Feature: Going Deep on The Wall [Redux]; Band Commentaries, Track Premieres and More

Posted in Features on October 26th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

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Two things you should know about this post. First: It’s huge. Apart from the year-end lists that get posted each Jan. 1, it’s the longest post I’ve ever put up. The Q&As alone are 11,000 words. It’s more compendium than interview.

Second: That’s entirely on purpose.

What on earth would possibly earn such a vast landscape of text if not The Wall [Redux]? The third and most ambitious yet of Magnetic Eye Records‘ series of [Redux] compilations captures Pink Floyd at arguably (or, really, inarguably) their most iconic and comes accompanied by The Best of Pink Floyd, another Various Artists take on a swath of tracks from the generation-defining British band’s storied discography.

Like few records before it and even fewer since, The Wall is a landmark for what rock and roll could be, and the enduring emotional and sociopolitical relevance of a work of art that’s the better part of 40 is only part of what makes it so timeless when one considers the actual songwriting itself. Even for rock heads who aren’t Pink Floyd fans, it’s undeniable.

Before we get down to business on this thing, I need to thank Jadd Shickler of Magnetic Eye and Blue Heron (who take on “Stop”) for essentially putting it all together. He chased down the commentaries from the bands and we went back and forth about whether to run the whole thing or edit it down, but in the end, it seemed too crucial to me to not include everybody’s every word. I won’t be so self-aggrandizing as to call this a companion for The Wall [Redux] or The Best of Pink Floyd or anything like that, but it’s a look at the bands talking about how Floyd came into their lives, how they got to do the songs they did, and how they view the album in the context of today. Some take a political angle, some just dig the record. Both are valid, and The Wall stands up to scrutiny on both levels.

I’ve put the bands in alphabetical order, so you’ll get to see comments from: ASG, Blue Heron, Creepers, Los Disidentes del Sucio Motel, Domkraft, Forming the Void, Ghastly Sound, Greenleaf, Howling Giant, Mark Lanegan, Low Flying Hawks, Mars Red Sky, the Melvins, Mos Generator, Open Hand, Pallbearer, Red Mesa, Scott Reeder, Ruby the Hatchet, Sasquatch, Solace, Somnuri, Summoner, Church of the Cosmic Skull, Sergeant Thunderhoof, The Slim Kings, Spaceslug, Sunflo’er, T-Tops, WhiteNails, Worshipper, Yawning Man, Year of the Cobra. That’s nearly everybody involved in the project.

The copy is pretty raw — if you have time to precisely edit 11,000 words, congratulations on your life — but I’ve done a bit of formatting to hopefully make it clear. You’ll find it all beneath the track premieres below for Solace‘s take on “In the Flesh” and Red Mesa‘s version of “Breathe.” The Wall [Redux] and The Best of Pink Floyd are out Nov. 9 on Magnetic Eye Records. Preorders are available here.

Solace, “In the Flesh”

Red Mesa, “Breathe”

Behind The Wall [Redux]:
Inspirations and Motivations

Jason / ASG / Mother

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

I think for us as musicians, Pink Floyd was there in the beginning of learning how to play guitar, drums etc. The relative simplicity of many Floyd tunes went hand in hand with the primitive stages of guitar lessons-if you knew a handful of chords you could play many of their songs. So as a teenager that was a big deal, being able to play one of your favorite band’s songs in the early stages of playing an instrument – it kind of cemented a lifelong bond of influence and fandom with Pink Floyd.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering “Mother?”

In our attempt of covering “Mother” we chose to stay relatively true to the original- we recorded out in the desert of Texas so perhaps a bit of country western influence slipped in with some guitar tremolo and mandolin making their way on to the track. And as a vocalist trying to do both the Waters and Gilmour “voices” it provided a bit of a challenge – but hopefully our version retained the intriguing and beautiful dichotomy their voices created in many classic Floyd tunes.

Does today feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

I think any time or year is a good time to revisit Pink Floyd!

Jadd / Blue Heron / Stop

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

I was late getting turned onto Pink Floyd, I think in my late 20s… I’d always heard the hits on rock radio but never spent any time going deeper. For some reason, I decided to buy an unauthorized biography about Pink Floyd while at a big bookstore in Denver when I was 27 or so. And then, who knows why, I read it from cover to cover while driving cross-country from Erie, Pennsylvania to Albuquerque, NM. I don’t mean I read it at rest stops and hotels or listened to the audio version, I mean I read the physical book perched on my steering wheel while driving 80 miles per hour across the width of the United States – it was that engrossing, and I heard and learned things about constructing songs and being in a band that would affect me forever.

How did you arrive at your approach to your song?

Well, we claimed this song as a way to be part of the record but not feel like we were taking the more sought-after songs away from anyone. No one was fighting over the 42-second piano and vocal instrumental, but that was nice, we were free to kind of ingest it and blast out something uniquely us. Chav basically took on the heavy lifting of turning that sparse piano melody into multiple layers of texture and fuzz, and then we drew it out a little bit so it didn’t feel rushed. There are very few lyrics, so I really just tried to find a different point of view on them… Roger Waters does plaintive well, I was aiming more for resignation and self-disgust as the character recognizes his errors in judgement and skewed perspective… I like to think that came across in what we did.

Does 2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

As soon as Mike told me his plan to make The Wall the next Redux album, I was on board. It was February of 2017, and we were maybe a month into the Trump presidency, hearing about the wall he was going to build on the border and feeling completely alienated in our own country. Even though Floyd’s album was maybe not as political originally in its message, it seems like it took on more of that position over the years as it came to be associated with East Germany and such. So, given how powerless we were feeling after the most recent presidential election, the idea of re-building and re-imagining such a seminal album couldn’t have been a better way to make a statement about totalitarianism, divisiveness, and the kind of ignorance and hatred this administration makes people feel empowered to embrace. We should probably Redux the Sex Pistols next just to drive the point home.

Bill / Church of the Cosmic Skull / The Trial

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

Although Dark Side and the Syd Barrett era are the usual ‘way in’, The Wall was played a lot around the house when I was younger, so it was my introduction to the band. As we’re all aware it’s something of a marmite album, and certainly more Waters than anything else, but it’s undeniably a great concept album, from one of the many incarnations of Pink Floyd.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

I love the old story that Dark Side syncs up with The Wizard of Oz if you press play at the right time. The Trial has some of Gerald Scarfes darkest animation visuals as part of the feature film, so we have synced up the cover version with the original, so you can play both simultaneously and it will fit together. Musically we have changed the verses considerably, and as the original has parts from all the different characters on the album it made sense we gave each one to different singers in the band:

The Prosecutor – Brother Sam
The Teacher – Brother Michael
The Wife – Sister Caroline
The Mother – Sister Joanne
Pink & The Judge – Brother Bill

Does 2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

Politically it makes sense, and the increasing awareness of mental health issues, especially in the music industry, makes it all the more poignant.

Shiv Mehra / Creepers / Us and Them

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

As musicians and music fans Pink Floyd has been one of the most inspiring bands of a lifetime. I connected to them personally from the early days of Syd Barrett to the latter. They’ve pushed sonic boundaries for rock into a realm of psychedelia that opened the doors for so much of our music today.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

Well “Us and Them” was one of our first picks for covering because it sits in a range for us vocally and reflects our own personal taste and sound as a band.

Does 2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

2018 is a perfect time for revisiting The Wall because it has been 39 years and music has transformed in so many ways since, but The Wall paved the path for psychedelic bands like us.

Nicolas / Los Disidentes Del Sucio Motel / Welcome to the Machine

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

My connection with PF is huge! This band has been part of my main influences for years. I have all Floyd albums and a lot of solo albums of each member. Unfortunately, I never had the chance to see the whole band performing together, but I was lucky enough to see David Gilmour and Roger Waters in concert. I saw the last tour of The Wall at the Stade de France in Paris in 2013. This concert was a turning point in my life. Probably the biggest concert I’ve ever seen and will ever see. Recently I saw Waters with my dad, it was also a wonderful moment. Pink Floyd is one of those timeless groups that cross generations. My father loves PF, I love PF and I hope my son will love PF too!

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

Pink Floyd is one of the few bands that connects us all in LDDSM. We all listen to this band on a daily basis, really. For each new album, we work on a cover that we play at the end of our concerts. For the album “Human Collapse”, it was “Welcome to the machine”. This appeared quite obvious by itself, because HC was written under the influence of PF from the start and is composed somewhat like “The Wall”. The way of composing and Gilmour’s guitar playing guided me a lot during the writing of this album. This man is a real god and I have immense respect for him. The sound he has created, his way of placing always the right notes at the right time, the sensitivity he puts in it, is pure genius. When we cover a song, we like to make it our own, as if the song could have been written by ourselves. But above all, we are always looking to keep its original identity. We don’t like to leave its uniqueness behind. People must be able to recognize it in the first seconds and have to say at the end “goddam, it really sounds like an LDDSM song!” That’s the point, make LDDSM stuff with the composition of another and respect the original song.

Does today feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

It is obvious that we are in a sadly perfect context for that. The political scope of the album has never been so justified. What we do with our planet is a shame. Trump is a shame, a monstrosity. But he is unfortunately not the only one. We live in an extremely violent and difficult world and I worry a lot, every day for the future of my children. In the manner of Waters, we might be tempted to build a wall around us to protect ourselves from others, but isolation is never the answer. We must break this wall, open ourselves to the unknown, reach out to others, it’s the only way for humanity to survive. This is the message of this album and it must be heard today more than never before.

Martin W. / Domkraft / Empty Spaces / One of These Days

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

As a band, we probably would not sound the way we do had it not been for Floyd. They have been THE band for our guitar player Martin, who basically has listened to them all his life and they were the sole reason for him picking up the guitar in the first place. The rest of the band are also fans, but we both discovered them at a later stage in life.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

We right away decided that we wanted to do something in the vein of “Domkraft interpreting Floyd” rather than note-perfect cover versions. Why try to match something that is already perfect? Let’s do our own take instead and create alternate versions of classic tracks. Like, we found ourselves stretching short segments of the songs into actual parts of our versions. Small sounds and vibrations from the originals getting more space and importance. When we got to do “Empty Spaces”, we immediately knew that we wanted to go even deeper into the brooding, desolate aspects of the song. We soaked it in reverb to achieve an almost drone-like vibe to emphasize the lonely, bare and exposed feeling of the track.

