The Top 20 of 2018 Year-End Poll — RESULTS!

Posted in Features on January 1st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

derp

If you’re reading this, congratulations on making it all the way through the existential rollercoaster that was 2018.

I hope you celebrated that year’s end and this year’s beginning in riotous fashion if that’s your thing, and if you’re more the stay-at-home-and-don’t-break-stuff type, I hope that was fun too.

Over the last month, best-of lists have been collected from all around the world and as we move into 2019, it’s time to do the results of the Year-End Poll for 2018.

What a year. As I look back on the lists submitted, of course I can’t help but think how absolutely incredible 2018 was for music. With the world crumbling around, creativity surged, and the quality of output was off the charts. I published my own list last week and was quickly inundated with stuff I forgot or that I missed owing to being robbed earlier this year — I guess I didn’t even realize until the post went up just how much that screwed me — and I’m sure there’s more still out there from what everyone turned in. It’s infinite. It keeps going. Trends change. Sounds change. People change. Creativity flourishes.

But I think if you’re reading this, you know why we’re here. We wound up with somewhere in the neighborhood of 2,000 discrete releases submitted. That’s more than five for every day of the year. And they came from 547 people, which is amazing. Accordingly, there should be plenty here to keep you busy for a while.

Not exactly suspenseful as to which was the album of the year, but it’s still interesting to see where stuff landed. Just to remind, there are two lists, one of the raw votes, and one in which 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. Thanks as always to Slevin for the help in setting up the back end functionality and compilation scripts.

Let’s go:

Top 20 of 2018 — Weighted Results

sleep the sciences

1. Sleep, The Sciences (1,087 points)
2. YOB, Our Raw Heart (721)
3. High on Fire, Electric Messiah (478)
4. Earthless, Black Heaven (413)
5. King Buffalo, Longing to Be the Mountain (408)
6. Windhand, Eternal Return (387)
7. All Them Witches, ATW (373)
8. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Wasteland (354)
9. Clutch, Book of Bad Decisions (323)
10. Fu Manchu, Clone of the Universe (315)
11. Greenleaf, Hear the Rivers (285)
12. Holy Grove, Holy Grove II (274)
13. Graveyard, Peace (225)
14. Brant Bjork, Mankind Woman (222)
15. Weedpecker, III (212)
16. Corrosion of Conformity, No Cross No Crown (197)
17. Monster Magnet, Mindfucker (189)
18. Conan, Existential Void Guardian (188)
19. The Skull, The Endless Road Turns Dark (167)
20. ASG, Survive Sunrise (164)

Honorable Mention:
Messa, Feast for Water (150)
Gozu, Equilibrium (148)
Judas Priest, Firepower (148)
Naxatras, III (148)
Forming the Void, Rift (146)

I’m not saying everyone had to love the Sleep record, but there’s no way it wasn’t the biggest underground heavy release of the year. That top spot was established the first day the poll went up and while YOB caught up as both neared 100 votes, there was no doubt how it would ultimately shake out. It was pretty clear early on what people were passionate about, but there are some interesting differences between the raw vote and the weighted results even high on the list, as you’ll see below.

Top 20 of 2018 — Raw Votes

sleep the sciences

1. Sleep, The Sciences (263 votes)
2. YOB, Our Raw Heart (185)
3. High on Fire, Electric Messiah (141)
4. Windhand, Eternal Return (115)
5. Earthless, Black Heaven (109)
6. King Buffalo, Longing to Be the Mountain (102)
7. Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Wasteland (101)
8. All Them Witches, ATW (95)
8. Clutch, Book of Bad Decisions (95)
9. Fu Manchu, Clone of the Universe (93)
10. Greenleaf, Hear the Rivers (77)
10. Holy Grove, Holy Grove II (77)
11. Graveyard, Peace (69)
12. Brant Bjork, Mankind Woman (67)
13. Weedpecker, III (63)
14. Monster Magnet, Mindfucker (57)
14. Conan, Existential Void Guardian (57)
15. Corrosion of Conformity, No Cross No Crown (54)
16. The Skull, The Endless Road Turns Dark (50)
17. ASG, Survive Sunrise (48)
18. Gozu, Equilibrium (46)
19. Forming the Void, Rift (45)
20. Judas Priest, Firepower (43)
20. Khemmis, Bloodletting (43)
20. Mos Generator, Shadowlands (43)
20. Orange Goblin, The Wolf Bites Back (43)

