The Obelisk Presents: The Top 15 of 2015 So Far

Posted in Features on July 6th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

top 15 of 2015 so far the-rhinoceros-albrecht-durer

If 2015 ended tomorrow, I think you’d still have to say it was a pretty good year for heavy rock. Doom veered into a swath extremes — its own subgenres emerging almost one by one in a growing splinter that nonetheless continues to draw water from its roots — while the neo-stoner ignition of the West Coast continued its boom of new acts proffering classic groove. The East reveled in a progressive vision just waiting to be picked up by others, and in Europe, the ’70s traditionalist movement spread ever wider, essentially defining a modern sound in organic sounding, sometimes-vintage elements. Whether you’re going for crushing, oppressive barbarism or cosmos-bound blissouts, it is, in short, a good time to be alive.

Of course, 2015 doesn’t end tomorrow, and there’s still a whole lot of year to come. About half, as it happens. So, as has been the tradition around here for the last half-decade — and seems to be the tradition in a growing number of outlets; not taking credit or claiming to have invented anything, just noting a proliferation — it’s time to count down the best records of the year so far. There have been more than a handful of gems, and since in December I’m planning on doing a top 30, we’ll mark half the year with a top 15. Seems only fair.

Please note that this isn’t purely a critical evaluation, but a personal list, and that what I’ve put on most is as crucial a factor in my ranking as how important I think a given record is. You know the drill by now. Let’s go:

15. Stoned Jesus, The Harvest

stoned jesus the harvest

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 20.

Kiev three-piece Stoned Jesus have a varied stylistic history, and their third outing, The Harvest was ultimately a success in large part because of its complete refusal to be defined. Atop a foundation of quality songcraft, the trio proffered a sound that was not necessarily experimental in terms of anti-structure noise or effects onslaughts, but bold in each of its forays outward from its heavy rock underpinnings.


14. Freedom Hawk, Into Your Mind

freedom hawk into your mind

Released by Small Stone. Reviewed June 26.

It has consistently taken me a while to get a hold on what Freedom Hawk are up to. The steady elements in their sound are held to so firmly that on the first couple listens, it seems to just be more of the same. But the more one digs in, the more there is to be found, and with Into Your Mind, the Virginia Beach trio overcome losing a member to create their most progressive outing to date, flourishes of psychedelia melding easily with their signature style of sunshiny riffing.


13. My Sleeping Karma, Moksha

my sleeping karma moksha

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed May 12.

Five albums deep, Germany’s My Sleeping Karma are an act unto themselves. Their progress has been natural, fueled by a clear, varied sense of exploratory will, and the results on this year’s Moksha were nothing short of stunning. Branching out their arrangements might not be new to them, but the inclusion of horns, drones, percussion, etc., amid the central guitar, bass, keys and drums lent an almost orchestral feel to the flow between the tracks, and one can only hope they continue on their current path, because it is unquestionably the right one.


12. Death Alley, Black Magick Boogieland

death alley black magick boogieland

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed June 8.

So much potential, so much vitality at the heart of this debut from Death Alley. The Amsterdam-based four-piece (interview here) stormed out of the gate with a ripper of a debut, and just when you seemed to have it all figured out, they hit the ignition on a 12-minute full-impulse space rock thrust, a guest vocal appearance from Farida Lemouchi (a former bandmate of Death Alley guitarist Oeds Beydals in The Devil’s Blood) adding both mystique and emotional resonance to what was already a stunning track. With all the riotousness preceding, Black Magick Boogieland readily lived up to its righteous title.


11. Mondo Drag, Mondo Drag

mondo drag self titled

Released on RidingEasy Records and Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed Jan. 8.

Midwestern-turned-West-Coast heavy psych rockers Mondo Drag may have taken their time in releasing their self-titled sophomore outing, which followed their 2010 debut, New Rituals (review here), and was recorded in 2012, but it’s easy to imagine that’s because they wanted the circumstances to be as special as the album itself, recorded with a fleeting five-piece lineup that included the one-time rhythm section of Radio Moscow who wound up leaving to further their then-nascent project, Blues Pills. Even without that lineup shift as a factor, the late ’60s vibe Mondo Drag brought out across the release proved eminently listenable and has held up on repeat visits.


