The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Short Releases of 2017

Posted in Features on December 22nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

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 2017 to that, please do.

This is the hardest list to put together, no question. Don’t get me wrong, I put way too much thought into all of them, but this one is damn near impossible to keep up with. Every digital single, every demo, every EP, every 7″, 10″ one-sided 12″, whatever it is. There’s just too much. I’m not going to claim to have heard everything. Hell, that’s what the comments are for. Let me know what I missed. Invariably, something.

So while the headers might look similar, assuming I can ever remember which fonts I use from one to the next, this list has a much different personality than, say, the one that went up earlier this week with the top 20 debuts of 2017. Not that I heard everyone’s first record either, but we’re talking relative ratios here. The bottom line is please just understand I’ve done my best to hear as much as possible. I’m only one person, and there are only so many hours in the day. Eventually your brain turns into riffy mush.

With that caveat out of the way, I’m happy to present the following roundup of some of what I thought were 2017’s best short releases. That’s EPs, singles, demos, splits — pretty much anything that wasn’t a full-length album, and maybe one or two things that were right on the border of being one. As between genres, the lines are blurry these days. That’s part of what makes it fun.

Okay, enough dawdling. Here we go:


The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Short Releases of 2017

1. Lo-Pan, In Tensions
2. Godhunter, Codex Narco
3. Year of the Cobra, Burn Your Dead
4. Shroud Eater, Three Curses
5. Stubb, Burning Moon
6. Canyon, Canyon
7. Solace, Bird of Ill Omen
8. Kings Destroy, None More
9. Tarpit Boogie, Couldn’t Handle… The Heavy Jam
10. Supersonic Blues, Supersonic Blues Theme
11. Come to Grief, The Worst of Times EP
12. Rope Trick, Red Tape
13. Eternal Black, Live at WFMU
14. IAH, IAH
15. Bong Wish, Bong Wish EP
16. Rattlesnake, Outlaw Boogie Demo
17. Hollow Leg, Murder
18. Mars Red Sky, Myramyd
19. Avon, Six Wheeled Action Man Tank 7″
20. Wretch, Bastards Born

Honorable Mention

Across Tundras, Blood for the Sun / Hearts for the Rain
The Discussion, Tour EP
Fungus Hill, Creatures
Switchblade Jesus & Fuzz Evil, The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter Seven
The Grand Astoria, The Fuzz of Destiny
Test Meat, Demo
Blood Mist, Blood Mist
Sweat Lodge, Tokens for Hell
Dautha, Den Foerste
Scuzzy Yeti, Scuzzy Yeti
Howling Giant, Black Hole Space Wizard Part 2
Decasia, The Lord is Gone
Bible of the Devil/Leeches of Lore, Split 7″

I can’t imagine I won’t add a name or two or five to this section over the next few days as I think of other things and people remind me of stuff and so on, so keep an eye out, but the point is there’s way more than just what made the top 20. That Across Tundras single would probably be on the list proper just on principle, but I heard it like a week ago and it doesn’t seem fair. Speaking of unfair, The Discussion, Howling Giant, The Grand Astoria and the Bible of the Devil/Leeches of Lore split all deserve numbered placement easily. I might have to make this a top 30 in 2018, just to assuage my own guilt at not being able to include everything I want to include. For now though, yeah, this is just the tip of the doomberg.


To be totally honest with you, that Lo-Pan EP came out Jan. 13 and pretty much had the year wrapped up in my head from that point on. It was going to be hard for anything to top In Tensions, and the Godhunter swansong EP came close for the sense of stylistic adventurousness it wrought alone, and ditto that for Year of the Cobra’s bold aesthetic expansions on Burn Your Dead and Shroud Eater’s droning Three Cvrses, but every time I heard Jeff Martin singing “Pathfinder,” I knew it was Lo-Pan’s year and all doubt left my mind. Of course, for the Ohio four-piece, In Tensions is something of a one-off with the departure already of guitarist Adrian Zambrano, but I still have high hopes for their next record. It would be hard not to.

