Since the better part of a year ago, when it was first announced that woods-worshiping UK four-piece Alunah had signed to Svart Records for the release of their next album, I’ve been dying to hear how their tones — so gracious and consuming as they’ve become, most recently demonstrated on 2014’s Awakening the Forest (review here) — would sound as captured by producer Chris Fielding, bassist of Conan and engineer at Skyhammer Studio. We get a first sampling in Alunah‘s new video for “Fire of Thornborough Henge,” and it’s been worth the wait. The fuzz is maintained, the clarity refined, and as guitarist/vocalist Soph Day enters into layers of self-harmony, she seems to do so with a greater spaciousness around her than ever before.
It seems to be a habit of mine that whether or not Alunah actually have an album coming out that year, they make the list of most anticipated records. Well, Solennial will be out on March 17 via the aforementioned Svart, and preorders are up now, so this thing is definitely happening. I can only encourage you to dig in as Soph, fellow guitarist Dave Day, bassist Daniel Burchmore and drummer Jake Mason unfurl an initial taste of Alunah‘s fourth full-length, holding fast to crucial elements of their sound — even going so far as to reference Awakening the Forest in the lyrics — but showcasing immediate expansion as well in sound and approach. Holy crap I’m looking forward to this record. More than I already was.
Info and links follow the clip. Check it out and enjoy:
Alunah, “Fire of Thornborough Henge” official video
ALUNAH – FIRE OF THORNBOROUGH HENGE VIDEO AND SOLENNIAL PRE-ORDER
We have a double surprise for you. Today we would like to share our music video for ‘Fire of Thornborough Henge’ and also to inform you that pre-orders are now available for our upcoming album Solennial!
Solennial will be released on 17th March via Svart Records and pre-orders will be available up until 28th February. The first 100 orders from the Alunah store will receive a limited edition embroidered patch, and you can choose from limited edition bone white vinyl, black vinyl or digipak CD:http://www.official-alunah-store.co.uk/
We are playing the following UK dates in support of “Solennial.” A European tour to follow is currently being worked on.
Alunah live: Friday 31st March: The Chameleon, Nottingham Saturday 1st April: The Moon Club, Cardiff Thursday 6th April: The Flapper, Birmingham Friday 7th April: Bannermans, Edinburgh Saturday 8th April: Rebellion, Manchester Sunday 9th April: The Lounge, London
Later this year, UK heavy overlords Orange Goblin will celebrate 20 years since the release of their first album, Frequencies from Planet Ten. The nine-track outing surfaced via Rise Above Records in fall ’97, following their split 7″ the year before on the same label issued under their original moniker, Our Haunted Kingdom. It was the beginning of what’s become one of heavy rock’s most storied journeys, and while there have seemed to be times when the London outfit have been doing nothing except waiting for the world to catch up to them — say, the five years between 2007’s Healing Through Fire and 2012’s A Eulogy for the Damned (review here) — they’ve never compromised either their assault or their creative will, and both got their beginning in these nine tracks. It was also a different time. Probably fair to call Frequencies from Planet Ten “stoner rock” for the Sabbathian loyalism it shows in the shuffle of “Saruman’s Wish” or the trippy Monster Magnetism that crops up in opener “The Astral Project,” but already in those cuts, in “Aquatic Fanatic,” “Land of Secret Dreams” and the eponymous “Orange Goblin,” one can hear the roots of the gruff, harder-driving path Orange Goblin would stomp as their sound took shape across their subsequent two full-lengths, 1998’s Time Travelling Blues (discussed here) and 2000’s The Big Black (discussed here), the then-five-piece making an unholy trinity of their first three albums the influence of which continues to reverberate today, especially in London’s fertile heavy rock underground.
Safe to say no one knew that was going to happen 20 years ago, but in addition to being relatively early adopters of a classically heavy sound in the late ’90s and a blueprint others would follow, Orange Goblin showed immediate distinction in their songwriting on Frequencies from Planet Ten. It’s not a perfect album and I don’t think it was meant to be — remember, this was the era of wider-adopted use of ProTools and other digital recording methods, so they were perhaps reacting to that in going for a live sound — but its rawness is only an asset in the forward thrust of “Magic Carpet” or “Aquatic Fanatic,” and vocalist Ben Ward, guitarists Joe Hoare and Pete O’Malley, bassist Martyn Millard and drummer Chris Turner (as well as Duncan Gibbs on keys) cleverly played psychedelics off their more straightforward material, both within in and between songs, so that as “The Astral Project” opened and set a spacious tone, “Magic Carpet” would soon answer by hitting the ground running with a wah-bass and drum boogie that turned into a post-Kyuss push that few making the rounds at the time could match in its tone or execution. Likewise, “Orange Goblin” and closer “Star Shaped Cloud” seemed to reinforce the structure, working at a middle-paced nod and a trippy build, respectively, to round out Frequencies from Planet Ten with an emphasis that while the two weren’t by any means mutually exclusive within their sound, a given track didn’t necessarily need to be aggressive in the metallic sense to be vigorously, righteously heavy.
