Friday Full-Length: The Machine, Solar Corona

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 5th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Some bands you go into seeing knowing nothing about them and wind up buying all their albums. That was the case with Netherlands trio The Machine and I. It was the Afterburner for Roadburn 2010 (review here), the chill comedown/get-back-to-reality ease-out that the festival used to have before its lineup also got too crowded and they gave up the ghost and just made it another day of the festival proper, Roadburnout be damned. The Machine had released Solar Corona — their second album — in 2009 through Nasoni Records, and I hobbled my long-since-defeated ass upstairs at the 013 venue to what used to be known as the Bat Cave before the place was redone. Lo and behold, there were guitarist/vocalist David Eering, bassist Hans van Heemst and drummer Davy Boogaard jamming away in unassuming fashion to a not-quite-packed room, absolutely killing it for those not watching Eyehategod next door.

So yes, it was imperative to pick up the records. Solar Corona followed the three-piece’s 2007 debut, Shadow of the Machine, and was the point at which they really began to move into their own place in terms of sound, finding a take on heavy rock that was warm in tone and jammy in a way that, a decade later, feels like an early-adoption of the mindset Colour Haze brought to their own work of that era, warm of tone and brimming with an exploratory spirit. The album ran 66 minutes long, and so was a considerable undertaking, but its most extended pieces “Caterpillar’s Mushroom” (14:41), “Jam No. Phi” (11:11) and the closing “Moons of Neptune” (17:03) — and even the opening title-track (9:55) — served up some of its most satisfying and immersive material. Eering‘s vocals came and went, but were mellow enough consistently to be part of the overarching flow the band brought together, and the uptempo desert rock kick of “X.” (2:47), the percussion-laced aside “Interstellar Medium” (4:20) and the subdued heavy blues of the penultimate “Infinite” (6:22) did much to balance out those larger pieces surrounding, cleverly interspersed between them as they were. This gave Solar Corona a more linear impression to its CD release, and whatever arguments one might want to make about analog warmth and this or that, the fact that you could put on Solar Corona and just drift for an hour certainly had an appeal. Still does, I’d happily argue. Kind of why we’re here.

The Machine were happening at what turned out to be a crucial point for European heavy psychedelia. The the machine solar coronagenerational turn had begun a few years earlier, but as it was advanced through social media, The Machine arose as part of a new crop of bands ready to take on the mantle of the style as the first of a new cohort to take influence from heavy rock and spacey jams. Their sound could be stripped down to essential hook-based rock structures or as expansive as the wind crying Mary on “Jam No. Phi,” and its tone therein was classic enough to nod to greats past and then-present even as the group brought their own personality and chemistry to the mix. It was a question of vibe, and Solar Corona had an hour-plus of vibe waiting for anyone who might come looking for it. Eering‘s solos led the way and van Heemst and Boogaard made for a classic rhythm section in holding down a central progression and letting the guitar meander as it did, while at the same time giving cuts like “Infinite” and the driving “X.” their sense of movement and the force of their impact. It was a special moment, and The Machine were a big part of why.

When I saw them, they were mere months away from signing to Elektrohasch Schallplatten in Oct. 2010 for the 2011 release of their third album, Drie (review here). They would be contemporary to fellow Netherlander trio Sungrazer on the label and end up putting out a split (review here) and touring together in 2013. By then, The Machine had proven themselves a highly productive band, releasing their fourth LP, Calmer Than You Are (review here), in 2012. It was easy to see the two at the forefront of a wave of heavy psych just beginning to make its mark on the greater European underground, and indeed maybe they were. Still, it was Solar Corona that stood as the foundation of making that happen, in combination with The Machine‘s ultra-engaging live performance and the burgeoning persona in their songs. Listening now to “Caterpillar’s Mushroom,” it doesn’t sound dated for the 10 years that have passed since its arrival, and if anything, I’d only be glad to have its meandering explorations come in for a review if it did today. I kind of feel like I’m doing myself a favor in writing about it, to be honest.

