Ruby the Hatchet Post “Planetary Space Child” Video; Playing Psycho Las Vegas and More

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 8th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

ruby-the-hatchet-Photo-Mike-Petzinger

Call me crazy, but am I wrong in thinking that at some point at least one of the sci-fi movies featured in Ruby the Hatchet‘s new video for the title-track of their third album, Planetary Space Child, was on Mystery Science Theater 3000? Aside from being a blatant take on the Star Wars opening scene, that ship underbelly at the beginning of the clip is awfully familiar. Is it Space Mutiny? Or maybe Starcrash from the new season? I can’t say for sure, and apparently there was an endless supply of budget science fiction in the wake of A New Hope in 1977, so I’m sure it could be from any number of films. Probably a few of them used the same ship models anyway.

Whether or not Tom Servo ever ripped on the visuals, what matters is the song “Planetary Space Child” itself. Aside from the righteous, righteous, righteous righteousness of the title, the cut from the album that shares its name — and how would one ever dare to call a record anything else given the opportunity to call it Planetary Space Child? — stands as a demonstration of the kind of breadth Ruby the Hatchet are exploring as they follow-up and expand the cosmic aspects of their sound from even where they were on 2015’s Valley of the Snake (review here) while also emphasizing a natural core of performance true to the live feel the Philly natives bring to their gigs.

Later this month, Ruby the Hatchet will take the stage at Psycho Las Vegas, and if the energy they carry into the Nevada desert is anything like that which they brought to their set this past April at Roadburn 2017 (review here), then those who are fortunate enough to be there to see them will be glad they were. Planetary Space Child, meanwhile, lands on Aug. 25 — it’ll be here before you know it — and the band will also play other shows around the fest. You can find all the info, dates, links, etc., under the video below, courtesy of the PR wire.

Please enjoy:

Ruby the Hatchet, “Planetary Space Child” official video

Philadelphia psych rock quintet RUBY THE HATCHET will release its new album, Planetary Space Child, on August 25 via Tee Pee Records. The record showcases richly layered songs that unite heavy, doomy psychedelia with acid rock, proto-prog and melodic, hypnotic songcraft. The far-out title-track clip was created by Jordan Vance (Inter Arma, Windhand) for 3grit.com.

“We didn’t realize ‘Planetary Space Child’ was going to be the title track for the album, but it ended up being the perfect summation,” says vocalist Jillian Taylor. “Lyrically, this song is a perspective play from ancient kings to sci-fi space beings. Create. Destroy. Repeat. It’s an imaginative play on the cyclical nature of humanity, and the music rides the theme; don’t I know you from another world?”

On August 17, RUBY THE HATCHET will perform alongside Mastodon, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, SLEEP and more as one of the featured acts at the 2017 Psycho Las Vegas Festival, set for August 18-20. For more details, visit this location.

RUBY THE HATCHET tour dates:
August 14 Kansas City, MO The Riot Room
August 15 Denver, CO Streets Of London Pub
August 16 Salt Lake City, UT Metro Music Hall
August 17 Las Vegas, NV Hard Rock Hotel (* As part of Psycho Las Vegas Festival)
August 20 Albuquerque, NM Sister
August 22 Saint Louis, MO Fubar
September 9 Philadelphia, PA Johnny Brenda’s

RUBY THE HATCHET features vocalist Jillian Taylor, guitarist Johnny Scarps, bassist Lake Muir, drummer Owen Stewart and organist Sean Hur. Find the band online at RubytheHatchet.com.

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Biblical Post “Mature Themes” Video; The City that Always Sleeps out Sept. 15

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 1st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

biblical-Photo-by-Nic-Poullot

Brash, heavy, and marked out with just a little bit of psychedelic depthmaking, Biblical‘s first revealed audio from their new album, The City that Always Sleeps bodes pretty well for the record due out in September on Tee Pee. It’s not without its atmosphere or a sense of movement, and to go with tube-amp howl, there’s a harsher bite to the vocals and a punch of fuzzy bass that, yeah, that’ll do nicely. The clip for “Mature Themes” isn’t much to look at really — some old manipulated footage out of either the educational public domain or propaganda or both — but in a brisk run of under three minutes, Biblical cast their lot in punker boogie and rhythmic jabbing, making for a combo that’s easy to dig but not without an edge when it hits your ear.

