Quarterly Review: Alcest, Galley Beggar, Pontiak, White Light Cemetery, Fever Dog, Duel, Seven Nines and Tens, Automatic Sam, The Next Appointed Hour, Blown Out

Posted in Reviews on March 29th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

cropped-Charles-Meryon-Labside-Notre-Dame-1854

Always a special moment in the Quarterly Review when we pass the halfway mark. That’s where today’s batch brings us, and in rocking style as well. You might say I’ve been taking it easy on myself with the selections this time out — albums there’s plenty to say on and generally good stuff — but the basic fact of the matter is even with 50 reviews in a week, this is still just a fraction of what’s out there and still just a fraction of what I’d cover if I had the time. I couldn’t in terms of my own sanity, but one could probably do 10 reviews a day every day of the year and still have room for more. I do the best I can. Picking and choosing is a part of that process. Let’s get to it.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Alcest, Kodama

alcest kodama

After the bold departure presented in 2014’s Shelter (review here) toward even-airier, more indie-hued fare, French post-black metal innovators Alcest make a no-less-bold return to their core sound – screams included, as they’re quick to show on “Eclosion” – with 2016’s Kodama (on Prophecy Productions). It’s a less progressive move, and for that distinct in Alcest’s discography, but one can’t argue with their execution of a track like “Je Suis d’Ailleurs” and the immediately recognizable melodic wash they craft, as resonant emotionally as it is heavy in its tone. Most of the six cuts seem contented to have (re-)found their place, but “Onyx” finishes out with just under four minutes of layered guitar droning, and so Alcest seem to tease that perhaps they’re not completely ready to settle the issue of their aesthetic just yet. One hopes that’s the case, and in the meantime, the reorientation that Kodama brings with it should no doubt please those longtime fans who bristled at the turn they made their last time out.

Alcest on Thee Facebooks

Prophecy Productions on Bandcamp

 

Galley Beggar, Heathen Hymns

galley-beggar-heathen-hymns

Galley Beggar’s fourth offering and second for Rise Above, Heathen Hymns, brings 42-minutes of the traditional acid folk one has come to expect from them over the last half-decade plus, no less graceful in its melodies, harmonies and weaving into and out of psychedelia, Eastern inflections on the sitar-laced “The Lake” and cleverly rhythmic in the post-rocking electric flourish of “Let No Man Steal Your Thyme.” Knowing what to expect, however, does nothing to diminish the joy of the listening experience. Rather, the return of Galley Beggar’s fluid string and/or more rock-based arrangements, memorable songcraft and gorgeous vocal treatments is welcome, and perhaps most of all on closer “My Return,” which draws their multiple sides together in a cohesive vision of futures past that only benefits from the maturity they’ve grown into. With poise as a defining feature as much as their British folk stylistic lineage, Galley Beggar remain a special outfit doing deeply individualized and satisfying work.

Galley Beggar on Thee Facebooks

Rise Above Records website

 

Pontiak, Dialectic of Ignorance

pontiak-dialectic-of-ignorance

A steady foundation of low-end drone underpins songs like “Ignorance Makes Me High” and “Hidden Prettiness” on Pontiak’s Dialectic of Ignorance (released via Thrill Jockey), and though they move away from it somewhat in the more active freakout “Dirtbags,” the patience shown by the Virginian trio forms a key part of the album’s personality. To wit, they open with “Easy Does It,” essentially telling their listener their intention for what will ensue throughout the eight-track/46-minute offering. Brothers Jennings, Van and Lain Carney bring forth willful drift in that opener and across the percussive-but-still-shoegazing “Tomorrow is Forgetting,” finding an organ-laced folkadelic middle ground later in “Youth and Age” and punctuating the dreamy harmonized gorgeousness of “Herb is My Next Door Neighbor” with fervent tom runs and ping ride before closer “We’ve Fucked this Up” starts out amid blistering chaos only to smooth itself as it goes. Serene and somewhat moody to the same degree their last outing, 2014’s Innocence, was raw, Dialectic of Ignorance carries the feel of a personal journey undertaken, but is ultimately too warm in tone and melody not to welcome its audience to be a part of that as well.

Pontiak on Thee Facebooks

Pontiak at Thrill Jockey Records

 

White Light Cemetery, Careful What You Wish For

white-light-cemetery-careful-what-you-wish-for

Nearing the mark of their first decade together, Louisiana Southern heavy four-piece White Light Cemetery issue their second full-length, Careful What You Wish For, through Ripple Music and keep a steady focus on songcraft throughout. Heavy riffs, a bit of boogie on “Sky River” and the stomping “Better Days,” boozy Southern-isms on the directly countrified “On a Dime” and a cowbell-infused finish with “Bullet to Erase” – it’s only fair to say White Light Cemetery hit all the marks. The beery post-Deliverance execution of “Looking Out (For Number One)” will likely ring familiar to many who take it on, but that’s the idea, as vocalist/guitarist Shea Bearden, guitarist Ryan Robin, bassist Tara Miller and drummer Thomas Colley are clearly less concerned with reinventing rock in their own image than honoring the pantheon of those who’ve come before them in the style. Hard to argue with the ethic preached or the dual-guitar harmonies of “Quit Work, Make Music,” though the record as a whole seems awfully “workingman’s rock” for any such bohemian aspirations.