“One of these Days” is such a seminal track and probably one of our absolute favorites from the Floyd catalog, so that one felt like an obvious and insane choice at the same time. With both the studio and the Pompeii versions just oozing perfection, we just decided to just go for it, not look back, and do our own take – more fuzz-drenched and with the same kind of psych-inspired over-the-top guitar work that is to be found in most Domkraft songs. Plus, we took some liberties and incorporated a segment from another “Meddle” classic – the falling note arpeggio break from “Echoes” – which worked really nicely and gave it some breathing space in the freight train section of the track.

Does 2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

Oh, hell yes. Frighteningly good. These are Orwellian times, possible more in the Animal Farm sense than 1984, though. That particular album has gone from being political (at the time of its release) to being “just” a classic (post-Glasnost) to being super-political again. A super political classic.

Shadi / Forming the Void / Fearless

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

The first time I heard Pink Floyd was when I was 12. I had been studying music for a while and my father decided I was “ready” to hear them. We sat down together, and he played me the entire Wish You Were Here album. That moment changed my life forever. Pink Floyd became the band that I studied obsessively for the next few years. They sparked my lasting passion and serious pursuit of music and influences me deeply to this day.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

We had a short list of favorite Pink Floyd songs we might hypothetically cover one day. When we got this opportunity, it was with two weeks’ notice. From our list, ‘Fearless’ adapted the most naturally to our sound and fit most readily the time constraints we were given so it was an easy choice.

Does today feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

Anytime is a good time to revisit Pink Floyd! They are timeless.

TJ / Ghastly Sound / Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 1

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

Pink Floyd was one of the first and most important bands we were introduced to as children. I remember seeing posters for “The Wall” hanging up in my uncle’s bedrooms and being completely captivated by the artwork. In the 90’s, my father was really into home theater systems. When the Pink Floyd Pulse Live DVD came out, I was 8 years old. Our entire house would shake as we watched this and the cinematic adaptation of The Wall. This stuck with me until my teenage years and I began to discover cannabis. Thankfully, my parents were really open-minded about this specific substance and one summer night in my 13th year, they gifted me and a friend a half a bowl to smoke in the garage. Following our consumption of this gift, my friend and I got into my dad’s car and listened to Comfortably Numb on full blast in the driver and passenger seat. This experience was honestly a crucial moment in my development as a person and a musician.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

Approaching this cover was one of the most challenging experiences I’ve ever had as a musician. I think I threw away 3 or 4 instrumental versions before we landed on what we have now. Approaching a cover from such an iconic album is intimidating enough on its own. We had an extra challenge given that our specific track is more of an interlude; and comprised almost exclusively of David Gilmour playing guitar. Me, not being a guitarist, faced with executing something so clean in tone and performance was nothing short of terrifying. Our two main focuses were keeping true to the pace of the album and trying to maintain the feeling of crescendo as the album moves from Another Brick in the Wall Part 1 to Happiest Days of Our Lives. Ultimately, we decided that starting off true to the original and utilizing the ambient section of the song to take some liberties and transition into the next track was the best possible scenario. Hopefully we’ve succeeded and added something special for the listener to experience.

Does 2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

2018 is a great time to introduce this album to a new generation of listeners. Not only because of the juxtaposition of the current political climate, but because guitar-based music is coming back in a huge way. It’s my hope that people can take these adaptations and use them to expand upon more traditional approaches to songwriting in the stoner or doom genres.

Tommi Holappa / Greenleaf / Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 3 / Goodbye Cruel World

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

For me it all started with seeing the Live at Pompeii DVD. The musicianship, the sound landscapes, the songwriting, it’s just simply amazing! Since then I have bought all their albums and yes You can easily say the I have been influenced by them. On each Greenleaf album there is at least one or two songs that has a little bit of Pink Floyd influences in them, it could just be a little reverb/delay thing, a riff or just the mood of the song.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

Well we knew that we couldn’t just do ”covers” of the songs because nothing can beat the originals. So, we decided to not try to copy the songs too much and try to make them sound more like Greenleaf, a bit more bluesy and a bit more heavy.

Does 2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

Yes, it does! If you look all the stupidity that is going on in the world today it could drive any sane man crazy…

Tom and Zach / Howling Giant / Matilda Mother

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

They pioneered the idea of the concept album. While each song can stand alone, everything they wrote had a specific purpose within the album. Pink Floyd also showed us that you don’t have to fit within a certain genre, they were all about writing what they wanted, when they wanted.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering “Matilda Mother?”

It’s a weird song, and its focus on fairytales and escapism is something that appeals to us. ‘Piper at the Gates of Dawn’ is often overlooked in the Pink Floyd catalogue and we wanted to represent that era.

Does today feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

The songwriting on The Wall is definitely worth revisiting, especially with the resurgence of classic rock influence on the heavy scene.

Mark Lanegan / Nobody Home

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

As a teenager, I stole a record one day. Walking out of the store carrying it behind an empty record cover I’d brought in with me. When I heard the store clerk shouting behind me to stop, I turned a corner and out of his vision for a second, I threw it like a knife into a bank of deep snow. Not finding it, the guy let me go. Hours later I returned to retrieve my copy of ‘The Wall’ and listened to it nonstop for a long time. One of the great records of all time, I’m pleased I was able to participate in this tribute. Legally, of course.

Low Flying Hawks / The Thin Ice

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

There’s always been a connection, we’ve always been into Pink Floyd, mostly the early years, the Syd Barrett stuff, atom heart mother, more, meddle, etc. probably up until the wall. We feel the true magic obviously after Syd left (cause Syd was the magic) was the mix of Roger and David, but once Roger started to lead we thought it was too rigid to forced and the other way around when David was in the lead it got too honey-dripped, too forced to the exact opposite, so together it was a perfect balance.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

We wanted to do something very simple, stripped to the core, the opposite of the operatic circus approach roger gave the album and obviously the song.

Does 2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

We’re not political at all so we really never mix politics and music etc., we get the connection and the timing, but we feel you can always revisit an album if the bands are good and the songs are interesting.

Mars Red Sky / Comfortably Numb

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

Mat: To be honest, Pink Floyd belongs for me to the generation of my parents, they had some of their records, so it has always been familiar, and it took years to rediscover it by myself. Also, songs like “division bell” was constantly on the air in the early ’90s when I was digging Punk Rock and Grunge… One day I listened to ‘The Piper at the Gates of Dawn”, and I went crazy about what was coming out from the speakers!

Julien: My dad had ‘Dark Side of The Moon’ in his record collection, I liked that a lot. Later I got more into them through a couple of friends when I was twenty and was a bit fascinated by the whole Syd Barrett mystery. I like most of their albums a lot, with a preference for some of the earlier ones (‘A Saucerful of Secrets’ especially)

Jimmy: ‘The Piper at the Gates of Dawn’ and ‘Atom Heart Mother’ are two of my favorite albums ever…

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

Julien: We got the opportunity to pick Comfortably Numb, that was great because it’s one of our favorites. We had fantasized on covering this song for a long time, I had tried it awkwardly with a previous band. Here we put it all together fairly quickly, and we really like the way it came out. Our friend Benjamin Mandeau did a killer job at recording and mixing it.

Does 2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

Mat: Definitely there’s always a good reason to revisit such an album like that!

Dale Crover / The Melvins / In the Flesh?

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

I’ve been into the Floyd since I was in grade school, thanks to older brothers. The first record I had of theirs was “Animals.”

How did you arrive at your approach in covering “In the Flesh?”

We always put our own spin on the song we’re covering. We came up with a genius idea for this one. If I tell you it will spoil the surprise. You’re just going to have to hear it.

Does today feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

Sure, why not now? Roger Waters keeps revisiting it for his mega buck tours. They didn’t really tour that record when it came out. In the US they only played New York and LA. Here’s a fun fact: when we recorded Stoner Witch we used the same Fender Precision bass that Roger used on The Wall. I believe it belonged to Bob Ezrin, producer of the Wall.

Tony Reed / Mos Generator / Goodbye Blue Sky

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

There is no getting away from the influence of Pink Floyd. Their music has always seemed to be there and growing up in the 70s helped make them a part of the soundtrack of my youth. I have to be honest, when I first started playing music in around 1982, I was really burned out on the Pink Floyd “radio” songs and had never taken the time to explore the catalog. It wasn’t until about 15 years later that I heard the Meddle album and I was hooked on “Echoes”. Soon after, I took very little time hunting down the discography and studying it. Now they hold a very high place in my top bands.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

My usual approach at a cover is to try and replicate the song as close as I can, in performance and production. Using that technique, I come away from the project learning something about the recording and playing of the song. It makes me take an approach that I may not have chosen if I had written the song. In the end, I learn something that can possibly be applied to my own producing and writing. Not everybody agrees with this approach but it’s fun for me.

Does 2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

The Wall is a timeless piece of music. It’s a human album, that to me, speaks about a struggle that we all go through as we move through life. It doesn’t manifest itself as intensely in most people as it does in the “Pink” character, but we’ve all been “through some sh**” at one time or another. Some more than others and years of it can change a person into a different soul. It’s seriously heavy thinking for a rock ‘n’ roll album.

Justin / Open Hand / The Show Must Go On

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

What always has drawn us in to Floyd is Gilmour… his guitar playing and his voice … for those of us lucky enough to be exposed to Floyd at a young age (by our dads) you can’t help but be inspired by that band for the rest of our lives … and when you start playing guitar, Gilmour is a must study.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

We based our approach on the live version of “Show Must Go On” … it is a little longer live (extended) … they added another verse etc. … the live version of that song is better than the album version actually … so we went with that. As far as working with past Pink Floyd touring sax player Scott Page… I have known him for decades…met him when I was 13 or 14 … he was always involved in amazing bands (reo speedwagon… Supertramp…etc.) and Floyd … he gave me my first instrument … a saxophone… still have it … when it came time to record this cover … it was an obvious choice to go to the source … and even though there was never sax on the original he jumped at the chance to add some shit to it … recorded in the bathroom of my apartment…

Does today/2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

It’s a great time to revisit… having a whole new generation be turned on to Floyd via modern relevant bands that kick ass. … and Mike does an amazing job collecting those bands for these killer redux records… to be a part of two of these redux series for our favorite artists (Jimi Hendrix and pink Floyd) … so fucking cool man.

