Heavy Psych Sounds Fest Announces Berlin and Dresden Editions

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 27th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

heavy psych sounds logo

Remember like a very, very short time ago — maybe last week? — when I was talking about how Heavy Psych Sounds was taking over the world, one band, tour and festival at a time? Well here we are with the announcements for four nights in Germany this December that one assumes — but never knows for sure — will round out a busy 2019 for the Italian label/booking agency/one-stop-shop. Monolord, The Sonic DawnWedgeGorilla and 1782 are thus far announced with apparently more to come. No big surprise they’re not done, as it seems increasingly like they’re never done. Did you see the pictures from the West Coast Heavy Psych Sounds package tour? It looked pretty amazing.

I guess that’s what happens when you put everything you have into what you do and what you do kicks ass.

From the PR wire:

heavy psych sounds fest berlin dresden

HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS announces BERLIN + DRESDEN FEST; featuring MONOLORD, THE SONIC DAWN & more!

Headquartered in Rome, Italy, Heavy Psych Sounds specializes in presenting the best artists in the global heavy psych, doom, fuzz blues and space rock realms, and their Festival- series will be no exception, spotlighting the ever-growing label’s dedication to its craft. While the first HPS Fests were held in Italy, the label has since extended its live reach into the UK, Belgium, Netherlands, Austria and even the USA: The underground cult label is not only THE address for all heavy rock record collectors, but has also become an important live and festival institution; with a brisk participation from heavy music fans all over the world.

Now, Heavy Psych Sounds is set to bring the ROCK to Germany: Dresden and Berlin with the just-announced special shows taking place this December! Each stop of the traveling festival tour will feature diverse line-ups including both genre leaders and fast-rising acts, all ready to prove their place among the world’s best. In cooperation with Greyzone Concerts and ElbSludgeBooking, Heavy Psych Sounds has just revealed the first bands featuring heavy doom weights MONOLORD, psychedelic rockers THE SONIC DAWN and more:

[ artwork by Branca Studio ]

Taking place December 6th and 7th 2019 in Berlin and Dresden, the tickets are now on sale at:

BERLIN
Event: www.facebook.com/events/328145071206018/

DRESDEN
Event: www.facebook.com/events/658161097944810/

https://www.facebook.com/HEAVYPSYCHSOUNDS
http://www.heavypsychsounds.com
https://heavypsychsoundsrecords.bandcamp.com
www.greyzone-concerts.de
www.facebook.com/Elbsludgebooking

Monolord, Rust (2017)

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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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Heavy Psych Sounds Fest to Take Place in UK, Belgium & the Netherlands; Lineups Announced

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

This is a pretty big deal. Heavy Psych Sounds Fest, of course the festival arm of the label/booking company of the same name, was already branching out in holding its 2018 edition last month in Austria, whereas to my knowledge all past fests were held in Italy. Now, not only is Heavy Psych Sounds Fest 2019 moving again, but it’s expanding to three cities, and it’s happening in just a couple months in February. It’s kind of astounding, and the ambition isn’t the only thing. Black RainbowsGiöbia and Deadsmoke will feature all three nights — Feb. 22-24, in London, Brussels and Deventer, respectively — and they’ll be joined in London by Dead Witches, who’ll use the appearance to mark the release of their new album, on Heavy Psych Sounds, and in Belgium by The Sonic Dawn, and in the Netherlands by The Sonic Dawn again as well as Drive by WireKamchatka and Komatsu. I’ll say it again: this is a pretty big deal.

It signals Heavy Psych Sounds Fest not just as a label showcase, but maybe even ultimately a traveling package tour. Who the hell knows what might come next? The door’s open wide.

From the PR wire:

heavy psych sounds fest 2019 posters

HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS FEST to conquer the UK, Belgium and the Netherlands in early 2019!

London, Brussels and Deventer are set to be drenched in fuzz in February 2019, with the next proceedings for HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS FEST!

Heavy Psych Sounds Records are proud to announce further events for their HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS FEST series, which celebrated its last edition in November 2018 in Innsbruck, Austria. The Italian cult & fuzz rock label invited high class acts such as Brant Bjork, Giöbia, Mother’s Cake and Belzebong & many more, to turn the capitol of Tyrol into a psychedelic rock wonderland! Due to the massive success and participation of the heavy rock scene with fans from all over Europe who made the fest so special, Heavy Psych Sounds just announced to expand and will be running the highly acclaimed events in London (Underworld, in cooperation with DesertScene), Brussels (Magasin4) as well as in Deventer (Burgerweeshuis, in cooperation with SOZ concerts) between February 22nd – 24th 2019!