10. Cigale, Cigale

cigale self-titled

Self-released. Reviewed May 4.

A gorgeous, shimmering and melodically resonant debut from the Dutch four-piece Cigale, their self-titled gracefully maintained tonal presence and warmth while also enacting a psychedelic sprawl and grooving serenity that acted like the landscape in which the songs took place. It was a rich, bright vibe, and an utter joy to behold, tracks like “Harvest Begun,” “Feel the Heat” and “Eyes Wide Shut” proving as memorable as they were inviting. Having two former members of the much-missed fuzz rock outfit Sungrazer may have initially turned some heads in their direction, but Cigale‘s first album proved they’re an outfit with their own personality, their own development to undertake, and already much to offer.


9. The Machine, Offblast!

the machine offblast

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed May 28.

The awaited return of The Machine brought the band’s fifth album and a further-refined sense of maturity in their processes, as well as intrigue as to where they might be headed, two dual modes of open-ended jamming and more structured songwriting playing off each other in the extended “Chrysalis (J.A.M.)” and “Come to Light” and the more verse/chorus stylizations of “Dry End” and “Off Course.” To be perfectly honest, I doubt The Machine will ultimately pick one side over another, since if Offblast! proved anything it’s that they can easily handle either or both, but as they continue to grow, it’s encouraging to have their style establish itself as so multi-faceted.


8. The Atomic Bitchwax, Gravitron

the atomic bitchwax gravitron

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed April 20.

First time I pressed play on Gravitron was a real “oh shit!” moment. The last release from NJ stalwarts The Atomic Bitchwax was 2011’s The Local Fuzz (review here), a single-song full-length instrumental riff onslaught that had its charm but was inherently divorced from the appeal of the band’s songwriting. Not only does Gravitron re-factor that in with songs like “Roseland,” “It’s Alright,” “Coming in Hot” and “Ice Age Hey Baby,” among others, but it hits with kick-in-the-ass production force and an all-out heaviness that 2008’s TAB4 showed the three-piece steering directly away from. Just a killer record. Utterly void of pretense. No bullshit. No need to rely on anything more than chemistry, and with the Bitchwax, that’s plenty.


7. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth

brothers of the sonic cloth self titled

Released by Neurot Recordings. Reviewed March 3.

Right now, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth are my band to beat for Debut of the Year, and I’m quite frankly not sure how anyone is going to be able to do it, so if list time comes in Dec. and you see Tad Doyle‘s trio marked out as such, know that it’s been that way in my head for some time. The three-piece of Doyle, bassist Peggy “Pegadeth” Tully and drummer Dave French arrived with a roar, and even when their self-titled let up sonically, the atmosphere remained viscerally heavy. Six years having passed since the release of their first demo (review here), I wasn’t sure there was ever going to be an album, but then to have Brothers of the Sonic Cloth show up and enact such thorough demolition only made it more impressive.


6. High on Fire, Luminiferous

high on fire luminiferous

Released by eOne Heavy. Reviewed June 15.

It can’t possibly be a surprise to have Luminiferous show up somewhere on this list. The seventh long-player by High on Fire had all the rage and bombast in “Slave the Hive” and “The Black Plot” that have become the band’s hallmarks over their 17 years together, but branched out progressively as well in songs like “The Cave” and “The Falconist,” the latter of which was brazenly catchy and about as emotionally direct as the band has ever gotten, their general modus being — and in that song too, just to a lesser extent — a metaphor-laced lyrical approach. That song was a triumph and so was the album as a whole; the second collaboration with producer Kurt Ballou building on the rampaging victories of 2012’s De Vermis Mysteriis (review here) while also showing growth on the part of one of modern metal’s most pivotal bands.


