The Obelisk Presents: The Top 30 of 2014

Posted in Features on December 22nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

the-obelisk-top-30-of-2014

Please note: These are not the results of the Readers Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t added your list yet, please do.

This was a hard list to put together. The top three have been set in my mind for probably the last month, but trying to work my way backwards from there was a real challenge — what’s a top 10 record, a top 20 record, a top 30, honorable mentions and all the rest. I’ve never done a full top 30 before, always 20, but the truth is there was just too much this year to not expand.

I’m still juggling numbers even as I put together this post, and I’m sure that by the time I’m done several records will have switched places. That’s always how it seems to go. What I’m confident that I have is a list accurately representing critique and my own habits, both what I gravitated toward in listening throughout the year and what I feel is noteworthy on a critical level. This site has always been a blend of those two impulses. It’s only fair this list should be as well.

Before we dig in, you should note this is full-length albums only. I’ll have a list of short releases (EPs, singles, demos) to come, as well as a special list of debut releases, since it seemed to be a particularly good year for them. And since I’m only one person, I couldn’t hear everything, much as I tried.

Okay. Here we go:

30. Orange Goblin, Back from the Abyss

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Released by Candlelight Records. Reviewed on Nov. 17.

The kings of London’s heavy scene offered more powerhouse heavy rock with their eighth album and second for Candlelight, and their rabid and ever-growing fanbase ate it up. Back from the Abyss proved yet again that few can attain the kind of vicious force that seems to come so natural to Orange Goblin, and made it clear their domination shows no signs of losing momentum.

 

29. Mos Generator, Electric Mountain Majesty

mos-generator-electric-mountain-majesty

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed on March 14.

A darker affair from Port Orchard, Washington’s Mos GeneratorElectric Mountain Majesty still found its core in the songwriting led by guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed. They’re a band with some changes on the horizon, and I’ll be interested to hear what hindsight does to these songs. As it was, the hooks and downer vibes may have been in conceptual conflict, but the execution was inarguable.

 

28. Pilgrim, II: Void Worship

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Released by Metal Blade Records. Reviewed on April 15.

Richer in the listening than 2012’s Misery Wizard debut, Pilgrim‘s II: Void Worship nonetheless held firm to the doomly spirit that’s made the Rhode Island outfit such a sensation these last couple years. Its longer songs, “Master’s Chamber,” “Void Worship” and the emotionally weighted “Away from Here,” were particularly immersive, and they remain a bright spot in doom’s future.

 

27. John Garcia, John Garcia

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Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed on July 7.

His long-awaited solo debut, John Garcia‘s John Garcia offered memorable tracks culled from years of songwriting from the former Kyuss, Slo Burn, Unida and Hermano frontman, performed in the classic desert rock style he helped define. I’m not sure it was worth trading a second Vista Chino record for, but it was hard to argue with “The Blvd” and “All These Walls.”

 

26. Swans, To be Kind

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Released by Mute/Young God Records. Reviewed on May 9.

An overwhelming two-disc barrage from a relentless creativity that, more than 30 years on from its first public incarnation, is still to be considered avant garde. I’m not sure planet earth realizes how lucky it is to have Swans running around unleashing all this chaos, but I hope they don’t stop anytime soon. To be Kind was brutal and beautiful in like measure.

 

25. Sólstafir, Ótta

solstafir-otta

Released by Season of Mist. Discussed Oct. 11.

Icelandic four-piece Sólstafir hit on a rarely attained balance of gorgeousness and melancholy, and while Ótta is expansive, it’s also gripping front to back and is the best execution of its style I’ve heard since Anathema‘s Alternative 4, which is not a comparison I make lightly. A challenging record, but satisfying in kind and universal in its expressiveness.

 

24. Greenleaf, Trails and Passes

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Released by Small Stone Records. Reviewed on April 25.

The follow-up to Greenleaf‘s stellar 2012 outing Nest of Vipers (review here) brought lineup changes and stripped away many of the textural elements of the band’s sound — guest appearances, arrangement flourishes — in order to get back to a classic heavy rock sound and translate better to the stage. With guitarist Tommi Holappa‘s songwriting ever at the core, it would be unfair to call the process anything but a success.

 

23. Earth, Primitive and Deadly

earth-primitive-and-deadly

Released by Southern Lord Recordings. Reviewed on Sept. 9.

Most of the headlines went to the fact that Primitive and Deadly had vocals, where the generally-instrumental Earth had avoided singers for 18 years prior, but even putting aside Mark Lanegan and Rabi Shabeen Qazi, whose performance on “From the Zodiacal Light” was the high point of the record, presented Earth‘s always progressive tensions in a rawer, heavier production, and was a joy for longtime fans.

 

22. Ogre, The Last Neanderthal

ogre-the-last-neanderthal

Released by Minotauro Records. Reviewed on March 10.

Six years and one breakup later, Portland, Maine, doom trio Ogre returned with The Last Neanderthal, neither afraid to revel in Sabbathian traditionalism or rock out a more upbeat cut like opener “Nine Princes in Amber.” For bassist/vocalist Ed Cunningham, guitarist Ross Markonish and drummer Will Broadbent, it was a welcome resurgence of pretense-free heavy riffs and grooves.

 

21. The Wounded Kings, Consolamentum

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Released by Candlelight Records. Reviewed on Jan. 30.

Of course, at the time we didn’t know it would be the final outing from this lineup of UK doomers The Wounded Kings, whose guitarist/founder Steve Mills has now reunited with original vocalist George Birch, but Consolamentum was a hell of a closing statement anyway for this era of the band, showcasing their murky, increasingly progressive style still waiting for wider appreciation.

 

20. Floor, Oblation

floor-oblation

Released by Season of Mist. Reviewed on April 22.

Wasn’t sure where to put Floor‘s reunion offering, Oblation, on this list at first, since I kind of fell off listening to it as the year went on, but I’ve gone back to it over the last couple weeks and it has held up to the revisit, whether it’s songs like the extended “Sign of Aeth” or shorter, catchy pummelers like “Rocinante” or “War Party.” Floor‘s 2002 self-titled holds an untouchable legacy in heavy rock, but I think the years will prove Oblation a worthy successor. Nobody knew what they had with Floor at the time either.

 

19. Druglord, Enter Venus

druglord-enter-venus

Released by STB Records. Reviewed on Feb. 14.

Little on 2011’s Motherfucker Rising (review here) or their 2010 demo (review here) prepared for the kind of assault that Druglord‘s Enter Venus brought to bear. Four stomp-laden slabs of tectonic crash and distortion, vocals buried under and calling up from the amp-bred fog. The Virginian trio were in and out on the 27-minute 12″ release, but had enough heavy for a record twice as long, and the tinges of darkened psychedelia made their songs like a lurking presence just on the edge of consciousness, a threat waiting to be unleashed.

 

18. Ararat, Cabalgata Hacia la Luz

ararat-cabalgata-hacia-la-luz

Released by Oui Oui Records. Reviewed on April 4.

For the sheer variety of Ararat‘s third album in rockers like “Nicotina y Destrucción,” “El Hijo de Ignacio,” the experimentalism of “El Arca” and the piano-driven “Los Viajes” and the acoustic closer “Atalayah,” and the assured, flowing manner in which the Argentina trio pulled it all off, Cabalgata Hacia la Luz should be higher on this list than it is. Part of that might be my frustration at my apparent inability to buy a copy, but don’t let that take away from the quality of the material here, which is wonderfully chaotic, memorable and engaging, rushing in some places and stopping to weep in others.

 

17. Radio Moscow, Magical Dirt

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Released by Alive Naturalsound. Reviewed on May 29.

You won’t hear me deny that Radio Moscow‘s primary impact is as a live band, but their fifth album, Magical Dirt, managed to bring forth much of their psychedelic blues presence in “Death of a Queen,” “Before it Burns” and “Gypsy Fast Woman,” the blinding rhythmic turns and wah-soaked guitar supremacy of Parker Griggs front and center throughout. Together with bassist Anthony Meier (also Sacri Monti) and drummer Paul Marrone (also Astra and Psicomagia), Radio Moscow are hitting their stride as one of heavy rock’s most powerful power trios. One never knows what to expect, but hopefully they keep going the way they are.

 

16. Apostle of Solitude, Of Woe and Wounds

apostle-of-solitude-of-woe-and-wounds

Released by Cruz del Sur. Reviewed on Nov. 6.

Four years isn’t the longest time I’ve ever waited for a record to come out, but in the case of Indianapolis’ Apostle of Solitude, it felt like an especially long stretch. Their third full-length and first for Cruz del Sur, Of Woe and Wounds followed the anticipation-building Demo 2012 (review here) and a couple splits and brought aboard bassist Dan Dividson and guitarist/vocalist Steve Janiak (also Devil to Pay), who fit well with drummer Corey Webb and guitarist/vocalist Chuck Brown to result in a payoff worthy and indicative of the time that went into its making. Hands down one of the finest acts in American doom.

 

15. Stubb, Cry of the Ocean

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Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed on Nov. 24.

Stubb‘s second long-player, also their debut on Ripple, gets a nod for the sense of progression it brought in answering the potential of the trio’s 2012 self-titled debut (review here), guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson, bassist Peter Holland and new drummer Tom Fyfe expanding the scope to include more heavy psych influence and soul along with the fuzz riffs and steady rolling while giving no ground in terms of the level of craft at work. Cry of the Ocean has become one of those albums where all I have to do is look at a title, be it “Cry of the Ocean Pt. I” or “Sail Forever” or “Heartbreaker,” and the song is immediately stuck in my head. With these tracks, that’s not at all a complaint.

 

14. Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, Black Power Flower

brant-bjork-and-the-low-desert-punk-band-black-power-flower

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed on Nov. 10.

Brant Bjork has worn many hats, literal and figurative, over the years, whether it’s drummer in Kyuss or Fu Manchu, producer, solo artist or bandleader. With Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band, he steps once again into the latter role, and with guitarist Bubba DuPree, bassist Dave Dinsmore and drummer Tony Tornay, presents not only on his heaviest record to date, but what could easily begin a sustainable full-band progression that can go just about anywhere his songwriting wants to take it. “Stokely up Now,” “That’s a Fact Jack,” “Controllers Denied” and “Boogie Woogie on Your Brain” made for some of 2014’s best in desert rock, and Black Power Flower was an stellar return for Bjork to his “solo” work.