First time I heard this record was on the train to the airport back from Roadburn. I loaded it into my portable CD player, put on my headphones, and let fly from Tilburg to Amsterdam, and by the time I got to the wall of fuzz finish in “Solar Corona,” it was safe to say The Machine were onto something. They would ultimately move beyond the sound that defined Solar Corona and Drie, bringing in more elements from noise rock on Calmer Than You Are, 2015’s Offblast! (review here) and 2018’s Faceshift (review here), the latter of which was the first outing to be released through their own imprint, Awe Records, but still hold onto some of the jammier stylizations that were so prevalent in the sophomore LP, and though van Heemst would eventually leave the band and be replaced by Chris Both, they’ve retained a characteristic style even as they’ve expanded the parameters of what that style can encompass. They remain a band whose “new stuff” I always look forward to hearing, as well as one who consistently defy predictability. They might jam out their whole next album. I wouldn’t bet either way.

I haven’t seen word on a new one in the works — it’s early yet — but The Machine do have festival dates booked, from headlining at Esbjerg Fuzztival in Denmark next month to a slot at Keep it Low in Munich this October. No doubt more will be added as well, so keep an eye out, but I guess if there’s an underlying point here it’s that Solar Corona was just near the beginning of The Machine‘s creative growth, and not at all the end of it.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

It got really chaotic all of a sudden today. Orange Goblin announced US shows and then Psycho Las Vegas put out the details for their pool party and I basically put the two posts up at the same time. And it’s Friday afternoon. I got in from the YOB show last night in Brooklyn at about 1AM, was asleep soon enough thereafter and up at 5. Did some laptop-futzing and put up the Colour Haze at Høstsabbat announcement and started to sort pics for the YOB review, and then the baby got up, and from there the day has just kind of been a whirlwind.

The above I wrote yesterday, basically swapping out that for doing the YOB review this morning, which I feel like only captured a fraction of how good that show actually was. Package tours, man. I guess they’re a logistical nightmare, but you could have a show with one badass band or you could have a show with three, it seems like an obvious answer to me. More heavy package tours. Make it happen, ye lords of booking. I wanna see Fu Manchu headlining with Elder and Wo Fat supporting by this Fall, or… well… or nothing, but that would be pretty rad.

No notes today. Next week is Roadburn. The note I’d post would only read “out to lunch.” I’ll be reviewing the fest as always and if you’re going, I’m the guy with the cosmic backpack. Might wear some hippie pants too. We’ll see how much laundry time there is this weekend. Still in NJ until Sunday morning and then back north to Massachusetts again. Fly out on Tuesday evening. Get in Wednesday morning. Crash, pre-show, review, sleep, wake up, Weirdo Canyon Dispatch, go, go, go until Sunday night when the universe collapses on itself and I go back to real life. By then I’ll be exhausted enough that it will feel like time.

But of course, I can’t wait to go.

So that’s where we’re at. I of course still have a ton of crap I need to get done before I get on the plane, but, you know, that’s pretty standard. Monday I’m reviewing Bible of the Devil. That’ll be fun. Check back in for it if you have time.

And even if not, thanks for reading. Have a great and safe weekend, and please don’t forget about the forum, radio stream and Obelisk shirts and hoodies.

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2018

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

the-top-30-of-2018

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks in advance for reading. Here we go:

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

30. The Skull, The Endless Road Turns Dark

The Skull The Endless Road Turns Dark

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Sept. 12.

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

29. Foghound, Awaken to Destroy

foghound awaken to destroy

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Nov. 21.

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

28. Orange Goblin, The Wolf Bites Back

orange goblin the wolf bites back

Released by Spinefarm Records. Reviewed June 13.

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

27. Fu Manchu, Clone of the Universe

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

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

26. Witch Mountain, Witch Mountain

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

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

25. Windhand, Eternal Return

windhand eternal return

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed Oct. 3.

