The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio Recap: Episode 09

Posted in Radio on February 4th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

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Good show. I had fun, anyway. I cut the voice breaks for this one while The Patient Mrs. and her mom took The Pecan out to the grocery store, but the breaks nonetheless worked out to be maybe a minute longer than usual and that gave me a little rant time. Right before I played Goatsnake, which was the “new classic” choice cut for this episode, I went off about doing my dishes as rock and roll. As usual with words coming out of my mouth, the idea was kind of half-represented, but what I was talking about was the notion that your love of music should be a part of your life, not something separate from the rest of it. If you love music, it shouldn’t be something you segregate from the rest of who you are — something you sneak off to a dive bar to partake of — it should be a part of your everyday. I cut radio voice breaks while running the dishwasher. It’s a part of who I am.

How fortunate I have this post to explain the half-formed notions I don’t have the wherewithal to properly express vocally. Huzzah.

Anyway, if you got to listen, I tried to set this one up with a good flow from front to back plus a couple stark contrasts in the second hour. The break is between Graven and SubRosa, contrary to what the playlist says, but I liked that transition anyhow, and I think you can see early on that the focus is on some boogie with a sense of atmosphere. I talk up the Green Lung record again, because, well, it’s worth talking up, and dig into a few other things that I think are killer, including that Mount Saturn EP, which is likewise right on. And then I dip back from new music to play SubRosa’s “The Mirror” from their SubDued: Live at Roadburn 2017 release, because it’s a song I sing to The Pecan when I put him down for naps and have just about every day since he was born some 15 months ago. Fun stuff.

If you missed the show, it airs again tomorrow at 9AM Eastern at http://gimmeradio.com

And if you dig this and want to hear more of The Obelisk Show, Gimme of course has their archive set up that you can sign on for at a reasonable price and dig into a bunch of various kinds of metallurgy.

Okay, here’s the playlist. Thanks to reading and/or listening:

The Obelisk Show Ep. 09 – 02.03.19

Straytones Dark Lord Beware, Dark Lord! Here Comes Bell-Man* 0:04:07
Green Lung Let the Devil In Woodland Rites* 0:05:02
BREAK
Geezer Spiral Fires Pt. 1 Spiral Fires* 0:05:50
Seedium Mist Haulers Seedium* 0:09:15
Crypt Trip Wordshot Haze County* 0:04:22
Cloud Catcher Beneath the Steel The Whip EP* 0:04:45
Heavy Feather Waited All My Life Debris & Rubble* 0:03:10
Mount Saturn Dwell Kiss the Ring* 0:07:08
BREAK
Goatsnake Mower I + Dog Days 0:06:05
The Black Heart Death Cult Davidian Beam Dream The Black Heart Death Cult 0:05:50
Crystal Spiders Tigerlily Demo* 0:05:37
Swallow the Sun When a Shadow is Forced into the Light When a Shadow is Forced into the Light* 0:07:26
Graven Backwards to Oblivion Heirs of Discord* 0:06:15
SubRosa The Mirror SubDued: Live at Roadburn 0:04:43
BREAK
Electric Octopus Mouseangelo Smile* 0:12:58
Tia Carrera Early Purple Visitors/Early Purple* 0:16:28

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Radio airs every other Sunday night at 7PM Eastern, with replays the following Tuesday at 9AM. Next show is Feb. 17. Thanks for listening if you do.

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Swallow the Sun, When a Shadow is Forced into the Light: Of Love and Death

Posted in Reviews on January 25th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Swallow the Sun When a Shadow is Forced into the Light

The immediate question, of course, is what happens? What happens when you force a shadow into the light? As per the memorable, layered screams of the title-track to Finnish melodic death-doomers Swallow the Sun‘s seventh full-length, When a Shadow is Forced into the Light, “It rips through your chest and burns like a fire.” Fair enough. That chorus sweeps in from an acoustic-led verse and thanks in part to backing from string sounds — that is, whether it’s strings or keyboard — gives a sense of grandeur that very much works to define what follows across the 52-minute/eight-track Century Media release. A largesse of production value helps as well, and that’s nothing new for Swallow the Sun, who since their 2003 debut, The Morning Never Came, have melded emotional resonance, elements of extreme metal — Mikko Kotamäki has made a trademark of switching fluidly between screams, growls and clean singing, and stands among the finest metal vocalists currently active — and clarity of sound into a melancholic vision of death-doom that has only become more their own with time.