 

13. Dwellers, Pagan Fruit

dwellers-pagan-fruit

Released by Small Stone. Reviewed on May 22.

An earlier version of this list had Pagan Fruit at a lower number, but I couldn’t live with it not being closer to the top 10. Salt Lake City’s Dwellers pushed deeper into laid back psych and blues on their second album, and in doing so, crafted an atmosphere entirely their own. From “Creature Comfort” down to “Call of the Hollowed Horn,” with triumphs along the way like “Rare Eagle,” “Totem Crawler” (“Ohh, my queen… To whom, I crawl…) and “Son of Raven,” Pagan Fruit became a staple of my 2014, building off their 2012 debut, Good Morning Harakiri (review here), but presenting their stylistic growth with a confidence and poise that can only come from a band who’ve figured out what they want to be doing and how they want to do it. Front to back, Pagan Fruit sounds like an arrival.

 

12. The Golden Grass, The Golden Grass

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Released by Svart Records. Reviewed on March 25.

What made Brooklyn trio The Golden Grass‘ self-titled debut such a special released wasn’t just that it was heavy, or that the tracks were catchy, or that guitarist Michael Rafalowich and drummer Adam Kriney could harmonize over Joe Noval‘s warm-toned basslines. That was all great, don’t get me wrong, but what really stood out about The Golden Grass was its irony-free positivity, the way it was able to capture an upbeat, sunshiny feel without having to smirk about it on the other side of its mouth. It was self-aware, to be sure — knew what it was doing — but the way I see it, consciousness only makes the stylistic choices more impressive. Add to that the nuance they brought to ’70s revivalism, and all that stuff about catchiness and the harmonies, and there just wasn’t a level on which the album didn’t work.

 

11. The Well, Samsara

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Released by RidingEasy Records. Reviewed on Sept. 22.

My appreciation continues to grow for The Well‘s Samsara, which successfully pulled together influences from garage doom and heavy psychedelia while crafting an identity for the Austin, Texas, three-piece at once raw and melodically accomplished, guitarist Ian Graham and bassist Lisa Alley sharing vocals to classic effect on “Refuge” while otherwise trading off lead position to bolster variety in the material. The high point might’ve been the eight-minute “Eternal Well,” on which GrahamAlley and drummer Jason Sullivvan conjured some of their grooviest demons, but the hooks of “Mortal Bones,” “Trespass” and the attitude-laced “Dragon Snort” were no less engaging. One of many strong releases from their label this year — Slow SeasonThe Picturebooks, etc. — they seemed to come ready to serve notice of a stylistic movement underway.

 

10. Montibus Communitas, The Pilgrim to the Absolute

montibus-communitas-the-pilgrim-to-the-absolute

Released by Beyond Beyond is Beyond. Reviewed on Dec. 4.

Peruvian psych adventurers Montibus Communitas more or less blew my mind when I heard their late-2013 offering, Harvest Times earlier this year, and the narrative, conceptual 2014 release, The Pilgrim to the Absolute, is even more of an achievement in its portrayal of improvised exploration, sonic ritualism and open creativity. The weaving of longer pieces against shorter ones with the various steps along the path as presented in the titles, some journeying, some arriving, some descriptive, almost all accompanied by nature in one form or another, gives The Pilgrim to the Absolute an almost impressionistic quality, so that even as you listen to it, you engage it as much as it carries you along its vibrant, breathtaking progression en route to the closing title-track, which is a destination every bit worthy of the journey. This is the most recently reviewed inclusion on this list, but Montibus Communitas‘ latest readily earns its place in the top 10. It is unique in its surroundings.

 

9. Fu Manchu, Gigantoid

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Released by At the Dojo Records. Reviewed on May 14.

Looking back at the last two Fu Manchu records, 2007’s We Must Obey and 2009’s Signs of Infinite Power, it seemed reasonable to expect the groundbreaking SoCal fuzz foursome to put out another collection of big-sounding riffs in a big-sounding production. Nothing to complain about, but probably not a landmark. By going the other way completely — stripping their buzzed-out riffing down to its punkish core thanks in no small part to recording with Moab‘s Andrew GiacumakisFu Manchu served up a raw reminder both of where they came from and how top notch their songwriting remains. Reissuing their earliest work and being on their own label might’ve had something to do with it, but whatever it was, the 35 minutes of Gigantoid was as efficient a heavy rock outing as one could hope from an already legendary band, whether it was the hook-prone opening salvo of “Dimension Shifter,” “Invaders on My Back,” “Anxiety Reducer” and “Radio Source Sagittarius” or the righteous ending jam “The Last Question.”

 

8. The Skull, For Those Which are Asleep

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Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed on Nov. 5.

Given the origins of The Skull — ex-Trouble members Eric Wagner, Jeff “Oly” Olson and Ron Holzner joining with Lothar Keller and a series of other guitarists, finally Matt Goldsborough, working essentially as a tribute band to their former outfit — I think not only did the quality of the material and performance on For Those Which are Asleep surprise, as well as the classically doomed feel that resonates throughout the album, but the sheer heartfelt nature of songs like “Sick of it All,” “Send Judas Down” and the title-track itself. This wasn’t a cynical attempt to make a go of an already set legacy. It was an expression of appreciation both for what they accomplished as Trouble and a desire to continue that work. The Skull‘s whole thing has been that they’re “more Trouble than Trouble,” and in their lineup that’s been true since they brought Olson on board. For Those Which are Asleep demonstrated that the classic spirit of that band is alive and well, its address has just changed. Moreover, it’s the beginning of a new progression for that spirit, and I hope it continues.

 

7. Blood Farmers, Headless Eyes

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Self-released on CD, LP on PATAC Records. Reviewed on March 24.

Nineteen years after releasing their self-titled debut, New York’s Blood Farmers contended for 2014’s comeback of the year with their sophomore outing, Headless Eyes — a morose, horror-obsessed six-track collection that on “Night of the Sorcerers” owed as much to Goblin as to Sabbath. The closing cover of David Hess‘ theme from The Last House on the Left, “The Road Leads to Nowhere,” was a late bit of melodic flourish to add depth, but how could the highlight be anything other than the 10-minute title-track itself, with its samples from the 1971 horror flick The Headless Eyes, bassist Eli Brown in a call and response with lyrics comprised of lines directly taken from the movie? That after playing shows the last several years, Blood Farmers managed to get a record out was impressive enough. That Headless Eyes turned out to be the year’s best traditional doom release was an entirely different level of surprise. I wouldn’t hold my breath waiting for their third, but Brown, guitarist David Szulkin and drummer Tad Leger gave plenty to chew on with Blood Farmers‘ second. It was better than would’ve been fair to expect.

 

6. Lo-Pan, Colossus

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Released by Small Stone. Reviewed on Oct. 7.

A lot of what you need to know about Lo-Pan‘s fourth album you learn in the first five seconds of opener “Regulus.” There’s no fancy intro, no time wasted, nothing to take away from the directness of the song itself. Tones are crisp — the verse is already underway — and guitar, bass and drums are laser-focused in their forward movement. Even when vocalist Jeff Martin enters the song, roughly six seconds later, his arrival comes with no indulgence, no pomp. Colossus is easily Lo-Pan‘s most immediate work to date, and throughout, Martin, guitarist Brian Fristoe (since replaced by Adrian Zambrano), bassist Scott Thompson and drummer Jesse Bartz retain that focus no matter where the material takes them, delivering a clinic in how to kick as much ass as possible at any given moment on cuts like “Marathon Man” and “Eastern Seas,” or even bringing in guest vocalist Jason Alexander Byers, who also designed the album cover, for a spot on “Vox.” They had a hard task in following up 2011’s Salvador (review here), but the Columbus, Ohio, unit stood up to the challenge and met it and everyone else head-on.

 

5a. All Them Witches, Lightning at the Door

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Self-released. Reviewed on Sept. 25.

What to do with All Them Witches‘ Lightning at the Door? The Nashville four-piece released the album last fall digitally, but it wasn’t until this September that it saw a physical manifestation. In fact, if you go back, it was included on the Top 20 of 2013 as well. Which is the release date? I don’t know. What I know is that in terms of the sheer amount of time spent listening, I put on Lightning at the Door more than any other record this year. From where I sit, that alone gets it a place in the top five. Yeah, it might be a cop-out to do a “5a,” but sometimes exceptions have to be made, and All Them Witches have proved to be nothing if not exceptional in their still relatively brief, jam-laden history, the psych-blues dynamic between bassist/vocalist Michael Parks, Jr., guitarist Ben McLeod, Fender Rhodes specialist Allan van Cleave and drummer Robby Staebler pushing them quickly to the fore of American heavy rock’s innovators, their natural, improv-sounding material feeling brazen and exploratory while reshaping the elements of genre to suit their needs. One can only see this dynamic developing further as they continue to grow as a live band, so Lightning at the Door may just be the start, and that’s perhaps most exciting of all.

 

5. Witch Mountain, Mobile of Angels

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Released by Profound Lore. Reviewed on Aug. 20.

A beautiful, stunning work made even more powerful by the honesty driving it. Portland, Oregon’s Witch Mountain completed a trilogy with the Billy Anderson-produced Mobile of Angels that brought about some of the best doom of this young decade, their 2011 return from a years-long hiatus, South of Salem (review here) serving as the foundation for a stylistic progression that continued on the following year’s Cauldron of the Wild (review here) and onto Mobile of Angels itself as the four-piece’s most accomplished album to date. The reason it feels like such a concluding chapter is because of the departure of vocalist Uta Plotkin, whose voice helped establish Witch Mountain both on stage and in the studio, leaving founders Rob Wrong (guitar) and Nathan Carson (drums) with the sizable task of finding a replacement. That situation will be what it will be, but Mobile of Angels remains a gorgeous, lonely testament. Plotkin gives a landmark performance on “Can’t Settle” and “The Shape Truth Takes,” which in the context of what was happening in Witch Mountain at the time ring with a truth that’s rare in or out of doom, and she seems to have left the band just as they were hitting their finest hour. So it goes.

 

4. Conan, Blood Eagle

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Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed on Jan. 22.