Pallbearer / Run Like Hell

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd generally or The Wall specifically?

Pink Floyd has been a major source of inspiration for us, since long before we started Pallbearer. The experimentation, the innovative production, and most importantly the great songwriting has always been a benchmark for us to strive for since we started this band

How/why did you choose “Run Like Hell,” and how did the amped-up take on it come about?

When we were approached about doing this project, we initially inquired about 3 or so tracks to see if they had already been claimed by other artists, RLH being one of them. We were excited to take on RLH because it would give us the opportunity to totally subvert the notion that we would end up doing something obvious. The song is already kind of outside of the realm of our already-Floyd-indebted style. It was different for them, so it gave us a chance to really think outside the box.

Our initial inspiration on how to approach it actually came from watching as many early live performances of it as we could find. We found that all of them were really vicious sounding, and a bit unhinged. They just felt off the rails, so we decided to just go full steam in that direction.

Does today/2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall, and why or why not?

The Wall is very much an album that explores different aspects of isolation. In 2018, our world is essentially more “connected” than ever before via technology, yet it feels like we are also becoming more and more isolated from one another as individuals. Additionally, nationalist tendencies are increasing globally at a terrifying rate. It seems like a perfect time to revisit and re-examine this classic album.

Brad / Red Mesa / Breathe

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

I started listening to Pink Floyd in high school in the mid-nineties. The first two albums I owned were on CD. ‘The Wall’ and ‘Dark Side of the Moon.’ I didn’t start paying music until after high school, so I was just a rabid fan of rock and roll, hungry to listen all the classic stuff. Both albums completely blew my mind. I spent hours in my room after school listening and reading the lyrics. I felt that Pink Floyd was the most intelligent band. Besides being phenomenal musicians, Roger Water’s lyrics spoke to me. He somehow managed to take philosophical concepts and weave them into a rock and roll band. It wasn’t just about women, drugs, and fast cars. Nothing wrong with that as subject matter, but Pink Floyd made you think about and question existence. As my younger brother and I digested The Wall and Dark Side, we discovered the rest of their albums. I fell in love with Meddle and Animals. The song “Echoes” on Meddle is my favorite psychedelic song of all time.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

We covered the song “Breathe” from Dark Side of the Moon. Picking the right song for the band was a challenge. We wanted to play to the strength of the band. Roman, our drummer texted me “How about Breathe?!” as I was looking at the guitar tab and plucking out the chords and rhythm. I thought that was a sign. I sent the band a voice memo of guitar stuff, they liked it, said we should make it heavier. We ran through it in practice and it felt great! We all love Pink Floyd so much. We felt honored to be asked to cover one of their songs. We wanted to do our very best and pay our respects.

In the studio, we played all the rhythm section ‘live’. It has a very organic feel to it. We really liked how it came out. I went back over and doubled the guitar track. For the iconic Dave Gilmour slide part, I played lap steel with a bunch of delay and reverb and heavy overdrive. We had a blast recording this one.

Matthew from Empty House Studio orchestrated us for “On the Run” the trippy instrumental song that comes in directly after “Breathe” ends. I stuck my head inside a grand piano banging away on the strings, while Roman was holding down that super cool drum part. At that point we had already polished off a bottle of Jameson, Matthew says “be careful, that piano is worth more than a house”. And I’m just banging away in there. Matthew was pushing us to get more creative and weirder. Super fun.

Does today/2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

Yes, absolutely. Politically, spiritually, and environmentally things are fucked in the US. It seems that The Wall’s concept and message is timeless. It came out in 1979. It could have been released in 2018 without altering a single word. As much as that album is brilliant, it’s sad we haven’t seemed to have evolved much in the past 40 years. However, revisiting this album will hopefully bring Pink Floyd’s message and music to a younger generation of fans.

Scott Reeder / Is There Anybody Out There?

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

When The Wall was released, it was my entry into Pink Floyd’s universe; and to this day is probably my biggest musical influence… right up there with The Beatles. My solo stuff always draws comparisons to Floyd. The damage is done deep – they were all I listened to for a long time! I feel lucky to have seen them a couple of times. Roger Waters quite a few times, too. Oddly enough, I had dinner with their final long-time bassist, Guy Pratt, and his wife few years ago at a Warwick Bass party. We were showing each other pictures of our properties and horses and had an awesome time. I didn’t realize at the time that his lady was Richard Wright’s daughter, Gala. She was very sweet.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering “Is There Anybody Out There?”

There’s not much to it… You’ve got the title question asked a few times, and then that iconic guitar run that I struggled to do some justice to. Structure-wise, that’s it. My fretting hand had developed trigger finger – my pinky and ring finger were locking closed, and after every take, it got worse, but I patched it up alright. The ambient stuff I constructed to reflect the desolate feeling out here on the ranch – I recorded guns in the distance, and our dog Rocky was scared and whimpering next to me, while his pal Harry was barking in the distance. My Chihuahua Scooter is in the mix towards the end, too – she passed shortly after this was finished – I’m so glad she’s on it! Got my 8-string bass in there for the scrapes run through a Whammy pedal to raise the tension. And it’s my first time using trombone on a track!

Does today/2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

At almost 30 years out… why not? It’s my favorite album of all time – probably the only album that I could sing all the words to! It’s an honor to be a part of this tribute to the greatest album of all time, and it’s absolutely killing me waiting to hear how the whole thing plays out!

Jillian Taylor / Ruby the Hatchet / Vera / Pigs (Three Different Ones)

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

Pink Floyd was one of the bands I was brought up on and a favorite of my father’s. I remember thinking they were really weird and scared me when I was young; especially The Wall movie which seemed to always play in the wee hours when I was sneaking TV. My mother’s side is from England and there are so many crossovers with Floyd lingo and English pride and reprimand (cue “hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way…”). When I was a teenager, and after an ugly divorce between my parents, my father gave me The Wall for my birthday. It was then that I felt like I understood their strangeness and the rebellious and political undertones. I even went through a rough year where I had to listen to The Dark Side of the Moon every single day to relate to all the beauty and pain in it.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your songs?

Everyone dove in to their respective parts. Pigs was a huge labor of love by all parties; especially Sean (keys) who recorded and engineered both tracks for us. It’s a lengthy track that we made even longer (additional apologies to Sean for having to mix down a 12-minute song dozens of times). We didn’t veer off course with Pigs much, it was fun to play it straight and make small twists with the organ, harmonies and vocals in female register. Vera was completely different as it’s a very short interlude (we managed to at least triple the length of it, of course). It came naturally to play around with Vera. I’ve always thought that song was so hauntingly pretty and used to hum an additional part I’d imagine there which we made happen in a bridge.

Does today/2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

I’d say yes, and until we reach some kind of Utopian society which doesn’t seem like it will realistically arrive; then maybe always. There’s a George Orwell quote from 1984 that always reminds me of The Wall: “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.”

Cas, Keith and Riggs / Sasquatch / Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

Riggs: PF is one band that has consistently punctuated moments in my life from the age of 8 to whatever I am now. My brothers got tickets to The Wall at Madison Square Garden when I was a wee lad. I was completely bummed that I didn’t get to go, and I have spent the rest of my song-writing life trying to rip them off.

Keith: Floyd has had a big influence in many ways on me personally and our music. I guess it might not come through so much in our songs themselves, but I think about PF when I’m incorporating dynamics and textures into the songwriting. It’s definitely played into having Unger come in and drop more Hammond and B3 on our new record, Maneuvers.

Cas: To be honest, I’m the young buck in the band. Growing up as a metal kid in the late 80s, my first exposure to PF wasn’t a direct connection, but through Voivod’s cover of Astronomy Domine. Obviously, I had heard PF hits on classic rock radio, but hadn’t paid attention until I heard this tune in 8th grade. That take on that song drove me to dive into the PF catalog and I haven’t looked back since. Waters may not be flashy, but he writes some of the most memorable bass lines out there in rock. Huge influence on how I approach the instrument.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

Riggs: Another Brick in The Wall has always been an odd song for PF. I remember kids in school singing the song to be rebellious, but the disco beat always freaked me out. We wanted to change it up in a more soulful way and lose the kid chorus and disco beat. It’s the same approach we would take if we were to cover Money.

Cas: Keith and Riggs played around with several different versions. We thought about both extremes: a) keeping it true to form or b) deconstructing it to the point where it would be completely unrecognizable. We eventually ended up slowing it down and beefing it up but kept the melodies intact. The guys were definitely adamant about pulling out the Bee Gees beat from the original. In the end, we decided pulling the drums completely out of the verses gave the choruses a much larger impact. Then Riggs tried out his best (worst?) Academy Award-winning English accent on the wrap-up. Made me crave some pudding.

Does today feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

Riggs: It’s always a good time to revisit any PF album. Just as Roger Waters is accentuating the current political aspects on his tours, it’s great to see a bunch of talented bands give it their own take.

Keith: I think anytime you can cobble together such a great list of bands like the roster here, why not do it?

Cas: Given the current climate, there’s no better time than the present.

Dan / Sergeant Thunderhoof / The Happiest Days of Our Lives / Time

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

They were a mainstay in my household as a child. Those songs are so solidly imprinted within me that they’ve almost taken on another dimension. Floyd have a sound of their own that is pretty hard to pigeonhole and I guess we try to emulate that philosophy.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

“Happiest Days of our Lives” was a fun song for us to do, I even got to mimic the teacher’s voice at the beginning which was cool. We wanted to add a little bit of our theatricality to it which was quite hard given how short the song is, but we’re happy with what we did. Essentially the song acts as prelude to probably the most notable song on the album so our job was to set that up in the best way possible.

As for “Time,” this was really just a song that we all love. When it came to messing around with it, we found that by trying to make it more ‘hoof’ it simply sounded trite and a bit ‘try-hard.’ In the end after trying out different ideas, we pretty much just played it straight. In a way, this was us not trying to emulate Floyd but instead showing some respect to the song and humbly admitting that we can’t do any better that the original!

Does today/2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

I guess it depends on what it is you think The Wall is. For me the album represented a rejection of indoctrination, whether that be the education system, political structures or financial institutions. What we’ve seen over the last few years is a complete breakdown of social interaction. There is such a divide between what we perceive to be the two sides of the argument. For me, The Wall represents a mental prison, not a physical one. Some people are so quick to assume the worst in everyone and everything, it would be nice to get back to a place where we can all respectfully disagree with each other but still enjoy a beer and a good riff without fighting!

