview……..

Besides “The Pecan,” what do you view as your greatest achievement?

The truest answer I can give you is my relationship with my wife. We’ve been together since I was 15 years old. It’ll be 21 years in about a week as I write this, and I’m so incredibly lucky to have her in my life. Through high school and college and into professional life, through grad school — which for her was about a decade-long process — and beyond, she’s this amazing, brilliant, beautiful person and she’s absolutely the core around which the rest of my existence revolves. To see her in a new way this past year as she’s become a mother to The Pecan has been even more astounding, but there was never a doubt in my mind she’d nail it, because that’s what she does. She’s kind and sincere, far more patient with me than I deserve, and she says things like, “I think you should go to Norway,” which is about as much as I could ever ask of a partner in life.

More to the point I think of what you’re asking, probably best of all as relates to The Obelisk is the fact that people tell me words I’ve written have mattered to them. Usually that’s in the form of, “Hey dude I found such and such band on your site thanks!” and I really dig that and feel incredibly fortunate for it, but every now and then someone actually says something about the writing itself and that means a lot to me because such a big part of that project is that the voice it all comes from is my voice. I’m writing like I speak. I interrupt myself all the time. I jump from thought to thought. I have run-on sentences. I think in repetitive lists, etc. When that touches somebody and they feel strongly enough about it to let me know, whether it’s an email or a note on social media or coming up to me at a show, that’s a pretty astounding feeling.

If you could go on tour with one band, during any time period, dead or alive, who would you choose?

I’ll give you two that could’ve actually happened. I had a chance to tour Australia and New Zealand with Kings Destroy and Radio Moscow a couple years ago and I couldn’t do it because I didn’t have the money. It’s someplace I’ve always dreamed of going and the KD guys are good friends and I’ve been on the road with them and Radio Moscow before, so it’s all a familiar group to be with, and I just couldn’t get the cash together for a flight. I’ve never made much money, and I have no savings or anything like that, so it just wasn’t an option. They got to meet the cats from Beastwars and to see Arc of Ascent — I’m a huge fan of Craig Williamson (also of Lamp of the Universe and Datura), so that would’ve been amazing — but it just didn’t happen. My understanding from the guys afterward was it was a pretty rough tour, but I still regret it. A lot. Just to go there, in that context.

A year or two later, there was a chance The Patient Mrs. was going to get a grant to go to Australia and do research — she’s a college professor — and it looked like a lock. I got in touch with the guys from Hotel Wrecking City Traders and they put together like this whole festival thing in Melbourne that I presented because I was going to be there and everything, and again, the trip fell through. I missed that show. It was put on because I was coming and I didn’t make it. Still stings.

When Lo-Pan played Roadburn a few years ago and they had Adrian Zambrano on guitar, there was some talk about me joining them on the road for a week or two in Europe after. I could hardly think of a more righteous opportunity, but again, money. That’s the reason I haven’t been to Desertfest in a half-decade, it’s the reason I missed SonicBlast Moledo in Portugal and Freak Valley in Germany this year, both of which I was invited to — see also: baby — but yeah. I don’t make any money from The Obelisk and it’s times like that where it really hits home.

What’s the worst band name you’ve ever heard?

Any of them that I’ve forgotten. There are a lot of generic stoner-band names out there, but I actually don’t mind that, because it’s part of a whole aesthetic. It’s like fuzz riffs, or kind of slower rolling grooves. It’s part of the thing. There are a couple shitty names out there — I got called a “whinny liberal” (sic) on Instagram once for saying Black Pussy was a shitty name. Since then, I’ve wanted to start a band called Whinny Liberal, but am restrained, as ever, by lack of both talent and time.

Marry, Fuck, Kill – Lemmy, David Bowie, Prince and why?

Fuck Prince. Obviously. Anyone who tells you otherwise is lying. Plus he was like a Seventh Day Adventist or something, so he was probably a total freak in bed. Isn’t that how it always goes with fundamentalists? They don’t celebrate Xmas, but they’ll break out the sex-swing and make a holiday of any occasion?

Marry Bowie. If you’re getting married, you want stability, and Bowie and Iman stood the test of time.

Kill Lemmy. HOWEVER. After you kill him, you take his brain and put it in a cyborg Lemmy so he can live forever and still never quite reach the microphone on stage. Who keeps making those things so tall?

Who’s the most underrated singer / lyricist of all time?

Paul McCartney. He’s also the most overrated.

You’ve been tied to the railroad tracks by Boris Badenov, and there’s a train hurtling towards you. You’re surrounded by your music collection, and you’re able to break loose, but only have time to save 5 albums. What albums do you save?

I would certainly hope to be saved by Moose and Squirrel before the train hits, but if we’re talking my collection, I’d take mostly stuff that was gifts. I’ve got a signed Enslaved CD that was sent to me by Nuclear Blast because they weren’t getting a lot of press in the States at the time. That has sentimental value. I’ve got a bunch of Sabbath and Beatles bootlegs and a couple Type O Negative bootlegs that I bought decades ago that I’d save. I’d save the copy of Saint Vitus’ Lillie: F-65 that Season of Mist used my quote on the front-sticker for, I’d save whatever of the Man’s Ruin Records stuff I could grab, and I’d save the original copy of Alice in Chains’ Dirt I swiped from my older sister when I was like 10. I don’t know if that’s five or 50, but it’s some of the stuff I have that has value to me beyond whatever cash I may have paid for it.