In all of heavy, there is no assault so severe as Conan‘s. With their second full-length and debut on Napalm Records, the UK trio solidified the two sides of the preceding 2012 outing, Monnos (review here), in constructing material that, fast or slow, short or long, retained an epic feel melded with their ungodly tonality and memorable songwriting. Their first recording at guitarist/vocalist Jon DavisSkyhammer Studio, it affirmed Conan‘s will to conquer in its two massive bookends, “Crown of Talons” and “Altar of Grief,” and in the High on Fire-worthy gallop of “Foehammer” — a bludgeon commandingly wielded by Davis, bassist/vocalist Phil Coumbe and drummer Paul O’Neil, the latter to of whom have since left the band to be replaced by longtime-producer Chris Fielding and Rich Lewis, respectively. What effect the changes might have on the band — except apparently more touring, which isn’t a bad thing — have yet to be seen, but Conan are already in the process of writing a follow-up to Blood Eagle, so it doesn’t seem like it’ll be all that long until we find out. With Davis still steering the band in songwriting and overall direction, one severely doubts they’ll be fixing what obviously isn’t broken anytime soon. None heavier.

 

3. Wo Fat, The Conjuring

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Released by Small Stone Records. Reviewed on June 18.

Dallas riff-rockers Wo Fat have grown steadily over the course of their five albums, from the nascent heavy roll of 2006’s The Gathering Dark, to the hooks of 2008’s Psychedelonaut (review here), the jamming that started to surface on 2011’s Noche del Chupacabra (review here) and was pushed further on 2012’s The Black Code (review here). And their approach has been as steady as the frequency of their releases. In making The Conjuring, the three-piece were simply engaging the next step in their progression, but the material on the five-track/48-minute outing goes further than just that. Putting aside (momentarily) the 17-minute closer “Dreamwalker,” the other cuts, “The Conjuring,” “Read the Omens,” “Pale Rider from the Ice” and “Beggar’s Bargain” each found a place for themselves in pulling together jammed-sounding elements with a memorable construction, and when guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, bassist Tim Wilson and drummer Michael Walter did kick into “Dreamwalker,” they hit on not only their longest piece yet, but their most accomplished showcase of the chemistry that has developed between them. That song is a beast unto itself, but as has been the case with Wo Fat each time out so far in their career, there’s nothing on The Conjuring to give the impression the band can’t or won’t continue to keep going on the path that’s worked so well for them on this point. They’ve spent the last eight years on the right track and have yet to waiver. The Conjuring should be played at top volume for anyone who contends there’s no life left in heavy rock and roll.

 

2. Mars Red Sky, Stranded in Arcadia

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Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed on March 11.

Mars Red Sky‘s second LP and first for Listenable, Stranded in Arcadia was originally supposed to be recorded in the California desert, but visa problems kept the French trio of guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras, bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Matgaz in Brazil, where they’d previously been touring. Thus, “stranded in Arcadia,” which is basically another way of saying “lost in paradise.” Can’t say the Bordeaux three-piece didn’t make the most of it, though. Songs like “The Light Beyond” and “Hovering Satellites” — not to mention the utter melodic bliss of “Join the Race” — took cues from their 2011 self-titled debut (review here) in terms of memorable songwriting and melodic craft, but added to that heft and tonal richness more of a psychedelic vibe, so that not only was there fuzz and wah, but a spacious world in which the songs took place. With Kinast on lead vocals, the sneaky boogie of “Holy Mondays” became a highlight, and the one-two swing ‘n’ stomp of “Circles” and “Seen a Ghost” were a perfect demonstration by the band of the various sides of their sound, particularly following after the dreamy instrumental “Arcadia,” an echoing jam distinguished by Pras‘ wistful guitar lead and coming before the closing “Beyond the Light,” which reprises the opener’s resonant unfolding. It probably wasn’t the record they intended to make, but Stranded in Arcadia became one of my go-to albums for 2014, and like the best of any given year’s output, I’ve no doubt it will transcend the passage of time and continue to deliver for years to come. Hell, I was barely done with the debut when this one came out.

 

1. YOB, Clearing the Path to Ascend

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Released by Neurot Recordings. Reviewed on Sept. 3.

“It’s time to wake up.”

Can’t imagine this is any great surprise. Not only did Clearing the Path to Ascend – YOB‘s seventh album and first for Neurot — produce my pick for song of the year in its sprawling, emotionally weighted 18-minute closer, “Marrow,” but in the three full-lengths the Eugene, Oregon, trio of drummer Travis Foster, bassist Aaron Rieseberg and guitarist/vocalist Mike Scheidt have released since the latter reformed the band after breaking it up following 2005’s The Unreal Never Lived, all three have been my album of the year. The Great Cessation was in 2009, and Atma was in 2011. Consistency aside, I’ll point out specifically that each of the same three records has earned that position, perhaps Clearing the Path to Ascend most of all for its progressive feel, moving past genre even at its most raging moment, second cut “Nothing to Win,” the chorus of which proved that among everything else YOB could be, they could be anthemic. The cosmic, spiritual questing that has always been present in their songs, that feeling of searching, showed up in opener “In Our Blood,” but even there, it was evident YOB were pushing themselves beyond what they’ve done before, rewriting their own formulas incorporating lessons from their past in among their other points of inspiration. “Unmask the Spectre” could have easily been an album closer itself, with its patient exploration and feverishly intense payoff, but with the melodic progressivism of “Marrow” and the soul poured into every second of that track, every verse and chorus, solo and build — including the Hammond added to the last of them by producer Billy Barnett — YOB created a landmark both for themselves and the increasing many working under their influence. I’ve said on several occasions (bordering on “many” at this point) that YOB are a once-in-a-generation band, and it feels truer in thinking of Clearing the Path to Ascend than it ever has. Without a doubt, album of the year and then some.

 

 

Honorable Mention

First, special note to Colour Haze‘s To the Highest Gods We Know. I’ve decided to count it as a 2015 release since the vinyl will be out in Spring, but otherwise surely it would earn a place on this list. Blackwolfgoat‘s Drone Maintenance also deserves note.

A few other honorable mentions:

MothershipMothership II — It’s hard to argue with a classic heavy rock power trio kicking ass. I won’t try.

Ice DragonSeeds from a Dying Garden — Boston experimental psych/garage doomers continue to defy expectation. May their weirdness last forever and continue to produce material so satisfying.

TruckfightersUniverse – I thought at some point I’d go back to Universe again, but never really did. A problem with me more than the album.

SteakSlab City — An impressive debut following two strong EPs.

GodfleshA World Lit Only by Fire — I never got a review copy, so I never reviewed it. Its name is here because I’m a fan of the band and glad they’re back.

ThouHeathen — Just recently purchased this and am only getting to know it, but a ridiculously strong album.

Corrosion of ConformityIX — Everybody who gets a boner whenever Pepper Keenan is mentioned in connection with this band has missed out. This record and the self-titled kick ass.

SpidergawdSpidergawd — Holy shit they’re over here! No they’re over there! No wait over here again! Oh my god I’ve just gone blind!

Monster MagnetMilking the Stars — I wasn’t sure what to do with this since technically it’s not a new album, mostly reworked songs from the last one. I still listened to it a ton though, whatever it is.

SlomaticsEstron — Another one I’m just getting to know, but am very much digging.

Electric WizardTime to Die — People seem to do this thing where Electric Wizard puts out a record, everyone slathers over it for a few months and then spends the next two years talking about how it sucked. I guess I’ll be on the ground floor with not having been that into Time to Die.

PallbearerFoundations of Burden — Had to put their name somewhere on this list or someone would burn my house down. Album of the year for many.

The list goes on: Monolord, Comet Control, Mammatus, Triptykon, Eyehategod, Fever Dog, Moab, Karma to Burn, Atavismo, Grifter, 1000mods, Megaton Leviathan, Wovenhand, Mr. Peter Hayden, Primordial, and many more.

Before I check out and go sit in a corner somewhere to try and rebuild brain power after this massive dump of a purge, I want to sincerely thank you for reading. If you check in regularly, or if you’ve never been to the site before, if you don’t give a crap about lists or if you’re gonna go listen to even one band on here, it’s fantastic to me. Thank you so much for all the support this site receives, for your comments, for sharing links, retweeting, whatever it is. I am a real person — I’m sitting on my couch at this very moment — and being able to do this and have people see it and be a part of it with me is unbelievable. I realize how fortunate I am. So thank you. Thank you.

Thank you.

More to come as we close out 2014. I’ll have a list of short/split/demo releases, a year-end podcast, a list of the best debuts, a round up of the best live shows I saw, as much more as time allows. Please stay tuned.

And again, thank you. If I left anyone off the list, I hope you’ll let me know in the comments and contribute your own top albums, however many there are, to the Readers Poll.

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The Obelisk Radio Adds: Mugstar & The Cosmic Dead, Goya, Gangrened, Attalla and TarLung

Posted in Radio on December 19th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

the obelisk radio

I’ve been listening to The Obelisk Radio a lot this week, particularly while starting to put together my top albums of 2014 list, so it seemed only appropriate to get a new round of adds up to the server. As we come to the end of the year, there’s always a slowdown in terms of releases, but if I had to put a number to it, I’d call it a 10, maybe 20 percent drop at most. If it was running water and you were looking at it, you’d notice no difference. A flood is still a flood.

As such, 14 records joined the server today. Some are recently reviewed, some aren’t out yet, some have been out for a little bit. It’s a solid batch of stuff, and if you haven’t yet had enough of lists — more to come, believe me — it’s worth a look at the Playlist and Updates Page. The amount of stuff on there is staggering. It’s a wonder the radio stream manages to fit in so much Clutch at all.

Let’s get to it.

