I’m proud to announce The Obelisk is now sponsored by the All That is Heavy webstore.
This has been a while in the making. Over the years I’ve had various people ask me about buying ads on the site and things like that. Coming from print media, it’s never been something I’ve wanted to do — in fact, part of the appeal of running a site like this is that I’ve never been beholden to outside companies or advertisers in the same way I was during my time in print.
I’ve known Dan Beland from All That is Heavy for nearly a decade, back to his days running StonerRock.com, as well as MeteorCity and of course All That is Heavy itself. He’s someone I’ve felt strongly about supporting in the past — there are numerous Buried Treasure posts dedicated to purchases made from his store — and I still find new bands from All That is Heavy, just as I’ve always done. He’s someone with a deep knowledge of the community he serves. Plus, in not dealing directly with a record label, it’s not like Dan is going to reach out to me and say, “Hey, I’ve got 50 new releases in the store this week and you need to review them all or I’m pulling my ad.” That’s just not the way this is going to work.
We run in the same sphere enough that of course there will be overlap between what I cover and what he carries — the partnership wouldn’t make any sense otherwise — but the editorial integrity of this site is paramount to me and I have it in writing from Dan that there will be no pressure toward anything in particular from that end. Truth is he doesn’t really have time for it and neither do I. We’re both one-man operations trying to make our day as productive as possible. To wit, he doesn’t know I’m putting this post up and I doubt very much he’d care either way if he did. In all likelihood, this will be the last time I post about it, but I thought you should know what was up.
You may have noticed the link at the top of the page that looks like this:
Click through on that and you’ll get a code allowing you 15 percent off anything you order from All That is Heavy.
We’re on a six-month trial and either of us can back out at either time, so maybe this’ll last and maybe it won’t. I’ve always tried to do new things with The Obelisk. This is another extension of that, and like all the rest, we’ll see how it goes.
Thank you for your continued support and all the best,
Posted in Features on December 1st, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Welcome to The Obelisk’s Top 20 of 2016 Year-End Poll!
Maximum participation is welcomed and encouraged. By now you know the rules, or if you don’t I’m sure you can guess. Everyone contributes a list of their favorite releases of 2016. I don’t care if it’s an album, EP, single, whatever. Anything that struck your fancy is cool.
All of those picks are rounded up from the form below — it asks for your email just to prove you’re a human being, so please don’t think I’m keeping tabs or selling info or anything like that; I wouldn’t know how even if I wanted to — and will be tabulated at the end of the month. For the last few years, we’ve used a point system wherein a 1-4 ranking is worth five points, 5-8 worth four, 9-12 worth three, 13-16 worth two and 17-20 worth one. Raw votes are of course also counted, and the results from both counts will be posted on New Year’s Day, along with all the lists contributed.
I had a pretty good idea last year what the number one was going to be. What’s 2016’s pick? Not a clue. I’ve got my own list in progress and will be adding it to the poll as well, but I’m dying to see what everyone chooses and what wins out. More than ever it seems there could be multiple options, so if there’s something you feel strongly about, make sure it’s high on your list to get those extra points.
You have my sincere appreciation for contributing your list, and any sharing of the link or commenting or anything else is welcome.
This is meant to be a conversation and a good time, so let’s have at it:
THE POLL IS CLOSED. THANKS TO ALL WHO ENTERED!
Thanks as always to Slevin for his invaluable assistance in putting this poll together, and to you for reading and taking part in this ongoing experiment. Let’s make this the biggest poll yet.
That is a span of eight months and 18 days, 37 weeks and three days, or 262 days total. Of those, if we take out an average of two days not-posting per week to account for weekends, that leaves 188 days on which posts went up between then and now. I’ve never been much for math, but 1,000 posts divided by 188 days is 5.3 posts per day, and that sounds about right. Easily the fastest pace I’ve ever gone with this site.
And in that span, I can only really begin to tell you the strange turns my existence has taken. I’ve dropped over 140 pounds. I’ve had surgery. I’ve released a book. I’ve changed jobs. I’m getting ready to potentially move again. I’ve hosted The Obelisk All-Dayer, been to fests in Arizona and the Netherlands, Maryland and Norway, and heard from and met more awesome people than I could ever hope to properly thank along the way. That’s this year. Not even done yet with it. To say the least, it’s been a time.
