Friday Full-Length: Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Blood Lust

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 15th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Blood Lust (2011)

Starting later this year, you’re going to start to see a bunch of best-albums-of-the-decade lists. Any such list of heavy records that doesn’t include Uncle Acid and the DeadbeatsBlood Lust is doing it wrong. Released in 2011 through Killer Candy Records as the UK band’s second full-length (also discussed here), it was soon picked up by Rise Above Records for a wider vinyl and CD pressing, and garage doom was born. I’m not sure another single album has come out between 2010 and 2019 that has had as much of an influence on underground heavy rock — maybe Graveyard‘s Hisingen Blues in 2011, but even that’s debatable. In its raw guitar fuzz, eerie melodies, early mystique and outright perfect presentation, Blood Lust was every bit the proverbial right album at the right time. Any given week, it’s a safe bet that even going on eight years later, I’m going to hear some band come along who’ve copped the riff to “I’ll Cut You Down.”

And reasonably so. With the formative Vol. 1 (reissue review here) behind them in 2010, Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats unleashed a collection of tracks on Blood Lust that were not only aesthetically innovative, but impeccable in their construction. Even as they conveyed a sense of horror and VHS-style tonal grit, they did so over a classic heavy rock strut and swing on cuts like the aforementioned opener as well as “Death’s Door,” the shuffling side B opener “I’m Here to Kill You” and “13 Candles” that seemed to tempt you to snap along. With the short, quiet introduction of droning noise and a channel-flipping television — note the analog static scratch between channels; clearly it’s an old television — Blood Lust set its malevolent atmosphere early and only grew more evil in its purposes, lyrics shifting from stalking and murder to witches, cult ritualism and Satanic fervor. It was a record that most people would find angry, upsetting, and unpalatable, and that’s exactly what it was intended to be. A dogwhistle to an audience who didn’t know it was waiting for it, dressed in purple as an amalgam of style and substance up to that point that was largely unheard.

Looking back, there are moments throughout that run into the politically problematic. “I’ll Cut You Down” is direct in its glorification of violence against women, and in that context, “Death’s Door” and “Ritual Knife” seem to followuncle acid and the deadbeats blood lust suit. Uncle Acid have gotten a pass from a lot of accusations of misogyny because so much of what they do is storytelling and style-based, pulling from the influence of cult horror cinema and all that, but do I really need to say even pretending to kill ladies isn’t really cool? That’s something that their more recent work on last year’s Wasteland (review here) seemed to subtly pull away from, and fair enough for the change of political moment between 2011 and 2018 as issues of discrimination, violence against women and sexual violence became more a part of the international cultural conversation than they were when Blood Lust came out. Their third album, 2013’s Mind Control (review here), was more themed around cults and the inherent violence of thought as well as deed, but even 2015’s The Night Creeper (review here) seemed to return to its knife-wielding foundation even as it stripped away the grandiose production of its predecessor in favor of a rawer, nastier sound.

The overarching quality of Blood Lust, though, remains largely undeniable, and so does its impact. “I’ll Cut You Down,” “Death’s Door,” “13 Candles,” and closer “Withered Hand of Evil” are nothing short of landmarks, and even in “Curse in the Trees,” on which frontman and band mastermind Kevin R. Starrs donned the point of view of a witch being persecuted and burned alive, there was a nuance of their approach that begged the listener’s attention. At the time, roughly nothing was known about the band. There was no fanfare to the release of Blood Lust. It was simply out there one day — not that I’m any arbiter of what’s hip or anything, but for what it’s worth, I totally missed it — and its impact moved fast. It wasn’t really until Rise Above had it out on CD in 2012 as part of its then-allegiance with Metal Blade Records that the groundswell took hold, but even before that, there was significant word-of-mouth momentum behind it. And at that point, Uncle Acid hadn’t even played a show. They’ve hardly looked back since, but they didn’t start playing live until 2013.

Part of that, of course, was maintaining the mystery around the band. As mobile-based social media was allowing fans unfettered and direct access to artists — something taken for granted less than a decade later — Uncle Acid were minimal participants at best. They had a website that was a single page, then they had some shirts on it. They had a Facebook page with roughly no info. Their names weren’t known. Where they were from wasn’t really known, and most importantly, it wasn’t really known how they got that sound. The creepy, eerie vocals on “Withered Hand of Evil” or “I’m Here to Kill You” or the acoustic bonus track “Down to the Fire.” That wavering melodic sensibility on “I’ll Cut You Down.” It was all so new at the time, and Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats had managed to pull off manifesting this previously untapped niche while basically letting no one know who they were or what they were doing. Listeners didn’t even know how many people were singing on any given track, and because the sound was so fresh and so interesting, the demand for it became a whirlwind.