Does “Mature Themes” speak for the whole of The City that Always Sleeps? Beats me. As the album opener, it might, or it might just be an initial rocket-fire to bring the three-piece into the orbit where they dwell for the remainder. We’re still about a month and a half out from the release date — though much, much longer from when the record was first announced back in February — so I’d doubt this is the last preview we’ll get before it lands, but even if it is, it serves well to intrigue and leave its audience wanting more while also no doubt establishing a good deal of initial momentum to carry into the songs that follow. At least it seems that way to me. When it ends, I feel like I’m ready for the next song to start, in other words.

See if you feel the same. More info follows the clip, courtesy of the PR wire:

Biblical, “Mature Themes” official video

Toronto rock and roll band BIBLICAL will release its new album, The City that Always Sleeps, on September 15 via Tee Pee Records / New Damage. The band’s sophomore full-length is a deep dive into sludgy psych rock that explores spaces, textures and tones beyond the outer limits. In advance of the record’s release, BIBLICAL debuts the new single and video, “Mature Themes”, which vocalist / bassist Nick Sewell calls, “a meditation on buried things; buried ideas, buried feelings, buried people.”

In addition to Sewell, the quartet features in its ranks guitar / synth player Andrew Scott (both Scott and Sewell played with Death From Above drummer Sebastien Grainger in his Sebastien Grainger & The Mountains project), lead guitarist Matt Mclaren and drummer Jay Anderson (also of COMET CONTROL). Before and since the 2014 release of its full-length debut, Monsoon Season, BIBLICAL has toured and / or rocked stages alongside DFA1979, Eagles of Death Metal, Fucked Up, Kyuss Lives! and Red Fang among many more.

The City that Always Sleeps tracklisting:
1.) Mature Themes
2.) The Last Thing I Remember
3.) Regicide
4.) Fugue State
5.) Gallows Humor
6.) Spiral Staircase
7.) The City That Always Sleeps
8.) House of Knives

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Friday Full-Length: Red Giant, Ultra-Magnetic Glowing Sound

Posted in Bootleg Theater on July 21st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Red Giant, Ultra-Magnetic Glowing Sound (1998)

Next year will make it a full 20 since the release of Cleveland heavy rockers Red Giant‘s blazing second album, Ultra-Magnetic Glowing Sound. If you were a denizen of the Emissions from the Monolith Festival, held in Youngstown, OH, between 2000 and 2004, you’re probably already familiar with the record and its Derek Hess classic-pulp-sci-fi cover art, but otherwise you might be forgiven. Issued by Tee Pee Records in 1998, it’s a strikingly effective blend of post-Fu Manchu heavy groove with elements of punk, unmitigated stoner rock riffing and space-bound psychedelia brought to bear over the course of a 66-minute runtime that now seems unmanageable but was indicative of the (about to be waning) CD era in which it was released. The band, led by guitarist/vocalists Alex Perekrest and Damien Perry — the former lead vocals and the latter lead guitar — trace their roots back to 1990 and self-released their debut full-length, Psychoblaster and the Misuse of Power, in 1995, and while I admit it’s been a while since I last heard that one, the second record is where it’s at.

Marked out by the guitar interplay between Perry and Perekrest — whose shared taste in hairstyling always made them look like brothers on stage, as I recall — and the fluid drum work of Chris Gorman, the 12-track Ultra-Magnetic Glowing Sound showed no hesitation in its approach, whether it was in taking on the cosmic-grunge riffery of “Saturn Missile Battery” or getting positively cacophonous in “Pervert” ahead of the fuzzy deep-dives that followed in “.865 (The Battle for Longitude),” the nine-minute “Ring of the Acid Pope” and the seven-minute roller “Devils of the Fall,” which hit in immersive succession and built on the molten impression of opener “1960 Starchief,” drawing on influence from classic heavy rock as much as its of-the-day practitioners on the West Coast like Nebula and the aforementioned Fu Manchu, but adding a decidedly Midwestern crunch beneath that keeps its feet on the ground even as songs like “Blue-White Supergiant” and “When Sirius Rises” seem to issue a call well outside the stratosphere. Raw in its production in a way that would probably be lush if it was recorded today, Ultra-Magnetic Glowing Sound is in part an artifact of its era, but stands out all the more for that since aside from the likes of the sludgier Rebreather and arguably the more post-hardcore Disengage, there were very few acts in Ohio at the time playing heavy rock at all in the fashion that Red Giant were.