The Slim Kings / Young Lust

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

They are musically up there with the best. One of the bands to be studied in their song writing, production. They set up a mood that is undeniably Pink Floyd. Great teenager headphone music.

How did you arrive at your approach to your song?

So, there is no pressure to compete and make it sound like an original hit that people are used to – but we tried to cop most of the tricky licks so nobody would call us out. We recorded it live to tape quickly. Kacie Marie is a burlesque influenced singer and Instagram star who was hanging in the studio that day. She was the perfect woman to sing those background vocals.

Does 2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

There is never a bad time to listen to the wall. Particularly when you are on this side of it! Joking aside, the country is in a cold civil war right now, so anything ever written about people being divided and conquered is relevant.

Tommy Southard / Solace / In the Flesh

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

They’re an iconic band that influenced me as a young kid long before I even picked up a guitar. It helps when your cool uncle lives with you and has a copy of Ummagumma and it blows your mind in 2nd grade.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering In the Flesh?

Plug in and play like ourselves, hope for the best! I think we put our take on a classic tune from a masterpiece of an album. Tried to do it justice while still sounding like Solace.

Does today feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

Any day of any year is a good time to revisit any of the classic Floyd albums!

Somnuri / Sheep

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

We all have an appreciation for Pink Floyd but if you asked us individually, our favorite albums would probably vary. As a whole, there’s no denying Pink Floyd’s sound and aesthetic as being an influence on us as musicians and artists.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering “Sheep?”

This project was interesting because there weren’t many songs left to choose from and given the timeframe to complete it, ‘Sheep’ was a very ambitious choice. As much as we tried to make it our own, we felt we had to honor the original song as much as possible. Ultimately, recreating the vibe and atmosphere was the most intensive part of the process. We feel proud of the way we conveyed the song and took it above and beyond what we expected.

Does today/2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

Absolutely. With our current political and societal climate, the stories and concepts from the album seem as relevant as ever. One of the things that makes an album iconic is the sense of timelessness, and The Wall certainly has that feel, at least topically.

Bartosz Janik / Spaceslug

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

It’s very personal music for me. A lot of good and bad memories. Floyds were with me in hard times and help me stand on the ground. Love this band and David Gilmour is in fact a big inspiration for my guitar playing.

How did you arrive at your approach to your song?

We managed to make our version of it and reverse the structure. The original has more doodling and ambient sound and this massive guitars on the end. We managed to make it little different and change that to have less ambient and more guitars and factures.

Does today feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

It’s always good! My dream is to be on Dark Side of The Moon Redux in some future! Hope this will happen! Also, that kind of initiative will keep good vibe that Floyds deliver years ago. Great band and this was really an honor to be part of this re-edition!

AJ / Summoner / Hey You

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

I think our connection to Floyd is similar or the same to everyone else who plays this style of music. We’ve all been exposed to Pink Floyd our whole lives. I personally can say that it started with my parents listening to them when I was a kid. Followed by me taking that torch and running with it. Learning their discography as a teenager and striving to emulate them in the music I still write today. Summoner takes a lot from PF musically. When we get into our more ambient/atmospheric writing Floyd is always in the front of our minds. Not only do we draw from them musically, we are also influenced by their production style and studio magic.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering “Hey You?”

If I remember correctly, when we were asked to be a part of this we all agreed unanimously that “Hey You” should be our tune. You always have to be careful when covering a band like Pink Floyd. Everything they did was done right. You can’t expect to make one of their songs “better” you can only take what they have done and expand upon it and make it your own. We kept it tight to the template on our version because it was already so damn good. What we thought we could add was our style and texture to the tune and I think we did that well.

Does today/2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

It’s as good a time as any. As I said previously, it’s always a risky venture to cover such an iconic band/album. Those songs are engrained in everyone’s mind and to switch that up almost seems like a losing battle. But done right it can be pulled off and I think MER has done just that with the bands they have chosen to do this project. We were just so happy to be a part of it. I guess the timing is kind of right since (I think) we are coming up on the 40th anniversary of the release.

Carter / Sunflo’er / Bring the Boys Back Home

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

The riff in seven at the beginning of “Money” is a legendary use of odd meter. There’s so few solid examples of it in mainstream radio and making the realization as a youth leads to asking other questions about rhythm and where it comes from.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering “Bring the Boys Back Home?”

The original recording features a full marching band and choir, which we weren’t going to compete with, so the obvious choice for the cover was playing as minimally as possible. We wrote a chord melody for the guitar, reduced drum hits to only the most necessary, Ethan played saxophone and nailed it. Bohren & Der Club of Gore vibes were sought and achieved.

Does 2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

For all the obvious geopolitical reasons: yes.

Patrick / T-Tops / Nile Song

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

The Wall was my first introduction to Pink Floyd. When I first dug into the album 20+ years ago, the thing that struck me most was the overt loneliness & desolation at the heart of the record. This theme runs throughout much of their music, but obviously this is especially true with The Wall. What separates it from other Floyd records for me, is how it’s just a really solid, well-focused rock album (rock opera?) about brutal isolation & loss. These two themes are universally identifiable.

Though this album was inspired by WWII & the horrendous grief and loss it caused, I identify most with the songs about fractured relationships & the war & desolation that exists inside the narrator’s mind. Lyrically, my favorite songs on The Wall are “One of My Turns” which explores the madness & absurdity someone can exhibit to a loved one. First “love turns gray” then the narrator admits to being bored out of his skull and just going through the motions until he snaps into a manic scatterbrained episode of violence and destruction, scaring the hell out of the other person & then asks, “why are you running away?” Brilliantly followed by the backhanded apologetic begging of “Don’t Leave Me Now” where he reminds his partner about the “flowers I sent” & goes on to plead with them that he needs them (if only to “beat to a pulp” or “put through a shredder”) while simultaneously begging them not to leave.

How did you arrive at your approach to your song?

The Nile Song is possibly the most “straightforward” rock song in Pink Floyd’s catalog which is what drew me to it. The simplistic musical pattern and yelled/half screamed lyrics make it stand out from other Floyd songs and made it an easy choice for a cover. I was surprised no one else snagged this one before we were given the chance to. Of course, I’m aware of The Melvins covering this song in the early ’90s. Not that we (or anyone) could ever sound like the Melvins, but we kind of took a similar approach to covering it in just playing it basically the same as Pink Floyd just with louder more distorted guitars.

Does today/2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

It’s never a bad time to revisit a classic.

Taylor / WhiteNails / Waiting for the Worms

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

Pink Floyd is one of the quintessential musician’s bands. Their level of creativity and pushing boundaries has always been an inspiration to us. David Gilmour is one of our all-time favorite guitarists and there aren’t many musicians who have the taste and flair that he does. As well as one of the greatest guitar tones of all time!!!

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

Covering “Waiting for the Worms” was sort of a trial and error process. We wanted to add our own touch but really didn’t want to stray too far from the original work. We ended up changing the verses musically and tried to stray somewhat true to the vocal melody. We generally beefed up most of the guitar work and allowed Darcy to really sing on the track.

Does today/2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

Releasing an album like the Wall again seems entirely appropriate in the political and social climate we find ourselves in today. Pushing against the powers that be has never run out of fashion and it stands equally as true today.

Worshipper / One of My Turns

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

ALEJANDRO: I don’t recall a time when Pink Floyd wasn’t a part of my awareness. My father was an avid music fan and record collector, so Floyd was often on the record player when I was young. “The Wall” was one of the first gatefold records I held as a kid. The towering butt overlord was mesmerizing. As a musician, my appreciation for the band goes in cycles. There was a time in my 20s when I couldn’t get away from The Wall or Dark Side because they were everywhere. Friends couldn’t wait to gift me a copy of “The Wall” the movie on VHS or DVD which is difficult because, let’s face it, it’s a dark movie. Who has the emotional fortitude to watch this Pink guy slice his eyebrows off? It’s tough. But, at some point a revisit of The Final Cut or Relics b-sides or Echoes or Shine on or Animals sends me back into another Floyd-obsession phase. For some reason I never got around to seeing the Pompeii stuff until recently, when we started writing our current record, so I climbed into that rabbit hole for a bit. The connection, for me, is the fearlessness in songwriting and the immense power four guys can make together and all the inventiveness that goes along with that. I think if you’re going to be in a band you need to see what Floyd was all about. They invented a lot of what you need to make it work. If you don’t you’re just being an asshole to yourself and your bandmates.

JB: It’s funny, my dad is a GIGANTIC Floyd fan and that is probably the #1 reason. He had all the records and a bunch of bootlegs (which he has since passed along to me) and while he would play them around the house while I stared in amazement at the back cover of Ummagumma, he never forced them on me or anything. It wasn’t until I borrowed his van in college and found a tape of a bootleg from ‘72 under the seat that it really sealed the deal for me. We had Live at Pompeii on Laser Disc and everything, but it wasn’t until I discovered what I liked about them on my own terms that it all clicked for me in a personal way. I tend to gravitate toward the early stuff like Obscured by Clouds, MORE, Relics, and Meddle, but I love it all. But, to answer your question more concisely, they have basically been a part of my life for as long as I can remember and a huge part of my relationship with my dad.

I think all of us are into Floyd in different ways, which is cool, as well. Like, Jarvis is a maniac about the Wall, but not much appreciation for the Syd stuff, while I am sort of the opposite. I like all of that ridiculous British 60s acid-damaged tea and crumpets stuff.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering “One of My Turns?”

ALEJANDRO: It was a different type of song for us. We do covers all the time but this one was a challenge since it’s kind of two songs in one. The front half is a bit of a theatrical vignette, so we debated if we should stick to the actual narrative from the record, where we use the dialogue of Pink’s guest in his room while he’s watching “The Dam Busters” on TV. In the end we ditched the groupie and focused on the significance of what a protagonist in “The Wall” in 2018 might be watching which, in our version, is the scene from “All the President’s Men” where Robert Redford gets the “follow the money” speech from Deep Throat. Seems an appropriate commentary right now. On top of that, there was the opportunity to record and build a section based on John’s synth and keys treatment which we did separately from the second, more-straightforward half of the song.