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

24. Sun Voyager, Seismic Vibes

Sun Voyager Seismic Vibes

Released by King Pizza Records. Reviewed April 18.

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

23. Forming the Void, Rift

forming the void rift

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed July 27.

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

22. Spaceslug, Eye the Tide

spaceslug eye the tide

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

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

21. Conan, Existential Void Guardian

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

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

20. Pale Divine, Pale Divine

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

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

19. Mos Generator, Shadowlands

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

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

18a. Stoned Jesus, Pilgrims

STONED JESUS PILGRIMS

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 5.

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

18. Backwoods Payback, Future Slum

backwoods payback future slum

Self-released. Reviewed Aug. 15.

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

17. Corrosion of Conformity, No Cross No Crown

corrosion of conformity no cross no crown

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Jan. 3

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

16. Naxatras, III

naxatras iii

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 14.

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

15. Clutch, Book of Bad Decisions

clutch book of bad decisions

Released by Weathermaker Music. Reviewed Aug. 27.

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

14. Ancestors, Suspended in Reflections

Ancestors Suspended in Reflections

Released by Pelagic Records. Reviewed Aug. 3.

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

13. High on Fire, Electric Messiah

high on fire electric messiah

Released by eOne Heavy. Reviewed Sept. 28.

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

12. Yawning Man, The Revolt Against Tired Noises

yawning man the revolt against tired noises

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed July 2.

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

11. Greenleaf, Hear the Rivers

greenleaf hear the rivers

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Nov. 26.

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

10. Gozu, Equilibrium

gozu equilibrium

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

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

9. Monster Magnet, Mindfucker

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

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

8. Apostle of Solitude, From Gold to Ash

Apostle of Solitude From Gold to Ash

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

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

7. Holy Grove, Holy Grove II

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

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

6. All Them Witches, ATW

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

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

5. YOB, Our Raw Heart

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

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

4. Brant Bjork, Mankind Woman

brant bjork mankind woman

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Sept. 13.

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

3. Earthless, Black Heaven

earthless black heaven

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed March 15.

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

2. King Buffalo, Longing to Be the Mountain

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

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

1. Sleep, The Sciences

sleep the sciences

Released by Third Man Records. Reviewed May 1.

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

The Next 20

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

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

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

Honorable Mention

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

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

Special Note

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

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

Best Short Release of the Year

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

  • Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard & Slomatics, Totems Split

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

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

Looking Forward

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

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

Okay, That’s It

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

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

So thanks.

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

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

Everybody have a great and safe 2019.

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Keep it Low 2019: The Machine, Lo-Pan, Desert Storm and Dopelord Added to Lineup

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

This makes me happy for two reasons. First, Keep it Low has been a regular feature of my autumnal daydreams for years now. The Munich-based, Sound of Liberation-helmed festival, aside from regularly featuring hometown heroes Colour Haze — which would be reason enough to travel — consistently puts together quality lineups with a not-overblown vibe that resonates even to my dopey ass sitting across the Atlantic. So first and foremost, I’m glad they’re doing it again. I don’t they were two weeks outside of Keep it Low 2018 this past October before they were setting the dates for Keep it Low 2019, however, so that’s not exactly news if you keep up on social media.

However. The second reason is that Lo-Pan will be there. The Columbus, Ohio, natives are releasing a new full-length in 2019 that’ll be their first since 2014’s Colossus (review here), and as it stands right now, it’s my most anticipated album of the year. I’m glad to know they’ll be returning to Europe to support it in no small part because that means the record is definitely happening. I know it’s in the can and all that, but making tour plans is a confirming sign nonetheless. One doesn’t book such travel lightly, and I don’t imagine this will be the only Fall fest they play. There are certainly a few around, as subsequent lineup announcements will show.

But any way you look at it, the news is good. So here it is:

keep it low 2019 square

Keep It Low Festival 2019

11. & 12. October 2019
Feierwerk München

Early Bird Tickets sold out! Regular 2-day tickets now on sale.

Here come the first 4 bands confirmed for Keep It Low Festival 2019!