White Light Cemetery on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music on Bandcamp

 

Fever Dog, Mainframe

fever dog mainframe

It’s been three years since next-gen Californian desert trio Fever Dog released their last album, Second Wind (review here), which was long on potential, big on songwriting and resonant in vibe. I’d been hoping for a third long-player in 2017, but even the arrival of new single Mainframe – which of course doesn’t preclude a subsequent album release – is fine by me, the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Danny Graham, bassist Nathan Wood and drummer/organist/synthesist/vocalist Joshua Adams digging into progressive vibes on the title-track and the subsequent, talkbox-inclusive “Let Me Out.” I don’t know if they’re planning to press a 7” – somebody call H42 Records! – but the cover art certainly justifies one if the songs themselves don’t (and they do), and the name-your-price download comes with the raw 19-minute classic heavy rock jam “Alpha Waves Medley Live at Club 5,” which emits buzz like it’s a bootleg from 1973. If Mainframe is the process of Fever Dog getting weirder, it bodes well. All the more reason one might keep their fingers crossed for a new full-length.

Fever Dog on Thee Facebooks

Fever Dog on Bandcamp

 

Duel, Witchbanger

duel witchbanger

“If you see him it’s much too late/Close your eyes, girl, accept your fate.” So goes the title-track hook of Duel’s Witchbanger, the Austin-based rockers’ second album for Heavy Psych Sounds. Released on a quick turnaround from last year’s debut, Fears of the Dead (review here), the eight-track/34-minute swaggerfest delves into fantasy themes drawn from classic metal – hard not to look at six-minute closer “Tigers and Rainbows” and not think of Dio, at least thematically – but cuts like “Astro Gypsy” and “Heart of the Sun” in the record’s midsection build on the ‘70s loyalism of the first outing and find guitarist/vocalist Tom Frank, guitarist Jeff Henson, bassist/vocalist Shaun Avants and drummer JD Shadowz clear in their intentions in that regard. Though it takes a sizable grain of salt to get over that title, Duel’s heavy rock traditionalism comes complemented by efficient songwriting and a natural-sounding recording that’s neither completely retro nor totally modern but draws strength and fullness from both sides. A worthy and rousing follow-up.

Duel on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Psych Sounds website

 

Seven Nines and Tens, Set the Controls for the Heart of the Slums

seven-nines-and-tens-set-the-controls-for-the-heart-of-the-slums

If the dates are to be believed, the second full-length from Vancouver’s Seven Nines and Tens, cleverly-titled Set the Controls for the Heart of the Slums, has roots going back to 2014, when basic live tracks were recorded and subsequently built on for about two years. Indeed, the four-song offering – whose tracks “I Come from Downtown,” “Metropolis Noir / Rigs” and closer “Rave Up” have been presented in the meantime as singles and/or on early 2017’s Live at the Smilin’ Buddha Cabaret – has plenty of layers in its heavy post-rock wash, and it’s with depth and heft that guitarist/bassist/vocalist David Cotton and drummer Mario Nieva (the current incarnation of the band has a different lineup), make their prevailing impression, be it in the roll of 13-minute “Metropolis Noir / Rigs” or the loud/quiet trades of “Dope Simple,” which follows. With a focus on atmosphere over structure, Seven Nines and Tens offer a quick 32-minute immersion that feels less pretentious than purposeful and would seem to have been worth the time it took to construct.

Seven Nines and Tens on Thee Facebooks

Seven Nines and Tens website

 

Automatic Sam, Arcs

automatic sam arcs

With their third album, Nijmegen’s Automatic Sam bring together a straightforward and coherent collection of well-intentioned semi-psychedelic heavy rock. Their past works, 2011’s Texino and 2013’s Sonic Whip, have been conceptual or at least thematic pieces, and it may be that the 13-track/38-minute Arcs (on Goomah Music) is as well, but if so, it would seem to find that theme in a vision of post-grunge ‘90s alt rock, cleanly and clearly executed and vibrant in the performance of vocalist/guitarist Pieter Holkenborg, guitarist/vocalist Rense Slings, bassist/vocalist Erik Harbers and drummer/vocalist Lars Spijkervet, who open with the five-minute “Ukiyo” (their longest inclusion; immediate points) and then run through a varied swath of shorter pieces from the attitude-laden “City Lights” through the uptempo post-punk of “This is Not a Holiday” and the fuller push of “Parnassia.” Side B seems more flowing, with that song, “Tarantula,” a complementary reprise, the title-track and drifting acoustic closer “So Long in E Minor,” but Automatic Sam manage to hone a diverse approach across Arcs’ span while skillfully directing themselves around choppier waters.