Of course, over the subsequent two decades, Orange Goblin would become known for plenty of ferocity on their own level. From 2002’s Coup de Grace through 2004’s Thieving from the House of God, the aforementioned Healing Through Fire and A Eulogy for the Damned, as well as their latest outing, 2014’s Back from the Abyss (review here), they’d continue to refine, sharpen and tighten their approach to a point of impact that, by three years ago at least, was positively Motörhead-esque. And while that may have been a long, long way from where Frequencies from Planet Ten saw them start out, they were no less Orange Goblin than they’d ever been (unless you count the actual numbers of their mid-aughts change from a five- to a four-piece with the departure of O’Malley). While they’ve offered many, the most resonant lesson of Orange Goblin‘s tenure — which is hardly over; I’ve heard word of a new album this year on Spinefarm and they continue to tour — has proven to be that when you believe in what you’re doing and if you’re willing to stay true to that in the face of external trend, market, whatever, and if you’re right, you can make yourself a leader. They’ve certainly done that, and looking back on it nearly 20 years later, Frequencies from Planet Ten still kicks ass with what’s become Orange Goblin‘s signature footprint.
As always, I hope you enjoy.
I needed something of a pick-me-up this week, as it’s been a tough one at work. Add to that the fact that Tuesday night I woke up around 1:30AM and never got back to sleep, so went into Wednesday with about four hours of extra-unfortunate consciousness, and yeah, it was even harder. Stressful. Corporate living.
But the whole of today was awesome, so it seemed only fair to close out the week in that fashion as well. I hope yours was good. I’ve got family coming north this weekend — my mother and nephew — and am looking forward to that as well as to a couple hours of relaxed coffee sipping and writing in the mornings. It’ll be a good time. I’m exhausted, but not nearly so miserable as I was, say, Wednesday afternoon circa 2PM. Easy low point of the year so far, if you’re keeping track.
Next week is pretty full already, which I’ll take. I’ve slated reviews for the next however long, and some of it might get interrupted as premieres come in (that happened today, actually, with the John Garcia), but here’s how it looks at the moment:
MON: Eternal Elysium review & Basalt video premiere.
TUE: Electric Funeral Cafe Vol. 3 comp review & Hornss video premiere.
WED: Vinnum Sabbathi review.
THU: Aathma album stream/review.
FRI: Either a Buddha Sentenza review or a new podcast.
I’ve set Monday, Jan. 23 as the date for launch of my 2017 most anticipated albums list, but that might change as the list has over 100 bands at this point — I will not be writing them all out like last year; nobody read it, nobody cared and the post almost collapsed under its own weight — and has become a beast to organize. Some selection of 35-40 picks will be written out, the rest broken up either by how likely they are to show up or some other standard. I’ll sort it all this coming week, hopefully. Definitely by the end of the month.
Anyway. Thanks for reading this week and I wish you the kind of great, safe and recuperative weekend that I’m hoping to have. Please check out the forum and the radio stream.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 11th, 2017 by H.P. Taskmaster
Hardly a better time to hear about an impending sophomore full-length from UK trio Coltsblood than these cold winter hours. The bleak doom extremists will issue their second long-player, Ascending into the Shimmering Darkness, sometime in the next couple months via Candlelight/Spinefarm as the follow-up to their similarly-titled 2014 debut, Into the Unfathomable Abyss (review here), and early next month, they head out with London’s Bast on an eight-day UK tour to herald its arrival. Bast offered up their Spectres album through Burning World/Black Bow Records in 2013 and also seem likely to have new material en route sooner than later.
Info from the PR wire:
Hailing from the North of England, COLTSBLOOD prepare to release their second full length ‘Ascending Into Shimmering Darkness’ this winter via Candlelight Records/Spinefarm Records. Following 2014’s highly acclaimed album ‘Into The Unfathomable Abyss’, COLTSBLOOD toured throughout the UK, Ireland and Europe, appearing at Roadburn Festival, North Of The Wall Festival and Doom Over London, gaining a reputation as crushing, devastating, other-worldly, bleak and horrific. COLTSBLOOD now return to many parts of the UK for the first time in over a year to celebrate the release of their new album and immerse the UK in darkness once again!
Formed in South London, 2008, BAST is a trio specialising in an unhealthy blend of Black Metal and Doom, with a flair for experimentation and emphasis on storytelling. Following the release of their debut full-length ‘Spectres’ in 2014 (Burning World/Black Bow Records), and numerous tours across the continent with the likes of Pallbearer and Conan, the band is currently crafting the second part of their journey, exploring the depths of humanity in the far reaches of a cosmic nightmare.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 9th, 2017 by H.P. Taskmaster
Various announcements have been trickling out over the last couple months concerning London heavy rockers Elephant Tree. Okay, that sounds kind of ominous. It’s nothing dire. It’s live shows. But what matters is it’s a considerable uptick in live activity and in the scale of what they’re doing. They toured the UK last year with Mars Red Sky in support of their self-titled debut (review here), released by Magnetic Eye, but before the end of 2016, they’d already been announced for Desertfest London 2017 (info here), so it was pretty clear they were looking to hit another level in the New Year.