We are thrilled to welcome back the trippy The Machine (who played the very first Keep It Low in 2013), and bring for the first time at Keep It Low, the groovy Lo-Pan (Usa), the gloomy Dopelord (Pl) and the sludgy Desert Storm (Uk)!

Regular 2-day tickets can be purchased right here:
www.keepitlow.de/tickets-keep-it-low
(Limited Hard Tickets & Print-at-home Tickets)

https://www.facebook.com/events/250328939168797/
https://www.facebook.com/keepitlowfestival
https://www.facebook.com/Soundofliberation/
https://www.soundofliberation.com/

The Machine, Faceshift (2018)

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Esbjerg Fuzztival 2019: The Machine to Headline, BlackWater HolyLight, Alastor, Psychlona, Domkraft, High Reeper, Saint Karloff and Thunderwhip Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 12th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

esbjerg fuzztival 2019 banner

A slew of lineup adds from Esbjerg Fuzztival 2019, which has said that The Machine will headline, playing Denmark for perhaps the first time in their more than 10 years together. The Netherlands-based trio will take the stage at Huset Esbjerg with their new lineup that includes bassist Chris Both, who recently played his first show with the band stepping into the role. The fest has further filled out its two-day lineup with the likes of Alastor and Domkraft from Sweden — the latter of whom seem like they’re going to be kind of all over the place next year — as well as Saint Karloff from Norway, High Reeper from the States and many more.

Seems like they’re taking advantage of some bands being on tour at that time for the busy Spring fest schedule — one imagines that BlackWater HolyLight, the latest of these additions, will be on the road supporting their 2018 self-titled debut on RidingEasy, which is one of the year’s best — but it seems to be an awesome conglomeration that, again, I have no idea why they asked me to be involved with presenting. You know I’d be posting about it anyway.

But here we are anyhow. Tickets are on sale now and limited.

Announcements from the fest’s social media follow:

esbjerg fuzztival 2019 poster

We are STOKED to announce The Machine will headline Fuzztival in 2019! No introduction needed! We screamed like teenage girls when they agreed to stop by! First time in Denmark, too! (Fact check?)

Please note: The Machine will be filling in for Spelljammer, who unfortunately had to cancel their appearance at Fuzztival.

We have been graced with the presence of the daughters of fuzz. Blackwater Holylight confirmed for Fuzztival 2019!

Let the mojo rise! Psychlona added to the bill! Having just released their vinyl on the danish label Cursed Tongue Records they have set out to prove there’s a desert in ye olde England! The groove is real!

Next on the bill: Domkraft. Wielding a mindbending soundscape of obeliskian riff-majesty, Domkraft discharge layer upon layer of crushing fury, weaving through the wormhole punctures of spacetime.

Fuzztival are proud to present Alastor! Get your occult doom on!

Northern stoners Saint Karloff will be taking the riffs to a whole new stage, with local legends ThunderWhip bringing the old school doom! Ramping up to a great fest!

https://www.facebook.com/esbjergfuzztival/
https://www.facebook.com/events/880111745513014/

The Machine, Rehearsal Video Dec. 2018

BlackWater HolyLight, BlackWater HolyLight (2018)

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The Machine, Faceshift: Finding a New Norm

Posted in Reviews on August 10th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

the machine faceshift

Six full-lengths in, Rotterdam’s The Machine are not only veterans with more than a decade of work behind their 2007’debut, Shadow of the Machine, but participating in an ongoing sonic development that seems to be playing out in real-time on each of their records. Their earliest work — the just-mentioned debut, as well as 2009’s Solar Corona, 2011’s way-jammed-out Drie (review here) — was square in the vein of heavy psychedelic rock, rife with longform jams led by the warm fuzz tone of guitarist/vocalist David Eering and backed by the rhythmic fluidity of bassist Hans van Heemst and drummer Davy Boogaard. With 2012’s Calmer than You Are (review here) and their 2013 split with Sungrazer (review here), The Machine began a process of solidifying their songwriting, condensing ideas into tighter structures. They still had a propensity to jam out, and that continued onto their fifth LP, Offblast! (review here), which tipped the balance even further, showing a budding affinity for noise rock.