HPS FEST LONDON (UK) – February 22nd at The Black Heart
with Dead Witches (official album release), Black Rainbows, Giöbia, Deadsmoke
Official event // TICKETS

HPS FEST BRUSSELS (BE) – February 23rd at Magasin 4
with Black Rainbows Giöbia, The Sonic Dawn, Deadsmoke
Official event // TICKETS

HPS FEST DEVENTER (NL) – February 24th at Burgerweeshuis
with Black Rainbows, Giöbia, Deadsmoke, The Sonic Dawn, Komatsu, Kamchatka, Drive By Wire
Official event // TICKETS

The London date will also see the release show of DEAD WITCHES (feat. Electric Wizard’s co-founding member Mark Greening) to celebrate their sophomore album ‘The Final Exorcism! Expect heavy as hell shows from all bands, the finest and almighty riffs, and of course lots of cool merch at the Heavy Psych Sounds booth.

https://www.facebook.com/HEAVYPSYCHSOUNDS
http://www.heavypsychsounds.com
https://heavypsychsoundsrecords.bandcamp.com

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The Sonic Dawn Premiere “Forever 1969”; Eclipse Due Feb. 1

Posted in audiObelisk on October 22nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

the sonic dawn

Danish classic psychedelic rockers begin their third album, Eclipse, with a statement of purpose in the track ‘Forever 1969,’ and while I can’t confess to have heard the righteously titled “Psychedelic Ranger” that follows it or what’s presumably an ode to the Free City in “Christiania” later in the record, one assumes that “Forever 1969” carries its spirit through at least on some level or it probably wouldn’t be leading off. Past and future collide in their homage to the year when psychedelia began to give way to the birth of heavy rock, and while the title might remind immediately of The Stooges if only for directly calling out the end of the 1960s, The Sonic Dawn‘s jazzy progressive drift is on another trip entirely: “You like think we’re left behind/But really, man, we’re ahead of our time/’Cuz ’69 is another state of mind.”

So be it. The Copenhagen trio were last heard from in Spring 2017 with the also-set-to-be-reissued-in-early-2019 Into the Long Night (review here), which was their first LP through Heavy Psych Sounds after the sonic dawn eclipseissuing their Halloween 2015 debut, Perception (review here), via Nasoni Records, and with “Forever 1969,” they tease a consistency of tonal warmth and melodic centrality to their method. Composition — structure, form — was a major factor in the effectiveness of Into the Long Night, which collected nine tracks from vocalist/guitarist Emil Bureau, bassist Niels “Bird” Fuglede and drummer/backing vocalist Jonas Waaben, and something else “Forever 1969” teases is a further stylistic classicism in its efficiency. It’s the album opener and it runs short at 2:44 and seems to stop itself quickly to hit that mark. Given The Sonic Dawn‘s affinity for that era, that hardly seems like a coincidence. Rather, in the style of an old 45RPM single in a crinkly paper sleeve, they’re cutting out quick, ending on the chorus, making their point and getting out. It’s an interesting turn for the band to make and another manifestation of their proto-heavy rock mindset.

The Sonic Dawn will herald the coming of Eclipse next month on a round of European tour dates with their labelmate Brant Bjork, and one assumes there will be more on Eclipse between now and the three-plus months before it sees release, so stay tuned. You can, in the meantime, stream the premiere of “Forever 1969” on the player below and dig into the album details under that, which come courtesy of the PR wire.

Please enjoy:

Forever 1969 is the first single of the upcoming The Sonic Dawn album Eclipse. The album will be released 1st February 2019 via Heavy Psych Sounds.

Forever 1969 delivers a simple yet powerful message: That you can be, whoever you want to be. The 50th anniversary of Woodstock and the largest peace marches is coming up, but The Sonic Dawn are not just nostalgic. In their own words, “Times may change, but the struggle remains the same.” It is always the right time to free your mind.