5. Kings Destroy, Kings Destroy

kings destroy self titled

Released by War Crime Recordings. Reviewed April 15.

Hitting more or less concurrent with a vinyl release of their prior album, 2013’s A Time of Hunting (review here), Kings Destroy‘s Kings Destroy is not at all coincidentally titled. Over the course of now three full-lengths, the New York five-piece — about whom I feign no impartiality, let it be noted — have distinguished themselves with a sound neither noise, nor doom, nor heavy rock, but drawing on elements of all three when it suits their purposes with chemistry built from years of being in bands together of various stripes and in various genres. What stands the self-titled out from their past work, in part, is that it is the closest they’ve yet come to capturing their live sound in the studio, and accordingly, it’s a volatile kind of heavy that bends aesthetic to its will rather than capitulating to expectations of any sort. I don’t think they’re done growing by any stretch, but Kings Destroy feels like an arrival front-to-back.


4. Colour Haze, To the Highest Gods We Know

colour haze to the highest gods we know

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed Jan. 6.

This one was almost a sneak-attack. German heavy psych forerunners Colour Haze released To the Highest Gods We Know, their 11th full-length, in Dec. 2014 on CD (the vinyl was in 2015, which is what we’re counting in this instance), with very, very little fanfare of any sort. There was a track premiere here that came shortly after the album was announced, but I think it was officially out less than a month after its existence was made public, which for a band of Colour Haze‘s stature and influence was surprising. Less devoted to grandeur than 2012’s 2CD She Said (review here), it nonetheless pushed the band’s sound forward and found them experimenting in their studio, particularly on the string-quartet-inclusive finale title-track, which offset jams like “Überall” and the laid back highlight “Call” with a rhythmic oddness that was somehow still Colour Haze‘s own. I couldn’t help but wonder where it was leading, but that doesn’t mean it wasn’t masterful in its own right.


3. Goatsnake, Black Age Blues

goatsnake black age blues

Released by Southern Lord Recordings. Reviewed May 19.

Goatsnake didn’t have it easy going into their third album. It had been 15 years since their sophomore outing, Flower of Disease, 11 since their last EP, and five since they first started playing shows again. Expectations? Through the roof. Among heavy rock heads, a new Goatsnake was like seeing the mountaintop. I mean, a big fucking deal and then some. Then the record hits, and there’s just about no way it can live up to the anticipation, but god damn if Goatsnake not only finally put out a third album, but one that was better than I think anyone could’ve hoped for. Hearing Pete Stahl with however many backup singers he had on “Another River to Cross” et. al. was like finding an animal in its native habitat, and between his soul, Greg Anderson‘s riffs, bassist Scott Renner‘s low end rumble and drummer Greg Rogers‘ roll, Black Age Blues won almost immediately and then spent the rest of its 47 minutes throwing itself a victory party. “Elevated Man,” “House of the Moon,” “Jimi’s Gone,” “Grandpa Jones,” almost on a per-track basis, Goatsnake added to the reasons they’ve been so heralded despite a decade-plus’ absence from the studio.


2. Elder, Lore

elder lore

Released by Armageddon Shop and Stickman Records. Reviewed Feb. 19.

On the level of achievement alone, Elder‘s Lore will be the album of the year for many, and there are times (such as right now) when I listen to it and question whether or not it isn’t also my pick for that honor, but wherever it falls on whatever list, far more important is what the Massachusetts/Rhode Island/New York trio manage to accomplish across their third LP’s formidable five-track/59-minute span, songs like “Compendium” and “Deadweight” bridging a rarely approached gap between heavy and progressive rocks while maintaining a flow consistent with the psychedelic vibing of 2011’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here) but grown outward in another aesthetic direction and no sooner setting foot on the ground than seeming to master it in a flurry of blinding turns, sprawling soundscapes and clarity of mind that found perhaps its greatest expression in the centerpiece title-track, the 15-minute “Lore” itself, which I’ve no doubt will stand among if not atop the best songs of 2015 when the year is over and encapsulates the ambition and the corresponding breadth of Elder‘s songwriting, the trio of guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan, and drummer Matt Couto rising as one of the East Coast’s most pivotal acts, with a sound completely their own.