Honorable Mention:
Messa, Feast for Water (41)
Domkraft, Flood (40)
Naxatras, III (40)
Thou, Magus (40)

Everything else got fewer than 40 raw votes. Why cap it at 40? I don’t know. Good a place as any. And when a top 20 has 26 releases on it, I don’t imagine there will be too many complaints about not enough stuff being included. One can hope, anyhow. You can see the difference between Sleep and everyone else here as well, a pretty precipitous drop after both them and YOB, and YOB and High on Fire — the top three being well ahead of everyone else in terms of general agreement.

The ‘Respect the Hustle’ Award

Somewhere around the middle of the month, I noticed a massive surge of votes for a band called Entropía and their debut album, Invisible. A bunch of people with lists of 20 just including Entropía. I’ve included them below, you can see them. I didn’t know what was up, whether it was the band spamming the vote or what, so I sent them a message. Turns out they had sent the link to their email list and asked for votes, and that’s how they all got in. Well, okay.

They wound up with well over 750 raw votes (to remind, Sleep got 263), and it didn’t feel representative to have them be album of the year, but hey, I respect the hustle, so they get the award accordingly. Nicely done, folks. I’ve been doing Year-End Polls since like 2010 and that’s never happened before. Their totals were 2,367 points and 777 votes.

Thank you from the bottom of my heart for reading. Whether this is the only post you’ve seen this year or you click ‘Like’ on everything that comes across your Facebook feed, your support is tremendously appreciated. This is the only post that will go up today, but we’ll be back to business as usual tomorrow, and in the meantime, you’ll find everybody’s list included after the jump.

All the best for 2019.

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2018

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

the-top-30-of-2018

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks in advance for reading. Here we go:

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

30. The Skull, The Endless Road Turns Dark

The Skull The Endless Road Turns Dark

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Sept. 12.

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

29. Foghound, Awaken to Destroy

foghound awaken to destroy

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Nov. 21.

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

28. Orange Goblin, The Wolf Bites Back

orange goblin the wolf bites back

Released by Spinefarm Records. Reviewed June 13.

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

27. Fu Manchu, Clone of the Universe

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

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

26. Witch Mountain, Witch Mountain

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

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

25. Windhand, Eternal Return

windhand eternal return

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed Oct. 3.

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

24. Sun Voyager, Seismic Vibes

Sun Voyager Seismic Vibes

Released by King Pizza Records. Reviewed April 18.

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

23. Forming the Void, Rift

forming the void rift

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed July 27.

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

22. Spaceslug, Eye the Tide

spaceslug eye the tide

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

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

21. Conan, Existential Void Guardian

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

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

20. Pale Divine, Pale Divine

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

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

19. Mos Generator, Shadowlands

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

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

18a. Stoned Jesus, Pilgrims

STONED JESUS PILGRIMS

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 5.

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

18. Backwoods Payback, Future Slum

backwoods payback future slum

Self-released. Reviewed Aug. 15.

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

17. Corrosion of Conformity, No Cross No Crown

corrosion of conformity no cross no crown

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Jan. 3

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

16. Naxatras, III

naxatras iii

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 14.

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

15. Clutch, Book of Bad Decisions

clutch book of bad decisions

Released by Weathermaker Music. Reviewed Aug. 27.

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

14. Ancestors, Suspended in Reflections

Ancestors Suspended in Reflections

Released by Pelagic Records. Reviewed Aug. 3.

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

13. High on Fire, Electric Messiah

high on fire electric messiah

Released by eOne Heavy. Reviewed Sept. 28.

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

12. Yawning Man, The Revolt Against Tired Noises

yawning man the revolt against tired noises

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed July 2.

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

11. Greenleaf, Hear the Rivers

greenleaf hear the rivers

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Nov. 26.

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

10. Gozu, Equilibrium

gozu equilibrium

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

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

9. Monster Magnet, Mindfucker

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

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

8. Apostle of Solitude, From Gold to Ash

Apostle of Solitude From Gold to Ash

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

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

7. Holy Grove, Holy Grove II

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

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

6. All Them Witches, ATW

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

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

5. YOB, Our Raw Heart

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

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

4. Brant Bjork, Mankind Woman

brant bjork mankind woman

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Sept. 13.

