P.H.O.B.O.S. Premiere “Taqiyah Rhyzom” from Phlogiston Catharsis out Sept. 10

Posted in audiObelisk on September 3rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

phobos

Parisian acronymic industrialists P.H.O.B.O.S. will release their fourth full-length, Phlogiston Catharsis, Sept. 10 via Transcending Obscurity Records. Following a revamped/expanded lineup that brought guitarist/keyboardist/vocalist Mani Ann-Sitar and bassist/programmer/etc. Magnus Larssen into the group alongside band founder Frédéric Sacri, who started the project in 2000 as a trio and gradually came to be the sole representative of P.H.O.B.O.S.‘ sound, as well as to record their material at his own studio, Sapel Lomor (which in phonetic French is pretty close to “it’s called love,” though I don’t know if that’s what he was going for), and release it through the self-made imprint Megaton Mass Products, the new album brings harsh vitality to a style that’s often staid or cold by nature.

P.H.O.B.O.S. aren’t that. If anything, they’re as molten as the imagery on the album cover, but it’s not the kind of easy-flowing groove-mongering one might expect from the use of that word. This is more like the actual process of melting rock and metal, of turning it into something churning and blistering to the touch. Like the meeting of minds between Satyricon and a doomed-out Godflesh, the eight-track/46-minute Phlogiston Catharsis revels in its assault factor and brutal chaotic wash.

It’s an oppressive and atmospheric work, with programmed beats and sampled noise serving as a bed for opener “Biomorphorror” and the more guitar-driven “Igneous Tephrapotheosis,” which follows, and the later, relatively uptempo “Neurasthen Logorrh,” the pacing of which does nothing to letup the chaotic feel. Consider as well the buzzing tone of the penultimate “Aljannashid,” which is the longest track on Phlogiston Catharsis at just under seven minutes, and its wide and spacious crushing sensibility, like being steamrolled by some large piece of mechanized equipment meant to flatten a four-lane highway in one go. Tension runs high throughout, of course, and the deep-diving ambience of “Zam Alien Canyons” and the forwardphobos Phlogiston Catharsis beats of “Aurora Sulphura” seem to further the sense of automated terror.

Sacri, drawing nearer to the 20-year mark with the band, obviously knows where he wants to be in terms of aesthetics, and if P.H.O.B.O.S. is the execution of that deranged will, its pulsations and anticosmic push speak to a clear vision brought to bear. For all its maddening aspects, Phlogiston Catharsis is striking in its cohesion, and more than just a meld of genres, pitting industrial and doom and black metal against each other in succession and seeing which comes out on top, the album finds P.H.O.B.O.S. bringing otherwise disparate styles together in pieces like the guitar-noise-laden “Taqiyah Rhyzom” and the cavernous finale “Smothered in Scoria” to craft a varied identity able to shift focus from one to the other without losing a grip on its central purpose of expression.

And that expression is resoundingly, unapologetically dark. Phlogiston Catharsis bears its chug and churn as a direct challenge to the listener, and as “Smothered in Scoria” lurches to its post-solo finish of noise wash and atmospheric screaming, it’s made plain that everything P.H.O.B.O.S. do is in service to an idea of the song, of what each song should be and what each song should bring to the collection as a whole. I won’t say it flows smoothly, because it’s not intended to, but if you let it, Phlogiston Catharsis will carry you from its beginning to end.

But it’s a ride not everybody will dare to take, and one imagines that 18 years later, Sacri is just fine with that. So be it. Destructive and willful, Phlogiston Catharsis manifests a striking stylistic nuance, and whether one approaches it from a place of black metal, or sludge, or doom, or electronic music, it’s the kind of release that grabs its audience’s attention and refuses to let go for the duration. If you’re willing to go along with it, the rewards are significant.

You can stream “Taqiyah Rhyzom” from Phlogiston Catharsis now on the player below. More PR wire info follows.

Please enjoy:

P.H.O.B.O.S., “Taqiyah Rhyzom” official track premiere

Dark and hypnotic, P.H.O.B.O.S.’s much awaited full length after their split with Blut Aus Nord and a standalone EP is genre-bending exercise for the French band. ‘Phlogiston Catharsis’ contains eight tracks of highly atmospheric industrial-tinged black/doom metal that are both visceral as well as sonically compulsive. These throbbing, sludgy tunes are atavistic in their heaviness but at the same time forward-thinking in their expression. Taking the best elements of black and doom metal, they concoct a form of music that possibly no other band can claim rights to. Their sound is singular, ominous and game-changing. It’s the soundtrack of impending doom.

Line up –
frederic sacri > distortion / keys / pulse / vox
mani ann-sitar > distortion / keys / vox
magnus larssen > subs / infras / lines / pulse

artwork and layout – Synckop (Deafhaven, Merzbow)

P.H.O.B.O.S. on Thee Facebooks

P.H.O.B.O.S. on Bandcamp

P.H.O.B.O.S. website

Transcending Obscurity Records on Thee Facebooks

Transcending Obscurity website

Transcending Obscurity Records on Bandcamp

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Lurk Premiere “Proteus Syndrome”; Fringe out Aug. 5

Posted in audiObelisk on July 25th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

lurk

Finnish sludge extremists Lurk release their new album, Fringe, Aug. 5 on Transcending Obscurity. The eight-track outing is the third from Lurk and was originally released by the Tampere-based four-piece digitally in 2016 before being picked up for a proper pressing. It follows behind 2014’s Kaldera and a 2012 self-titled from the band, who mark a decade by making their debut on the Indian imprint and whose attack has never sounded more visceral than it does on Fringe. I’ve already said about the album that they’re likely talking about the “lunatic fringe,” the way-out, or better, way-deep edges where most don’t dare to tread, since that seems to be where Fringe itself is interested in dwelling. With the harsh rasp of Kimmo Koskinen crawling out from beneath the lurch of guitarist Arttu Pulkkinen, bassist Eetu Nurmi and drummer Kalle Nurmi, the atmosphere is dark and punishing but not without an ambient breadth as opener “Ostrakismos” leads the way into an unfolding brutality made ritualistic with the use of an effects-laden alto sax.

Fringe, for all its madness in the chug of “Tale Blade” and the oozing wash of noise that is the subsequent “Reclaim” — Satyricon and Celtic Frost meeting with Neurosis and older Paradise Lost lookinglurk fringe on — is rife with these sonic details. Following the gang-shouted layers of rasp in “Reclaim,” “Elan” closes out side A with an extended building introduction and cleaner vocals — guesting on the song is Aleksi Laakso, also of Totalselfhatred and numerous others — that lead into the album’s most vicious lumbering yet before dropping to near silence and a searing throat-rip pulled directly from Finnish black metal. As side B begins with “Offshoot,” the affect is faster and more death/black than sludge, but the underlying groove is never far, and “Offshoot” seems to be making its way downward as it moves toward “Furrow,” a resumption of plod that remains willfully torturous despite not hitting the five-minute mark. A cleaner section of shouts ignites a call and response of sorts, but the tones surrounding, the crash and the lumber are a tie to the aural cruelty in the tracks surrounding.

As to that, “Nether” answers the how-does-this-not-just-melt chaos of the song before it with an almost stately metallic poise. It’s the shortest track at 3:35, but also perhaps the most straightforward in terms of its metal quotient, working against genre expectations in a way that successfully expands the palette of Fringe overall. It’s only fitting, then, that they should close with their darkest, most utterly miasmic assault. That’s “Proteus Syndrome.” At 7:05, it’s the longest inclusion on Lurk‘s third record, and between its squibbly guitars, its rhythmic nod and its vocal-cord-trashing indecipherability, it both makes for a fitting summary of what’s come before it and pushes further into the depths than anything before it has gone. A post-midpoint drum-dropout leads to a tension of low-end that moves toward resurgence of a riff that’s near-gothic in its theatricality, but repurposed and coated in filth to suit Lurk‘s purposes. They finish with no more kindness than they began, as “Proteus Syndrome” is consumed by a wash of noise that cuts short to leave nothing behind, the arrival of silence clear in its depiction of death and no less resonant or meaningful than the fetid barbarity before it.

