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Troubled Horse to Release Revolution on Repeat March 31

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 20th, 2017 by H.P. Taskmaster

troubled horse photo oskar omne

Seemed like Swedish classic heavy rockers Troubled Horse kind of went to ground after the cycle ended for their 2012 debut, Step Inside (review here). They played a few fests, some shows besides, and put out a video for “Bring My Horses Home” (posted here) in 2014, but half a decade is a considerable span between a first and second album, so their return is a welcome one. Revolution on Repeat, the Örebro natives’ second long-player, will be out on Rise Above Records March 31, and for anyone who’s been missing the frenetic upbeat shuffle of Graveyard, or perhaps wondered what might’ve been had that band been able to pull that rhythmic thrust into a more modern production context, songs like “The Filthy Mob” should provide a fix, while the doomier vibe of “Track 7” does likewise for Witchcraft fans rendered bereft by that outfit’s current direction.

That’s not to say Troubled Horse don’t have their own direction — see the punker intensity of “Peasants” or extended scope of nine-minute closer “Bleeding” — but that their Örebro roots come through along with that. In any case, Step Inside certainly warranted a follow-up. Good to have Troubled Horse provide.

I’ll hope to have more to come, but in the interim, the announcement from the PR wire brings plenty of background:

troubled horse revolution on repeat

Troubled Horse To Release Revolution On Repeat March 31st on Rise Above Records

Artwork and Track Listing Revealed

Like anything worth a damn, heavy music only thrives when it aims to keep moving. Whether growing through crazy acts of evolution or simply by letting the cultural winds drive countless small, incremental changes, the greatest bands are rarely accused of letting the grass grow under their feet. And in the wild and wayward world of undiluted, old school heavy metal and rock’n’roll, Sweden’s Troubled Horse are a living, breathing, balls-out example of how change must always be harnessed to make things bigger, better and more exhilarating.

Formed in 2003 in their hometown of Örebro (also home to Witchcraft), the Horse crew erupted into the consciousness of riff-worshippers everywhere with a low-key seven-inch vinyl release in 2010, and then their debut album Step Inside, which was released by Rise Above Records in 2012. An invigorating whirlwind of spiky garage rock, propulsive psychedelia and thunderous, overdriven soul-meets-doom riffing, Step Inside showcased a band with little interest in current or nostalgic trends, instead revelling in a consciously classic but undeniably fresh new take on the most revered and ageless of musical components.

“We’re not locked into a certain genre,” says frontman Martin Heppich. “We allowed ourselves to explore all kinds of music for inspiration, and then we mix down all ideas into the Troubled Horse grinder! I have always had an idea of what Troubled Horse should be musically since I started the band many years ago, so maybe I come across as some kind of a dictator! What makes us unique in this genre is that we don’t really care if we’re accepted into the type of “exclusive retro rock community” which a lot of times is just ridiculous with all their rules of what’s considered ‘true’ and ‘cool’. If we want to mix doom with punk rock and country music – we’ll do it! We want to create something new, not stare too much into what’s already been done.”

An admirable philosophy, then, and one that has borne dazzling fruit on Troubled Horse’s forthcoming second album Revolution On Repeat. With a refreshed line-up featuring new members Jonas (drums) and Tom (bass) alongside loyal guitar lord Mikael Linder, Martin’s vision of a no-holds-barred celebration of heavy rock in all its colourful, subversive glory has never sounded stronger. From the barrelling, high-energy thunder of Hurricane and Which Way To The Mob through to the sprawling head-rush of The Haunted and acid-tinged, lo-fi psych of Desperation, Revolution On Repeat is an instinctive and naturalistic triumph for fire, fury and feel over the forces of plodding revisionism. Throw in a sublime rendition of Warren Zevon’s death-premonition anthem My Shit’s Fucked Up, and the album amount to a bold, pertinent and subtly dispiriting statement on the state of the world, all underpinned by the loudest guitars imaginable.

“The title Revolution On Repeat refers to the history of society repeating itself again and again,” notes Martin. “[We have] revolution after revolution, with fed up people having enough and finally standing up for themselves. But in the end nothing really changes. Man’s quest for power and wealth tears all great ideas and promises of change apart… and it’s back to square one. It really makes you doubt the current system of democracy. There will be a new uprising – but it won’t take long before it all turns to shit again with a new corrupted leader. People are just too stupid and selfish.”

But despite a gloomy view of humanity, Troubled Horse are never anything less than 100% inspirational. Revolution On Repeat is a diverse, diverting and irresistible slab of curiously timely heavy rock that defies the rulebook and breathes new life into that most enduring and fecund of musical genres. As Martin himself states, it’s the simple things in life that keep us forging ahead with hope in our hearts. Here’s hoping that fire never fades.

“Hopefully people will enjoy the record and we’ll get to go on tour and play live,” he grins. “That would be really awesome! I know it’s a cliché, but playing and writing songs is a venting process at least for me. But this is a team effort, even though I always have the last word because I’m a jerk…ha ha ha!”

