What are the Best Releases of 2018 So Far?

Posted in The Debate Rages on July 3rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

best releases of 2018

In internet parlance, I’m asking for a friend. Except the friend is me, which I think is the whole gag with that anyway. Whatever, you get the point.

Among my several — always charming — compulsions, I keep ongoing notes for this site. I log upcoming reviews, stuff for the Quarterly Review, ideas for things that never manifest — I swear someday I’ll put up that list of the best desert rock songs written nowhere near a desert, so help me — and most importantly, the best releases for the year. Best albums, best EPs, best songs, best cover art. Everything that goes into the year-end lists that come up in December is the product of the whole year’s worth of keeping track.

My notes for 2018 were on my old laptop, Big Red, which was stolen from me while I was in the UK early in May. Some you win, some you lose. I’ve got The Silver Fox these days, but I haven’t been able to replenish my notes to their fullest as of yet.

It’s been tradition around here to do a six-month check-in on the best albums of the year. I could go back through all the reviews and find what I’ve covered and add it to the 20 or so records off the top of my head, but, frankly, that’s no fun. I’d rather see what everyone else thinks.

So instead of telling, I’m taking the opportunity to ask: What are the Best Releases of 2018 So Far?

I don’t care about genre, album, EP, single, demo, live record, whatever. Anything at all you want to name is welcome here. Really. All I’m interested in is knowing what you’re passionate about, and if I get reminded of something I had in my old notes along the way, bonus. I’m still going to go back and dig through the 2018 reviews, but I’m hoping this will be a good time for all.

Again, any picks welcome, and in any number. Top five, top 10, top 50. Please just leave a comment on this post with your favorites and let’s have some fun talking about kickass records.

Oh, and if you want to mention something you’re looking forward to that’s not out yet, that’s welcome too.

Thanks in advance.

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This is the 10,000th Post on The Obelisk

Posted in The Numbers on March 26th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk 10000th post

Well, here we are. It took some nine-plus years, but The Obelisk has finally hit its 10,000th post. This, as it happens, is it.

I told The Patient Mrs. the other day it was coming up and she very reasonably asked me what I was doing to celebrate. My answer: I’ll probably put up a post with a big number 10,000 at the top of it, maybe throw in a “thanks for reading” and then go about my business. That’s pretty much what I plan to do. Today’s a pretty busy day.

But before I dig into the rest of it, I just need to take a quick second and of course say thank you to everyone who has made this possible over this succession of years. The Patient Mrs. first and foremost. My family. To Slevin. My friends and the people in bands and readers who’ve become my friends. The label and PR folks. I’m crass and impatient and opinionated to a fault, and accordingly not the easiest person to get along with. To anyone who’s ever reached out to send me a record to review or even just to hear — “Hey man, I don’t even need a review, I just want you to listen if you have time” — thank you.

the obelisk art by maarten dondersAnd it’s kind of become a tagline at this point, but really, thank you for reading. I’m going to try to be merciful and keep this short, but it means so, so, so much to me to think that when I put something like this out there into the vast ether of the internet, it catches eyes. Maybe you don’t read every day. Maybe you think I suck at this and I’m a punk. Maybe you don’t even think about the fact that there’s a person behind this stuff, or you think there’s a staff of writers (nope: no staff), but please know how grateful I am for every comment, every share, every like, every retweet, every screenshot that shows up on Instagram. All of it. It’s everything to me at this point. As outlets go, it’s all I’ve got.

But rest assured, I wouldn’t trade it for anything. This past week, The Obelisk page on Thee Facebooks also passed 7,000 likes and my personal account, in addition to the 5,000 friends that’s the max they allow, also passed 2,000 followers. I’m over 3,000 on Instagram and coming up on that on Twitter too. Thank you for all of that as well.

Will there be another 10,000 posts? I don’t know. In nine years, I’ll be 45 years old. Not to say it couldn’t or wouldn’t happen, but I’ve said all along that I don’t know what the future will bring, and I still feel that way. This is still an ongoing project, and I guess it will be until it isn’t anymore. Whenever that is, I assume I’ll know.

Oh, and my only regret about the last 9,999 posts before this one? That more of them weren’t about how much Acid King kicks ass. Because, man oh man, Acid King kicks some ass.

Thanks so much for reading. We go onward. Head down, keep working.

All my best,
JJ Koczan

 

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The Obelisk is Nine Years Old Today

Posted in Features on January 30th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

9

In the immortal words of David Spade in Tommy Boy: ‘Did I catch a niner in there?’ Indeed you did. The Obelisk is nine years old today.

Kind of difficult to believe we’re at the end of January 2018 already — or, you know, at 2018 in general, which still sounds like and definitely is the scary future to my increasingly dated ass — but the calendar hasn’t started lying to me yet that I know of, and the last weekend of the first month is traditionally when I mark the occasion that Slevin registered the domain, installed the WordPress back end and let me loose upon my own self-indulgence to begin this project that, now entering its 10th year, has consumed a major, major portion of my life and identity.