Cumbersome as it is, the album’s title derives from the lyrics to “Broken Mirror” from founding guitarist Juha Raivio‘s Trees of Eternity project, and much of the material here deals with the personal loss of Aleah Stanbridge, who was that outfit’s vocalist as well as Raivio‘s partner, and who passed away from cancer prior to the release of their 2016 debut, Hour of the NightingaleRaivio would subsequently form Hallatar and release 2017’s No Stars Upon the Bridge (review here) using her poetry as lyrics. There is an according sense of longing and mournfulness to When a Shadow is Forced into the Light, which follows the late-2015 triple-album, Songs from the North I, II & III (review here), that can be heard in songs like “Firelights,” “Upon the Water” and even the guttural apex of the penultimate “Here on Black Earth.” Swallow the Sun are no strangers to working in an upfront emotional context, and one of their great assets as a band has always been their ability to balance aspects of extremity with a very human heart.

When a Shadow is Forced into the Light cannot and should not ultimately be separated from the circumstances surrounding its making any more than it should be from the rest of Swallow the Sun‘s catalog. In both it and its companion EP, Lumina Aurea (review here), there isn’t so much a feeling of catharsis — that comes later — as a palpable grief. Summarized best perhaps in the direct address in the lyrics to closer “Never Left,” there is little mistaking the in-the-thick-of-it feel of genuine mourning, but as the band — Raivio (who also handles keys and jouhikko, a bowed instrument used in Finnish traditional music), Kotamäki, guitarist Juho Räihä, bassist Matti Honkonen, drummer Juuso Raatikainen and keyboardist Jaani Peuhu, as well as guests here and there — move through “When a Shadow is Forced into the Light” and into “The Crimson Crown” and “Firelights,” neither do they let go of their craft. A complex style of songwriting is fitting for the richness of their sound, and they bask in it, but as noted, the title-track has a hook, and so do “The Crimson Crown,” “Firelights,” “Upon the Water,” “Clouds on Your Side” and “Never Left.”

swallow the sun

“Stone Wings” and “Here on Black Earth” are directed otherwise structurally, but even they have standout moments, whether it’s the throat-ripping screams backed by melodic lines in the latter or the sudden volume swells of the former. And you know, I take it back, “Stone Wings” does have a hook, as well as Raivio‘s jouhikko while it makes its way to its engrossing, double-kick-bolstered crescendo. The point is that although there’s an obvious emotional consumption happening throughout When a Shadow is Forced into the Light, that’s brought into what Swallow the Sun do. They’ve always had a wistful sensibility to them. They’ve always dealt with loss as a working theme, and in some ways, the work they’re doing here is very much consistent with where they’ve been in the past, but the foundation they’re working from is different, and it’s real. The grief is real. The sadness is real. The loss is real. It’s performative by its very nature — as in, it’s an album and people are performing on it — but there’s no sense throughout that Swallow the Sun are doing anything other than seeing Raivio work through this pain.

The tagline for the record has been “love is stronger than death,” as posted by the band in discussions leading up to the release. If that’s their summary of the theme, fair enough — “Never Left” would seem to be the point at which that idea most comes to the fore — and it’s easy to argue that their ability to find balance between this point of view and an already established songwriting modus speaks to the experience and skill of the band as a group. When a Shadow is Forced into the Light is never more mired than it wants to be, never held back. The title-track and “The Crimson Crown” — both over seven minutes long and the only songs to hit that mark aside from “Never Left” as the corresponding bookend — form an initial salvo that characterize so much of the rest of the material.

In its immersive blend of acoustics, string sounds, differing vocal approaches and the smoothness of its overall craft, the song “When a Shadow is Forced into the Light” seems to accomplish everything Swallow the Sun brought to Songs from the North I, II & III in a single track. It is a cinematic arrangement and poised execution that nonetheless has its basis in an emotionalism that’s still raw. But what the song and indeed the rest of the album that shares its name do so well is to take that rawness and shape it into something encompassing and beautiful. If that’s what it means for love to be stronger than death, if that expression is what comes out of the brutality of the loss that’s behind its making, then When a Shadow is Forced into the Light is its own best argument for the maxim’s truth.

Swallow the Sun, “Firelights” official video

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Swallow the Sun Post “Lumina Aurea” Video; EP out Now

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 8th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

swallow the sun

There’s a lot to unpack here. First of all, while Finland’s Swallow the Sun have always ranged far and wide throughout their career — their last album, 2015’s Songs from the North I, II and III (review here), was a purposefully-overwhelming triple album comprised of acoustic, extreme and a-little-bit-of-both installments — their new EP, Lumina Aurea, which arrives through Century Media just ahead of the full-length, When a Shadow is Forced into the Light, is still a departure. Its vocals arrive in Latin-language spoken word plus some backing black metal-style screams and a chorus — Marco I. Benevento of The Foreshadowing provides the spoken parts — and the song itself is a 13-minute stretch of atmospheric intensity that’s different from anything the Jyväskylä outfit have done in the past. Wardruna‘s Einar Selvik guests on bukkelhorn, adding particularly Scandinavian flair, and the whole affair sounds way more Roadburn than Wacken, if you know what I mean.