Revolution On Repeat Track Listing:
1. Hurricane
2. The Filthy Ones
3. Which Way To The Mob
4. Peasants
5. The Haunted
6. Desperation
7. Track 7
8. My Shit’s Fucked Up
9. Let Bastards Know
10. Bleeding

https://www.facebook.com/troubledhorse/
https://www.instagram.com/troubledhorse
http://www.riseaboverecords.com/
https://www.facebook.com/riseaboverecords/

Troubled Horse, “Bring My Horses Home” official video

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Monolord Post Video for “Lord of Suffering”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 19th, 2017 by H.P. Taskmaster

monolord photo by mike bax

Because so much of the story around Swedish trio Monolord has, since they made their debut with 2014’s Empress Rising, been about the largesse of riff they proffer, the massive nod and so on, I feel like the underlying narrative of their progression has been somewhat lost.

Don’t get me wrong, if you’re asking the question, “What do Monolord sound like?” the answer is no doubt going to be, “They sound frickin’ huge,” but across their 2015 second LP, Vænir (review here), and last year’s Lord of Suffering / Die in Haze EP (review here), guitarist/vocalist Thomas V. Jäger, bassist Mika Häkki and drummer Esben Willems have enacted a chartable sonic growth that’s been as much about expanse as volume. They still crush — or “crosh,” if you prefer the emphatic pronunciation — but both tracks on the latest EP offer atmospheric density as well as tonal.

Does that mean Monolord are moving past their foundation? Probably not, but it does mean Jäger is becoming more comfortable as a singer and as a whole they’re becoming less tied to unipolar heft. The watery effects that one hears on “Lord of Suffering” add a psychedelic flavor to what’s otherwise a pretty straightforward fuzz roll, and one gets the sense in listening that it captures the three-piece at a transitional moment, which makes the prospect of a third album — which has been hinted at for 2017 — all the more enticing.

If/when Monolord do hit the studio this year, they’ll do so as part of what will no doubt remain a busy schedule of live dates. Already they’ve been confirmed for Germany’s Stoned from the Underground (info here) in July and for SonicBlast Moledo (info here) in Portugal this August, and no doubt more announcements are to come. I haven’t heard anything to this effect, but I wouldn’t be surprised if they were on the road for the entire month between those two. That’s kind of how Monolord do.

Fittingly, the video below for “Lord of Suffering” was filmed on tour. One way or another, expect more from Monolord as we move through 2017.

March on:

Monolord, “Lord of Suffering” official video

Swedish trio Monolord premiere the first video from their new 10″ EP. The seven-minute video is culled from footage shot throughout the band’s extensive US and EU touring last summer.

Monolord’s full discography is available on RidingEasy Records.

Monolord on Thee Facebooks

Monolord on Twitter

RidingEasy Records website

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MaidaVale Announce European Tour Dates for Feb./March

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 16th, 2017 by H.P. Taskmaster

From the significant list of dates below, it looks like Swedish heavy blues rockers MaidaVale are digging in for the long haul as they continue to support their 2016 debut album, Tales of the Wicked West. They’ll start out in Malmö and hit Belgium on their way to France and Germany, where the bulk of the dates will take place before they hit Denmark en route back north, and while I’ll admit I don’t know much about most of the venues listed — some of the names are recognizable, but it’s nowhere I’ve been, in other words — one imagines the band rolling oldschool, showing up in barrooms, knocking the place’s socks off, then rolling out.

Perhaps that’s because that was how I saw them back in September when I was stupid-lucky enough to catch their set at Høstsabbat (review here), but either way, it would fit their particular manner of ass-kickery. A tour like that changes a band.

Side note, I don’t even drink anymore, but I really hope some clever-as-hell European craft brewer comes up with a Maida Ale and gives them some to sell at the merch table. There you go. That one’s a freebie. Oh, and don’t forget they’re also playing Freak Valley 2017 in Germany this summer (info here).

Alright. Here’s the band’s announcement of the tour:

MaidaVale European Tour 2017

We’re very excited to announce the dates on this upcoming European tour! There’s a few more to be added.

We’ve started working with Jackalope – Artist Needs Management on bookings in Germany/Europe which we’re very happy about – and Maximum Tour Music are booking all french dates on this tour. Shout-out to Lisa Hellberg and Eyota Laelie for additional help.