1. Acid King, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere

acid king middle of nowhere center of everywhere

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 19.

I use the word “molten” pretty regularly to describe an album or song that seems to just ooze its way out of the speakers or shift seamlessly between its songs, but Acid King set an entirely new standard for the term with Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere. Their first outing for Svart and their first release in a decade, its 55 minutes were a riff-rolling nirvana of lurching fuzz and tonal excellence, the guitar of Lori S. at the fore accompanied by Mark Lamb‘s bass and Joey Osbourne‘s drums, the swing of which propelled a highlight track like “Coming down from Outer Space” right back into it, while elsewhere on the record, “Silent Pictures,” “Red River” and “Infinite Skies” torched stoner conventions into a new space-biker rock, culminating in the heavy psych of “Center of Everywhere,” which seemed to emanate from the place it was describing, at once empty and full. More than just a welcome return after a long dearth of releases, Middle of Nowhere, Center of Everywhere found Acid King progressed even beyond where they were with 2005’s III, though more than anything else, what makes it my top pick for the year so far is the fact that I can’t seem to walk away from it for too long before going back, and ultimately, that’s what it all comes down to with his kind of thing. I’ve yet to find a standard to which these songs don’t live up.

Honorable Mention:

A few others worth noting. The Sun Blood Stories album (streamed here) continues to resonate. Also MonolordValkyrie, Lamp of the UniverseGarden of WormWo Fat‘s live record, The Midnight Ghost Train‘s Cold was the Ground and Ufomammut‘s Ecate. The Black Rainbows was a joy, as was Spidergawd‘s second LP, and while I still feel like I haven’t given it its due, the Sumac won many over and should get a mention. Steve Von Till‘s solo outing and the latest from Enslaved are worth seeking out as well for anyone who hasn’t heard them yet.

More to Come:

The year’s only half over, which is kind of a scary thought but true nonetheless. Watch out in the coming months for new stuff from BloodcowAll Them WitchesClutchGraveyardZunSacri Monti (if that one’s not already out), SnailUncle Acid, and Kind. The new Kadavar is a sure-fire top tenner, and between that, the potential for a new Neurosis album and stuff like Magnetic Eye Records‘ Electric Ladyland [Redux], there’s no way the book is written on the best of 2015.

So stay tuned.

And if I’ve still got your attention, thanks for reading.

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audiObelisk Transmission 049

Posted in Podcasts on June 22nd, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

Click Here to Download


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

Not that it doesn’t have its super-heavy side as well, what with the High on Fire, the Church and here and there among the others, but this one got way psychedelic way quick. To be perfectly honest, that’s where my head has been at in terms of what I’ve been listening to: more swirl, less churn, more wah, less crunch. No shortage of tonal fuzz or presence here — I think you’ll dig the spaciousness in Brother/Ghost and the ultra-West Coast groove Sacri Monti make their own — it just trips out. And even Church has its psych flourish, which from where I sit only makes it more devastating.

Maybe it’s the heat of summer getting to me — that haze of humidity that settles over the Northeast each June and doesn’t leave until September — but whatever the case, strap in, because this one is a trip just about the whole way through. Once Ecstatic Vision take hold with their peculiar brand of bliss, it only keeps spreading wider until finally collapsing in on itself. I hope you dig some of the turns as it makes its way outward. I think it holds up well for something so molten:

First Hour:
0:00:00 The Heavy Eyes, “Somniloquy” from VA, Kozmik Artifactz Home of the Good Sounds Vol. 2
0:02:35 High on Fire, “Carcosa” from Luminiferous
0:09:46 Ecstatic Vision, “Don’t Kill the Vibe” from Sonic Praise
0:14:46 Brother/Ghost, “Freedom” from Buried
0:19:57 Merchant, “Seismic” from Seismic Digital Single
0:29:28 Make, “The Immortal” from The Golden Veil
0:36:29 Sisters of Your Sunshine Vapor, “Girl of a Thousand Voices” from Desert Brain
0:40:27 Glowsun, “Flower of Mist” from Beyond the Wall of Time
0:47:27 Mount Hush, “The Day She Stole the Sun” from Low and Behold!
0:55:05 Sacri Monti, “Slipping from the Day” from Sacri Monti

Second Hour:
1:01:22 Krautzone, “Spiritual Retreat Part 1” from Spiritual Retreat
1:24:05 Ohhms, “Dawn of the Swarm” from Cold
1:38:29 Church, “Dawning” from Unanswered Hymns

Total running time: 1:57:44


Thank you for listening.

Download audiObelisk Transmission 049


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The Obelisk is Six Years Old Today

Posted in The Numbers on January 30th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

the obelisk 6 years

A lot has changed in the last six years. Not so much my PhotoShop skills, but plenty of other stuff. The first post on this site went up on Jan. 31, 2009. It was a Saturday, like tomorrow. The better part of the few days prior had been spent sorting out a WordPress back end with Slevin, picking a theme, making a header and all that kind of stuff, so I usually just mark the last Friday of each January as the anniversary of the site’s launch. I’m sure there’s a way to figure out the exact time and date it happened, but I’m also sure I have neither any idea nor inclination to find out what it might be. We’ll all live.

My perspective, of course, is skewed, but to me it seems like this site has come to occupy a curious space in the weird, online version of the heavy underground. There are a lot of blogs out there now — more than when I started and there were plenty then as well — and what I think continues to set this one apart is that I have no staff. I doubt everyone who stops by to check out a track stream or whatever or read a press release knows that, but it’s true. Apart from a few tour diaries (and more to come) and a few short-lived columns by others, I’ve done all the writing on this site in the last six years and over 5,800 posts. I’ve been places I never thought I’d go, heard things I never thought I’d hear. It’s become my creative livelihood. If it’s a weekday and I’m not writing, I feel disconnected.

That’s about me, though. I’ve said thanks many times over the years, and I continue to do so without fear of redundancy because it’s important to me on a personal level that you understand how much I appreciate your role in all this nonsense. I’ve thanked readers, my wife, labels, PR firms, Slevin, and many others along the way, but the group I think I probably thank the least is the bands, the people who actually make the music. I’ve also said there are days when The Obelisk is what gets me out of bed in the morning, which is very true, but if the music wasn’t there to start with, if these wonderful people weren’t reaching out to me at a rate that I can in no way keep up with anymore, the impulse would’ve died long ago. Whether it’s your fifth album or your debut EP on Bandcamp, thank you.

And to the rest as well, of course. Readers, both brand new and old enough to be considered friends. EVERYBODY on the forum and EVERYBODY who listens to the radio. The Patient Mrs., who I don’t think really understands this project completely but knows I need it and accepts that, which to me is all the more beautiful. My family for their support, especially this last year. The labels and public relations folk who’ve stuck with me even as my career in print media evaporated one outlet at a time. Slevin for his unending willingness to hold my hand through what must seem like the easiest damn things in the world to him.

The list goes on and is full of names that by now feel pretty familiar, which makes me feel even luckier for the loyalty that implies. If I believed in blessings, I’d call myself blessed. I am instead incredibly fortunate, and this site reminds me of that every single day. Even the weekends.

To six years.

Thank you,
JJ Koczan


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Top 20 of 2014 Readers Poll is Now Open!

Posted in Features on December 1st, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

top 20 of 2014 readers poll (etching by maxime lalanne)

Believe it or not, it’s that time again. Welcome to The Obelisk’s Top 20 of 2014 Readers Poll. Like last year, we’ll be using a point system to tabulate the results, 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, as well as tabulating the raw votes — so rest assured that come New Year’s Day, we’re going to know what was the best album of 2014. Frankly, I can’t wait to find out.