Usually when I post a track premiere, I say something like, “enjoy.” I’m not sure that applies here, so:

Be devoured:

Lurk, “Proteus Syndrome” official premiere

Wistful and mysterious, LURK’s music is just as interesting and multi-faceted as their cover artwork. Blending elements of doom, black and death metal into their astounding sludge template, the Finnish band is taking the sound ahead in ways hitherto unheard. Haunting, soaring melodies juxtapose with abrasive low-end riffs without hampering the overall aesthetics. Watch the band take you into a slow, hallucinatory descent towards madness where multiple worlds coalesce and still make sense – that in a nutshell is the music of LURK.

Line up –
Kimmo Koskinen – Vocals
Kalle Nurmi – Drums
Arttu Pulkkinen – Guitar
Eetu Nurmi – Bass

Guest vocals by Aleksi Laakso on Elan
Alto saxophone by Aino Heikkonen on Ostrakismos

Album artwork by Adam Burke (HOODED MENACE, LOSS)
Layout and art direction by Francesco Gemelli (KATATONIA, TOWARDS ATLANTIS LIGHTS)

Lurk on Bandcamp

Lurk on Thee Facebooks

Transcending Obscurity website

Transcending Obscurity on Thee Facebooks

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Lurk to Release Fringe Aug. 5; Streaming “Reclaim” Now

Posted in Whathaveyou on May 23rd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

lurk

Finnish guttersludge extremists Lurk have set an Aug. 5 issue date for their new album, Fringe, via Transcending Obscurity Records. And call me crazy, but I don’t think they titled the record after that not-X-Files show Fox had on until they could convince X-Files to come back. And while it’s possible, I don’t think it’s the kind dangling from Ozzy‘s jacket either. I’m thinking this is more the “lunatic fringe” kind of fringe. Out there on the edges, blown mind, blown soul, all fucked up and not caring anymore. That kind of fringe.

At least that’s the vibe I get off streaming the track “Reclaim,” which you can hear at the bottom of this post if you’re so inclined. What could almost as easily be marketed as black metal, the track is a push toward extremity of fuckall that nonetheless maintains an underlying groove. It’s not easy listening by any stretch, but making the effort comes with a reward. And, no, I don’t just mean the Adam Burke cover art, though that’s rad as well.

Info from the PR wire:

lurk fringe

LURK (Finland) – ‘Fringe’ Gold LP Box Set / Gold LP / CD Box Set / Digipak CD / Merch / Digital (August 5th, 2018)

Genre – Atmospheric Sludge/Doom Metal
Release Date – August 5th, 2018
Record Label – Transcending Obscurity Records (India)

Wistful and mysterious, LURK’s music is just as interesting and multi-faceted as their cover artwork. Blending elements of doom, black and death metal into their astounding sludge template, the Finnish band is taking the sound ahead in ways hitherto unheard. Haunting, soaring melodies juxtapose with abrasive low-end riffs without hampering the overall aesthetics. Watch the band take you into a slow, hallucinatory descent towards madness where multiple worlds coalesce and still make sense – that in a nutshell is the music of LURK.

Band lineup –
Kimmo Koskinen – Vocals
Kalle Nurmi – Drums
Arttu Pulkkinen – Guitar
Eetu Nurmi – Bass

Guest vocals by Aleksi Laakso on Elan
Alto saxophone by Aino Heikkonen on Ostrakismos

Album artwork by Adam Burke (HOODED MENACE, LOSS)
Layout and art direction by Francesco Gemelli (KATATONIA, TOWARDS ATLANTIS LIGHTS)

Track listing –
1. Ostrakismos
2. Tale Blade
3. Reclaim
4. Elan
5. Offshoot
6. Furrow
7. Nether
8. Proteus Syndrome

https://www.facebook.com/lurkdoom
https://lurkdoom.bandcamp.com/
https://tometal.com/
http://transcendingobscurity.bandcamp.com/

Lurk, Fringe (2018)

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Et Moriemur Premiere “Requiem Aeternam” from Epigrammata

Posted in audiObelisk on March 13th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

et moriemur

Czech death-doomers Et Moriemur mark a decade of existence in 2018 with the March 20 release of their third album, Epigrammata, on Transcending Obscurity Records. Comprised of 10 tracks for a densely-packed 53-minute runtime, it is a record that finds the core lineup of vocalist/keyboardist Zdenek Nevelík, bassist Karel “Kabrio” Kovarík, guitarists Ales Vilingr and Pavel Janouskovec and drummer Michal “Datel” Rak [please note: most of the band members’ names have accent marks that won’t show up when I type them into WordPress; see the lineup list below. No disrespect intended to anyone in the band.] employing a host of guests to flesh out arrangements of cello, violin, trombone, spoken word, guest vocals, trombone, acoustic guitar and choir, adding to the group’s own breadth of craft in songs like “Offertorium,” the piano-laden “Agnus Dei,” and the particularly memorable “Communio,” which with a speedier tempo reminds as much of Satyricon in its swinging verses as its violin-laced atmospheric midsection bleeds melancholy leading to a massive roller of a riff topped with deathly growling. Yeah, it’s kind of like that: full-on beauty in darkness, topped off with Gregorian chanting, multi-linguistic recitations, and a sense of ancient grief being brought to life like a weeping statue given the power of slow, gradual movement.

Patience is a virtue that Et Moriemur display handily throughout Epigrammata, which unfolds in no hurry from “Introitus” into the organ and key-fueledet moriemur epigrammata “Requiem Aeternam,” matching tortured and throaty screams against lower growls against chanting to give the proceedings a religious feel right from the start; or at least the sense of being in conversation with those traditions — the Latin titles doing likewise. “Agnus Dei” and “Dies Irae” follow suit in terms of mood and extremity, but more than the emotional or sonic heft that Et Moriemur elicit, it’s the depth of their arrangements and their mix that impress. To wit, the low growls and chants intertwining on “Dies Irae,” Doom, death and black metal aren’t out of the band’s reach stylistically, and there are moments where those elements are juxtaposed and moments where they all seem to come together as something definitively of Et Moriemur‘s own. Obviously, these moments — I’d count the pairing of “Offertorium”‘s crawling wretchedness and “Communio”‘s more progressively bleak vision among them, but would be remiss to leave 10-minute closer “In Paradisum” out of the discussion — make for some of the strongest on Epigrammata, but there’s something to be said to for the manner in which the juxtaposing of styles, smooth though the transitions like that into acoustic guitar and speech on “Libera Me” are, mirrors the tortured sensibility and mood of the album itself. That is, the form matches the intent, and the mood of Epigrammata becomes conveyed not only in the performance of Et Moriemur and the sundry other parties brought aboard, but in the very construction of the songs themselves.

It would be hard to pick one song to represent the totality of the album. Frankly, I’m not sure you could, but with the release date set for just a week from now, I’m sure the full thing will be streaming in no time, and in the interim, “Requiem Aeternam” functions well in displaying many of the aspects that come into play throughout, as well as some — some — of the Et Moriemur‘s range when it comes to songwriting. Do not necessarily think of it as a sampling of all that the full-length has to offer, so much as a teaser of several of the factors at play throughout.

