Posted in Whathaveyou on March 11th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
Desert rock’s most venerable frontman, John Garcia, is headed back to Europe. In addition to having contributed vocals to the debut release from Zun, Burial Sunrise (review here), which is out this month on Small Stone, Garcia has a follow-up in the making for his 2013 Napalm Records self-titled solo debut (review here) and an acoustic record that’s long been discussed which will reportedly see release before the end of 2016. It’s the latter that will serve as the focal point for the upcoming European tour, set to kickoff on May 18, which follows an unplugged run he did in Europe and the UK last year. I wouldn’t be surprised if he heads abroad again later this year if that second electric album shows up, but I think US dates are off the table at this point. Bummer, but I get it. You go where the audience is.
Shows are presented by Vibra Agency and will feature support from Bellhound Choir (aka Christian Hede Madsen of Copenhagen’s Pet the Preacher). Info came off the PR wire:
JOHN GARCIA – Desert Rock Legend Will Hit The Road Again For Intensive European Tour!
He is the most distinctive voice of the entire Desert & Stoner Rock scene: After his critically acclaimed self-titled solo album (2014 , Napalm Records) JOHN GARCIA (Kyuss, Vista Chino, Hermano, Unida, Slo Burn) has just announced another run of his successful “An Evening with John Garcia – Unplugged Tour” all over Europe!
Catch JOHN GARCIA live on stage, when the legend of Desert Rock returns to Europe for some very special nights: An Evening with JOHN GARCIA – Unplugged Tour 2016, The Living Room Session!
John Garcia on the upcoming tour: “I’m very excited to be doing another acoustic tour this year, but not nearly excited on how the acoustic record is turning out to be. I’ll be playing a lot of the new material for this tour so its going to be one hell of a tour, not to mention, one hell of a year with the expected release of my sophomore solo electric record and tour coming end of this year. Strap in brothers and sisters!!”
An Evening with JOHN GARCIA – Unplugged Tour 2016, The Living Room Session Special Guest: BELLHOUND CHOIR 18.05. GER – Hamburg, Klubsen 19.05. GER – Münster, Sputnik 20.05. GER – Berlin, Badehaus 21.05. GER – Annaberg, Alte Brauerei 22.05. A – Wien, Viper Room 24.05. CRO – Zagreb, Vintage Bar 25.05. I – Bolzano, Sudwerk 26.05. CH – Luzern, Sedel 27.05. GER – Wiesbaden, Schlachthof 28.05. NL – Haarlem, Patronaat 30.05. GR – Athen, AN Club* 01.06. DK – Kopenhagen, Bremen* 02.06. RUS – Moscow, Brooklyn* * without BELLHOUND CHOIR
Posted in Features on January 25th, 2016 by H.P. Taskmaster
If 135-plus releases sounds like a lot, you’re right, it is. I must be out of my god damn mind. To put it to scale though, last year, I did a feature every couple of months called the Quarterly Review that throughout the course of 2015 resulted in no fewer than 200 separate album writeups. 135 is a lot, but it’s not everything. It’s still January. It couldn’t possibly be everything.
The basic fact of the matter is there’s so much out there right now that anyone claiming to even hint at totality of coverage is either clueless or lying. I don’t come close to catching it all. I do the best I can to do as much as I can. I know you’ve heard this all before.
Over the last seven or eight months, I’ve been keeping track of albums, EPs, singles, etc., slated for 2016 release. Some of these are independent, some through labels, some names familiar, some names new. I’ve tried to mix it up as much as possible, and I reserve the right to add to the list over the next couple days anything anyone might suggest in the comments. Last year’s list turned out to be a resource I used throughout the entire time, so, fingers crossed, I’ll be doing the same this go around. Thanks in advance for your participation in making it more complete by leaving a comment.
Ordered Alphabetically by Artist
1. Alunah, TBA
The Birmingham doom-rollers seem to be on this list every year, but I have it on good authority — namely, Alunah posted about it on the social medias — that they’re writing and entering the studio with an eye toward a late-2016 release for the follow-up to their 2014’s excellent Awakening the Forest (review here), their third full-length and debut on Napalm Records. Alunah on Thee Facebooks, at Napalm Records.
Since their late-2015 reunion (announced here), Swedish trio Asteroid have been added to the lineup for Desertfest in Berlin and just this past week re-signed to Fuzzorama Records — which also released their last full-length, 2010’s II (review here) — for an upcoming release they’ve appropriately-enough dubbed III. Much more to come. Asteroid on Thee Facebooks, Fuzzorama Records.
4. Atavismo, TBA
Not much more to go on here than the band alluding to a forthcoming LP being put together, but frankly, I was so enthralled with the Spanish group’s late-2014 debut, Desintegración (review here), that that’s enough to make me excited at the prospect of a next installment from them. Keeping my hopes up it gets here before December. Atavismo on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
5. Banquet, Jupiter Rose
Picked up last fall by Heavy Psych Sounds as part of a torrent of signings from the label, San Francisco’s Banquet make their debut next month with Jupiter Rose, following their 2015 single, Run to You / Mother Road, which was released by Who Can You Trust? Records and boasts soulful West Coast heavy ’10s thrust. Banquet on Thee Facebooks, Heavy Psych Sounds.
6. Beelzefuzz, Beelzefuzz II: The Righteous Bloom
When I starting keeping notes for this list, this album was pegged as the debut from Beelzefuzz-offshoot Righteous Bloom, but word came down in December that band had reassumed its former moniker and that Beelzefuzz II: The Righteous Bloom would be issued in the early part of 2016 via The Church Within as the follow-up their 2013 self-titled debut (review here). Whatever name the progressive doomers release it under, I can’t wait to hear it. Beelzefuzz on Thee Facebooks, The Church Within Records.
7. Bellringer, TBA
There hasn’t been any sort of official announcement of a debut LP from the Mark Deutrom-led Bellringer, but over the course of the last year, the Austin-based former Melvins/Clown Alley bassist has unveiled a number of singles (posted here), and if he keeps it up long enough, he’ll get to an album one way or another. As a fan of creative weirdo heavy rock, I’m looking forward. Bellringer on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
8. Blaak Heat Shujaa, TBA
As of this past April, L.A. desert psych rockers Blaak Heat Shujaa (aka Blaak Heat) were in pre-production for their third full-length and second for Tee Pee Records behind 2013’s expansive The Edge of an Era (review here). The album may or may not be done, but whenever it arrives, it’ll do so with extra interest due to the inclusion of Tom Davis (ex-Nebula) on bass. Blaak Heat Shujaa on Thee Facebooks, Tee Pee Records.
9. Black Black Black, TBA
I feel like Brooklyn post-hardcore heavy rockers Black Black Black caught a bum rap because of their name, but the band’s blend of melody and intensity was not to be ignored on account of moniker or anything else. No solid release date yet, but last I heard, Aqualamb Records, which issued the artbook version of their 2012 self-titled debut (review here) would have a sophomore album released in similar style in the first half of this year. Black Black Black on Thee Facebooks, Aqualamb Records.
10. Black Cobra, Imperium Simulacra
You’ll note several records on this list have a release date of Feb. 26, and it would seem only fair to put Black Cobra‘s fifth outing and first for Season of Mist, Imperium Simulacra (review here), at the head of the bunch even if it didn’t wind up there by alphabetical happenstance. Not by any means the San Francisco duo’s rawest outing, but definitely their most stylistically expansive, and with plenty of their trademark destructive gallop to boot. One you probably don’t need me to tell you that you should hear. Black Cobra on Thee Facebooks, Season of Mist.