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

3. Earthless, Black Heaven

earthless black heaven

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed March 15.

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

2. King Buffalo, Longing to Be the Mountain

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

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

1. Sleep, The Sciences

sleep the sciences

Released by Third Man Records. Reviewed May 1.

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

The Next 20

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

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

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

Honorable Mention

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

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

Special Note

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

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

Best Short Release of the Year

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

  • Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard & Slomatics, Totems Split

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

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

Looking Forward

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

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

Okay, That’s It

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

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

So thanks.

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

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

Everybody have a great and safe 2019.

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Desertfest NYC 2019 First Lineup Announcement: Windhand, Elder, Monolord, The Skull, The Atomic Bitchwax, Danava, Mirror Queen, Worshipper and Dommengang to Play

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 27th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

DESERTFEST NYC 2019 BANNER

I’m not trying to toot my own horn here or anything, but I’ve been posting about Desertfest lineups pretty much since the whole thing started. And to me, this already looks like a Desertfest. The first lineup announcement for Desertfest NYC 2019 has been made, and the inaugural New York incarnation of the festival brand in partnership with Sound of Liberation and Tee Pee Records seems to represent multiple sides well. Windhand and their new Relapse labelmates Monolord are given prominent showing, as are Elder — because, let’s face it, if you’re running the first-ever Desertfest on US soil and you don’t get Elder to play, you’re fucking up — and Tee Pee Records is well represented with the likes of The Skull, The Atomic Bitchwax, Danava, Mirror Queen and Worshipper.

Rounding out the bill are L.A.’s Dommengang, who would seem to be the odd band out, but one listen to their Love Jail album that Thrill Jockey put out and you’ll see it’s no mystery why they’re here. I wouldn’t be surprised if they wound up touring east with another West Coast band — Danava come immediately to mind — but of course nothing to that effect has been announced and I’m just speculating.

Point is it’s already a solid bill and in addition to the bands, we now know that the venues involved will be the Saint Vitus Bar and The Well. I’ll have more on the lineup and whatnot as soon as I see it, but early bird tickets are on sale now at the long link below.

Dig it:

DESERTFEST NYC 2019 POSTER

FIRST ACTS ANNOUNCED FOR DF NYC + EARLY-BIRDS NOW ON SALE! We are stoked to welcome Windhand, Elder, Monolord, The Skull, The Atomic Bitchwax, DANAVA, Mirror Queen, Worshipper & Dommengang to the first edition of Desertfest New York – Taking place at Saint Vitus Bar on Friday 26th April and The Well on Saturday 27th April + Sunday 28th April.

A limited amount of 3-day early-bird passes are available for $65 via the below link – https://www.ticketweb.com/event/desertfest-nyc-2019-the-well-tickets/8942735?pl=thewell&fbclid=IwAR28zNtuppWWRVoi3vCXRkeGIg4wOD4FShfPgjbIPDGiOGPDOzbL2vj_UWE

Artwork by the wildly talented Mercerrock (Brian Mercer Design)

https://facebook.com/Desertfestnyc/
http://www.desertfest.nyc/

Monolord, Rust (2017)

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The Skull, The Endless Road Turns Dark: Remaining True

Posted in Reviews on September 12th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

The Skull The Endless Road Turns Dark

There has been a place reserved among 2018’s best doom albums for The Skull‘s The Endless Road Turns Dark since before its release on Tee Pee Records was even announced. Rumors of its coming swirled at the start of the year, and really since the Chicago-based five-piece issued their EP (review here) in 2016, it’s been a question of when not if they would have a follow-up to their 2014 debut, For Those Which are Asleep (review here). That record was a work of prime doomed grit, taking the lessons of classic Trouble on which the band was founded and pushing them into a thoroughly modern context, with former members of that band Eric Wagner (vocals) and Ron Holzner (bass) at the forefront alongside guitarist Lothar Keller (Sacred Dawn) and a rotating cast of others that has included members of PentagramCarousel and plenty more.