That’s evident in the drifting “Floor Girl” as much as the sample-topped winding peak of “Ring of the Acid Pope,” as Red Giant‘s scope expanded despite a feeling of impatience in their execution that worked to unite the material. Compared to the scorching solos of “Saturn Missile Battery” earlier, “When Sirius Rises” turned out to be a relatively straightforward affair, but as Ultra-Magnetic Glowing Sound pushed onward through the far-ranging “Thread” and the Zeppelin-styled, acoustic-inclusive “Kill for Condors” toward its finish with the righteously stomping “Another Dying Admiral” (plus a hidden track), their breadth steadily kept growing, such that what began an hour earlier showing itself as a multifaceted, hook-laden but immersive heavy rocker lived up to that promise and then some, rewarding those whose attention span, whether through natural inclination or chemical assistance of one sort or another, allowed for Ultra-Magnetic Glowing Sound‘s complete unfolding front-to-back. Not a minor undertaking, but not without justification for its stretch either.

If it was being made today, again, it would likely be a much different record. That’s part of the appeal though, and I note how long Ultra-Magnetic Glowing Sound is in relation to modern, made-for-vinyl 38-minute full-lengths and keep in mind that Red Giant‘s last album, 2010’s Dysfunctional Majesty (review here) — you’ll see it’s the same character on the cover art, though the later LP’s execution is tackier, much as I love Alex von Wieding — was also 67 minutes. Part of that might have been the fact that it had been six years since Red Giant had released their third offering, Devil Child Blues, as their debut on Small Stone, though that album was only 49 minutes and it had been more than half a decade since Ultra-Magnetic Glowing Sound as well. Maybe some bands just want to make 2LPs. Fine. At this point, seven years after Dysfunctional Majesty, I wouldn’t argue with another hour-plus from these cats.

To that point, there’s been no indication of a fifth album from Red Giant one way or another, but they have continued to play shows over the last several years, working as the four-piece of PerekrestPerryGorman (who was out of the band for a while, then back) and bassist Brian Skinner, and they have one booked for the Agora in Cleveland on Oct. 14 with The Great Iron Snake with an event page on Thee Facebooks here for anyone who might be able to make it. So while they’re still active, I guess one never knows until one shows up to the gig whether or not they might have something brewing.

Either way, I hope you enjoy Ultra-Magnetic Glowing Sound, and thank you as always for reading.

It’s coming up on six in the morning as I write this and prepare to wrap up the week. I’ve got the back door of my kitchen open to outside, where it’s not yet reached the 150 degrees kelvin it’s supposed to be this afternoon, and the birds are chirping as the sun is up. I missed most of the sunrise, but that’s cool. It happens on the other side of the house. If I was in Connecticut and not Massachusetts this weekend, I might be bummed about not having caught it.

I’m not in Connecticut this weekend though. The choice basically became whether to spend the money on gas to get there or groceries for the next week, so yeah, we’re home this weekend. The good news is I got approved to take photos on Sunday at Clutch and Primus in Boston. It’ll be the first non-fest show I’ve been to in I don’t even know how long, and to say I’m very much looking forward to it is an understatement. I’ve been very, very anxious about going out to gigs basically since my ankle was screwed up and I’ve fallen out of the habit. The drives seem longer — the drive into Boston being particularly miserable and taking upwards of 90 minutes at any hour doesn’t help — and between knowing fewer people here, worrying about being early enough to get up front and take pictures, shitty lighting at just about every Boston venue except Royale (which should have a photo pit and doesn’t), being sober, and the massive effort and little reward of putting together live reviews afterward, I’ve chickened out of more shows than I can count. I missed The Atomic Bitchwax and Mirror Queen last week. I’ve missed The Obsessed a couple times. Lo-Pan. The list goes on. I get bummed out about it, but the truth is I miss New York.