A quote from the band and PR wire info follows below. Please enjoy:

Et Moriemur, “Requiem Aeternam” official premiere

Et Moriemur on “Requiem Aeternam”:

“Epigrammata represents our attempt to cope with the dying or death of those we loved. To create a solemn and classical atmosphere we used lyrics in ancient Greek (the title itself means epigrams) and in Latin, more precisely from the Mass for the dead – the album follows the typical Requiem structure, i.e. Introitus, Requiem Aeternum, Dies Irae etc. – and of course the traditional, unisono male Gregorian chant.“

In any case we tried not to do a uni-dimensional record. So apart from the inevitable grief there is gratitude as well for having had the chance to share our life with them and hope that they are well – wherever they are.“

ET MORIEMUR are doing things in an exceptional way for their upcoming full length titled ‘Epigrammata’. Delving into the rich European history, imbibing Gregorian chanting and using Latin and ancient Greek to convey their message, the Czech supergroup of sorts with members of bands such as DISSOLVING OF PRODIGY, SELF-HATRED and SILENT SCREAM OF GODLESS ELEGY, have assembled a host of musicians playing cello, violin, trombone among others and have even employed services of a choir to take their expression to another level. They combine influences of death, doom and even a bit of black metal and use their operatic flair to imbue it with a mesmerizing quality. It transcends the perceptions of the death/doom style at present and gloriously brings back forgotten elements to elevate it.

Et Moriemur is:
Zden?k Nev?lík – Vocals, Piano
Aleš Vilingr – Guitar
Pavel Janouškovec – Guitar
Karel Ková?ík – Bass
Michal “Datel” Rak – Drums

Et Moriemur on Thee Facebooks

Et Moriemur on Bandcamp

Et Moriemur website

Transcending Obscurity Records webstore

Transcending Obscurity Records on Bandcamp

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Towards Atlantis Lights Premiere “Alexandria’s Library” from Dust of Aeons

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on February 16th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Towards Atlantis Lights

You know what happens when you swim toward the lights of Atlantis? You fucking drown. Such would seem to be the overarching perspective from which multinational grief-laden doomers Towards Atlantis Lights are working on their Transcending Obscurity Records debut album, Dust of Aeons. Comprised of four tracks beginning with the utter consumption of the half-hour-long “The Bunker of Life” (immediate points for putting the longest song first), the record is due out March 5 and presents itself as a morose wash of death-doom impulses, part melancholic melody and part extremity of crawl and lurch. Shades of My Dying Bride‘s theatricality and Novembers Doom‘s brutal and downer growling metal make themselves known throughout the four-song/57-minute offering, and though very much of the style, Dust of Aeons successfully revels in its atmosphere and reminds listeners of the resonance this style of doom can hold when so properly executed.

The album pairs two longer songs with two shorter ones. I’d call it two-sided, but the break doesn’t really work that way, with “The Bunker of Life” basically an album unto itself. Even if that track was broken in half for the first of a double-LP, there would still be “Babylon’s Hanging Gardens” (5:57), “Alexandria’s Library” (16:35) and “Greeting Mausolus’ Tomb” (4:23) to account for, and those shorter tracks are more than just interludes. Vocalist/keyboardist Kostas Panagiotou brings as much presence to them as to either of the longer-form pieces, delving into poetry recitation in “Babylon’s Hanging Gardens” as Ivan Zara‘s guitar, Ivan Olivieri‘s drums and Riccardo Veronese‘s bass wait to reemerge from the shadows. But while it might not work as a vinyl in itTowards Atlantis Lights Dust of Aeonss current form without some rearranging, as a linear work it is tied together via a historical thematic and as the title Dust of Aeons might convey, the aesthetic is very much geared toward that sense of conveying something ancient, something lost in time, as well as something being mourned.

That mourning perhaps comes through most of all on “Greeting Mausolus’ Tomb,” which takes out the drums in favor of atmospheric guitar plucking and an overall minimal sensibility, but it’s there even at the heaviest stretches of “The Bunker of Life” as well, whether that’s in a soaring guitar lead or the rumbling low-end lurch beneath a line of piano. Though only about half as long, much the same applies to “Alexandria’s Library,” which is immediately darker but gives up none of the atmospheric reach of its longform companion, keys, vocal harmonies and sustained notes of guitar playing a large role in a break near the midsection which ultimately leads back to the track’s central dirge. At almost exactly 13 minutes in, more deathly chug takes hold and a relatively quick excursion into semi-blasting fare sets up an adrenaline-driven return to the chorus before Towards Atlantis Lights finish quiet and contemplative en route to the album’s shorter closer, weighted in emotion, tone and ambience as everything before it has likewise been.

The theme of loss is palpable throughout Dust of Aeons, with the passage of history presented through an emotional lens that acts as a thread woven between the individual pieces bringing them together as one whole work. And it’s not a minor undertaking by any stretch, but in its entirety really is the best way to experience Towards Atlantis Lights‘ debut album. Clearly they wanted their listeners to drown in its blend of depressive plunge and still be able to see beauty among the ruins before their eyes shut one last time.

I have the pleasure today of hosting “Alexandria’s Library” as a track premiere. Please find it below, followed by more info on the album from the PR wire. Dust of Aeons is available to preorder from the band’s Bandcamp page, linked at the bottom of the post.

Enjoy:

Towards Atlantis Lights, “Alexandria’s Library” official track premiere

Doom metal supergroup TOWARDS ATLANTIS LIGHTS give us a sublime album of heart-wrenching drama emanating from historical events. Members of acclaimed bands like PANTHEIST, APHONIC THRENODY and VOID OF SILENCE weave together a majestic tale brimming with melancholy and emotional strife. Each song is an elegant expression of their dreamlike visions of a world long past. They carry the burden of grief passed down from centuries with utmost grace and lend to the music an unmistakable nostalgic charm that is very much palpable. TOWARDS ATLANTIS LIGHTS have created a masterpiece of epic and atmospheric death/doom metal that is tempered with talent, experience and vision.

Band line up –
Kostas Panagiotou (PANTHEIST, LANDSKAP) – Vocals and keyboards
Riccardo Veronese (APHONIC THRENODY, DEA MARICA, ARRANT SAUDADE) – Bass
Ivan Zara (VOID OF SILENCE) – Guitar
Ivan Olivieri – Drums

Artwork and layout – Francesco Gemelli (KATATONIA, MAYHEM, ABIGOR)

Official release date – March 5th, 2018

Track listing –
1. The Bunker Of Life
2. Babylon’s Hanging Gardens
3. Alexandria’s Library
4. Greeting Mausolus’ Tomb

Towards Atlantis Lights on Thee Facebooks

Towards Atlantis Lights on Bandcamp

Transcending Obscurity website

Transcending Obscurity Records on Thee Facebooks

Transcending Obscurity Records on YouTube

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Towards Atlantis Lights to Release Dust of Aeons March 5

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 4th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Multinational death-doomers Towards Atlantis Lights have set March 5 as the arrival date for their sorrow-filled debut album, Dust of Aeons. To be released via Transcending Obscurity, the record comprises four tracks, the first and most substantial of which is “The Bunker of Life,” which is practically an album unto itself as it clocks in at a dynamic half-an-hour’s runtime and presents a full scope of melody and extremity, balancing lurching crawl and classic, My Dying Bride-style dramas off deep-weighted low and end deathly growling. Maybe it’s winter settling on my soul, but I can’t seem to get enough of this kind of thing lately. Whatever’s doing it, Towards Atlantis Lights have plenty of misery to go around.