It’s a fascinating turn for Swallow the Sun to make as they stand on the cusp of 20 years as a band. If I could sing and scream like Mikko Kotamäki, I’m not sure I’d ever let anyone else singswallow the sun lumina aurea on a record, ever, even background vocals, but he relinquishes the forward position to Benevento and recedes into the mix in best service to “Lumina Aurea” itself, and the ambience that unfolds is every bit as cinematic as the accompanying video shows it to be. I’ve heard the upcoming LP, and as always, it has its sense of atmosphere, but if you’re wondering why Swallow the Sun would release it on its own concurrent to the album, all you really have to do for an answer is listen to the two side-by-side. “Lumina Aurea” is distinct enough to earn its place as an EP separate from the album, and the album’s tracks flow well without 13-minutes of Viking ambience tacked onto the end of them (or the beginning!) because there’d really be no place else to put it. As much defiance of expectation as Swallow the Sun have done over their time, they’ve always kept to a consistency of mood in their releases — generally dark — and Lumina Aurea holds to that as well, but is clearly doing so on its own terms.

The EP is comprised of the full and instrumental versions of the track and is out now. When a Shadow is Forced into the Light is due Jan. 25. The video for “Lumina Aurea” was directed by Aapo Lahtela and Vesa Ranta at Kaira Films, and you can see the full credits as well as other info from the PR wire under the clip below.

Please enjoy:

Swallow the Sun, “Lumina Aurea” official video

SWALLOW THE SUN – Lumina Aurea (OFFICIAL VIDEO). Taken from the EP “Lumina Aurea”, out December 21st, 2018. Order now: https://swallowthesun.lnk.to/LuminaAureaID

Finnish melancholy death-doom metal masters Swallow The Sun have released their epic standalone 14 minute track called “Lumina Aurea”. The song features Wardruna’s Einar Selvik and The Forshadowing’s Marco I. Benevento and marks the band’s darkest and most sinister piece of music they have ever released. Watch the music video for “Lumina Aurea”, which was created by Aapo Lahtela and Vesa Ranta at Kaira Films, HERE.

“‘Lumina Aurea’ is a song I would never want to write in my life,” Juha Raivio states about the track. “It is an open, bleeding black wound from the last two and half years of my life. But I had to write it out. I could not back down from it. The way I wrote and recorded ‘Lumina Aurea’ was so rough emotionally and physically that I think I will never talk about it public. I know this road will go on forever as a part of me, but I have also made a peace with it-that I will never have peace with it. And that the life and the journey here must still go on for a while for those of us remaining. I knew that if I would go any deeper on that road with the album as I did with ‘Lumina Aurea,’ the path would not end well. So, I quickly realized that instead I will write an album that will manifest loud and clear that after all, ‘Love is always stronger than death.’ I wanted to find that angle for ‘When A Shadow Is Forced into the Light’. This album is like a weapon for myself. A burning light, a burning torch. Victorious and proud.”

Directed and produced by Aapo Lahtela & Vesa Ranta.

Swallow the Sun:
Mikko Kotamäki: vox
Matti Honkonen: bass
Juuso Raatikainen: drums
Juho Räihä: gtr
Juha Raivio: gtr/keys/jouhikko
Jaani Peuhu: keys

Music & Lyrics: Juha Raivio
Mixed by: Linus Corneliusson / Fascination Street Studios Mastered by: Tony Lindgren / Fascination Street Studios Screams and Growls recorded at Black Chandelier, Helsinki Guitars and bass recorded at SoundSpiral Audio by Juho Räihä

Latin translation by Claudia Greco

Guest Musicians:
Bukkehorn by Einar Selvik
Latin spoken parts by: Marco I. Benevento
Latin choir by: Marco I. Benevento & The Foreshadowing

“Mors fortior quam vita est, amor fortior quam mors est”

Swallow The Sun Upcoming Tour Dates:
February 7 – Helsinki, Finland – Nosturi
February 8 – Turku, Finland – Apollo
February 9 – Jyvaskyla, Finland – Lutakko*
February 14 – Tampere, Finland – Klubi*
February 15 – Oulu, Finland – Teatria*
February 16 – Kuopio, Finland – Henry’s Pub*
*w/THE MAN-EATING TREE

More dates to be announced soon!

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2018

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

the-top-30-of-2018

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks in advance for reading. Here we go:

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

30. The Skull, The Endless Road Turns Dark

The Skull The Endless Road Turns Dark

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Sept. 12.

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

29. Foghound, Awaken to Destroy

foghound awaken to destroy

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Nov. 21.

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

28. Orange Goblin, The Wolf Bites Back

orange goblin the wolf bites back

Released by Spinefarm Records. Reviewed June 13.

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

27. Fu Manchu, Clone of the Universe

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

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

26. Witch Mountain, Witch Mountain

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

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

25. Windhand, Eternal Return

windhand eternal return

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed Oct. 3.