The top five is rounded out by Stubb’s extended jam/single “Burning Moon,” which was a spacey delight and new ground for them to cover. The self-titled debut EP from Philly psych rockers Canyon, which they’ve already followed up, is next. I haven’t had the chance to hear the new one yet, but Canyon hit a sweet spot of psychedelia and heavy garage that made me look forward to how they might develop, so I’ll get there sooner or later. Solace’s return was nothing to balk at with their cassingle “Bird of Ill Omen” and the Sabbath cover with which they paired it, and though Kings Destroy weirded out suitably on the 14-minute single-song EP None More, I hear even greater departures are in store with their impending fourth LP, currently in progress.

A couple former bandmates of mine feature in Tarpit Boogie in guitarist George Pierro and bassist John Eager, and both are top dudes to be sure, but even if we didn’t have that history, it would be hard to ignore the tonal statement they made on their Couldn’t Handle… The Heavy Jam EP. If you didn’t hear it, go chase it down on Bandcamp. Speaking of statements, Supersonic Blues’ Supersonic Blues Theme 7″ was a hell of an opening salvo of classic boogie that I considered to be one of the most potential-laden offerings of the year. Really. Such warmth to their sound, but still brimming with energy in the most encouraging of ways. Another one that has to be heard to be believed.

The dudes are hardly newcomers, but Grief offshoot Come to Grief sounded pretty fresh — and raw — on their The Worst of Times EP, and the Massachusetts extremists check in right ahead of fellow New Englangers Rope Trick, who are an offshoot themselves of drone experimentalists Queen Elephantine. Red Tape was a demo in the demo tradition, and pretty formative sounding, but seemed to give them plenty of ground on which to develop their aesthetic going forward, and I wouldn’t ask more of it than that.

Eternal Black gave a much-appreciated preview of their Bleed the Days debut long-player with Live at WFMU and earned bonus points for recording it at my favorite radio station, while Argentine trio IAH probably went under a lot of people’s radar with their self-titled EP but sent a fervent reminder that that country’s heavy scene is as vibrant as ever. Boston-based psych/indie folk outfit Bong Wish were just the right combination of strange, melodic and acid-washed to keep me coming back to their self-titled EP on Beyond Beyond is Beyond, and as Adam Kriney of The Golden Grass debuted his new project Rattlesnake with the Outlaw Boogie demo, the consistency of his songcraft continued to deliver a classic feel. Another one to watch out for going into the New Year.

I wasn’t sure if it was fair to include Hollow Leg’s Murder or not since it wound up getting paired with a special release of their latest album, but figured screw it, dudes do good work and no one’s likely to yell about their inclusion here. If you want to quibble, shoot me a comment and quibble away. Mars Red Sky only released Myramyd on vinyl — no CD, no digital — and I never got one, but heard a private stream at one point and dug that enough to include them here anyway. They remain perennial favorites.

Avon, who have a new record out early in 2018 on Heavy Psych Sounds, delivered one of the year’s catchiest tracks with the “Six Wheeled Action Man Tank” single. I feel like I’ve had that song stuck in my head for the last two months, mostly because I have. And Wretch may or may not be defunct at this point — I saw word that drummer Chris Gordon was leaving the band but post that seems to have disappeared now, so the situation may be in flux — but their three-songer Bastards Born EP was a welcome arrival either way. They round out the top 20 because, well, doom. Would be awesome to get another LP out of them, but we’ll see I guess.

One hopes that nothing too egregious was left off, but one again, if there’s something you feel like should be here that isn’t, please consider the invitation to leave a comment open and let me know about it. Hell, you know what? Give me your favorites either way, whether you agree with this list or not. It’s list season, do it up. I know there’s the Year-End Poll going, and you should definitely contribute to that if you haven’t, but what was your favorite EP of the year? The top five? Top 10? I’m genuinely curious. Let’s talk about it.

Whether you have a pick or not (and I hope you do), thanks as always for reading. May the assault of short releases continue unabated in 2018 and beyond.