I don’t know if I’ll do a list of the decade’s best albums. I might put up a poll. But there’s no question that Blood Lust, even with its high body count, is destined for consideration as a classic heavy rock album, and of course Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats have gone on to become one of their generation’s most pivotal acts, crossing over to a wider appeal in audience while maintaining the identity of sound that even going back to Vol. 1 was theirs and theirs alone, and which Blood Lust saw them perfect. They’re on tour in North America this March with Graveyard, as it happens. We should probably all go. I’ll drive.

As always, I hope you enjoy.

It’s Friday, right? Made it? That’s good.

Okay.

Tomorrow night I’m going to go see C.O.C., Crowbar, The Obsessed and Mothership in Boston. I’m doing that. It’s happening. Monday I’ll have the review up. It’ll be good. I’m going alone because no friends but still, it’ll be good.

I’ve also got a butt-ton of writing to do this weekend, including two bios, stuff for the Roadburn ‘zine and posts for next week to get ready, so I expect to be completely out of my mind for the next two days more than usual. I started feeling overwhelmed on Wednesday for this coming weekend. Something about that just kind of feels like I’m living wrong. Whatever.

The notes are packed, so here’s what I’ve got so far:

MON 02/18 COC LIVE REVIEW; GIMME RADIO WRAP
TUE 02/19 THE MUNSENS REVIEW/SAVER PREMIERE/REVIEW
WED 02/20 BEES MADE HONEY IN THE VEIN TREE PREMIERE/REVIEW
THU 02/21 THE RIVEN VIDEO PREMIERE
FRI 02/22 CANDLEMASS REVIEW; CURSED TONGUE SIGNING ANNOUNCE

It’s almost 6:30 — I slept until 5AM, miracle of miracles — and the baby is just starting to stir, so I better go grab him out of his hexagonal not-crib and start the day proper. Before I go:

This weekend is a new episode of ‘The Obelisk Show’ on Gimme Radio. I still need to cut the voice breaks for it. I’ll try my best to make them not suck. It airs Sunday at 7PM Eastern at http://gimmeradio.com.

Also, please buy shirts: http://dropoutmerch.com/the-obelisk.

Your support is appreciated.

Please have a great and safe weekend, and while I’m making demands on your time, please check out the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

The Obelisk shirts & hoodies

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

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

derp

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

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

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

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

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

Not exactly suspenseful as to which was the album of the year, but it’s still interesting to see where stuff landed. Just to remind, there are two lists, one of the raw votes, and one in which a 1-4 ranking is worth five points, 5-8 worth four, 9-12 worth three, 13-16 worth two and 17-20 worth one. Thanks as always to Slevin for the help in setting up the back end functionality and compilation scripts.

Let’s go:

Top 20 of 2018 — Weighted Results

sleep the sciences

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

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

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

Top 20 of 2018 — Raw Votes

sleep the sciences

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

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

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

The ‘Respect the Hustle’ Award

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

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

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

All the best for 2019.

Read more »

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2018

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

the-top-30-of-2018

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks in advance for reading. Here we go:

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

30. The Skull, The Endless Road Turns Dark

The Skull The Endless Road Turns Dark

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Sept. 12.

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

29. Foghound, Awaken to Destroy

foghound awaken to destroy

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Nov. 21.

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

28. Orange Goblin, The Wolf Bites Back

orange goblin the wolf bites back

Released by Spinefarm Records. Reviewed June 13.

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

27. Fu Manchu, Clone of the Universe

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

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

26. Witch Mountain, Witch Mountain

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

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

25. Windhand, Eternal Return

windhand eternal return

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed Oct. 3.

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

24. Sun Voyager, Seismic Vibes

Sun Voyager Seismic Vibes

Released by King Pizza Records. Reviewed April 18.

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

23. Forming the Void, Rift

forming the void rift

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed July 27.