Still, I’d like to get a couple shows in before The Pecan arrives in October — you should see The Patient Mrs.’ bump; I’ve yet to say so out loud, but I’ve taken to calling it Sleep’s Holy Mountain because she’s also tired all the time — and Clutch and Primus is a cool way to come out of hibernation. I bought the last Primus album, Green Naugahyde, shortly after it came out in 2011, because I’ve been a fan since I was like 10 years old, but never really dug into it. Will give an extra listen before Sunday, and there are some new Clutch songs floating around on the YouTubes as well that I’ve been digging on. I’m excited to see the gig. It’s been a while since I felt that way. I’ll probably get there and have no credentials at the box office. Ha.

The Patient Mrs. is coming with me too for that. I’m counting it as The Pecan’s first show. Extra stoked on that level. Hopefully the classy bass licks of Dan Maines and the funky punch of Les Claypool reverberate in his still-forming brain and lead to a lifetime of appreciating how utterly essential quality low end is to rock and roll. That would be nice.

But that’s Sunday. In a little while, The Patient Mrs. will get up and we’ll head to the grocery store and start the day for some early productivity. Not much on tap in terms of big plans for the day; she’s out later for a thing, so I’ll watch PBS NewsHour and Mystery Science Theater 3000 this evening to pass time, maybe put together a podcast this afternoon while checking out last night’s Yankees game, if only because they won and it was on too late to see live. We’ll see.

It’s a full week next week though already. Here’s what’s in the notes, subject to change as usual:

Mon.: Clutch & Primus live review; Snail video from The Obelisk All-Dayer.
Tue.: The Judge review/track premiere; maybe podcast.
Wed.: Radio Adds; Marius Tilly video premiere.
Thu.: Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree review; Six Dumb Questions w/ Tim Granda about Planet of Doom; ZOM announcement.
Fri.: Youngblood Supercult review.

Like I said, pretty jammed. Monday and Tuesday are also just about full for news as well, so yeah. Space and time are at a premium these days, and each week seems to bring more six-post mornings and afternoons. Not gonna complain about it. I’m going to do as much as I can, when I can. Same as always.

I’ve gotten some right-on records to review in the last couple weeks of things that are coming out this Fall. Paradise Lost, Monolord, that Slomatics live album, Argus, Pagan Altar, The Quill, another one from an East Coast band that I can’t really name yet, plus Blues Funeral, Ruby the Hatchet, and so on. Really killer stuff. The next few months are going to be fun as I rifle through all of it for coverage. I look forward to it and hope you do too.

And of course I hope you have a great and safe weekend as well. Rock and roll, have an awesome time whatever you’re up to, and we’ll see you back here Monday for more shenanigans. Please check out the forum and radio stream, and thanks as always for reading and listening.

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The Atomic Bitchwax and Mirror Queen Touring the East Coast in July

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Current understanding is that both The Atomic Bitchwax and Mirror Queen will have new records out this Fall. Therefore it seems entirely likely the Tee Pee Records labelmates might bring some recent compositions out for road-testing on this upcoming East Coast tour, set to begin in Boston on July 13 — where they’ll be joined by fellow Tee Pee denizens Worshipper as well as Hey Zeus — and make its way north into Canada before swinging back through Pittsburgh and looping south once again.

Whether or not they’re playing new stuff, The Atomic Bitchwax‘s most recent outing, 2015’s Gravitron (review here), and Mirror Queen‘s recently-unveiled “Starliner” single (premiered here) are just about all the excuse a band might need to get out and stretch for a bit, if they need an excuse at all. Which, particularly in this case, they probably don’t, what with all the generally kicking ass and whatnot.