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Quarterly Review: Les Discrets, Test Meat, Matus, Farflung, Carpet, Tricky Lobsters, Ten Foot Wizard & Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters, The Acid Guide Service, Skunk, The Raynbow

Posted in Reviews on July 10th, 2017 by JJ Koczan


My friends, the time has come. Well, actually the time came about two weeks ago at the end of June, but I won’t tell if you don’t. Better late than never as regards all things, but most especially The Obelisk’s Quarterly Review, which this time around features releases recent, upcoming and a bit older, a mix of known and lesser known acts, and as always, hopefully enough of a stylistic swath to allow everyone whose eyes the series of posts catches to find something they dig between now and Friday. As always, it’ll be 50 records from now until then, 10 per day, and I see no reason not to jump right in, so let’s do that.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Les Discrets, Prédateurs

les discrets Prédateurs

After offering a preview of their marked stylistic turn in last year’s Virée Nocturne EP (review here), Lyon, France’s Les Discrets return with the suitably nighttime-urbane vibing of their Prédateurs full-length via Prophecy Productions. Five years after Ariettes Oubliées (review here), Fursy Teyssier and company reinvent their approach to the sonic lushness of their earlier work, departing the sphere of post-black metal they previously shared with sister band Alcest in favor of an anything-goes heavy experimentalism more akin to Ulver on cuts like “Le Reproche” or the deeply atmospheric “Fleur des Murailles.” Drones pepper “Rue Octavio Mey” and closer “Lyon – Paris 7h34” effectively conveys the sense of journey its train-schedule title would hint toward, and indeed Les Discrets as a whole seem to be in flux throughout Prédateurs despite an overarching cohesion within each track. It’s a fine line between multifaceted and disjointed, but fortunately, Teyssier’s grip on melodicism is unflinching and enough to tie otherwise disparate ideas together here.

Les Discrets on Thee Facebooks

Les Discrets at Prophecy Productions


Test Meat, Demo

test meat demo

Considering the pedigree involved in guitarist/vocalist Darryl Shepard (ex-Milligram, Blackwolfgoat, Kind, etc.), bassist Aarne Victorine (UXO, Whitey) and drummer Michael Nashawaty (Planetoid, Bird Language), it’s little surprise that Test Meat’s Demo would have a pretty good idea of where it wants to come from. The five-track first showing from the Boston trio blends raw-edge grunge and noise rock on “He Don’t Know” after opening with its longest inclusion (immediate points) in the 3:50 “Cuffing Season,” and though centerpiece “Done” nods at the starts-and-stops of Helmet, the subsequent 2:35 push of “If You Wanna” is strikingly post-Nirvana, and closer “Permanent Festival” rounds out by bridging that gap via a still-straightforward heavy rock groove. Formative, yeah, but that’s the whole point. Test Meat revel in their barebones style and clearly aren’t looking to get overly lush, but one can’t help but be curious how or if they’ll develop a more melodic sensibility to go with the consuming, full buzzsaw tones they elicit here.

Test Meat on Thee Facebooks

Test Meat on Bandcamp


Matus, Intronauta

matus intronauta

Worth noting that while the opening cut here, “Claroscuro,” shares its title with Matus’ 2015 full-length (review here), that song didn’t actually appear on that album. Does that mean that the Lima, Peru, classic progressive rockers are offering leftovers from the same sessions on their new EP and perhaps final release, Intronauta? I don’t know, but the four tracks of the digital outing are a welcome arrival anyway, from the laid back easy vibes of the aforementioned opener through the riffier “Intronauta (Including Hasta Que El Sol Descanse en Paz),” the Theremin-soaked finish of the harder-driving “Catalina” and the acoustic-led four-part closer “Arboleda Bohemia,” which unfolds with lushness that remains consistent with the naturalism that has always been underlying in the band’s work. They’ve said their last few times out that the end is near, and if it’s true, they go out with a fully-cast sonic identity of their own and a take on ‘70s prog that remains an underrated secret of the South American underground.