MAIDAVALE TOUR DATES FEBRUARY-MARCH 2017
2.15 – Malmö – Plan B – malmö (SE)
2.17 – Arlon – L’Entrepôt À Arlon (BE)
2.18 – Angers – Jokerspub-Angers (FR)
2.19 – Lórient – Le Galion (FR)
2.20 – Poitiers – Cluricaume Café (FR)
2.23 – Montpellier – The Black Sheep (FR)
2.24 – Bayonne – Le Magneto (FR)
2.25 – Pessac – Sortie 13 (FR)
2.26 – Niort – L’Alternateur (FR)
2.28 – Nantes – La Scène Michelet (FR)
3.3 – Erdeven – Le Coota (FR)
3.4 – TBA (FR)
3.5 – Freiburg – MensaBar (DE)
3.7 – Bremen – Papp (DE)
3.8 – Arnstadt – Rockkneipe ‘Jungfer’ (DE)
3.9 – München – 8 below club (DE)
3.10 – Geislingen – MieV / Seemühle (DE)
3.11 – Karlsruhe – PsyKA / Dorfschänke (DE)
3.13 – Bocholt – Kulturort Alte Molkerei Bocholt e.V. (DE)
3.14 – Mülheim/Ruhr – AZ Mülheim (DE)
3.16 – TBA (DE)
3.17 – Hamburg – Bambi galore (DE)
3.18 – Bad Bevensen – Vakuum e.V. (DE)
3.20 – Mannheim – Kurzbar (DE)
3.21 – Bayreuth – Glashaus Bayreuth (DE)
3.22 – Nürnberg – Z-Bau (DE)
3.23 – Lübbenau – Kulturhof Lübbenau (DE)
3.24 – Berlin – TBA (DE)
3.25 – Oldenburg – Polyester Klub (DE)
3.26 – Aalborg – 1000Fryd (DK)

Photo by Gianluca La Bruna – photographer

MaidaVale is:
Linn Johannesson
Sofia Ström
Matilda Roth
Johanna Hansson

https://www.facebook.com/maidavaleswe/
https://thesignrecords.bandcamp.com/album/maidavale-tales-of-the-wicked-west
https://www.bengans.se/cgi-bin/ibutik/AIR_ibutik.fcgi?funk=Sok_Falt&ID=68&Sokvarde=MaidaVale
http://maximumtourmusic.e-monsite.com/
http://www.jackalope-anm.com/

MaidaVale, “(If You Want the Smoke) Be the Fire” official video

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Långfinger and Captain Crimson Announce Feb. Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 11th, 2017 by H.P. Taskmaster

Långfinger and Captain Crimson both put out records this past autumn in a one-two punch of high-grade next-gen Swedish heavy rock. Next month, the Small Stone labelmates — from Gothenburg and Örebro, respectively — are pairing up for a round of mostly-German tour dates put together by Total Volume Booking that will find them supporting those new albums and continuing to bring their long-simmering underground reputations to turning more heads on the road. I would not expect this to be either band’s final announcement for 2017 in terms of shows and/or festivals — that’s just speculation, not insider info or anything — because it seems to me that the longer time goes on, it’s just more opportunity for Crossyears (review here) and Remind (review here) to catch on.

Dates come courtesy of Långfinger‘s social medias, other info from Small Stone. One likes to properly source these things:

langfinger captain crimson tour

We’ve teamed up with fellow swedes Captain Crimson for February’s central European tour. The earthquake starts on Feb 15. Prepare yourselves for swedish rock n roll deluxe, multiplied by two!

Feb 15 – Kiel (DE) @ Die Kieler Schaubude
Feb 16 – Berlin (DE) @ Jägerklause Berlin
Feb 17 – Den Helder (NL) @ Rockcafé de Engel
Feb 18 – Siegen (DE) @ Vortex Surfer Musikclub
Feb 19 – Antwerp (BE) @ AMC (Antwerp Music City)
Feb 21 – Cologne (DE) @ Limes Köln
Feb 23 – Mannheim (DE) @ Kurzbar
Feb 24 – Luzern (CH) @ The Bruch Brothers

Långfinger, from the fertile rock ‘n’ roll city of Gothenburg, are masters of the art. They’ve been playing together since they were in their early teens, and their third album, called ‘Crossyears’, is both the thrilling culmination of their collective endeavour, and a rumination on it – on how Time has shaped them and brought them to this point. Within its hard-hitting grooves, the interlocking of Långfinger’s three disparate characters – Kalle, the unflappable, precision axeman; Jesper, the athletic sticksman battering out physical revenge on his kit; and Victor, the intense, exploratory spirit, bridging thundering bass and howling exorcism – is a magical proposition.

Formed in 2010 by vocalist Stefan Lillhager, formerly of Blowback, Captain Crimson draws inspiration from the classic sounds of The Groundhogs, Blue Cheer, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Jethro Tull and Cactus, meeting heavy boogie head-on with a modern swagger that has carried over to their latest and third album, Remind – their first for Small Stone Records. Make no mistake: Captain Crimson’s latest is nothing less than a testament to the timeless power of groove, of memorable choruses that take you back to when you felt such things deep in your soul, and indeed offer a reminder that you still can and that you still do.

https://www.facebook.com/Langfingerofficial/
https://www.facebook.com/CaptainCrimsonSwe/
https://www.facebook.com/totalvolumebackline/
https://www.facebook.com/smallstonerecords/
https://smallstone.bandcamp.com/

Långfinger, Crossyears (2016)

Captain Crimson, Remind (2016)

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The Obelisk Radio Adds: Lord Mountain, The Giraffes, Saint Vitus, Långfinger, Soggy

Posted in Radio on January 9th, 2017 by H.P. Taskmaster

the obelisk radio cavum

It’s been a long time. Long enough that I’m not even going to link back to the last time I did a round of Radio Adds. Life happens, and with the Quarterly Review, I guess my focus went elsewhere. Well, I just did a Quarterly Review, and that actually kind of inspired this, since I found there was yet more records that wanted covering even after that over-full round of 60 that closed out 2016 and opened 2017. So here we are.