To listen to Shadow of the Machine and the band’s latest work, Faceshift, one would hardly recognize it’s the same outfit. At 40 minutes, the eight-track collection is a full 10 shorter than its predecessor, and it’s the tightest collection of songs the band has yet produced. Eering‘s vocals still have a watery effect on them, and he still breaks out a longer solo on the 11-minute title-track, but that’s the only song not in the three-to-five-minute range, and from the 5:50 opener “Crack You” onward, there’s a predilection toward noise rock that makes its way in amid the heavy and desert influences that comes even more forward on songs like the subsequent “Agitate” and the later “The Norm,” “Kick It” and the closing duo of “Zeroten” and “Kamikaze.” Faceshift still has its foundation in heavy rock, but it’s clear the band has grown into something else and are still growing into something else in these tracks. Something all the more their own.

If one were to think of it as a new era for The Machine, I don’t think that would be wrong. And it goes further than just their sound. Faceshift is their first record since Solar Corona not to be released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten, and instead it finds them self-releasing through their own newly-started imprint, Awe Records. Not only that, but it marks van Heemst‘s last performance with the band, and he’s been replaced for live shows, maybe more, by Sander Haagmans (The Whims of the Great Magnet, ex-Sungrazer). That’s The Machine‘s first lineup change in memory, and to listen to anything the band has done is to realize it’s not a minor one; even on Faceshift, the bass makes significant contributions to the overall effectiveness of the tracks. It’s still something of a mystery as to what the future holds, whether Haagmans will join full-time (one hopes), but the point is that the sonic turns made throughout are only part of the story.

They’re a crucial part, of course, with “Crack You” giving way to the punkish “Agitate,” with Boogaard‘s raw snare cutting through Eering‘s solo en route to a cold finish and a bass-led intro to “Heads Up.” Not necessarily as sharp edged as some of what surrounds, “Heads Up” still offers plenty of bite as it works what turns out to be a linear building path of dynamic ebbs and flows headed to a brash final payoff. Their turns are deceptively smooth as they make their way through verses and choruses with guitar at the top of the mix riding the groove of the bass and drums. They finish with a solo that cuts back to the central riff at the end, almost making the listener wish for one more run through the hook, but there’s no time, especially with the 2:41 crasher “The Norm” immediately following. It’s arguably the most singularly intense moment on Faceshift, with a searing lead of wah capping after an assault of drums and sheer rhythmic thrust buries the vocals beneath such that they seem to simply disappear as the song plays out.

the machine

Stop for a beat and “Kick It” begins the presumed end of side A, with a chunkier riff at its core and Eering‘s vocals tapping grunge melodies at around the first-minute mark. Boogaard‘s drums bring a steady bombast to the recording, but he’s never actually out of control; just insanely talented. “Kick It” also has a payoff at the end, but it’s longer after the solo than that of “Heads Up” and it leads to the smoother-edged, fuzzy start of the title-track, which one half expects to be a jam given its extended length and The Machine‘s past patterning, and it is one after a fashion, but here too the “face” of the band’s approach has shifted. They bounce easily through the first four minutes of the song, adding a bit of lumber to the final hook, then crash out on a wash of cymbals and bring the song down to nothing but residual amp hum and dead space only to have the guitar return alone with a line at 4:32. It’s the beginning point for an instrumental freakout that consumes the rest of “Face Shift,” building over the few minutes that follow not to a psychedelic spaciousness, but to an absolute cacophony of guitar, bass and drums all working together in power trio fashion.