11. Black Cowgirl, TBA
Last time Pennsylvania heavy rockers Black Cowgirl were heard from, they said one simple thing: “2016.” That was October. Well, it’s 2016 now, and if we’re talking new releases, an LP from them would just about be their debut. Their 2012 self-titled (discussed here) on Kozmik Artifactz paired newer songs with material from their 2010 demo (discussed here), so a straight-up album feels due. Maybe this is the year. Black Cowgirl on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
12. Black Rainbows, Stellar Prophecy
If this one’s fresh in mind, that’s because it was just announced last week that Rome trio Black Rainbows would release their new album, Stellar Prophecy in April on Heavy Psych Sounds. It’s a quick turnaround for them from 2015’s Hawkdope (review here), but as that album was a marked step forward in their sound, I’m even more eager to hear where they go next. Black Rainbows on Thee Facebooks, Heavy Psych Sounds.
13. Black Shape of Nexus, Carrier
It’s an establish Spring release date for the new Black Shape of Nexus, whose brand of sludge crosses a threshold of thoughtfulness without falling into post-metal cliche. The German outfit’s last record, 2012’s Negative Black (streamed here), was plenty punishing, and I’d expect only creative progression on Carrier, though wouldn’t dare guess at the form in will take. Black Shape of Nexus on Thee Facebooks, Exile on Mainstream.
14. Blood Ceremony, Lord of Misrule
Toronto’s Blood Ceremony enter into their recently-announced fourth full-length, Lord of Misrule in something of a stately position. Since 2013’s The Eldritch Dark, their influence has only spread further across North America and beyond, so the question as the new LP makes its way out via Rise Above on March 25 is how they can stand out from the crowd formed at least partly in their wake. Blood Ceremony on Thee Facebooks, Rise Above Records.
15. Boris with Merzbow, Gensho
So you get your Boris record, then you get your Merzbow record, then you play both at the same time, and that’s your collaborative release. The intermittent pairings from Boris with Merzbow have always been unflinchingly creative and bold in their experimentalism, and going by the teaser posted last week, Gensho will be no different when it arrives March 18 on Relapse. Expect who the hell knows what. Boris on Thee Facebooks, Merzbow website, at Relapse Records.
16. Borracho, TBA
In mid-2015, Washington D.C.’s Borracho took part in a Ripple Music split with Geezer called The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter One (review here). A bolt title, but it found them continuing to refine their sound as a power trio following 2013’s sophomore LP, Oculus (review here). No solid word of something due as yet, but a recent update from the band said they’d be hitting the studio next month. Borracho on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
17. Brimstone Coven, Black Magic
Out this week on Metal Blade, Brimstone Coven‘s debut album follows a well-received self-titled EP compilation (track stream here) that came out last year, and should prove interesting to see how the West Virginian doomers have grown since that material was recorded in 2013, just a year after they formed. I can’t claim to have heard it yet, but it seems like one that the doom converted should be all over. Brimstone Coven on Thee Facebooks, at Metal Blade Records.
18. Causa Sui, Return to Sky
Danish heavy psych instrumentalists Causa Sui posted an album teaser late last week for Return to Sky, and though it only showcased two tracks, it showed their tonal warmth intact and their will to explore as vibrant as ever. To be released through their own El Paraiso Records, my only hope is they don’t get saddled with pressing delays in the Spring, because really, the sooner it gets here, the better off we’ll all be. Causa Sui on Thee Facebooks, El Paraiso Records.
19. La Chinga, Freewheelin’
An awaited follow-up and Small Stone debut brings Freewheelin’ (review here) from Vancouver heavy rockers La Chinga on March 20. The new album reignites the hard-driving, classic-minded methods of their 2013 self-titled (discussed here), but refines the songwriting as well to affect a more memorable impression. The beginning of a big return year for Small Stone. La Chinga on Thee Faceboks, Small Stone on Bandcamp.
20. Church of Misery, …And Then There Were None
Unquestionably one of the most anticipated albums of the year. And Then There Were None brings Church of Misery founder Tatsu Mikami to the US from his native Japan and finds him teamed up with members of Blood Farmers, Earthride and Repulsion in a completely revamped lineup from that which appeared on 2013’s Thy Kingdom Scum (review here). Rise Aboverecently announced a March 4 release. Church of Misery on Thee Facebooks, Rise Above Records.
21. Cities of Mars, TBA
Swedish trio Cities of Mars caught attention with the big riffs and steady swing of their debut single (review here), and announced back in October that they’d have a new EP out in March via Suicide Records. Still somewhat in their formative stages, they’ve presented a sci-fi thematic and it will be interesting to see if they stick with it or move toward something else. Cities of Mars on Thee Facebooks, Suicide Records.
22. Cloud Catcher, TBA
The progressive Denver newcomers are set to hit the studio in Spring to record their sophomore LP and the follow-up to 2015’s Enlightened Beyond Existence (discussed here), so it might be summer or even fall by the time it gets issued, depending on timing of the recording, what label picks them up, etc., but it’s one to keep an eye out for anyway. They’ve shown a willingness to hit the road as well, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they did so again sometime after their Spring tour in Feb./March. Cloud Catcher on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
23. Comacozer, Astra Planeta
When Sydney trio Comacozer signed with HeadSpin Records last July, it was announced they’d be recording in October for a debut full-length to be titled Astra Planeta that would be due this Spring on the label. That process has been delayed somewhat, but there’s still no reason to think they can’t get the record out this year. Their 2015 EP, Deloun Sessions, found them pushing more into tense, moody atmospherics, and it was a shift that suited them well. Comacozer on Thee Facebooks, HeadSpin Records.
24. Conan, Revengeance
Out this week on Napalm Records, the third album from UK destroyers Conan, Revengeance (review here), finds the trio revamped around founding guitarist/vocalist Jon Davis, with longtime producer Chris Fielding adding a striking, effective counterpoint on bass and vocals and drummer Rich Lewis adding to the tectonic roll on drums. Happy to report, it still sounds like Conan, only perhaps even deadlier. Conan on Thee Facebooks, at Napalm Records.
25. Conclave, TBA
I don’t think Massachusetts four-piece Conclave — whose members trace their pedigree back to outfits like Warhorse and Grief — are ready to make the name of their full-length debut public yet, so I’m not going to say it, but I’ve heard the album and it’s full-on death-doom punishment that should bring a satisfied grin to even the most discerning of purists. Their debut EP, Breaking Ground (review here), was grim and brutal in kind, and the album only pushes further into the dark. Conclave on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
26. Corrosion of Conformity, TBA
Since the North Carolinian legends first announced they were reuniting with guitarist/vocalist Pepper Keenan, the question has been whether or not a new album would surface. Last October, they signed to Nuclear Blast while on tour with Clutch and The Shrine (review here), and followed that tour with a headlining run in December. I expect we’ll hear from them a lot in 2016 as they record the first outing with this full four-piece since 2000, and that’s just fine by me. Corrosion of Conformity on Thee Facebooks, Nuclear Blast.
27. Cough, TBA
Richmond doomers Cough entered the studio last August to begin tracking their first full-length since 2010’s Ritual Abuse (review here). I haven’t seen any announcement as to when it will be released, but it was finished in September, and we’ll see if it winds up coming out through Relapse, which would be expected, or if part of the delay has been in finding it a new home. That’s sub-speculation, mind you. I’m figuring on release news any minute now. Will let you know how that goes.Cough on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.