A question I get asked a lot when talking to people who know the site is where I find the hours to do it. I usually mumble out something about how it doesn’t take that long, but the truth of the matter is The Obelisk occupies a significant place in my life. Significant. It has become my only outlet for writing — acknowledging that makes me want to run a full-site backup immediately — and while I don’t at all regret the way it’s consumed my being, that doesn’t change the fact that those are hours I’m not spending with family, at shows, working, or doing the other stuff regular people who don’t do this manage to do.
When it comes to The Obelisk, I have no regrets. I’ve said all along this site is a work in progress and it will continue to be until it’s done. I’ve been so lucky to be able to connect with an international community of passionate, thoughtful people, and while others get hit with racist bullshit on the internet by the minute, the most I have to deal with is obnoxious show posters and album covers with cartoon boobs on them popping up in my Facebook feed. All things considered, that’s getting off pretty light. I’m extraordinarily fortunate, and hugely grateful.
I wasn’t sure I really believed it even after I opened the box that contained the physical copies of my first collection of short stories and poems, Electroprofen, and with an April 22 release date set through War Crime Recordings (or should that be War Crime Publishing?), I’m not sure I believe it now. But it’s true nonetheless. It’s a thing that’s happening and which has happened. I have a book. Took me long enough.
The pressing is limited — 300 copies only — and it brings together stories and poetry from the past several years, written on the side while I was working on this site. Some of it is loosely related to music, but mostly it’s just fiction, stories I made up about monsters or aliens or whatever. I hope if you read it you find it suitably weird and don’t worry about what’s real and what isn’t. That’s missing the point.
This project wouldn’t have happened without the good people at War Crime. Thanks to Steve Joh, Steve Murphy, Sanford Parker and Bruce Lamont, as well as to Adam Burke, whose back-to-front gatefold cover still blows me away. Thanks as well to my wife, to whom the collection is dedicated along with my grandmother, and to Kevin Catalano, who graciously gave the final read before it was all sent off to press.
Preorders are now available through War Crime, I’ve been instructed to sign all the copies, and if you get one in and take the time to read (not much time; it’s a short collection at 70 pages), I hope you enjoy. I get asked frequently by people how they can support the site. Placing an order for a book would be a way to genuinely and directly do that, and hugely appreciated. If you’re anywhere that Kings Destroy’s current tour with Bongzilla, Lo-Pan and Black Cobra is headed, they’ll have copies available at their merch table as well.
As always, thank you for reading and for your support.
Posted in The Numbers on January 29th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Seven years. Seven years! That’s longer than any job I’ve ever had. When it came around on the calendar, I almost didn’t believe it, like there was no way 2009 could’ve been so long ago.
This one has been on my mind a while, I won’t lie. Seven years is not a short amount of time, and I’ve had to kind of sit with it, chew on it, think about what The Obelisk has come to mean to me and what I’ve gotten and continue to get out of doing this. Seven years ago, when I put up the first post, I had no idea what this thing would become, or how long it would go. I still don’t.
But a couple years ago, it really started to sink in to me that this is probably as far as I go in terms of any kind of meaningful contribution. For better or worse. I’m 34 years old. If I was going to wind up working for some big-time rock mag (or hell, a big-time rock site), it would’ve happened. If I was going to be in a band that made a lasting impact through touring or album releases, it would’ve happened. I’ll never own that bar I’ve spent so much time and effort daydreaming about. Not that I necessarily want to do anything else — except own that bar, which I definitely want to do — but what I’ve got is this site. It’s not perfect — it’s needed a redesign for at least the last two years, the radio breaks, and I’ve still got HeavyPink singles to get rid of — and I think for a lot of people who come here it’s just an obnoxiously wordy place to find the name of a band and then click off to their Facebook or Bandcamp page or whatever, but it’s all I have. I’m proud of what I’ve done here, it’s just bittersweet to see these things in the light of seven actual years of my life. If The Obelisk has been of some use to you, I’m exceedingly grateful. I’m going to keep it going for as long as I can.
I have a few ideas I want to kick around and a few things I want to say to mark this occasion. If you have any feedback on any of it, I’d love to hear it in the comments:
The Obelisk All-Dayer
I can’t tell you what a thrill it was to confirm Mars Red Sky as the first band for the first-ever The Obelisk All-Dayer, to be held Aug. 20, 2016, at Saint Vitus Bar in Brooklyn. I’ll probably announce another band in the next two or three weeks, but really, I want to stress that this isn’t a fest the way they normally go. I want it to be a party where everyone’s invited, everyone enjoys themselves, nobody gets harassed, nobody gets on anybody’s shit, everything’s chill. No drama, or at least as little drama as humanly possible. I want it to be a good time. If it’s a good time, I’ll be happy with it. If you haven’t bought one and/or want to support this site in any way, tickets are available here. The Facebook event page is here.