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

24. Sun Voyager, Seismic Vibes

Sun Voyager Seismic Vibes

Released by King Pizza Records. Reviewed April 18.

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

23. Forming the Void, Rift

forming the void rift

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed July 27.

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

22. Spaceslug, Eye the Tide

spaceslug eye the tide

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

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

21. Conan, Existential Void Guardian

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

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

20. Pale Divine, Pale Divine

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

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

19. Mos Generator, Shadowlands

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

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

18a. Stoned Jesus, Pilgrims

STONED JESUS PILGRIMS

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 5.

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

18. Backwoods Payback, Future Slum

backwoods payback future slum

Self-released. Reviewed Aug. 15.

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

17. Corrosion of Conformity, No Cross No Crown

corrosion of conformity no cross no crown

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Jan. 3

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

16. Naxatras, III

naxatras iii

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 14.

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

15. Clutch, Book of Bad Decisions

clutch book of bad decisions

Released by Weathermaker Music. Reviewed Aug. 27.

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

14. Ancestors, Suspended in Reflections

Ancestors Suspended in Reflections

Released by Pelagic Records. Reviewed Aug. 3.

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

13. High on Fire, Electric Messiah

high on fire electric messiah

Released by eOne Heavy. Reviewed Sept. 28.

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

12. Yawning Man, The Revolt Against Tired Noises

yawning man the revolt against tired noises

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed July 2.

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

11. Greenleaf, Hear the Rivers

greenleaf hear the rivers

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Nov. 26.

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

10. Gozu, Equilibrium

gozu equilibrium

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

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

9. Monster Magnet, Mindfucker

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

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

8. Apostle of Solitude, From Gold to Ash

Apostle of Solitude From Gold to Ash

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

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

7. Holy Grove, Holy Grove II

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

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

6. All Them Witches, ATW

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

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

5. YOB, Our Raw Heart

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

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

4. Brant Bjork, Mankind Woman

brant bjork mankind woman

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Sept. 13.

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

3. Earthless, Black Heaven

earthless black heaven

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed March 15.

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

2. King Buffalo, Longing to Be the Mountain

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

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

1. Sleep, The Sciences

sleep the sciences

Released by Third Man Records. Reviewed May 1.

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

The Next 20

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

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

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

Honorable Mention

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

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

Special Note

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

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

Best Short Release of the Year

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

  • Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard & Slomatics, Totems Split

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

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

Looking Forward

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

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

Okay, That’s It

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

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

So thanks.

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

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

Everybody have a great and safe 2019.

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Swallow the Sun Set Jan. 25 Release for When a Shadow is Forced into the Light

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 19th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

swallow the sun

Finnish death-doomers Swallow the Sun will release a new 14-minute single next month featuring guest appearances from Einar Selvik of Wardruna and The Foreshadowing‘s Marco I. Benevento, so presumably I’ll be posting about them again shortly, but the news that their next full-length, When a Shadow is Forced into the Light, is due out Jan. 25 is particularly welcome. Their last album was early 2016’s multifaceted triple-disc Songs from the North (review here), for which they toured in the States alongside Amorphis — best lineup, why didn’t I go? Oh right, I suck — and while the PR wire promises more of the standard heft-laden downerism, the fact that the album’s title, again, When a Shadow is Forced into the Light, is essentially the opposite of the band’s moniker in terms of the image evoked, says to me maybe some subtle shifts are in store around that central consistency.

I’ll look forward to finding out, either way. Here’s news from the PR wire:

swallow the sun covers

SWALLOW THE SUN ANNOUNCES NEW ALBUM WHEN A SHADOW IS FORCED INTO THE LIGHT

Finnish melancholy death-doom metal masters Swallow The Sun announces the release of their new album When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light, which is scheduled for release on January 25th, 2019 via Century Media Records.

The band will be releasing their standalone 14 minute epic single track “Lumina Aurea” on December 21st. The track will be available both digitally and as 12″ EP vinyl version.

Fueled by personal loss (the album title has its origins in Trees of Eternity’s “Broken Mirror”) and powered by the will to continue, When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light showcases the group’s ability to maintain its signature sound while expanding upon horizons and diving deeper into the crevasse of doom-death metal. Even though the single and the album are conceptually connected, they are musically completely different. While “Lumina Aurea”, which features Wardruna’s Einar Selvik and The Foreshadowing’s Marco I. Benevento, marks the band’s darkest and most sinister piece of music the band has ever released, When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light follows a more positive approach and continues in the vein of previous albums – first-rate death-doom in the typical style of Swallow The Sun.

Swallow The Sun have announced their first shows of 2019. See below for all upcoming tour dates. More dates to be announced soon.