Thus far, they have. In addition to Desertfest in London and a Snuff Lane weekender in Bristol this March, Elephant Tree have been announced as making a debut US appearance at Psycho Las Vegas (info here) in August, and word came out just this past Friday that they’ll play Freak Valley 2017 as well in Germany alongside Conan, among many others.
Top it all off with an incursion into France next month and vague rumblings about new material in the works, and all of this has been enough for me to hit up guitarist/vocalist Jack Townley and see if he’s willing to give a rundown of the band’s ultimate plans for 2017. You’ll see in the quote below he shies away from specifics — they’ll be hitting “a few festivals” and “a few countries” — but he does confirm they’ll be in the studio working on their next release, though whether or not that hits before 2018 will have to remain to be seen for now.
All the live dates I could find and word from Townley follow:
Elephant Tree Live Dates:
06/02 Paris FR Dr. Feelgood* 07/02 Nantes FR Scene Michelet* 08/02 Poitiers FR Le Zinc* 09/02 Tours FR Puzzle Pub* 10/02 Lyon FR Les Capucins 11/02 St-Etienne Thunderbird Lounge* 04/03 Super Special Snuffy Weekender Stag & Hounds Bristol UK 28-30/04 Desertfest London 2017 Camden UK 15-17/06 Freak Valley 2017 Siegen Germany 18-20/08 Psycho Las Vegas 2017 Hard Rock Hotel and Casino Las Vegas NV * with The Necromancers
Jack Townley on Elephant Tree’s 2017 plans:
We’re absolutely blown away by the reaction to our last album. Thanks to everyone who took time to listen and enjoy it! As a result, we’ll be hitting a few festivals and a few countries this year, starting with Paris, France, on the 6th February. We’ll also be jumping back into the studio to work on a follow-up, so it’s all go-go-go at ET HQ.”
Elephant Tree is: Jack Townley (Guitar, Vocals) Peter Holland (Bass, Vocals) Riley MacIntyre (Production, Sitar, Vocals) Sam Hart (Percussion)
Among the great many other things 2017 will do, it’ll mark 30 years since Loop issued Heaven’s End. It remains an album ahead of its time, our time, the entire concept of time, etc. One has to wonder if the Surrey, UK, trio — then comprised of guitarist/vocalist Robert Hampson, bassist Neil MacKay and drummer John Wills — had any idea the ritualized sensibility that would be read into the blown-out repetitions of “Forever” three decades after the fact of its initial release on Head Records, or that the reverb overdose that “Too Real to Feel” elicits would continue to churn innards over such an expanse of years. Long before Heaven’s End and its two original-era follow-ups, Fade Out (1988) and A Gilded Eternity (1990), were reissued on Reactor Records in 2008, and long before they got back on stage in 2014 for appearances at All Tomorrow’s Parties, Roadburn (review here) and elsewhere, Loop thrived on word of mouth — an organic reputation worthy of the buzzsaw leads on “Straight to Your Heart.” There was never any marketing push, never any major press (until the reissues and reunion, anyway) and for a long time, Hampson — who was the sole remaining founder by the time they were done — was on to other projects, among them Main, and for a brief while, Godflesh.
But it’s perhaps by virtue of being so out of step with their era, their place, this dimension, and so on, Loop have proven to be so haunting. The samples of HAL9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey peppered throughout the title-track of Heaven’s End and closer “Carry Me” — the record finishes with the spoken line “my mind is going,” when in fact it sounds like the mind and everything else has long since melted away — seem almost quaint now, but the take-acid-worship-cosmos context was entirely different. Consider Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan (consider, for that matter, Theresa May and Donald Trump; could be time for a new Loop full-length in 2017) and the dawning of neo-conservatism. Where culture all around them was looking backward and trying to recapture a period it felt sentimental for that never actually existed, Loop turned the impulse on its head and looked back in an attempt to capture the most resonant freakouts of the original psychedelic years circa 1967 to 1971, bringing that swirl and drive to opener “Soundhead” as a clarion to those already on their wavelength and a strong argument for conversion of the otherwise willing. In a time when alternative rock was getting its feet wet in the underground as it prepared for a commercial takeover in the next decade, Loop stepped outside even those bounds and brazenly revitalized dripping-wet psych in what, 30 years later, still sounds like a reminder of how often our universe exists in boxes of its own making.