I had no idea what I was getting into. I’ve always been a compulsive person. Always been prone to setting up routines, forming habits, rituals, etc., but I think if you look back on the last nine years of my life and see defining moments in everything from professional shifts to life changes, moving from my beloved Garden State of New Jersey to my significantly-less-beloved-even-though-there-are-a-lot-of-good-people-here Bay State of Massachusetts, the birth of my son just over three months ago and the shift I’m undergoing now in addressing long-seeded issues of mental illness while also working to become the best stay-at-home dad I can be for The Pecan — it’s been The Patient Mrs. and The Obelisk (very much in that order) as the two constants in my life. Whatever else I have going on in a given day, I’d have a hard time not feeling lucky in considering that.

It’s not always easy. It’s a lot of work, and I get overwhelmed, especially just being one person behind the site on the writing end, but I am lucky to spend every minute of the day that I can writing. It’s the only thing I’ve ever wanted to do, and I know plenty of people who dream of doing one thing and lose all their days doing something else. I fail to see it far too often, but I am deeply, deeply fortunate.

It is worth acknowledging this every chance I get.

I owe my life, my time and my heart to The Patient Mrs. She is the cornerstone and the foundation of everything I am, and while she may or may not ultimately want to include that line among the many accomplishments of her CV, it’s true just the same. Deep and heartfelt thanks as well to Patrick Slevin, whom I miss desperately and don’t see nearly enough (I’ll be in Jersey in March; lunch? dinner?) and remains instrumental in keeping this place up and running. And to Behrang Alavi, who since taking over hosting duties has absolutely killed it in that regard and this weekend even oversaw the awaited implementation of a mobile-optimized version of the site. That’s right. If you’re reading this on your phone, you might notice it doesn’t look like crap.

There are so many others. My family, whose support is endless. Walter and Becky from Roadburn. Everyone who reads and shares links. The bands who get in touch. The labels and PR firms who support this project. The promoters and groups who bring me on board to present shows and tours.

I say I didn’t know what The Obelisk would turn into nine years ago, and that’s very much true, but I also had no idea what The Obelisk would be now a year ago, and likewise, I have no idea now what it will be in another year. That’s what makes this exciting.

Believe it or not, I’ll be hitting 10,000 posts on this site pretty soon, so I’ll save more thanks and whatnot for that, but really, I can’t tell you how much your ongoing support means to this site and to me personally. Thank you for being part of this. Let’s keep it going.

All the best,
JJ Koczan

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Short Releases of 2017

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

the obelisk top 20 short releases

Please note: This post is not culled in any way from the Year-End Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2017 to that, please do.

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

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

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

Okay, enough dawdling. Here we go:

lo-pan-in-tensions

The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Short Releases of 2017

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

Honorable Mention

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

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

Notes

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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The Top 20 of 2017 Year-End Poll is Now Open!

Posted in Features on December 1st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

top-20-of-2017-year-end-poll the obelisk

The Obelisk’s Top 20 of 2017 Year-End Poll is open! Cast your votes now for up to 20 of your favorite releases from the year and find out which ones make the final list on Jan. 1, 2018!

I say this every year — I know I do — but I feel like I’m especially curious to see what comes out on top when it comes to everybody’s picks this year. There was just so much, and all of it so varied. It was like an onslaught happening all the time from every angle. It never stopped — it’s December and it’s still going on! — and it seemed like no matter what kind of sound you were into, each week brought some highlight offering that could rightly be considered among the year’s best.

Nonetheless, it’s challenge time. Get your list together, dig out those favorite picks, and make sure you’ve got them in the right order because the Year-End Poll only comes around once a year. As ever, we’ll be using a 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’ll be getting my list together and adding it as well, but whatever hit a nerve with you, whether it was an album, EP, split, single — anything — toss it in and see where it ends up. At very least it’ll be represented when your list is published on Jan. 1!

Maximum participation and sharing is encouraged and deeply appreciated.

Let’s have some fun:

[This poll is now closed. Thanks to all who entered.]

As ever, I can’t thank Slevin enough for helping to put this all together, and thanks to you for reading and taking part in this ongoing experiment. I can’t wait to see how this one will turn out.

Look for the results and lists on Jan. 1, 2018!

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This is the 9,000th Post on The Obelisk

Posted in The Numbers on June 21st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

9000th post

I’ve been trying to keep an eye over the last couple weeks so I didn’t miss this one. 9,000 posts. Let me spell that out: Nine. Thousand. Posts.

It is not a small amount of posts.

It’s taken me about eight and a half years to get to this point. Over that period, the pace of productivity has only increased — I feel bad about myself if I put up fewer than five posts in a day — and between reviews, interviews, news, videos, audio premieres, streams, the Radio, Quarterly Review roundups, the constant onslaught of bands with new releases, etc., etc., on and on, I’m still a long way from what I’d call “keeping up.” Still, I do the best I can, and as the site hits its 9,000th post, I just want to stop for a minute and thank you for being a part of this process.