Dates and portends of things to come, courtesy of the PR wire:

the atomic bitchwax tour

The Atomic Bitchwax to Launch North American Headlining Tour July 13

Legendary New Jersey Rock Band Featuring Monster Magnet Members Set to Light Up the East Coast; NYC’s Mirror Queen to Support

New Jersey super stoner rock band THE ATOMIC BITCHWAX will kick off a North American headlining tour run on July 13 in Boston, MA. Featuring core MONSTER MAGNET members Chris Kosnik (bass, vocals) and Bob Pantella (drums) alongside guitarist Finn Ryan, THE ATOMIC BITCHWAX (aka TAB) play music that combines 60’s psychedelic rock, and 70’s riff rock with modern day progressive rock influences. The Tee Pee Records-powered tour will run through July 23 and feature support from NYC space rockers and TAB label mates MIRROR QUEEN.

Since its formation in 1993, THE ATOMIC BITCHWAX has inspired hundreds of developing rock and metal bands, but no group of musicians has come close to matching TAB’s unique style of fun, frenetic and formidable rock and roll. Over the course of six full-length albums and multiple world tours, the band has perfected its unique style of NYC hard rock that High Times appropriately tagged, “thunder-boogie”. THE ATOMIC BITCHWAX is currently prepping the follow-up to its celebrated 2016 release, Gravitron. A fall release date is expected.

THE ATOMIC BITCHWAX w/ MIRROR QUEEN tour dates:
July 13 Boston, MA Great Scott
July 14 Montreal, QC Turbo Haus
July 15 Toronto, ON Hard Luck
July 16 Pittsburgh, PA Cattivo
July 18 Asheville, NC Mothlight
July 19 Atlanta, GA Star Bar
July 20 Richmond, VA Strange Matter
July 22 Philadelphia, PA Kung Fu Necktie
July 23 Brooklyn, NY Knitting Factory

A mainstay in the NYC hard rock scene, MIRROR QUEEN has shared the stage with heavyweight peers such as Earthless and The Shrine and toured Europe with legends such as Uli Jon Roth and UFO. The group’s driving music accelerates at the distinct point where NWOBHM and heavy Prog Rock intersect; a direct and definite delineation of an era when urgent metallic sound was the order of the day. MIRROR QUEEN’s as-yet-untitled new LP is expected to see release this October.

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Review & Full Stream: Harsh Toke, Joy & Sacri Monti, Burnout Split LP

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on June 22nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

harsh-toke-joy-sacri-monti-burnout

[Click play above to stream the Burnout three-way split between Harsh Toke, Joy and Sacri Monti. It’s out June 23 via Tee Pee Records.]

Not to quibble on titles, but it’s way less Burnout than it is ignition. The West Coast heavy psych boom, centered in San Diego but with offshoots up and down throughout California in Los Angeles, the Bay Area, etc., is years underway at this point, and New York’s Tee Pee Records has proven to be among its most crucial documentarians. In bringing together Harsh TokeJoy and Sacri Monti — three San Diego bands who’ve all had albums out on Tee Pee — the long-running imprint has essentially reinforced the arrival of and camaraderie between members of one of the US’ most vibrant underground scenes. If they wanted, each of these groups could have headlined their own three-band split — there’s enough clout between them and enough other acts around to make that happen, easily — but in uniting them together, Tee Pee is going for broke in representing the particular energy and classic-minded shred that typifies San Diego’s explosive sound.

It is likewise no coincidence that Burnout — a six-song 12″ topping out at 26 minutes — should feature covers from each band as well as original material from Joy and Sacri Monti, since so much of what’s happening and what’s already happened in the heavy ’10s has owed its core approach to the heavy ’70s before it, so that to have Harsh Toke take on Roky Erickson for two tracks — something they also did for a full set at Roadburn festival this past Spring in the Netherlands — as Joy tears into “Spaceship Earth” by Road and Sacri Monti into “Sleeping for Years” by Atomic Rooster not only makes sense sonically, but effectively ties together the still-very-much-exploding current movement of bands with the crucial wave that preceded it nearly half a century ago.