The Obelisk Radio Adds for Dec. 19, 2014:

Mugstar & The Cosmic Dead, Split LP

Mugstar & Cosmic Dead Split LP

Two sides, one song from each band, each a massive slab of a jam. Glasgow’s The Cosmic Dead and Liverpool’s Mugstar make a solid pairing, and by solid I definitely mean liquid, and by liquid I mean that’s what your brains will be by the time Mugstar‘s “Breathing Mirror” (18:42) and The Cosmic Dead‘s “Fukahyoocastulah” (25:51) are done. Instrumental in their entirety and jammed out on a subspace frequency that I only imagine they can already hear in the Delta Quadrant — and no doubt they’re wondering what the title of The Cosmic Dead‘s contribution means exactly — both cuts share an affinity for progressive heavy psych exploration, kosmiche and krautrock alike, but with a fresh take on the classic idea of we’re-gonna-get-in-a-room-and-this-is-what-happens that runs through, whether it’s in the drone midsection of “Breathing Mirror” after the jam has died down and before its resurgence, or the later reaches of “Fukayoocastulah,” which rest on the nigh-eternal bassline that’s steady enough to hold the course despite the various effects freakouts, slow swirls and experiments happening around it. About 45 minutes solid of primo heavy jamming? Sign me up. Mugstar’s website, on Bandcamp, The Cosmic Dead on Thee Faceboks, on Bandcamp.

Goya, Satan’s Fire

Goya Satan's Fire

Eleven-minute opener “Malediction and Death” makes its primary impression in its consuming tonality — a harsh but encompassing low end that emerges out of the initial cavalcade of feedback starting the song. The first three minutes of “Malediction and Death” are noise before Phoenix’s Goya kick in their riff, drums and vocals, sounding as huge on the Satan’s Fire EP as on their preceding split with Wounded Giant (review here) but perhaps even more malevolent as they continue to find their place within wizard doom, marked out by the two-at-once solo shredding of guitarist/vocalist Jeff Owens, the lurching rhythm behind him and the swing of drummer Nick Lose, whose snare punctuates “Malediction and Death” like a life-preserver tossed into the abyss. Unsurprisingly, they end noisy. “Symbols” picks up with two minutes of sparse, atmospheric drumming, and the title-track (5:58) finishes with a tale of antichristianity, dropping out of life, and watching the world fall apart. Doom? Yes. Perhaps not as patient as “Malediction and Death,” “Satan’s Fire” itself offers suitable heat, and delivered through amps that likewise sound about ready to melt, provides a memorable impression even beyond its Oborn-style hook. Goya on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Attalla, Attalla

Attalla Attalla

Somewhere between classic doom and more aggressive, hardcore punk-derived noise, Oshkosh, Wisconsin, four-piece Attalla are the kind of band who could probably release nothing but 7″ singles for the next five years and still make a go of it. As it stands, their self-titled debut offers a stirring rawness in the dual guitars that reminds there’s more ways to make an impact tonally than just with volume or fuzz. Their roots are in punk, and that’s plain enough to hear in lead guitarist Cody Stieg‘s vocals on songs like “Light” and “Lust,” but “Haze” nestles into a stoner groove late that suits Attalla well, and the later “Veil” offers charged propulsion in the drums of Aaron Kunde, whose snare sound is tinny but fitting with the sans-frills stylings of Stieg, rhythm guitarist Brian Hinckley and bassist Bryan Kunde. Some variation in tempo throughout changes things up, but a particularly triumphant moment comes with the raw Slayer-esque foreboding (think slow Slayer) that begins “Doom,” a fitting closer to Attalla‘s Attalla with its subtly complex stylistic blend and relatively barebones presentation. I’m not sure where Attalla go from here in terms of developing their sound, but the debut offers reason enough to want to find out. Attalla on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

TarLung, TarLung

TarLung TarLung

If you played me TarLung‘s TarLung debut full-length and told me the trio were from North Carolina, I’d undoubtedly believe you. In fact, they hail from Vienna, Austria, but just so happen to have the Southern sludge ideology nailed down on their first offering. Roots in Crowbar and Eyehategod and Sourvein can be heard throughout, big nod, harsh vocals, weighted plod. The guitars of Rotten and Phillipp “Five“ Seiler (the latter also vocals) brings in some of that Pepper Keenan-style Southern riffing, on “Last Breath” particularly, but the bulk of what they and drummer Marian Waibl get up to on these seven tracks is rawer and nastier, the album’s last three cuts — “Apeplanet,” “Black Forest” and “Space Caravan” — providing the best glimpse at TarLung‘s effective aesthetic interpretation. Tonally and methodologically sound, what remains for them to do is hone a more individualized approach, but particularly for a self-released first album, the crisp harshness they convey on the centerpiece “C2″ — a kind of maddening high pitch running throughout — satisfies when taken on its own level, and among the three-piece’s assets, their lack of pretense will no doubt serve them well moving forward. TarLung on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Gangrened, We are Nothing

Gangrened We are Nothing

Proffering lurching, aggressive sludge over three tracks arranged longest to shortest, Finnish trio Gangrened conjure sweeping chaos on We are Nothing, blatantly contradicting the title of the release despite whatever riff-laden nihilism might be at work philosophically. Among the most telling moments on the release — which follows a split tape from the four piece of  vocalist Ollijuhani Kujansivu, guitarist/bassist Andreas Österlund, guitarist Jon Imbernon and drummer Owe Inborr, who’ve since traded out their rhythm section — is the opening sample of “Them” in which a man in a Southern US accent rants in paranoid rage about helicopters flying over his property, indicative of some conspiracy or other. In both their influence and their execution, that fits Gangrened‘s overall portrayal well, but both the 12-minute opener “Lung Remover” and closing semi-Black Flag cover “Kontti” (translated “24 Pack” and a feedback-soaked, sludged-up play on “Six Pack”) are pissed off enough to warrant the attention they seem to be demanding in their noisy charge, snail-paced and malevolent as it is. Gangrened on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

As always, this is just a fraction of what was added to The Obelisk Radio today. If you get the chance to check any of this stuff out, I hope you dig it, and if you decide to launch the player, I hope whatever’s playing is awesome.

Thanks for reading and listening.

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Cherry Choke Releasing Raising the Waters in January

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 17th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

cherry choke

UK trio Cherry Choke will release their third album, Raising the Waters, in January on Elektrohasch. The heavy garage rocking three-piece were last heard from with 2011’s A Night in the Arms of Venus (review here), which refined the classically-minded push and Who-style heavy of their 2009 self-titled debut (review here) to an even more natural vibe. To have them return four years later with a new record after a period of relative inactivity on their part — Cherry Choke played ThElectriCool festival this fall, and guitarist/vocalist Mat Bethancourt (ex-Josiah, ex-The Kings of Frog Island) designed the cover for the new Colour Haze record, so it hasn’t been complete stillness — I wouldn’t speculate what they might be up to this time around, but that just makes the anticipation more fun until the album’s release next month.

Cherry Choke will join Radio Moscow and the aforementioned Colour Haze for part of the Up in Smoke V tour in March. Their dates, plus the art and tracklisting for Raising the Waters, follow:

cherry choke raising the waters

Elektrohasch 167 Cherry Choke – Raising The Waters CD & LP

Soon the new Cherry Choke will be released. Produced in the Colour Haze Studio you can look forward to maybe the best record Mat Bethancourt (Josiah, The Beginning, Kings Of Frog island, Dexter Jones Circus Orchestra….) made in his long career so far…

The new Cherry Choke 10 track album “Raising The Waters” out on Elektrohasch Records January 2015 featuring the tracks:

1. Rage On
2. Mindbreaker
3. Black Annis
4. Used To Call You Friend
5. Hypnotize Me
6. Where The Sun Rises
7. 6ix & 7even
8. My Mind To Lose
9. Discarded Hearts
10. Where The Sun Sets

Cherry Choke on Up In Smoke Tour w/ Colour Haze + Radio Moscow

01.03.2015 UK, London, The Garage
02.03.2015 FR, Paris, Le Divan du Monde
03.03.2015 BEL, Brussels, Magasin 4
04.03.2015 GER, Hamburg, Markthalle
05.03.2015 GER, Berlin, SO36
06.03.2015 A, Vienna, Arena
07.03.2015 A, Salzburg, Rockhouse

facebook.com/cherrychoke
soundofliberation.com
elektrohasch.de

Cherry Choke, A Night in the Arms of Venus (2011)

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Desertfest London 2015: Acid King, Brant Bjork, Ufomammut, The Vintage Caravan, Galvano and Don Fernando Join Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 16th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

desertfest london banner

Prior to checking out for the holidays, Desertfest London 2015 has decided to give its public something to chew on over the next couple weeks. Six bands have joined the lineup for the UK festival. American acts Brant Bjork and the Low Desert Punk Band and Acid King, Italy’s Ufomammut, Iceland’s The Vintage Caravan, Sweden’s Galvano and Australia’s Don Fernando broaden an already international assemblage to be headlined by Sleep and Red Fang, and featuring FloorMy Sleeping KarmaBlack PyramidLo-Pan and an impressive host of others listed below.

A lot of festival news around here lately, I know — and more still to come. It’s the season for it. As we move into the New Year and these lineups start to really solidify, it seems like the culture for heavy rock fests just keeps growing. Certainly it’s Desertfest‘s biggest year yet.

Here’s their latest announcement:

desertfest london poster

Brant Bjork, Ufomammut, Acid King, The Vintage Caravan, Galvano and Don Fernando to play DESERTFEST LONDON in 2015

On the eve of Christmas holidays, the DESERTFEST LONDON promoters wanted to leave you with a sweet stoner rock taste, by adding a new batch of high-end outfits to the 2015 edition of the festival. Desert rock standard-bearer BRANT BJORK will take the stage this April along with Italy’s heaviest trio UFOMAMMUT, the legendary ACID KING, Iceland’s cosmos travellers THE VINTAGE CARAVAN, Swedish sludge mongers GALVANO and Australia’s DON FERNANDO.

Bands already confirmed are:

SLEEP
RED FANG
BRANT BJORK’S LOW DESERT PUNK
ORANGE GOBLIN
FLOOR
MINSK
UFOMAMMUT
ACID KING
KARMA TO BURN
THE VINTAGE CARAVAN
MY SLEEPING KARMA
BLACK PYRAMID
NOOTHGRUSH
LO-PAN
THE ATOMIC BITCHWAX
BLACK COBRA
DOPETHRONE
DESERT STORM
THE WOUNDED KINGS
DON FERNANDO
GALVANO
AGRIMONIA
AMULET
WALK THROUGH FIRE

DESERTFEST LONDON
24-26th April 2015 in Camden Town
Koko
Electric Ballroom
The Underworld
The Black Heart

Tickets on sale AT THIS LOCATION / Hotel & ticket packages info HERE

More infos at www.thedesertfest.com
https://www.facebook.com/DesertfestLondon
https://twitter.com/DesertFest
http://instagram.com/desertfest

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Bright Curse Announce New Bassist and Recording Plans

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 8th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Well, last we heard from Londoner trio Bright Curse, they had a new bass player and plans to record. It would seem not much has changed — unless you count the bass players. The three-piece has again enlisted a new party to helm the low end, bringing in Sweden’s Max Ternebring in what they hope will be a permanent replacement. They’re also getting ready to record a new EP to follow-up their 2013 self-titled (review here), and are planning on more studio and road time after that.