There are, in fact, more than 50 albums being added to The Obelisk Radio playlist today. I can’t promise I’ll do Radio Adds weekly like I once did, or monthly, or again in 2017, or ever, but the opportunity presented itself and it seemed only right to take advantage. This stuff all came out last year, so it’s all readily available, and audio samples are included, because, you know, music and such.

Let’s dig in:

Lord Mountain, Lord Mountain

lord-mountain-lord-mountain

Of all the styles under the vast umbrella of “heavy,” traditional doom is among the hardest to execute – especially, I’d think, for new bands. You need a balance of atmosphere and lack of pretense, a classic vibe, riffs, and groove. On the surface, you’re playing to the past, but if you put out something that just sounds like Sabbath and bring nothing of yourself to it, you’re sunk. Santa Rosa, California’s Lord Mountain – vocalist/guitarist Jesse Swanson, guitarist Sean Serrano, bassist Dave Reed and drummer Pat Moore – would seem to have it figured out on their self-titled debut EP. Released by King Volume Records on limited tape, it brings forth four tracks in 21 minutes that are no less comfortable playing to the downer riffing of Candlemass – opener “Fenrir” – than to the epic chanting of Viking-era Bathory – “Under the Mountain” – and that find distinction for themselves in nodding to one side or the other as they make their way across the bass-y Sabbathism of “Dying World” and into the concluding solo-topped gallop of “Tomb of the Eagle” (more Dio-era there, but effectively translated tonally). As an initial offering, its presence is more stately than raw, and part of that is aesthetic, so I still think Lord Mountain will have growth to undertake, but their EP shows marked potential and brings a fresh personality to doom’s rigid traditionalism, and there’s nothing more one could reasonably ask of it. A CD would probably be too much to ask, but it’s hard to believe no one’s snagged it for a 10” release yet.

Lord Mountain on Thee Facebooks

Lord Mountain on Bandcamp

King Volume Records on Bandcamp

 

The Giraffes, Usury

the giraffes usury

Behold the winding, self-directed narrative of underrated, underutilized and underappreciated New York heavy rockers The Giraffes, who issued Usury via Silver Sleeve Records in Jan. 2016, on the cusp of their 20th anniversary and with it welcomed back frontman Aaron Lazar (also a one-time contributor to The Book of Knots, speaking of underrated) to the fold alongside guitarist Damien Paris, drummer Andrew Totolos and bassist Josh Taggart. Comprised of just six songs with a 28-minute runtime, it nonetheless holds to a full-album sentiment, with songs like the tense “Washing Machine” working in a vein not dissimilar to their righteous 2008 offering, Prime Motivator (review here), while the preceding “Facebook Rant” and “Product Placement Song” bask in a social commentary that one can only hope the ensuing decades make dated and the subsequent “White Jacket” has a melancholy danceability that one might’ve related around the time of The Giraffes’ 2005 self-titled debut related to System of a Down, but now just sounds like an enrichment of their approach overall. Usury gets off to a slow start (not a complaint, given the groove) with “Blood Will Run,” which seems to shake off its dust initially before commencing its real push and chug circa the halfway point, but by the time they get down to eight-minute finale “How it Happened to Me,” the sudden conclusion of the jam leaves one to wonder where they went and when they’ll be back, which presumably is the whole idea. Behold a band who did it before it was cool, should’ve been huge, and still kept going. The story is more complicated than that, but there are few tales more admirable.

The Giraffes on Thee Facebooks

The Giraffes website

 

Saint Vitus, Live Vol. 2

saint-vitus-live-vol-2

The first Saint Vitus live album – Live – surfaced in 1990 via Hellhound Records and captured the band in Germany in 1989. Its 2005 reissue on Southern Lord played a large role in introducing the pivotal doomers to a new generation of fans. Live Vol. 2 follows some 26 years later via Season of Mist and likewise documents a crucial era in the four-piece’s existence, having been recorded in 2013 in Luxembourg following the release of their 2012 album, Lillie: F-65 (review here), with the lineup of vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich, guitarist Dave Chandler, bassist Mark Adams and drummer Henry Vasquez. It’s a 59-minute set, all told – one suspects some of Chandler’s stage rants between songs were shortened or removed – and among the most striking impressions it makes is how seamlessly Lillie: F-65 cuts “Let Them Fall,” “The Bleeding Ground” and “The Waste of Time” fit in alongside classics like the speedy “War is Our Destiny” and “Look Behind You” or the more grueling “Patra (Petra)” and galloping “White Stallions.” Of course, the anthemic “Born too Late” closes out, with Chandler’s wash of feedback and all-low-end tone at the start the ultimate hallmark of what Saint Vitus have always been – a middle finger to square culture unlike any other. This era of the band may be over, with original vocalist Scott Reagers stepping back into the frontman role, but as one continues to hope for another studio album, Live Vol. 2 proves more than a stopgap and takes an active role in adding to the band’s legendary catalog.