I admit, that’s a pretty heady view of the mission here, and to listen to Burnout, the tracks don’t come across nearly so lofty in their aims, whether that’s Harsh Toke‘s drunk-at-the-piano dive into Erickson‘s “Burn the Flames” at the outset or the scorching, organ-soaked boogie drive of Sacri Monti tackling “Sleeping for Years” at the finish. And rightfully so. If it was pretentious or overly self-aware, the whole affair would fall flat, where in the front-to-back execution, it proves to be anything but, with both Joy and Sacri Monti right in their respective elements in both their own material and their cover selections while Harsh Toke prove to be somewhat the outliers as they leadoff the release. Not so much sound-wise — Roky Erickson‘s weirdo formative and massively influential psych isn’t out of context in their swaying reinterpretation — as in the simple concept of Harsh Toke playing songs.

harsh toke joy sacri monti burnout vinyl

Harsh Toke‘s 2016 split (review here) with San Diego scene lords Earthless — who along with Radio Moscow are very much the elephant in the room when it comes to not only the three outfits appearing on Burnout but the wider San Diego sphere as a whole — and their 2014 debut, Light up and Live, were essentially jam-based releases, and their live sets find them working in likewise methods. To hear them push through the fuzzy proto-punk of “Bermuda,” I’m not sure why they so generally avoid vocals, but the fact that it’s something that doesn’t happen all the time would seem to make it all the more of an event, and they are right at home in that track and “Burn the Flames” preceding, giving a sense of Erickson‘s character in the material while presenting it with their own energetic tack. Naturally, on a three-band split there’ are bound to be some stark leaps in sound, between groups — like on any multi-group compilation — but the speedier “Bermuda” also helps make way for Joy‘s “Your Time Ain’t Long,” the longest inclusion here overall at 5:27.

Meting out similar winding riffage to what high-speed-nodded throughout their 2016 third full-length, Ride Along! (review here), “Your Time Ain’t Long” serves as the first original of Burnout and cuts short after three-and-a-half shuffling minutes to a more languid drift, keeping some progressive tension beneath as it moves with deceptive efficiency back toward its hook. The trio count into “Spaceship Earth” for a live-in-studio feel that the raw fuzz of their tonality and echoing vocals backs up that impression. In their own composition as well as the 1972 Road track, it’s the guitar leading the charge, and even as “Spaceship Earth” moves into outside-the-atmosphere noise following an extended stretch of leads, tone provides the fuel for that ascent. Sacri Monti‘s “Over the Hill” follows immediately.

Their original, like that of Joy before them, showcases a fervent-enough ’70s influence to make its transition seamless, but is distinguished through the use of organ and the interplay there between keys and shred-prone guitar as was their 2015 self-titled debut (review here), and as a next step forward from that release, “Over the Hill” bodes well for the development of their chemistry on the whole. Their selection of an Atomic Rooster track is likewise admirable — and one has to acknowledge it must’ve been tempting, when looking at 1970’s Death Walks Behind You, to take on the title-piece — and they give the UK-based post-blues stompers their due while, like Harsh Toke and Joy before them, bringing their own personality to the presentation in a live-feeling onslaught of groove that dares you to keep up with its nigh-on-frenetic turns. It’s over quickly — so is Burnout as a whole — but Sacri Monti‘s cold finish to “Sleeping for Years” makes a fitting end to the split, since as the scene that birthed these bands also seems to do, it leaves one with the feeling of standing in front of the stage yelling for one more song.

And if they had done another, or if any of these groups came back out and did an encore, you wouldn’t find me complaining. Cities like San Diego, Encinitas, Visalia, Oceanside, and so on, have become more and more crowded over the last couple years, and I expect they’ll continue to for at least the next several years as we move toward and beyond 2020, but with the quality of output from Harsh TokeJoy and Sacri Monti both here and on their own offerings, it’s hard to argue with others wanting to pick up and try to capture some of the same vibe that’s presented as being so utterly molten across this split. In playing to their strengths, each of these bands represents some of the best of West Coast heavy psych as a whole.

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 of 2017 So Far

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

the obelisk top-20-2017-so-far

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

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

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

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

Okay, here goes:

The Top 20 of 2017 So Far

elder reflections of a floating world

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

Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Honorable Mention

Let’s do another 10 releases, shall we?