With the Top 20 of 2013 Readers Poll there was never any mystery to it. The number one pick was number one from the first day and never looked back. This time, I feel like there are any number of potential top contenders that could vie for Album of the Year, and in a range of styles. I know I’ve been back and forth on what it should be for my own list — which will be along sometime later in the month — and I’ve got a nerd’s eagerness to find out how some of my own picks stack up to yours.

Thank you in advance to everyone who chooses to participate in this year’s Readers Poll. It’s always kind of nerve-wracking to ask people to type out their top choices, but it’s something that’s gotten bigger every time we’ve done it, and I hope 2014 follows that pattern as well. Any sharing of the link or reposting or anything of the kind is appreciated more than I can say.

Poll stays open until Jan. 1, 2015.

Let’s have some fun:


As always, the Readers Poll wouldn’t be possible without the diligent efforts of Slevin, whose coding talent is so far beyond my realm of understanding that I can only consider it magic. Please also know that your email address will not be used or kept, it’s simply a matter of verifying one-vote-per-address. All data is wiped clean after the poll is over. Thank you again for being a part of this.

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audiObelisk Transmission 037

Posted in Podcasts on June 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!

The apparent hubris I showed in bragging last time around at the silly method by which I transferred audio editing software from one laptop to another came back to bite me in the ass as I put this podcast together. Finally, last night, I turned to Thee Facebooks for assistance and received an amount of input that was both useful and encouraging on a personal level. Thanks to everybody who took the time to help and to recommend alternative programs to the one I was using. I’m by no means technically inclined, so it is very much appreciated.

So yeah, there was a bit of drama in the making maybe — it was right around the Buzzo track that everything went to hell — but I don’t think you’ll get any clue of that from the audio, which has a few unexpected turns in its progression. At least in the first hour. Hour two is huge jams, because basically there was no way I wasn’t going to put that 17-minute-long Wo Fat song in there and I wanted to have some other stuff to stand up to it, but hour one takes a couple different avenues toward heavy rock and I guess I was feeling some bluesy psych this time as well. I won’t spoil it any more than I already have. Hope you enjoy.

First Hour:
The Scimitar, “Babylon” from Doomsayer (2014)
Moab, “No Soul” from Scion A/V Presents Billow (2014)
Monobrow, “Cicada” from Big Sky Black Horse (2014)
1000mods, “Horses’ Green” from Vultures (2014)
Mat McNerney & Kimmo Helén, “Blood and Bone Revival” from The World is Burning OST (2014)
The Atlas Moth, “City of Light” from The Old Believer (2014)
Highlands, “Your Let Down” from Dark Matter Traveler (2014)
Blues Pills, “River” from Blues Pills (2014)
Sea Bastard, “Door Sniffer” from Scabrous (2014)
Major Kong, “Acid Transmission” from Doom for the Black Sun (2014)
Buzz Osborne, “The Ripping Driving” from This Machine Kills Artists (2014)
Prisma Circus, “Napalm” from Reminiscences (2014)
The Heavy Company, “One Big Drag” from Uno Dose (2014)

Second Hour:
Mope, “Doomed to Feed the Ground” from Mope (2014)
Idre, “Witch Trial” from Idre (2014)
Harsh Toke, “Weight of the Sun” from Light up and Live (2013)
Wo Fat, “Dreamwalker” from The Conjuring (2014)

Total running time: 1:58:41


Thank you for listening.

Download audiObelisk Transmission 037


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The Top 20 of 2013 Revisited

Posted in Features on June 12th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Six months ago, nearly to the day, I posted my Top 20 of 2013. Maybe I remember it so well because it took so damn long to put together. Well, now it’s time to basically look back and tear my own picks a new one. To see who’s stood up six months after the fact and which albums have been forgotten.