That the current recording incarnation of The Skull features guitarist Rob Wrong (also Witch Mountain) and drummer Brian Dixon (ex-Cathedral) only makes them all the more of a supergroup, but as For Those Which are Asleep demonstrated, the band is more than a showcase for “ex-members of” to run through the motions, and fortunately for all involved — particularly listeners — The Endless Road Turns Dark continues that thread. Wrong‘s lead guitar is a standout factor from the opening title-track — also the longest inclusion at 7:06 (immediate points) — onward, and Dixon‘s drumming brings a precision march and classic thud to the eight-track/43-minute proceedings, both its impact and the tones of WrongKeller and Holzner captured with a modern fullness as a result of the production by Sanford Parker, whose work here is no less a darkened joy to behold.

The balance of clarity and heft in “Ravenswood” alone is worth the price of admission, and it’s a combination of elements that works remarkably and surprisingly well, giving The Skull a sense of departure from the barebones, sometimes-lifeless production style of traditional doom that even further strengthens the material itself. Whether it’s the gradual unfolding in “Breathing Underwater” or the wistful sensibility in the sweeping layers of “All that Remains (Is True)” near the end of the record, The Endless Road Turns Dark more than earns the spot that’s been held for it by affirming The Skull as not only a band based around classic methods and noteworthy personnel, but a crucial creative force working on their own terms and developing a style apart from their pedigree.

Wagner especially seems to have found his voice here in a new way. He’s fluid and comfortable in a mid-range melody atop cello (I think) in “All that Remains (Is True)” and works in layers of higher and lower register in the potent hook of “The Longing,” which also featured on EP, in a way that sounds confident and thoughtful. “The Endless Road Turns Dark” itself might have his most forward higher-register vocals in its chorus, but certainly there are other spots throughout — “Ravenswood,” for example — and they’re handled easily via layering amid clearly delivered lyrics that are memorable and true to the aesthetic of the band without seeming forced. On a sheer performance level, it’s a definitive step forward from The Skull‘s debut and a challenge to anyone who might think they know what to expect from him or the group as a whole.

the skull

One might say the same of a song like “From Myself Depart,” which toys with structure across its six-minute run by opening with a quiet, bass-led verse before a swaying riff kicks in and, following another trade between this verse and chorus, launches into a two-minute lead section that includes a kick into speedier tempo before the chorus and a last quiet verse close out in succession. Verse-chorus-verse-chorus-solo-chorus-end, it ain’t, and it arrives at a pivotal moment leading off side B after “The Longing” and the deceptively spacious highlight “Breathing Underwater” round out the album’s first half in top form, doing the work of expanding the sound without really departing the central tonal context of the rest of The Endless Road Turns Dark — fucking with the formula, essentially. But doing it well, and doing it in the right spot to add further personality to what surrounds.

Not that there’s any lack of character to the record as it plays out. In the push of “Ravenswood” and the chugging “As the Sun Draws Near” — it’s hard to pick the best hook on the album and I won’t try, but this one is close if it’s not “The Longing,” which has the sneaky added benefit of prior familiarity — The Skull offer a reprieve from the slower fare in “Breathing Underwater,” the title-track and “All that Remains (Is True),” alternating between longer and shorter songs en route to the finale “Thy Will be Done,” the title of which is referenced in the lyrics of the opener, which breaks from its grueling rollout at 3:45 in order to move, albeit temporarily, into a faster section that bookends the album with a reprise of the verse and chorus from the title-track.

The sense of completion that brings to The Endless Road Turns Dark isn’t to be understated. With a dead stop before the return, the ending of the record — which actually comes in the form of a massive, nodding slowdown and long ringout, but bear with me — feels somewhat separate from the rest of “Thy Will be Done,” and one expects it’s supposed to. It not only ties together the opener and the closer directly, but it gives a full-album context to everything else between them, and as much as the individual pieces make their presence felt, that quick resurgence in the finale proves they’re part of something greater. And so, of course, they are.

There wasn’t really any doubt coming into The Endless Road Turns Dark that The Skull would deliver a quality offering — hence that whole holding a place thing — but with the work they’ve put in on tour and the lineup they’ve assembled, their sophomore full-length exceeds even the lofty expectations placed upon it. For Those Which are Asleep may have established The Skull as a unit separate from Trouble, but The Endless Road Turns Dark is where they forge a history of their own that, if we’re lucky, they’ll continue to build upon. It is nothing less than the work of masters.