When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light tracklisting:
1. When A Shadow Is Forced Into The Light
2. The Crimson Crown
3. Firelights
4. Upon The Water
5. Stone Wings
6. Clouds On Your Side
7. Here On The Black Earth
8. Never Left

“Lumina Aurea” tracklisting:
1. Lumina Aurea
2. Lumina Aurea (instrumental version)

Swallow The Sun Upcoming Tour Dates:
February 7 – Helsinki, Finland – Nosturi
February 8 – Turku, Finland – Apollo
February 9 – Jyvaskyla, Finland – Lutakko*
February 14 – Tampere, Finland – Klubi*
February 15 – Oulu, Finland – Teatria*
February 16 – Kuopio, Finland – Henry’s Pub*
*w/THE MAN-EATING TREE

http://www.swallowthesun.net
https://www.facebook.com/swallowthesun
https://twitter.com/swallowthesunfi
http://www.centurymedia.com/
https://www.facebook.com/centurymedia

Swallow the Sun, “Rooms and Shadows” official video

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Quarterly Review: Sunn O))), Swallow the Sun, Beesus, Giöbia, Decasia, Sonic Mass, Wolvserpent, Delouners, Dead East Garden, Pearl Handled Revolver

Posted in Reviews on March 30th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk quarterly review spring 2016

The Wednesday of a Quarterly Review is always special to me. In the six, maybe seven, times I’ve done this now, Wednesday has always been the marker of turning to the second half of the week. Hump Day in a bizarre context. That said, I feel good about how it’s gone so far and I feel very good about the stuff that’s being written about in more than just that getting-it-out-of-the-way spirit. Still, we start today with something that should’ve been reviewed months ago, and I’ll admit to being glad to have such a formidable weight off my chest.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Sunn O))), Kannon

sunn kannon

Sunn O))) are without question among the most integral bands of their generation. I don’t feel like it’s going even remotely out on a limb to say that. With the three-song full-length, Kannon (on Southern Lord), they go back to exploring the waveforms and ritualistic atmospheres that helped their influence spread in the first place, after several years of collaborating with others like Scott Walker and Ulver. Kannon is the first Sunn O)))-proper LP since 2009’s orchestral Monoliths and Dimensions (review here), and while I understand any and everything I might have to say about it is barely a drop in the bucket compared to the from-all-sides laudits founding guitarists Stephen O’Malley and Greg Anderson have received, its three parts nonetheless demonstrate the fact that with Sunn O))), there is never any backward looking, and that even as they strip away elements that made Monoliths and Dimensions as expansive as it was in favor of the claustrophobic rumble and chants of “Kannon 3,” they move relentlessly forward. They remain necessary.

Sunn O))) on Thee Facebooks

Southern Lord Recordings

 

Swallow the Sun, Songs from the North I, II & III

swallow the sun songs from the north i ii iii

Hey, I like Swallow the Sun. I’ve dug the Finnish outfit since their debut, The Morning Never Came, but I gotta say, maybe a triple album, which Songs from the North I, II and III is, is a bit much? The concept is awesome – one record of light/dark, one record of light, one record of dark – but in practice it’s about a 160 minutes long and a considerable investment to ask of their audience. When it comes to repeat listens, I can’t help but continually go to Songs from the North III, the most extreme installment, which still has plenty of spacious guitar melodies to go with its death-doom emotional and tonal crush, and while I’m not sure that Swallow the Sun would’ve been doing themselves any favors if they spaced out three separate releases rather than bundling them together as they have, it’ll be years before a release of this scope can be properly digested, if it can at all, and for a band whose work is as complex and often lush as Swallow the Sun’s, one wants to absorb it in a way that such a massive offering doesn’t allow.

Swallow the Sun on Thee Facebooks

Century Media

 

Beesus, The Rise of Beesus

beesus the rise of beesus

Italy’s heavy rock boom continues with the debut album from Roman riffers Beesus. The four-piece nod at desert grunge with “6 Ft. Under Box” and roll out thick, loosely-psychedelic vibes on the opening title-track, but The Rise of Beesus primarily tells its story in its plays of density and spaciousness – see “Waltzer” and the later “Sonic Doom/Stoner Youth” – and one is reminded a bit of Snail circa Blood in that, but a sense of variety brings moments like the quiet opening stretch of “Kusa” and the bass-led thrust of “Mata la Verguenza,” making The Rise of Beesus not as easy to predict as it might first appear. When it does indulge its heft, as on “Beesus in Dope,” it satisfies, but while consistent, it is by no means unipolar. It seems to set Beesus up for future expansion on any number of lines, but as their first outing, it also has a noteworthy sense of itself, carving out an identity from diversity of songcraft and an abidingly chaotic vibe.