They weren’t the only band playing psychedelic rock at the time, or garage rock, proto-gaze, or whatever else you might want to tag Heaven’s End as being — multiple tags apply, none of them fully — but their influence continues to expand to a new generation of lysergic jammers in Europe and beyond. In 2015, Hampson joined forces with Hugo Morgan and Wayne Maskell of The Heads and guitarist Dan Boyd as a new incarnation of Loop and released the Array 1 12″ and toured the US before stepping back into the murk of inactivity. As recently as Oct. 2016, Hampson — who’s also been playing solo shows under the moniker Low — has hinted at Loop doings for 2017, and indeed the band is booked alongside Swans, The Fall and Royal Trux at a festival dubbed Transformer this coming May in Manchester, UK. As he put it, “Basically, things went south all at once and it was not the right time to simply deal with everything at once and it hit us financially a great deal too… A rest was needed and even tho’ ill-timed (Loop Law) it was unavoidable. I’m glad to be able to tell you that there are chinks of light and we do plan to resurface next year in 2017. I hope that the unfinished Array project will also see its fruition in some form. But… it’s early days yet to say too much and make promises that might not be able to keep. We haven’t gone, we just sat down and took stock.”
Fair enough. Whatever Loop wind up bringing to bear this year or don’t, their mark on heavy psychedelia remains indelible, and Heaven’s End, as the first step in the pivotal trio of offerings, is a crucial piece of understanding the impact of which is still fleshing out. Call it acid philosophy.
As always, I hope you enjoy.
I went back to work this week after having vacation between Xmas and New Year’s. It wasn’t easy, it wasn’t fun, but it happened and the week is almost over, so I suppose I survived. Not always by choice. By Wednesday afternoon I was praying to Apollo — god of pianos, among other things — to drop one on my head. As usual, silence in return.
The good news. What’s the good news? Hell if I know.
Well, I guess the good news is the All That is Heavy sponsorship deal (detailed here) got an encouraging response. If you haven’t yet, you should take advantage of that whole 15-percent-off thing, as it’s pretty sweet. For what it’s worth, I’m planning on filling a cart as well. There’s always something I want to pick up.
So there. That’s some positivity.
Also got confirmation that I’ll be at Roadburn again this year, working on the Weirdo Canyon Dispatch for the fourth year in a row, which is amazing and humbling and was pretty much what made all that time otherwise spent piano-wishing on Wednesday worthwhile.
And I’m looking forward to a recuperation weekend of sitting on ass with The Patient Mrs. as we continue to make our way through Final Fantasy XV together, and I got a fancy new coffeemaker from my family for Xmas that seems to specialize in pure caffeinated joy, so yeah, okay, not so bad.
Pep talk accomplished. Thanks for being a witness.
Next week also looks pretty sweet. Here’s what’s lined up as of now (subject to change, of course):
Mon.: Radio Adds (it’s been so long!), Elephant Tree tour news and a Pater Nembrot video premiere.
Tue.: Lo-Pan track premiere and review of their new EP, In Tensions.
Wed.: Premiere of Kings Destroy‘s new single-song EP, None More.
Thu.: Full-album stream of the new Aathma.
Fri.: Long-overdue Sergio Ch. review and a Funeral Horse video premiere.
There’s more to come, of course, but that’s the basic sketch I’m going from for now. I hope whatever you’re up to over the next couple days, you have a great and safe weekend. Back here on Monday, and please don’t forget to check out the forum and the radio stream.
Posted in Whathaveyou on January 4th, 2017 by H.P. Taskmaster
Comprised of brothers Adam (guitar/vocals) and Jon Holt (drums) as well as Iain Thomson (bass), Edinburgh trio Hair of the Dog have set a Summer 2017 release for their third album, This World Turns. Set for issue through Kozmik Artifactz, it follows 2015’s The Siren’s Song and their 2014 self-titled and finds the three-piece working once again alongside engineer Graeme Young — if it ain’t broke — as well as with vocalist James Atkinson of UK heavy rock magnates Gentlemans Pistols, who came aboard to mix the tracks after meeting the band at Roadburn 2016 in the Netherlands.
It’s a bit of a story, and Adam Holt was kind enough to offer to tell it, as well as to grab some word from Atkinson about working with Hair of the Dog, and you’ll find all of that below, as well as a live clip for the title-track to This World Turns, about which I hope to have more as we get closer to the release.
Hair of the Dog – This World Turns
Back in April 2016, we were honoured to be invited to play Roadburn Festival. Whilst there my fiancee and I had the opportunity to watch Gentlemans Pistols perform; a UK band I really dug, but had not yet managed to see live. On return to Scotland, I got chatting to James Atkinson (singer of GP) and mentioned that we were going to be recording a new album that summer and if he would be interested in taking a listen to our previous material to see if mixing the new record would be something he would be interested in — we were delighted when he keenly agreed.
I am a big fan of the Gentlemans Pistols album, “At Her Majesty’s Pleasure”, I loved the honest solid rock’n’roll sound captured on that record and to have someone like James, who is a true fan of the music and genre work with us, has been a huge privilege.
That summer, we re-entered Chamber Studios with Graeme Young who has worked with us on the recording of both previous albums, only this time around we sent the tracks to James where they have been being mixed.