Saint Vitus on Thee Facebooks

Season of Mist website

 

Långfinger, Crossyears

langfinger-crossyears

After two successful full-lengths in 2010’s Skygrounds and 2012’s Slow Rivers, next-gen Swedish heavy rockers Långfinger join forces with Small Stone Records for their 10-song/46-minute third album, the crisply-executed Crossyears. Like their countrymen labelmates in Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus, the Gothenburg three-piece bring modern edge and production to what a few years ago might’ve been purely retro ‘70s boogie rock, as tracks like “Fox Confessor,” “Say Jupiter,” the more languid “Atlas” and “Caesar’s Blues” bask in a showcase of tight, natural performance with a clean production style that still highlights same, bassist/keyboardist/vocalist Victor Crusner, guitarist/backing vocalist Kalle Lilja and drummer/backing vocalist Jesper Pihl proving the maturity of their songwriting while still delivering the push of “Silver Blaze” and closer “Window in the Sky” with a sense of energy behind them. Their approach so solidified, Långfinger don’t seem to leave much to chance in their sound, but Crossyears engages heavy rock tradition effectively while bridging a gap of decades across its run, and that, frankly, seems like enough for any one record to take on.

Långfinger on Thee Facebooks

Small Stone Records on Bandcamp

 

Soggy, Soggy

soggy soggy

Soggy’s self-titled LP, released in this edition by Outer Battery Records (see also Arctic, Earthless Meets Heavy Blanket), is a reissue of a 2008 collection of tracks from a span of years that find the blown-out French punkers paying direct homage to The Stooges with a cover of the seminal “I Wanna be Your Dog,” immediately drawing a line to what seems to have been the band’s most prominent influence. Some 35-plus years after they were initially put to tape, Soggy’s tracks continue to feel dangerous and raw in their frenetic proto-punkery, and that would seem to be exactly what the Soggy LP is looking to convey, digging into the vast trove of lost artifacts in heavy and punk rock and finding a treasure ripe for hindsight appreciation. As much as it just makes me want to put on the self-titled Stooges record or Fun House, I can’t argue with the success of Soggy’s Soggy or not admire its mission, even if some of its blows land harder than others.

Soggy on Bandcamp

Outer Battery Records on Thee Facebooks

 

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Sgt. Sunshine, Plataformas: Staying Sane

Posted in Reviews on January 3rd, 2017 by H.P. Taskmaster

sgt sunshine plataformas

Sweden’s Sgt. Sunshine are the ones who make it a party. Before they show up, everyone’s just kind of standing around, milling about, maybe chatting awkwardly at this or that issue of the day. Then, every couple of years, the Malmö-based troupe burst through the wall like the Kool-Aid guy with a new record and everybody remembers, “Oh shit, yeah! This is supposed to be fun!”

Plataformas is their latest reminder in this regard. It’s the fourth album overall in a career that now reaches well beyond a decade and a half, and its late-2016 self-release comes just three years behind Elektrohasch‘s 2013 issue of the preceding III (review here), which marked a return after six years. Comprised of 11 tracks, its 38-minute run is utterly defined by the manner in which it flows from one piece to the next so that by the time it gets down to “High Tide (100,000 LYW)” at the start of what’s almost certainly an intended side B — I haven’t seen word of a vinyl release, but it feels somewhat inevitable and the structure suits that purpose — the feel is more like the beginning of a medley than a collection of six individual tracks.

Likewise, founding guitarist/vocalist Eduardo Rodriguez — who plays bass here as well, working with drummer Roberto Sundin — frontloads the early-going with some of Plataformas‘ most memorable hooks in the opening salvo of “Ana Mazing,” “Mary Jane (Keeps You Sane)” and “Words of Wisdom” while also setting up the fluidity that continues to flesh out as “Bone Stake” and the dreamy “Love Unkind” slide deeper into a stylistic blend that pushes beyond genre bounds even as it plays to the stoner idolatry of “Mary Jane (Keeps You Sane).”

That song, the sleaze riff bounce of “Words of Wisdom” and “Bone Stake” touch on influences from funk and hip-hop that “Ana Mazing” hinted toward in its vocal patterning as well, but the vibe remains central, and Rodriguez assures throughout that nothing interrupts. A loose sensibility of groove has always been a huge part of Sgt. Sunshine‘s aesthetic, and that’s perhaps true even more on Plataformas than it’s ever been before — one can rightly think of a song like “Rio Rojas” from their landmark 2003 self-titled debut (discussed here) as a precursor to what “Ana Mazing” and “Words of Wisdom” accomplish — but along with that, one has to recognize the conscious effort on the part of Rodriguez and the band as a whole to bring that forward as done in these tracks.