The PR wire brought that massive track and more background on the band and impending release:

Towards Atlantis Lights Dust of Aeons

Doom metal supergroup TOWARDS ATLANTIS LIGHTS announce new release

Doom metal supergroup TOWARDS ATLANTIS LIGHTS give us a sublime album of heart-wrenching drama emanating from historical events. Members of acclaimed bands like PANTHEIST, APHONIC THRENODY and VOID OF SILENCE weave together a majestic tale brimming with melancholy and emotional strife. Each song is an elegant expression of their dreamlike visions of a world long past. They carry the burden of grief passed down from centuries with utmost grace and lend to the music an unmistakable nostalgic charm that is very much palpable. TOWARDS ATLANTIS LIGHTS have created a masterpiece of epic and atmospheric death/doom metal that is tempered with talent, experience and vision.

Line up:
Kostas Panagiotou (PANTHEIST, LANDSKAP) – Vocals and keyboards
Riccardo Veronese (APHONIC THRENODY, DEA MARICA, ARRANT SAUDADE) – Bass
Ivan Zara (VOID OF SILENCE) – Guitar
Ivano Olivieri – Drums

Artwork and layout – Francesco Gemelli (KATATONIA, MAYHEM, ABIGOR)
Genre – Atmospheric Death/Doom Metal
Release Date – March 5th, 2018
Record Label – Transcending Obscurity Records (India)

Track list:
1. The Bunker Of Life
2. Babylon’s Hanging Gardens
3. Alexandria’s Library
4. Greeting Mausolus’ Tomb

https://www.facebook.com/TowardsAtl
https://towardsatlantislights.bandcamp.com/
https://tometal.com/
https://www.facebook.com/transcendingobscurityrecords/
https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCgViVqEZ6aiW7G9O-lGWiAg

Towards Atlantis Lights, “The Bunker of Life”

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2017

Posted in Features on December 28th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

top-30-of-2017

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

We’re almost at the finish line for 2017, and if I’m honest, it’s not a minute too soon. I think if one more record comes out this year my head is going to explode.

A perpetual onslaught of cool music is, of course, nothing to complain about. It just seemed like every time I thought I had a handle on where the year was going, some other announcement came through and knocked me on my ass. What’s that? The Obsessed are putting out their first album in more than two decades? Oh and Monolord have a new one coming? Radio Moscow just signed to Century Media? Arc of Ascent are back? Samsara Blues Experiment are back? Causa Sui are putting out a live album and a studio album? Sasquatch are going to Europe and sneaking a record along with them? All of a sudden I’m out of breath feeling like I just ran a lap.

It’s been madness this year. Between an emergent neo-psych movement in the wake of King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard and others, and the ongoing and constant reshaping of doom and heavy rock from practitioners new and old, I don’t know how anyone could ever claim to keep up with any of it.

You know I do the best I can, so when you look through this list, please keep in mind that these are my picks and the result of applying my own standard, which if you’ve ever seen a list on this site before you probably already know is a combination of things like what I view as being important on a critical level and things like what kept me coming back as a listener. What were the year’s biggest releases and what couldn’t I get enough of? Sometimes those two things come together around one record and it’s beautiful. That’s usually your album of the year, or close to, anyhow.

No sense in delaying further. I hope if you haven’t heard some of this stuff you’ll give it a shot, and if you have something you felt strongly about it, you’ll let me know in the comments. Thanks in advance for keeping it civil, and of course for reading.

Here goes:

30. Geezer, Psychoriffadelia
geezer psychoriffadelia

Released by Kozmik Artifactz and STB Records. Reviewed May 16.

Coming off of what was their strongest album to-date in their 2016 self-titled (review here), New York heavy psych blues trio Geezer decided it was time to take the groove for a walk. And so they did. Psychoriffadelia is the result — a looser collection of jams and willfully unrefined heavy blues, reveling in the politically incorrect on “Dirty Penny” only after basking in the post-Monster Magnet hypnosis of “Red Hook” and the earlier roll of the more straightforward “Hair of the Dog” and “Stressknots.” Everything Geezer has done to this point has pushed their sound to new places. Psychoriffadelia is no exception.

29. Orango, The Mules of Nana

orango the mules of nana

Released by Stickman Records. Reviewed March 27.

More than a touch of twang on opener “Heartland” sets a tone of Americana-infusion for Orango‘s sixth LP, The Mules of Nana, but the 10-tracker is ultimately much more about harmony-laced classic heavy smoothness than playing to prairie-minded sensibilities, though roots spread wide through a natural, dirty blues just the same. However they get there, “Hazy Chain of Mountains,” the softshoe-ready funk of “Head on Down” and the peacefully progressive finish of “Ghost Rider” bring ’70s-style thrills in songwriting and their precise, gorgeous execution. Underrated record from an underappreciated band.

28. Radio Moscow, New Beginnings

radio moscow new beginnings

Released by Century Media. Reviewed Oct. 6.

Cali boogie kingpins and all-around marvelous frenetic bastards Radio Moscow were in top form on their Century Media debut, and if it was a new beginning they were searching for, they met it head on with a sound as classic and organic as ever. Arguably the most powerful power trio in their game, they tore through cuts like “No One Knows Where They’ve Been” and “Deceiver” while offering flourish in the trip-out “Woodrose Morning” and subdued blues-psych on the penultimate “Pick up the Pieces.” Very much to form, but cast of a form that still manages to outclass all challengers.

27. Spaceslug, Time Travel Dilemma

spaceslug time travel dilemma

Released by Southcave Records, BSFD Records and Oak Island Records. Reviewed Feb. 10.

And so here we have the first of what will no doubt be several records about which I’m going to say they should be higher on the list. Poland’s Spaceslug have emerged from the moist ground created by their own tonality and on their sophomore full-length, they proffered warm depth of fuzz and a corresponding melodic and psychedelic reach that was resonant even before they brought in ex-Sungrazer bassist Sander Haagmans for a guest spot on the title-track. It’s been out for 10 months and still delivers every time I put it on, which is often.

26. Mothership, High Strangeness

mothership high strangeness
Released by Ripple Music and Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed March 7.

Three albums into a tenure marked by hard-driving riffs, scorching solos and relentless road work, there’s little Texas trio Mothership need to do at this point to prove themselves to their audience. At the same time, High Strangeness brought considerable expansion to their range overall, whether it was the exploratory “Eternal Trip” or the semi-metallic insistence behind “Midnight Express,” while staying tied together with lyrical and instrumental hooks. High Strangeness set a new standard for Mothership, plain and simple, and easily surpassed the considerable accomplishments of their 2012 self-titled debut (review here) and 2014’s Mothership II (review here).

25. Eternal Black, Bleed the Days

eternal black bleed the days

Released by Obsidian Sky Records. Reviewed Aug. 1.

There was a lot about Eternal Black‘s Bleed the Days that chugged its way into the post-Wino oeuvre of US-style trad doom, but the gruff, lumbering and impeccably riffed outing was nonetheless one of 2017’s best debut full-lengths, and it was the songwriting that got it there. Already sounding sure in the vibe captured, cuts like the plodding brooder “Sea of Graves” and “Stained Eyes on a Setting Sun” showed potential in mood and atmosphere as much as sheer sonic heft — though of course there was plenty of that to go around as well. Doomers missed it at their peril.

24. Kadavar, Rough Times

kadavar rough times

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Sept. 6.

It kind of feels like a slight to have Berlin trio Kadavar appear anywhere outside of at least a top 10 on any kind of list whatsoever, ever, but that’s not my intention at all. Rather, their fourth album and third for Nuclear Blast found them at an important stage in their progression — past the novelty of the vintage feel in their early work, after having proven their songwriting could translate to a modern context, and embarking on a process of expanding their sound. Rough Times, which was as current as current could be, met that goal and beat it easily with a barrage of memorable choruses and a dark streak one could only consider suitable for our age.

23. Shroud Eater, Strike the Sun

shroud eater strike the sun

Released by STB Records. Reviewed June 28.