“It’s an absolute pleasure to be working on the mix of the new Hair of the Dog album. When Adam asked me to work with the band, I was very keen as they have released some quality rock music and their last album, The Siren’s Song only served to increase the quality of the band’s output. After initially listening to the latest album, I am happy to confirm that the band have excelled themselves and have created a very cool, well crafted rock ‘n’ roll album that I’m very happy to be working on and I’m sure people will be excited to hear.” — James Atkinson.
On the 23rd of December we announced that our new album will be titled “This World Turns”. The album focuses around the theme of viewing the world through aged eyes. We’ve been playing for over 15 years now, and as such have grown from boys into men who now have our own young families to look after, this naturally causes anyone to pause and reflect on their life, and this album acts as an audible snapshot of that point in our collective lives. Musically, we have also grown, so “This World Turns” is a much more progressive album overall, with many more adventurous riffs packed into each track, and a stronger focus on musical dynamics and overall song direction, whilst still maintaining that classic Hair of the Dog sound that our fans have come to expect. One of the most notable differences from the last record to this record is a new found confidence in my own ability to sing, I think a lot of people will be surprised by the vocal range and styles that I explored on this record.
As well as teaming up with James, we will be reuniting with Dominic Sohor who created the phenomenal artwork for our last record, “The Siren’s Song.”
We are extremely proud of the record we have created and cannot wait for it to be released summer 2017 via our label, Kozmik Artifactz.
Posted in Reviews on January 2nd, 2017 by H.P. Taskmaster
Now having spanned multiple years since starting way back in 2016, this Quarterly Review ends today with writeups 51-60 of the total 60. I’ve said I don’t know how many times that I could go longer, but the fact of the matter is it would hit a point where it stopped being a pleasant experience on my end and I’d rather keep things fun as much as possible rather than just try to cram in every single release that ever came my way. Make sense? It might or it might not. I can’t really decide either. From the bottom of my heart though, as I stare down the final batch of records for this edition of the Quarterly Review, I thank you for reading. Let’s dive in.
Quarterly Review #51-60:
Crippled Black Phoenix, Bronze
Nine albums and just about 10 years on from their 2007 debut, A Love of Shared Disasters, the UK’s Crippled Black Phoenix arrive on Season of Mist with the full-length Bronze and remain as complex, moody and sonically resolute as ever. If we’re lucky, they’ll be the band that teaches a generation of heavy tone purveyors how to express emotion in songwriting without giving up the impact of their material, but the truth is that “Champions of Disturbance (Pt. 1 & 2),” “Deviant Burials,” “Scared and Alone” and take-your-pick-from-the-others are about so much more depth than even the blend of “heavy and moody” conveys. To wit, the spacious post-rock gaze of “Goodbye Then” gives a glimpse of what Radiohead might’ve turned into had they managed to keep their collective head out of their collective ass, and the penultimate “Winning a Losing Battle” pushes through initial melancholia into gurgling, obtuse-but-hypnotic drone before making a miraculous return in its finish – then closer “We are the Darkeners” gets heavy. Multi-instrumentalist, founder and chief songwriter Justin Greaves is nothing shy of a visionary, and Bronze is the latest manifestation of that vision. One doubts it will be the last.
Nothing shy about Trouble in Eden, the third full-length from San Jose heavy rockers Zed and second for Ripple Music. From its hey-look-guys-it’s-a-naked-chick cover to the raw vocal push from Pete Sattari –which delves into more melodic fare early on “The Only True Thing” and in rolling closer “The Mountain,” but keeps mostly to gruff grown-up-punker delivery throughout – the 10-tracker makes its bones in cuts like “Blood of the Fallen” and the resonant hook of “Save You from Yourself,” which are straightforward in intent, brash in execution and which thrive on a purported “rock the way it should be” mentality. Well, I don’t know how rock should be, but Zed – Sattari, guitarist Greg Lopez, bassist Mark Aceves and drummer Rich Harris – play to classic structures and seem to bring innate groove with them wherever they go on the album, be it the one-two punch of “High Indeed” and “So Low” or the Clutch-style bounce in the first half of “Today Not Tomorrow,” which leaves one of Trouble in Eden’s most memorable impressions both as a song and as a summary of their apparent general point of view.