The Skull, “Ravenswood” official lyric video

The Skull, “The Endless Road Turns Dark” official lyric video

The Skull on Thee Facebooks

The Skull on Twitter

The Skull website

Tee Pee Records website

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The Skull Post “Ravenswood” Lyric Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on August 6th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

the skull

Because of their origins and their moniker, one tends to think of The Skull as being a post-Trouble band, right? It’s bassist Ron Holzner and vocalist Eric Wagner, both ex-members of that legendary Chicago outfit, with guitarist Lothar Keller at the band’s core. They started out playing Trouble covers, and until they released their 2014 debut, For Those Which are Asleep (review here), that’s how they were mostly known. But with Witch Mountain‘s Rob Wrong on guitar and ex-Cathedral drummer Brian Dixon in the lineup, isn’t it only fair to call them a supergroup as they head toward the Sept. 7 release of their second full-length, The Endless Road Turns Dark?

After all, these aren’t exactly minor players who’ve come aboard,The Skull The Endless Road Turns Dark and while I don’t know the splits of who did what in the writing process — “This song is 83 percent Holzner!” and so on — it’s hard to imagine Wrong wouldn’t have a hand in writing leads. He’s so god damned good at them, it would be a wasted resource to not have him write his own parts. And Dixon rolled out grooves for one of modern doom’s formative acts. He’s well acquainted with working around a crucial riff. Listening to the two tracks they’ve so far released from sophomore record — by astounding coincidence, the first two that appear on the album — aside from the sheer impact of the Sanford Parker production, it’s striking just how much personality there is in the songs. The Skull weren’t exactly lacking character on the first record, but it’s clear their time on tour domestically and internationally has brought them together in a new way.

Preorders are up for the album now through Tee Pee Records, and you’ll find that link under the “Ravenswood” video below, along with the clip for the title-track, which I’ve included here because I didn’t get the chance to post it before because I’m terrible at everything and blah blah blah self-loathing.

Info from the PR wire follows as well.

Please enjoy:

The Skull, “Ravenswood” official lyric video

The Skull, featuring vocalist Eric Wagner and bassist Ron Holzner, formerly of metal legends Trouble, has completed work on its highly anticipated sophomore album. Titled, The Endless Road Turns Dark, the LP was recorded in Chicago’s Decade Music Studios with engineer Sanford Parker (Yob, Tombs) and builds on the foundation laid by The Skull’s debut album, For Those Which Are Asleep, a recording that landed at or near the top of a host of 2014 year-end best of lists. The Endless Road Turns Dark will be released on September 7 via Tee Pee Records.

“‘Ravenswood’ is one of my favorite lyrics on the new album, The Endless Road Turns Dark,” Wagner enthuses. “This reminds me of where I truly am in life and all that I had to go through to get here.”

The Skull, which also features longtime Cathedral drummer Brian Dixon, guitarist Lothar Keller (Sacred Dawn), and guitarist Rob Wrong (Witch Mountain), creates classic Sabbathian doom with a psych-tinged metal vision. The respected group’s impending album, The Endless Road Turns Dark, benefits greatly from the pedigree and experience of the band’s members and pushes authentic, old-school metal to heavier and more foreboding places, fueled by burly riffing, metallic groove and a crushing punch. Ethereal and wonderfully moody with a heart of heavy metal beating at its center, the record delivers definitive doom metal full of powerful builds and mesmerizing dynamic range. More than a mere throwback, The Endless Road Turns Dark is the work of a band that respects their fans, understands their own history, and still has their ears open to the current doom metal landscape. A wicked exercise in heavy metal majesty, The Endless Road Turns Dark plays like a natural extension of the musicians exemplary work during their 20-plus years with Trouble and cements The Skull as modern day doom metal royalty.

Track listing:

1.) The Endless Road Turns Dark
2.) Ravenswood
3.) Breathing Underwater
4.) The Longing
5.) From Myself Depart
6.) As the Sun Draws Near
7.) All That Remains (Is True)
8.) Thy Will Be Done

Pre-order The Endless Road Turns Dark at this location.