28. Curse the Son, Isolator
I was very glad I got to see Connecticut’s Curse the Son this past fall (review here), both because I dig what they do and because it gave me a sneak peak at the songs that will show up on their new album, Isolator, when it surfaces in March via Snake Charmer Coalition. Expect big, tone-led vibes a la 2012’s Psychache (review here), but with some new edge thanks to the addition of bassist/backing vocalist Brendan Keefe alongside guitarist/vocalist Ron Vanacore and drummer Michael Petrucci. Curse the Son on Thee Facebooks, Snake Charmer Coalition.
29. Dali’s Llama, Dying in the Sun
Perpetually underrated CA desert rockers Dali’s Llama will release their new album, Dying in the Sun, early this year. I’m not precisely sure when, but sooner or later it will come out, and when it does, I have full faith it will be a stirring reminder of just how overlooked the band continues to be as they’re now well past their 20th anniversary. The upcoming full-length was mastered as of December, so look out for an update hopefully sooner than later. Dali’s Llama on Thee Facebooks, Dali’s Llama Records.
30. Darsombra, TBA
Drone/noise/visual two-piece Darsombra toured across the US in 2015 across 109 different cities. That is no easy feat, and I can’t even imagine how an experience like that might play into the writing from Brian Daniloski and Ann Everton on the band’s next full-length, which, when they finished the last leg of that massive and ambitious run, they said was in the works. I’d like to find out, though, as Darsombra continue to aspire to inner peace through cosmic noisemaking. Darsombra on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
31. Dead Feathers, Dead Feathers 10″
Expected out Feb. 19 via HeviSike Records, the self-titled debut EP from Chicago heavy psych rockers Dead Feathers has been subject to some considerable pressing delays. The band was signed last Spring initially for an Aug. 2015 release that has continued to be pushed back, presumably as a result of so much interest in pressing vinyl at the moment. Still, the tracks have been streaming for a while now, so anyone looking to quench their thirst can do so readily on their Bandcamp. Dead Feathers on Thee Facebooks, HeviSike Records.
32. Deadsmoke, Deadsmoke
As announced a couple weeks ago, Duna Jam veterans Deadsmoke will issue their self-titled debut via Heavy Psych Sounds on March 25. The Italian sludgers have plans to tour Europe in May as well, and should they happen to pop on a late-spring or summer festival or two along the way, I wouldn’t necessarily be surprised. Heavy Psych Sounds‘ spree continues. Deadsmoke on Thee Facebooks, Heavy Psych Sounds.
33. Deamon’s Child, Scherben Müssen Sein
The German title of Deamon’s Child‘s second album, Scherben Müssen Sein, translates to “shards must be.” I’m not sure what it means, but I am sure that the trio’s 2014 self-titled debut (review here) was an intriguing and offbeat brand of noise rock-plus, so I’ve no problem getting down with the idea of another outing from them, though given their breadth I wouldn’t necessarily expect the second LP to be a carbon copy of the first. Deamon’s Child on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
34. Deathkings, All that is Beautiful
Hailing from what I’ll assume is the darkest underbelly of Los Angeles, Deathkings issue their sophomore LP, All that is Beautiful, on March 18 as the follow-up to a 2015 split with Boston’s Rozamov (review here). I’ve got a track stream slated for this week from these guys, so I’ll save more for that, but suffice it to say that it’s surprising music so grueling can come from a place where it never rains. Deathkings on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
35. Devil to Pay, A Bend Through Space and Time
Indianapolis heavy rockers Devil to Pay and their label, Ripple Music, have set a tentative “Summer” release date for the band’s fifth album, A Bend Through Space and Time, but as the recently unveiled “Your Inner Lemmy” showcased, the songwriting that has long served as their chief appeal is ready to roll on the new collection. That song surfaced early as a timely tribute to Lemmy Kilmister of Motörhead, so it might be a while before more solid details come down the wire, but whenever it shows, it’ll be welcome. Devil to Pay on Thee Facebooks, Ripple Music.
36. Dream Death, Dissemination
A second post-reunion album is always a tricky prospect. A band wants to continue to acknowledge what they were when they started out, progress from their last outing, and get over that hump of songs that may or may not have been written years prior and onto something fresh. How will Pennsylvania’s Dream Death tackle this issue on their forthcoming Dissemination, due out March 4 via Rise Above? Probably by being heavy as hell and sounding completely fucking miserable. Just a guess. More info here. Dream Death on Thee Facebooks, Rise Above Records.
37. Droids Attack, Sci-Fi or Die
Another Feb. 26 release, Sci-Fi or Die, the fourth long-player from Madison, Wisconsin’s Droids Attack, has been in the works for at least the last three years. I’ll be hosting a full-stream of it sometime between now and the release (which I’m stoked for), so keep an eye out for that, but these guys have deserved more attention for a while now one way or another, and the follow-up to 2010’s Must Destroy! (review here) might be the record that gets it for them. Droids Attack on Thee Facebooks, Droids Attack website.
38. Drug Honkey, TBA
Various announcements have floated around over the last year and a half or more from Chicago death-churners Drug Honkey, and I’m not sure at this point whether their next release will be an EP of or a complete album or what. Their last full-length was 2012’s Ghost in the Fire (review here), which was inhumane in its onslaught, abrasive in loud or quiet parts, and swirled out an otherworldly sense of terror. So yeah, something to look forward to in a new one. Drug Honkey on Thee Facebooks, Transcending Obscurity on Bandcamp.
39. Duel, Fears of the Dead
In addition to boasting a cover that has immediately made my list of the year’s best, look for hard-driving heavy rock swing on Duel‘s debut LP, Fears of the Dead, due out Feb. 12 on Heavy Psych Sounds. The Austin, Texas, four-piece have newly announced European tour dates that will start March 9 and run through April 2, and I’ve little doubt their brash ways will find favor among the beer-soaked good-timers abroad. Over here, I’m just looking forward to hearing the album. Duel on Thee Facebooks, Heavy Psych Sounds.
40. Egypt, Endless Flight
We know it’s awesome. It was streamed here last month in its entirety. The real question with Egypt‘s sophomore outing is whether it’s a 2015 or a 2016 release. Vinyl’s still forthcoming last I heard, but the CD hit in December. What counts? For what it’s worth, I’m clearly thinking of it as a 2016 outing, but whatever format you might prefer, think of this as a note to remind you that you should check out. Because it’s awesome. We knew that. Egypt on Thee Facebooks, Egypt on Bandcamp.
41. Eight Bells, Landless
Out Feb. 12 on respected purveyor Battleground Records with tapes through Tartarus, Landless casts a severe and progressive glance at the scope of atmospheric heavy and offers an individualized take developed even from what the Portland, Oregon, trio brought to their 2013 debut, The Captain’s Daughter. Doom, black metal and a stately sort of psychedelia intertwine over the album’s span, and it seems all the more likely the band will turn heads with their approach on tour with Voivod (dates here) starting Feb. 6. Eight Bells on Thee Facebooks, Battleground Records.
42. Electric Citizen, Higher Time
Before Electric Citizen posted the new track “Evil” in a RidingEasy Records sampler last month, word on the street was the Ohio heavy ’10s rockers were looking to add a full-time keyboardist. That search doesn’t seem to have panned out, but their Higher Time is hotly anticipated anyway as the answer to their 2014 debut, Sateen (review here), which showed the Sabbath worshipers how Sabbath worship is done. Electric Citizen on Thee Facebooks, RidingEasy Records.