The biggest surprise about Shroud Eater‘s long-awaited sophomore long-player was also its most encouraging aspect — namely how it found the Miami trio bringing together various impulses shown on a number of shorter releases over the course of the six years since their debut, ThunderNoise (review here), came out in 2011, and still managed to utterly crush when it so chose. With a swath from sludge to drone and back again, this was no minor feat, and that the songs they brought to bear were so memorable at their heart as well makes me hope all the more it’s not 2023 before their third album arrives.

22. Enslaved, E

enslaved e

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Oct. 4.

What’s left to say about Norwegian progressive black metal innovators Enslaved 14 records into their career? Plenty as it turns out. The introduction of new keyboardist/vocalist Håkon Vinje in place of Herbrand Larsen brought a new twist on a signature element of Enslaved‘s approach. Vinje utterly owned his role, and his performance alongside guitarist Ivar Bjørnson, bassist/vocalist Grutle Kjellson, guitarist Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal and drummer Cato Bekkevold resulted in a fresh urgency that made the band’s sound even more potent and set their ongoing creative evolution on a new branch of its self-directed path.

21. Arc of Ascent, Realms of the Metaphysical

arc-of-ascent-realms-of-the-metaphysical

Released by Astral Projection and Clostridium Records. Reviewed April 6.

Some five years on from 2012’s The Higher Key (review here) and seven out from their debut, Circle of the Sun (review here), and with bassist/vocalist Craig Williamson firmly entrenched in his always excellent Lamp of the Universe psych-drone-folk solo-project, I wasn’t sure there would be another offering from New Zealand heavy psych-rock trio Arc of Ascent, but Realms of the Metaphysical took shape from an ether of riffs and echoes atop resilient underlying structures and revitalized the group with new drummer Mark McGeady in the lineup with Williamson and guitarist Matt Cole-Baker. Remains to be seen if this marks a priority shift for Williamson or it’s a one-off, but its arrival was welcome either way.

20. Causa Sui, Vibraciones Doradas

causa sui vibraciones doradas

Released by El Paraiso Records. Reviewed Oct. 20.

With the various glories already offered in 2017 on the Live in Copenhagen (review here) 3LP, one didn’t necessarily expect a new studio outing from Danish instrumental psych masters Causa Sui, but Vibraciones Doradas found them as vibrant as ever, bringing forth a surprising amount of tonal weight on songs like “El Fuego,” warm fuzz for the basking on opener “The Drop” and spaciousness on the closing title-track. Somewhat more straight-ahead in its rocking groove than 2016’s Return to Sky (review here), the five-track/38-minute long-player showed yet again why Causa Sui are always welcome and that any news of a new release from them, live, studio, whatever, is good news. This was the kind of record that could make your day if you let it.

19. Telekinetic Yeti, Abominable

telekinetic yeti abominable

Released by Sump Pump Records. Reviewed April 10.

The Iowa-based duo of guitarist/vocalist Alex Baumann and drummer Anthony Dreyer, operating as Telekinetic Yeti, released what I considered to be the debut of the year, both for the fullness of its tonality and the accomplishment in songcraft it already showed. Powered by cuts like its lumbering title-track and the gloriously fuzzed runner “Stoned and Feathered,” it could’ve been another band’s second or third record for the level of cohesion on display and the obvious awareness on the part of the band of what they wanted to do with their sound and the just-as-obvious result of their bringing it to life.

18. Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kozmic Dust

cloud catcher trails of kozmic dust

Released by Totem Cat Records. Reviewed Dec. 9, 2016.

While I admit I’m still not 100 percent certain on whether to spell “kozmic” in the title with a ‘k’ or with a ‘c’ on the end, that question did nothing ultimately to diminish enjoyment of Denver emergents Cloud Catcher‘s sophomore outing. Topped off by one of the best album covers of the year, the follow-up to their 2015 debut, Enlightened Beyond Existence (discussed here), took the progressive casting of that record to a place entirely more raw and rock-driven, willfully roughing up the edges even as it showed marked creative growth on a relatively quick turnaround. The must-hear bass tone of “Beyond the Electric Sun” and “Super Acid Magick” was icing on a cake of choice riffing and Hendrixian lead swirl, and the shuffle they elicited was enough to make even the most stubborn of asses (i.e. mine) think about moving.

17. Ruby the Hatchet, Planetary Space Child

ruby the hatchet planetary space child

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Aug. 29.

After the neo-garage manifestations of their 2015 sophomore outing, Valley of the Snake (review here), it was clear Philly psych rockers Ruby the Hatchet were a force when it came to songwriting. What was less obvious was what they’d do with that going forward. On Planetary Space Child, at least, the answer is they’ll take it to Freaktown. The melody-happy, organ-laced swirlmasters conjured presence kosmiche enough to justify the album’s title, and around the cast-in-moon-rock structures of the swinging “Pagan Ritual” and the playfully doomed “Symphony of the Night,” Ruby the Hatchet built a multifaceted weirdoist triumph the likes of which simply doesn’t come along every year, establishing themselves as more reliable and less predictable than ever: an absolute win.

16. Alunah, Solennial

alunah solennial

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 1.

It’s been the case more or less all along with UK forest rockers Alunah that their nature-minded material and heavy rolling grooves have had their haunting aspects, but with the production of Conan‘s Chris Fielding behind it, Solennial — their fourth LP and first on Svart — brought this to new levels entirely. The songs, memorable like footprints in the woods, are somewhat bittersweet in context now, since founding guitarist/vocalist Sophie Day announced in September she was leaving the band, but as the group will move forward led by guitarist Dave Day and recently acquired new singer Siân Greenaway, intrigue remains high at what the future might bring and the impact of Solennial is undiminished.

15. Mindkult, Lucifer’s Dream

mindkult-lucifers-dream

Released by Transcending Obscurity Records and Caligari Records.

Virginia-based doomgazing garage cult solo-project Mindkult has thus far managed to keep some of the mystique around its sole inhabitant, Fowst, which is admirable in a way. As the multi-instrmentalist, vocalist and producer this year answered the promise of last year’s Witch’s Oath (review here) debut, he did so around a swath of purposeful miseries, loose devil worship and other dark thematics, casting an atmospheric darkness matched head-on by the tonal murk of his riffs. Through this, however, the songwriting was no less memorable than on the first offering, and as the project moves forward, one can only hope that Fowst will continue to use that as the core aspect buried six feet under his other, formidable stylistic achievements. That certainly was how it worked out on Lucifer’s Dream.

14. Argus, From Fields of Fire

argus from fields of fire
Released by Cruz del Sur Music. Reviewed Sept. 1.

Behold ye perhaps the most underrated band in heavy metal. Regardless of subgenre, style, strata, whatever, it’s hard to listen to From Fields of Fire and think of Pittsburgh’s Argus as anything else. The five-piece’s fourth album continued to owe part of its sound to doom, but was much more encompassing than simply that, touching on aspects of classic metal with a command that left one wondering how they hadn’t yet been tapped to open for Judas Priest on that band’s next tour. Victory abounds on a per-song basis throughout the nine-tracker, and whether it was the emotional crux of “Hour of Longing” or the catchy fistpump righteousness of “Devils of Your Time” or the 11-minute progressive reach of “Infinite Lives/Infinite Doors,” Argus once again crafted a work nigh-unmatched in poise and class.

13. Uffe Lorenzen, Galmandsværk

Uffe-Lorenzen-Galmandsvaerk

Released by Bad Afro Records. Reviewed Nov. 6.

For the first outing ever to be issued under his real name, Denmark’s Uffe Lorenzen — aka Lorenzo Woodrose of garage-psych pioneers Baby Woodrose — danced between acid folk singer-songwriterisms like “Flippertøs” and more expansive jamming on “På Kanten Af Verden,” all the while retaining his distinct structural and arrangement sensibilities and creating a flowing vibe that was nothing less than a pure joy of classic-form psychedelia. The most serene and pastoral freakout one was likely to witness in 2017, easily, Galmandsværk resounded in the Mellotron-laced “Høj Som Et Højhus” and was no less at home in the acoustic spaciousness of the earlier “Remits Tyranni,” able to wander where it pleased and find steady ground in molten surroundings.