The Obelisk Presents
Next month I travel to Arizona for the Borderland Fuzz Fiesta. Way stoked on that. I’m helping present Heavy Metal Parking Lot 3 at SXSW. You may have noticed The Obelisk logos on posters for Maryland Doom Fest. I’ll be there as well hopefully come June, and of course April is Roadburn and not that I’m presenting it, but I have that warm going-home feeling knowing I’ll be back there. You might recall last month I presented a Kind show at the Vitus Bar. I’d like to start doing more of that kind of thing — and not just in New York. I mean around the world. I’ve hesitated in the past to associate The Obelisk with individual gigs, but if you’ve got a show and I think it’s cool, I’m all about it. I’d like to install a widget in the sidebar for upcoming gigs presented by the site, and I’d love to have that be as worldwide as humanly possible. How awesome would it be to have The Obelisk present a gig at Truckstop Alaska in Sweden? Or The Black Heart in London? Or some West Coast basement? I might not be able to be there, but I could post about the show in advance and at least give it a plug that way. Seems like it could be a really cool thing, and a kind of writing I haven’t done much of to-date.
Speaking of writing, I’m happy to announce I have a book coming out. It’s called Electroprofen and the cover is by Adam Burke. Here it is, with the back on the left and the front on the right:
It’s being pressed up through War Crime Recordings (with much thanks to Steve Murphy) and is a collection of short stories. Not music-related writing, fiction, but hopefully an otherworldly enough vibe one way or another that you get what I’m going for. The layout is being done now, hopefully it will be ready to go in Spring. So probably Summer. I’ll keep you posted either way. Preorders soon.
And speaking of preorders, thank you once again to everyone who put one in for a t-shirt or a hoodie from that sale in December. The last of the orders went out this past weekend and I’ve so far only heard from one person who probably should have his stuff who doesn’t, so yeah, that seems like a decent turnout. Merch wasn’t something I particularly wanted to do — frankly, if it’s not going to make me enough money to live on (and it’s not), I don’t see the point — but it turned out fine and I’ll probably do it again in another year or two. Not before. I’ve been hit up a couple times by people who missed the sale. Sorry. It wasn’t intended to be a permanent thing.
I’ve been pretty happy over the last year with how the scope of how a review happens around here has broadened. Between the four Quarterly Reviews, track premieres, album streams and so on, I’ve enjoyed the challenge of not doing the same thing the same way all the time. I’d like to have more time for interviews. I’m doing the best I can in that regard, but it’s an area I hope to pick up and expand on in 2016. Haven’t yet — actually I got blown off last Friday for one, and sorry, but my new policy is I don’t call back. If you want me, I’m not exactly inaccessible between this site and social media. Time is short, which brings us to…
Since last May, I’ve worked a full-time job in addition to doing this site. It hasn’t always been easy, particularly at the beginning and particularly for longer features — all the lists in December just about killed me — to find a balance between prioritizing the work I do for money and this site, which at this point I don’t think I could stop doing even if I wanted to. Which I don’t. But where I’ve felt the impact most is in my ability to go to shows. Not just that I have to get up in the morning to go to work, but I commute well over two hours driving every day and after that, I’ve got about zero energy left for going out, especially since any show, just about anywhere, requires another hour on the road. Most nights, I’m dragging ass up to bed, let alone rocking out at the club. I’d like to get to more shows, but please know that whether I do or I don’t, I’m doing as much as I can do with the life situation I’m currently in. I think it’s probably the same for a lot of people, and until someone wants to come along and give me $40k a year to run this site — not holding my breath — it’s the way it has to be. Thank you for your understanding.
And thank you most of all for your continued support. I know there are people who’ve just found out about The Obelisk or who have come and gone. That’s fine. Nothing lasts forever. But at this point there are people who’ve stuck around for years and it absolutely amazes me that someone would do that. I’m humbled to think about it, and I appreciate it deeply. Thank you so much. This hasn’t been an easy year on any number of levels, and there are days where it’s this site carrying me through, so please know that I mean it when I say thanks.
I think I’ll leave it there for now. There’s a lot still to do today, and I wouldn’t want to be accused of lingering too long. Thank you again for supporting this site. Here’s to seven years and the next one already underway.