43. Elephant Tree, TBA
Full disclosure: I know way more about Elephant Tree‘s upcoming Magnetic Eye Records debut LP than I’m putting in this post. Like that it rules. And why! Stick around. Later this week, I’ll have a track premiere from the album up with a review, but the follow-up to their 2014 debut EP, Theia (review here), has already made it into my best-of-2016 consideration and my best-debuts-of-2016 consideration, and I know it’s only January, but right now it’s the one to beat in the latter category. More to come. Elephant Tree on Thee Facebooks, Magnetic Eye Records.
44. Elevators to the Grateful Sky, Cape Yawn
Sicilian four-piece Elevators to the Grateful Sky signed to HeviSike Recordslast month, and while a March 11 release date for the band’s second album, Cape Yawn seems like a quick turnaround, until I hear otherwise it’s what I’m going with. The band released their debut, Cloud Eye, on Transubstans in 2013, but should fit well with HeviSike‘s growing and diverse roster, being growing and sonically diverse themselves. Elevators to the Grateful Sky on Thee Facebooks, HeviSike Records.
45. Faith in Jane, TBA
I have it on zero authority that Maryland heavy rockers Faith in Jane are working on a new release — I know they jammed with Wino earlier this month, and that’s cool — but having had the chance to see the trio play last September at Vultures of Volume II (review here), I’m including them on this list anyway just because they’re one to watch out for. Deep blues vibes roughing up some of the West Coast’s ’70s fetishizing; way heavy and way swinging. Not technical, but intricate, and thoroughly grooved. Lots of potential there.Faith in Jane on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
46. Fatso Jetson, TBA
They’re due, right? Sure, the last couple years have brought splits with Farflung (review here), Herba Mate (review here) and Yawning Man, but we’re coming up on six years since Archaic Volumes (review here) was released in 2010, and I’m dying to hear what a new Fatso Jetson album would sound like with Mario Lalli and son Dino, who’s joined the band in the interim, going head-to-head on guitar. Whenever it’s ready, so am I. Fatso Jetson on Thee Facebooks, Fatso Jetson website.
47. Fever Dog, TBA
Could be later in the hear, could be in 2017 that it shows up, but the next offering from Californian desert psych rockers Fever Dog is reportedly now in the writing stage, and given the effectiveness with which 2014’s Second Wind (review here) demonstrated their willingness to mess around with structure and sound alike, their third outing should find them at an important stage in their development. Still young and significantly underrated. Fever Dog on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
48. The Flying Eyes, Poison the Well / 1969 7″
It’s another year for me and you. Another year with nothin’ to do. Baltimore’s The Flying Eyes are covering The Stooges‘ “1969” (baby) on their new single from H42 Records, mashing it up with “Poison the Well” from their 2011 second album, Done so Wrong (review here). Might be a stopgap on the way to whatever’s next, but should be an interesting listen anyway. The Flying Eyes on Thee Facebooks, H42 Records.
49. Foehammer, TBA
Virginia soul-bashers Foehammer released my favorite EP of 2015 in the form of their Grimoire/Australopithecus self-titled (review here), and I’m eager to know how they’ll expand on the outright brutality of that offering over the course of a full-length, or if they will at all. Entirely possible they’ll just kill, kill, kill the whole way through, and that’s also something I’d like to see them pull off. Either way they go, count me in. Foehammer on Thee Facebooks, Grimoire Records, Australopithecus Records.
50. Fog Cult, The Dying Sun
Initially self-released by the band last year, The Dying Sun is the second full-length by Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, weedian rockers Fog Cult, and it’s set for a vinyl issue via Black Farm Records sometime this year. Not much fixing what isn’t broken about large-scale nod riffs and sludge vibing, but a track like “Altars of the Night” manages to evoke early Alice in Chains-type harmonies without falling into post-Creed cliche, and that in itself is something remarkable. Streaming in full now on their Bandcamp. Fog Cult on Thee Facebooks, Black Farm Records.
51. Foghound, The World Unseen
Might be May before it shows up, but The World Unseen will serve as Maryland heavy rockers Foghound‘s debut on Ripple Music. It’s their second offering behind 2013’s Quick, Dirty and High (review here) and a meaner, leaner take on their sound. The turns are tighter and the groove is more aggressive, but they still sound like they’re having a complete blast. More to come this Spring. Foghound on Thee Facebooks, Ripple Music.
52. Fuzz Evil, TBA
They’ll be playing the Borderland Fuzz Fiesta next month, which I’m proud to say I’ll be attending, and I hope to have a better picture of the debut album by Fuzz Evil‘s arrival date by the end of that if not before. The Arizona band, which shares brothers Wayne and Joseph Rudell with Powered Wig Machine, offered up a split with Chiefs in late 2014 (streamed here) and has piecemealed a track or two since, but the full-length was sent off to mastering in November, so it seems like it’s just a matter of time before it shows up. Fuzz Evil on Thee Facebooks, Fuzz Evil on Bandcamp.
53. John Garcia, TBA
Among the several Garcia-related releases that 2016 might have on offer — he appears no fewer than in three separate entries on this list — the former Kyuss, Slo Born, Unida, Vista Chino, Hermano, etc., vocalist has announced intentions toward a follow-up for his 2014 Napalm Records self-titled solo debut (review here) and an acoustic record, the second of which he reportedly began recording this month. The more the merrier, quite frankly. John Garcia on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
54. Geezer, TBA
According to The Obelisk’s deep-running investigative team — by which I mean I looked at their Thee Facebooks page — New York heavy blues trio Geezer are heading into the studio in a couple weeks to record their next full-length. In 2015, the band offered up the already-noted split with Borracho, The Second Coming of Heavy – Chapter One (review here), via Ripple Music, and they’ve set about refining their chemistry on-stage as they hone their fluid mix of languid vibes and smoked-out shuffle. Looking forward to this one. Geezer on Thee Facebooks, STB Records.
55. Goatess, Purgatory Under New Management
First announced here with a track stream in November, the second album from Chritus Linderson-fronted doomers Goatess, titled Purgatory Under New Management, is due out this March of Svart, which also released the Swedish outfit’s 2013 self-titled debut (review here). I haven’t heard much about it since that track stream, so it may or may not be pushed back, but whatever, I’m just glad they did a second record either way. It’ll be out when it’s out. Goatess on Thee Facebooks, Svart Records.
56. The Golden Grass, TBA
Bring on the good vibes. The sophomore LP from sweet ’70s-style rockers The Golden Grass will be the band’s first for Listenable Records after releasing their self-titled debut (review here) via Svart in 2014. They finished mixing earlier this month, so once it’s mastered it seems like it’s really up to the label’s schedule as to when it will be out. Spring or summer would be my guess, which suits the warmth of their harmonies just fine. The Golden Grass on Thee Facebooks, Listenable Records.
57. Gozu, Revival
After issuing two albums through Small Stone in 2010’s Locust Season (review here) and 2013’s The Fury of a Patient Man (review here), Boston four-piece Gozu have aligned themselves to Ripple Music for the release of Revival, their LP overall. Recorded this past fall, it is easily the band’s tightest and most aggressive outing to-date, but their soulful, melodic core remains, and it is all the more identifiable as their own for that. More to come. Gozu on Thee Facebooks, Ripple Music.