Matus on Thee Facebooks

Matus on Bandcamp


Farflung, Unwound Celluloid Frown

farflung unwound celluloud frown

The jury, at least when it comes to the internet, still seems to be somewhat divided on whether the name of Farflung’s five-track/34-minute EP is Unwound Celluloid Frown or Unwound Cellular Frown. I’d say another argument is whether it’s an EP or an LP, but either way, let the follow-up to the more clearly-titled 2016 album (review here) demonstrate how nebulous the long-running Los Angeles space rockers can be when it suits them. Hugely and continually underrated, the troupe once again aligns to Heavy Psych Sounds for this release, which is rife with their desert-hued Hawkwindian thrust and weirdo vibes, permeating the rocket-fuel chug of the title-track and the noise-of-the-cosmos 13-minute headphone-fest that is “Axis Mundi,” which seems to end with someone coming home and putting down their car keys before a slowly ticking clock fades out and into the backwards swirling intro of lazily drifting closer “Silver Ghost with Crystal Spoons.” Yeah, it’s like that. Whatever you call it, the collection proves once again that Farflung are a secret kept too well.

Farflung on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website


Carpet, Secret Box

carpet secret box

Immersive and progressive psychedelia unfolds from the very opening moments of Carpet’s third album, Secret Box (on Elektrohasch Schallplatten), as the Augsberg, Germany-based five-piece explore lush arrangements of Moog, Rhodes, trumpet, vibraphone, etc. around central compositions of fluid guitar-led melodies and engaging rhythms. Their 2015 Riot Kiss 7” (review here) and 2013 sophomore long-player, Elysian Pleasures (review here), came from a similar place in intent, but from the funk wah and percussion underscoring the pre-fuzz-explosion portion of “Best of Hard Times” and the okay-this-one’s-about-the-riff “Shouting Florence” to the serene ambience of “For Tilda” and ethereal fluidity of “Pale Limbs” later on, the secret of Secret Box seems to be that it’s actually a treasure chest in disguise. Opening with its longest track in “Temper” (immediate points), the album hooks its audience right away along a graceful, rich-sounding melodic flow and does not relinquish its hold until the last piano notes of the closing title-track offer a wistful goodbye. In between, Carpet execute with a poise and nuance all the more enjoyable for how much their own it seems to be.

Carpet on Thee Facebooks

Carpet on Bandcamp


Tricky Lobsters, Worlds Collide

tricky lobsters worlds collide

Full, natural production, crisp and diverse songwriting, right-on performances and a name you’re not about to forget – there’s nothing about Tricky Lobsters not to like. Worlds Collide is their sixth album and first on Exile on Mainstream, and the overall quality of their approach reminds of the kind of sonic freedom proffered by Astrosoniq, but the German trio of guitarist/vocalist Sarge, bassist/vocalist Doc and drummer/vocalist Captain Peters have their own statements to make as well in the stomping “Battlefields,” the mega-hook of “Big Book,” the dreamy midsection stretch of “Father and Son” and the progressive melody-making of “Tarred Albino” (video premiere here). The emphasis across the nine-song/42-minute outing is on craft, but whether it’s the patient unfolding of “Dreamdiver Pt. I & II” or the harp-and-fuzz blues spirit of closer “Needs Must,” Tricky Lobsters’ sonic variety comes paired with a level of execution that’s not to be overlooked. Will probably fly under more radars than it should, but if you can catch it, do.

Tricky Lobsters on Thee Facebooks

Tricky Lobsters at Exile on Mainstream Records


Ten Foot Wizard & Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters, Special


Dubbed Special for reasons that should be fairly obvious from looking at the cover art, this meeting of minds, riffs and cats between Manchester’s Ten Foot Wizard and London’s Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters brings four tracks – two per band – and goes so far as to find the groups collaborating on the former’s “Get Fucked,” which opens, and the latter’s “Dunkerque,” which begins their side of the 7”, as vocalists The Wailing Goblin (of Chubby Thunderous) and Gary Harkin (of Ten Foot Wizard) each sit in for a guest spot on the other band’s cuts. Both bands also offer a standalone piece, with Ten Foot Wizard digging into heavy rock burl on “Night Witches” and Chubby Thunderous blowing out gritty party sludge in “Nutbar,” which rounds out the offering, and between them they showcase well the sphere of the UK’s crowded but diverse heavy rock underground. Kind of a niche release in the spirit of Gurt and Trippy Wicked’s 2016 Guppy split/collab, but it works no less well in making its impact felt.