Limited to just 200 copies on We Empty Rooms and Gotta Groove Records, the Collective Fictions split 180g LP between Melbourne noise duo Dead and Mark Deutrom (Bellringer, Clown Alley, ex-Melvins) is a genuine vinyl-only release. No digital version. That in itself gives it something of a brazen experimentalism, never mind the fact that one can barely tell where one track ends and the next track starts. Purposeful obscurity? Maybe. It’s reportedly one of a series of four LPs Dead are working on for the next year-plus, and they present two cuts in “Masonry” and “In the Car,” moving through percussion and mid-range drone to build a tense jazz on the former as drummer Jem and bassist Jace make room for the keys and noise of BJ Morriszonkle, which continue to play a prominent role in “In the Car” as well, which is also the only inclusion on Collective Fictions to feature vocals, shortly before it rumbles and long-fades snare hits to close out Dead’s side of the LP, leaving Deutrom – working here completely solo – thoroughly dared to get as weird as he’d like. An opportunity of which he takes full advantage. Over the course of four tracks, he unfurls instrumentalist drone of various stripes, from the nighttime soundscaping of “The Gargoyle Protocol,” which seems to answer the percussive beginning of Dead, through the spacier reverb loneliness of “Presence of an Absence,” like a most pastoral, less obtuse Earth, dreamy but sad in a way that denotes self-awareness on the part of the title, or at very least effective evocation thereof. Likewise, “Bring the Fatted Calf,” with its gong hits, Master Musicians of Bukkake-style jingling and minimalist volume swells, is duly ritualistic, which makes one wonder what the prog-style keys at the open of “View from the Threshold” are looking at. Deutrom moves through that side-closer patiently but fluidly and ends at a drone, tying up Collective Fictions as something of a curio in intent and execution. By that I mean what seems to have brought the two parties together was a “Hey, wanna get weird?” impulse, but each act makes their own level and then works on it, so hell yes, by all means, get weird.
Any record that starts with a narration beginning, “In the not too distant future…” is going to find favor with my MST3K-loving heart. So begins The Apocalypse Trilogies: Spacewolf and Other Dark Tales, the cumbersomely-named but nonetheless engaging Salt of the Earth Records debut full-length from Toronto’s Ol’ Time Moonshine, whose 2013 The Demon Haunted World EP (review here) also found favor. The burl-coated outing is presented across three chapters, each beginning with its own narration and comprising three subsequent tracks – trilogies – tying into its theme as represented in the cover art by vocalist/guitarist Bill Kole, joined in the band by guitarist Chris Coleiro, bassist John Kendrick and drummer Brett Savory. They shift into some more complex fare on the instrumental “Lady of Light” before the final chapter, but at its core The Apocalypse Trilogies remains a (very) heavy rock album with an undercurrent of metal, and whatever else Ol’ Time Moonshine bring to it in plotline, they hold fast to songwriting as the most crucial element of their approach.
Italian four-piece Ufosonic Generator (also stylized as one word: UfosonicGenerator) make themselves at home straddling the line between doom and classic boogie rock on what seems to be their debut album, the eight-track The Evil Smoke Possession, released through Minotauro Records. Marked out by the soaring and adaptable vocals of Gojira – yup – the band offer proto-metal shuffle on shorter early cuts “A Sinful Portrait” and the rolling nod of “At Witches’ Bell,” but it’s the longer pairing of “Meridian Daemon” (7:47) and “Silver Bell Meadows” (6:53) on which one finds their brew at highest potency, sending an evil eye Cathedral’s way without forgetting the Sabbathian riffery that started it all or the Iron Maiden-gallop it inspired. They cap with the suitable lumber of their title-track and pick up toward the finish as if to underscore the dueling vibes with which they’ve been working all along. Ultimately, the meld isn’t necessarily revolutionary, but it does pay homage fluidly across The Evil Smoke Possession’s span, and as a debut, it sets Ufosonic Generator forward with a solid foundation on which to progress.
Issued digitally in late-2015 and subsequently snagged for a 2016 vinyl issue through Krauted Mind, Nocturnes is the debut full-length from Dublin five-piece Mother Mooch, and in its eight tracks, they set their footing in a genre-spanning aesthetic, pulling from slow-motion grunge, weighted heavy rock, psychedelic flourish and even a bit of punk on the shorter, upbeat “My Song 21” and “L.H.O.O.Q.” Those two tracks prove crucial departures in breaking up the proceedings and speak well of a penchant on the part of vocalist Chloë Ní Dhúada, guitarists Sid Daly (also backing vocals) and Farl, bassist Barry Hayden and drummer Danni Nolan toward sonic diversity. They bring a similar sensibility to the closing Lead Belly cover “Out on the Western Plain” as well, whereas cuts like opener “This Tempest,” “Into the Water” and “Misery Hill” work effectively to find a middle ground between the stylistic range at play. That impulse, seemingly innate to their songraft, is what will allow them to continue to develop their personality as a band and is not to be understated in how pivotal it is to this first LP.
To my knowledge, this only-70-pressed five-song tape release is the second self-titled EP from off-kilter North Carolina heavy rockers The Asound following a three-songer back in 2011 (review here). Offered by Tsuguri Records, the new The Asound starts with its longest track (immediate points) in the 6:54 “Moss Man” and touches on earliest, most righteous High on Fire-style brash, but holds to its own notions about what that that blend of groove and gallop should do. Through splits with Flat Tires (review here), Magma Rise (review here), Lenoir Swingers Club (review here) and Mark Deutrom (review here), the trio of Guitarist/vocalist Chad Wyrick, bassist Jon Cox and drummer Michael Crump have always had an element of the unpredictable to their sound, and that’s true as centerpiece “Human for Human” revives the thrust of the opener coming off “Controller”’s less marauding rhythm, but the sludgy rollout and later airy lead-work of “Pseudo Vain” and chugging nod of closer “Throne of Compulsion” speaks to the consciousness at play beneath the unhinged vibes that’s been there all along. They’ve sounded ready for a while to make a full-length debut. They still sound that way.