The PR wire brings details, for which we are grateful:

bright curse

BRIGHT CURSE to record new 12″ EP in January; bassist Max Ternebring joins the band.

Following a slight lineup reshuffle, London heavy psych rockers BRIGHT CURSE are back in the saddle for good. The trio just unveiled the identity of their new bass player, as well as the release of a new 12″ EP, due out in early 2015.

After the re-edition of their highly praised debut “Bright Curse” in 2013 via Bilocation Records, UK based doomsters BRIGHT CURSE are set to release new material, to cope with the wait that has ensued from two consecutive changes of bass player this year. The band finally found a definitive groove monger in the person of Max Ternebring. Drummer Zacharie Mizzi comments: “As promised, we present you the new, handsome, completing member of our line-up: Maximilian from the blessed land of Sverige (read Sweden if you’re not from the blessed land…). New riffs are already flowing, and we will record songs for a 12″ vinyl exclusive release very soon. Brace yourselves, more news regarding a tour are coming next.”

BRIGHT CURSE will head back to the studio later in 2015 to record their second album to date. The booking of a full European tour is also in the pipeline.

BRIGHT CURSE rose in May 2012 in London from the ashes of French psychedelic band Soul Manifest (Night Tripper Records). A few months later, the psych doom trio brought to life their first self-titled debut “Bright Curse” to life, which was recorded by J.B Pilon in London and mastered by Brad Boatright at Audiosiege in Portland. It didn’t take long until the band gained international recognition thanks to their unique sound imprint, and inked a deal with German label Bilocation Records, who released a limited vinyl edition of the band’s debut album in 2013.

These last two years has seen the band going uphill, for BRIGHT CURSE went on a full UK tour with Trippy Wicked and Wight, and were invited to play significant heavy music events in Europe (Desertfest London, Up In Smoke Fest, Glad Stone Fest), sharing the stage with the likes of Earthless, Colour Haze, Truckfighters, Pentagram, Naam or Mars Red Sky. Enjoying their current momentum, BRIGHT CURSE are now established with their new bassmeister hailing from Sweden, Max Ternebring, and are ready to release their new record some time in 2015.

BRIGHT CURSE IS:
Romain Daut – guitar & vocals
Zacharie Mizzi – drums
Max Ternebring – bass

www.brightcurse.com
www.facebook.com/BrightCurse
www.twitter.com/brightcurseband
www.brightcurse.bandcamp.com

Bright Curse, Bright Curse (2013)

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Camel of Doom Release Psychodramas Vinyl; New Album in 2015

Posted in Whathaveyou on December 2nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

camel of doom

Formerly the one-man project of former Esoteric guitarist Kris Clayton and now expanded to a duo, Camel of Doom have issued a vinyl version of their 2012 full-length, Psychodramas: Breaking the Knots of Twisted Synapse (review here), through Voice of Azram Records. Just 300 copies have been pressed of the album, which runs a line between death-doom and heavy psychedelia via encompassing tones and an overarching focus on atmospherics. Together with bassist Simon WhittleClayton has been working on a follow-up to Psychodramas that will be recorded early in the New Year and hopefully released sometime before the end of 2015. No easy task in following a record so widely varied, but something tells me Camel of Doom‘s next one will be worth looking forward to.

And in the meantime, vinyl. Info follows:

camel of doom psychodramas

The new album from ex-Esoteric guitarist Kris Clayton. It was recorded, mixed and mastered at Priory Recording Studios by Esoteric mainman and long time collaborator Greg Chandler, and produced by Kris Clayton to finally realize the dream imagined when the band was formed 10 long years ago.

Melding together influences from Doom, Death Metal, Stoner Rock and 70’s Psychedelic and Progressive rock genres, the record aims to be as heavy as it is trippy, as melodic as it is dissonant and as beautiful as it is twisted. This record takes the foundations built by earlier albums and adds to them, retaining the bands trademark ambient saxophone infused doom and creating new sounds with forays into blissed out vocoded post-rock and early 90’s death metal, with brief stops into dark ambient and funeral doom along the way.

Lyrically it is a concept record telling of how the artist used arcane techniques to rebuild a mind shattered by constant self abuse, drawing on the darkest aspects of the psyche to force his mind in submission to his own will. Thematically, the band has matured immensely – hardly surprising that Kris Clayton formed the band aged just 13. The sound has grown up with him.

1×12″ Purple Vinyl LP, released on Voice of Azram records. Includes poster.

There are 300 copies available worldwide, we have a limited number of 27 available for sale.

All proceeds from bandcamp sales go to the band. All sales anywhere else we see nothing!

https://camelofdoom.bandcamp.com/album/psychodramas-breaking-the-knots-of-twisted-synapse
https://www.facebook.com/camelofdoom
http://voiceofazram.com/pages/home.php

Camel of Doom, Psychodramas: Breaking the Knots of Twisted Synapse (2012/2014)

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audiObelisk Transmission 042

Posted in Podcasts on November 26th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Click Here to Download

 

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

Tomorrow here in the US it is Thanksgiving, which has some questionable origins but in practice is actually one of our less-abominable holidays, with a focus on togetherness, good food, and enjoying the company of loved ones. Today, the day before, is traditionally the busiest travel day of the year while people get to wherever they’re going. Even if you don’t manage to find it until after the holiday is over, it seemed only fitting to make a new podcast so that anyone who might want to take it along for the ride would be able to do so.

My head has started to get into year-end wrap-up mode, so don’t be surprised if one or two or three of these bands show up in subsequent “Best Of” coverage. Maybe even four, looking at the list. It’s been a crazy good year, and as it starts to wind its way down and we make our way into the next one, I hope you’ve enjoyed listening to these podcasts and hopefully discovered something you wouldn’t have heard otherwise. That’s really the whole idea.

If you’re traveling by road, rail, or air, I wish you a pleasant journey, and even if you’re staying put, the same applies.

First Hour:
Stubb, “Heavy Blue Sky” from Cry of the Ocean
Murcielago, “Way too Far” from Murcielago
Dune, “Of Blade and Carapace” from Aurora Majesty
The Skull, “Send Judas Down” from For Those Which are Asleep
Elephant Tree, “Attack of the Altaica” from Theia
Renate/Cordate, “Laudanum” from Growth
Mothership, “Serpents Throne” from Mothership II
Space Guerrilla, “Event Horizon” from Boundless
Monster Magnet, “End of Time (B-3)” from Milking the Stars
Memnon Sa, “Megalith” from Citadel

Second Hour:
Soldat Hans, “Meine Liebste; Sie Zerbricht Sich” from Dress Rehearsal
Atavismo, “Meeh” from Desintegración
Øresund Space Collective, “Remnants of the Barbonaeum” from Music for Pogonologists

Total running time: 1:53:26

 

Thank you for listening.

Download audiObelisk Transmission 042

 

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Stubb, Cry of the Ocean: Sky and Water

Posted in Reviews on November 24th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

stubb-cry-of-the-ocean

If you heard Stubb‘s 2012 self-titled Superhot Records debut (review here), then there are two things to know about the newly-released Ripple Music follow-up Cry of the Ocean: It’s more complex in style and emotion, and it has more of a full-album feel. I will not take anything away from the first Stubb record. Songs like “Scale the Mountain” and “Road” and “Soul Mover” and so on continue to resonate, as does the subsequent 7″ single, Under a Spell (review here), it’s just that guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson, bassist/backing vocalist Peter Holland (also Trippy Wicked and Elephant Tree) and new drummer Tom Fyfe have branched out stylistically from where they started. This is a positive for the band since progress hasn’t come at the expense of songwriting. At just under 39 minutes, the Skyhammer Studios-recorded Cry of the Ocean is a little longer than its predecessor, but none of that time feels wasted, whether it’s the late guitar-led jams in the closing duo of “Snake Eyes” and “You’ll Never Know,” or the Colour Haze-esque interplay of waves and standalone guitar that begin the two-part opening title-track. Rather, while Stubb have clearly become a more patient act — a credit to the time they’ve spent on stage the last couple years — their sound has only gotten richer for it. Dickinson‘s guitar tone, which is as much a draw to Cry of the Ocean as its entrancing shoreline cover art, drives this fluidity across the eight included tracks, and a flow pervades throughout the album’s two halves that stands as further evidence of their growth. The self-titled did a lot of work in establishing Stubb as a band to be taken seriously, and Cry of the Ocean succeeds in building off of those accomplishments as its sets out in its own direction.