sgt. sunshine

The fact that Sgt. Sunshine seem so comfortable as they shift from the winding, fuzzy end of “Ana Mazing” into the drum intro of the languidly nodding “Mary Jane (Keeps You Sane)” and from the rhythmically jammy “Surrender then Enter” through “How Can I Mend It” and into the two-minute acoustic and organ-infused “Golden” on side B only makes the listener more at home in these transitions, and there isn’t a moment on Plataformas that pulls one out of the overarching groove of the experience. Bands try to create a “whole-album” feel all the time, and some get there and some don’t, but rarely does an act do so with the kind of cohesive-but-molten duality of Sgt. Sunshine‘s fourth long-player, so that songs like the aforementioned “Golden” or the earlier drift of “Love Unkind” — probably the most psychedelic of the inclusions here, and one on which Rodriguez also drums, as he also does on “High Tide (100,000 LYW)” — have an almost tossed-off sensibility, like the band hit record in the studio, picked up their instruments, that’s what came out, and they decided to keep it because, well, it was lunchtime and there were other things to do that afternoon.

Of course, since Rodriguez is handling multiple instruments as well as vocals, that can’t at all be the way it happened. Bottom line is Sgt. Sunshine have taken something incredibly difficult to pull off and made it sound easy. And not in a sneaky manner, where Rodriguez is secretly telegraphing progressive undertones all the while or anything like that. The crunchier riff of “Bone Stake” and the full-on, bring-the-vocals-way-forward, ultra-catchy Brant Bjork-ian desertism of the penultimate “Got to Have You” are executed without pretense of any kind, and one finds as a result that the take-it-easy pacing of “How Can I Mend It” winds up much truer to the soul of the MC5 than any amount of garage posturing or vintage gear could’ve brought it.

Organics as a goal aren’t necessarily anything new for heavy psychedelia, but Plataformas isn’t just a heavy psych record, and Sgt. Sunshine‘s range shows itself through these pieces in a way that moves decisively forward from even where III found them a couple years ago, while sounding like a collection of off-the-cuff hooks and jams while actually most likely being the result of a meticulous recording process. The depth of this achievement is as pivotal to recognize as it is understated on the album itself, which again, is way more focused on the party it just started.

When “Surrender then Enter” starts and stops, so does the listener, and when closer “Walk Alone” brings around its linear build of earliest Queens of the Stone Age righteousness, the effect is suitably engaging to round out what’s been a journey of considerable distance, subtle efficiency and nuance distinct largely unto itself despite the appearance throughout of familiar elements. It does not seem unreasonable to think it benefits from Rodriguez‘s and the band’s years of experience, but even in doing so it remains forward-looking, more about what where it can go than where Sgt. Sunshine have been before, and as a result, they can and do go just about anywhere. An open flow, memorable songcraft, and tight performances of loose-spirited swing — there’s more complexity to Plataformas than even the album itself seems to know, and that’s exactly what makes it such a triumph.

Sgt. Sunshine, Plataformas (2016)

Sgt. Sunshine on Thee Facebooks

Sgt. Sunshine on Bandcamp

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The Top 20 of 2016 Year-End Poll — RESULTS!

Posted in Features on January 1st, 2017 by H.P. Taskmaster

top 20 year end poll results

The poll is closed, the results are counted and the top 20 albums of 2016 have been chosen. Hard to argue with the list as it’s shown up over the course of the past month, so I won’t try. Instead, let me just say thanks to incredible amount of participants who contributed this year.

All told, between Dec. 1 and Dec. 31, 612 people added their picks to the proceedings, compared to 388 in last year’s poll. Considering how much that number blew my mind on Jan. 1, 2016, I’m sure you can imagine how I feel about adding another 200-plus lists to the pot. In short, I’m astounded, deeply humbled and so, so, so grateful. I feel like we got enough of a sampling this year to give a genuinely representative showing for where people’s heads have been at, so thank you if you were a part of it.

Thank you as well as always to Slevin for running the poll’s back end and tabulating the results. As ever, the weighting system is one in which a 1-4 ranking is worth five points, 5-8 worth four, 9-12 worth three, 13-16 worth two and 17-20 worth one. You’ll find that list (plus some honorable mentions) below, followed by the raw-vote tally.

And after the jump, as has become the tradition, are the full lists of everyone who submitted, alphabetized by name. I’m in there too. It’s a huge amount to wade through, and even if you thought you heard everything in 2016, it should be more than enough to keep you busy for the next year.

One last note: I’m no statistician. Please allow for these numbers to change over the next couple days on some small level.