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

22. Spaceslug, Eye the Tide

spaceslug eye the tide

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

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

21. Conan, Existential Void Guardian

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

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

20. Pale Divine, Pale Divine

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

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

19. Mos Generator, Shadowlands

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

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

18a. Stoned Jesus, Pilgrims

STONED JESUS PILGRIMS

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 5.

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

18. Backwoods Payback, Future Slum

backwoods payback future slum

Self-released. Reviewed Aug. 15.

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

17. Corrosion of Conformity, No Cross No Crown

corrosion of conformity no cross no crown

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Jan. 3

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

16. Naxatras, III

naxatras iii

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 14.

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

15. Clutch, Book of Bad Decisions

clutch book of bad decisions

Released by Weathermaker Music. Reviewed Aug. 27.

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

14. Ancestors, Suspended in Reflections

Ancestors Suspended in Reflections

Released by Pelagic Records. Reviewed Aug. 3.

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

13. High on Fire, Electric Messiah

high on fire electric messiah

Released by eOne Heavy. Reviewed Sept. 28.

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

12. Yawning Man, The Revolt Against Tired Noises

yawning man the revolt against tired noises

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed July 2.

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

11. Greenleaf, Hear the Rivers

greenleaf hear the rivers

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Nov. 26.

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

10. Gozu, Equilibrium

gozu equilibrium

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

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

9. Monster Magnet, Mindfucker

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

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

8. Apostle of Solitude, From Gold to Ash

Apostle of Solitude From Gold to Ash

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

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

7. Holy Grove, Holy Grove II

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

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

6. All Them Witches, ATW

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

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

5. YOB, Our Raw Heart

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

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

4. Brant Bjork, Mankind Woman

brant bjork mankind woman

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Sept. 13.

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

3. Earthless, Black Heaven

earthless black heaven

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed March 15.

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

2. King Buffalo, Longing to Be the Mountain

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

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

1. Sleep, The Sciences

sleep the sciences

Released by Third Man Records. Reviewed May 1.

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

The Next 20

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

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

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

Honorable Mention

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

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

Special Note

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

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

Best Short Release of the Year

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

  • Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard & Slomatics, Totems Split

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

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

Looking Forward

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

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

Okay, That’s It

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

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

So thanks.

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

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

Everybody have a great and safe 2019.

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Jesus Tapdancing Christ. Uncle Acid and Graveyard are Touring Together.

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 24th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats (Photo by Ester Segarra)
graveyard

God damn. I mean, come on. Really? Isn’t there some kind of quota for awesome that this violates? When is it too much for one show?

March 2019. Uncle Acid and Graveyard. North American tour. Co-headline. Come on. I can’t even write the words. You gotta be kidding me.

I don’t know who the fuck sat down and was, okay America, you get Uncle Acid and Graveyard on the road together now. Have fun with that. Like the UN of Doom decided to do us a favor or something. God damn.

Blah blah blah Uncle Acid supporting Wasteland (review here), blah blah blah Graveyard supporting Peace (review here). Are you still reading this? Just go look at the fucking dates and get your ticket already. Think these shows won’t sell out? Come on.

From the PR wire:

uncle acid graveyard tour

UNCLE ACID & THE DEADBEATS and GRAVEYARD Announce “Peace Across the Wasteland” Co-Headlining North American Tour

UNCLE ACID & THE DEADBEATS and GRAVEYARD are teaming up next March for the “Peace Across the Wasteland” co-headlining North American Tour. The tour kicks off March 6th in Philadelphia, PA and runs through March 30th in Toronto, ON. Twin Temple will provide support through the March 16th date in San Francisco, CA. On March 18th, Demob Happy will join the tour for the rest of the run. A complete list of dates can be found below. Pre-sales start this Wednesday October 24th and the official public on-sale is this Friday October 26th

Revered Swedish heavy rock band Graveyard is touring in support of their critically heralded 5th album, “Peace”, which is available now from Nuclear Blast. The band’s latest chapter in a celebrated catalog, guides the listener through an ever-changing musical landscape filled with their trademark take on classic rock. From the opening track’s blistering declaration that ‘It Ain’t Over Yet’ to the final note of heart beating bass on the epic and moody rocker ‘Low (I Wouldn’t Mind)’ the band manages to squeeze out every last creative drop of what there is to know, hear and love about the band.

“It’s time to let Peace roll out across the Wasteland. Graveyard and Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats will co headline a tour of North America in march 2019. This will be the first time the bands tour together and were both bringing tons of new music. This one is going to leave no mind unblown,” says Graveyard of the upcoming run.