Automatic Sam on Thee Facebooks

Automatic Sam at Goomah Music

 

The Next Appointed Hour, Not the End of the World

the-next-appointed-hour-not-the-end-of-the-world

Ambition may be the defining aspect of Not the End of the World. The 2016 self-released debut from Birmingham, Alabama’s The Next Appointed Hour willfully refuses easy categorization, basking in bright psychedelic space rock harmonies one minute and digging into folkish melancholia the next in a way that one is left with no other option but to call “progressive.” What ultimately makes songs like “Keeper’s Heart” and the ethereal pop of “Back to You back to Me” work is an underlying cure of songcraft, and whatever ground the six-piece cover on the 10-track outing, from the fuzzy rush of “Drone Riot” to the trippy shimmer of the penultimate “Red Flame,” that core is maintained, uniting the material and making Not the End of the World a work of scope rather than haphazard. It requires an open mind, but rewards open-mindedness with moments like the accordion on “Valley,” or the rhythmic drift of “Any Who but Here,” the nuance of which is no less gracefully held together than the overarching flow of the album as a whole.

The Next Appointed Hour on Thee Facebooks

The Next Appointed Hour on Bandcamp

 

Blown Out, Superior Venus

blown out superior venus

Already sold out on preorders, the vinyl edition of Superior Venus from UK cosmic jammers Blown Out features two tracks – one per side – of space-wash heavy righteousness. “Impious Oppressor” and “Superior Venus” both top 15 minutes (and are accompanied by demo versions if you get the download), and proffer the kind of progressive improvisation-based flow that, indeed, might make one inclined to get an order in while the getting’s good. Blown Out, with members of Bong and Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, have put out a slew of live and studio releases over the last three years, but as planets invariably revolve in cyclical patterns, so too does the regular frequency of their work become part of the expression itself. If you’re going to jam, do it all the time. On Superior Venus, Blown Out once more bring this ethic to life, and the resulting material spreads itself wide over its still relatively brief span. A short trip to orbit, perhaps, but well worth the undertaking.

Blown Out on Thee Facebooks

Riot Season Records on Bandcamp

 

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Review & Track Premiere: Lord, Blacklisted

Posted in audiObelisk, Reviews on March 23rd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

lord blacklisted

[Click play above to stream ‘The Heart of a Hero’ from Lord’s new album, Blacklisted, out May 26 via Heavy Hound Records.]

A year is easily the fastest turnaround Lord have ever had between albums, so their latest, Blacklisted, arrives with immediate intrigue. Not only that, but I’m fairly certain it also marks the first time the band has had two full-length releases with the same lineup playing — the other in this instance being 2016’s Awake (review here), which was five years after 2011’s Chief (review here), which was four after 2007’s Built Lord Tough debut. They’ve had other offerings along the way like the 2014 EP, Alive in Golgotha (review here), issued as is Blacklisted through the band-affiliated Heavy Hound Records, and earlier demos and splits, but yes, that Blacklisted exists and finds Lord working with the returning lineup of founding guitarist Will Rivera along with vocalist Stephen Kerchner, guitarist Todd Wuehrmann, bassist Chris Dugay and drummer Kevin Marimow is something of a surprise.

And that extends likewise to the execution of the six-track/28-minute full-length as well. The Fredericksburg, Virginia-based outfit, who recorded this time at Adept Audio Lab with Sean Sanford, have always basked and reveled and wallowed in chaos. From their songcraft to their lineup to the fact that for many points between records one has often been left wondering if they’re still a band — not so much between Awake and Blacklisted, obviously, but in the past — Lord have been as nebulous and difficult to chart as their aesthetic has been destructive, proffering a blend of hardcore punk, grind, sludge, Southern metal and thrash as it seemingly followed whatever whims of extremity happened to occur for any given riff. That unhinged feel has been a part of their drive since their inception, and should rightly be considered a defining element of the band.

All of this is leading, of course, to the fact that Blacklisted is the most cohesive and arguably the least chaotic release they’ve ever put out, and somehow, that becomes its strength as it bull-charges through songs like opener “Mile After Mile,” the furious “They Lied” and the mournful penultimate cut “The Heart of a Hero.” That’s not to say Lord don’t still proffer riffs in torrential onslaught — they’re not 30 seconds into “Mile After Mile” before that reassurance is granted — just that their sense of control in doing so has never come through so plainly. With Kerchner backed by Wuehrmann (and maybe Rivera) on vocals, Lord flesh out arrangements of screams, growls and effects-laden shouts to go with the Southern metal lead style of the guitars and the forward-shoving rhythm.

