The Obelisk is Five Years Old Today

Posted in The Numbers on January 31st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

I don’t think when this site was launched five years ago today I had any idea of what was going to happen with it. The Obelisk started basically because I was newly out of work and didn’t know what to do with myself in the wake of that. I wanted to write. Since the start, I’ve never really known what’s next, and that has continued to be the case over the last half-decade. As milestones have come up, things like adding the forum, adding the radio stream, etc., it’s really only been after the fact that I’ve been able to sort of step back and realize that any sort of shift has taken place. This is one of those times.

You know what’s coming, and though I say it with some regularity, I never quite feel like it’s enough. The internet is built on anonymity. If I’m lucky enough that your eyes are seeing this somewhere around the world, whether it’s Jersey or New Zealand, there’s a decent chance we’ll never meet. If we do, that’s awesome — please  say hi and I’m sorry in advance for being an awkward weirdo — but I know how it is to read a site like this one and have the author be an abstract, shapeless beyond the text presented, not really a consideration. I’m not saying everyone who looks at this page needs to know who I am or anything like that, just that I hope that if you’ve ever read this site before or if this is your first time here, you know that there’s a human being on the other end who is incredibly grateful to you for doing so.

The Obelisk has become a huge part of my life and a huge part of my every day, and five years on, it’s not only an outlet for writing, but a big piece of how I think about my own identity. I never anticipated that, but I’m not sorry it’s happened. I’m proud of this site, what it has managed to accomplish in its time, and I’m thrilled to be able to continue to develop it. I’m amazed at the passionate community that’s developed on the forum, and I think for the five bucks a month I spend to host it, the radio stream is worth the cash for my enjoyment alone, never mind anyone else’s. Thank you. Thank you so much. For checking in every now and again, for reading however often you might, for posting on the forum, listening to the radio, correcting my spelling on somebody’s name or offering suggestions for bands to check out, or to check out your band. For clicking Like or retweeting. All of it. Huge thanks to The Patient Mrs. for her years of rolled-eye indulgence, and to Slevin for his near-constant help in every technical aspect of running the site, from installing WordPress to designing the forum to finding the host for the radio to helping me size the header properly. There are days where The Obelisk is the reason I roll out of bed — over the last five years, more than a few — and I know that would not be the case without the kind of support I have received on every level. Once again, thank you.

I look forward to continuing to say thanks for as long as this lasts, however long it might be, wherever it might go from here, and wherever we might be headed. I’ll probably never be able to convey just how much your support and your involvement is appreciated, but please, please know that it is.

All the best,
JJ Koczan

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

The Obelisk

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audiObelisk Transmission 034

Posted in Podcasts on January 20th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Click Here to Download

 

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

I was all set to pat myself on the back for making a podcast and posting it when someone might actually see it, unlike the last two (033 and 032), which rather impractically both went up on the eve of a major holiday, and then I remembered today was Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Whoops. Seemed like a good idea at the time. Oh well. There’s always next month.

This one took kind of a strange and fun turn in the making and got very languid, very spaced out and sort of dreamy but still heavy in the bottom end. We start out with new stuff from We Hunt Buffalo, Truckfighters and Dwellers right in a row, and I guess that set the tone for a heavy roll that carried through a lot of the rest of the nearly-two-hour span. Not a complaint. I think it flows really well, and of course I hope you do too.

Once again, no real theme, though in addition to the aforementioned, you’ll also find new tracks from Sahg, Papir, Radar Men from the Moon, Pontiak and The Wounded Kings, the latter providing a grim finish after All Them Witches and Black Skies offer prime terrestrial psychedelia. It’s a good mix, all told. It grooves. It nods.