Let’s go:

Top 20 of 2016 — Weighted Results

wo fat midnight cometh

1. Wo Fat, Midnight Cometh (375 points)
2. Greenleaf, Rise Above the Meadow (368)
3. Elephant Tree, Elephant Tree (324)
4. Asteroid, III (302)
5. Brant Bjork, Tao of the Devil (295)
6. Gozu, Revival (274)
7. Neurosis, Fires Within Fires (253)
8. King Buffalo, Orion (244)
9. Mars Red Sky, Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul) (238)
10. Conan, Revengeance (232)
11. Cough, Still They Pray (228)
12. Holy Grove, Holy Grove (218)
13. SubRosa, For this We Fought the Battle of Ages (213)
14. Truckfighters, V (206)
15. Blood Ceremony, Lord of Misrule (200)
16. Khemmis, Hunted (192)
16. Red Fang, Only Ghosts (192)
17. Inter Arma, Paradise Gallows (181)
18. Witchcraft, Nucleus (174)
19. Opeth, Sorceress (173)
20. Church of Misery, And then there Were None (159)

Honorable mention to:
Causa Sui, Return to Sky (157)
Goatess, II: Purgatory Under New Management (157)
Black Mountain, IV (148)
Mos Generator, Abyssinia (144)
Wretch, Wretch (140)

Look at those tallies for number one and two. That race was close all month. Wo Fat kept out front for the most part, but Greenleaf kept it interesting and Elephant Tree’s debut snuck in there at third, which I love to see, both because it’s their first album and because that record was indeed so great. King Buffalo, another debut, also made the top 10, underscoring those two as bands to watch, and though Brant Bjork, Conan, Asteroid, Neurosis, Gozu and Mars Red Sky might be more expected names, they still certainly delivered excellent records, so again, nothing to fight with here. Things flesh out a bit in the 10-20 range, but I don’t think there’s one album on this list you could call is “miss.”

Top 20 of 2016 — Raw Votes

wo fat midnight cometh

1. Wo Fat, Midnight Cometh (109)
2. Greenleaf, Rise Above the Meadow (92)
3. Brant Bjork, Tao of the Devil (87)
4. Elephant Tree, Elephant Tree (82)
5. Asteroid, III (80)
6. Gozu, Revival (76)
7. Conan, Revengeance (73)
8. Cough, Still They Pray (70)
9. Mars Red Sky, Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul) (68)
10. King Buffalo, Orion (67)
11. Truckfighters, V (62)
12. Red Fang, Only Ghosts (61)
13. Khemmis, Hunted (60)
14. Blood Ceremony, Lord of Misrule (59)
14. SubRosa, For this We Fought the Battle of Ages (59)
15. Holy Grove, Holy Grove (58)
16. Church of Misery, And then there Were None (53)
17. Inter Arma, Paradise Gallows (49)
17. Witchcraft, Nucleus (49)
18. Opeth, Sorceress (47)
19. Mos Generator, Abyssinia (45)
20. Black Mountain, IV (44)
20. Causa Sui, Return to Sky (44)
20. Wretch, Wretch (44)

Honorable mention to:
Goatess, II: Purgatory Under New Management (43)
Mondo Drag, The Occultation of Light (43)
Geezer, Geezer (41)
Crowbar, The Serpent Only Lies (41)
Gojira, Magma (37)
Slomatics, Future Echo Returns (36)
Graves at Sea, The Curse that Is… (35)
Black Rainbows, Stellar Prophecy (33)
Beastmaker, Lusus Naturae (32)
Vokonis, Olde One Ascending (31)

Left a few more honorable mentions in the raw-vote count, just for fun and so you could get more of a feel beyond the top 20 itself, which you’ll notice has a couple ties in it as the raw votes usually do and reorganizes a bit from the weighted results. One and two remain the same, however, and in the same order, and you’ll see Wo Fat was the only album that scored more than 100 votes on its own. As a whole, there were over 2,400 separate entries for albums this year, which is by far the most spread out that the voting has ever been. Frankly, with so many people involved and such a variety of stuff being voted on, I’m amazed anyone managed to agree on anything at all, but of course they did and once again a stellar list is the result.

Well, Happy New Year.

Before I go, thanks again to Slevin for the work put into running the back end of this site and this poll particularly. I show up with the finish lists, but it’s his code that makes it happen, and his efforts are appreciated more than I can say. Dude has never asked me for anything in the nearly eight years I’ve been a constant pain in his ass.

After the jump, you’ll find everybody’s list, alphabetized by name. Please enjoy browsing. I hope you find something awesome, because there’s certainly plenty in there that qualifies, and if you see something that looks like it appears often enough that it should be included in one or both of the counts above, let me know in the comments.

Thanks.

Read more »

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Short Releases of 2016

Posted in Features on December 30th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster

the obelisk top 20 short releases

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 2016 to that, please do.

Yeah, I know I said as much when the Top 20 Debut Albums of 2016 went up, but I take it back: this is the hardest list to put together. And to be honest, there’s a part of me that’s hesitant even to post it because I know as soon as I do someone’s going to be like, “No way you dick your entire existence is shit because you forgot Release X,” and very likely they’ll be right. Up to the very moment this post is going live, I’ve been making changes, and I expect I’ll continue to do so for a while after it’s out there.

So what’s a “short release?” That’s another issue. Pretty much anything that’s not an album. Singles, digital or physical, as well as EPs, splits, demos, and so on. The category becomes nebulous, but my general rule is if it’s not a full-length, it qualifies as a short release. Sounds simple until you get into things like, “Here’s a track I threw up on Bandcamp,” and “This only came out as a bonus included as a separate LP with the deluxe edition of our album.” I’m telling you, I’ve had a difficult time.