Immediate bonus points to Richmond, Virginia’s Book of Wyrms for titling a track on their full-length debut “Infinite Walrus,” but with the Garrett Morris-recorded tones they proffer with the seven-song/53-minute Sci-Fi/Fantasy (on Twin Earth Records), they don’t really need bonus points. The five-piece of vocalist Sarah Moore Lindsey, six-stringers Kyle Lewis and Ben Coudriet, bassist Jay Lindsey and drummer Chris DeHaven mostly avoid the sounding-like-Windhand trap through stretches of upbeat tempo, theremin and other noise flourish, and harmonies on guitar, but they’re never far from an undercurrent of doom, as opener “Leatherwing Bat” establishes and the long ambient midsection and subsequent nod of centerpiece “Nightbong” is only too happy to reinforce. “All Hallows Eve” gets a little cliché with its samples, but the dueling leads on 11-minute closer “Sourwolf” and included keyboard noise ensure proper distinction and mark Book of Wyrms as having come into their first long-player with a definite plan of action, which finds them doing well as a showcase of potential and plenty immersive in the here and now.
Despite the sort of cross-cultural ritualism of its cover art, Oxblood Forge’s self-titled debut EP has only the firmest of ideas where it’s coming from. The Whitman, Massachusetts-based five-piece boasts former Ichabod vocalist Ken MacKay as well as bassist Greg Dellaria from that band, and guitarist Robb Lioy (also in Four Speed Fury with MacKay) alongside guitarist Josh Howard and drummer Chris Capen, and in a coherent, vigilantly straightforward five-tracker they touch on aggressive fare in “Lashed to the Mast” as their Northeastern regionalism would warrant – we’re all very angry here; it’s the weather – and demonstrate a knack for hooks in “Inferno” and “Sister Midnight,” the latter blending screams and almost Torche-style melodies over clam chowder riffing before closer “Storm of Crows” opens foreboding with Dellaria’s bass and moves into the short release’s nastiest fare, MacKay sticking to harsher vocals as on the earlier “Night Crawler,” but in a darker instrumental context. They set a range here, and might be feeling things out in terms of working together as this band, but given the personnel involved and their prior familiarity with each other, it’s hard to imagine that if a follow-up is in the offing it’ll be all that long before it arrives. Consider notice served.
Ukrainian trio The Heavy Crawls set out as a duo called just The Crawls and released a self-titled debut in 2013 that was picked up in 2015 by ultra-respected German imprint Nasoni Records. Under the new moniker, they get another stab at a first album with the 10-track/42-minute classic rocker The Heavy Crawls, the three-piece of founding guitarist/bassist/keyboardist/vocalist Max Tovstyi, drummer Inessa Joger and keyboardist/vocalist/percussionist Iryna Malyshevska evoking spirited boogie and comfortable groove on “She Said I Had to Wait” and the handclap-stomping “Girl from America.” Elements of garage rock show up on “Too Much Rock ‘n’ Roll” and the soul-swinging “I Had to Get Away,” but The Heavy Crawls are more interested in establishing a flow than being showy or brash, and the payoff for that comes in eight-minute closer “Burns Me from Inside,” which stretches out the jamming sensibility that earlier pieces like the organ-laced “One of a Kind” and the staccato “Friday, 13th” seem to be driving toward. Some growing to undertake, but the pop aspect in The Heavy Crawls’ songcraft provides intrigue, and their (second) debut shows a righteous commitment to form without losing its identity to it.
Posted in Features on January 1st, 2017 by H.P. Taskmaster
The poll is closed, the results are counted and the top 20 albums of 2016 have been chosen. Hard to argue with the list as it’s shown up over the course of the past month, so I won’t try. Instead, let me just say thanks to incredible amount of participants who contributed this year.
All told, between Dec. 1 and Dec. 31, 612 people added their picks to the proceedings, compared to 388 in last year’s poll. Considering how much that number blew my mind on Jan. 1, 2016, I’m sure you can imagine how I feel about adding another 200-plus lists to the pot. In short, I’m astounded, deeply humbled and so, so, so grateful. I feel like we got enough of a sampling this year to give a genuinely representative showing for where people’s heads have been at, so thank you if you were a part of it.
Thank you as well as always to Slevin for running the poll’s back end and tabulating the results. As ever, the weighting system is one in which a 1-4 ranking is worth five points, 5-8 worth four, 9-12 worth three, 13-16 worth two and 17-20 worth one. You’ll find that list (plus some honorable mentions) below, followed by the raw-vote tally.