First Hour:
We Hunt Buffalo, “Blood from a Stone” from Blood from a Stone (2014)
Truckfighters, “Get Lifted” from Universe (2014)
Dwellers, “Creature Comfort” from Pagan Fruit (2014)
Salitter, “But I am Not Consoled” from Salitter EP (2013)
Papir, “I” from IIII (2014)
Radar Men from the Moon, “Surrealist Appearance” from Strange Wave Galore (2014)
The Ravenna Arsenal, “The Desert Shows No Mercy” from I (2013)
Pontiak, “Surrounded by Diamonds” from Innocence (2014)
Sahg, “Blizzardborne” from Delusions of Grandeur (2014)

Second Hour:
Doctor Cyclops, “Cobweb Hands” from Oscuropasso (2014)
Mammatus, “Brainbow/Brain-Train” from Heady Mental (2013)
Sun Voyager, “Space Queen” from Mecca (2013)
All Them Witches, “Swallowed by the Sea” from Lightning at the Door (2013)
Black Skies, “Lifeblood” from Circadian Meditations (2013)
The Wounded Kings, “Consolamentum” from Consolamentum (2014)

Total running time: 1:58:52

 

Thank you for listening.

Download audiObelisk Transmission 034

 

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Visual Evidence: New Header Art and Logo by Adam Burke and Christophe Szpajdel

Posted in Visual Evidence on January 3rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

This whole thing came about because I mentioned a few months back that it was a personal dream of mine to have Belgian-born “lord of the logos” Christophe Szpajdel do a logo for this site. I’ve dug Szpajdel‘s work since I first saw it editing a feature about him in Metal Maniacs, in what I like to think of now as “the before time.” Well, Kiffin Rogers of Napalm Christ/Rwake was kind enough to put me in touch and Szpajdel, instead of pointing to the nearest cliff and asking me in so many words to leap from it, was on board with designing a logo for The Obelisk. This was most certainly exciting news.

Now, I like the Skillit header currently on this site. Fucking love it, in fact, and I plan on keeping it in use along with the new design. In its every detail, it excellently encapsulates a lot of the vibe that I enjoy most about this site. However, to ask Skillit‘s work to mesh with Szpajdel — who’s more known for his associations on the extreme end of black and death metal than anything resembling desert rock — would be unfair to both artists. Adam Burke (interview here), however, seemed like a perfect fit, with his watercolor style, deep tones and fantasy influence.

A phrase I actually used in my email to Burke talking about what I had in mind for the header piece: “A land-octopus off to one side or the other’s always welcome by me.” Rules to live by, people.

Obviously, when the finished product came in, I was flabbergasted. Here’s a look at the details of both the header art and the logo. Click any to enlarge.

Header Art by Adam Burke

You ever have a picture in your mind of what you want and then what you wind up with not only is that thing, but is that thing better? Yeah, that’s kind of how it went with this one. The land-octopus, the sunscape, the crags on the left side, Burke absolutely nailed it. I damn near wept when I opened the file.

Logo by Christophe Szpajdel

This is the original hand-drawn version of the logo. You can see the marker marks and the lighter spaces where his stroke lifted. So fucking cool. If you do or don’t know Szpajdel‘s work, he’s an absolute master. It was an honor to email with him, let alone actually have him send this as an attachment.

I, on the other hand, am not at all a master when it comes to graphic design, and though I tried for an embarrassingly long time, I couldn’t get the logo either completely black or onto a transparent background. Outside help was enlisted, and this emerged as the finished version (turned white for posting here — also maybe for t-shirts):

When I put them together — that I could do — this is how it wound up:

The Finished Product

I don’t think I could be any happier with how it all came out in the end of I tried. Huge thanks to Christophe Szpajdel and Adam Burke for their attention and hard work. Please check out their sites/portfolios and support underground art by giving them money and telling other people how much ass they kick.

Christophe Szpajdel on Flickr

Lord of the Logos book on Amazon

Adam Burke on Thee Facebooks

Fellwoods on Bandcamp

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Top 20 of 2013 Readers Poll is Now Open!

Posted in Features on December 2nd, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

I’ve been looking forward to this for weeks. The Top 20 of 2013 Readers Poll is now open! Submit your list of your favorite records from this year using the form below, and at the end of the month, the results will be counted up and a final, overall Top 20 will be had!