“Mile After Mile” is the shortest piece on Blacklisted at 3:52 — closer “Not Your Problem?” is the longest, at 6:25 — and it feels tight to the point of being almost spare, casting off frills in favor of a raw thrust that continues in “They Lied,” which makes a hook of its title line, and “The Bandage,” which starts out as the most tumultuous grinder on the record before departing, just past the 1:40 mark, into an open groove and a build back toward full heft that features not only the best solo work here, but also at its end the most fluid transition, leading back to the song’s maddening, blasting sprint. Momentum feels all the more on Lord‘s side because the album is short, and they seem to be through the first three tracks before the listener has had time to process, so indeed, still plenty of attack in their approach, but it’s the precision and the sense of intention behind what they’re doing that makes Blacklisted the most accomplished and realized Lord outing to-date.

lord

The thrashing title-track picks up where “The Bandage” left off and mounts an assault of its own, playing between chugging groove and windmill-worthy squibbly riffing, growls and shouts emanating from beneath the guitars and bass as Marimow plows ahead. Seems fitting enough that the last half-minute or so of “Blacklisted” would be dedicated solely to feedback, because noise has always been an essential part of Lord‘s take, and because it seems to draw the first-four-cuts section of the record to a close ahead of the marked tempo shift that “The Heart of a Hero” brings, slowing down and riding a weighted but less outwardly brutal progression. There’s an emotional core behind the verse and chorus, somewhat obscured by what remains a vicious sonic core, but after a longer solo bridge, Kerchner‘s vocals return to underscore the expressive point and round out with a sense of structure before a last-measure slowdown brings the song to a no-less-resonant close.

Well placed, that departure is key to the album after “Mile After Mile,” “They Lied,” “The Bandage” and “Blacklisted,” but Lord return to more scathing ground with “Not Your Problem?,” beginning the finale with something of a cultural indictment in the lyrics — the most clearly audible on the release — over the drums before the guitars and bass join in. While less of a hurricane than, say, “The Bandage,” “Not Your Problem?” seems to find a middle-ground between that song and “The Heart of a Hero” and in so doing summarizes much of what’s working across Blacklisted while issuing a directive in what’s probably as much a “Lord riff” as can be heard here, the sharp-but-winding thrashiness of Rivera‘s style shining through as they make their way toward the last, cold finish as if to tell their audience that there’s no way they’re actually done.

That may in fact be the case, and Lord could turn around and have another full-length out in 2018 with the same players returning. Maybe, after more than a decade, they’ve found a way to sustain a balance between their aural and existential uproar. As someone who’s been a fan of the band since their early demo work, I hope all the more that’s the case given the direction Blacklisted shows them as taking, since while it expands their dynamic and brings them to levels of clarity never before heard from them, it also maintains the spirit of the work they’ve done before it, drawing strength from the experience of all that bludgeoning of days gone by.

Lord on Thee Facebooks

Lord on Bandcamp

Heavy Hound Records on Thee Facebooks

Heavy Hound Records website

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Windhand to Tour Europe with Satan’s Satyrs

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 14th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

windhand

So yes, Windhand are going to do a headlining European tour this Fall. That’s the news. Hardly the extent of the touring the Richmond doomers are doing in the next several months, however. In about two weeks they head over to Australia and New Zealand for a run there, then it’s back to the US for some quick dates in the Pacific Northwest, then in May, with fellow Virginians Satan’s Satyrs, they do the Eastern Seaboard and dive a bit into the Midwest. Psycho Las Vegas follows in August, and then it’s off to Europe, once again joined by Satan’s Satyrs, for the aforementioned autumnal run. So yes. Windhand are touring Europe. Windhand are also touring everywhere. Pretty much all the time.

It’s enough to make one wonder what’s going on June and July and why they won’t be on the road again before Psycho. OR WILL THEY???

I also wouldn’t be surprised if more Fall Euro dates got added to that stint. Seems like they’re right in the thick of festival season over there at that point (as if “festival season” ever ends anymore), and one imagines Windhand aren’t short on invites as they continue to support 2015’s righteous Grief’s Infernal Flower (review here). Worth keeping an eye on, anyhow.

From the PR wire:

windhand satan's satyrs tour poster

WINDHAND Announce Headlining European Tour Dates With Satan’s Satyrs

Richmond, VA doomsters WINDHAND have announced a new run of headlining European tour dates this coming fall with fellow Virginia based group Satan’s Satyrs. The tour commences September 21st in Copenhagen, DK and runs till October 13th in Bristol, UK. The two bands will also do a short North American run preceding the European Tour. A full listing of WINDHAND tour dates is available below.