58. Graves at Sea, TBA
I know I’ve used the phrase “More to come” several times already in this post — like right now, in the last entry — but while the full-length debut from reactivated West Coast sludge-doomers Graves at Sea was announced as being completed and ready for release by Relapseback in October, legitimately, more info on that prospect is coming up, so keep an eye out. That’s all I’m at liberty to say at the moment. I may have already said too much. Graves at Sea on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.
59. Greenleaf, Rise Above the Meadow
Oh fuck yes. How good is the new Greenleaf? So good. You know how 2014’s Trails and Passes (review here) kind of reset the band and gave a more stripped-down, stage-ready take? Rise Above the Meadow takes that, pushes it forward exponentially, adds some Dozer-style edge to the mix and presents it all with ferocious energy more common to bands on their second album rather than their sixth. Out Feb. 26. Will be a top 10 record in December, no question. Greenleaf on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
60. Heavy Temple, TBA
There have been many changes in Philadelphia trio Heavy Temple since they offered up their self-titled debut EP (review here), or at least a couple involving the lineup of the band. Either way, it’s a revamped trio that last summer discussed a second extended-player for 2016. So far as I know, record label is still to be determined so far as I know — the first EP came out on Ván, which is an immediate endorsement — but they’ve been gaining traction in Philly and they seem to have ambitions beyond that city’s limits, so I can’t imagine someone won’t get on board with it, if they haven’t yet. Heavy Temple on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
61. Hermano, TBA
In addition to taking part in Hellfest 2016 in Clisson, France, this June, Hermano have put out word of an impending full-length to be released at some point this year. The John Garcia-fronted outfit also featuring bassist Dandy Brown (who will also play the Borderland Fuzz Fiesta solo) last released an album in 2007, which was Into the Exam Room, a striking, mature, engaging heavy rocker that not only showcased Garcia‘s vocals in creative arrangements, but them memorable songs to top and a variety of moods in which to work. Even nine years later, that record was enough to make me look forward to a follow-up. John Garcia on Thee Facebooks, Borderland Fuzz Fiesta.
62. Hexvessel, When We are Death
Out this week as their first release for Century Media, Hexvessel‘s When We are Death pushes beyond the confines of psychedelic folk rock (not that there were so many, particularly as regards their prior output) and into more solidified rock territory, an edge of gothic theatricality making itself felt alongside a stylistically amorphous late-’60s cultistry that doesn’t want to be defined nearly so much as to enthrall. I’ll have a review up one of these days soon, but I feel like I’m still getting to know the record, and that may be a permanent condition. Hexvessel on Thee Facebooks, Century Media.
63. High Priest of Saturn, Son of Earth and Sky
Here is yet another of Feb. 26’s many releases. I haven’t heard it yet, but given the traditionalism of the Norwegian outfit’s first LP and the fact that there are only five tracks on Son of Earth and Sky, it seems fair to expect High Priest of Saturn are letting their material flesh out a bit on their sophomore offering through Svart. Announced just a couple weeks ago, it’s been in the can since 2014, so it may not be all that long before a follow-up makes an appearance as well. High Priest of Saturn on Thee Facebooks, Svart Records.
64. Hijo de la Tormenta, El Manto de la Especie
I dug Argentinian heavy psych trio Hijo de la Tormenta‘s 2014 self-titled debut (review here), and last year, they followed it up with a quick live two-songer called En Vivo en Buenos Aires that found their sound no less engaging on stage than on record. The upcoming El Manto de la Especie was recently announced here, and should hopefully be together and out sometime in the first half of this year. Hijo de la Tormenta on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
There’s been a buzz around the Pacific Northwest’s fertile ground over the last couple years for Portland, Oregon’s Holy Grove, and on March 18, the soul-rock four-piece will make their full-length debut via Heavy Psych Sounds. The only other release from them I know about to-date is 2014’s Live at Joonior’s (review here), a two-track sampler, so for a lot of listeners outside the band’s regional homebase, this will really be their first experience hearing them. Holy Grove on Thee Facebooks, Heavy Psych Sounds.
67. Holy Serpent, TBA
The hot tip is look for it in August on RidingEasy. Melbourne, Australia’s Holy Serpent shroom-doomed their self-titled debut (review here) last year, and they’ll be going for a fast turnaround on the follow-up in 2016. No audio, info or art or anything like that yet, but I’m told it’ll be late summer, so that’s what I’m going on. Holy Serpent on Thee Facebooks, RidingEasy Records.
68. Inter Arma, TBA
So far, both Inter Arma and Relapse Records have been pretty tight-lipped on specifics when it comes to the Virginian genre-melders’ second LP for the label (third overall), but we know it was recorded by Mikey Allred, that it’s done and due out this summer, and that they’re starting their touring cycle for it even before it comes out. That’s not nothing. Given the laudatory response to 2014’s single-song EP The Cavern, I’d expect this one to get considerable attention both in the pre-release hype and the post-release exclamatory stages. Inter Arma on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.
69. Joy, Ride Along!
Announced just last week, Ride Along! will be West Coast jammers Joy‘s second album out through Tee Pee, following the psych spellcasting of 2014’s Under the Spell of… (review here). A few notable guests show up, but I’m looking for the band to distinguish themselves further this time around, find their niche within the post-Earthless sphere of instrumental Cali heavy. They showed some genuine personality on the last one, hope they keep it up. Out April 29. Joy on Thee Facebooks, Tee Pee Records.
70. King Dead, Woe and Judgment
Brooding atmospheres, a kind of post-metallic anxiety and moments of outright physical exertion are spread across Woe and Judgment (review here), the first LP from Pennsylvanian trio King Dead. The band released the album digitally last year on the sly in order to self-finance a vinyl pressing, and after succeeding in that endeavor, they’ll have the record out officially in April or thereabouts. King Dead on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
71. Lightsabres, TBA
Swedish one-man outfit Lightsabres began its association with HeviSike Records with a tape release for 2014’s sophomore album Spitting Blood (review here). The genre-spanning garage psych project linked up with STB for 2015’s Beheaded, but returns to HeviSike for the follow-up fourth long-player, which is due out March 4 with preorders starting this week. Lightsabres on Thee Facebooks, HeviSike Records.
72. The Linus Pauling Quartet, Ampalanche
Unlike most offerings on this list, Ampalanche by Texas noise rock weirdos the Linus Pauling Quartet is actually out now. Vincebus Eruptum released the vinyl on Jan. 15. It’ll be out digitally in April as well though, and there’s a big ol’ zip file on my desktop waiting to be reviewed — several, actually but bear with me — so sometime between now and then expect to hear more about the album, which is the band’s first full-length since 2012’s Bag of Hammers (review here), despite a slew of singles between. Linus Pauling Quartet on Thee Facebooks, Vincebus Eruptum Recordings.
73. Lo-Pan, TBA
I don’t know what Lo-Pan‘s secret plan is, but I know they were in the studio last week, so whether it’s a new album, a single, an EP, split or whatever, they’ve got something going. It would be a relatively quick turnaround from 2014’s Colossus (review here), but they’ve since added guitarist Adrian Zambrano (also Brujas del Sol) to the lineup, so a burst of creativity isn’t necessarily out of the question. Whatever they’re up to, they’ll be on the road as ever this year, touring with Black Cobra and Bongzilla this spring. Lo-Pan on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.