There are no restrictions on bands, genres, types of albums, vinyl-only, tape-only, whatever. Anything you want to put on your list, whatever you feel deserves your vote, is welcome. We’re doing things a little different this year in that all the lists will be published along with the results of the Top 20, so that everyone’s picks, however obscure or whatever they might be, can be seen and enjoyed by everybody when the time comes.

The polling is also different in that where an album is placed on your list counts too, not just the raw votes. It requires more math, but it’s for a good cause and should hopefully make the final tally even more accurate.

Fill our your picks below, click Submit, and you’re good to go. Happy voting:

[THIS POLL IS NOW CLOSED. THANKS TO ALL WHO ENTERED.]

As is more or less the case with this whole site, the 2013 Readers Poll wouldn’t be possible without the dedication and coding brilliance of Slevin. It’s his database and his design for the polling itself, and without it, I’d be using an abacus to tabulate results. If you see him at the bar, please buy him a beer and give him a hearty “Thank you sir.”

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Happy Thanksgiving

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 28th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

If you’re in the States, today is Thanksgiving. Like a lot of American holidays, it’s based around some truly strange and generally unlikely myths, but the ensuing consumerist rampages aside, it’s not nearly as exclusionary as Xmas or as war-culture-celebratey as the Fourth of July, so yeah. It’s also just about the only thing in the fabric of American society that encourages gratitude, and I guess that’s not bad either.

The point I want to make is that if you’re reading this, whether you’re in the U.S. or not, then you have my thanks for supporting this site and being a part of what it’s turned into over nearly the last half-decade. I appreciate it, and in the spirit of the day, I’m thankful for it. I feel both like I say it all the time and like I don’t say it enough, but I continue to be amazed at the level of encouragement, whether it’s someone liking or sharing a post on Thee Facebooks or Twitter, leaving a comment, sending an email, whatever it might be. It’s astounding and it means a lot to me personally. Thank you.

Likely I’ll have one or two posts up tomorrow — at least one to close out the week — but whatever weird semi-historical narrative they have at their base, the next couple days are basically to enjoy family and friends, so I’m going to do that. If you’re celebrating or not, I wish you all the best.

JJ Koczan
Holiday Pursuant Taskmaster

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audiObelisk Transmission 031

Posted in Podcasts on October 28th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

Click Here to Download

 

Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!

There was a point during the making of this podcast when I stepped back for a second realized, “This is getting really heavy.” It kind of happened out of the blue, but it definitely happened, and though the thought occurred to me to maybe pull it back and get into some more rocking stuff in the second hour again, I decided instead to just run with it and have fun and go as all-out ridiculously heavy as I could think of. That’s when we get to Beast in the Field‘s 22-minute “Oncoming Avalanche.” I know I’ve had them in before, but if you’re going all out in 2013 releases, that’s where you’re gonna end up.

Plus, I figured there’s plenty of rocking stuff up front, starting with At Devil Dirt and the subsequent riff pushers in the first hour, and the whole thing rounds out with the psych-hypnosis of The Cosmic Dead, so though it’s far out by the conclusion, it does manage to come back from the ultra-weighted tones somewhat. Screw it. I was having a good time stringing together heavy songs. The bottom line of this whole thing is for it to be fun, and I was having fun, so there you go.

I hope you have fun with it too. Once again, we come in just under two hours with a slew of newer cuts and some stuff from earlier this year that maybe got missed along the way. Considering there’s so much pummel, it flows pretty well.

First Hour:
At Devil Dirt, “Don’t See You Around” from Plan B: Sin Revolucion No Hay Evolucion (2013)
Pigs, “Elo Kiddies” from Gaffe (2013)
Mutoid Man, “Scavengers” from Helium Head (2013)
Viper Fever, “Summer Time” from Super Heavy Garage EP (2013)
Sons of Huns, “I’m Your Dad” from Banishment Ritual (2013)
Blackout, “Seven” from We Are Here (2013)
Horisont, “Backstreet” from Time Warriors (2013)
Old Man Wizard, “If Only” from Unfavorable (2013)
Mother Susurrus, “Anagnorisis” from Maahaavaa (2013)
Coma Wall, “You are My Death” from Wood and Wire Split (2013)
Mollusk, “Hollowed” from Colony of Machines (2013)
Sea of Bones, “Failure of Light” from The Earth Wants us Dead (2013)