And after the jump, as has become the tradition, are the full lists of everyone who submitted, alphabetized by name. I’m in there too. It’s a huge amount to wade through, and even if you thought you heard everything in 2016, it should be more than enough to keep you busy for the next year.
One last note: I’m no statistician. Please allow for these numbers to change over the next couple days on some small level.
Top 20 of 2016 — Weighted Results
1. Wo Fat, Midnight Cometh (375 points)
2. Greenleaf, Rise Above the Meadow (368)
3. Elephant Tree, Elephant Tree (324)
4. Asteroid, III (302)
5. Brant Bjork, Tao of the Devil (295)
6. Gozu, Revival (274)
7. Neurosis, Fires Within Fires (253)
8. King Buffalo, Orion (244)
9. Mars Red Sky, Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul) (238)
10. Conan, Revengeance (232)
11. Cough, Still They Pray (228)
12. Holy Grove, Holy Grove (218)
13. SubRosa, For this We Fought the Battle of Ages (213)
14. Truckfighters, V (206)
15. Blood Ceremony, Lord of Misrule (200)
16. Khemmis, Hunted (192)
16. Red Fang, Only Ghosts (192)
17. Inter Arma, Paradise Gallows (181)
18. Witchcraft, Nucleus (174)
19. Opeth, Sorceress (173)
20. Church of Misery, And then there Were None (159)
Honorable mention to:
Causa Sui, Return to Sky (157)
Goatess, II: Purgatory Under New Management (157)
Black Mountain, IV (148)
Mos Generator, Abyssinia (144)
Wretch, Wretch (140)
Look at those tallies for number one and two. That race was close all month. Wo Fat kept out front for the most part, but Greenleaf kept it interesting and Elephant Tree’s debut snuck in there at third, which I love to see, both because it’s their first album and because that record was indeed so great. King Buffalo, another debut, also made the top 10, underscoring those two as bands to watch, and though Brant Bjork, Conan, Asteroid, Neurosis, Gozu and Mars Red Sky might be more expected names, they still certainly delivered excellent records, so again, nothing to fight with here. Things flesh out a bit in the 10-20 range, but I don’t think there’s one album on this list you could call is “miss.”
Top 20 of 2016 — Raw Votes
1. Wo Fat, Midnight Cometh (109)
2. Greenleaf, Rise Above the Meadow (92)
3. Brant Bjork, Tao of the Devil (87)
4. Elephant Tree, Elephant Tree (82)
5. Asteroid, III (80)
6. Gozu, Revival (76)
7. Conan, Revengeance (73)
8. Cough, Still They Pray (70)
9. Mars Red Sky, Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul) (68)
10. King Buffalo, Orion (67)
11. Truckfighters, V (62)
12. Red Fang, Only Ghosts (61)
13. Khemmis, Hunted (60)
14. Blood Ceremony, Lord of Misrule (59)
14. SubRosa, For this We Fought the Battle of Ages (59)
15. Holy Grove, Holy Grove (58)
16. Church of Misery, And then there Were None (53)
17. Inter Arma, Paradise Gallows (49)
17. Witchcraft, Nucleus (49)
18. Opeth, Sorceress (47)
19. Mos Generator, Abyssinia (45)
20. Black Mountain, IV (44)
20. Causa Sui, Return to Sky (44)
20. Wretch, Wretch (44)
Honorable mention to:
Goatess, II: Purgatory Under New Management (43)
Mondo Drag, The Occultation of Light (43)
Geezer, Geezer (41)
Crowbar, The Serpent Only Lies (41)
Gojira, Magma (37)
Slomatics, Future Echo Returns (36)
Graves at Sea, The Curse that Is… (35)
Black Rainbows, Stellar Prophecy (33)
Beastmaker, Lusus Naturae (32)
Vokonis, Olde One Ascending (31)
Left a few more honorable mentions in the raw-vote count, just for fun and so you could get more of a feel beyond the top 20 itself, which you’ll notice has a couple ties in it as the raw votes usually do and reorganizes a bit from the weighted results. One and two remain the same, however, and in the same order, and you’ll see Wo Fat was the only album that scored more than 100 votes on its own. As a whole, there were over 2,400 separate entries for albums this year, which is by far the most spread out that the voting has ever been. Frankly, with so many people involved and such a variety of stuff being voted on, I’m amazed anyone managed to agree on anything at all, but of course they did and once again a stellar list is the result.
Well, Happy New Year.
Before I go, thanks again to Slevin for the work put into running the back end of this site and this poll particularly. I show up with the finish lists, but it’s his code that makes it happen, and his efforts are appreciated more than I can say. Dude has never asked me for anything in the nearly eight years I’ve been a constant pain in his ass.
After the jump, you’ll find everybody’s list, alphabetized by name. Please enjoy browsing. I hope you find something awesome, because there’s certainly plenty in there that qualifies, and if you see something that looks like it appears often enough that it should be included in one or both of the counts above, let me know in the comments.