Beesus on Thee Facebooks

Beesus on Bandcamp

 

Giöbia, Magnifier

giobia magnifier

Fall 2015’s Magnifier (on Sulatron Records) is the fourth LP from Italian psych/space rockers Giöbia, who launch with the ominous cosmic thrust of “This World was Being Watched Closely” and make their grandest statement on side B with the 15-minute lysergic noise excursion of “Sun Spectre.” There and elsewhere in “The Pond,” “The Stain” and the closing “The Magnifier,” Giöbia pursue shroomy sonic enlightenment through soaking reverb and wah, Moog, synth, bouzouki and so on – a somewhat kitchen sink approach resulting in a joyous front-to-back wash of spirited energy and engaging depth. The follow-up to 2013’s Introducing Night Sound (review here), Magnifier finds synth-laden prog swing in “Lentamenta la Luce Svanirà” and pushes air with the low end of its finale title-cut, a right-on dripper that’s round enough to make the world seem square by comparison. The place Giöbia inhabit between psychedelia and space rock is fast becoming a planet all their own, and for ambassadorship of their sound, Magnifier thrills.

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Sulatron Records

 

Decasia, Decasia

decasia decasia title=

Recorded by the band in 2014 and issued in 2015 as their debut EP, Decasia’s Decasia flows more like a long-player, with five cuts that unfold from the tanpura and didgeridoo immersion of opener “Halo,” but I won’t argue. While rawer than what one might commonly expect out of European heavy psychedelia, the French trio nonetheless cull aspects of that sound into their own, so that centerpiece “Blue Love” is right at home with its Hendrixian guitar swing, and closer “Dive” feels within rights to demonstrate a touch of Colour Haze in its initial rhythm, though on the whole Decasia are less laid back and more grunge-informed, resulting in an intriguing blend that, from the burst at the open of “Sherpa” through the crashing finish of “Dive,” shows them as a group able to play to either side at will. They’ve already followed up with the jam “Moodoo Majja,” but I wouldn’t speculate which side will win out as they continue to develop, if indeed any single one does.

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Decasia on Bandcamp

 

Sonic Mass, You People Never Learn

sonic mass you people never learn

The second long-player from London sludgers Sonic Mass, You People Never Learn… would seem immediately to be positioning itself as punishment. Fair enough – there’s certainly some abrasive aspect to its overriding rawness and liberal feedback – but the huge groove that pays off the build in the second half of “Butcher of Brogdael” is more righteous inclusion than it is masochistic, and even faster, shorter cuts like the blown-out punk of “Biker Satania” or “Toga”’s unhinged dual-guitar thrust feels more about a raucous vibe than putting someone off. In the title-track, they move from a wash of distortion into some caustic feedback by the end, but by then the context of You People Never Learn… is such that the nodding push of eight-minute closer “Quadranoid” is more a celebration than a beating, even if it does round out with two minutes of amp crackle, effects and feedback. If it was coming from a stage, you’d raise a pint to it.

Sonic Mass on Thee Facebooks

Sonic Mass on Bandcamp

 

Wolvserpent, Aporia:Kala:Ananta

wolvserpent aporia kala ananta

Longform material is nothing new for Boise, Idaho-based duo Wolvserpent. Both of their two full-lengths to-date, 2010’s Blood Seed and 2013’s Perigaea Antahkarana, have found the ritual drone-doomers working in extended contexts. However, the newly-issued Aporia:Kala:Ananta EP (on Relapse) pushes that line even further. It is a single-song work running 40 minutes of spacious, sometimes grueling, thrillingly challenging heft, marked by a cinematic sense of drama in its use of violin, blackened extremity and striking depth. Drummer/violinist Brittany McConnell and guitarist/vocalist Blake Green aren’t so much taking any huge stylistic leaps from what they’ve done before, but the scope of “Aporia:Kala:Ananta,” as well as the overarching flow of the piece, its patient execution, and the masterful hand with which they guide it, cannot be called anything but progression. The only question I have is why they’re not calling it an album. Considering both its runtime and its breadth, to consider it anything less feels like selling it short.

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Relapse Records

 

Delouners, Family

delouners family

Swapping back and forth between Spanish and English lyrics adds variety to Family, the 13-song/45-minute debut long-player from Uruguayan foursome Delouners, but they weren’t short on it anyway. Spacious, echoing guitars and a languid psychedelia-gone-heavy-blues carry across laid back blowout rolls like “Low” and the more uptempo “Secreto,” and all the more in the side A-ending “Mistery Caravan,” the lazy, hazy, take-it-way-down groove feels derived from an All Them Witches influence. There are more garage rock moments, as on the title-track, the earlier “Los Dormidos,” “Alain Delon” and closer “Mirtha Legrand,” and the shoegazing tropicality of “Sea/Side” furthers an individualized sensibility overall, but that naturalist spirit never departs completely. So be it. Delouners drench this central inspiration in their own sonic persona, and so come off influenced rather than derivative, setting themselves up to branch out their progression as they see fit on whatever they might do next.