Because it is a process. An ongoing one. In tone, content, execution and my own mindset, The Obelisk has become something completely different from what it set out to be. It’s something different than it was three years ago. I suspect, if I’m fortunate enough to keep it going for another three years, it’ll be something completely different then as well. But the consistent factor has been the level of support I’ve received for doing this. If you want to call it the heavy underground, or a community, or a scene, or whatever it is, it’s been very good to me and I deeply appreciate the level of interaction here and via social media — that’s not just me begging for comments, though they’re always welcome — and the conversation that has developed.

One time when I did an anniversary-type post like this I calculated how many posts per day was the average over the years. It may have been last year? I don’t know. I have neither the time nor the inclination nor the mathematical capacity to do so again either way, and more important than the quantity of the work to me is the fact that I stand by everything on this site. Opinions, facts, hell, even the choices of images and videos and audio to go with posts. All of it. I believe deeply in this — more deeply than I ever thought I would — and your participation in it has only made me treasure all the more what The Obelisk has become and is still becoming.

So as always, thank you. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

On to the next thing,
JJ Koczan

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The Obelisk is Eight Years Old Today

Posted in The Numbers on January 30th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk 8 years

The last weekend in January has become a very special occasion for me. It was the same weekend eight years ago in 2009 that The Obelisk first came together and went live. The first post was on a Saturday. I was in the process of losing my job and kind of in a panic about what to do next, needing an outlet for reviews. On a professional level, print was all I’d ever known.

This would be something completely different. By the time the first review went up a couple days later, I began to see the appeal of the open forum I had and the ability to make my own direction.

I’ve said numerous times over the years that I’m surprised at how much The Obelisk has come to take over my life and my waking consideration. I think about this site a lot. People say nice things about it to me and part of the reason I can never take the compliment is because I know that there’s no way anyone feels as strongly about it as I do. Over the last eight years, it’s become an extension of who I am as well as my lone creative outlet. If it’s just news and reviews to you, that’s cool, and if you’ve found good bands through it, that’s awesome too, but to me it’s become about something much more than that.

I look back on things I wrote years ago now and remember where I was that day. That time I reviewed the first Mars Red Sky record to get my head right after a hurricane tore through my area. Writing with my face down on a dining table on a Stena ferry ship in 2010 as I tried to make my way to Roadburn after the now-infamous Icelandic volcano eruption disrupted travel worldwide. This site is an essential part of those life experiences for me.

All the shows. My move from New Jersey to Massachusetts. Changing careers. I feel lucky to have been able to share these things around an ongoing discussion of music. Thank you so much for being a part of it. I don’t know where I’d be otherwise.

By nature, I’m a compulsive person, and that feeds a lot of what I do here. I want to review something every day in one way or another. I want to keep up with news of fests, album releases, tours, etc. I want to keep a respectful tone to my writing because I believe strongly that there is aesthetic value in critique as much as any other creative work.

My thinking on what The Obelisk is and does has changed over the last eight years — adding the forum, adding the radio stream, doing a label for a while, presenting shows, putting together the All-Dayer last year in Brooklyn, bringing in All That is Heavy as a sponsor, and so on — but I’ve tried very hard to bring a consistent level of quality to each aspect of it as much as possible. Because I care about this project. Very much.

Thank you foremost to Patrick Slevin, without whom The Obelisk would not exist. Slevin registered the domain, installed WordPress, and for the last eight years has been able and willing to take on — mostly uncomplaining, no less; or at very least complaining in a charming way — every technical glitch and weird customization request I’ve asked of him. We’ll get a mobile version going one of these days, I promise, but the dude is the reason you’re able to read this right now, an amazing, generous friend, and someone I’m deeply fortunate to have in my life.

Thank you to my wife, The Patient Mrs., for her understanding and support. I write for The Obelisk every single day. It takes hours out of my life — every single day — and hours out of our life as well and thus hours out of hers. Every single day. Even weekends at this point. There are times where she rolls her eyes and plenty of them when she’s absolutely correct to do so, but her unwavering love is the defining aspect of my life. It is what keeps me upright, and the foundation on which who I’ve become for the last two decades has been built. I cannot tell you how much I love her because it is a value that continues to increase exponentially with each passing day, week, year.

There are so many others. My mother, who likes all my Facebook posts, and my sister whose camera I’m still using since mine broke. Walter Roadburn. The list goes on and I don’t want to be Johnny Namedrop, but the support I’ve gotten for The Obelisk is worldwide and it is immensely humbling to even think about.

Again, thank you for reading. Thank you for commenting, liking posts, sharing, retweeting, posting screenshots on Instagram, sending me your band’s debut EP, whatever it is. Thank you. I’ve said all along that nothing lasts forever, but I’m going to keep doing this site for as long as I can, and I hope as it continues to evolve and change over time you’ll still be a part of it with me.

Here’s to year eight and onward.

All the best,
JJ Koczan

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Tomorrow’s Dream: 200+ of 2017’s Most Anticipated Releases

Posted in Features on January 23rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

tomorrow's dream 2017

Looks like it’s going to be another busy 12 months ahead. It’s been a busy better-part-of-a-month already, so that stands to reason, but you should know that of the several years now that I’ve done these ‘Tomorrow’s Dream’ posts, this is the biggest one yet, with over 150 upcoming releases that — one hopes — will be out between today and the end of 2017.