Stubb are indebted to classic heavy rock without being retro and they nod at heavy psych on Cry of the Ocean without wading too deep in those waters. Rather than seeming noncommittal, though, the effect is that Stubb retain the penchant for hooks that made their first outing such a joy. “Cry of the Ocean Pt. 1″ makes waves of its verses — “And in my mind I break loose/And in my mind I break free…” — and opens to one of the record’s first standout choruses with the lines, “Hear the cry of the ocean, baby/As washes over me.” It is a more brooding sentiment than one might’ve expected, but Dickinson sells the emotion confidently and Stubb prove early they’re more than able to pull off the turn, “Cry of the Ocean Pt. 1″ giving way to “Cry of the Ocean Pt. 2,” a two-minute soulful, handclap-laden singalong that asks, “Are you free? Are you free to believe?/Free to be who you wanted to be?” The transition between the two parts is seamless, and the songs remain individually distinct, it sets up the across-album flow that will continue for most of Cry of the Ocean, with Holland and Fyfe setting up a swinging groove behind a guitar solo that adds distinction to what’s intended as a one-riff progression. “Heavy Blue Sky,” which follows, is likewise open-toned and likewise moody, but Dickinson brings lead-work forward early and with a confident, well-balanced vocal, carries the song, less based around its hook than the title cut but still memorable both for its riff and languid, swaying groove, which is held onto for the duration in a way that demonstrates the band’s patience and serves the album for the better. There’s plenty of time to blow doors off with the more fuzzed “Sail Forever,” the nod of which is immediate and which works its way smoothly toward one of Cry of the Ocean‘s best choruses, raw and classically-styled, but heavy and efficient as well, Fyfe‘s snare cutting through Dickinson‘s solo near the halfway mark.

stubb

I’m not sure where the side A/B change is. Track-wise, it’s possible to be even on both sides, but in terms of time, one’s bound to be longer than the other. For what it’s worth, the acoustic “Heartbreaker” fits well coming out of “Sail Forever,” giving Cry of the Ocean its most contemplative moment and fitting with the bluesy interpersonal thematic at play in several of the songs. A sweet, folkish guitar line at the center furthers the overarching complexity, minimal-but-still-there drums retaining movement and adding class as Dickinson and Holland come together effectively on vocals in the chorus. Some harder snare hits in the second half tell of the pickup to come, but like “Heavy Blue Sky” never lost sight of its intent, “Heartbreaker” retains its acoustic basis even in its payoff, which is more satisfying considering how easy it would’ve been for the band to layer in a wall of fuzz. That also leaves “Devil’s Brew” tasked as the wake-up call, to which its unabashed catchiness is well suited, vocals following the winding bounce of the riff in “woo-oooh” fashion and a faster, more insistent rhythm emerging. It’s quick hook, but perfectly placed on the record between the acoustic “Heartbreaker” and subsequent “Snake Eyes,” a return to a simpler heavy rock feel between excursions elsewhere and a landmark for Cry of the Ocean‘s second half. Both “Snake Eyes” (7:01) and “You’ll Never Know” (the longest track at 7:14) are more complex, but still fit with the proceedings. Holland comes to the fore vocally in the chorus of “Snake Eyes” and there’s a Hammond organ guest spot from Mos Generator‘s Tony Reed, who also mixed and mastered the album, and Dickinson saves his most impressive soloing for the closer, but the two essentially work from the same structure, moving from early verse/chorus tradeoffs into consuming power trio jams.

It’s a fitting way to end Cry of the Ocean, the layers of high-end interweaving on “You’ll Never Know” with a considerable foundation in Fyfe‘s drums and Holland‘s bass, a final effects swirl underscoring the point of how far Stubb have come in just two years’ time. Clearly they’re a unit with a firm sense of what works for them, and the boldness with which they expand those parameters on Cry of the Ocean only makes it easier to be a fan. If you heard the first record, the progress here will impress. But even if Cry of the Ocean is your first exposure to Stubb, their level of songwriting, natural tones and heavy roll seem ready to find favor at a moment’s notice.

Stubb, Cry of the Ocean (2014)

Stubb on Thee Facebooks

Cry of the Ocean at Ripple Music

Ripple Music

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Conan Begin Writing New Album

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 18th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

conan

After last month announcing the acquisition of drummer Rich Lewis, UK planet destroyers Conan have put word out that they’ve begun writing for their next album. It will be their third full-length and will arrive as the follow-up to early-2014’s Napalm Records debut, Blood Eagle (review here), which furthered the band’s penchant for over-the-top-if-the-top-was-the-very-bottom-of-low-end tonality, vicious hooks and minimally lyricized tales of slaughter — all things that have become Conan‘s hallmarks as much as the cavernous footprint left behind after they play.

Whatever they title their next LP, it will be a landmark for the band. Not only because it’s their second for Napalm or the always-pivotal third album, but because it will be the first outing since their 2010 Horseback Battle Hammer EP (review here) not to feature drummer Paul O’Neil and the first with longtime producer Chris Fielding on bass and sharing vocal duties with guitarist, vocalist and founder Jon Davis (interview here). Lewis comes to the band from Cardiff metallers Intensive Square, who’ll reportedly have a new record out next year as well. Conan also being confirmed for their live debut on US shores at the 2015 Maryland Deathfest and having a UK tour in the works for earlier in the year and no doubt much more to come, it seems like Lewis‘ intro to the band’s touring cycle is going to be a busy one. You could say it already has been since they recently put in a couple weeks on the road together and made their first appearance in Britain at the Underworld in Camden Town on Oct. 30.

Still, only going to get busier. The three-piece confirmed work in progress thusly:

conan studio

NEW ALBUM UNDERWAY…..

This week we have begun writing a new full length album.

You can understand that we will not commit anything to the recording until it is heavier than Blood Eagle – that would be pointless.

When it is ready we will update further but so far things are sounding totally ridiculous.

Hails.

https://www.facebook.com/conandoom/
http://www.hailconan.com/
http://conan.bigcartel.com/

Conan, “Altar of Grief,” Live in Osnabrück, Germany, Oct. 15, 2014

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Orange Goblin, Back from the Abyss: This Weight to Bear

Posted in Reviews on November 17th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

orange goblin back from the abyss

Twenty years and eight albums on from their beginning as Our Haunted Kingdom, the hills would seem to be few and far between for Orange Goblin, but they keep climbing. The reigning kings of London’s populous heavy rock scene and in many aspects its progenitors, the four-piece seemed to enter a new phase in their career with 2012’s A Eulogy for the Damned (review here), also their Candlelight Records debut. After several years languished following release trouble for 2007’s stellar Healing through Fire, light touring and no output, it was as likely as not they were done. In the years since, they’ve become one of heavy rock’s most eminent stage acts — the 2013 stopgap live album, A Eulogy for the Fans (review here) documented this thoroughly — and their influence continues to resonate well outside of their UK homebase. Back from the Abyss, their latest studio outing, arrives with 12 tracks and 57 minutes of new music and finds guitarist Joe Hoare, bassist Martyn Millard, drummer Chris Turner and frontman extraordinaire Ben Ward pummeling along similar lines as its predecessor. Also released by Candlelight, it boasts a similarly clean production style, and with AC/DC and Motörhead as their primary models, Orange Goblin seem across its span to be shifting into a comfort zone of brash turns, snarled vocals, heavy riffs and catchy songwriting. Stylistically and thematically, songs like “Mythical Knives,” “Übermensch,” “Heavy Lies the Crown” and “The Abyss” aren’t so far from what Orange Goblin have done since 2004’s Thieving from the House of God – they’ve long since been in command of their sound — but the vibe is steadier, more self-aware. They’ve established their formula, and like AC/DC, like Motörhead, like Slayer, the project now isn’t so much searching for what they want the sound to be as working to refine it as they move forward.

Like its predecessor, Back from the Abyss was recorded by Jamie Dodd at The Animal Farm in London, and if the band wanted to capture a similar feel, it’s understandable given the welcome reception and success of A Eulogy for the Damned. That’s not to say Back from the Abyss doesn’t have a personality of its own. One can hear it in the tightness of the crisp, thrashing “The Devil’s Whip” and its second-half companion “Bloodzilla,” or in how clearly Orange Goblin are writing for their audience. Ward is not through opener “Sabbath Hex” before he’s interacting with an imaginary crowd: “If you understand, raise your right hand/Repeat after me, we are stone free.” Perhaps that’s direct acknowledgement of how much of a professional live band Orange Goblin have become, and no doubt when that cut is aired live it receives or will receive the desired effect, but if Orange Goblin are writing songs for the stage, they run into the trouble of not needing 12 of them for a new release, and that becomes a conundrum for Back from the Abyss as it plays out. The semi-title-track “The Abyss” is well constructed but doesn’t accomplish much that “Übermensch” didn’t already nail, and while the penultimate “Blood of Them” is a blend of hook and horror-inspired atmosphere worthy of “The Fog” from the last record, “Into the Arms of Morpheus,” which ends the first half of the album (presumably, the first of two LPs encompassed), is a better longer-form progression, sounds more inspired and is closer to the front for a reason. The three-minute instrumental closer, “The Shadow over Innsmouth,” has a lumbering doom sensibility and deftly layered-in solo lines from Hoare, but where it seems to be waiting for its kickoff-riff the way “Mythical Knives” moves from a progressive-sounding opening into bruiser riff and the band’s particular burl, the last track just fades out, ending an offering so obviously keyed for adrenaline on a downer note. Maybe that’s the trip back from the abyss? I don’t really know.

orange goblin

For longer-term fans, the meat of Back from the Abyss comes toward the end of its first half. “Sabbath Hex” is a vibrant opener, “Übermensch” is a formidable showing of a songwriting formula at work, and “The Devil’s Whip” proves that Orange Goblin can tear it up full-speed with no questions asked, but it’s “Demon Blues,” “Heavy Lies the Crown” and “Into the Arms of Morpheus” that really convey a sense of the band’s maturity, their position among the world’s foremost heavy rock acts, and an album-style flow. Millard and Turner setting the foundation, Hoare drives the riff of “Demon Blues” and Ward masterfully rides that groove, leading to the bluesy intro of “Heavy Lies the Crown,” vocals following the guitar for the album’s catchiest chorus: “Who am I to, to make the rules, to break the rules and slay the fools/How am I, to be the man, who rules the land, with sword in hand/Fire roars, upon the shores that carry heroes off to wars/Heavy lies the crown I wear, but I did swear this weight to bear.” A somewhat inflated view of the band’s status, but a hell of a hook. At 7:27, “Into the Arms of Morpheus” is Back from the Abyss‘ longest track, Millard handling the opening with a choice bassline soon built upon by Hoare and Turner, the song taking a stoner rocker’s time to fully unfold. It works in three movements — the opening jam, the verse/chorus trade, and the closing jam — but it’s structurally and in sheer listenability the most human portion of the album, and they still get their sing-along in there too. The subsequent “Mythical Knives” is a solid opener for the second LP of a kin with “Sabbath Hex” or “Übermensch,” but “Bloodzilla” and “The Abyss” don’t have the same urgency behind them, and “Titan,” the instrumental preceding “Blood of Them,” features a welcome guitar hook, but neither pulls the listener back in nor leads directly into “Blood of Them,” which opens with fading-in bass over spooky-style ambience and shifts into a vehement closer (even though it’s the second to last track, it’s obviously the final push), with Ward‘s growl echoing out one last monstrous chorus.