74. Lord, Awake
As of last September, chaotic Virginian five-piece Lord were mastering their Awake album with an eye on a 2016 release. I’ve been keeping a relatively close eye, and I haven’t heard anything about a meteor crashing into the final tapes (or hard drive) or anything, so I’m just going to assume and hope that it gets out this year. Lord‘s last full-length, Chief (review here), came out in 2011 and they also issued the Alive in Golgotha EP (review here) in 2014. Lord on Thee Faceboks, Heavy Hound Records.
75. Lord Fowl, TBA
More wishful thinking than nailed-down guarantee, perhaps, but Connecticut’s Lord Fowl are due to give an answer to their 2012 Small Stone debut and second album overall, Moon Queen (review here). Last I spoke to the band was the middle of last year and they were writing, but in October, they entered the studio to begin the recording process, so hopefully that means it’ll be out sooner than later. Lord Fowl on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.
76. Low Flying Hawks, Kofuku
Not exactly out of nowhere — apparently out of Los Angeles, or somewhere thereabouts — but Low Flying Hawks‘ forthcoming Magnetic Eye debut, Kofuku, did seem to show up as a sudden blip on the radar. Notable for working with such Melvins-related characters as producer Toshi Kasai, drummer Dale Crover, and bassist Trevor Dunn, the band effectively blends moody post-rock atmospheres with weighted, hypnotic grunge, keeping things dark as seen in their recent video for “Ruins.” Low Flying Hawks on Thee Facebooks, Magnetic Eye Records.
77. Mantar, Ode to the Flame
I’ll admit to being somewhat surprised when Germany’s Mantar signed to Nuclear Blast late last year. Their sound is so raw, so unabashedly extreme in its intent on their 2014 debut, Death by Burning (review here) — which was released by Brutal Panda and Svart both — and something tells me that with a title like Ode to the Flame, their second LP won’t offer much letup in intensity, but having seen the band live (review here), they are unmistakably a force. Mantar on Thee Facebooks, Nuclear Blast Records.
78. Mars Red Sky, Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul)
The third album from Bordeaux-based heavy psych rockers Mars Red Sky feels like a logical step forward from 2014’s Stranded in Arcadia (review here), but it is very definitely a step forward, in its atmospheric complexity, in the depths of its arrangements and the breadth of its tones. Songs like “Mindreader” and “Under the Hood” exemplify how much the band has progressed since their 2011 self-titled debut (review here), and though it comes preceded by the newly-released Providence EP (review here), that’s really just the beginning of the story about to be told. Mars Red Sky on Thee Facebooks, Listenable Records.
79. Merchant, Suzerain
Finished recording as of Jan. 11, Suzerain will serve as the debut full-length from aggro tone-bearers Merchant, who announced their coming with a 10-minute single called Seismic (review here). Their principal task will be to distinguish themselves from the pack of Melbourne’s crowded heavy underground, but I’m looking forward to finding out how they go about it and where their apparent potential will take them. Merchant on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
80. Merlin, Electric Children
Kansas City doom rockers Merlin gave a taste of Electric Children back in November with a track premiere for “Bad Trip” and the album itself will see release on March 11 through 4One8 Records on CD. Vinyl will be through Poisoned Mind, who also issued the band’s Christkiller LP (review here) in 2014. To say they have a flair for the dramatic might be understating it, but Merlin do well to keep a reliable core of songwriting underneath. Merlin on Thee Facebooks, 4One8 Records, Poisoned Mind Records.
81. Mondo Drag, The Occultation of Light
Ready for release on — you guessed it — Feb. 26, The Occultation of Light is the third full-length from psych-prog traditionalists Mondo Drag, second via RidingEasy, and it gives a more updated take on their sound than did last year’s self-titled (review here), which was recorded in 2012 with a different lineup. They seem poised to really establish themselves with this record, which was announced in November, and from where I sit, the record is strong enough to do it. Mondo Drag on Thee Facebooks, RidingEasy Records.
82. Mondo Generator, TBA
Nick Oliveri oversaw some lineup changes last fall for Mondo Generator, but to go with that and their European tour, it was announced that the band was working — as a trio now — on their fifth full-length for an eventual 2016 release. That’s not to say it’s showing up tomorrow, but if they were writing in the fall, it doesn’t seem outside the realm of possibility that they could have something out before the year is done. Oliveri‘s last release was the 2014 solo album, Leave Me Alone (streamed here). Mondo Generator on Thee Facebooks, Mondo Generator webstore.
83. Monkey3, TBA
For Swiss instrumentalists Monkey3‘s Nov. 2015 European tour, the band specifically noted they would be playing out new material as a “preview.” I don’t know if that means their next album is recorded or if they were trying stuff out on stage before they went into the studio, but, now signed to Napalm, the band will hopefully in 2016 have a follow-up out for 2013’s The 5th Sun, which was their fourth long-player. Monkey3 on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
84. Monobrow, TBA
Last time Ottawa’s Monobrow mentioned their new LP was Nov. 24. They said, “new album slowly coming together.” So there you go. They reportedly took more time after a Dec. 5 show with Public Animal to work on it, but there’s been no solid word of a release date or even recording date as yet. It’s in progress. Their 2015 single, A Handwritten Letter from the Moon (review here), presented a less bombastic feel than, say, 2014’s Big Sky, Black Horse (review here). We’ll see which impulse ultimately wins out in their sound. Monobrow on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
85. Mos Generator, TBA
Among the safest bets one might place this year is that Washington’s Mos Generator will release something, but the band, led of course by workaholic guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed, premiered an acoustic take on Easy Evil” back in September that was to be included on an unplugged release through H42 Records, and their last album, Electric Mountain Majesty (review here), came out in 2014, so I wouldn’t be surprised if in addition to continuing to road-dog across the US and likely beyond, they didn’t also find time to punch out a new studio LP. Mos Generator on Thee Facebooks, Listenable Records.
86. Mothership, Live over Freak Valley
True, Mothership released Live over Freak Valley on Jan. 15. You got me. The reason I’ve still got them on this list, however, is because I’m wondering if the Texas heavy rockers might keep the momentum they’ve got on their side after their recent tour with C.O.C., Saviours and Brant Bjork going by jumping back in the studio and belting out a follow-up to 2014’s Mothership II (review here). Even if it’s later in the year, crazier things have happened. Mothership on Thee Facebooks, Ripple Music.
87. Mountain God, TBA
Early last year, bleak Brooklyn atmosludge extremists Mountain God offered their single-song EP, Forest of the Lost (review here), which followed their prior 2013 demo tape, Experimentation on the Unwilling (review here). They’ve been writing all the while, and it seems likely they’ll manage a release of some sort this year as well. Whether that’s their debut full-length, which I’m hoping creeps as much as it shrieks — or at least a little — or something else, I don’t know. Mountain God on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Sold out in numerous CD and cassette editions following its release in April, the live-recorded self-titled debut from Greek heavy psych rockers Naxatras continued to earn praise throughout the rest of last year. The Thessaloniki-based trio will reportedly release a single as a 10″ before their second long-player surfaces, but both have been recorded and seem like they’re ready to roll out as soon as they’re pressed. I wouldn’t mind if they did a CD re-press of the first album either, but no word on that as of yet. Naxatras on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
90. Neurosis, TBA
It’s done, it’s in the can, it’s mastered, and it pains me that a new Neurosis album exists somewhere on this planet and I haven’t heard it yet. It’s a downright tragedy. The post-metal progenitors also recently announced a deluxe anniversary boxed set of all their albums to-date (not including the new one) called Strength and Vision, but as ever, their eyes are forward even as they’re celebrating their 30 years as a band. But seriously, if I don’t hear that record soon, I’m gonna cry. Actual tears. Neurosis on Thee Facebooks, Neurot Recordings.