Ten Foot Wizard on Thee Facebooks

Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters on Thee Facebooks


The Acid Guide Service, Vol. 11

the acid guide service vol 11

It turns out that Vol. 11 is actually Vol. 1 for Garden City, Idaho, three-piece The Acid Guide Service, who dig into extended fuzz-overdose riffing on the 52-minute nine-tracker, proffering blown-out largesse even on shorter cuts like the five-minute “Into the Sky” while longer pieces like opener “Raptured” (7:16), “EOD” (9:38) and closer “Black Leather Jesus” (10:04) skirt lines between structure and jams as much as between heavy rock and psychedelia. Proffered by the trio of guitarist/vocalist Russ Walker, bassist/vocalist Tyler Walker and drummer Nick McGarvey, one can hear shades of Wo Fat in the guitar-led expanse of “Rock ‘n’ Roll (Is the Drug I’m On),” but on the whole, Vol. 11 speaks more to the late-‘90s/early-‘00s post-Kyuss stoner rock heyday, with flourish of Monster Magnet and Fu Manchu for good measure in the hard-swinging “Dude Rockin’” and its chugging companion piece, “Marauder King.” Big tones, big riffs, big groove. The Acid Guide Service are preaching to the converted, but clearly coming from a converted place themselves in so doing. Right on.

The Acid Guide Service on Thee Facebooks

The Acid Guide Service on Bandcamp


Skunk, Doubleblind

skunk doubleblind

Professing a self-aware love for the earliest days of heavy metal in idea and sound, Oakland’s Skunk offer their full-length debut with the self-released Doubleblind, following up on their 2015 demo, Heavy Rock from Elder Times (review here). That outing featured four tracks that also appear on Doubleblind – “Forest Nymph,” “Wizard Bong,” “Black Hash” and “Devil Weed.” Working on a theme? The theme is “stoned?” Yeah, maybe, but the cowbell-infused slider groove and standout hook of “Mountain Child” are just as much about portraying that ‘70s vibe as Skunk may or may not be about the reefer whose name they bear. Presumably more recent material like that song, “Doubleblind,” closer “Waitin’ Round on You” and leadoff cut “Forest Nymph” coherently blend impulses drawn from AC/DC, Sabbath and Zeppelin. John McKelvy’s vocals fit that spirit perfectly, and with the grit brought forth from guitarists Dmitri Mavra and Erik Pearson, bassist Matt Knoth and drummer Jordan Ruyle, Skunk dig into catchy, excellently-paced roller riffing and cast their debut in the mold of landmark forebears. Mothers, teach your children to nod.

Skunk on Thee Facebooks

Skunk on Bandcamp


The Raynbow, The Cosmic Adventure

the raynbow the cosmic adventure

As they make their way through a temporal drift of three tracks that play between krautrocking jazz fusion, psychecosmic expansion and Floydian lushness, Kiev-based explorers The Raynbow keep immersion central to their liquefied purposes. The Cosmic Adventure (on Garden of Dreams Records) is an aptly-titled debut full-length, and the band who constructed it is comprised of upwards of eight parties who begin with the 16-minute opener and longest track (immediate points) “Changes,” which builds toward and through a metallic chug apex, sandwiching it on either side with ultra-patient molten tone and soundscaping that continues to flourish through the subsequent “Cosmic Fool” (5:17) and “Blue Deep Sea Eyes” (8:18), the whole totaling a still-manageable outward trip into reaches of slow-moving space rock that whether loud or quiet at any individual moment more than earns a volume-up concentrated headphone listen. The kind of outfit one could easily imagine churning out multiple albums in a single year, The Raynbow nonetheless deliver a dream on The Cosmic Adventure that stands among the best first offerings I’ve heard in 2017.

The Raynbow on Thee Facebooks

Garden of Dreams Records on Bandcamp


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