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

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

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

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

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

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

More to Come

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

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

Thanks for Reading

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

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

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

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Ruby the Hatchet Announce Planetary Space Child out Aug. 25

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 8th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

ruby-the-hatchet-Photo-Mike-Petzinger

I had the remarkably good fortune to see Ruby the Hatchet preview material off their forthcoming third album at day two of this year’s Roadburn festival in the Netherlands this past April. They killed it at Extase. Absolutely owned the room. Later that night, I saw the Philly natives sitting outside at a cafe in Weirdo Canyon, and decided to ask them what the names of the new songs they played were. One was “Pagan Ritual,” and another was “Planetary Space Child,” which would turn out to be the title-track of the new record. They told me the name of the album right then and there, but it didn’t seem fair to include that in the review. Nonetheless, my response when they said it was, “God damn I hope that’s true.”

Because, you know, as far as titles go, that’s pretty over the top in the best way possible.

Turns out it is true. Planetary Space Child will be issued by Tee Pee Records this August, right after Ruby the Hatchet appear at Psycho Las Vegas. No audio from the record yet, but the PR wire brings art and info:

ruby-the-hatchet-planetary-space-child

Ruby the Hatchet to Release New LP, ‘Planetary Space Child’, August 25

Philly Psych Band Rockets its Sound into Exploratory New Realms; Group Confirmed for Psycho Las Vegas Festival

Philadelphia psych rock quintet RUBY THE HATCHET will release its new album, Planetary Space Child, on August 25 via Tee Pee Records. Recorded in an 1800’s era estate deep in the Pennsylvania woods with engineers Joe Boldizar (Retro City Studios), Zach Goldstein (Kawari Sound), and the band’s own Sean Hur, the record is the product of several weeks of self-imposed isolation. Planetary Space Child showcases seven richly layered songs that unite heavy, doomy psychedelia with acid rock, proto-prog and melodic, hypnotic songcraft.

Taking advantage of the century-plus-old manor’s natural acoustics, inherent eeriness and custom-built control room, Planetary Space Child sees RUBY THE HATCHET elevate its sound to hallucinogenic new heights. Boasting a bouncy creepiness, weighty sonic palette and dark, lush layers of experimentation, the album’s bulk forges a hypnotic, head-nodding nirvana while electric vocalist Jillian Taylor spins haunting tales of dreams and death; her voice layered in hazy smoke that infuses the sound of the band with an otherworldly element.

“From content to creation, this album is like nowhere we’ve been before,” comments Taylor. “The last two years have been spent traveling, playing and pushing; both on the road and within ourselves. ‘Planetary Space Child’ is the culmination of that work.”

Planetary Space Child is the follow-up to RUBY THE HATCHET’s critically lauded sophomore LP, Valley of the Snake (Tee Pee Records, 2015), hailed by Verbicide as “a commanding display of hard rock.” Of their last LP, The Obelisk mused “If ‘right now’ has a sound somewhere within heavy or heavy psychedelic rock, it probably isn’t far off from what Philadelphia’s RUBY THE HATCHET conjure.” With Planetary Space Child, RUBY THE HATCHET has defined itself as more than current, toeing the line between past and present while pushing towards the outer reaches of its unique psych rock universe. Moving forward without compromise, it’s clear that RUBY THE HATCHET aren’t just staying present or looking ahead; they’re simply breaking away.

Track listing:
1.) Planetary Space Child
2.) Killer
3.) Pagan Ritual
4.) The Fool
5.) Symphony of the Night
6.) Gemini
7.) Lightning Comes Again

On August 17, RUBY THE HATCHET will perform alongside Mastodon, The Brian Jonestown Massacre, SLEEP and more as one of the featured acts at the 2017 Psycho Las Vegas Festival, set for August 18-20. For more details, visit this location.

RUBY THE HATCHET features vocalist Jillian Taylor, guitarist Johnny Scarps, bassist Lake Muir, drummer Owen Stewart and organist Sean Hur. Find the band online at RubytheHatchet.com.

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Ruby the Hatchet, “Tomorrow Never Comes” live at Roadburn 2017

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Harsh Toke, Joy & Sacri Monti Announce Burnout Split Due June 23

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 15th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

Want. It’s that simple. Want.