JB: I had to really dissect this one, personally, to get to the bones of it and figure out what was going on. With such a grand production, it was a little tricky to pick apart. Al said that he was working on the strategy for the front half, and I kind of took the lead with the back half, doing a demo at home and trying to figure out how to put our stamp on it and how to approach the vocals without trying to imitate Roger’s utterly unhinged performance. I basically had to reharmonize the vocal melody a little (ok, a lot) to make it work with my range and demeanor. And then the front half was really our first attempt at creating something from scratch in the studio (not working from playing live.) I’m really into synths, so I had fun doing the pads in the intro and making more of a “headphone experience” … Al had a map of the chord structure of the intro, so he kind of yelled out chords and we built it up piece by piece until the vibe was right. I really wasn’t sure I would be able to pull off such an intimate vocal like Roger does, but, I’m happy with how that came out. It should be noted that Chris Johnson did an amazing job recording and producing it. Especially since we had to kind of graft the front half onto the back half, but he made it work!

Does today feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

ALEJANDRO: It does. There’s never a bad time to revisit “The Wall,” but today seems a particularly good time. The Wall as Roger Waters conceived it was metaphorical, right? A dude with dad-issues and a lifetime of intimacy problems? Now the idea of “a wall” is an analogue for the ideologies of greed, division, nationalism, fear that, in America, play out constantly on social media, tv, newspapers, it’s everywhere. Working with MER to add a voice to a commentary about it and celebrate the music and message of Pink Floyd? Sounds right. Sign us up. This is one of the reasons we play in a band. It’s a shitshow out there and it’s time to get dressed and show up to the party. America is pretty happening party, but insane assholes are soiling the punch and passing out bad drugs, and the DJ is a punishing monster right now. I’m glad I got a band that wants to kick down the door, squeeze off a few rounds on the fire extinguisher, and put some Floyd on the stereo ‘cause whatever’s on at the moment has got to stop.

JB: Did you see Roger Waters on that last tour? If anything, this is a PERFECT time to revisit this album. All of his lyrics can be interpreted as being completely current in today’s political climate. Maybe the Animals record more than this one, but wow, he really created some timeless lyrics that make sense in pretty much any era. Until everybody gets along, I think Roger’s lyrics will always resonate. This has also been great for me, personally, because The Wall was never really “my Floyd album” so it gave me a reason to really dig into it again and learn to really appreciate it. Not that I didn’t appreciate it, I just always found it to be a little on the “emotionally draining” side. Now, I don’t see it that way anymore, so thanks for helping me with that!

Gary Arce / Yawning Man / Outside the Wall / Mudmen

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

To be honest we grew up with punk rock and we were very young when we started doing music, not caring much for references. As for Pink Floyd I can see how we share a similar approach to guitar sounds and spatiality, as well as riffs and tempo with some of their songs. It’s that they started with blues and you can hear rock is a part of us. I think some members of Pink Floyd also kind of grew up together as we did. Playing in the desert with our mates, most of them are luckily still around doing their thing, that’s what pushed us.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

Our approach is usually very instinctive. We love jamming and see what we come up with. That’s how we did the covers, too. We‘re not like wracking our brains too much before we start, that’s not how we play. We just start and the music keeps flowing. It was fun and lots of Mexican food kept us going.

Does today feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

The Wall made the history of music. Many have been if you want it or not (consciously or unconsciously) influenced by it. On tour I talk to many fans after concerts or they come up and talk to me. They know a lot about music and love to establish connections between their idols and the younger bands. Psych sounds are having a huge revival in Europe, the US and Canada. We see that when we play live and most of the shows are sold out. So I guess it’s a good moment to revisit The Wall and see what it’s got to tell us now.

Amy Tung / Year of the Cobra / When the Tigers Broke Free / Have a Cigar

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

The funny thing about Pink Floyd is that they’re not one of my favorite bands, but they’re certainly one of the most influential bands in my life. If I think about the time in my life where music influenced me the most, like as a preteen or a teenager, they’re certainly one of the top 5. They’re one of those bands that, at some point in your life, you have to dive into, head first, and in doing so, you become a more fulfilled human being. It obviously doesn’t apply to everyone, but to most of the people that I relate to, it does. It is impossible to not have the utmost respect for them and never in my life did I imagine I would be asked to cover any of their music. I never thought I would be able to, but to have the opportunity to do so was outrageously challenging and exciting. I don’t expect anyone to find our take on their music better than what already existed. I just hope people find it interesting and inventive and I hope it opens their minds to something different and new.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

My approach to covering any song is to find a way to change it. I feel like you can never make a song exactly like the original because it will never sound better than it already does. The only option you have is to change it. My goal is to find a way to keep the essence of the song intact but insert a little bit of me in it. Covering the songs “Have a Cigar” and “When the Tigers Broke Free” as Year of the Cobra was certainly limiting, seeing that we’re only a drum and bass duo, but it was also fun trying to find a way to do justice to the music, while also doing justice to us as a band. In the studio, we added some more instrumentation (I.e. keyboards), but I feel like it’s still something we could play (and maybe… hopefully… will play) live, one day.

Does today feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

The Wall will always be an album to revisit; today, tomorrow, in the future. It’s timeless. There are no contemporary bands that even come close to writing an album of epic proportions like The Wall and there are too many kids that have grown up listening to the formulaic music that is spewed out on modern radio these days, it’s depressing to think what their lives would be like if they weren’t introduced to albums like The Wall. It is imperative that we keep these albums alive in any way we can, so they are never forgotten. Finding bands to cover them, breathe new life into them, is such an exciting way to keep them alive, to keep us talking about them. I hope in 10 years, more bands are covering this album and keeping it alive for more generations to come.

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2017

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

top-30-of-2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here goes:

30. Geezer, Psychoriffadelia
geezer psychoriffadelia

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

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

29. Orango, The Mules of Nana

orango the mules of nana

Released by Stickman Records. Reviewed March 27.

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

28. Radio Moscow, New Beginnings

radio moscow new beginnings

Released by Century Media. Reviewed Oct. 6.

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

27. Spaceslug, Time Travel Dilemma

spaceslug time travel dilemma

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

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

26. Mothership, High Strangeness

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

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

25. Eternal Black, Bleed the Days

eternal black bleed the days

Released by Obsidian Sky Records. Reviewed Aug. 1.

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

24. Kadavar, Rough Times

kadavar rough times

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Sept. 6.

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

23. Shroud Eater, Strike the Sun

shroud eater strike the sun

Released by STB Records. Reviewed June 28.

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

22. Enslaved, E

enslaved e

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Oct. 4.

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

21. Arc of Ascent, Realms of the Metaphysical

arc-of-ascent-realms-of-the-metaphysical

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

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

20. Causa Sui, Vibraciones Doradas

causa sui vibraciones doradas

Released by El Paraiso Records. Reviewed Oct. 20.

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

19. Telekinetic Yeti, Abominable

telekinetic yeti abominable

Released by Sump Pump Records. Reviewed April 10.

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

18. Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kozmic Dust

cloud catcher trails of kozmic dust

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

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

17. Ruby the Hatchet, Planetary Space Child

ruby the hatchet planetary space child

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Aug. 29.

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

16. Alunah, Solennial

alunah solennial

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 1.

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

15. Mindkult, Lucifer’s Dream

mindkult-lucifers-dream

Released by Transcending Obscurity Records and Caligari Records.

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

14. Argus, From Fields of Fire

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

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

13. Uffe Lorenzen, Galmandsværk

Uffe-Lorenzen-Galmandsvaerk

Released by Bad Afro Records. Reviewed Nov. 6.

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

12. The Flying Eyes, Burning of the Season

the flying eyes burning of the season

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Oct. 11.

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

11. Bell Witch, Mirror Reaper

bell witch mirror reaper

Released by Profound Lore. Reviewed Dec. 27.

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

10. Monolord, Rust

monolord rust

Released by RidingEasy Records. Reviewed Oct. 26.

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

9. Vokonis, The Sunken Djinn

vokonis-the-sunken-djinn

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed June 5.

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

8. Electric Moon, Stardust Rituals

electric moon stardust rituals

Released by Sulatron Records. Reviewed April 7.

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

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

sun-blood-stories-it-runs-around-the-room-with-us

Self-released. Reviewed May 1.

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

6. The Atomic Bitchwax, Force Field

the-atomic-bitchwax-force-field

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Dec. 7.

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

5. Atavismo, Inerte

atavismo inerte

Released by Temple of Torturous. Reviewed Feb. 21.

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

4. Samsara Blues Experiment, One with the Universe

samsara-blues-experiment-one-with-the-universe

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

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

3. Elder, Reflections of a Floating World

Elder-Reflections-of-a-Floating-World

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

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

2. Colour Haze, In Her Garden

colour haze in her garden

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed March 9.

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

1. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War

all them witches sleeping through the war

Released by New West Records. Reviewed Jan. 27.

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

The Next 20

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

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

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

What’s that? More records? Okay…

Honorable Mentions

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

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

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

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

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

Thank You

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

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

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

And one more time, thank you for reading.

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 of 2017 So Far

Posted in Features on June 12th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk top-20-2017-so-far

The time has come to take a look at some of the best albums of 2017 so far. I hardly know where to start. In some ways, this list is harder to put together than the end-of-year one that comes out in December, because by then not only do you have the full year to draw on, but it’s easier to sort of put a narrative to the course of events of 12 months, whereas in this case, obviously, the story is half told. So I guess if the list feels incomplete, that might be part of why.

Even with just six months to work from, the list has become fairly immense. I’ve been keeping track of 2017 releases since about September of last year, and the amount of stuff that’s come through has been staggering. Every year brings good music, and the basic fact of the matter is that if you don’t think so it’s because you’re either unwilling to find it or unwilling to let yourself hear it, but 2017 has been a multi-tiered assault of sounds from all over the world, and it seems like whatever you might be into, the universe stands ready to accommodate.

There’s a lot to say about that — is the market flooded? — but it’s a topic for a different post. I’ll keep it short here and just say that as always, it’s an honor to be covering the stuff that I cover and that I deeply appreciate you taking the time to read. I hope if there’s a release you feel deeply passionate about that you don’t see on my list below that you’ll please let me know about it in the comments.

Also, please note that in order to qualify for this list, a record had to come out on or before June 9. That’s the cutoff.