Second Hour:
Corrections House, “Dirt Poor and Mentally Ill” from Last City Zero (2013)
Rosetta, “Myo/The Miraculous” from The Anasthete (2013)
Beast in the Field, “Oncoming Avalanche” from The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below (2013)
The Cosmic Dead, “Djamba” from The Cosmic Dead/Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Split (2013)

Total running time: 1:59:29

Thank you for listening.

Download audiObelisk Transmission 031

 

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This is the 4,000th Post on The Obelisk

Posted in The Numbers on July 25th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

This one kind of crept up on me. I saw a couple weeks ago we were getting closer to 4,000 posts, but then I guess I forgot to pay attention and looked two days ago and we were there. Time flies when, uh, time is flying.

It’s been a lot of upheaval the last couple weeks for me on a personal level. Buying a house, then not buying it, having to scramble to find a place to live in a state I don’t really know (yet), then finally finding it, maybe not, maybe yes. Yes? I guess so. Seems like it, but that’s hardly the first time. If nothing falls apart and no secret chemical spills come to light, The Patient Mrs. and I will move next Thursday. A week from today.

The point is it’s stressful, and as has become my habit over the last four-plus years, I’ve been using this site as a means for finding some kind of stability in what’s been a teeth-grindingly unstable time. Thank you for continuing to read, to show your support, to be patient in my not answering emails in a timely fashion, to spread links, retweet, like posts, leave comments, whatever it is. Just yesterday, that Monster Magnet stream topped 1,000 Thee Facebooks likes. I try not to define my self-worth by such things, and I know for a fact that the link spreading around has nothing to do with my writing and everything to do with the fact that the song is good and it’s their first US tour in a decade, but this is the internet and I take validation wherever I can get it. So again, thank you.

I never have so I won’t start now to claim to have any idea what the future holds, for me, for this site, for anything. But as we pass 4,000 posts on this site, I’m glad for the things it has been able to accomplish and I have enjoyed watching it become the time-consuming beast it has become. If you’re reading this, then you’re keeping me going, so one more time before I move to the next thing, thank you.

Onward.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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The Obelisk is Now on Twitter

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 8th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

It just wouldn’t be hypocrisy if I hadn’t said it’d never happen. Many things change in four years’ time, and I’ve signed up for a Twitter account for The Obelisk. What does this mean to you? Well, if you don’t use Twitter, probably not a whole lot. If you do, it means you can keep up with The Obelisk-y doings via that most brevity-inducing of social media platforms by using the image on the right or the link below:

http://twitter.com/hptaskmaster

I’ve never been an early adopter of this kind of technology, so if I’m late to the party here, you won’t find me claiming otherwise. Nonetheless, if you’re on Thee Twitters, I hope you’ll take a second to follow along with my many fumbles as I figure out how to use a hashtag — it’ll always be a pound sign to me — and all the rest of it.

Thanks as always for your continued support.

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The Obelisk is Four Years Old Today

Posted in The Numbers on January 31st, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster

I just wanted to take a minute out today to note the fourth anniversary of launching The Obelisk. The time has gone fast. I started this site because I had just gotten semi-laid-off — I’d be fully laid off within days of it going live — and when I put up the first post, I had no idea what it would become or how much of my everyday it would consume. I was like, “Oh, I’ll just put one thing up a day or every other day. Whatever. No big deal.” The fool.

And as I’m noting The Obelisk’s birthday, it seems only fair to single out Slevin and thank him for the last four years of diligent, mostly thankless, certainly without compensation work that he’s put into the site. From helping me that first weekend with registering the domain name and installing WordPress, to designing, putting up and managing the forum, to securing the box that houses the hard drive for The Obelisk Radio and dealing with the flurry of technical issues that have cropped up in the wake of that, Slevin has been dedicated to this site from day negative-one, and I feel lucky to be able to rely on him with issues that otherwise would’ve sunk me before I even started. I wouldn’t be typing this right now without him. Thanks dude.