The touchstone comparison for it would be Earthless, but really what’s happening is The Machine are building a bridge between their former style and their new one. They push it until shortly before 10 minutes in and then crash out once more, and Eering holds out a guitar line on a long fade that brings it to a close. A stretch of actual silence follows before “Zeroten” bursts in with its own noisy starts and stops, Helmet-style, some highlight basswork from van Heemst and drawling vocals for an extra ’90s-style touch. Using feedback as a weapon, it pulls and careens through a solo in its second half before dipping back to the central riff for a last verse and then caps with harsh noise en route to the finale of “Kamikaze,” which holds a similar riff structure but more of a nodding groove and an open chorus that’s among the most satisfyingly Alice in Chains-y throughout. “Face Shift” was a pretty grand finale in itself, but neither “Zeroten” nor “Kamikaze” feels tacked on, and the latter has a raucous ending of its own to cap the record, returning at the last minute to underscore just how skilled songwriters The Machine have become.

It’s important to highlight the creative growth The Machine have undertaken on Faceshift, but it’s not as if it’s come out of nowhere and all of a sudden they decided to be different-sounding band. They’ve never put out the same record twice, and Faceshift is a step forward from Offblast! much as that record was a step forward from Calmer than You Are and so on through their back catalog. And in much the same way one expects their next one will progress from where they are now. Nonetheless, it’s striking how they bring the diversity of their influences together in an aesthetic they’ve so much made their own, and how they seem to set up yet another avenue of pursuit for their ongoing sonic progression.

The Machine, Faceshift (2018)

The Machine on Thee Facebooks

The Machine on Twitter

The Machine on Instagram

The Machine website

Awe Records on Thee Facebooks

Awe Records on Instagram

Awe Records website

 

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The Machine Post “Crack You” Video; Faceshift Preorders Available

Posted in Bootleg Theater on June 14th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

the machine

Based on what I read in the band’s announcement for their new video and first public audio from their sixth full-length, I’m going to guess that ‘Crack You’ doesn’t necessarily speak for the entirety of The Machine‘s Faceshift from whence it comes. Because they say it doesn’t, and six records in, one can generally trust a band to know the difference. The Netherlands-based three-piece are set to release Faceshift next month through new imprint Awe Records — they were formerly on Elektrohasch — and though “Crack You” features a warm, heavy/desert rock tonality, The Machine over the years have moved beyond their initial post-Colour Haze jammy beginnings and, while still retaining some of that in their sound, have pushed into a more noise-rocking direction. Certainly that was the case on their fifth LP, 2015’s Offblast! (review here), and 2012’s Calmer than You Are (review here) might be the root of that change, coming as it did just a year after 2011’s Drie (review here). Each of their records, from 2007’s debut Shadow of the Machine and 2009’s Solar Corona onward, has been a clear step in their growth. No doubt the same holds true of Faceshift as well.

And though one would hardly listen to Shadow of the Machine and guess where the band would wind up 11 years later, The Machine have yet to release an outing that doesn’t make sense to their progressive arc. That is, especially with songs like “Crack You” at their disposal, the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist/engineer David Eering, bassist Hans van Heemst — since out of the band and replaced for shows by Sander Haagmans, formerly of Sungrazer, who out out a split with The Machine in 2013 (review here) — and drummer Davy Boogaard are able to tie their noisier proclivities to the naturalist psychedelia of their earlier days. Offblast! did so with tracks like “Coda Sun” and “Dry End” and the stretched-out “Chrysalis (J.A.M.).” And while in their album announcement they said it would be their noisiest and harshest offering yet, “Crack You” features an accessible groove and little of the punk-derived duderism that one might expect. Presumably, they get there later on.

Preorders for Faceshift are up now — right now — via Awe Records ahead of the July 13 release date. CD and limited vinyl. The video for “Crack You” features footage in the studio and out, some of it new, with Haagmans on bass, some of it older, with van Heemst, who appears on the record. I’ll hope to have more to come ahead of the release, but you can check out the “Crack You” clip below, followed by the band’s announcement of it and the preorder link courtesy of the social medias.