Actually, at last count, the list tops 180. Do I really expect you to listen to all of them? Nope. Will I? Well, it would be nice. But what I’ve done is gone through and highlighted 35 picks and then built lists off that in order of likelihood of arrival. You’ll note the categories are ‘Gonna Happen and/or Likely Candidates,’ ‘Definitely Could Happen’ and ‘Would be Awfully Nice.’

Beyond that last one, anything else just seems like speculation — one might as well go “new Sabbath this year!” with zero info backing it up. The idea here is that no matter where a given band is placed, there has been some talk of a new release. In some cases, it’s been years, but I think they’re still worth keeping in mind.

Another caveat: You can expect additions to this list over the next week — probably album titles, band names people (fingers crossed) suggest in the comments, and so on — so it will grow. It always does. The idea is to build as complete a document as possible, not to get it all nailed down immediately, so please, if you have something to contribute and you’re able to do so in a non-prickish, “You didn’t include Band X and therefore don’t deserve to breathe the same air as me,” kind of way, please contribute.

Other than that, I think it’s pretty straightforward what’s going on here and I’ll explain the category parameters as we go, so by all means, let’s jump in.

— Tomorrow’s Dream 2017 —

Presented Alphabetically

1. Abrahma, TBA

Late last year, Paris heavy progressives Abrahma announced a new lineup and third full-length in progress. No reason to think it won’t come to fruition, and a follow-up to 2015’s Reflections in the Bowels of a Bird (review here) is an easy pick to look forward to. Even with the shift in personnel, it seems likely the band will continue their creative development, driven as they are by founding guitarist Seb Bismuth.

2. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War

all them witches sleeping through the warIf 2017 ended today, Sleeping Through the War would be my Album of the Year. Of course, there’s a lot of year to go, but for now, Nashville’s All Them Witches have set the standard with their second album for New West Records behind 2015’s Dying Surfer Meets His Maker (review here) and fourth overall outing. They’ve got videos up so far for “3-5-7” (posted here) and “Bruce Lee” (posted here). Both are most definitely worth your time. Out Feb. 24. Full review should be later this week.

3. Alunah, Solennial

Seems like UK forest riffers Alunah are on this list every year. Wishful thinking on my part. Nonetheless, their fourth LP and Svart Records debut, Solennial, is out March 17, and if the tease they gave already with the clip for “Fire of Thornborough Henge” (posted here) is anything to go from, its Chris Fielding-produced expanses might just be Alunah‘s most immersive yet.

4. Arbouretum, TBA

I asked the Baltimore folk fuzzers a while back on Thee Facebooks if they had a new record coming in 2017 and they said yes, so that’s what I’m going on here. The last Arbouretum album was 2013’s Coming out of the Fog (review here), and even with frontman Dave Heumann‘s 2015 solo outing, Here in the Deep (review here), factored in, you’d have to say they’re due. Keep an eye on Thrill Jockey for word and I’ll do the same.

5. Atavismo, Inerte

This is another one that already has a spot reserved for it on my Best-of-2017 year-end list. Spanish heavy psych rockers Atavismo up the progressive bliss level with their second full-length, Inerte, without losing the depth of style that made 2014’s Desintegración (review here) so utterly glorious. It probably won’t have the biggest marketing budget of 2017, but if you let Atavismo fly under your radar, you are 100 percent missing out on something special.

6. Bison Machine, TBA

In addition to the video for new track “Cloak and Bones” that premiered here, when Michigan raucousness-purveyors Bison Machine put out the dates for their fall 2016 tour, they included further hints of new material in progress. As much as I dug their earlier-2016 split with SLO and Wild Savages (review here) and 2015’s Hoarfrost (review here), that’s more than enough for me to include them on this list. Killer next-gen heavy rock.

7. Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, TBA

News of a follow-up to Brothers of the Sonic Cloth‘s 2015 Neurot Recordings self-titled debut (review here) came through in October, and it remains some of the best news I’ve heard about 2017 doings. Took them a while to get the first record out, so we’ll see what happens, but it kind of feels like looking forward to a comet about to smash into the planet and cause a mass extinction, and by that I mean awesome. Can’t get here soon enough.

8. Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kosmic Dust

cloud catcher trails of kosmic dustOkay, so maybe I jumped the gun and did a super-early review of Denver trio Cloud Catcher‘s second long-player and Totem Cat Records debut, Trails of Kosmic Dust, but hell, no regrets. Some albums require an early-warning system. Their 2015 debut, Enlightened Beyond Existence (discussed here), was a gem as well, but this is a band in the process of upping their game on every level, and the songwriting and momentum they hone isn’t to be missed.