The brainchild of singer and guitarist Kevin Starrs, Uncle Acid &The Deadbeats have been making extraordinary music since 2009. After the succesful reissue of “Vol 1” in 2017, they have now returned in support of their widely acclaimed fifth album, “Wasteland” The record is 47 minutes of vital, audacious and frequently bewildering heavy psychedelia, and is instantly recognizable as Starrs’ most immersive and evocative body of work yet.

“We’re looking forward to travelling across the wasteland and destroying minds with Graveyard in 2019. This will be our first North American tour in three years so it feels long overdue. See you down the front!” says Uncle Acid frontman Kevin Starrs.

“Peace Across The Wasteland Tour”
3/6: Philadelphia, PA @ Union Transfer*
3/7: Baltimore, MD @ Rams Head Live!*
3/8: Asheville, NC @ The Orange Peel*
3/9: Atlanta, GA @ The Masquerade*
3/11: Houston, TX @ White Oak Music Hall*
3/12: Dallas, TX @ Gas Monkey Live!*
3/14: Phoenix, AZ @ The Van Buren*
3/15: Los Angeles, CA @ The Wiltern*
3/16: San Francisco, CA @ The Warfield*
3/18: Seattle, WA @ The Showbox#
3/19: Vancouver, BC @ Commodore Ballroom#
3/20: Portland, OR @ Roseland Theater#
3/22: Salt Lake City, UT @ Metro Music Hall#
3/23: Denver, CO @ Ogden Theatre#
3/25: Minneapolis, MN @ First Avenue#
3/26: Chicago, IL @ Metro#
3/28: Brooklyn, NY @ Brooklyn Steel#
3/29: Montreal, QC @ Corona Theatre#
3/30: Toronto, ON @ The Danforth Music Hall#

*Twin Temple Supports
#Demob Happy Supports

https://www.uncleacidband.com
https://www.facebook.com/uncleacid/

www.facebook.com/graveyardofficial
https://twitter.com/graveyard
https://www.instagram.com/graveyardmusic

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, “Shockwave City” official video

Graveyard, “Please Don’t” official video

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Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Wasteland: Living in It

Posted in Reviews on October 11th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

uncle acid and the deadbeats wasteland

Along with the stylistic innovation of their general aesthetic, the creepy harmonies and melodic centrality of guitar and vocals, raw fuzz of their tones, their information-age mystique earlier in their career and their classic-but-obscure sound overall, Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats‘ work has never been without a corresponding sense of nuance. As they move into album number five, Wasteland — released, as ever, by Rise Above Records — the fine sonic details of their work seem to come through the recording regardless of where an individual goes structurally. The flourish of keys in “Stranger Tonight,” the organ in the ultra-hooky “Bedouin” later in the record, the mellotron and faded-in-drums of the title-track, the VHS-style sampled intro to opener “I See Through You” that set up the arrival of further samples later in “No Return,” after the bell-chord-laden marching plod of that nine-minute track has receded into a long, fog-covered fadeout, and so on.

All of these things become part of the world created at the behest of guitarist/vocalist/ringleader Kevin R. Starrs, and brought to bear with the production of Geoff Neal at Sunset Sound in Los Angeles, there’s a balance created between Uncle Acid‘s long established wash of filthy fuzz grit and the melodies that are no less central to who they are as a band. Recording in the same studio where The Beach Boys tracked Pet Sounds and The Doors did Strange Days is something of a direct departure from  2015’s The Night Creeper (review here), which Starrs recorded himself and was the barest-sounding offering since their 2010 debut, Vol. 1 (reissue review here), and they flourish in the grander setting while holding to the eerie, sneaking-around-the-corner vibe that’s always been prevalent and has only helped their influence spread as it has over the better part of the last decade. With eight tracks and 47 minutes, Wasteland is the shortest offering Uncle Acid have made 2011’s world-breaking Blood Lust (discussed here), as both 2013’s Mind Control (review here) and The Night Creeper topped 50 minutes, and in addition to that, there seems to be some shift in how the band are using that time.

Consider for a moment the circumstances of Wasteland‘s release. On a more general level, between Brexit and anti-immigration populism in their native UK and an ever-present sense of disheartening political chaos in Europe and the US — the band’s two central markets — could easily justify the title alone, but when it comes to the actual songs and the album’s arrival, it’s being released at the Desert Daze festival in Los Angeles, and long before any details about Uncle Acid‘s fifth LP were made public, tour dates in Europe and the UK were announced for late-2018/early-2019.