Okay, here goes:

The Top 20 of 2017 So Far

elder reflections of a floating world

1. Elder, Reflections of a Floating World
2. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War
3. Samsara Blues Experiment, One with the Universe
4. Colour Haze, In Her Garden
5. Atavismo, Inerte
6. Sun Blood Stories, It Runs Around the Room with Us
7. Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kozmic Dust
8. Vokonis, The Sunken Djinn
9. The Obsessed, Sacred
10. Mothership, High Strangeness
11. Spaceslug, Time Travel Dilemma
12. Electric Moon, Stardust Rituals
13. Alunah, Solennial
14. Arc of Ascent, Realms of the Metaphysical
13. Rozamov, This Mortal Road
14. Siena Root, A Dream of Lasting Peace
15. PH, Eternal Hayden
16. Geezer, Psychoriffadelia
17. T.G. Olson, Foothills Before the Mountain
18. Telekinetic Yeti, Abominable
19. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, II
20. Lord, Blacklisted

Notes

If you keep up with this site at all, there probably aren’t a lot of surprises in there. These are all records that have been discussed at great length over the last six months, reviewed, streamed, analyzed, whathaveyou’d all the way. If you don’t believe me, search any of the names. Still, as far as my personal picks go and who I think has crafted something special over the last six months, this feels pretty representative to me. I managed to live for a full week with the list as you see it above, without making changes. That’s usually my standard.

And as always, it’s a combination of what I’ve listened to most and what I feel has had the greatest impact thus far into the year. Between the two, there was little doubt Elder would take the top spot. I’ve probably listened to the All Them Witches record more than anything else this year, including Elder’s Reflections of a Floating World, but the truth is the Massachusetts trio are working at a level of their own making in terms of their sonic progression, and that they’ve emerged as one of if not the most pivotal American underground heavy rock bands going. The situation was much the same when they put out Lore in 2015 and claimed that year’s top-album spot, but even since then their sound has expanded and they continue to demand ultimate respect.

As for the All Them Witches album — absolute stunner. The increased depth of their arrangements on Sleeping Through the War came at no expense of songwriting, resulting in ultra-memorable material that could either wash over you with melody or shove you out of your seat with the force of its rhythm, and that band continues to be a treasure. No other way to put it.

From there, we move into what I think are the four best heavy psych offerings of 2017 so far, with Samsara Blues Experiment, Colour Haze, Atavismo and Sun Blood Stories, in that order. Samsara Blues Experiment’s return has been a joy to witness and their first album in four years lived up to the occasion. Colour Haze expanded the palette from their last album with In Her Garden and proved as immersive as always. I’m still getting to know that record. Atavismo’s second full-length upped the progressive influences without losing fluidity or cohesion in songwriting, and Sun Blood Stories’ hypnotic shoegaze offered expansive thrills and a sense of varied, beautifully crafted exploration.

A pair of exciting young bands thereafter in Colorado’s Cloud Catcher, whose boogie is right-on-right-on and whose development continues to hold much potential, and Vokonis, whose crushing riffs on The Sunken Djinn were met with an increased focus on structure and tightening of approach that maximized overall impact. The Obsessed’s unexpected return could only be called a triumphant one, and Mothership’s third long-player found them working in a richer sense of mood than previous outings, adding yet more character to what was still a blast of good-time rock and roll. They round out the top 10 in full command of who they are as players.

Granted, the next 10 releases are kind of all over the place, but I think that just shows the overarching quality of work being done across the board. From Spaceslug’s melodic stoner-psych to Electric Moon’s studio return — so, so, so good — to Alunah’s continued growth in nature-worshiping heavy and Arc of Ascent’s comebacker of rolling heavy riffs and metaphysical themes, there’s been so much to take in. I especially like the pairing of Rozamov and Siena Root as a sense of scope for 2017 so far; the former being so dark and crushing and the latter who lived up to calling their record A Dream of Lasting Peace. You want to know both ends of the spectrum? There they are.

PH’s Eternal Hayden gets a nod for its effective reset of the context of that band following the completion of their trilogy of albums, and Geezer’s Psychoriffadelia might have been something of a tossoff in the making, but the level at which the New York trio jams nonetheless assures it a spot here. Plus, a Nazareth cover. So duh.

I couldn’t help but include T.G. Olson’s Foothills Before the Mountain on the list as the Across Tundras frontman creeps closer to a full-band sound for his solo work, adding to his acoustic singer-songwriter foundations, and the crush of Telekinetic Yeti’s post-Sleep riffing evoked so many nods I thought they deserved one here as well. Placing The Devil and the Almighty Blues was difficult, but especially after seeing them live, I felt like I had a better idea of where they were coming from on II, so knew they belonged somewhere, even if it was tucked in at the end. And of course, Lord. Always killer, always experimenting, always chaotic. Never have grind and sludge sounded more cohesive together. They’re the band I wish Soilent Green had become, and yes, I mean that.

Honorable Mention

Let’s do another 10 releases, shall we?

21. Beastmaker, Inside the Skull
22. Arduini/Balich, Dawn of Ages
23. Brume, Rooster
24. John Garcia, The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues
25. Six Sigma, Tuxedo Brown
26. Demon Head, Thunder on the Fields
27. Summoner, Beyond the Realm of Light
28. Steak, No God to Save
29. Six Organs of Admittance, Burning the Threshold
30. Dool, Here Now There Then

And just to make the point, here are even more worthy of note in this space:

Elbrus, Elbrus
Cortez, The Depths Below
Ecstatic Vision, Raw Rock Fury
Child, Blueside (a December 2016 release, maybe, but I think the vinyl was this year, so whatever)
Pallbearer, Heartless
Spidergawd, IV
Green Meteor, Consumed by a Dying Sun
Loss, Horizonless

There are of course other names as well that come to mind. Like I said at the outset, it’s a crowded field: Hymn, Arbouretum, Green Meteor, REZN, Demon Head, Galley Beggar, Devil’s Witches, Orango, Heavy Traffic, Coltsblood, Mt. Mountain, Vokonis, Solstafir, High Plains, on and on.

Also worth highlighting several really, really quality live records that have surfaced so far this year. I didn’t really know where to place them among the other studio offerings, but they deserve note for sure:

Causa Sui, Live in Copenhagen
Death Alley, Live at Roadburn
My Sleeping Karma, Mela Ananda – Live
Enslaved, Roadburn Live

More to Come

Of course, we’re still just barely halfway through the year, so keep on the lookout for more to follow. If you didn’t see my massive 200+ albums to watch for list in January, it has many that have come out and many more still to surface, but here are a few highlight names as well that you’re going to want to keep an eye on in the months ahead:

Queens of the Stone Age
Radio Moscow
The Atomic Bitchwax
Kadavar
Ufomammut
The Midnight Ghost Train
Moon Rats
Clamfight
Egypt
the Melvins
Bison Machine
Seedy Jeezus
High on Fire
Monster Magnet

Thanks for Reading

Before I check out, I’d like to give special mention to Lo-Pan’s In Tensions EP as the best short release of the year thus far. Along with EPs from Godhunter, Kings Destroy, Solace and Shroud Eater, it has assured those seeking a quick fix are handed their ass in return for asking.

Well, that’s about where I’m at with it. As per usual, I’m sure there are things I forgot and/or left off here, because I’m human and whatnot, so please if you have something to add, feel free to do so in the comments so long as you can keep it cordial. No name calling. I’m sensitive and you’ll ruin my whole day. I mean that.

Thanks again for being a part of this and here’s to an excellent rest of 2017.

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Six Dumb Questions with Summoner

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on June 6th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

summoner

It’s been five years since Summoner released their debut album, Phoenix, and nearly 10 since they first got together. In that span of time, the Boston-area four-piece have undertaken a willful creative development that’s led to the construction of material that cascades, careens, lands hard when it wants to or seems to float and drift away of its own volition. Their second long-player, Atlantian (discussed here), arrived in 2013, and after a four-year stretch of writing and playing shows, they follow it with the new, third full-length offering, Beyond the Realm of Light, and reach a fresh stage in terms of both craft and maturity.

Delivered like its predecessor through Magnetic Eye Records, the six-song Beyond the Realm of Light stands as proof that modern heavy need not choose between sonic weight and a progressive sensibility. Working in the model of thoughtful composition pioneered by the likes of Baroness and Mastodon, the foursome of bassist/vocalist Chris Johnson, guitarists A.J. Peters and Joe Richner and drummer Scott Smith create a full-album fluidity between songs like “The Huntress” and “Beyond the Realm of Light,” or between the crashing “The Emptiness” and the ambient beginning of “Skies of the Unknown,” the latter almost hopeful in its thrust as befitting a lyrical narrative playing out across the record’s span.

With considerable road-time under their collective belt and more to come — including a stop later this summer at Psycho Las Vegas (info here) — the still-fresh release of Beyond the Realm of Light provides Summoner their best reason yet to get out and spread their high-energy performance and writing style to as many ears as they can. In the Q&A that follows, Peters — with a quick contribution from Johnson as well — discusses the band’s writing processes, the recording of Beyond the Realm of Light, their upcoming plans and more.

Please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions:

summoner beyond the realm of light

Six Dumb Questions with Summoner

Tell me how the songs came together for Beyond the Realm of Light. You were pretty assiduous in documenting the writing process for Atlantian. Was there ever any consideration toward doing the same kind of thing this time around?

The new album actually came together quite quickly as far as the writing was concerned. Our writing process hasn’t really changed much over the years. Sometimes we have bouts of writer’s block, but when things start happening they happen quickly. We didn’t really consider documenting the writing process too much with this one. Most of the time it’s just the four of us standing around noodling and then going, “so what about this?” Other times we write solo at home and bring what we have to table when we get together. Honesty it’s not that interesting of a process, haha.

It’s been four years since Atlantian came out, whereas it was only a year between Phoenix and Atlantian. You were doing shows, I know, but was there a reason for the longer stretch between albums? Do you feel the span affected the outcome of Beyond the Realm of Light at all? If so, how?

I feel like we had a lot more going on individually between Atlantian and BTROL than we did between Phoenix and Atlantian. Jobs, family… life in general, really. From our perspective everything was pretty evenly spaced, since Phoenix was pretty much written in full long before we ever went into the studio with it. We had been playing most of the songs off of Phoenix live for way too long before we recorded it. Once Phoenix was recorded, and even before the record was done we had started writing Atlantian.