Maybe that’s just me trying to protect myself from impending wrath. This year’s Top 30 albums list provoked some vehement — and, if I may, prickishly-worded — responses, so I might be a bit gunshy here, but on the other hand, I think these outings are worth highlighting, so we’re going forward anyway. If you have something to add, please use the comments below, but remember we’re all friends here and there’s a human being on the other end reading what’s posted. Thanks in advance for that.

And since this is the last list of The Obelisk’s Best-of-2016 coverage, I’ll say thanks for reading as well. More to come in the New Year, of course.

Here we go:

scissorfight chaos county

The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Short Releases of 2016

1. Scissorfight, Chaos County EP
2. Earthless / Harsh Toke, Split
3. Mars Red Sky, Providence EP
4. Mos Generator, The Firmament
5. Soldati, Soldati
6. Monolord, Lord of Suffering / Die in Haze EP
7. Wren, Host EP
8. Goya, The Enemy EP
9. The Sweet Heat, Demo
10. River Cult, Demo
11. Stinkeye, Llantera Demos
12. Megaritual, Eclipse EP
13. Ragged Barracudas / Pushy, Split
14. Mindkult, Witchs’ Oath EP
15. Iron Jawed Guru, Mata Hari EP
16. Brume, Donkey
17. Bison Machine / Wild Savages / SLO, Sweet Leaves Vol. 1 Split
18. BoneHawk / Kingnomad, The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter Three Split
19. Wicked Gypsy, EP
20. Love Gang, Love Gang EP

Honorable Mention

An expansive category as ever. In addition to what’s above, the following stood out and no doubt more will be added over the course of the next few days. If you feel something is missing, please let me know.

Presented alphabetically:

Cambrian Explosion, The Moon EP
Candlemass, Death Thy Lover EP
Cultist, Cultist EP
Danava, At Midnight You Die 7″
Dos Malés, Dos Malés EP
Druglord, Deepest Regrets EP
Fu Manchu, Slow Ride 7″
Geezer, A Flagrant Disregard for Happiness 12″
Gorilla vs. Grifter, Split
Holy Smoke, Holy Smoke! It’s a Demo!
Karma to Burn, Mountain Czar
LSD and the Search for God, Heaven is a Place EP
Pallbearer, Fear and Fury
Reign of Zaius, Planet Of…
Sea of Bones / Ramlord, Split
Shallows, The Moon Rises
The Skull, EP
Snowy Dunes, “Atlantis Part I” digital single
Sun Voyager / The Mad Doctors, Split
Valborg, Werwolf 7″

Notes

Was it just the raw joy of having Scissorfight back? No, but that was for sure part of it. It was also the brazenness with which the New Hampshire outfit let go of their past, particularly frontman Christopher “Ironlung” Shurtleff, and moved forward unwilling to compromise what they wanted to do that made their Chaos County so respectable in my eyes. Having always flourished in the form, they delivered an EP of classic Scissorfight tunes and issued a stiff middle finger to anyone who would dare call them otherwise. They couldn’t have been more themselves no matter who was in the band.

At the same time, it was a hard choice between that and the Earthless / Harsh Toke split for the top spot. I mean, seriously. It’s Earthless — who at this point are the godfathers of West Coast jamadelica — and Harsh Toke, who are among the style’s most engaging upstart purveyors, each stretching out over a huge and encompassing single track. I couldn’t stop listening to that one if I wanted to, and as the year went on, I found I never wanted to.

I was glad when Mars Red Sky included the title-track of the Providence EP as a bonus cut on their subsequent album, Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul), both because it tied the two releases together even further and because it gave me another opportunity to hear it every time I listened to the record. Their short releases have always shown significant character apart from their full-lengths, and this was no exception. I still tear up when I hear “Sapphire Vessel.”

To bounce around a bit: Had to get Mos Generator on the list for the progressive expansion of the live-recorded The Firmament. Stickman was right to put that out on vinyl. Both Monolord and Goya provided quick outings of huge riffs to sate their respective and growing followings, while Megaritual’s Eclipse basked in drone serenity and the debut release from Sergio Ch.’s Soldati provided hard-driving heavy rock with the particular nuance for which the former Los Natas frontman is known. It’s the highest among a slew of first/early outings — see also The Sweet Heat, Wren (Host was their second EP), River Cult’s demo, Stinkeye, Mindkult, Iron Jawed Guru, Brume, Wicked Gypsy and Love Gang.

Ultimately, there were fewer splits on the list this year than last year, but I’ll credit that to happenstance more than any emergent bias against the form or lack of quality in terms of what actually came out. The BoneHawk and Kingnomad release, the Ragged Barracudas and Pushy split, and that heavy rocking onslaught from Bison Machine and company were all certainly welcome by me, and I’ll mention Gorilla vs. Grifter there too again, just because it was awesome.

One more time, thank you for reading, and if you have something to add, please do so in the comments below. Your civility in that regard is appreciated.

This is the last of my lists for 2016, but the Readers Poll results are out Jan. 1 and the New Year hits next week and that brings a whole new round of looking-forward coverage, so stay tuned.

As always, there’s much more to come.

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