THE SONIC DAWN’s upcoming “Eclipse” was recorded to tape in The Village Recording, Denmark’s best analog studio, and has been produced by THE SONIC DAWN and Thomas Vang (Roger Waters etc.). Mastered in the Svenska Grammofonstudion by Hans Olsson Brookes (Graveyard a.o.) and cut to vinyl in the Abbey Road Studios lead “Eclipse” to an ultimate sound quality.

“Eclipse”, the band’s third full-length, is the product of a full year’s labor, with 13 blistering tracks carefully selected among over more than 40 candidates. Inspired by personal tragedies and the current meltdown of the world as we know it, the songs deal with a feeling of despair that many will recognize, but also seem to say that we can heal and come out stronger, if we dare take the leap. The result is a cinematic journey in sonic technicolor with catchy melodies that cast a mysterious shadow.

New album “Eclipse” will be released February 1st and available in the following formats:
– 25 Test Press vinyl
– 250 LTD silver vinyl
– 250 LTD splatter trasp. background / black – pink fluo
– 500 LTD red solid vinyl
– Black vinyl
– CD and digital

TRACK LISTING:
1. Forever 1969
2. Psychedelic Ranger
3. The Stranger
4. No Chaser
5. Opening Night
6. Circle of Things
7. On the Edge of Our Time
8. Christiania
9. The Last Page
10. Love Bird
11. To Change Who We Are
12. Islands in Time
13. Towards the End

THE SONIC DAWN European Tour 2018 w/ Brant Bjork:
06.11.18 DE Hamburg | Fabrik
07.11.18 NL Amsterdam | Melkweg
08.11.18 BE Leuven | Het Depot
09.11.18 UK London | Garage
10.11.18 FR Paris | Petit Bain
11.11.18 NL Tilburg | O13
12.11.18 DE Wiesbaden | Schlachthof
13.11.18 CH Zürich | Rote Fabrik
14.11.18 CH Martigny | Caves Du Manoir
15.11.18 IT Turin | Spazio 211
16.11.18 AT Innsbruck | Hafen (HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS FEST)
17.11.18 DE Munich | Feierwerk
18.11.18 AT Vienna | Arena
19.11.18 DE Dresden | Beatpol
20.11.18 DE Berlin | Festsaal Kreuzberg

THE SONIC DAWN are:
Emil Bureau (guitar & vocals)
Jonas Waaben (drums)
Niels ‘Bird’ Fuglede (bass guitar)

The Sonic Dawn on Thee Facebooks

The Sonic Dawn on Bandcamp

The Sonic Dawn on Instagram

The Sonic Dawn website

Heavy Psych Sounds website

Heavy Psych Sounds on Thee Facebooks

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The Sonic Dawn Announce New Album Set for 2019 Release

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 28th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Whittled down from an apparent glut of material — 30 songs is not inconsiderable — the forthcoming long-player from Danish classic-psychedelic trio The Sonic Dawn will be released early next year via Heavy Psych Sounds. Why the delay? Well, one expects with pressing times, the label’s schedule, putting together art and all the standard pre-album hoopla — preorders, track streams, videos if they go that route, etc. — it would be a few months anyway, and I don’t know how to say this because it seems utterly impossible, but a few months from now is like November/December, and it makes sense that The Sonic Dawn would rather wait until the New Year to get their record out rather than have it arrive around the holiday season when most folks’ minds are elsewhere. It’s a deceptively quick jump between now and early 2019, however much that might sound like the future.

Fortunately, The Sonic Dawn sound a good bit like the past, you know, to balance things out. Yet untitled, their new record follows Spring 2017’s Into the Long Night (review here), which was the three-piece’s first for Heavy Psych Sounds after making their debut in 2015 with Perception (review here), issued by Nasoni Records.

The PR wire brings announcement of work completed:

the sonic dawn

Danish psychedelic trio THE SONIC DAWN completes new album; to be released early 2019 on Heavy Psych Sounds Records.

Good news for all fans of the psychedelic sounds! The Sonic Dawn just finished recording their third LP, the culmination of a full year’s labor. Following their first two album releases, the Danish trio has toured Europe more or less constantly, only returning home to focus on this, their most ambitious project to date.