After Atlantian we fell into a groove of gigging on those tunes. Eventually we got bored with them and decided to start writing the new one. When you lay it out according to each actual release date/year it seems almost hard to believe it was that long between the last two albums. I don’t think the span between albums had too much of an effect on BTROL, other than the fact that we all grew a little more musically and brought those influences to the table.

How do you feel the band has grown over the course of the three Summoner albums? You’ve always struck me as very purposefully pushing yourselves forward in terms of sound. Where do you feel this progression is leading?

We’ve definitely taken a more concise approach to our music lately and it shows on the new album. We work with a “cut the fat” mantra. BTROL, being only six songs, definitely shows this. There were many riffs and ideas that died horrible deaths on their way to becoming finished songs. One day we would be messing around with an idea and just stop and look at each other and say “this sucks.” We’d all kind of nod in agreement, let out a sigh of relief and move on. Why waste your time on a song you’re not proud of just to fill time? Doesn’t make any sense.

We do make a conscious effort to push ourselves musically, but are careful not to step too far away from makes us Summoner. I wish I could tell you how, or in what way, we’ll grow in the future but it’s really hard to tell. I know we want to focus more on the driving and energetic segment of our sound, but that doesn’t mean we won’t write another “Let the Light In” or “Reclaimer.”

Is there a narrative arc to the lyrics on Beyond the Realm of Light? What theme or themes are the songs exploring, and ultimately, what’s the story being told?

I’m actually going to step aside and let Chris answer this one. There is a very definite theme to the lyrics that Chris came up with. He’s much better suited than I to answer…

Chris Johnson: Well, Beyond the Realm of Light is essentially a concept album at its core. It’s a little far out there, so bear with me…

In the somewhat distant future, we find the Earth in a state of emergency and decay due to man’s exploitation of our resources, forcing humanity to seek another planet capable of sustaining life. (Sounds familiar, right?) We find something suitable in the depths of space which seems to have had a previous civilization inhabiting it. Were they humans? Did they leave that planet for Earth or kill themselves off somehow? We may never know.

From there, we return to Earth to “gather the masses” to relocate humanity to this new/old planet. Some governments are on board, some aren’t, and those not down have threatened the people who chose to stay behind with nuclear devastation. In the end, we launch our vessels and are peering down through the windows of the great ships at “the Earth below, awash with flame” and, with heavy hearts, begin our long journey towards our new home in skies of the unknown.

Summoner’s work in the studio always sounds so clean, so sharp in its delivery. How do you feel Beyond the Realm of Light represents what Summoner do live compared to its predecessors?

This is something we really focused on when recording this one. We wanted BTROL to be a much better representation of us live than the previous two albums. We’ve always tracked the meat and potatoes of our songs live as a band, but sonically we wanted something completely different. We really changed it up in the studio this time, from mics and mic placement to layering and production. We took a more stripped-down approach. One thing that really bothered us about Phoenix and Atlantian was that they didn’t sound like us live. They were tracked, mixed and mastered more like doom records and less like rock and roll albums. We wanted BTROL to be in-your-face and aggressive and I think we did pretty well achieving that.

You’ll play Psycho Las Vegas in August. Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

Well, we are really excited to be playing Psycho this year. The bill has shaped up to be quite impressive and we are truly humbled to be sharing the stage with all of those amazing bands. We only have one show in Boston lined up before that, with Mutoid Man, Helms Alee and Primitive Weapons, but there are some other things in the works for June/July.

In late September, we are playing Forge Fest in Providence which will be a blast also. Other than that we are anxiously awaiting the release of The Planet of Doom, which we contributed a yet to be released tune to, and also recording our song for the Magnetic Eye Records release of Pink Floyd’s The Wall [Redux]. We have also started putting together some ideas for our next release, so we’ll see…

Summoner, Beyond the Realm of Light (2017)

Summoner on Thee Facebooks

Summoner on Bandcamp

Magnetic Eye Records on Bandcamp

Magnetic Eye Records webstore

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Desert Survival: How to Do Psycho Las Vegas on a Budget

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 18th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

psycho las vegas 2017 banner

Hey, if you’re going to go broke, let’s face it: You’re not likely to run into many causes as worthy as the lineup culled together for Psycho Las Vegas. It ain’t cheap — any event that advertises a payment plan obviously knows it’s a considerable ask — but whether you’re going to see Slo Burn for their only US gig or King Diamond doing Abigail or Mulatu Astatke because going to see Mulatu Astatke is a life-event, the arguments in favor are plentiful and convincing. Whatever else you want to say, Psycho Las Vegas is the first annually-held American festival with a focus on heavy and underground rock to really establish itself as world class.

That in itself is a reason to support the cause, whether it’s through a day ticket or a pass for the entire weekend, but it doesn’t necessarily lesson the expense of making the trip or staying in one of the US’ most lucrative tourist traps, let alone things like band merchandise, meals and the occasional adult beverage if you’re inclined to have one. The thought of seeing NeurosisSleep and Carcass share a stage over the course of a weekend or watching Conan, the new trio-incarnation of Pentagram and Yawning Man poolside or from the balcony of a room in the Casino Tower is incredible, and after hearing stories from those who undertook the journey in 2016 or attended the prior Psycho California in 2015, the idea wants nothing for appeal. Fiscal issues can be a bummer. By the time August rolls around, I’ll have been out of paid work for two months. I know how it goes.

And I’m hardly the most responsible person when it comes to money, but the truth of the matter is there are ways to mitigate costs for travel, lodging and other concerns, and if the thing preventing you from picking up a ticket to the show has been the seeming impossibility of affording a stay at the Hard Rock or of finding a cheap-enough flight to get there, maybe it’s worth trying to shift finances around to make it happen. Music is important, and when debt collectors are spamming your phone it’s hard to think about the non-cash value of life experiences, but the fact is the bills you need to pay will still be there. The bill with Corrosion of Conformity in a lineup alongside Kylesa‘s Laura Pleasants, Domkraft, Swans, Elephant Tree and Heavy Temple? Much less so.

Here are a few pointers that hopefully can save you a couple bucks. Some of it’s day-one stuff, but things like hotel picks and transportation nuances are good to know either way.

Check it out:

psycho-las-vegas-2017-poster

Flying In
• Buy tickets on a Tuesday for the cheapest rates.
• Use a discount flight search.
• If you can, fly in on Thursday and leave on Monday for better rates, search different days and times to come in and leave.
• Book early. Rates go up in the summer.

Getting There
• Ride apps cost less than cabs.
• The Hard Rock is less than a mile from the airport. Cheap trip anyway.
• There are free shuttles from most Vegas hotels to the strip and tourist attractions.

Staying There
• This one is huge… don’t stay at the Hard Rock if you can’t afford it! Alexis Park, RUMOR, Red Roof Inn are all across the street and cheap. Scope out a position on a map if you need to; that’s what Street View is there for.
• Partner up to share rooms. You’ve got social media and it’s not like you’re going to do more than sleep and (hopefully) shower there anyway. Might as well join forces and save expense where you can.

Drinks
• BYO. Vegas has open-container laws. If you think hooch is too expensive at the Hard Rock, get loaded on the sidewalk before you go in.
• One way or another, hydrate. You’re staying in the desert in August. Don’t be stupid.

Psycho Las Vegas 2017 Lineup
Abbath, Ace Frehley, Black Anvil, Blood Ceremony, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, Buzzov*en, Carcass, Celeste, Chelsea Wolfe, Cirith Ungol, Cloud Catcher, Code Orange, Conan, Corrosion of Conformity, Cough, Cult Leader, Cult Of Luna With Julie Christmas Diamond Head, Domkraft, Earthless, Elephant Tree, Eternal Tapestry, Fister, Floorian, Gatecreeper, GEQ, Gojira, Gost, Graf Orlock, Heavy Temple, Hollow Leg, Inter Arma, Khemmis, King Diamond, Laura Pleasants & Special Guests, Magma, Manilla Road, Merlin, Minsk, Morne, Mothership, Mouth of the Architect, Mulatu Astatke, Murder City Devils, Mustard Gas & Roses, Myrkur, Neurosis, North, Oathbreaker, Pelican, Pentagram, Psychic TV, The Rods, Ruby the Hatchet, Sasquatch, Saturndust, Sleep, Slo Burn, Slomatics, Snail, Sons of Otis, Sumac, Summoner, Swans, The Skull, Toke, Urchin, Usnea, Vhol, Weedeater, Windhand, Wizard Rifle, Wolves in the Throne Room, Yawning Man, Year of the Cobra, Youngblood Supercult, Zeal & Ardor.

http://www.vivapsycho.com
https://www.facebook.com/psychoLasVegas
https://www.instagram.com/psycholasvegas

Pentagram, “Relentless / Broken Vows” Live in Richmond, VA, 2017

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Review & Track Premiere: Summoner, Beyond the Realm of Light

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on April 27th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Summoner-Beyond-the-Realm-of-Light

[Click play above to stream ‘Into Oblivion’ from Summoner’s Beyond the Realm of Light. Album is out May 12 on Magnetic Eye Records.]

As they approach a decade of making music together, Boston four-piece Summoner bring forth the album which all that time seems to have been building toward. One can quibble on the “decade” figure depending on when they got going under their original moniker, Riff Cannon, but what’s undeniable is the mindful songcraft and crisp delivery across the two sides of Beyond the Realm of Light, released on Magnetic Eye Records as their third full-length. The basic elements at play aren’t all that different from what Summoner offered on 2013’s Atlantian (discussed here) or even their 2012 debut, Phoenix, but from the patience they bring to the post-rock textures early in “Skies of the Unknown” to the crushing roll in the apex of their near-eight-minute title-track, there’s a mature sensibility underlying this material that steers itself away from self-indulgence.

Instead, what bassist/vocalist Chris Johnson, guitarists A.J. Peters and Joe Richner and drummer Scott Smith conjure is a dynamic and efficient six-song/32-minute run that never stagnates and never overwhelms the listener with its technicality — though, as ever, Summoner tear it up; check the solo in “Into Oblivion” to confirm — at the cost of the impact either of a given track or the record as a whole. They pull together a brisk full-album flow that’s not overthought or hyper-cerebral, and while some will hear the initial vocal melody of opener “New Sun” and the subsequent “The Huntress” and compare them to Elder for their locality and proggy bent, Summoner emerge from Beyond the Realm of Light as their own entity driven by their own motivations toward their own ends.