If you needed further evidence of San Diego as the American epicenter of heavy psychedelic rock, or of Tee Pee Records‘ absolute on-it-ness when it comes to same — I don’t even care if it makes me sound like a fanboy, it’s true; also, does anyone say “fanboy” anymore? — I humbly submit the forthcoming Burnout split vinyl from Harsh Toke, Joy and Sacri Monti. It’s three righteous acts joining forces on the kind of off-album release that keeps people talking for years. The thing looks killer and I’ve no doubt sounds the same, with Harsh Toke taking on two Roky Erickson covers while Joy tackle Road and Sacri Monti treat listeners to some Atomic Rooster, directly tying the original generation of heavy to the current and up-and-coming one.

Whatever. It’s a want. You shouldn’t need me to tell you that. Already holding a spot for it on my list of the best EPs and splits of the year, because that’s the kind of impartial-ass critic I am. Here’s art and info off the PR wire:

harsh-toke-joy-sacri-monti-burnout

JOY, HARSH TOKE & SACRI MONTI Team Up on Three-Way Split EP, ‘BURNOUT’

Ever feel like bands that get tagged with the heavy PSYCH descriptor just aren’t very psychedelic? Or heavy? Tee Pee Records is here to save the day with the three-way heavy psych split, BURNOUT. Featuring California kings HARSH TOKE, JOY and SACRI MONTI, BURNOUT brings back the blues and whisks you away to a place where guitar solos reign supreme! The compilation will be released on June 23 in digital and CD formats as well as a limited edition triple 7″ package (pre-order here).

Alongside SoCal godfathers EARTHLESS, HARSH TOKE, JOY and SACRI MONTI are simultaneously skyrocketing a pathway towards the future of molten heavy psych. You’ve heard about all of the noise coming from the red hot California heavy psych scene that is taking the west coast by storm, now experience for yourself the exciting sounds that have everyone talking with BURNOUT!

On BURNOUT, HARSH TOKE serves up two searing Roky Erickson rippers — in homage to the tribute the band paid to the Texas psychedelic icon at the 2017 Roadburn Festival — while JOY and SACRI MONTI shred through a terrific new track apiece, while also paying tribute to legends that paved the way; JOY covering the ROAD classic “Spaceship Earth” and SACRI MONTI blazing through ATOMIC ROOSTER’s “Sleeping for Years”. Each of the three 7″ records features artwork by acclaimed multi media artist, BB Bastidas, and on the back cover, photography by renowned photographer JT Rhoades.

Equal parts atmospheric and anarchic, HARSH TOKE merges raging, blind fury musicianship with unprecedented white-knuckle volume abuse. In 2016, the band released a celebrated split EP with labelmates EARTHLESS and the acid rock band’s debut, Light Up and Live, came out in 2014.

The sound of JOY has been described as “a spaced-out sonic groove-ride” and “outer reach freak out”, but that hyperbole alone doesn’t do justice to the group’s measured mode of attack. Featuring Hendrixian guitarist Zach Oakley, JOY puts a premium on establishing both structure and dynamics, its kaleidoscopic flurry and full-throttle riffage is anchored by both subtle detail and surprising textural depth. JOY’s latest release was 2016’s Ride Along!

Roughly translated as “Sacred Mountains”, SACRI MONTI’s music is a searing smorgasbord of muscular rock that boils ’70s guitar rock down to its purest essence. Fingers bleed, eardrums implode and craniums collapse when SACRI MONTI cranks up its bitchin’, blistering buzz.

Track listing:

HARSH TOKE:
1.) Burn The Flames (Roky Erickson)
2.) Burmuda (Roky Erickson)

JOY:
3.) Your Time Ain’t Long
4.) Spaceship Earth (ROAD cover)

SACRI MONTI:
5.) Over The Hill
6.) Spaceship Earth (Atomic Rooster cover)

https://teepeerecords.com/collections/frontpage/products/harsh-toke-joy-sacri-monti-burnout-triple-7-out-june-23rd?variant=40958685140
https://www.facebook.com/theHARSHTOKEgoons/
https://www.facebook.com/JOYHEADBAND/
https://www.facebook.com/sacrimontiband/

Harsh Toke, Live at Roadburn 2017

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