You know the drill. This is always an enjoyable, if somewhat humbling experience, but if a fierce numerical inventory is what needs to be made, then I’m on board. Here’s how it shakes out:

20. All Them Witches, Lightning at the Door

If I was putting this list together today, this would be a top 10 album. It was pretty recently released when I first did the top 20, but the more I’ve gotten to know it, the more I’ve dug it.

19. Queens of the Stone Age, …Like Clockwork

I went back and revisited this a couple weeks back, as I’ll probably do once or twice a year into perpetuity, but yeah, I’m still way more inclined to reach for an earlier Queens of the Stone Age album.

18. I are Droid, The Winter Ward

Spent a lot of time with I are Droid‘s second outing this long winter, has held up well. A clean, full, professional sound and excellent songwriting. Poppy at times, but that’s the idea.

17. Magic Circle, Magic Circle

This was some of 2013’s best doom. I haven’t gone back to the album a million times, but I do keep trying to track down a Magic Circle gig to see them live again. Hoping for new stuff from them soon.

16. Iron Man, South of the Earth

I felt like when Iron Man got signed to Rise Above, it was a victory for every underrated doom band ever. At very least all the ones floating around in Maryland. This deserved to be on the list.

15. Sasquatch, IV

So good. Sasquatch write hooks so catchy it’s supernatural. IV was a vision of what hard rock should’ve become after grunge died out in the ’90s. Haven’t gone back to it every day, but it remains a killer record.

14. Black Pyramid, Adversarial

This was going to be in my top 20 one way or another. With the breakup of the band owing to members leaving the Boston area, it’s become kind of a sad swansong in my mind, though the songs still make their victory plain to hear.

13. Across Tundras, Electric Relics

Every now and again, I check Tanner Olson‘s Bandcamp page to see if he’s put out anything new. He’s due at this point, but this Across Tundras record has enough staying power to hold me over either way. “Gravel Roads,” man.

12. Borracho, Oculus

I feel like I listened to this record so much I know it front to back, so I don’t even need to put it on. I just press play in my brain and the songs start. Riffs riffs riffs. Borracho proved they could thrive as a three-piece and Oculus blew their first one out of the water.

11. Ice Dragon, Born a Heavy Morning

Fucking hell, I wish Ice Dragon played shows. They’ve got four new CD reissues out since Born a Heavy Morning that haunt my dreams. If I had any money, I’d be telling them to shut up and take it from me.

10. Devil to Pay, Fate is Your Muse

It was a long album, but a good one. I was happy I could fit this into the top 10, and I still am. Charm goes a long way, and Devil to Pay have plenty.

9. Beast in the Field, The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below

I played this in the car the other day and The Patient Mrs. goes, “Can we listen to something less… abrasive?” It seemed to me she immediately understood the appeal of Beast in the Field. This record continues to crush everything in its path.

8. Beelzefuzz, Beelzefuzz

Kind of a similar deal to Borracho. Truth be told, at this point, I’m just glad to even talk about Beelzefuzz‘s self-titled. Seriously. I saw it on the other list and was like, “Yay!” One of the most inventive and individual albums I heard last year. Can’t wait to find out how they follow it.

7. Samsara Blues Experiment, Waiting for the Flood

I had kind of put this one down for a while, but I recently picked it back up and have been listening again. Excellent heavy psych. Put Samsara Blues Experiment in another class of bands as far as I’m concerned.

6. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Mind Control

Probably haven’t listened to it all the way through since I made the Top 20 in December. Some of its hooks continue to resonate though, and I hope Uncle Acid continue to get weirder and more spaced out.

5. Lumbar, The First and Last Days of Unwelcome

I remember making the list and then pushing everything back by one to fit this in the top five. One of those one-time-only records that you’re going to hear people talk about a decade from now, myself included.

4. Vista Chino, Peace

No regrets for having this on the list, but there are records behind it in number that I’ve listened to more since. I hope at some point they do a second one, and I hope Mike Dean plays bass on it.