That in itself is significant, as is the fact that Beyond the Realm of Light arrives four years after Atlantian, which itself came only one year after their debut. Summoner have played shows all the while, and no doubt a good portion of “real life” happens in a four-year stretch as well, but as “New Sun” and “The Huntress” unfold the okay-are-we-all-here-good-let’s-do-this-thing beginning of the album, the band displays a growth in their songwriting that simply can’t be faked. At four and five minutes, respectively, the opening duo are a pivotal introduction — not to mention a third of the tracklist, which is only six songs, remember — to where Summoner are at this stage in their tenure, and though they’re energetic and given to a thrust that’s long been present in their sound, the band themselves don’t actually sound hurried or like they’re in anything but total control of their direction.

In the sphere of modern progressive heavy rock, post-Baronesstodon, that’s important, but more so is the balance with which Summoner execute their prog influence, and the rocking start of “New Sun” and “The Huntress” leading into the longer, grander title-track is essential in establishing that. It affects the whole album following, so that when they do begin to unroll “Beyond the Realm of Light” itself, with its measured drum march, far-back echoing clean-sung verse and stomping largesse, the effect is that the palette is gracefully expanded rather than haphazardly thrown together. Summoner push further, and further still as “Beyond the Realm of Light” digs into a quick atmospheric midsection before resuming its roll toward a piano-topped apex and subsequent ambient epilogue, but because they’ve shown such mastery of their songwriting up to this point, there’s no question about the listener being able to follow them on the drifting fadeout that ends the record’s first half.

summoner

If there’s a narrative at work in Beyond the Realm of Light, one finds it growing richer on side B along with the band’s sound, a resolution perhaps in the melodic hook of “The Emptiness,” the multifaceted push of “Skies of the Unknown” and aforementioned bring-it-all-full-circle closer “Into Oblivion” that complements and builds on what the band accomplished with “New Sun,” “The Huntress,” and the title-track. One doesn’t want to speculate on their methodology in piecing the record together, but part of the front-to-back flow that proves so resonant across this still-brief span is a perceptible deepening of the exploration side A began.

To wit, “The Emptiness” is short at just over four minutes, but offers one of Beyond the Realm of Light‘s most engaging moments in its chorus, and the longer “Skies of the Unknown” seems to answer the title-track’s purposes with the winding course of its own, led as ever by the guitars through purposeful shifts in tempo and texture through its 6:42 that draw together the nuance thus far displayed and at about 4:30 in align them toward the solo crescendo of the album as a whole, which pulls back to the NWOBHM-style gallop and hook to finish ahead of the introductory crash of “Into Oblivion,” continuing the momentum with fist-raising righteousness. A last forward shove in “Into Oblivion” makes a fitting way to tie Beyond the Realm of Light together, but even this is just a part of the overarching and more complex trajectory Summoner have set for themselves.

Accordingly, when they hit into the last solo and around again through one last verse and chorus before a somewhat sudden, thudding stop, the sense of determination isn’t lost. It’s not that Summoner couldn’t say more or couldn’t keep going — Atlantian was 43 minutes, Phoenix 49 — but that they’ve come to know what best serves the purposes of the outing’s entirety, and the length of Beyond the Realm of Light becomes another aspect emblematic of that; less immediate than the progress they’ve made in songwriting or honing a flow between a given song’s parts and between the songs themselves, certainly, but important nonetheless. On the whole, Beyond the Realm of Light finds Summoner a more grounded, more engaging band than they’ve ever been, but among the most encouraging signals it sends is that even as they enter this new stage of their time together, they show no signs of slowing their creative development, and it is ultimately that will toward growth that defines them.

Summoner on Thee Facebooks

Summoner on Bandcamp

Magnetic Eye Records on Bandcamp

Magnetic Eye Records webstore

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Summoner to Release Beyond the Realm of Light May 12

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 7th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

summoner

Massachusetts-based progressive heavy rockers Summoner have posted an album trailer for their upcoming third full-length, Beyond the Realm of Light. It’s less than a minute long, and I’m not sure which of the forthcoming outing’s tracks it features, but it seems to have an immediately more straightforward attack than did their last offering, 2013’s Atlantian (discussed here), which has sold through more vinyl pressings than I can even count at this point.

Dudes made an impression with that record for sure, and with Beyond the Realm of Light set to release on May 12 through Magnetic Eye Records — which will also feature the band on its upcoming Pink Floyd tribute, The Wall [Redux] (info here) — they seem poised to do likewise once more. To wit, they’ll be at Psycho Las Vegas in August, and they’ve got their own beer coming as well from Oliver Brewing. Doube IPA. Heady stuff.

I’ll hope to have more to come on this one as we get closer to the release, but in the meantime, the PR wire brings the Samantha Muljat cover art, the album details, and the aforementioned trailer, all of which rounds out to this:

summoner-beyond-the-realm-of-light

SUMMONER to Release New Album, ‘Beyond the Realm of Light’, May 12

Boston, MA hard rock foursome SUMMONER will release its new album, Beyond the Realm of Light, on May 12 via Magnetic Eye Records. Recorded at Q Division Studios (Pixies, Converge), produced by the band and mastered by Dave Shirk (Soilent Green, Pentagram), the LP fuses 70’s proto-metal, guitar rock and cosmic psych into a driving, six song testament to the power of the riff. Beyond the Realm of Light is the follow-up to SUMMONER’s 2013 full-length, Atlantian, hailed as, “heavy, psychedelic metal with a progressive edge.” Artwork for Beyond the Realm of Light was created by Samantha Muljat (Earth, Power Trip).

Featuring vocalist / bassist Chris Johnson (Doomriders, Deafheaven touring bassist), guitarist AJ Peters, drummer Scott Smith (Plagues) and guitarist Joe Richner (Plagues), SUMMONER formed in 2009 (as Riff Cannon). In the time since, the quartet has released two studio albums — 2012’s Phoenix and the aforementioned Atlantian — praised for their creative power and “riffs that Mastodon, Thin Lizzy, Torche would be proud to call their own”. The group’s live performances have been called “atmospheric and heavy, melodic and propulsive” and have seen SUMMONER perform alongside Cave In, Worshipper, Magic Circle and more.

On the strength of its live set, SUMMONER has been asked to perform at the 2017 Psycho Las Vegas Festival, set for August 18-20 at Sin City’s Hard Rock Hotel. For full details, visit this location.

Track listing:

1.) New Sun
2.) The Huntress
3.) Beyond the Realm of Light
4.) The Emptiness
5.) Skies of the Unknown
6.) Into Oblivion

Pre-order Beyond the Realm of Light at THIS location.

In additional news, Baltimore’s Oliver Brewing Company will release a limited edition “Beyond The Realm of Light” double IPA on May 13, in tribute to SUMMONER. The special beer is part of the breweries’ “Long Live Rock and Roll” double IPA series, released in collaboration with the bands and record labels that soundtrack its brewing process. Previous artists featured include Mothership and The Well. For more details, visit this location.

https://www.facebook.com/Summonerband/
https://summonerboston.bandcamp.com/
http://store.merhq.com/
http://magneticeyerecords.merchnow.com/

Summoner, Beyond the Realm of Light album trailer

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Magnetic Eye Records Adds Greenleaf, Mars Red Sky, Pallbearer, Yawning Man, ASG, Ruby the Hatchet, Sasquatch and More to The Wall [Redux]

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 2nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

The clock is ticking on the crowdfunding campaign to support the making and release of Magnetic Eye Records‘ upcoming Pink Floyd tribute, The Wall [Redux], and the NY-based label has broken out some big guns in terms of confirmations for who will take part. Greenleaf, Mars Red Sky, Pallbearer, Ruby the Hatchet, ASG, Yawning Man, Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic and Sasquatch, as well as the likes of Swedish crushers Domkraft, L.A.’s LowFlyingHawks and Ghastly Sound from the label’s own roster — along with the previously-announced Summoner — would seem to only bolster the offering as a whole, for which preorders are being taken directly through the Kickstarter. This is the third of these projects Magnetic Eye has done, and as ever, the scope of the thing is massive and the logistics seem, frankly, nightmarish.

You don’t need me to sell you on shit and you already know this is a cause worthy of your support, so I’ll spare you all that it’s-an-emergency-you-gotta-help-out whatnot, but suffice it to say that this thing happening only makes the world a better place. So there you go.

Here’s the latest update, courtesy of the label:

the wall redux

Magnetic Eye’s ambitious homage to Pink Floyd, THE WALL [REDUX], has gained some serious momentum in the final week of its preorder/crowdfunding campaign. The confirmation of several higher-profile artists, including Greenleaf, Pallbearer, Mars Red Sky, Yawning Man, Sasquatch and Noveller all signing on to bring their distinct voices to the project has prompted the MER to add an exclusive “Best of Pink Floyd” companion LP for Kickstarter backers. This complement to the main THE WALL [REDUX] will feature a range of cuts from throughout the Floyd catalog by even more fantastic artists from the scene and beyond.

There are still a few days left to support the project by pre-ordering one of several versions of the record, all of which will reflect Magnetic Eye’s well-documented aesthetic and penchant for gorgeous vinyl. This also means there’s still time for a final few hush-hush conversations to potentially yield even more intriguing artist confirmations.

To see what an undertaking this has been (and what an amazing spectacle the finished albums will surely be), here’s a quick review of the latest list of confirmed bands and an exclusive first reveal of some tracks, with numerous more still to be announced:

ASG, “Mother”
Domkraft
Ghastly Sound
Greenleaf
Mos Generator
Low Flying Hawks (feat. Dale Crover of The Melvins)
Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard
Mars Red Sky, “Comfortably Numb”
Pallbearer, “Run Like Hell”
Ruby the Hatchet, “Pigs” (The Best of Pink Floyd)
Sasquatch
Sergeant Thunderhoof
The Slim Kings (feat. drummer Liberty DeVitto)
Solace, “In the Flesh”
Summoner
The Ultra Electric Mega Galactic (feat. Ed Mundell of Monster Magnet)
WhiteNails
Worshipper
Yawning Man
Year of the Cobra

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/magneticeye/the-wall-2
store.merhq.com
http://magneticeyerecords.com/
https://www.facebook.com/MagneticEyeRecords

Mars Red Sky, Alien Grounds short film

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