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Delouners on Bandcamp

 

Dead East Garden, Dead East Garden

dead east garden dead east garden

There are five songs on the self-titled debut EP from Cleveland, Ohio’s Dead East Garden and three of them could be said to have something to do with cars – “Starting Line,” “El Camino Rock” and “Straight Burning Road.” That’s not a judgment, just a statement of fact. From the post-Pepper Keenan chug of opener “The Lurker,” one kind of knows what’s coming from the workingman’s heavy rockers, but “Mother’s Disease” fleshes out a less dudely aggro spirit with a more patient initial roll and satisfying lead work from guitarist Ryan Scheel. The beer-soaked vibes resume as “Straight Burning Road” comes on to close, vocalist Pat Homolish layering spoken and belted-out hooks as bassist John Roach (since out of the band) and drummer R.J. Drenski hold down one more straightforward groove, and Dead East Garden reinforce the plainspoken intent on display across the short release, as light on pretense as it is heavy on testosterone.

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Dead East Garden website

 

Pearl Handled Revolver, If the Devil Cast His Net

pearl handled revolver if the devil cast his net

As with their 2013 sophomore outing, This Mountain Waits (review here), the third album from UK heavy blues/classic rockers Pearl Handled Revolver, titled If the Devil Cast His Net, uses synth, Mellotron, electric piano and organ to explore a wide variety of moods, from the soft-guitar blues of “Someone Like You” to the rambling “Absinthe in Adelaide.” All throughout, the band reaffirm their mastery of these styles as they go, be it the boogie shuffle of “Loverman” or the side A closing title-track, which sets forth one of the record’s most engaging bass grooves under gravelly verse before moving into an extended instrumental jam, no less poised than anything preceding or following. That plotted feel is at the core of Pearl Handled Revolver’s approach – nothing is here by accident – and it makes their songcraft all the more inarguable, taking in a post-The Doors bounce on closer “Into the Blue” as they mirror the end of the album’s first half for another striking finish.

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Pearl Handled Revolver website

 

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Swallow the Sun Post Video for “Rooms and Shadows”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 16th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

swallow the sun

Finnish death-doomers Swallow the Sun issued their new triple-album, Songs from the North I, II and III, this past Friday on Century Media. Counting the new clip below for “Rooms and Shadows,” which comes from the first of the offering’s three component parts, I’ve now posted four videos from the release. This one, as well as lyric videos for “Heartstrings Shattering” (posted here), “Pray for the Winds to Come” (posted here) and “Abandoned by the Light” (posted here).

Each new clip has come with a reminder of the six-piece’s upcoming European tour, which starts Nov. 26, and each has gotten roughly zero response. Like, none. I know death-doom is primarily an underground form even compared to some of what’s posted about on here, but I mean like not even a thud at the landing. Actually, after the first time, I thought about not even putting up the second clip because it’s not like the band — who I think are much bigger in Europe than the US — need my press and with such a definitive lack of interest, I might as well skip it. But no, I went ahead and put up the second one. Same (lack of) reaction. And by then it was just funny.

Having a pretty strong sense that the third clip would be met with the same apathy, I eagerly anticipated its release. Aside from liking the band — which I do — I wanted to see how the post would do. A little better, I guess, but still pretty meh in the grander scheme. So now the record is out and they have a new not-lyric video for “Rooms and Shadows,” and well, I suppose it seemed like it was time to bring anyone whose eyes might happen to catch this post in on the thing. I do dig this band, and I will at some point be posting a review of Songs from the North, but yeah, I’m also interested to find out if anybody who reads this pays any mind to start with.

We’ll see:

Swallow the Sun, “Rooms and Shadows” official video

SWALLOW THE SUN launch video for “Rooms and Shadows”; New triple album “Songs from the North I, II & III” out now!

Melancholy death-doom masters SWALLOW THE SUN have released their eagerly awaited new triple full-length album, Songs from the North I, II & III, today!

The band also launched a brand-new video for the song “Rooms and Shadows”, taken from Songs from the North pt. I. The video was directed and produced by ex- SENTENCED and THE MAN-EATING TREE drummer Vesa Ranta. You can watch it now at: https://youtu.be/0_veG-Hv4I8

All physical formats of “Songs from the North I, II & III” as well as shirt bundles can be purchased here:
http://smarturl.it/sftnCMDISTRO

Or get the digital version at one of the following outlets:
http://smarturl.it/sftnITUNES
http://smarturl.it/sftnAMAZON

In continued support of “Songs from the North I, II & III”, SWALLOW THE SUN will perform their signature brand of gloom, beauty, and despair live throughout Europe on headlining dates beginning later this month. They will be accompanied by fellow countrymen Wolfheart. Complete list of dates below.