Even the transition between “Blood of Them” and “The Shadow over Innsmouth” seems choppy. They could’ve easily put some more spooky rumbling after “Blood of Them” cut out to smooth the way into the finale, but it’s cold one into the next, and in truth, much of the album is that way as well apart from the first-half section already noted. As a fan of the band, I won’t discount Orange Goblin‘s songwriting ability, and in presence and performance, Back from the Abyss lacks nothing. For how tight they sound, however, the presentation should match, particularly as it’s the longest record they’ve ever done (1998’s Time Travelling Blues and 2002’s Coup de Grace were close). Still, their momentum will continue to carry them forward, and there’s more than enough material here to fit well in the setlist alongside “Red Tide Rising” from the last record and the host of classics from their storied career — “Quincy the Pigboy,” “Scorpionica,” “Blue Snow” (if you’re lucky), “They Come Back,” “Some You Win, Some You Lose,” and so on — and that’s pretty clearly the point. Back from the Abyss isn’t a perfect album, but for a lot of what they do and however many hills they may yet climb, Orange Goblin are largely undeniable. They remain undeniable.

Orange Goblin, Back from the Abyss (2014)

Orange Goblin on Thee Facebooks

Candlelight Records

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The Obelisk Radio Adds: Jakob Skøtt, Sleeping Pulse, Palm Desert, High Fighter and Sans Soleil

Posted in Radio on November 14th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

the obelisk radio

Managing to do rounds of adds to The Obelisk Radio two weeks in a row? Why, that’s almost too much on-it to bear. I’ll try really hard to contain my self-satisfaction. Okay no I won’t.

A pretty diverse bunch of records joining the playlist today. There are 11 total that went up, and in addition to correcting the oversight of not having put up YOB‘s Clearing the Path to Ascend yet (infinite apologies), there are also new ones from Lord Dying and PrimordialIt’s Casual and the recently-reviewed Elephant Tree. Also the Atavismo that I put up the info for the other day and which will be reviewed at some point soon, and five records I thought it would be worth highlighting out of the bunch. Some of these artists I’m sure you know, one or two maybe not, but again, it’s a fairly wide stylistic berth and that’s just the way I like it best.

The Obelisk Radio adds for Nov. 14, 2014:

Jakob Skøtt, Taurus Rising

jakob skott taurus rising
His third solo album, Taurus Rising is also the second of the year for Copenhagen-based Causa Sui drummer Jakob Skøtt. Released through El Paraiso Records, it continues in the vein of earlier 2014’s Amor Fati in pursuing more of a full-band vibe, but strips that down somewhat to incorporate just synth and live drums. The result across Taurus Rising‘s five tracks is an unremitting progressivism, showcasing Skøtt‘s allegiance to krautrock in songs like opener “Escape from the Keep” while the centerpiece “Pleiades” has a little more of a psychedelic swirl. Keyboards arrive in multiple layers throughout, filling out the mix, and Taurus Rising becomes all the more impressive when one considers that Skøtt is essentially jamming with himself. He does so with a strong sense of evoking varied atmosphere from the tracks, the closing duo of “Bucket Brigades” (10:13) and “Taurus Ascendant” (7:59) pushing deep into spaced-out dynamics and, in the case of the latter, providing the album with its fullest wash and most satisfying linear build. Whether or not Skøtt intends to keep up this pace of releases, I don’t know — no reason not to so long as he’s inspired; it’s his playing, recording and label — but the prog-jazz sensibility of Taurus Rising seems ripe for further development. Jakob Skøtt on Thee Facebooks, El Paraiso Records.

Sleeping Pulse, Under the Same Sky

sleeping pulse unde the same sky

Sleeping Pulse are not yet fully through “Parasite,” the opening track on their Prophecy Productions debut, Under the Same Sky, before Mick Moss lets loose the full emotional juggernaut of his vocal delivery. The duo is a collaboration between Moss, best known as the frontman and founder of Antimatter, and Portugal-based guitarist Luís Fazendeiro of Painted Black, who wrote the music. At 10 songs and 55 minutes, Under the Same Sky is tied together both through Moss‘ voice and a persistent airiness that, were it not so cleanly presented, I’d almost be tempted to call post-rock. It is darkly progressive, and the lyrics match, weaving tales of manipulation in the subtly building “The Puppeteer” (also watch out for the sampled applause about a minute in) and betrayal throughout moody cuts like the later “Noose” and “War.” For those who know Antimatter – whose latest full-length, Fear of a Unique Identity (review here), was released in 2012 — Sleeping Pulse finds Moss well in his element across the board, but Fazendeiro varies the style such that the piano-led “The Blind Lead the Blind” and emergent distortion chug of “Painted Rust” fit well alongside each other, and Under the Same Sky flows smoothly to its concluding title-track, a minimal piano piece backed by ebow-style tones and once more showcasing the resonance in Moss‘ blend of fragility and defiance. A sleeper not to be slept on, particularly with winter ahead. Sleeping Pulse on Thee Facebooks, Prophecy Productions.

Palm Desert, Pearls from the Muddy Hollow

palm desert pearls from the muddy hollow

Perhaps unsurprising when one considers they take their name from the hometown of California’s ’90s desert rock movement, but Poland’s Palm Desert owe a large sonic debt to Kyuss. In the Wroc?aw four-piece’s style of riffing, tonality and propensity for the occasional stoner jam on their third album, Pearls from the Muddy Hollow (Krauted Mind Records), they show their allegiance to the desert style and its blend of fuzzed-up punk and laid back psychedelia. Vocalist Wojciech Ga?uszka helps change things up, however, with some elements of Soundgarden-era Chris Cornell to go with periodic John Garcia gruffness, so that Pearls from the Muddy Hollow‘s nine tracks make a suitable companion piece to Steak‘s 2014 full-length debut, Slab City, which basks in a similar mindset. That’s not to say Palm Desert bring nothing of their own to the style — both the quick “Rise Above” (not a Black Flag cover) and extended closer “Forward in the Sun” (8:19) branch beyond idolatry to an individualized moment — just that the resounding impression throughout Pearls from the Muddy Hollow is Kyuss loyalism. Within the style, they do well in portraying a warm-toned feel and shift smoothly between movements both inside of and between their songs. They’re not revolutionary, but Palm Desert do justice to a familiar sound and sometimes that’s plenty to make for a quality record. Another decent bit of output from Poland’s fertile scene. Palm Desert on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

High Fighter, The Goat Ritual EP

high fighter the goat ritual

Formed earlier this year as an amalgam of members from A Million Miles and Buffalo Hump, Hamburg, Germany’s High Fighter storm out of the gate with the five-song The Goat Ritual EP, a 21-minute thrust of modern metal and heavy rock ideals. Vocalist Mona Miluski shifts readily between a bluesy clean delivery and searing screams over the nod-ready riffing of guitarists Christian “Shi” Pappas and Ingwer Boysen, bassist Constantin Wüst and drummer Thomas Wildelau trading off between riding the grooves on “2Steps Blueskill” and energizing the bounce on “Fire in the Sun.” Second cut “Breaking Goat Mountains” seems to be particularly geared toward Kyuss‘ “Green Machine” in its riff, but bleaker, screamier centerpiece “Black Waters” shifts between the EP’s heaviest assault and a guitar-only peaceful moment that rounds out with a bit of fading feedback that leads to the wakeup punch of “Fire in the Sun,” in turn given over to the mosh fodder of “In Veins”‘s early going, which somehow transitions into more laid-back heaviness in its second half, of course building back to the initial riff to round out. In its production and much of its execution, it’s metal, but High Fighter keep command of heavy rock elements in such a way as to showcase the nascent moments of what has the potential to be a fascinating progression. The ritual, it would seem, is only beginning. High Fighter on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

Sans Soleil, A Holy Land beneath a Godless Sky

sans soleil a holy land beneath a godless sky

Calling a string-infused, instrumental post-metal release “atmospheric” seems completely superfluous, but Austin fivesome Sans Soleil put enough of a focus on ambience throughout their four-track Tofu Carnage Records debut long-player, A Holy Land beneath a Godless Sky, that to not say so would be worse. Eva Vonne‘s viola plays a major role in the band’s sound on “A Holy Land” and is complemented there and thereafter by guitarists Dustin Anderson and Lee Frejyalune and bassist Theron Rhoten, but it doesn’t come across as trying to fill a gap where vocals might otherwise be, instead just a weaving current between the distortion and sub-doom plod of drummer Zach Hoop, whose crash distinguishes itself on “An Umbral Plain” in keeping a slow march together early and moving fluidly to double-time in the middle third. Dense but not claustrophobic, the subsequent “Across Brilliant Sands” opens direct interplay between Vonne and a line of lead guitar before moving into Grayceon-style sparseness and explosion, or at least a more doomed interpretation thereof, and building to what feels like an apex for the album until the 11-minute closer “Beneath a Godless Sky” busts into a gallop as it passes the halfway point and relents from there only to resume again with greater force, closing out A Holy Land beneath a Godless Sky with a fitting push to coincide with the tonal weight preceding. An exciting and engaging debut from a group who arrive with a firm sense of what they want to convey sonically and emotionally. Sans Soleil on Thee Facebooks, Tofu Carnage Records.

Like I said at the outset, a little all over the place this week, but hopefully you find something to dig one way or another. To check out the full list of adds for this week and every week back to late 2012, and to see what’s been played on The Obelisk Radio today (some good stuff there), check out The Obelisk Radio Updates and Playlist page. It’s where the cool kids hang out, or something.

Thanks for reading and listening.

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Elephant Tree, Theia: Branching Out

Posted in Reviews on November 13th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

elephant tree theia

The first time through, it is jarring when the screams come. Elephant Tree‘s Magnetic Eye Records debut, Theia, plays the setup perfectly. The newcomer London four-piece open with an 18-second sitar intro “The Call” — they later answer it with the 42-second “The Response,” totaling one minute — and shift seamlessly into the drum-led intro of the eight-minute, languid-rolling, heavily riffed “Attack of the Altaica,” with its open, multi-vocal verses, catchy but not overdone hook, resonant backing sitar drone and sparse guitar, and second half dedicated mostly to an instrumental jam. There’s one scream as they make that transition, buried in the mix at around 4:40, but there’s an effect on it, and the following jam is so immersive with its light guitar swirls, sitar noodling, and steady percussive base, that even after the fuzz guitar kicks back in to give the song its heavy end, “In Suffering” is still a surprise. Theia, which takes its name from the ancient planetoid that smashed into earth creating the moon, is the first outing from guitarist/vocalist Jack Townley, bassist/vocalist Peter Holland (also of Stubb and Trippy Wicked), sitarist/vocalist Riley MacIntyre and drummer Sam Hart, and with the liquefied heavy psychedelia they otherwise elicit, one might be tempted to call the screams a misstep on “In Suffering,” but I disagree. They change the whole context of the release. One rarely finds sitar and screams in the same place, and that seems exactly to be the point. After “In Suffering,” you don’t know what else any of Theia‘s seven tracks might bring, if they’ll sludge out again or dive further into the jammy psych bliss of the extended semi-opener. It turns out a little bit of both, and more too.