The Skull, “The Endless Road Turns Dark” official lyric video

The Skull on Thee Facebooks

The Skull on Twitter

The Skull website

Tee Pee Records website

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Desertfest Belgium 2018: Crowbar, The Skull, Castle, Yuri Gargarin, and Sofy Major Join Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 6th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Who’s going to argue with this? Sludge, doom, psych, noise, and metal? It’s like Desertfest Belgium 2018 decided its third announcement was when it would encompass the scope of underground heavy in one go. It’s got oldschool and newschool vibes, American and European bands next to each other, and fucking Castle, who just never stop touring ever. Never ever. I’m pretty sure they made their new record in the back of their van.

Maybe not, but still.

Seriously, the list of bands says it all, and the roster of acts they join only makes Desertfest Belgium all the more significant in Europe’s massively-crowded Fall festival scene. I’m not going to tell you to buy tickets or travel if you’re not in a financially secure situation or something, but if you have to sell your car and become a curiously aged European street urchin, complete with backpack and dog, this one might be worth it.

Behold:

desertfest belgium 2018 crowbar

Since you all liked our last announcement so much, we’re already back with another one!

And oh boy… Another quintuple hit of doom, rock, metal, psychedelics and whatever strikes your fancy, here we go…

First up, the absolute heavyweights of Southern sludge will grace our stage for the first time. Yes, Crowbar will be charged up fresh from their upcoming Eastern Europe tour in the summer, so expect them to be sharp as a razor and hard as nails at Desertfest Antwerp 2018!

Another scene stalwart, this time in the traditional doom vein, we welcome former Trouble makers The Skull, who reportedly will come loaded with a fresh sophomore album, out on Tee Pee Records in the fall.

For some more traditional doom vibes with a nice dose of occult rock, San Fransiscan trio Castle – Metal Band will be back at our festival after their killer set in 2016. We are also most pleased that the Swedish spacerock shuttle Yuri Gagarin will land at DF Antwerp from whatever outer space voyage they’ve embarked on. They’ve got an interstellar live reputation, so expect this to be a highlight for sure! And finally, we close off this batch of goodness with something French and sleazy. SOFY MAJOR is a noiserock outfit that will hit you in the face like a solid steel beercan.

So rest assured, your precious Reduced Combi Tickets will be well worth… what’s that? You STILL haven’t bought your tickets you say? Even though they’re still a steal at €95 for three days? This will not stand! We’ll give you just a little more time to go get them, but next time we see each other, don’t give us any excuses you hear!

http://www.desertfest.be/tickets
https://www.facebook.com/desertfestbelgium/
https://www.facebook.com/events/364607267372737/
https://twitter.com/DesertfestBE

Crowbar, Live in Flint, Michigan, March 2018

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The Skull Announce Tour Dates with Earthride and Hyborian

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 7th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

the skull

Doom on. I’m not sure much more than that really needs to be said about The Skull announcing a run of headlining tour dates with Maryland’s finest, Earthride, as direct support. Chicago doom meets Maryland doom. Needless to say, it’s going to be pretty gosh darn doomed.

The Skull release their new album, The Endless Road Turns Dark, this Fall on Tee Pee, and if you’re not looking forward to that, I’ve got nothing for you. The timeline on Earthride‘s next full-length is a little more vague, but with their recent Witch Gun single came word that was in the works as well. Hyborian, meanwhile, recently issued their first album through Season of Mist.

The PR wire has those dates:

the skull tour poster

The Skull Announces U.S. Headlining Tour Dates

Doom Metal Legends Complete Work on New Album ‘The Endless Road Turns Dark’

The Skull, featuring vocalist Eric Wagner and bassist Ron Holzner, formerly of metal legends Trouble, has completed work on its highly anticipated sophomore album. Titled, The Endless Road Turns Dark, the LP was recorded in Chicago’s Decade Music Studios with engineer Sanford Parker (Yob, Tombs) and builds on the foundation laid by The Skull’s debut album, For Those Which Are Asleep, a recording that landed at or near the top of a host of 2014 year-end best of lists. A fall release date via Tee Pee Records is projected for the new LP.