9. Colour Haze, TBA

I’ve gotten some details on the upcoming full-length from Colour Haze. They do not include a title, artwork, audio, song titles or general direction. Less details, I guess, than word that the CD version of this answer to 2015’s To the Highest Gods We Know (review here) is set to come out next month, as ever, on Elektrohasch. That puts it out in time for Colour Haze‘s upcoming tour with My Sleeping Karma (announced here). Fingers crossed it happens. Colour Haze are perpetual top-albums candidates in my book.

10. Corrosion of Conformity, TBA

Signed to Nuclear Blast after being rejoined by guitarist/vocalist Pepper Keenan, North Carolina’s C.O.C. have been in the studio since last year. The lineup of Keenan, bassist/vocalist Mike Dean and guitarist Woody Weatherman and Reed Mullin on drums is the stuff of legend and last worked together on 2000’s America’s Volume Dealer, so no question this reunion makes for one of 2017’s most anticipated heavy rock records. They nailed the nostalgia factor on tour. Can they now add to their legacy?

11. Elder, TBA

I was incredibly fortunate about a month ago to visit progressive heavy rockers Elder at Sonelab in Easthampton, MA, during the recording process for their upcoming fourth album. I heard a couple of the tracks, and of course it was all raw form, but the movement forward from 2015’s Lore (review here) was palpable. That LP (on Stickman) brought them to a wider audience, and I expect no less from this one as well, since the farther out Elder go sound-wise, the deeper the level of connection with their listeners they seem to engage.

12. Electric Wizard, TBA

Could happen, could not happen. That’s how it goes. Announced for last Halloween. That date came and went. Word of trouble building their own studio surfaced somewhere along the line. That was the last I heard. Frankly, I wouldn’t be surprised if it showed up tomorrow, if it showed up in 2018, or if the band broke up and never put it out. They’re Electric Wizard. Anything’s possible.

13. John Garcia, The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues

Out Jan. 28 on NapalmThe Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues (review here) is the first-ever acoustic album from former Kyuss frontman John Garcia, also of Unida, the reunited Slo BurnHermanoVista ChinoZun, etc. — basically the voice of desert rock. He does a couple Kyuss classics for good measure, but shines as well on the new/original tracks, and while it’s a piece for fans more than newcomers — that is, it helps if you know the original version of “Green Machine” — his presence remains as powerful as ever despite this new context.

14. Goya, Harvester of Bongloads

Riffs, dude. Goya seem to have them to spare. The Arizona-based wizard doomers have set a pretty prolific clip for themselves at this point, with at least two short releases out in 2016, one a 7″ of Nirvana covers (review here), and the The Enemy EP (review here). Set for a March 3 release through their own Opoponax Records imprint, Harvester of Bongloads continues the march into the abyss that 2015’s Obelisk (review here) and 2013’s 777 set in motion, finding the band coming more into their own as well. Creative growth — and bongloads! The best of both worlds.

15. Ides of Gemini, TBA

Ides of Gemini are set to record their yet-untitled third album with Sanford Parker early this year, and it will also mark their debut on Rise Above Records upon its release. They’ve also got a new lineup around vocalist Sera Timms and guitarist J. Bennett, so as they look to move forward from 2014’s Old World New Wave (review here), one can’t help but wonder what to expect, but to be honest, not knowing is part of the appeal, especially from a band who so readily specialize in the ethereal.

16. Kind, TBA

Three-fourths of Kind feature elsewhere on this list. Bassist Tom Corino plays in Rozamov. Drummer Matt Couto is in Elder. Vocalist Craig Riggs is in Roadsaw. And for what it’s worth, guitarist Darryl Shepherd has a new band coming together called Test Meat. How likely does that make Kind to release a second LP in 2017? I don’t know, but their 2015 Ripple Music debut, Rocket Science (review here), deserves a follow-up, and I know they’ve demoed some new songs. If it happens, great. If it’s 2018, at least these dudes will be plenty busy besides.

17. Lo-Pan, In Tensions

lo-pan in tensionsYes, Lo-Pan‘s In Tensions (review here) has already been released — CD/LP with an artbook on Aqualamb. It’s out. Limited numbers. You can get it now. Why include it on a list of most anticipated releases? Because that’s how strongly I feel about your need to hear it. The fruit of a shortlived lineup with guitarist Adrian Zambrano, it distinguishes itself from everything they’ve done before in style while still keeping to the core righteousness that one hopes the Ohio outfit will continue to carry forward. It’s more than a stopgap between albums. Listen to it.

18. The Midnight Ghost Train, TBA

It seems to have been a rough ride for hard-boogie specialists The Midnight Ghost Train since their 2015 Napalm debut and third album overall, Cold was the Ground (review here). They’ve never taken it easy on the road or in terms of physicality on stage, and between injuries and who knows what else, their intensity at this point veers toward the directly confrontational. Nonetheless, they’ve been writing for album number four, may or may not have started the recording process, and I expect that confrontationalism to suit them well in their new material.

19. Monster Magnet, TBA

I have it on decent authority that NJ heavy psych innovators Monster Magnet were in the studio this past autumn. I’ve seen no concrete word of a new album in progress from Dave Wyndorf and company, and I wouldn’t necessarily expect to until it was time to start hyping the release, but after their two redux releases, 2015’s Cobras and Fire (review here) and 2014’s Milking the Stars (review here), their range feels broader than ever and I can’t wait to hear what they come up with next.