Why do people say “cheese” before being photographed?

Traditionally I think because to say “cheese” stretches out the sides of the mouth and provides a natural smile. It’s not true, though. In my experience — and this may just be my own bitchy resting face — saying cheese draws the sides of the mouth downward, so you’re not smiling for the camera, you’re just looking like you’re having your face pulled. But who the hell smiles for a camera anyway when you can make a weird face or just be metal and scowl. That’s probably my preference.

A monkey is shot into space and comes back to earth with all the knowledge of the cosmos. He will only talk to you, and will allow you to ask one question. What is it?

Why bother? Fuck that selfish monkey. He should probably get a press conference together and start unraveling the mysteries of the universe to everyone instead of one question to my ass. You know what my one question would be? “Why are you such a prick that you’re unwilling to share this vast knowledge you’ve acquired?” Monkey should be too busy in a lab somewhere curing cancer and on the fucking senate floor saving democracy from imperial populism to answer my shitty question in the first place. “Hey monkey, how ‘bout those riffs, huh?”

A lot of websites, blogs, magazines and livejournals have come and gone since The Obelisk’s inception. What drives you to be able to continue on this journey?

Compulsion. I need it so much more than anyone else needs it that it’s laughable. I started The Obelisk after the magazine I worked for went under and I wanted to keep my contacts and I still had a stack of stuff to review and nowhere to put it. So my buddy Slevin put together a WordPress for me and I stumbled through learning how to use it. Since then, it’s consumed such a major portion of my identity that I don’t know what I’d do without it. I’m “JJ from The Obelisk” for so much of my day. At this point, it’s what I schedule my life around. I wake up at two or three in the morning to write before the baby gets up so I can get work in before I have to go be daddy, and if I don’t, I’m out of my mind the entire day. I have a very, very compulsive personality. It makes me a complete asshole in many situations, but it means that when I do something like this, I do it all the way. I’m dedicated to developing a critical aesthetic and all that, and I believe strongly in the music and whatever role I play in talking about it as I do, but the simple truth is I need it. It’s been long enough and it’s a big enough part of my life that I can’t really be who I am without it.

If you could form a supergroup out of any musicians from the past and present, who would you pick?

Nah, you never really know how a supergroup is going to work out, and I feel like if you pick a band with “stars” from other bands, often it’s ego-driven and kind of falls flat. I’ll just take my Shrinebuilder record and the Munchen Sessions from when Los Natas jammed with Stefan Koglek from Colour Haze and be happy with that.

Crunchy or creamy peanut butter?

Fun fact about me: I love peanut butter. You nailed this question. Peanut butter anything — I’m in. It’s the fastest way to my heart. These days I grind my own from dry roasted, unsalted peanuts — because I want to taste peanuts, not salt — and I usually stop the food processor before it’s all the way smoothed out. It’s not “crunchy” like in the Jif or Skippy sense, where there’s like half a nut just mysteriously inserted into otherwise smooth peanut butter, but if I can get it to where it’s got a bit of texture and still get the good oils out from the peanuts and bring out that flavor, I’m happy. I also recently started grinding almond butter as an alternative. Different process, takes longer, but also yields satisfying results.

You’re the smartest man alive, you’ve just built a machine that can travel through time and teleport you to any destination. Where do you go, and why?

I’d travel to a dimension outside of conventional hours and give myself more time to write

Then I’d go back to when I was like 15 and tell myself to go see Kyuss and White Zombie on tour together. And Sleep whenever.

Lastly, if you had to describe how awesome King Buffalo is in one word, what word would you choose?

As regards your new album, “breakthrough” is the single word that most comes to mind, but I think generally the forward step you’ve taken has been to make your sound more your own while also developing your songwriting, upping the level of presentation via production, and generally showcasing the lessons you’ve learned both from Orion and from the touring you’ve done since that record came out. These are some of the things I think can be most admirable from a band going from one LP to a follow-up. I knew you guys were onto something the first time I heard the demo, but Longing to Be the Mountain is a special album. You should be proud of it.

In all seriousness though, thank you so much for all you do JJ. Most outlets overlook upcoming bands. It’s because of your ears and fingers that I’ve been turned on to a lot of great music. I look forward to seeing who you find next. –Scott (The guy that hits stuff in KB)

In all seriousness, Scott, this feels weird and I’m not entirely comfortable talking about myself in this way on this site. It feels like a total ego trip and I’m not into it. But I’m doing it because it’s you, and because it’s King Buffalo and because when I told The Patient Mrs. about it and said I probably wasn’t going to do it, she said I should.

Alright, the baby’s waking up. I gotta go. Thanks for taking the time.

King Buffalo, Longing to be the Mountain (2018)

King Buffalo, “Quickening” official video

King Buffalo BigCartel store

King Buffalo website

King Buffalo on Thee Facebooks

King Buffalo on Twitter

King Buffalo on Instagram

Stickman Records website

Stickman Records on Thee Facebooks

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