Posted in The Numbers on January 13th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
I don’t want to dwell too long on it because there’s a lot to do today, but this is post is number 7,000 published on The Obelisk. Some people know, some people don’t, I doubt most care, but this site is run by one person — me; hi — and I’m responsible one way or another for all the content that’s been put here in those 7,000 posts, whether that’s news, a review, a guest column, an interview, whatever it is. To have done this long enough to hit a marker like that is, frankly, staggering.
We’re closing in on an anniversary as well, so I’ll save some of the state-of-the-site stuff for that, but I just wanted to take a second to express to anyone who sees this how incredibly grateful I am for all the support I’ve received as The Obelisk has continued to grow, change and ultimately become something much, much different (and much more time-consuming) than it was when it started those 6,999 posts ago. I try to say “thanks for reading” as much as I can, but please know that I mean it each and every time. At this point, there are people who’ve been reading this site for years and people who just found out about it a week ago, and I hope it will keep growing and keep expanding its reach, hopefully proving useful to those who check it out.
Because that’s the whole idea, right? As attached to this process, this weird ongoing thing, as I am, it’s not about me, or about writing. For the people reading it, it’s about music, and that’s how it should be. I’m gonna get back to all of that in a minute, but before I do, thank you again for your role in making this project special, to me and I hope to you as well. I wouldn’t be able to keep it going without your support.
Posted in Label Stuff on December 31st, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
The above image was posted via Instagrammophone yesterday by Made in Brooklyn Silk Screeners, and like Fidel Castro holding up a newspaper, it’s definitive proof that merch for The Obelisk is a real thing, happening right now, on this planet where we live. I wasn’t sure for a while if I believed it myself.
We wound up with over 100 orders for shirts and hoodies between the two designs by Harley and J and Alexander von Wieding, and nearly 150 items purchased in the one week that they were available. I got a sweatshirt for myself for around the house — don’t think I could really wear it out — and The Patient Mrs. got a couple shirts too.
Made in Brooklyn is doing the pressing in Brooklyn — duh — and they’ll be picked up by the aforementioned The Patient Mrs. on Jan. 7. That’s next Thursday, and my plan is to spend probably the better portion of next weekend putting orders together to go out asap. Frankly, I don’t want the stuff hanging around for any longer than it needs to be. Space is a premium as it is.
I got the invoice yesterday from the printing job, and it looks like between that and a generous holiday donation toward the cause from my mother I’ll be able to purchase a new camera, which wasn’t my goal when I started out to make merch for The Obelisk, but kind of became the obvious thing to do with whatever cash came in. I’ve had my eye on a Canon 5D Mark III long enough, and it’s my hope that getting one makes this site an all-around stronger, more quality outlet, at least as far as photography goes.
Thanks one more time to everybody who placed an order for a shirt or hoodie. I don’t know when or if I will do another run of merch. It’ll be at least two years if I do it at all, and by then who knows what the situation will be? Maybe all shirts will have circuits in them to monitor heartrate and steal your data to sell it back to you in the form of targeted advertisements and the little guy will be priced out of the market because of semiconductor costs.
I’m just saying, we don’t know what the future will bring, so I appreciate everyone who stepped in with bigtime support in the present. It means more than I can say, and I hope you’ll continue to show love to MiBK, Harley and J, and Alex von Wieding.
Posted in Features on December 29th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster
Please note: This list is not culled in any way from the Readers Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2015 to that, please do.
What’s a short release? Anything that’s not a full-length. I’ve done this list in the past and given a small list — The Top 20 EPs, Splits, Demos and Singles, or whatever — but “Short Releases” seemed more concise, and believe it or not, that’s something I shoot for.
Essentially, what we’re taking a look at here is everything else a band might put out in a given year. No question that albums are where the greatest impact is made over the longer term, but from landmark 7″s to EPs that provide crucial experiments or serve notice of bands solidifying their sound or marking pivotal first impressions, the shorter offerings have tremendous value, and it’s worth considering them on their own merit, rather than in comparison to LPs directly.
I know for a fact that there are releases I’ve missed here. Particularly among the Bandcamp-only demos, there’s just so much out there that for any one person to keep up with all of it is even more impossible than it’s ever been before. Before you berate me immediately with, “Hey you forgot X Band!” and start throwing tomatoes at your computer or mobile device screen, please keep in mind The Obelisk is run by a single individual and there are only so many hours in the day. As always, I do the best I can.