On a level far less related to CSS customization but still ultimately vital, thanks to The Patient Mrs. for putting up with me talking for the last four years about “having work to do” and then going to post some band’s new video at 10 at night, or being anxious because some review I wanted to write I didn’t get time to write, or having to transcribe an interview, always wanting to listen to someone’s new album at midnight and so forth. I’m not an easy person to be with, and for the life of me I don’t know why she’d bother, but she does and I appreciate it.

Before I started, I said to myself to keep this short, so I’ll end off by thanking you, as always, for reading. I say it a lot, but I’m constantly astounded and humbled by the fact that I can type something up, put it online and someone — even if it’s only one person — gives a crap for what I’m talking about. If you’ve been along for the whole ride (as I know a few of you have), or if you’ve only come aboard recently, I hope you feel welcome here, because you are, and I hope that you continue to find this site useful or entertaining, that you continue to point it out when I screw up, and that you continue to share this passion for music.

I’ve never known what’s coming next with The Obelisk, and I still don’t, but four years later I’m still excited to find out. Thank you for that.

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Visual Evidence: Obelisk Stickers Coming Soon from Skillit

Posted in Visual Evidence on November 20th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

I’ve got 300 of these bad boys on their way from Skillit, and whatever else I do with them, I know they’ll be included with pre-orders of the Clamfight CD. More info about that next week, but until then, check out the sticker design, once again courtesy of Skillit — who if I haven’t said it enough times by now — is the fucking man:

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The Debate Rages: What are the 10 Greatest Stoner Rock Records?

Posted in The Debate Rages on September 5th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

The reason I ask is this: I said a while back I wanted to start some hall-of-fame-esque series of posts covering the classics of the genre, going all the way back to the start. It was — I’ll be honest — an excuse to slather even more praise onto Master of Reality, which I don’t think ever has enough. That never quite materialized, but this whole time I was thinking to myself about what makes an album really great?

There’s so much context involved. When did it come out? What was happening at the time? Where is the band from? What was the response? How influential was it? What made it so special? Who was on it? What else did they do and how much of it was defined by this single album? Never mind questions about what counts as stoner rock and when that began — was it the ’90s or was it when Robert Johnson sold his soul to the devil? — but what is it about an individual record that lets it stand the test of time, and is standing the test of time a basis for judgment of greatness? What about those albums you listened to when you were younger that sound dated now? Are they any less great because you’ve grown out of them?

So I’ve decided to open it up. Everything counts, everything’s in.

If you’ve got a list of 30 essentials or just one you want to add to the others, that’s cool. Let’s put everything out there and see what comes back, what we can agree on, disagree on, whatever. It’s all valid. If you think Welcome to Sky Valley is the best because it happens to be the album you listened to while you went trekking through the desert that one time, awesome. If you think it’s crap, pick something else.

In demographic research, they call it crowd-sourcing, but I’m not even sure what we’re crowd sourcing for, so let’s just have at it. The best of the best. What are the 10 greatest stoner rock records?

I’m looking forward to seeing your picks (and I think I already gave away two of mine). Leave a comment and let’s just have some fun with it.

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This is the 3,000th Post on The Obelisk

Posted in The Numbers on September 4th, 2012 by H.P. Taskmaster

Feels more like 3,002, doesn’t it? Well it isn’t. According to my WordPress dashboard — which I trust the way most people trust gods — this is post number 3,000 since the site went up. I just wanted to take a second and mark the occasion and of course to say thanks to everyone who has read, commented, signed up on the forum, contributed, sent in albums for review, tipped me onto new bands or shared their love of music in any way as we’ve gone along.

It’s been a hell of a trip so far, and I don’t think when I started this site three and a half years ago I had any idea what I was getting myself into (maybe a little), but it’s been great up till now, and as this past weekend proved, there are still plenty of adventures to be had. Thanks so much for being a part of it.

Number 3,001 coming right up…

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