We had “the Wasteland tour” before we knew what Wasteland was. For an act of Uncle Acid‘s profile — and at this point it’s safe to call them one of underground heavy’s most essential bands in terms of influence and their general audience reach — that they’d have a well coordinated release isn’t a surprise, but it’s all the more worth noting because so much of the focus throughout Wasteland seems to be on playing live. Of course it’s a two-sided LP and it splits more or less evenly into half with four tracks on each side. Fine. But to take the totality of the tracklisting as a linear whole from “I See Through You” to the militaristic-snare-into-empty-wind (blowing, no doubt, over the titular wasteland) finish of “Exodus,” the entire album seems to be geared toward playing live. It feels like a live set.

It launches with two immediate, standout, catchy hard rockers in “I See Though You” — a firm reminder to the audience of who Uncle Acid are and what they do — and “Shockwave City,” which comes across as something Scorpions might’ve conjured as filtered through Starrs‘ secrets-in-the-basement ideology of sound with scorching guitar work and a tightness of structure and central riff that stands tall among their finest singles. Momentum is built and slashed as “No Return” takes hold with a quiet and tense but slower progression and unfolds its nodding roll over an extended stretch replete with wailing vocals and a wash they’ve not yet brought to bear. It’s telling that at about six and a half minutes in, “No Return” drops to atmospheria, a kind of residual drone taking hold as the samples arrive. This ostensibly isn’t the end of side A — unless I’m way off as regards the placement of the songs on the vinyl; possible — but it does bring to a close the first of three movements happening throughout Wasteland.

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats (Photo by Ester Segarra)

Think of it this way: two rockers up front, longer song, two more rockers, longer song, and the finale duo of “Bedouin” and “Exodus” to end out. Three tracks, three tracks, two tracks.

This dynamic throughout the album, apart from considerations of physical format, makes Wasteland seem all the more built to be played live. “Blood Runner” and “Stranger Tonight,” like “Shockwave City” before them, barely top four minutes, and as the former taps some surprising NWOBHM gallop, the latter seems to be composed as the quintessential Uncle Acid track, from its threat of violence in the lyrics — it’s noteworthy that Wasteland is unmistakably the band’s album that’s least about killing ladies; perhaps a sign of Starrs having an ear to the ground as to the moment — to the sweep of its hook that only seems to grow more infectious with multiple listens. These in turn lead to “Wasteland” itself, which is unmistakably a forward step in the creative growth of the band.

They’re not strangers to using acoustics or turns to mellower fare, but across its nearly eight minutes, “Wasteland” takes what songs like “13 Candles” and “Black Motorcade” have done in the past to offset more raucous material directly bridges the gap between the two sides. For a band who’ve always, always, been about songwriting, it’s a new level of achievement in that. From the swaying early verses, effectively arranged with the aforementioned mellotron and harmonized vocals, other keys, guitar, bass flourish, etc., to the build that takes hold with the arrival of the drums at the halfway point and moves into an absolute apex for the album as a whole, it’s as gorgeous it is covered in grime, and its relatively quick fade seems to cut short what could’ve easily been a longer section. No mystery how it got to be the title-track; it’s the whole point. “Bedouin” fades in even more quickly than “Wasteland” went out, and begins the last of the three salvos, which works to bring the other two together somewhat.

It’s shorter than the opener at 5:41, but “Bedouin” nonetheless makes its impact with a strutting chorus and the organ in its verses, as well as highlight lead guitar work that recalls “Shockwave City” earlier but is more tripped-out with effects in its ending. But it’s a rager, and as it gives way to the slower-swinging “Exodus” — residing that rhythmic pocket that so many in the garage doom set try to capture but can’t quite do in the same way that comes so naturally to Uncle Acid — there’s a palpable sense of an encore happening. The closer lands squarely between the shorter and longer cuts, but moreover, it has a sense of finality to it that speaks to the band’s ever-cinematic sphere of influences. That is to say, roll credits.