12. The Flying Eyes, Burning of the Season

the flying eyes burning of the season

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Oct. 11.

A welcome return from a viciously underappreciated band, The Flying EyesBurning of the Season marked the Baltimore four-piece’s first offering for Ripple Music and first since 2013’s Lowlands (review here), a four-year stretch during which the band kept busy touring Europe and South America, the latter also being where they recorded these songs with Gabriel Zander at Estudio Superfuzz in Brazil. The tonal depth resulting from that process was enough to make the collection a highlight, but it was the songs themselves that most stood out, benefiting from the band’s expanded reach and legitimate, hard-won maturity. Especially for a group who’ve done so much work on the road over their years — to be fair, the US has been pretty low priority in that regard — they remain a secret kept too well.

11. Bell Witch, Mirror Reaper

bell witch mirror reaper

Released by Profound Lore. Reviewed Dec. 27.

Doomed extremity simply unmatched in its scope. The song of the year for 2017. An accomplishment the likes of which is prone to happen maybe once or twice in a generation. None of this seems to really speak to the entirety of the achievement that is Bell Witch‘s Mirror Reaper — the single-song, 83-minute full-length issued by the Seattle duo like a challenge in the face of mortality itself. Beautiful, devastating and weighted like the grave, its sprawl utterly consumed the listener, and I firmly believe it will be years before its depths are fully processed. Some offerings are bigger than the year in which they’re released. Mirror Reaper would seem to function on a scale of its own, and though it could easily be read as a litmus test for audience punishment, the truth of the listening experience is both more emotionally complex and more fulfilling than simple hyperbole can capture.

10. Monolord, Rust

monolord rust

Released by RidingEasy Records. Reviewed Oct. 26.

The story all along with Gothenburg’s Monolord has been tone. Tone tone tone. Crush crush crush. Riffs riffs riffs. Nothing wrong with any of that, but their third album, Rust, proves once and for all that there’s more to the trio than “cool riffs bro” and post-Electric Wizard nod. Catchy cuts like “Dear Lucifer” and rolling opener “Where Death Meets the Sea” brought a sense of space leading to the later sprawl of “Forgotten Lands” and “At Niceae,” and the band settled into an individualized, lumbering psychedelia that moved forward from 2015’s Vænir (review here), not leaving behind the heft that earned them their reputation, but not at all being limited by it either in scope or overall approach. Three records in, Rust brought forth Monolord‘s greatest sonic expansion yet and gave rise to the feeling that their true potential was just starting to come to fruition. Also, crush crush crush. Cool riffs, bro.

9. Vokonis, The Sunken Djinn

vokonis-the-sunken-djinn

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed June 5.

The Sunken Djinn is Vokonis‘ second full-length in as many years, and in addition to serving as their Ripple debut where 2016’s Olde One Ascending (review here) landed via Ozium Records, it was a feast for hungry riff hounds. In defiance of its quick turnaround, it showed a firm evolution taking place within the upstart Swedish trio of guitarist/vocalist Simon Ohlsson, bassist/backing vocalist Jonte Johansson and drummer Emil Larsson, whose range overall was greater in tracks like “Rapturous” and the torrential “Blood Vortex” while nonetheless controlled in its delivery. Their Sleep-y origins still a factor sound-wise, Vokonis were able just the same to push themselves ahead into new sonic ground in fittingly lumbering fashion, and the character they brought to “The Sunken Djinn,” “Calling from the Core” and the noise-caked “Maelstroem” seemed to speak to a burgeoning sense of atmospheric focus taking hold as well. Still so much potential here.

8. Electric Moon, Stardust Rituals

electric moon stardust rituals

Released by Sulatron Records. Reviewed April 7.

Do I even need to remotely justify having Electric Moon‘s first studio album in six years on this list? Was it not just like a love-letter issued by the cosmos itself? What more explanation could possibly be necessary? Not that the German trio haven’t dropped copious, glorious live outings all the while, but to have Dave “Sula Bassana” Schmidt, “Komet Lulu” Neudeck and Marcus Schnitzler follow-up 2011’s The Doomsday Machine (review here) with four cuts culminating in the 22-minute sprawl of “(You Will) Live Forever Now” was high on the list of the year’s most satisfying psychedelic journeys. Constantly exploring, their methods always seem geared toward finding the molten essence of space rock itself, and though the songs on Stardust Rituals were a little more crafted than some of their straight-up improv jams, they nonetheless showed there are many avenues one might take to get to the heart of the sun.

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

sun-blood-stories-it-runs-around-the-room-with-us

Self-released. Reviewed May 1.

This one is personal, and by that I mean I love this fucking band. Similar to my experience with their 2015 sophomore outing, Twilight Midnight Morning (review here), the third record by Boise-based trio of Ben Kirby (vocals, guitar, synth, percussion), Amber Pollard (vocals, guitar, theremin, percussion) and Jon Fust (drums, keys, percussion, noise) was one that I simply could not put down. Even now, seeing the name of the record is all I need to have songs like “The Great Destroyer” and the immersive midsection in “Come Like Rain” and “Time Like Smoke” stuck in my head, let alone the ultra-brazen, searingly-pissed “Burn” noise assault that finished the album and in the span of 90 seconds turned all the psychedelic warmth and serenity on its face with a visceral anger completely unforeseen and jarring, turning it from a depth-laden execution of adventurous neo-psych and indie into a project of conceptual artistry with all the efficiency of the chemical reaction it sought to portray. If you missed it, your loss.

6. The Atomic Bitchwax, Force Field

the-atomic-bitchwax-force-field

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Dec. 7.

Songs like “Alaskan Thunder Fuck,” “Humble Brag” and “Earth Shaker (Which Doobie U Be?)” assured that the defining character of Force Field, the sixth album from New Jersey’s The Atomic Bitchwax, was pure scorch. That made the 12-cut outing a more than worthy follow-up for 2015’s  Gravitron (review here), which introduced this more speed-rock-minded, aggressive delivery from the tight-as-nails trio, and while they proved they could still lock in a slower groove on the organ-topped finisher “Liv a Little,” head-spinners like the instrumental “Fried, Dyed and Layin’ to the Side” and “Houndstooth” came across like the fruit of the band pushing themselves to the limits of their physical ability in terms of tempo, and their ride along the edge of that line brought thrills at every turn. And make no mistake, there were a lot of turns. Fortunately, bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik, guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan and drummer Bob Pantella seemingly had a corresponding hook in their pocket for each one of them. This band is a national treasure.

5. Atavismo, Inerte

atavismo inerte

Released by Temple of Torturous. Reviewed Feb. 21.

Warm, fuzzy tones, rhythmic shifts right out of classic progressive rock, melodic intricacy and periodic excursions into glorious psychedelic drift: I’m not sure what wasn’t to like about Inerte, Atavismo‘s second full-length behind 2014’s Desintegración (review here). Comprising five tracks of unmistakable flow and jam-laden fluidity, it was immersive with landmarks along the way to keep the listener from getting too lost, and whether or not one spoke Spanish, the three-piece of Jose “Poti” Moreno (ex-Viaje a 800Mind!), bassist/vocalist Mateo and drummer/vocalist Sandri Pow (also ex-Mind!) made it easy to follow along their purposefully meandering path, offering guidance no less skillful on the 11-minute fuzz-freaker “El Sueño” than the dream-toned linear build of “Belleza Cuatro.” There were very, very few albums I listened to more this year than this one, which is precisely why it is where it is on this list.