20. Mothership, High Strangeness

A pivotal moment for Mothership arrives with High Strangeness, and the heavy-touring, heavy-riffing Texas power trio seem to know it. Their third record on Ripple Music pushes into new avenues of expression and keeps the energy of 2014’s Mothership II (review here) and 2012’s Mothership (review here), but thus far into their career, it’s been about their potential and what they might accomplish going forward. 2017 might be the year for Mothership to declare a definitive place in the sphere of American heavy rock.

21. The Obsessed, Sacred

On Halloween 2016, founding The Obsessed guitarist/vocalist and doom icon Scott “Wino” Weinrich announced a new lineup for the band, with his former The Hidden Hand bandmate Bruce Falkinburg on bass/vocals, Sara Seraphim on guitar and Brian Costantino continuing on drums. A genuine surprise. Their first album since 1994, Sacred (due on Relapse) was tracked as the trio of WeinrichCostantino and bassist/vocalist Dave Sherman, but clearly they’ve moved into a new era already. Wouldn’t even guess what the future holds, but hopefully Sacred still comes out.

22. Orange Goblin, TBA

When it was announced that London’s Orange Goblin were picked up by Spinefarm as part of that label’s acquisition of Candlelight Records last Spring, the subheadline from the PR wire was “Working on Ninth Studio Album.” I haven’t heard much since then, but even as 2014’s Back from the Abyss (review here) pushed them deeper into metallic territory than ever before, their songs retained the character that’s made the band the institution they are. Always look forward to new Orange Goblin.

23. Pallbearer, Heartless

pallbearer heartlessDoomers, this is your whole year right here. I haven’t heard Pallbearer‘s third album, Heartless (out March 24 on Profound Lore), but I have to think even those who haven’t yet been won over by the Arkansas four-piece’s emotive, deep-running style have to be curious about what they’ve come up with this time around. I know I am. These guys have been making a mark on the genre since their 2012 debut, Sorrow and Extinction (review here), and there’s little doubt Heartless will continue that thread upon its arrival.

24. Radio Moscow, TBA

Fact: Radio Moscow stand among the best classic heavy rock live acts in the US. They’re the kind of band you can watch upwards of 15 gigs in a row — I’ve done it — and find them putting on a better show night after night, in defiance of science, logic and sobriety. Word of their signing to Century Media came just this past week and brought with it confirmation of a follow-up to 2014’s stellar Magical Dirt (review here), and for me to say hell yes, I’m absolutely on board, seems like the no-brainer to end all no-brainers. Can’t wait.

25. Roadsaw, TBA

Nearly six full years later, it’s only fair to call Boston scene godfathers Roadsaw due for a follow-up to their 2011 self-titled (review here). Granted, members have been busy in KindWhite Dynomite, and other projects, but still. Their upcoming outing finds them on Ripple Music after years under the banner of Small Stone Records, and though I haven’t seen a solid release date yet, my understanding is they hit Mad Oak Studio in Allston, MA, this past fall to track it, so seems likely for sooner or later. Sooner, preferably.

26. Rozamov, This Mortal Road

Speaking of albums by Boston bands a while in the making, This Mortal Road (out March 3 on Battleground Records and Dullest Records) is the debut full-length from Boston atmospheric extremists Rozamov. Haven’t heard it yet, but I got a taste of some of the material when I visited the band at New Alliance Audio in Aug. 2015, and the bleak expanses of what I heard seem primed to turn heads. I’m a fan of these guys, but in addition, they’ve found a niche for themselves sound-wise and I’m curious to hear how they bring it to fruition.

27. Samsara Blues Experiment, TBA

It’s been a pleasure over the last couple months to watch a resurgence of Berlin heavy psych trio Samsara Blues Experiment take shape, first with the announcement of a fourth album in October, then with subsequent confirmations for DesertfestRiff Ritual in Barcelona, and a South American tour. Reportedly due in Spring, which fits with the timing on shows, etc., the record will follow 2013’s righteous Waiting for the Flood (review here) and as much as I’m looking forward to hearing it, I’m kind of just glad to have these guys back.

28. Seedy Jeezus, TBA

Work finished earlier this month on Melbourne trio Seedy Jeezus‘ second full-length. As with their 2015 self-titled debut, the band brought Tony Reed of Mos Generator to Australia to produce, and after their blissed-out 2016 collaboration with Earthless guitarist Isaiah MitchellTranquonauts (review here), it’s hard not to wonder what experimentalist tendencies might show in the trio’s style this time out, and likewise difficult not to anticipate what guitarist Lex “Mr. Frumpy” Wattereus comes up with for the cover art.

29. Shroud Eater, Strike the Sun

Not to spoil the surprise, but Feb. 1 I’ll host a track premiere from Florida’s Shroud Eater that finds them working in a different context from everything we’ve heard from them to this point in their rightly-celebrated tenure. They also recently had a split out with Dead Hand, and their second long-player, Strike the Sun, will be their debut through STB Records. It’s been since 2011’s ThunderNoise (review here) that we last got a Shroud Eater album, so you bet your ass I’m dying to know what the last six years have wrought.