But, more to the occasion, it’s the grand finale of the live set that is Wasteland as a whole, and though there’s nothing lacking by the time it’s done, the fact that the two prior salvos are three songs and the last one is only two seems to tip-hat to the notion of leaving the audience wanting more. Hence the sudden cut at the end of “Exodus” itself and the shorter overall runtime. It works. The danger coming into Wasteland was whether or not Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats would be seen to have run their stylistic course. Could they make their sound do something new? They haven’t yet made their Sgt. Pepper — or, if they were after my own heart, their Rubber Soul — and they may not have interest in doing so, but what Wasteland does is to bring a refreshed vitality to their approach while willfully tightening the songcraft at the same time they push forward into new ground. There will be a lot that’s familiar to established listeners, but as always with Starrs‘ work, the deeper you dig, the more you find, and Wasteland more than earns such excavation. It’d be a show to remember.

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, “Stranger Tonight”

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats website

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Records on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Records website

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Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats to Release Wasteland Oct. 12

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

UK garage doom forerunners Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats will be at Desert Daze in California in October, and it’s newly announced that that appearance will coincide with the release of their fifth album, Wasteland, which follows 2015’s grime-fueled The Night Creeper (review here) in the band’s horror-soaked discography. One might recall earlier this year tour plans surfaced for early 2019 and Rise Above Records at long last reissued their fabled 2010 debut, Vol. 1 (review here), in 2017.

I’ll hope to have more to come as we get closer to October, but here’s the art and preliminaries to whet the appetite:

uncle acid and the deadbeats wasteland

UNCLE ACID AND THE DEADBEATS – Wasteland

You can probably feel it already. Amid the shimmering haze of dusk. In the marrow of your bones. The darkness is getting darker. Malevolent forces are on the prowl. The wasteland is beckoning. Uncle Acid is on his way home.

A disorientating journey through Kevin Starrs (AKA Uncle Acid)’ wonkiest dreams, Wasteland glides majestically from punchy and direct psych-rock anthems like “I See Through You” and “Shockwave City” to the viscous, somnambulant ooze of the eight-minute “No Return” and the twinkly-eyed bad trip of the album’s mesmerising title track. Recorded at the legendary Sunset Sound studio in Los Angeles, Wasteland boasts the kind on irresistibly raw and exuberant sound that only the greatest bands can generate.

Yet more confirmation that Uncle Acid exist in their own musical universe, Wasteland is also a powerful cautionary tale: one rooted in the alien landscapes of Starrs’ imagination, but with a very clear connection to the deranged chaos of today’s political world. As humanity cheerfully circles the plughole, Dystopian visions and present-day horrors have become more-or-less interchangeable, making Wasteland’s ghoulish surrealism a lot more pertinent and disturbing in the process.

While most musicians seem content to chase their own (or other people’s tails), Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats remain proud and resolute individualists and Wasteland is simply their most powerful and memorable spurge of creativity to date. Masterfully echoing the magical atmospheres of heavy music’s turbulent past while sounding entirely unlike anything else available to human ears, this is what happens when the shadows come to life and suffocating darkness, Uncle Acid & The Deadbeats style, is the only show in town.

1.I See Through You
2.Shockwave City
3.No Return
4.Blood Runner
5.Stranger Tonight
6.Wasteland
7.Bedouin
8.Exodus

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats live w/ L.A. Witch:
15.11 BE Brussels AB
16.11 NL Amsterdam Paradiso Noord
17.11 DE Hamburg Knust
19.11 SE Gothenburg Pustervik
20.11 NO Oslo Rockefeller
21.11 SE Stockholm Nalen
23.11 FI Helsinki Tavastia
25.11 DK Copenhagen Gra Hall
26.11 DE Berlin SO36
27.11 PL Warsaw Hybrydy
28.11 DE Dresden Beatpol
29.11 AT Vienna Arena
01.12 DE Munich Strom
02.12 IT Milan Legend
03.12 FR Villeurbanne Transbordeur
04.12 CH Zurich Dynamo
06.12 DE Karlsruhe Substage
07.12 DE Osnabruck Rosenhof
08.12 DE Koln Luxor
09.12 FR Paris La Maroquinerie

Uncle Acid live w/ Blood Ceremony:
16.01 Leeds Brudenell
17.01 Newcastle O2 Academy 2
18.01 Glasgow G2
19.01 Belfast Limelight 2
20.01 Dublin Academy Green Room
22.01 Manchester Gorilla
23.01 Birmingham O2 Institute 2
24.01 Cardiff The Globe
26.01 Brixton Electric

https://www.uncleacidband.com
https://www.facebook.com/uncleacid/
https://www.facebook.com/riseaboverecords/
http://www.riseaboverecords.com/

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, “Waiting for Blood”

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Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats Announce Fall & Winter Touring; New Album Due this Fall

Posted in Whathaveyou on April 30th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

UK garage doom forerunners Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats spent much of 2016 on the road touring the crap out of their 2015 fourth album, The Night Creeper (review here), which was by far their grimeiest yet. It’s important to add the ‘yet’ there because the band are set to have a new album out this Fall through Rise Above Records, which also reissued their long-lost 2010 debut, Vol. 1 (review here), late last year.