WINDHAND Tour Dates:

— All Dates 3/31 – 4/8 with Cough —

Mar 31 Wellington, NZ San Fran
Apr 01 Auckland, NZ King’s Arm Tavern
Apr 02 Fortitude Valley, AUS Crowbar
Apr 05 Newtown, AUS Newton Social Club
Apr 06 Adelaide, AUS Fowlers Live
Apr 07 Melbourne, AUS Corner Hotel (+ Inverloch)
Apr 08 Perth, AUS Badlands

Apr 21 Portland, OR Mississippi Studios
Apr 22 Vancouver, BC Fortune Sound Club
Apr 23 Seattle, WA Neumos

— All dates 5/17-5/25 with Satan’s Satyrs —

May 17 Philadelphia, PA Underground Arts
May 18 Pittsburgh, PA Cattivo
May 19 Toronto, ON Horseshoe Tavern
May 20 Detroit, MI Loving Touch
May 21 Chicago, IL Empty Bottle
May 22 Minneapolis, MN 7th St. Entry
May 23 Milwaukee, WI Cactus Club
May 24 Indianapolis, IN The Hi-Fi
May 25 Columbus, OH Ace of Cups

Aug 18-20 Las Vegas, NV Psycho Las Vegas Festival

— All dates 9/21 – 10/14 with Satan’s Satyrs —

Sep 21 Copenhagen, DK Loppen
Sep 22 Oslo, NO BLA
Sep 23 Stockholm, SE Debaser Strand
Sep 25 Helsinki, FI Kuudes Linja
Sep 27 Gothenburg, SE Pustervik
Sep 28 Hamburg, DE Hafenklang
Sep 29 Cologne, DE MTC
Sep 30 Wiesbaden, DE Kesselhaus
Oct 01 Leipzig, DE UT Connewitz
Oct 02 Berlin, DE Cassiopeia
Oct 03 Vienna, AT Arena
Oct 04 Munich, DE Feierwerk
Oct 05 Bologna, IT Freak-Out Club
Oct 06 Mezzago, IT Bloom Club
Oct 08 Paris, FR Stoned Gathering
Oct 09 London, UK The Borderline
Oct 10 Leeds, UK Brudenell
Oct 11 Glasgow, UK Audio
Oct 12 Manchester, UK Rebellion
Oct 13 Bristol, UK Exchange

WINDHAND are still touring in support of their critically-acclaimed 2015 full-length Grief’s Infernal Flower, which can be streamed and purchased at the band’s Bandcamp page here.

https://www.facebook.com/WindhandVA/
https://www.instagram.com/windhand/
http://windhandva.bandcamp.com/
http://store.relapse.com/

Windhand, Grief’s Infernal Flower (2015)

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Lord Announce May 26 Release for Blacklisted

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 2nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

lord

You wanna know how unpredictable Lord are? They have a new record. Would you have called that? Hell no. Of course not. It’s only been about a year since their last outing, Awake (review here), which hit half a decade after their 2011 full-length, Chief (review here). I mean, they said they were working on one and everything, but well, they kind of said that for five years before Awake showed up too. Sorry, but if you’d asked me, I wouldn’t have guessed it would be ready so soon.

Not at all a complaint however, since if the turbulent times in which we live deserve any soundtrack at all, it’s the against-the-grain-of-existence Southern heavy thrash abrasion Lord tend to proffer. Blacklisted, the cover for which you can see below, is out May 26 via Heavy Hound Records, and as I remain a complete nerd for these guys, you can safely expect more to come before we get there.

For now, here’s info from the PR wire and the stream of the title-track from their Bandcamp, where they’re taking preorders for the CD:

lord blacklisted

Lord – Blacklisted

Virginia’s LORD are pleased to announce that they will release their new album Blacklisted on May 26 2017 via Heavy Hound Records. The band’s mix of sludge, metal and hardcore is highly recommended for fans of Eyehategod, Down, Neurosis and Today is the Day.

LORD is a band that isn’t afraid to explore the possibilities within heavy music. The band takes the heavy music of the last 50 years and combines it with melodic and progressive sensibilities in order to create something unique. By incorporating hints of genres such as thrash, hardcore punk, prog, death, and black metal, LORD have managed to establish a sound that is both aggressive and unique in a crowded heavy music scene.

Lyrically, Blacklisted focuses on the destruction of the Earth, those destroying it and what role each and every one of us plays in that picture. Blacklisted also highlights figures both historical and modern that have made a positive impact on humanity.

Tracklisting:
1. Mile After Mile
2. They Lied
3. The Bandage
4. Blacklisted
5. The Heart of a Hero
6. Not Your Problem?