30. Sleep, TBA

If Sleep were any other band, they’d probably be in the “Would be Awfully Nice” category. But they’re Sleep, so even the thought of a new record is enough to put them here. The lords of all things coated in THC are reissuing their 2014 single, The Clarity (review here), on Southern Lord next month, but rumors have been swirling about a proper album, which of course would be their first since the now-legendary Dopesmoker. If it happens, it’ll automatically be a heavy underground landmark for 2017, but it’s one I’m going to have in my ears before I really believe it.

31. Stoned Jesus, TBA

Even as they tour playing their second album, 2012’s Seven Thunders Roar (review here), to mark its fifth anniversary and continued impact, Ukrainian trio Stoned Jesus are forging ahead with a fourth record behind 2015’s The Harvest (review here). The capital-‘q’ Question is whether or not looking back at Seven Thunders Roar and engaging that big-riffing side of their sound will have an impact on the new material, and if so, how it will meld with the push of The Harvest. Won’t speculate, but look forward to finding out.

32. Stubb, TBA

Since reveling in the soul of 2015’s Cry of the Ocean (review here) on Ripple, London trio Stubb have swapped out bassists, and they were in Skyhammer Studio this month recording a single that may be an extended psychedelic jam. I’ll take that happily, but I’m even more intrigued at the prospect of a third LP and what guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson, bassist/vocalist Tom Hobson and drummer Tom Fyfe might have in store as the band moves forward on multiple levels. Might be 2017, might not.

33. Sun Blood Stories, It Runs Around the Room with Us

sun blood stories it runs around the room with usIt Runs around the Room with Us seems to find peace in its resonant experimentalist drones, loops, open, subdued spaces, but there’s always some underlying sense of foreboding to its drift, as if Boise’s Sun Blood Stories could anticipate the moment before it happened. Toward the end of the follow-up to 2015’s Twilight Midnight Morning (review here), they execute the 90-second assault “Burn” and turn serenity to ash. Look for it in April and look for it again on my best of 2017 list in December.

34. Ufomammut, TBA

Any new offering from the Italian cosmic doom magnates is worth looking forward to, and while Ufomammut have left the 15-year mark behind, they’ve never stopped progressing in style and form. To wit, 2015’s Ecate (review here) was a stunner after 2012’s two-part LP, Oro (review here and review here), tightening the approach but assuring the vibe was no less expansive than ever. They started recording last summer, finished mixing in November, so I’m hoping for word of a release date soon.

35. Vokonis, The Sunken Djinn

Born out of Creedsmen Arise, whose 2015 demo, Temple (review here), offered formative thrills, Swedish trio Vokonis debuted with last year’s Olde One Ascending (review here) and proved there’s still life in post-Sleep riffing when it’s wielded properly. They signed to Ripple in November and confirmed the title of their sophomore effort as The Sunken Djinn, as well as a reissue for the first album, which will probably arrive first. I don’t know how that will affect the timing on this one, but keep an eye out anyway.

Gonna Happen and/or Likely Candidates

Obviously some of these are more likely than others. Some have solidified, announced release dates — Dopelord‘s out this month, Demon Head‘s out in April, etc. — and others come from social media posts of bands in studios and hints at upcoming releases and so on. A big tell is whether or not a band has an album title with their listing, but even some of those without have their new albums done, like Atala and Royal Thunder, so it’s not necessarily absolute.

Either way, while I’m spending your money, you might want to look into:

36. Against the Grain
37. Amenra
38. Atala
39. Attalla, Glacial Rule
40. Ayahuasca Dark Trip, II
41. Beastmaker
42. Beaten Back to Pure
43. Blackout
44. Bretus
45. Buried Feather, Mind of the Swarm
46. The Clamps
47. Cold Stares
48. Coltsblood, Ascending into the Shimmering Darkness
49. Come to Grief, The Worst of Times EP
50. Cortez
51. Cruthu, The Angle of Eternity
52. The Dead-End Alley Band, Storms
53. Dead Witches, Dead Witches
54. Dealer
55. Death Alley, Live at Roadburn
56. Demon Head, Thunder on the Fields
57. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, II
58. Devil Electric
59. Doctor Cyclops, Local Dogs
60. Dool, Here Now There Then
61. Dopelord, Children of the Haze
62. Doublestone, Devil’s Own/Djævlens Egn
63. Dread Sovereign, For Doom the Bell Tolls
64. Drive by Wire
65. Elbrus, Elbrus
66. Electric Age
67. Electric Moon, Stardust Rituals
68. Endless Floods, II
69. Five Horse Johnson
70. Forming the Void, Relic
71. Funeral Horse
72. Greenbeard
73. Green Desert Water
74. Greenleaf
75. Grifter / Suns of Thunder, Split
76. Hair of the Dog, This World Turns
77. Heavy Temple, Chassit
78. Here Lies Man, Here Lies Man
79. Hollow Leg, Murder EP
80. Holy Mount, The Drought
81. Hooded Menace
82. Horisont, About Time
83. Hymn, Perish
84. Lecherous Gaze
85. Magnet, Feel Your Fire
86. Mastodon
87. Merlin, The Wizard
88. Merchant
89. Mindkult, Lucifer’s Dream
90. Mirror Queen
91. Moonbow, War Bear
92. Mos Generator
93. The Moth
94. MotherSloth
95. Mouth, Vortex
96. My Sleeping Karma, Mela Ananda – Live
97. Orango
98. Papir
99. PH, Eternal Hayden
100. Psychedelic Witchcraft, Magick Rites and Spells
101. Royal Thunder
102. Saturn, Beyond Spectra
103. Season of Arrows, Give it to the Mountain
104. Siena Root
105. Six Organs of Admittance, Burning the Threshold
106. Six Sigma, Tuxedo Brown
107. Sólstafir
108. The Sonic Dawn, Into the Long Night
109. Spelljammer
110. Spidergawd, IV
111. Steak
112. Stinking Lizaveta, Journey to the Underworld
113. Sula Bassana, Organ Accumulator
114. Summoner
115. Sun Voyager, Sun Voyager
116. Sweat Lodge, Tokens for Hell EP
117. Thera Roya, Stone and Skin
118. Toke
119. Troubled Horse, Revelation on Repeat
120. VA, Brown Acid The Third Trip
121. Weedpecker
122. Youngblood Supercult, The Great American Death Rattle

Definitely Could Happen

Maybe a recording process is upcoming (Gozu, Cities of Mars, YOB), or a band is looking for a label (The Flying Eyes), or they’ve said new stuff is in the works but the circumstances of an actual release aren’t known (Arc of Ascent, Dead Meadow, High on Fire), or I’ve just seen rumors of their hitting the studio (Freedom Hawk, La Chinga, Ruby the Hatchet). We’ve entered the realm of the entirely possible but not 100 percent.

So, you know, life.

Dig it:

123. The Age of Truth
124. Ape Machine
125. Arc of Ascent
126. At Devil Dirt
127. Bantoriak
128. Bask
129. BCAD
130. BoneHawk
131. La Chinga
132. Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters
133. Cities of Mars
134. Crypt Sermon
135. Dead Meadow
136. Death Alley (Studio LP)
137. Dee Calhoun
138. Destroyer of Light
139. Devil
140. Devil Worshipper
141. Duel
142. Dustrider
143. Egypt
144. Electric Moon
145. Elephant Tree
146. Farflung
147. The Flying Eyes
148. Freedom Hawk
149. Gozu
150. The Great Electric Quest
151. Green Meteor, Consumed by a Dying Sun
152. High on Fire
153. Horrendous
154. Insect Ark
155. In the Company of Serpents
156. Iron Monkey
157. Jeremy Irons and the Ratgang Malibus
158. The Judge
159. Killer Boogie
160. King Dead
161. The Kings of Frog Island
162. Lords of Beacon House, Recreational Sorcery
163. Mangoo
164. Mondo Drag
165. Monolord
166. Mountain God
167. The Munsens
168. Naxatras
169. Never Got Caught
170. Ommadon
171. Orchid
172. Ordos
173. Pilgrim
174. Poseidon
175. Purple Hill Witch
176. Ruby the Hatchet
177. Sasquatch
178. Satan’s Satyrs
179. Serpents of Secrecy
180. Shabda
181. Shooting Guns
182. Sleepy Sun
183. Slow Season
184. Snowy Dunes, Atlantis
185. Spectral Haze
186. The Sweet Heat
187. Switchblade Jesus
188. Superchief
189. Tÿburn
190. YOB
191. Zone Six

Would be Awfully Nice

This last category is basically as close as I’m willing to come to rampant speculation. Endless Boogie have hinted at new material, and Queens of the Stone Age have talked about hitting the studio for the last two years. There were rumors about Om, and though Kings Destroy just put out an EP, they have new songs as well, though I doubt we’ll hear them before the end of 2017. I’ll admit that Across Tundras, Fever Dog, Lord Fowl, Lowrider and Hour of 13 are just wishful thinking on my part. A boy can hope:

192. Across Tundras
193. Eggnogg
194. Elephant Tree
195. Endless Boogie
196. Fever Dog
197. Fu Manchu
198. Halfway to Gone
199. Hour of 13
200. Kadavar
201. Kings Destroy
202. Lord Fowl
203. Lowrider
204. Masters of Reality
205. Om
206. Orodruin
207. Queens of the Stone Age

If you’ve made it this far, thanks for reading. Whatever this year brings, I hope it’s been great so far for you and I hope it continues to be so as we proceed inexorably to 2018 and all the also-futuristic-sounding numbers thereafter. At least we know we’ll have plenty of good music to keep us company on that voyage.

As always, comments section is open if there’s anything I’ve left out. I’m happy to add, adjust, etc., as need be, so really, have at it, and thanks in advance.

All the best.

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