“This past year, we’ve been forced to deal with the shadow side of life. We turned feelings of loss, self-doubt and fear into a deeply personal record, finding hope and strength in the process. You hear a shift from darkness to light in these songs, picked from over 30 tracks we wrote. It’s our biggest work ever.” states Emil Bureau (guitar/vocals).

The Sonic Dawn recorded their new album in The Village, Denmark’s best analog studio, with producer Thomas Vang, coming directly from album sessions with Roger Waters.

While the album title and release date is yet to be announced, it is expected to hit record stores and online platforms in early 2019, followed by an extensive album tour. The Sonic Dawn will release their upcoming record world-wide on Heavy Psych Sounds Records.

www.thesonicdawn.bandcamp.com
www.facebook.com/thesonicdawn
www.instagram.com/thesonicdawn
https://thesonicdawn.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/HEAVYPSYCHSOUNDS
http://www.heavypsychsounds.com
https://heavypsychsoundsrecords.bandcamp.com

The Sonic Dawn, Into the Long Night (2017)

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The Sonic Dawn Reissue Debut Album Perception in Audiophile Edition

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 19th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

I guess I didn’t notice that The Sonic Dawn‘s 2015 debut album, Perception (review here), sounded particularly rough in its original Nasoni Records version, but you can hear pretty clearly from the echoing reaches of “An Easy Heart to Break” the work that’s gone into remastering and remaking the album for this ‘Audiophile Edition.’ I’d be interested to know what specifically the band did to the recording — does this call for a track-by-track? — but even failing that, it’s an excuse to dig back into the record, which they followed up earlier this year with Into the Long Night (review here) on Heavy Psych Sounds, and I’m not about to complain about that. Hence the Bandcamp player at the bottom of the post.

Info follows as posted by the band on the social medias:

the sonic dawn perception vinyl

It’s here – the brand new Audiophile Edition of our debut album, Perception.

With its analogue remaster and fresh cut, straight out of Abbey Road Studios, Perception has never sounded better. Originally released on Nasoni Records in 2015, and sold out long ago, this is the first time the LP is available on black vinyl (180g of course). Crazy thing is, it has never been cheaper either!

Whether you prefer vinyl, CD or a high-quality download via Bandcamp, the improved sound will take you on a trip.

Buy or stream for free via https://thesonicdawn.bandcamp.com/album/perception

PS: Our shipping rates are the lowest in all of the EU and orders are shipped out daily before Xmas.

PPS: If you purchased Perception previously on Bandcamp, just re-download it to get the Audiophile Edition for free!

Tracklisting:
1. An Easy Heart to Break 03:47
2. Lonely Parade 03:17
3. All the Ghosts I Know 05:00
4. The Mustang 04:10
5. Black Cat Woman 02:46
6. Wild at Heart 05:38
7. It’s Tomorrow 02:00
8. Howlin’ Moon 03:24
9. Watching Dust Fall 05:04
10. Fading Soul 04:37

Perception is the debut album by The Sonic Dawn, first released on Nasoni Records, Oct. 31 2015.

What you get here is the Audiophile Edition from 2017, whether you prefer LP, CD or digital. Available as 96 KHz / 24 bit download.

The Sonic Dawn is:
Emil Bureau (guitar, lead vocals)
Jonas Waaben (drums)
Neil Bird (bass guitar)

https://www.facebook.com/thesonicdawn/
https://thesonicdawn.bandcamp.com/
http://thesonicdawn.com/

The Sonic Dawn, Perception (2015)

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Review & Full Album Stream: The Sonic Dawn, Into the Long Night

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on April 14th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the sonic dawn into the long night

[Click play above to stream The Sonic Dawn’s Into the Long Night in full. Album is out April 21 on Heavy Psych Sounds.]

As a title, Into the Long Night might well stem from the circumstances under which the album was recorded. The second full-length from Danish psychedelic rockers The Sonic Dawn and their debut on Heavy Psych Sounds, the nine-track/36-minute offering follows 2015’s Perception (review here), which was released by Nasoni, and was reportedly written by day and tracked during the evening over the course of a month in an isolated house somewhere by the North Sea. Sounds like a nice vacation, and whatever the circumstances of its making, it’s easy enough to read a sense of isolation into the traditional psych-pop-rock elicited by guitarist/vocalist/sitarist Emil Bureau, bassist Niels Bird and drummer/percussionist Jonas Waaben, however welcoming some of their hooks might feel and however warm their tonality — bolstered throughout by guest Hammond work from Erik “Errka” Petersson (Siena Root) and solo vibraphonist Morten Grønvad — might otherwise be.