LORD IS:
Steven Kerchner – Vocals
Will Rivera – Guitar
Todd Wuehrmann – Guitar
Chris Dugay – Bass
Kevin Marimow – Drums

https://www.facebook.com/heavyhoundrecords/
https://www.facebook.com/lordisbadass/
https://lordisbadass.bandcamp.com
http://www.heavyhound.com/

Lord, “Blacklisted”

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Pontiak Announce US Dates; Dialectic of Ignorance out March 24

Posted in Whathaveyou on February 21st, 2017 by JJ Koczan

We’re just about a month out from the March 24 release of the new Pontiak album, Dialectic of Ignorance, so I wouldn’t expect it to be all that long before audio starts making its way out. The brotherly, beery Virginian three-piece will do a few quick US dates around the release in Brooklyn, Louisville, and Chicago to mark the record coming out, and then in April they head abroad, where they’ll do a couple select dates alongside Thrill Jockey labelmates Sumac as well as True Widow and King Woman in addition to appearing at Roadburn in the Netherlands and at Desertfest in London and Berlin.

Bit of back and forth in the routing, looks like, but it’s pretty impressive in the ground it covers. And since Dialectic of Ignorance will be out by then, all the better to hit as many ears as possible.

To that end, they’ll reportedly have more shows in the States after they get back from Europe in May. So you know, more to come and whatnot. But you knew that anyway.

Here’s the latest off the PR wire:

pontiak

Pontiak squeeze in Brooklyn, Louisville, and Chicago shows ahead of European tour

Pontiak to tour throughout U.S. in May

Pontiak’s hazy, infectious Dialectic of Ignorance is out March 24th

In support of the release of their dazzling new album Dialectic of Ignorance, the Virginia brothers of Pontiak have announced they’re squeezing in a handful of U.S. dates before their European tour this Spring, which will include a set at Roadburn Festival and at Desertfest in the UK and in Germany. Pontiak will be returning to hit the road in the U.S. in May.

Whereas Pontiak’s 2014 album Innocence tore through rowdy riffs and melancholic balladry in a neat half hour, it’s immediately clear from the reverb-heavy trip of opener “Easy Does It” that Dialectic of Ignorance is altogether a different beast. Euphorically defying spatial constraint, brothers Van, Jennings, and Lain Carney instead opt to guide each song along its own cosmic trajectory: confident in the outcome, but even more excited to enjoy the ride.

Having opened their own brewery, Pen Druid Brewing, in August 2015, the Carney brothers were afforded a rare opportunity to reassess their creative process, through the medium of brewing. The lessons learned from this experimentation have had a formative effect on both the process underlying and subsequent sound of Dialectic of Ignorance.

Pontiak Tour Dates
Mar. 23 Brooklyn, NY Alphaville
Mar. 25 Louisville, KY Haymarket Whiskey Bar
Mar. 27 Chicago, IL Empty Bottle
Apr 21 Fluc Vienna, Austria
Apr 22 Jubez w/ Sumac, Oxbow Karlsruhe, Germany
Apr 23 013 Roadburn, Tilburg, Netherlands
Apr 26 De Gude Wellen Luxembourg, Luxembourg
Apr 27 VK w/ True Widow, King Woman Brussels, Belgium
Apr 28 Desertfest London, United Kingdom
Apr 29 Stereo Wonderland Köln, Germany
Apr 30 Desertfest Berlin, Germany
May 01 UT Connewitz Leipzig, Germany
May 02 Lucerna Music Bar Prague, Czech Republic

thrilljockey.com/products/dialectic-of-ignorance
https://www.facebook.com/BrothersPontiak/
http://brotherspontiak.com/

Pontiak, “We’ve Got it Wrong” official video

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Freedom Hawk & Irata Announce Feb. West Coast Tour Dates

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 2nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

I mean, uh, sold. Right? Virginian heavy rockers Freedom Hawk head west next month alongside North Carolinian chuggers Irata, and I’m not even sure this one needs comment from me other than to reinforce the notion that you should make every effort to go to whichever one of these shows is closest to where you live. They’ve also got the last date of the tour open on Feb. 19 somewhere around Austin — or, presumably, a reasonable day’s drive between Austin and the Eastern Seaboard — and how much fun would it be to book those two bands somewhere and put on a kickass show to round out their tour? I like that idea. If I lived in Eastern Texas or somewhere else down south, I’d probably like it even more right about now.

Freedom Hawk are heralding an impending Ripple Music reissue for their 2008 debut album, Sunlight, and still supporting their 2015 fourth long-player, Into Your Mind (review here), while Irata — who upon returning from this tour will roll out again alongside All Them Witches — go on the back of their 2015 Retro Futurist offering, Loris.

Dates, links, audio and whatnots follow, as seen on the social medias:

freedom hawk irata west coast tour

Freedom Hawk / Irata US Tour

February 3 – February 17

Freedom Hawk and Irata Live will embark on a tour to the US West Side to continue the search for the perfect riff!!

Freedom Hawk will also have in tow their Small Stone 2015 release – Into Your Mind AND a hot off the press Ripple Music special remastered limited edition Vinyl/CD (Jan 27) release of their 2008 self released album – Sunlight.

IRATA will have their 2015 Retro Futurist release “Sweet Loris.” in tow and will be jamming these righteous tunes on tour with Freedom Hawk before returning to the road in March, 2017 with Nashville band All Them Witches.