The band were relatively quiet in 2017 apart from that reissue, so one imagines the new record has been through a wringer of a writing process, and in addition to, you know, actually hearing it, I’ll be interested to find out who recorded/is recording the thing, since so much of the band’s approach comes down to sonic aesthetics and capturing that grainy, classic and threatening sound.

One more to get excited about, and from the looks of the announced European and UK tours, they’ll once again be doing some considerable road time.

From Rise Above‘s social medias:

UK’s scuzziest ambassadors of blood-curdling fuzz, UNCLE ACID & THE DEADBEATS, prepare to hit the roads of mainland Europe and Scandinavia this November/December in support of their much anticipated fifth album, due out this autumn.

Support will come from the mistresses of reverb-soaked garage rock, L.A. WITCH, who will be returning to Europe after their own successful headline tour this March/April.

Uncle Acid and the deadbeats UK tour dates announced. Supported by Blood Ceremony!

Begin: transmission

“These will be our first European shows in two years and we’re hungry to get back out and lay waste to many of our favourite cities. You will enjoy the show experiencing the latest PsychoVision screen technologies with piles of cranked up, ear splitting valve amplification to melt your minds. The nightmare shall resume!”

The specially commissioned artwork for the tour is by legendary Italian poster artist Enzo Sciotti (Fulci, Argento, Romero).

Stay tuned for further tour dates and album release info.

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats live w/ L.A. Witch:
15.11 BE Brussels AB
16.11 NL Amsterdam Paradiso Noord
17.11 DE Hamburg Knust
19.11 SE Gothenburg Pustervik
20.11 NO Oslo Rockefeller
21.11 SE Stockholm Nalen
23.11 FI Helsinki Tavastia
25.11 DK Copenhagen Gra Hall
26.11 DE Berlin SO36
27.11 PL Warsaw Hybrydy
28.11 DE Dresden Beatpol
29.11 AT Vienna Arena
01.12 DE Munich Strom
02.12 IT Milan Legend
03.12 FR Villeurbanne Transbordeur
04.12 CH Zurich Dynamo
06.12 DE Karlsruhe Substage
07.12 DE Osnabruck Rosenhof
08.12 DE Koln Luxor
09.12 FR Paris La Maroquinerie

Uncle Acid live w/ Blood Ceremony:
16.01 Leeds Brudenell
17.01 Newcastle O2 Academy 2
18.01 Glasgow G2
19.01 Belfast Limelight 2
20.01 Dublin Academy Green Room
22.01 Manchester Gorilla
23.01 Birmingham O2 Institute 2
24.01 Cardiff The Globe
25.01 London Koko

https://www.uncleacidband.com
https://www.facebook.com/uncleacid/
https://www.facebook.com/riseaboverecords/
http://www.riseaboverecords.com/

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, “Melody Lane” official video

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Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, Vol. 1: What Your Love Tells You to Do

Posted in Reviews on November 27th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

uncle-acid-and-the-deadbeats-vol-1-1

I don’t remember exactly when I made the decision, but at some point, amid an unceasing insistence of YouTube recommendations, I told myself that I wasn’t going to listen to Vol. 1 by Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats until I could do so on a physical format. The likelihood of this happening? Just about nil. My understanding is that maximum 100 copies of the original Killer Candy Records self-released CDR version were pressed, and I’ve seen numbers quoted as low as 20, so barring some lightning-strike/winning-lottery-ticket-type oddsbeating or an unspeakable act of generosity, it didn’t seem like the kind of thing that would ever be found, and likewise, the London-based band didn’t seem all that interested in putting it back into the public sphere — where, to the rest of the universe who probably just streamed it, it was anyway.