Here we go:
The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Short Releases of 2015
1. Foehammer, Foehammer EP
2. Mos Generator & Stubb, The Theory of Light and Matter Split
3. Sun Voyager, Lazy Daze EP
4. All Them Witches, A Sweet Release
5. Geezer & Borracho, The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter 1 Split
6. Fatso Jetson & Farflung, Split
7. Eggnogg & Borracho, Sludgy Erna Bastard Split 7″
8. Shroud Eater, Face the Master EP
9. Bedroom Rehab Corporation, Fortunate Some EP
10. Stars that Move, Demo Songs
11. Wight, Helicopter Mama 7″
12. Thera Roya, Unraveling EP
13. Shatner, EP
14. Cities of Mars, Cyclopean Ritual EP
15. Pyramidal & Domo, Jams from the Sun Split
16. Sandrider & Kinski, Split
17. Mount Hush, Low and Behold! EP
18. Godhunter & Amigo the Devil, The Outer Dark Split
19. Groan, Highrospliffics EP
20. Rozamov & Deathkings, Split
The Sunburst EP by Valley continues to resonate, as do splits from Goya & Wounded Giant and King Buffalo & Lé Betre. plus Derelics‘ Introducing, Time Rift‘s demo, the Carpet 7″, Watchtower‘s EP, Eternal Black‘s debut demo, Dorre‘s half-hour single One Collapsed at the Altar, and Mount Desert‘s two-songer all deserve serious consideration, as well I’m sure as many others.
It’s something of a break in routine for me to put any kind of debut in a top spot (other, of course, than on the list of debuts), but Foehammer simply would not be denied. The Virginia trio’s three-song EP release on Grimoire Records (LP on Australopithecus Records), it was a self-titled that seemed to be telling you the name of the band twice as if in a warning against forgetting it. And that warning was one to heed. Foehammer‘s first outing brought the Doom Capitol region to new heights of extremity, and while at over half-an-hour long it could’ve just as easily have been called a full-length, part of the overarching threat is what the band will bring to bear when they actually get around to their first LP.
A good number of splits included here, with Mos Generator and Stubb‘s The Theory of Light and Matter (HeviSike Records), Geezer and Borracho‘s The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter 1 (launching a series for Ripple Music), Fatso Jetson and Farflung‘s joint release (on Heavy Psych Sounds) and Eggnogg and Borracho‘s Sludgy Erna Bastard (on Palaver Records) all cracking the top 10. No coincidence that Washington D.C. heavy riffers Borracho show up twice in that mix. As Pyramidal and Domo‘s blissful Jams from the Sun, Sandrider and Kinski‘s one-two, Godhunter and Amigo the Devil‘s Battleground Records collaboration and Rozamov and Deathkings‘ joint single feature between #11-20, a total of eight out of the full included 20 releases here are splits. Last year it was only five.
Whether that means the form is growing in an attempt to capture fickle social-media-age attention spans while cutting individual vinyl pressing costs, I couldn’t say — likely a combination of the two and more besides — but it’s noteworthy that a split is more than just a toss-off, between-albums castaway at this point, something for songs to later be included on rare-tracks comps. One could easily say the same of EPs as a whole. To that end, Sun Voyager‘s Lazy Daze was a brutal tease for the NY psychgaze outfit’s first album, hopefully out in 2016. And while All Them Witches‘ A Sweet Release was over 50 minutes long — longer, actually, than their Dying Surfer Meets His Maker LP, which was also issued this year — they considered it an EP/live collection, and that indeed proved how it worked best, immersive though its stretch remained.
Shroud Eater and Bedroom Rehab Corporation both turned in impressive outings that showed marked progression from their last time out, while Shatner‘s first batch of tracks tipped off a songwriting process well-honed and Stars that Move, Cities of Mars, Thera Roya and Mount Hush — I’d put Mount Desert in this category as well — had compelling outings that, like Foehammer at the top, showed much potential at work in formative sounds. Not to be forgotten, Wight‘s Helicopter Mama 7″ gave listeners a heads up on the funkified stylistic turn their upcoming full-length, Love is Not Only What You Know, will take even further, and UK stoner miscreants Groan proved once and for all that, along with logic and reason, a constantly changing lineup can’t hold back their good times.
Like I said — like I always say — if I left something out, let me know about it in the comments. Really let me have it. Call me a jerk. It’s cool. I can take it.
Please note: I can, in no way, take it.
Still, if I left something/someone out, I hope you’ll let me know. And please don’t forget that if you haven’t yet, you can still contribute your list of 2015 favorites to the year-end poll until Dec. 31. EPs, LPs, whatever, however many, it doesn’t matter. All entries are welcome there.