SWALLOW THE SUN live:
11.26. Berlin, K17, DE
11.27. Hamburg, Headcrash, DE
11.28. Rotterdam, Baroeg, NL
11.29. Apeldoorn, TBC, NL
11.30. Paris, Glazart, FR
12.4. Valencia, Rock City, ES
12.5. Barcelona, Apolo 2, ES
12.6. Madrid, Caracol, ES
12.8. Montpellier, Secret Place, FR
12.9. Pratteln, Z7, CH
12.10. Brescia, Circolo Colony, IT
12.11. Ljbubljana, Orto Bar, SL
12.12. Budapest, Dürer Kert, HU
12.13. Kosice, Colosseum Club, SK
12.14. Krakau, Club Rotunda, PL
12.15. Vienna, Viper Room, AT
12.16. Munchen, Backstage, DE
12.17. Weinheim, Café Zentralbar, DE
12.18. Vosselaar, Biebob, BE
12.19. Bochum, Matrix, DE

SWALLOW THE SUN is:
Juha Raivio – guitar
Markus Jämsen – guitar
Mikko Kotamäki – vocals
Matti Honkonen -bass
Aleksi Munter – keys
Juuso Raatikainen – drums

Swallow the Sun’s website

Swallow the Sun on Thee Facebooks

Swallow the Sun on Twitter

Century Media

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Swallow the Sun Post “Abandoned by the Light” Lyric Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on November 9th, 2015 by JJ Koczan

 swallow the sun Photo-by-Jussi-Ratilainen-Photography

Finland’s Swallow the Sun issue their new three-part album, Songs from the North I, II and III, this week via Century Media, and as anticipated, they have a corresponding final installment in their series of lyric videos preceding the record’s arrival. First came “Heartstrings Shattering” (posted here), which basked in the band’s well-honed, emotionally potent death-doom style. Then there was the mostly-acoustic “Pray for the Winds to Come” (review here), which showcased the melodic side of their sound.

The stated concept for the album being to show where the band is sonically and parse the dual light/dark aspects of that sound, then the only thing left to show off is the harsh, extreme deathliness in what they do, and “Abandoned by the Light” certainly hits that mark. It’s worth pointing out that neither it nor “Pray for the Winds to Come” is completely separate from the other — that is, there’s a bit of synth on “Abandoned by the Light” that adds melody even to its grueling nine-minute crawl, and likewise, the acoustic track had its underlying sense of foreboding.

Might seem like a long way to go for Swallow the Sun to prove their versatility, but if you don’t know them as a band willing to go a long way, you’re missing the point.

Euro tour starts Nov. 26. Video and dates follow. Enjoy:

Swallow the Sun, “Abandoned by the Light” lyric video

SWALLOW THE SUN just premiered their new lyric video for the track “Abandoned By The Light.”

The single “Abandoned By The Light” comes from the third album which is said to be the most extreme offering in the triple album series, a complete ride into SWALLOW THE SUN’s most horrific abyss of finely-crafted, conscience-crushing funeral doom.

“Abandoned by the Light is a prime example of how heavy the third album is. It is – like the rest of the album – long, menacing and relentless, with occasional glimmer of something that could be mistaken for hope. Enjoy!” states Aleksi Munter of SWALLOW THE SUN.

Songs from the North I, II & III from SWALLOW THE SUN will be released worldwide on November 13, 2015 and is available for pre-order now at: http://smarturl.it/sftnCMDISTRO

In continued support of the forthcoming release, SWALLOW THE SUN will perform their signature brand of gloom, beauty, and despair live throughout Europe on headlining dates beginning later this month. They will be accompanied by fellow countrymen Wolfheart. Complete list of dates below.

SWALLOW THE SUN live:
11.26. Berlin, K17, DE
11.27. Hamburg, Headcrash, DE
11.28. Rotterdam, Baroeg, NL
11.29. Apeldoorn, TBC, NL
11.30. Paris, Glazart, FR
12.2. Lissabon, RCA Club, PT
12.3 Porto, Hard Club, PT
12.4. Valencia, Rock City, ES
12.5. Barcelona, Apolo 2, ES
12.6. Madrid, Caracol, ES
12.8. Montpellier, Secret Place, FR
12.9. Pratteln, Z7, CH
12.10. Brescia, Circolo Colony, IT
12.11. Ljbubljana, Orto Bar, SL
12.12. Budapest, Dürer Kert, HU
12.13. Kosice, Colosseum Club, SK
12.14. Krakau, Club Rotunda, PL
12.15. Vienna, Viper Room, AT
12.16. Munchen, Backstage, DE
12.17. Weinheim, Café Centraal, DE
12.18. Vosselaar, Biebob, BE
12.19. Bochum, Matrix, DE

SWALLOW THE SUN is:
Juha Raivio – guitar
Markus Jämsen – guitar
Mikko Kotamäki – vocals
Matti Honkonen -bass
Aleksi Munter – keys
Juuso Raatikainen – drums

Swallow the Sun website

Swallow the Sun on Thee Facebooks

Swallow the Sun on Twitter

Century Media website

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