Listening now to the Rise Above Records reissue of Vol. 1, pressed to CD and LP in giving-proper-due form, this was unquestionably the incorrect choice on my part. Like most paths we take that lead us to willful ignorance, just the wrong way to go. I denied myself a crucial context in which to place Uncle Acid‘s subsequent three records — 2011’s landmark Blood Lust (discussed here), 2013’s Mind Control (review here) and 2015’s The Night Creeper (review here) — but more than that, I missed out on the seething rawness of “Dead Eyes of London,” the hook of opener “Crystal Spiders,” the psycho-surf of “Vampire Circus” (not to be confused with the Earthride album of the same name) and the organ-laced madhouse shuffle of “I Don’t Know.” Granted I didn’t know what I was missing, but that doesn’t mean I wasn’t missing it.

More the fool I, then, because particularly for those who became Uncle Acid fans around the time of Blood Lust — which Rise Above picked up for release in 2012 following the explosive reception that sent the band almost immediately to the fore of the heavy underground before they even really began playing shows in 2013 — Vol. 1 should be considered essential. One can hear the roots of “I’ll Cut You Down” and “Death’s Door” in “Crystal Spiders” and the later ultra-fuzzed-out swinging highlight “Do What Your Love Tells You,” and more than that, these pieces and others like the eight-minute “Lonely and Strange” stand up on their own as examples of the rare level of craft that has typified Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats‘ work throughout their tenure: memorable songs executed with a deep-running sense of vibe that, as Vol. 1 affirms, has been theirs all along.

uncle acid

Parts of the album are somewhat rudimentary compared to the more careful arrangements that would follow by the time the band — led by Kevin R. Starrs, who’s more “shadowy presence” than “frontman” here — got around to Mind Control, but that’s the idea. They’re supposed to be. The nodding “Witches Garden” buzzes its guitar alongside a running line of organ in a manner that makes character of its rough edges, and seems all the murkier for that in a way that feeds into the mood of the record overall. Of course, this is hearing it with the hindsight of the ensuing seven years and all that Uncle Acihas gone on to accomplish — not to mention a remix and master by Starrs — but while Vol. 1 isn’t shy about its flaws or moments of indulgence, it not only serves as an important documentation of the beginnings of the band’s development, but brims with the creative force that still drives them. Again, it’s as much worth hearing Vol. 1 for what it has to offer on its own as what it brings to the wider Uncle Acid discography.

For example, the aforementioned “Lonely and Strange” offers deceptive nuance at the end of side A in its blend of acoustic and electric guitar, hypnotic repetition in its rhythm, a charmingly clumsy transition at the 4:30 mark, and a long stretch of classically heavy rocking instrumental wistfulness that’s unlike anything the band would again conjure. A plotted-seeming solo is met with fervent crash cymbal before dropping to organ and noise freakout to resume with even more aplomb, and it rounds out its last minute with a dive into Sabbathian acoustics and bass.

To complement this, the band brings “Wind up Toys” to close out side B and end the record with a sense of motion that echoes the ’60s surf horrors of “Vampire Circus” but has even more of a rockabilly-style motoring to its core riff early before shifting into an acoustic bridge around two minutes in and from there departing on an extended guitar lead that carries through the remaining five-ish minutes of the track. That’s something Uncle Acid would just about never do at this point. Their approach has tightened to a degree that, unless they were brazenly breaking their own rules, it seems unlikely they’d indulge such a departure from structure once they’ve established it so clearly.

Nonetheless, it’s the kind of thing a band does early in their run when they’re figuring out who they want to be as players and as a group, and to have that moment preserved on Vol. 1 only makes this reissue more justified. Add to that the consideration that The Night Creeper seemed to be endeavoring toward a harsher bite than that of Mind Control before it, and one could further argue that Uncle Acid were at least on some level looking to come full circle in bringing the lessons they’ve learned since together with the bare-flesh authenticity of this material.

There are arguments to be made on either side of that, I suppose, but what’s more important is those arguments can be had now that Vol. 1 has seen an actual release, and that those who never had the chance to take it on before — or who did have the chance but were just too much of a dope to do so — can finally do so. In their aesthetic contribution and in their sheer level of songwriting, Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats are among the most important heavy bands of their generation, and Vol. 1 provides an essential look at their origins and a killer listen besides. It is not by any means to be avoided, in whatever form.

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, “Crystal Spiders”

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats website

Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Records on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Records website

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