4. Samsara Blues Experiment, One with the Universe

samsara-blues-experiment-one-with-the-universe

Released by Electric Magic Records and Abraxas Records. Reviewed May 4.

Four years between records isn’t at all an unheard of stretch. It’s not the longest on this list by any means. But with Berlin heavy psych rockers Samsara Blues Experiment, it really seemed like the band was done, so to have them come back with such force on One with the Universe was, as I know I said at several points throughout the last 12 months, one of the year’s total highlights. Tracked by former bassist Richard Behrens, the group’s fourth album answered the extended-track spread of 2013’s Waiting for the Flood (review here) with a deeper sense of sonic variety, and while the 15-minute title-cut and opener “Vispassana” still had plenty of room for jamming out and even six-minute centerpiece “Glorious Daze” found room for some flourish of organ and sitar, guitarist/vocalist Christian Peters, drummer Thomas Vedder and bassist Hans Eiselt rightly featured the chemistry they’ve built as a trio live and brought to the songs a renewed sense of vigor, sounding — and hopefully being — truly inspired. Waiting for the Flood capped a period of marked productivity across several years. Fingers crossed One with the Universe begins that cycle anew.

3. Elder, Reflections of a Floating World

Elder-Reflections-of-a-Floating-World

Released by Armageddon Shop and Stickman Records. Reviewed May 23.

You just can’t consider Elder‘s Reflections of a Floating World outside the context of the progressive achievement that was their prior outing, 2015’s Lore (review here). Where the trio — based now between Massachusetts and Berlin, Germany — took their first two outings, 2008’s self-titled debut (discussed here) and 2011’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here), to find their sound, which they began to showcase on the 2012 Spires Burn/Release EP (review here), it was Lore that brought to fruition the potential that had always been waiting to be unleashed by the trio of guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo, bassist Jack Donovan and drummer Matt Couto, and Reflections of a Floating World had the daunting task of being the next further step from that landmark moment. To say the band rose to the occasion is perhaps to undersell the cohesion at work in consuming-but-cohesive pieces like opener “Sanctuary” or “Blind” or “Staving off the Truth,” which brought together clear-headed psychedelia around a wash that seemed to stem as much from rhythm as melody. As they’ve matured stylistically and become a major touring presence, Elder have made themselves perhaps the most pivotal American heavy rock act going, and Reflections of a Floating World brings them to the discovery of yet another apex while at the same time giving zero indication it will be the last one they find.

2. Colour Haze, In Her Garden

colour haze in her garden

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed March 9.

Of course, the bonus of writing about Colour Haze in just about any context is that you get to put Colour Haze on while you’re doing it, and in the case of the 12th LP from these Munich heavy psych forebears, that’s an even more appealing prospect. After stripping down some of the arrangement flourish with 2014’s To the Highest Gods We Know (review here), the 13-track/73-minute 2LP In Her Garden brought a revitalized sonic expansion, but as ever, it wasn’t just the horns or the strings or the blend of keys and acoustics that made In Her Garden the unbridled joy that it was and continues to be — it was the underlying performance from guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek, bassist Philipp Rasthofer and drummer Manfred Merwald that gave the album the stem on which its garden grew. That’s not to say Jan Faszbender‘s work on modular synth, Rhodes, and Hammond or the arrangements of strings, tuba, bass-clarinet and trombone throughout hurt anything, just that as Colour Haze have grown into incorporating these elements into their groundbreaking aesthetic, they haven’t left behind the organic chemistry and necessary live feel that has helped them influence a generation of followers over their more than 20-year career. One came through as much as the other on In Her Garden, and that balance gave the overarching warmth of their self-recorded tonality yet another level on which to engage their audience. I’ll be a sucker for Colour Haze for as long as I live, and I have absolutely no problem admitting to and owning that.

1. All Them Witches, Sleeping Through the War

all them witches sleeping through the war

Released by New West Records. Reviewed Jan. 27.

It was clear early on that Nashville four-piece All Them Witches were contending hard for Album of the Year with Sleeping Through the War, their fourth long-player and second for New West following the mellow vibes of 2015’s Dying Surfer Meets His Maker (review here). What finally sealed it? The songs. Working with producer Dave Cobb, the each-member-essential lineup of bassist/vocalist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod, key-specialist Allan van Cleave (Rhodes, Mellotron, piano, organ, etc.) and drummer/graphic artist Robby Staebler solidified their approach in exciting new ways on early cuts like the grunge-crunching “Don’t Bring Me Coffee” and the shuffling “Bruce Lee,” which hit in succession following the fluid lead-in of opener “Bulls,” an introduction of the organic psychedelia and heavy blues that the loose-swinging of “3-5-7″‘s nigh-on-gospel chorus and subsequent, almost maddeningly catchy “Am I Going Up?” would continue to push outward, thereby setting a linear course into a consciousness-capturing side B with “Alabaster” and the jammier “Cowboy Kirk” and “Internet” playing between melodic nuance and mindful, go-with-it drift. The unflinching strength of the material was matched perhaps only by the understatement of its delivery, which was the more staggering considering how easily the arrangements of background vocals on “Am I Going Up?” or  “3-5-7” could have come through as overblown or self-indulgent, and by the time they got down to the light weirdo-bluesy stomp of “Internet” — the key lyric and hook being, “Guess I’ll go live on the internet” — there was no doubting the genuine nature of the realization Sleeping Through the War represented for All Them Witches. Coupling that feeling of achievement with the sheer repeatability of the listening experience itself left no doubt that 2017 belonged to these tracks and the marvelous way the band wove between them, and that whatever other sounds All Them Witches may go on to explore and whatever else they may accomplish as a result, Sleeping Through the War was a truly special moment in their evolution that, as with the best of offerings in any year, will continue to resonate long after the calendar page has turned.

The Next 20

You know, I used to feel like once you got past a top 20, the numbers were arbitrary. Then I felt that way about the top 30. This year, I think I agonized more about what to include in numbers 31-50 than I did between 30 and the album of the year. Put that in your “go figure” file while you chew on these picks:

31. Cities of Mars, Temporal Rifts
32. The Midnight Ghost Train, Cypress Ave.
33. Snowy Dunes, Atlantis
34. Rozamov, This Mortal Road
35. PH, Eternal Hayden
36. Sasquatch, Maneuvers
37. Young Hunter, Dayhiker
38. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, II
39. Ufomammut, 8
40. John Garcia, The Coyote Who Spoke in Tongues
41. Paradise Lost, Medusa
42. Beastmaker, Inside the Skull
43. Arduini / Balich, Dawn of Ages
44. Primitive Man, Caustic
45. Motorpsycho, The Tower
46. Arbouretum, Song of the Rose
47. Hymn, Perish
48. Youngblood Supercult, The Great American Death Rattle
49. Pallbearer, Heartless
50. Dool, Here Now There Then

There’s so, so much good stuff here. So much. The Cities of Mars debut was a treasure and the only reason it wasn’t on my top debuts list was because I haven’t had the chance to go back in and put it on. The Young Hunter record? Some of their best work yet. Hell, that Arduini / Balich album alone! Then you’ve got huge releases by Pallbearer, Ufomammut, Paradise Lost, Primitive Man, on and on. Like I said at the outset, one more album and my head was gonna explode this year. Way too much to ever hope to keep up with. One thing though I felt like I really wanted to emphasize including was Dool. They’re in the last spot, but make no mistake, in atmosphere and songwriting that album was something really special and loaded with potential. It’s not there because it came in last. It’s there to highlight the point of how much it should be on this list.