It’s a deceptively complex front-to-back trip, as The Sonic Dawn fluidly shift between late-’60s pop, mid-’70s fusion and more modern strains of retro-minded heavy, but in answering the potential of their debut, the three-piece craft a style of familiar elements that is immersive and decidedly their own, relying on a jazzy sensibility in Waaben‘s drumming that on a given track might pull them into Doors-style chaos, as with “Numbers Blue,” or propel a howling psych/kraut exploration like the earlier “On the Shore.” Wherever they go in this expression of varied influences, The Sonic Dawn hold fast to their own stylistic voice, resulting in a palpable spirit of progressiveness that never gets lost in its own meanderings.

That’s not to say it doesn’t meander. Indeed, that becomes part of the appeal. Beginning with a not-sure-it’s-necessary 33-second “Intro” wash of keys and psychedelic vocal melody before the clean guitar line of “Emily Lemon” gently unfolds the first of Into the Long Night‘s friendly, groovy impressions, the vibe is one that lets BureauBird and Waaben go where they will and they take full advantage with an underlying sense of glee. The opener, such as it is, “Emily Lemon” shifts into guitar soundscaping to close, leading to the jazzier bounce and further atmospheric drift of the aforementioned “On the Shore,” but even when they freak out, which they do a bit on the subsequent organ-laced rocker “As of Lately” — prime fodder for a lost 45 from ’66 and, “Intro” aside, the shortest inclusion at 2:45 — they keep firm control of their direction. Of course, this has its ups and downs, as there are moments where a listener might want them to let loose a bit, but as they round out side A with the longer “Six Seven” (5:07), the prevailing spirit is one of being consciously driven, and that holds true for the preceding three-plus cuts and the four still to come on side B as well.

the sonic dawn

The good news is it works for The Sonic Dawn, because they prove to be strong enough in their songwriting to stand up to the demands of the diverse sound they want to create, but even if they’re the ones making their own rules, they’re also the ones playing by them. Even as “Six Seven” moves into the apex of its key-and-flute-inclusive build, having departed at about four minutes in to an insistent and noisy section of free-jazz thrust, the drums still hold a steady beat beneath, and there’s never any danger of the track flying apart as it almost seems like it wants to do. They fade it out at the end and I can’t help but wonder if they might’ve been more duly served leaving the collapse of that jam intact for the listener to be a part of; a warts-and-all moment to share with the band that could only further the honesty of presentation so prevalent in these tracks.

In any case, they proceed onward with side B opener “Numbers Blue,” an upbeat guitar-led figure that would seem to put the pieces of “As of Lately” and “Six Seven” together into a progressive rocker that’s marked out by Waaben‘s tom work no less than the intermittent surges of Hammond or the guitar swirl that emerges in its second half. Here they begin to let go of the reins a bit, but it’s still a quick flash and then gone en route to the three-minute “Lights Left On,” a quiet guitar-key-vocal excursion that effectively showcases Bureau‘s singing, fragile but controlled, and revives the jazzy pulse of “On the Shore” in a fittingly subtle and complementary fashion. Here neither does one find The Sonic Dawn overstaying their welcome. They touch on these ideas, stop in for a quick expression of them, and get out. The exception to that might be seven-minute closer “Summer Voyage,” which is led into by the flowing psych-gaze of “L’Espion” — an execution of two organ-topped builds over the course of four minutes that still has time for backwards echoing at the finish; efficiency! — though with the inclusion of sitar from Bureau and the wandering mood of its ending jam, they’re frankly welcome to stay as long as they like as far as I’m concerned.

With hypnotic shoegaze guitar, background vocals and the sitar included as flourish in such a way that only makes me want to hear more of it from them over the longer term, The Sonic Dawn round out Into the Long Night via the delivery of yet another clear message: that they’re not at all finished growing yet. Carrying outward on dreamy keys (vibraphone?) and guitar on an extended drift, “Summer Voyage” reaches its destination peacefully and evokes a serenity rarely conveyed so well in something that might still fall under the umbrella heading of “heavy.” For what it’s worth, The Sonic Dawn, while operating under their own conventions as far as mood and ambience go, seem less concerned with the structural bounds others might place on genre, and that’s something that already serves them well here and can only continue to as they further their lysergic adventurousness in the years to come. There are moments on Into the Long Night where one wonders how they manage to keep their wits about them, but much to their credit, The Sonic Dawn never waver from their central purpose in progressive and pastoral melodicism.