Dig it:

The Machine, “Crack You” official video

We present you Crack You, the first track of our sixth album Faceshift. The album will be released on July 13 on CD and LP (180gr black and limited transparent magenta). To warm you up we’re starting out with the most easy listening and catchy track on the album.

Pre sale just started, the store is open. Go to www.awe-records.com and visit the shop to make a reservation.

Faceshift will be available on CD and 180gr vinyl (black/transparent magenta).

Orders will be shipped out starting from Monday July 16.

First gigs will be at ‘t Keldertje (event The Machine & Walden & Junkfood Lunchbox) on July 13 (release day) and Stoned From The Underground 2018 on July 14.

The Machine on Thee Facebooks

The Machine on Twitter

The Machine on Instagram

The Machine website

Awe Records on Thee Facebooks

Awe Records on Instagram

Awe Records website

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The Machine to Release Faceshift July 13

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 8th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

the machine

Rotterdam-based psych-jammers-turned-noise-rockers-and-sometimes-still-psych-jammers The Machine have a new album, a new bassist, and a new label. The record, which has been dubbed Faceshift, speaks to the ongoing change in the veteran three-piece’s sound even unto its artwork, and as they passed the decade mark late last year, early in 2018 guitarist/vocalist David Eering and drummer Davy Boogaard bid farewell to bassist Hans van Heemst. I’m not sure if van Heemst plays on the album — given the timing, I think so, but I’m not 100 percent — but with his maybe-temporary-maybe-permanent replacement being none other than Sander Haagmans, formerly of The Machine‘s tour, split and once-labelmates Sungrazer and currently also making music under the guise of The Whims of the Great Magnet, one could hardly argue for a more fitting replacement. That is, it’s not the original lineup of the band anymore, but it’s about as close as they were going to get.

The Machine feature in the lineup for this year’s Stoned from the Underground in Germany. Actually, it was seeing them listed as a part of that bill that made me hit up their Thee Facebooks to find out what they were up to. And if you’re curious, yeah, I’m a little bummed that’s how I’m finding out about their new record nearly a month after it was first announced, but hey, it’s still one to look forward to, as these guys always deliver.

The following is culled together from their social medias and that of Awe Records, their aforementioned new label:

the machine faceshift

Friday the 13th, July. Save the date.

We have a new album coming up! Our new one, “Faceshift” will be released at Awe Records, worldwide distribution by Cargo Records. Click and follow the Awe page to be kept updated about this and potential other future releases.

Tracklist:
01 – Crack You
02 – Agitate
03 – Heads Up
04 – The Norm
05 – Kick It
06 – Face Shift
07 – Zeroten
08 – Kamikaze

Other info will follow soon. There will be a pre-sale and some other funky stuff. The record will be available on CD/LP/Digital. As a limited edition, we’ll have transparent magenta for all the vinyl collectors out there. We will also put some new music online any time soon.

Anyway, we think Faceshift kicks ass and we will play some new tunes at the handful of shows we’ll do during the summer to support this release. We’ll have the very first copies with us on the road by then, some new design t-shirts as well to top if off. A couple of additional summer dates to follow asap. Since Hans left, we’ll have Sander with us to do these gigs.

From Awe Records:

The Machine is back! Heavier than ever before, their sixth full length album Faceshift sees them further carving out their own sonic identity. The successor to 2015’s Offblast! is the band’s most noisy and melodic effort to date. After an existence of over a decade, The Machine digs more into their grunge and noise rock side, without sacrificing any trademarks.