What’s that? More records? Okay…

Honorable Mentions

In case you also weren’t completely overwhelmed this year, maybe another batch of records will do the trick. Here’s some presented alphabetically:

Anathema, The Optimist
Blackfinger, When Colors Fade Away
Child, Blueside
Cortez, The Depths Below
Demon Eye, Prophecies and Lies
Elbrus, Elbrus
Electric Wizard, Wizard Bloody Wizard
Ecstatic Vision, Raw Rock Fury
Five Horse Johnson, Jake Leg Boogie
Mirror Queen, Verdigris
The Obsessed, Sacred
T.G. Olson, Foothills Before the Mountain
Outsideinside, Sniff a Hot Rock
Queens of the Stone Age, Villains
Siena Root, A Dream of Lasting Peace
Six Organs of Admittance, Burning the Threshold
Steak, No God to Save
Summoner, Beyond the Realm of Light
Valborg, Endstrand
With the Dead, Love from With the Dead

Plus: Abronia, Lewis and the Strange Magics, Iron Monkey, Band of Spice, Puta Volcano, Galley Beggar, Heavy Traffic, Coltsblood, REZN, Green Meteor, Demon Head, Lord, Grigax, The Raynbow, Carpet, Norska, Les Lekin, Slow, Ixion, and I’m sure more that I’ll add as the names continue to pop into my head.

I did this back in June as well, but I also want to draw attention to a swath of quality live albums that came out this year. The top pick should be no surprise if you’ve been hanging around the site of late:

Live Albums:
1. SubRosa, Subdued Live at Roadburn
2. Causa Sui, Live in Copenhagen
3. Slomatics, Futurians Live at Roadburn
4. My Sleeping Karma, Mela Ananda – Live
5. Wight, Fusion Rock Invasion
5. Death Alley, Live at Roadburn

Thank You

It’s been a hell of a year, obviously. Musically and otherwise. As always, I cannot possibly come close to thanking you enough for your incredible and ongoing support of The Obelisk, of what this site is, what it’s become over its nearly nine-year run, what it will continue to become going forward from here. It is astounding to me and deeply humbling that you would possibly take time out of your busy day and your busy life to check out what’s going on here, and words fail me continually when it comes to feeling like I can properly convey my appreciation for that. Thank you for reading. Thank you for reading. Thank you for reading. Tattoo it on my forehead.

Thank you to The Patient Mrs. for understanding how much I need to be doing this, to Slevin for keeping the site running on the technical end, to Behrang Alavi for taking over hosting earlier this year, to my family for their ongoing support, to The Pecan for sleeping late some mornings and giving me time to write, and to everyone who ever shared a link on social media or made a comment on a post or anything like that. To long-time readers and to newcomers alike — thank you so much. This year has seen a fair share of ups and downs, but the support this site gets sustains me in ways I never expected it could, and that would be impossible without you. Please know how crucial that is to me.

Well, that should do it. I know there are probably disagreements about where things landed on the list, what was included, what was left out, etc., as there always are. All comments are of course welcome — only thing I’d ask is you please keep it civil and respectful of the opinions of others. Otherwise, have at it. Please.

And one more time, thank you for reading.

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Djinn and Miskatonic Premiere “Doombringer”; Even Gods Must Die out Jan. 10

Posted in audiObelisk on December 6th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

djinn and miskatonic

Bangaluru-based doomers Djinn and Miskatonic will release their new full-length, Even Gods Must Die, on Jan. 10 via Transcending Obscurity Records. Their second offering behind 2013’s Forever in the Realm, the record runs six tracks and 66 minutes (666, in case you missed it), using that purposefully unmanageable runtime to conjure an unconfused mash between extreme metal impulses and stonerly fare, as demonstrated on the 15:36 longest cut and opener (immediate points) “I, Zombie,” which sets the tone for what follows throughout earlier slabs like the languid “Bones of My Brothers” and the organ-topped “Doombringer” before the speedier “Frost and Steel” brings about a sharp turn toward epic, still-plenty-doomly metal that continues its thread across the final two songs, “Harvest of Kings” and “Hangman’s Hope.” The apparent addition of second guitarist Mushaf Nazeer alongside fellow axe-wielder Sriram Kvlteswaran, bassist Jayaprakash Satyamurthy, drummer Siddharth Manoharan and vocalist Gautham Khandige only thickens the fare, and as “Frost and Steel” runs through its hook delivering the title line in the catchy refrain, “Frost and steel/Swords and ice magic/On the edge of the world,” genreless and genre-defining works by the likes of Bathory come to mind for the blend of rawness and precision at work in the craft.

That’s not a comparison to be made flippantly, and I’m not, though it’s worth pointing out that it applies almost exclusively to side B (or more likely LP two, given the hour-plus runtime), and that the march of “I, Zombie” pulls much more from the Sleep‘s Dopesmoker vein of nod-riffing. These two interpretations of heavy are united by the strength and djinn and miskatonic even gods must dieheft in Satyamurthy‘s low end work and a pervasive atmosphere of doom that stays resonant even as “Hangman’s Hope” begins to crib lines from “Gallow’s Pole” near its conclusion. The vocal style with which Khandige delivers those and the rest of the lyrics throughout Even Gods Must Die (one recalls a Nile song of a similar name, and death metal is not at all absent here as an influence) is adaptable to either side, as he moves between echoing growls and cleaner, lower-register chants that play toward a ritualized feel in “Doombringer” while seeming to underscore the notion of medieval battling on “Harvest of Kings.” I suppose context is everything, and wherever he’s tasked to do so, Khandige thrives as a frontman presence cutting through the willfully summoned morass of riffs led by Kvlteswaran and Nazeer, his growls feeding the bare cruelty of their tone even as they touch on melodies in the leads of “Harvest of Kings” and elsewhere. As the source of root influence shifts almost out from under him between the hypnotically repetitive “Doombringer” and the vest-worthy metallurgy of “Frost and Steel,” he retains a sense of poise to his execution and helps to draw the line between the two sides at work on the album’s course, keeping the proceedings from losing their way and the progression from losing its flow.

Persistently dark and calling to mind smoke rising from blood-stained fields, Even Gods Must Die turns stoner-doom, sludge, and more extreme metal into a palette from which it freely draws its brooding roll. There are questions as to whether Djinn and Miskatonic might at some point seek to further unite the houses when it comes to the differing sides of this sonic persona, but after four years and a breakup that reportedly led to a reunion at the behest of Transcending Obscurity, the band has delivered a sophomore full-length of marked character and stylistic nuance made all the more subtle by an overarching rawness in its presentation. It is violent, but not at all so simple as a mere bludgeoning.

Today I have the pleasure of hosting the official premiere of “Doombringer.” Please find it on the player below, followed by more background on the band and release, courtesy of the PR wire. One more time, Djinn and Miskatonic‘s Even Gods Must Die is out Jan. 10.

Enjoy:

Djinn and Mistkatonic, “Doombringer” official premiere

India’s premier doom metal band Djinn and Miskatonic return with a mammoth album of dire tunes and bloody tales. Following up on their massively successful debut in ‘Forever in the Realm, they’ve taken things up several notches and produced an album that will stay with you long after it’s over. “Even Gods Must Die’ contains six sordid, gloomy and memorable songs with varying objectives and melancholia. Each of them follow a storylike trajectory and spring to life at the opportune moments. Meditative and meaningful, this is a well thought and properly executed album by Djinn and Miskatonic.

Line up –
Gautham Khandige – Vocals
Sriram Kvlteswaran – Guitar, Backing Vocals
Mushaf Nazeer – Guitar
Jayaprakash Satanmurthy – Bass
Siddharth Manorahan – Drums

Cover art by Fabled and The Painter Of Oz.

Djinn and Miskatonic on Thee Facebooks

Djinn and Miskatonic on Bandcamp

Transcending Obscurity website

Transcending Obscurity on Thee Facebooks

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