The Sonic Dawn on Thee Facebooks

The Sonic Dawn on Bandcamp

The Sonic Dawn website

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Heavy Psych Sounds Announces Volume II Label Sampler; New Music from Black Rainbows and Killer Boogie

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 16th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

The label compilation is kind of a lost art in this age of digital whathaveyou. Used to be imprints put together comps on the regular. Some had rough mixes, some had exclusive tracks or things that wound up getting dropped off albums, and they kind of became a place where you might find something special once and then not run into it again. Italy’s Heavy Psych Sounds, with an ever-expanding roster and an already-full slate of releases as a result, seems intent on reviving the tradition. In addition to the label, booking agency, four-way split series and now two organized festivals under its belt, last year saw the release of Heavy Psych Sounds Volume I, and it seems that, indeed, it was the beginning of a series.

Heavy Psych Sounds Volume II will feature exclusive tracks from Black Rainbows and Killer Boogie and will be released on March 24. The same day, Black Rainbows will release their “The Red Sky Above” as a digital single following-up on last year’s Stellar Prophecy (review here) and leading to speculation of a sixth long-player in the works from them.

From the PR wire:

heavy-psych-sounds-volume-ii

Heavy Psych Sounds Records presents: HPS CD SAMPLER VOL II (2017)

HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS Records & Booking is stoked to announce: The HPS Records Sampler Vol 2

Europe’s ever-growing riff powerhouse HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS is set to release the second chapter of its “Heavy Psych Sounds Sampler”, featuring 15 bands of the roster among which two exclusive new songs!

This new compilation features 15 tracks taken off the label’s most recent releases (Fatso Jetson, Nick Oliveri, The Freeks…) as well as a nice preview of some upcoming gems from The Sonic Dawn, Farflung, Duel or Cachemira. As an icing on this rifftastic cake, “Heavy Psych Sounds Sampler Vol. 2” offers two exclusive new singles from the mighty Black Rainbows and Killer Boogie.

HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS VOLUME II TRACK LISTING:
Black Rainbows “The Red Sky Above” (exclusive track!)
Cachemira “Overpopulation”
Doctor Cyclops “Lonely Devil”
Duel “Witchbanger”
Farflung “You Will Kill For Me”
Fatso Jetson “Wire Wheels And Robots”
Giöbia “This World Was Being Watched Closely”
Glitter Wizard-Mycelia
Killer Boogie “Eight Ball” (exclusive track!)
Mothership “Crown Of Lies”
Nick Oliveri “Anything And Everything”
The Clamps “Must Destroy”
The Golden Grass “Flashing Out Of Sight”
The Freeks “Uncle Jack’s Truck”
The Sonic Dawn “Summer Voyage”

Heavy Psych Sounds Sampler Vol. 2
Out March 24th on Heavy Psych Sounds

Black Rainbows, “The Red Sky Above”

Unreleased dope track for the Italian fuzzsters, 6 minutes of Doomy, Stoner, Sabbathty groove stuff, recorded specifically for the new HPS Sampler. Recorded during their last tour in a cool studio surrounded by white snow mountains in the north of Italy last January 2017. You can taste the change of direction for the band with a monolithic style, more dark, more heavy, more straight in your face!

HEAVY PSYCH SOUNDS is an ever-growing European record label and booking agency specialized in stoner, hard, psychedelic, fuzzy, doomy rock and more largely, all kinds of blazing retro riffage. Since its creation in Roma in 2007, HPS has released projects for Black Rainbows, Nick Oliveri, Karma To Burn, Naam, White Hills, Farflung, Fatso Jetson, Deville, Hot Lunch, Killer Boogie, Mos Generator, Isaak, The Sonic Dawn, Mothership and many more.

https://www.facebook.com/HEAVYPSYCHSOUNDS/
heavypsychsoundsrecords.bandcamp.com
http://www.heavypsychsounds.com/

Black Rainbows, “The Red Sky Above”

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