91. Om, TBA
The Al Cisneros-led trio Om were recently in the studio, and while I can’t say for certain it was for a new album to follow-up 2012’s brilliant Advaitic Songs (review here), I sure as hell hope so. Om are another band who were on last year’s list too, so take this for what it is, but I think it’s safe to say Advaitic Songs is one of the strongest albums of the decade so far, and a subsequent outing feels due. Om on Thee Facebooks, Drag City.
92. Oranssi Pazuzu, Värähtelijä
Effective, trance-inducing psychedelic black metal isn’t easily done, and when someone does it as well as Oranssi Pazuzu on Värähtelijä or as Deathspell Omega on Fas – Ite Maledicti, in Ignem Aeternum, it tends to get noticed by a very specific subset of the heavy metal literati. No doubt the same has been and will continue to be the case for the Finnish blackened hypnotists leading up to the Feb. 26 Svart/20 Buck Spin release of Värähtelijä, their fourth album, but the hype is legitimate, and the record crosses vast expanses over the course of an encompassing 69 minutes. Sometimes it’s hard to argue with consensus. Oranssi Pazuzu on Thee Facebooks, 20 Buck Spin, Svart Records.
93. Pale Divine, TBA
Pennsylvanian doomers Pale Divine take their time. Nothing wrong with that, and anyway, it’s only been four years since their last album, Painted Windows Black (review here), came out a full five after 2007’s Cemetery Earth, so, you know, no rush. In 2016, however, they’re coming closer to marking 20 years since the release of their first demo, 1997’s Crimson Tears, which in many ways established the course of their sound, so if a new full-length were to happen this or next year, it would seem only appropriate. Would also be their first since adding Ron McGinnis (Admiral Browning, Bailjack, etc.) on bass several years ago now. Pale Divine on Thee Facebooks, Shadow Kingdom Records.
94. Picaporters, TBA
Buenos Aires-based trio Picaporters posted a new track called “War is Over” on their Bandcamp a while back that will feature on their upcoming album, which is listed on that page as being released on Aug. 1, 2016. Last I heard it was due to be ready in January, so I’m not actually sure when the follow-up to their 2013 debut, Elefantes (review here), will actually be out, but the doomers have leaked a couple songs from it at this point and it sounds right on. Best I can say is keep an eye out. Picaporters on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
95. Iggy Pop, Post Pop Depression
The immortal badassery of Iggy Pop notwithstanding, his Post Pop Depression probably wouldn’t be in this site’s field of vision were it not for the involvement of Queens of the Stone Age frontman Joshua Homme as guitarist and songwriting collaborator. Announced to much fanfare on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert as being released March 18, the record is intended as a sequel to the Pop/David Bowie collaboration Lust for Life, and since Homme does a pretty mean Bowie I’m sure it’ll be just fine. I thought it was hilarious that the first song released from the album was called “Gardenia.” Iggy Pop website, Queens of the Stone Age on Thee Facebooks.
96. Psychedelic Witchcraft, The Vision
Though they’re still in the process as well of overseeing reissues of their 2015 Black Magic Man EP (review here) — the latest is vinyl through Taxi Driver Records with a bonus Sam Gopal cover that follows a CD through Twin Earth Records — Italian cult rockers Psychedelic Witchcraft have signed to Soulseller Records for the release of their debut long-player, The Vision. It’s due in Spring and can be reasonably expected to generate much fanfare, at least if the response to the prior EP is anything to go by. Psychedelic Witchcraft on Thee Facebooks, Soulseller Records.
97. Radio Moscow, TBA Live Album
Freshly returned from a South American tour, Radio Moscow will head to Australia for a run next month with Kings Destroy and Holy Serpent before they get around to issuing the double-live album they recorded last month in Los Angeles. And then after that, they’ll probably go tour somewhere else, because that’s how they do. The live record arrives at a particularly choice moment, though, since the material from their fourth LP, 2014’s Magical Dirt (review here) translates particularly well to the stage. Also they’re one of the best live bands in the world. That helps too. Radio Moscow on Thee Facebooks, Alive Naturalsound.
98. Red Fang, TBA
I’m twofold intrigued at the recently-announced prospect of Red Fang‘s fourth full-length. Maybe even threefold. First, automatic interest on the basis of their prior work. They’ve certainly earned that. Second, though it would be a mistake to call 2013’s Whales and Leeches (review here) anything other than a marked success, it was put together in a hurry and it sounded like it, so I’m wondering if they’ll be able to stretch out this process more. Third, it’s Ross Robinson producing, and given the commercial breadth of his work across genres, I’m eager to hear what he brings to a genuine heavy rock band. Could be a whole new take on the sound, one way or another. Red Fang on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.
99. Rozamov, TBA
Now veterans of Psycho California and tours across the US, having opened for Slayer in their hometown and spread their darkened gospel along the Eastern Seaboard, don’t you think it’s time Boston’s Rozamov put out an album? I know I do. I was in the studio with them for a check-in last August, and what I heard in progress sounded utterly punishing as a follow-up to their split with Deathkings (review here), and that holds true on the five tracks of the finished product as well, but it’s high time it came out. Side note, they recently announced the arrival of new drummer Tranxidis. Pretty sure that’s more recent than the recording though. Rozamov on Thee Facebooks, Rozamov on Bandcamp.
100. Salem’s Pot, TBA
Bizarro riff worshipers Salem’s Pot will have a new full-length out, reportedly, in June 2016. It will be their sophomore LP behind 2014’s …Lurar ut dig på prärien (discussed here), which garnered praise for its atmosphere and riff-rolling methods alike, stoner for stoners and all that. I was fortunate enough to catch the band’s set last year at Roadburn (review here), and they offered thrills in bulk, unabashedly basking in pill-popper groove but keeping a spirit of underlying violence in the material as well, as much drug as droog. A new 7″ titled The Vampire Strikes Back is also due Feb. 15. Salem’s Pot on Thee Facebooks, RidingEasy Records.
101. Samavayo, TBA
Not certain of the timing on the new full-length from Samavayo, who will also play Desertfest Berlin this April, but their 2015 Setalight Records split 10″ with The Grand Astoria (review here) was much-dug around these parts and efficiently presented a diverse take from the Berlin natives, between instrumental stretch-out and more traditional hooks and structure. Their last full-length, Soul Invictus, came out in 2012 as the third in a series of three albums each year (it was their fourth overall), so maybe they needed to catch their breath. Samavayo on Thee Facebooks, Setalight Records.
102. Serpents of Secrecy, TBA
This West Virginia/Virginia/Maryland collaboration between former members of Sixty Watt Shaman — drummer Chuck Dukehart and bassist Rev. Jim Forrester (both also of Foghound) — and King Giant guitarist Todd Ingram did right last summer in picking Ontario-based vocalist Al “Yeti” Bones as the singer for their debut record. Maybe not so much geographically, but no question Bones (formerly of Mister Bones and The Mighty Nimbus) has all the burl their riffs could ask for, and I haven’t heard the album yet, but I’m sure they’re asking for plenty. Serpents of Secrecy on Thee Facebooks, their website.