3. Gozu, The Fury of a Patient Man

Absolutely, yes. I haven’t seen any single band play as much as Gozu since I moved to Massachusetts about a year ago, and I am 100 percent okay with that. These dudes kill it, and these songs have only become tighter and more lethal on stage. Whatever they do next, it’s going to be very, very heavy.

2. Monster Magnet, Last Patrol

Hasn’t quite had the staying power I thought it would, to be honest. I have the vinyl but never got it on CD and I’m sure I would listen to it more often if I had that version. The LP is killer, but there are like two songs per side and that’s an awful lot of flipping for an album that just demands you chill the fuck out and let it take over your mind.

1. Clutch, Earth Rocker

Pretty satisfying to know that if I had to make a Top 20 of 2013 today, this would still be my number one pick. It felt glaringly obvious to me — it was the top of the Readers Poll as well — but some things you just can’t ignore. Clutch added a few classics to their catalog with Earth Rocker, and it felt like even the record’s B-grade material was top notch.

The Top 20 last year actually went to 30 — I think this year I’ll probably cut out the middle-man and just do a Top 30 — but here were the other 10 picks:

21. Blaak Heat Shujaa, The Edge of an Era
22. The Freeks, Full On
23. Luder, Adelphophagia
24. The Flying Eyes, Lowlands
25. Black Skies, Circadian Meditations
26. At Devil Dirt, Plan B: Sin Revolucion No Hay Evolucion
27. Kadavar, Abra Kadavar
28. Naam, Vow
29. Mühr, Messiah
30. Uzala, Tales of Blood and Fire

Most of those look about right. If I was making the list now, I’d put Mühr and Naam in the Top 20, in place of Queens of the Stone Age and I don’t know what else, and just seeing the name of the album there now makes me want to put on that Luder. I still feel like I don’t know the Uzala as well as I’d like to, and I bought that on CD and tape when I saw them last fall.

There you have it. Seems like the original list actually held up better than I expected, so right on. Overall it was a fairly stellar year for new music, though I doubt I’ll be saying anything different in another six months when the end of 2014 rolls around.

Anything you forgot about or anything that dropped off from your favorites last year? I’d love to hear about it in the comments. Thanks for reading.

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This is the 5,000th Post on The Obelisk

Posted in The Numbers on June 2nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

That is a lot of posts. Five frickin’ thousand, and apart from the odd and usually shortlived column from someone else, they’ve all been by me. I’ll be the first to tell you it isn’t all gold, but I’m proud of this site and proud to be passing this mile-marker along the way.

Earlier this year, I celebrated five years since I started The Obelisk at the end of January in 2009. I’ve spent some time thinking since then about what doing this means to me. I don’t think it was ever more in my consciousness than at Roadburn in April just how much the music is a part of who I am and how baseline elemental — air, water, food, riffs — it is. After a month of dragging ass mentally for having lost my last remaining job, to go there and be so inspired felt like being renewed. There’s some comedown obviously as you return to your life and the realities that presents, but I’ve worked hard to retain that feeling as much as possible, and hopefully it comes through in whatever it might be that I’m posting on a given day.

There’s no doubt in my head that without the immense and incredible support I get week in and week out, this site wouldn’t be here. Every comment is appreciated, every retweet, every Thee Facebooks like or share or comment or whatever it is. All of it, really. It sounds like a huge ego trip, and maybe it is, but every time I see someone sharing a post from this site, or having something to say — good or bad — about a review or other piece I wrote, or even if they’re just stoked that a press release I put up has good news, it’s validating in a way that I never expected to come from doing this. When I woke up this morning, the first thought I had was cracking open the laptop and getting the day started. It’s become an important, essential piece of my existence.

And I owe that to your checking it out. If you read every day, if you post on the forum, stream the radio player, if you never read, or if you show up to hear a track stream or something, whatever, thank you. There is a real human being on the other side of these words, putting this together, and it means a lot to me that you find any level of value whatsoever in what I do.

On to 5,001.

JJ Koczan

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

The Obelisk

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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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