HIWATTAGE Booking presents…
FREEDOM HAWK & IRATA:
THE ENDLESS SEARCH FOR THE PERFECT RIFF – WEST SIDE TOUR – FEB 2017!!

3-Feb Nashville, TN Springwater
4-Feb Fort Worth, TX The Rail Club club
5-Feb El paso, TX Rockhouse Bar & Grill
6-Feb Open (drive day)
7-Feb San Diego, CA Soda Bar
8-Feb Anaheim, CA Out Of The Park Pizza
9-Feb San Francisco, CA Thee Parkside
10-Feb Eugene. OR Old Nick’s Pub
11-Feb Portland, OR High Water Mark Lounge
12-Feb Seattle, WA Funhouse Seattle
13-Feb Yreka, CA, Chromaphonic Music Hall
14-Feb Sacramento, CA Starlite Lounge
15-Feb Las Vegas, NV, Beauty Bar
16-Feb Tucson, AZ The Flycatcher
17-Feb Fort Stockton, TX The Garage
18-Feb Austin, TX Swan Dive
19th-Feb Open (hit us up)

https://www.facebook.com/events/402574540082569/
https://www.facebook.com/freedomhawkmusic/
http://www.freedomhawk.net/
https://smallstone.bandcamp.com/album/into-your-mind
https://ripplemusic.bandcamp.com/

https://www.facebook.com/iratabandofficial/
http://www.iratalive.com/
https://retrofuturist.bandcamp.com/album/irata-loris

Freedom Hawk, Into Your Mind (2015)

Irata, Loris (2015)

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Quarterly Review: Crippled Black Phoenix, Zed, Mark Deutrom & Dead, Ol’ Time Moonshine, Ufosonic Generator, Mother Mooch, The Asound, Book of Wyrms, Oxblood Forge, The Heavy Crawls

Posted in Reviews on January 2nd, 2017 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk winter quarterly review

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

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.

Crippled Black Phoenix on Thee Facebooks

Season of Mist website

 

Zed, Trouble in Eden

zed trouble in eden

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 ZedSattari, 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.

Zed on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

 

Mark Deutrom & Dead, Collective Fictions Split LP

mark deutrom dead collective fictions

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.

Mark Deutrom website

Dead website

 

Ol’ Time Moonshine, The Apocalypse Trilogies

ol time moonshine the apocalypse trilogies

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.

Ol’ Time Moonshine on Thee Facebooks

Salt of the Earth Records webstore

 

Ufosonic Generator, The Evil Smoke Possession

ufosonic generator the evil smoke possession

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.

Ufosonic Generator on Thee Facebooks

Minotauro Records on Bandcamp

 

Mother Mooch, Nocturnes

mother mooch nocturnes

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.

Mother Mooch on Thee Facebooks

Krauted Mind Records website

 

The Asound, The Asound

the asound self titled

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.

The Asound on Thee Facebooks

Tsuguri Records website

 

Book of Wyrms, Sci-Fi/Fantasy

book of wyrms sci-fi fantasy

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.

Book of Wyrms on Thee Facebooks

Twin Earth Records on Bandcamp

 

Oxblood Forge, Oxblood Forge

oxblood forge self-titled

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.

Oxblood Forge on Thee Facebooks

Oxblood Forge on Bandcamp

 

The Heavy Crawls, The Heavy Crawls

the heavy crawls self-titled

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.

The Heavy Crawls website

The Heavy Crawls on Bandcamp

 

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Short Releases of 2016

Posted in Features on December 30th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk top 20 short releases

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 2016 to that, please do.

Yeah, I know I said as much when the Top 20 Debut Albums of 2016 went up, but I take it back: this is the hardest list to put together. And to be honest, there’s a part of me that’s hesitant even to post it because I know as soon as I do someone’s going to be like, “No way you dick your entire existence is shit because you forgot Release X,” and very likely they’ll be right. Up to the very moment this post is going live, I’ve been making changes, and I expect I’ll continue to do so for a while after it’s out there.

So what’s a “short release?” That’s another issue. Pretty much anything that’s not an album. Singles, digital or physical, as well as EPs, splits, demos, and so on. The category becomes nebulous, but my general rule is if it’s not a full-length, it qualifies as a short release. Sounds simple until you get into things like, “Here’s a track I threw up on Bandcamp,” and “This only came out as a bonus included as a separate LP with the deluxe edition of our album.” I’m telling you, I’ve had a difficult time.

Maybe that’s just me trying to protect myself from impending wrath. This year’s Top 30 albums list provoked some vehement — and, if I may, prickishly-worded — responses, so I might be a bit gunshy here, but on the other hand, I think these outings are worth highlighting, so we’re going forward anyway. If you have something to add, please use the comments below, but remember we’re all friends here and there’s a human being on the other end reading what’s posted. Thanks in advance for that.