Faceshift was recorded live at Studio De Zolder (as always), with The Machine’s own David Eering at the helm. The outcome is a more focused and punchy album, straying further and further from the stoner and psych jams of the early years. A maturation of the trio’s song writing results in memorable hooks, more room to breathe for the rhythm section and punishing riffs smashing you in the face with a hammer. Album highlight and title track “Face Shift” offers all of these ingredients, while the long instrumental section is a reminder that The Machine is not completely ignoring their heritage. Clocking in at 11:11, it is by far the longest track on the record.

https://www.facebook.com/themachine.nl/
https://twitter.com/themachine_nl
https://instagram.com/themachine_nl/
http://www.themachineweb.com/
https://www.facebook.com/awerecords/
https://www.instagram.com/awerecords
https://awe-records.com/

The Machine, “Coda Sun” official video

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SonicBlast Moledo 2017: Colour Haze, Acid King, Black Bombaim & Bar de Monjas Added

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 31st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

sonicblast-moledo-2017-banner

If you had a two-band festival, and those two bands were Colour Haze and Acid King — and that’s it — no one else — I’d still call it an awesome time. Accordingly, kudos to SonicBlast Moledo 2017 for signing up both acts and setting my mind immediately adrift on a daydreaming course of Portuguese wonders that could be had. Of course, Colour Haze and Acid King aren’t the only bands playing — see also Elder, Sasquatch, The Machine, Monolord, Death Alley, Blaak Heat, Orange Goblin, Kadavar, and so on — but yeah, that’s a special couple days right there when you can get those groups together. “Kudos” is probably an understatement.

The PR wire has the latest:

sonicblast moledo 2017 colour haze

SonicBlast Moledo 2017 | Haze of acid in sight!

With the dates settled for August 11th and 12th, the seventh edition of SonicBlast Moledo closes the two-day lineup with Colour Haze, Acid King, Black Bombaim, Stone Dead, It Was the Elf, Ana Paris and Bar de Monjas !

They’ll be joining the previously confirmed Orange Goblin, Kadavar, Elder, Sasquatch, Kikagaku Moyo/?????, Dead Witches, Monolord, The Machine, Yuri Gagarin, The Well, Death Alley, Blaak Heat, Toxic Shock, Löbo, Vinnum Sabbathi and Holy Mushroom!

Now heading to its seventh edition, the festival located at the small beach village of Moledo, North of Portugal, includes two stages (the smaller one with a pool), free camping (to ticket holders) right by the beach and an amazing ambient for any heavy rock, psych, doom or stoner fan.

Colour Haze

With more than twenty years on the road, almost twenty studio records and a relentless will to keep going, it’s more than comprehensible that Colour Haze are easily considered one of the highest exponents within the European Psychedelic Stoner culture. On their course, they count with innumerable presences throughout all Europe and also on USA, although, they never had the chance to debut on Lusitanian territory. Following the release of their newest full-length album “In Her Garden”, the German trio embraces themselves to descend upon Portuguese lands for the first time ever in their career, received with all the enthusiasm for this seventh edition of SonicBlast Moledo.

Acid King

Formed by the charismatic Lori S. during the year of 1993, Acid King are, without any doubt, one of the classic acts of the Stoner Doom’s genre. Their intense and powerful sound, turn them into one of the most influential band within this musical circuit, only having passed through Portugal once. On 2017, they make their debut on Moledo and we can only wait for a triumphant presence.

Bar de Monjas

The Mexican / German duo Bar de Monjas promises a thunderous discharge of agitated rhythms, always heavy and filled with fuzz. On the road since 2010, they already count with one full-length studio record, two EP’s and an amazing split, released in collaboration with the already confirmed Vinnum Sabbathi.

Black Bombaim

After being obliged to cancel their presence at the last edition, Black Bombaim are ready to return to Moledo to spread their contagious psychotropic Rock.

We also receive the fresh Rock n Roll of Stone Dead, as well as the energetic Stoner Metal of It was the Elf and the return of Ana Parisw ith their characteristic Stoner Rock force.

Tickets Price:
2nd pre-sale : 42€ | From 01/03/17 to 30/06/17
3rd pre-sale : 48€ | From 01/07/17 to 31/07/17
4th pre-sale: 55€ | From 01/08/17 to the event’s final

https://sonicblastmoledo.bol.pt/
https://www.facebook.com/SonicBlast-Moledo-242619262427066/
https://www.facebook.com/events/1818493011695737/
https://sonicblastmoledo.wordpress.com/

Colour Haze, In Her Garden (2017)

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