Elephant Tree call Theia an EP, but I read it as more of a full-length. It has a two-sided flow, even on CD — though the CD has 10 minutes of silence at the end of closer “The Sead” and rounds out with a two-minute riff reprise — and the songs play well one into the next with added ease from each side’s intro, “The Call” and “The Answer,” and the smoothness of the transitions overall, whether it’s “Attack of the Altaica” into “In Suffering,” or “Vlaakith” into “Lament” into “The Sead,” the release continuing to expand its breadth the whole time in the way new bands often are more open about trying different things as they begin to establish songwriting patterns. The variety in the music speaks for itself. Even “In Suffering,” which is as harsh as Elephant Tree get, breaks down in its midsection for a swing-drum heavy psych jam, and gradually builds first to a clean-sung verse and then near the end to resurgent throatripping, somewhere in style between sludge and black metal, but effectively used. On the four-panel digipak version of Theia, “In Suffering” finishes heavy and nodding and gives way to MacIntyre‘s sitar on “The Answer,” which provides a brief but welcome respite and smooths the way into “Vlaakith,” a steady roll of subdued verse and weightier hook no less in conversation with “Attack of the Altaica” than “The Answer” is with “The Call.” Again we see that however far out Elephant Tree go in their jamming, they manage to pull back to some payoff to the structure of the song itself. This does them well across Theia as a whole and particularly with “Vlaakith,” on which Townley seems to touch on lead guitar ideas but ultimately backs off an actual solo to let the multi-source vocals drive the track’s apex and conclusion.

elephant tree (Photo by Phil Smithies)

At just over two minutes, “Lament” is more than another interlude mostly because of the vocals, Holland‘s voice recognizable and bluesy over a subtly building stoner riff that continues to make its way northward for the (relatively short) duration. Like “In Suffering,” it’s something else to change the context of the material around it, and shows that Elephant Tree aren’t necessarily bound by one songwriting modus or another. That they pull it off is all the more impressive considering Theia is a first release, and “The Sead” finishes out with an interplay of atmospheric screams and clean singing over a steady riff. The sitar seems to take a back seat to fuzzed out guitars and warm-toned bass, but the band are obviously able to play it either way. A last hook is peppered with emerging lead guitar — I wouldn’t be surprised to find Townley bolder in this regard on future outings — and a quick scream marks the launch into the faster-riffed ending that, particularly with 10 silent minutes behind it, feels quick and cold in comparison to “Attack of the Altaica” or “Vlaakith.” The reprise arrives long enough later to be truly buried, but fades in as it builds for one final swell of volume to close out Theia in showcase of some but not all of the pieces working in Elephant Tree‘s favor, namely the easy, classic-styled-but-modern-sounding grooves, natural tones, fluid approach. Couple them with the potential they establish in the sitar, the use of multiple singers (and multiple singing styles), the diversity in songwriting and the will to craft an overarching flow, and Theia makes for a particularly strong, forward-thinking and nuanced debut. It might be surprising at first, but as it unfolds, Elephant Tree prove expansive enough readily handle such stylistic range.

Elephant Tree, Theia (2014)

Elephant Tree on Thee Facebooks

Theia on Bandcamp

Magnetic Eye Records

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XII Boar Release Motörhead Cover Single

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 11th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

xii boar

UK burl rockers XII Boar — which even though I know it’s pronounced “twelve boar” I still always say as “zhee-boar” — have issued a new digital single that’s a take on Motörhead‘s “Damage Case.” The Southern-styled sludge rock three-piece, somewhat unsurprisingly if you’ve heard their stuff before, beef up the Motörhead original, which appeared on side B of 1979’s classic Overkill. It’s a pretty bold cover to take on, but XII Boar have specialized in the brash since they got going, as their 2014 single Truck Stop Baby will attest, and they’re right in their element with the bruiser groove of “Damage Case,” which can be downloaded free via their Bandcamp page.

They sent word down the PR wire of the new track, and I spliced in a bit of bio background in case you’re unfamiliar. The track itself you can check out on the YouTube player below:

xii boar damage case

UK Metal & Roll Heavy Weights ‘XII Boar’ pay tribute to Motörhead

UK stoner and sludge scene regulars, ‘XII Boar’ have done a surprise release covering Motörhead’s classic ‘Damage Case’ for your audio pleasure. Putting their own slamming take on the tune and reworking it in their southern fried, crushing, sludgey style, it has been a smash hit across the interweb and already received rave reviews!

Speeding at you like an out of control train, XII Boar (pronounced ‘Twelve Boar’) have been tearing a new one into the stoner/sludge/metal scene over the last 2 years. The three-piece wrecking ball from Aldershot, Hampshire, blast their way into your skull with ear-splitting leads, sonic riffs, filthy bass lines, whiskey drenched vocals and a sweet southern groove.

Combining Motörhead’s swagger, Sabbath’s downtrodden doom and the swinging crunch of Corrosion of Conformity – these Hampshire louts lay down a colossal slab of rock n’ roll-infused groove metal that fuels even the greatest parties.

Not bad for a band who literally do all the hard work in house. Having independently recorded, produced and released two EPs since their inception, they have garnered much attention and rave reviews from both the press and fans alike.

You can get a free copy via their bandcamp: http://xiiboar.bandcamp.com/track/damage-case-motorhead-cover

and view it here on youtube: http://youtu.be/MUY89L-g94I

Watch out: It may blow your eardrums into smithereens.

www.facebook.com/xiiboar
www.xiiboar.com

Xii Boar, “Damage Case”

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Paradise Lost Begin Work on New Album

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 7th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Paradise Lost‘s last couple albums have been melancholy gems. Both 2012’s Tragic Idol and 2009’s Faith Divides Us — Death Unites Us (review here) drew a line to the rawness of the band’s early work without forgetting the brooding sensibility of their later forays, working under a sonic formula that seemed to be consistently developing while holding to a core of strong songcraft resulting in memorable tracks. Good records, in other words. But as the band continues to try to find their place, they seem to be pushing further back into their own breadth of influence, looking toward their deathly beginnings for where to head next.

We’ll look to the PR wire, as ever, for some explanation:

paradise lost (Photo by Ester Segarra)

PARADISE LOST begins recording new album

After taking a trip back in time with the Tragic Illusion 25 (The Rarities) album and the last studio album Tragic Idol (2012) — which entered the charts at #2 in UK Rock Charts, #6 in Germany, #15 in Austria, #30 in France and #32 in North America Top New Artists/Heatseeker Charts — it’s now time for PARADISE LOST’s 14th studio album!

The band is about to begin the recording sessions for their highly anticipated 14th studio album with Jaimie Gomez Arellano from Orgone Studios in London (GHOST BC, ULVER, CATHEDRAL, ANGEL WITCH / http://www.orgonestudios.com).

PARADISE LOST’s Nick Holmes (vocals) comments: “We wanted to approach the new album differently this time, by embracing the band’s VERY early days with the last few years. We have written a very dark yet melodic album, but this time many songs definitely have a death metal edge, which is something we haven’t done for a long, long time in PARADISE LOST.”

The new album is tentatively scheduled for a worldwide release via Century Media Records in late April 2015. Stay tuned for more news coming soon!

PARADISE LOST online:
http://www.paradiselost.co.uk
http://www.facebook.com/paradiselostofficial
http://twitter.com/officialpl

Paradise Lost, “Loneliness Remains” from Tragic Illusion 25 (2013)

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Stubb Premiere “Sail Forever” from New Album Cry of the Ocean

Posted in audiObelisk on October 23rd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster

Stubb

London heavy rockers Stubb will release their second album, Cry of the Ocean, on Nov. 14. Their first for Ripple Music, it was recorded in Skyhammer Studios, mastered by Tony Reed, and pushes further into the classic-rock-inspired vibes of their 2012 self-titled debut (review here), which came across as a fuzzer’s delight with the memorable songwriting of guitarist/vocalist Jack Dickinson at the fore. Dickinson, who’s joined once again by bassist/backing vocalist Peter Holland (Trippy Wicked, Elephant Tree) and new drummer Tom Fyfe, continues to refine his approach on the new album, branching ambitiously into bolder elements of soul and heavy psychedelia.

Cry of the Ocean is a more complex offering, as the sweet acoustics of “Heartbreaker” and the handclap-inclusive apex of the two-part opening title-track demonstrate, but ultimately no less satisfying. Dickinson, Holland and Fyfe have been able to expand the palette of the first record while still maintaining the basic focus on craftsmanship that made so many of that outing’s cuts resonate. So “Heavy Blue Sky” might unfurl withSTUBB-CRY-OF-THE-OCEAN a more melancholy roll, and “Devil’s Brew” might get down to boogie business in quick fashion ahead of the organ-ified “Snake Eyes,” but what ties the material together is the quality of its execution, and in branching out, Stubb seem to in no way have bit off more than they can chew. “Snake Eyes” and the subsequent “You’ll Never Know,” at seven minutes each, make up a substantial closing duo that brings out some of Cry of the Ocean‘s best moments. And in case you’re worried, there’s no shortage of fuzz either.

As proof, today I have the pleasure of hosting “Sail Forever” for streaming. In it, one can get a sense of the wider emotional net that Cry of the Ocean casts and the warm tones that have remained very much an essential part of their approach. Stubb push the balance to one side or the other several times over the course of the eight tracks, but “Sail Forever” makes an excellent summary, pulling its vibe from elements on all sides and putting it to use with one of the LP’s strongest hooks.

Hope you dig it:

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

Stubb‘s Cry of the Ocean is due Nov. 14 in North America, Nov. 17 in Europe. More info at the links below.

Stubb on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music

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