To celebrate the completion of the new album, The Skull, which also features longtime Cathedral drummer Brian Dixon, guitarist Lothar Keller (Sacred Dawn), and guitarist Rob Wrong (Witch Mountain) has announced a U.S. headlining tour that will launch on June 2 in in Chicago where the band will headline the third annual Doomed & Stoned Fest. The 12 city jaunt will run through June 15 in Lombard, IL. On the spring tour, The Skull will be joined by guest drummer Henry Vasquez of Saint Vitus who will fill in for Dixon. Opening acts will include Earthride and Hyborian.

The just-announced itinerary is as follows:

THE SKULL tour dates:
June 2 Chicago, IL Reggie’s (as part of Doomed & Stoned Fest)
June 3 Minneapolis, MN Studio B @ Skyway Theatre
June 5 Bozeman, MT Zebra Lounge
June 7 Seattle, WA Highline
June 8 Bellingham, WA Shakedown
June 9 Portland, OR Star Theatre
June 10 Sacramento, CA Blue Lamp
June 11 Santa Cruz, CA Atrium @ Catalyst
June 12 San Francisco, CA Elbo Room
June 13 Los Angeles, CA Resident
June 14 Las Vegas, NV Count’s Vamp’d
June 15 San Diego, CA Soda Bar

https://www.facebook.com/troubletheskull/
https://twitter.com/theskullusa
http://theskullusa.com/
https://teepeerecords.com/

The Skull, For Those Which are Asleep (2014)

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The Skull Finish New LP The Endless Road Turns Dark; Tour Dates Announced

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 2nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

One hates to even think of things in these terms, but from where I sit, The Skull‘s forthcoming second album for Tee Pee, produced by Sanford Parker and given the title The Endless Road Turns Dark, is the only possible record that can touch Apostle of Solitude‘s From Gold to Ash this year when it comes to US traditional doom. There are other candidates to be sure, but thinking back to what The Skull were able to accomplish on their 2014 debut, For Those Which are Asleep (review here), the potential for this to be one of the best albums of 2018 is palpable and then some.

The Skull just wrapped a tour playing Trouble‘s self-titled album in its entirety and will hit the road again this month on a headlining tour the dates for which came down the PR wire. I’ll hope to have more to come on The Endless Road Turns Dark before the slated autumn release:

the skull

The Skull Completes Work on New Album ‘The Endless Road Turns Dark’

Doom Metal Legends Announce Spring U.S. Headlining Tour Dates

The Skull, featuring vocalist Eric Wagner and bassist Ron Holzner, formerly of metal legends Trouble, has completed work on its highly anticipated sophomore album. Titled, The Endless Road Turns Dark, the LP was recorded in Chicago’s Decade Music Studios with engineer Sanford Parker (Yob, Tombs) and builds on the foundation laid by The Skull’s debut album, For Those Which Are Asleep, a recording that landed at or near the top of a host of 2014 year-end best of lists. A fall release date is projected for the new LP.

To celebrate the completion of the new album, The Skull, which also features longtime Cathedral drummer Brian Dixon, guitarist Lothar Keller (Sacred Dawn), and guitarist Rob Wrong (Witch Mountain) has announced a spring U.S. headlining tour that will launch on April 18 in Rochester, NY. The 16 city jaunt will run through May 5 in Lombard, IL. The just-announced itinerary is as follows:

THE SKULL tour dates:
April 18 Rochester, NY Montage Music Hall
April 19 Worcester, MA Ralph’s Rock Diner
April 20 Jewett City, CT Altone’s
April 21 Lancaster, PA Chameleon Club
April 22 Baltimore, MD Metro Gallery
April 23 Harrisonburg, VA Golden Pony
April 24 Raleigh, NC Pour House Music Hall
April 25 Atlanta, GA Drunken Unicorn
April 26 New Orleans, LA Santos Bar
April 27 Houston, TX White Oak Music Hall
April 28 San Antonio, TX The Limelight
April 30 Dallas, TX Reno’s Chop Shop
May 1 Austin, TX Hotel Vegas
May 3 Newport, KY Southgate House Revival
May 4 Detroit, MI Harpos
May 5 Lombard, IL Brauerhouse Live

https://www.facebook.com/troubletheskull/
https://twitter.com/theskullusa
http://theskullusa.com/
https://teepeerecords.com/

The Skull, For Those Which are Asleep (2014)

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