And since this is the last list of The Obelisk’s Best-of-2016 coverage, I’ll say thanks for reading as well. More to come in the New Year, of course.

Here we go:

scissorfight chaos county

The Obelisk Presents: The Top 20 Short Releases of 2016

1. Scissorfight, Chaos County EP
2. Earthless / Harsh Toke, Split
3. Mars Red Sky, Providence EP
4. Mos Generator, The Firmament
5. Soldati, Soldati
6. Monolord, Lord of Suffering / Die in Haze EP
7. Wren, Host EP
8. Goya, The Enemy EP
9. The Sweet Heat, Demo
10. River Cult, Demo
11. Stinkeye, Llantera Demos
12. Megaritual, Eclipse EP
13. Ragged Barracudas / Pushy, Split
14. Mindkult, Witchs’ Oath EP
15. Iron Jawed Guru, Mata Hari EP
16. Brume, Donkey
17. Bison Machine / Wild Savages / SLO, Sweet Leaves Vol. 1 Split
18. BoneHawk / Kingnomad, The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter Three Split
19. Wicked Gypsy, EP
20. Love Gang, Love Gang EP

Honorable Mention

An expansive category as ever. In addition to what’s above, the following stood out and no doubt more will be added over the course of the next few days. If you feel something is missing, please let me know.

Presented alphabetically:

Cambrian Explosion, The Moon EP
Candlemass, Death Thy Lover EP
Cultist, Cultist EP
Danava, At Midnight You Die 7″
Dos Malés, Dos Malés EP
Druglord, Deepest Regrets EP
Fu Manchu, Slow Ride 7″
Geezer, A Flagrant Disregard for Happiness 12″
Gorilla vs. Grifter, Split
Holy Smoke, Holy Smoke! It’s a Demo!
Karma to Burn, Mountain Czar
LSD and the Search for God, Heaven is a Place EP
Pallbearer, Fear and Fury
Reign of Zaius, Planet Of…
Sea of Bones / Ramlord, Split
Shallows, The Moon Rises
The Skull, EP
Snowy Dunes, “Atlantis Part I” digital single
Sun Voyager / The Mad Doctors, Split
Valborg, Werwolf 7″

Notes

Was it just the raw joy of having Scissorfight back? No, but that was for sure part of it. It was also the brazenness with which the New Hampshire outfit let go of their past, particularly frontman Christopher “Ironlung” Shurtleff, and moved forward unwilling to compromise what they wanted to do that made their Chaos County so respectable in my eyes. Having always flourished in the form, they delivered an EP of classic Scissorfight tunes and issued a stiff middle finger to anyone who would dare call them otherwise. They couldn’t have been more themselves no matter who was in the band.

At the same time, it was a hard choice between that and the Earthless / Harsh Toke split for the top spot. I mean, seriously. It’s Earthless — who at this point are the godfathers of West Coast jamadelica — and Harsh Toke, who are among the style’s most engaging upstart purveyors, each stretching out over a huge and encompassing single track. I couldn’t stop listening to that one if I wanted to, and as the year went on, I found I never wanted to.

I was glad when Mars Red Sky included the title-track of the Providence EP as a bonus cut on their subsequent album, Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul), both because it tied the two releases together even further and because it gave me another opportunity to hear it every time I listened to the record. Their short releases have always shown significant character apart from their full-lengths, and this was no exception. I still tear up when I hear “Sapphire Vessel.”

To bounce around a bit: Had to get Mos Generator on the list for the progressive expansion of the live-recorded The Firmament. Stickman was right to put that out on vinyl. Both Monolord and Goya provided quick outings of huge riffs to sate their respective and growing followings, while Megaritual’s Eclipse basked in drone serenity and the debut release from Sergio Ch.’s Soldati provided hard-driving heavy rock with the particular nuance for which the former Los Natas frontman is known. It’s the highest among a slew of first/early outings — see also The Sweet Heat, Wren (Host was their second EP), River Cult’s demo, Stinkeye, Mindkult, Iron Jawed Guru, Brume, Wicked Gypsy and Love Gang.

Ultimately, there were fewer splits on the list this year than last year, but I’ll credit that to happenstance more than any emergent bias against the form or lack of quality in terms of what actually came out. The BoneHawk and Kingnomad release, the Ragged Barracudas and Pushy split, and that heavy rocking onslaught from Bison Machine and company were all certainly welcome by me, and I’ll mention Gorilla vs. Grifter there too again, just because it was awesome.

One more time, thank you for reading, and if you have something to add, please do so in the comments below. Your civility in that regard is appreciated.

This is the last of my lists for 2016, but the Readers Poll results are out Jan. 1 and the New Year hits next week and that brings a whole new round of looking-forward coverage, so stay tuned.

As always, there’s much more to come.

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