103. Sinister Haze, Laid Low in the Dust of Death
After issuing their Betrayed by Time EP (review here) via Heavy Slab Records last year, Virginian doombringers Sinister Haze have signed on with STB to issue their debut full-length, Laid Low in the Dust of Death. The trio played Psycho California this May, touring out and back, and also had a two-song self-titled cassette out in 2015 that they took with them on the road, but no word as to whether any of that material will make it onto the album. In fact, no word on if the album is an album. I’m just kind of going by what STB says they have coming up in the next few months. Presumably more info will surface before the release arrives. Sinister Haze on Thee Facebooks, STB Records.
104. -(16)-, TBA
Blunt as ever, Los Angeles/San Diego sludge metallers -(16)- pulled no punches on Dec. 31 when they rang in the New Year by saying, “We will be releasing a new album in 2016.” They finished recording in December, and I’m relatively sure that whatever the new album is called, it’ll be released by Relapse — using the logic of, if you were the label, why wouldn’t you want to put out a new -(16)- album? — but other than that, there’s no info. They said it’s coming this year. Seems like they’d be the ones to know. -(16)- on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.
105. Skuggsjá, A Piece for Mind and Mirror
If you know, then you know. I was pleasantly surprised that the Skuggsjá collaboration between Enslaved‘s Ivar Bjørnson and Wardruna‘s Einar Selvik was doing anything at all, let alone putting out a studio release of their commissioned work for the 200th anniversary of Norway’s constitution. A Piece for Mind and Mirror was recently given a March 11 release date through Season of Mist, and while it may be a few who latch on to the combined vision of Bjørnson and Selvik, that’s going to be a lucky few indeed. Skuggsjá on Thee Facebooks, Season of Mist.
106. Slabdragger, Rise of the Dawncrusher
If I’m not mistaken — and to be sure, I probably am — this is the last release on this list coming out on Feb. 26. Slabdragger‘s sophomore LP, Rise of the Dawncrusher is being delivered via Holy Roar, and it comes some six years after their debut, Regress. I remember being at Desertfest in London circa 2012-2013 and hearing people talk up Slabdragger as having significant boot-to-ass potential. Listening to Rise of the Dawncrusher, it’s pretty easy to hear what might’ve given them that impression. Slabdragger on Thee Facebooks, Holy Roar Records.
107. Slomatics, TBA
Yes. Bring on new Slomatics. The sooner the better, the louder the better. The riff-bashing Belfast trio signed to Jon Davis of Conan‘s Black Bow Recordslast November, and quickly set about reissuing their first two albums, 2005’s Flooding the Weir and 2007’s Kalceanna, and that’s super, but as someone who caught on relatively late to the glories of the band’s 2014 album, Estron (review here), there’s no way I’m letting the next one get by me. Slomatics on Thee Facebooks, Black Bow Records.
108. Snowy Dunes, Atlantis
Stockholm heavy rockers Snowy Dunes left a resonant impression with their 2015 self-titled debut, and on Jan. 13, they unveiled a completely improvised 19-minute track called “Atlantis, Part I” digitally as a precursor to their second LP, Atlantis, which is reportedly set to release next month as they head out on tour with countrymen riffers Skraeckoedlan. The extended piece is impressive in building on the boogie rock of the debut, but how much its atmosphere will ultimately play into the record itself remains to be seen. In any case, a good band who don’t seem like they’ll be under the radar of Europe’s heavy rock scene for much longer. Snowy Dunes on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
109. Soon, Vol. I
I’ll readily admit my ignorance when it comes to indie rock, so I haven’t heard of The Love Language, Bitter Resolve or Grohg, which are the bands from whose lineups the ungooglable Soon draw, but after checking out a couple demos when the March 4 release of Vol. Iwas announced, I dug the sound anyway. Someone else might have a completely different context for hearing it, but to me it just sounds like interesting, wide-ranging excursions into sonic heft. It’s pretty rare something like that isn’t going to find welcome, as far as I’m concerned. Soon on Thee Facebooks, Temple of Torturous.
110. Spidergawd, III
For the last two years, Norwegian four-piece Spidergawd have been churning out high-grade heavy rock and roll with a vitality that few could come close to matching. 2015’s Spidergawd II (review here) fleshed out elements of psychedelia from their 2014 self-titled debut (review here), and with Spidergawd III, the approach continues to be refined and honed to an even finer point on hooks like “El Corason del Sol” and “The Funeral.” Reportedly out now, so go get it. Spidergawd on Thee Facebooks, Stickman Records, Crispin Glover Records.
111. Spirit Caravan, TBA
By now I’m sure they’ve played “Be the Night” (live video here) at more than just the Vultures of Volume II fest, which was where I saw it, but either way, the first new material from a reunited Spirit Caravan — also kind of a The Obsessed hybrid with Ed Gulli on drums — reignites the collaboration between bassist/vocalist Dave Sherman and guitarist/vocalist Scott “Wino” Weinrich, who since they got back together in 2014 have been reminding audiences of just how vital that one-two punch of tone is to what heavy rock has become over the last decade and a half, in Maryland and beyond. Hope they get a record together, hope it gets out in 2016. Spirit Caravan on Thee Facebooks, Tone Deaf Touring.
112. Spiritual Beggars, Sunrise to Sundown
Back to business for Swedish heavy rockers Spiritual Beggars. The Michael Amott-led troupe recently revealed that they will offer their ninth long-player, Sunrise to Sundown on March 18 (March 25 North America) through InsideOut Music. Turns out they’ll also have a 7″ out concurrently via H42 Records, and they’re set to tour in Europe beginning the week after the album comes out, hitting Desertfest Berlin and more. This will be their third album with vocalist Apollo Papathanasio, but for me, the band is even more about the blend of Amott‘s guitar and the keys of Per Wiberg (ex-Opeth, Candlemass). Doesn’t get much more classic than that. Spiritual Beggars on Thee Facebooks, InsideOut Music.
113. Stone Machine Electric, TBA
The recently-released jammer EP, The Amazing Terror (review here), was intended as a precursor to the next full-length from Stone Machine Electric, which is reportedly now in the process of being recorded. On Jan. 11, they also asked their audience if they’d get behind a crowdfunding campaign to support a vinyl release, so it might be a while before the album actually shows up, but given the response they received, it seems fair to expect a pressing on wax. Stone Machine Electric on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
114. Suma, The Order of Things
2016 makes it 15 years since Swedish aural devastators Suma got their start, and it’s been six years since their last album, Ashes, was released, but that album continues to gain a following, having been snagged for a re-release on Argonauta Records just a couple weeks ago. The Malmö four-piece were on the US West Coast this month to record The Order of Things with the venerable Billy Anderson — who also helmed Ashes and 2006’s Let the Churches Burn — and they managed to sneak in a couple shows playing with, among others, Brothers of the Sonic Cloth. Now that is a fucking bill. Suma on Thee Facebooks, Suma on Bandcamp.
115. Summoner, TBA
Been a quick three years since Boston neo-prog heavy riffers Summoner released their second album, Atlantian (discussed here), and pushed ahead of the already sprawling, richly arranged approach of their 2012 debut, Phoenix. Well, I saw the band last month, and I’m happy to report they haven’t fallen apart or anything in the interim. I have it on good authority — by which I mean they told me — that they’ll be recording later this year, and while that may or may not mean a 2017 release, I thought it better to serve early notice of their impending third LP. So heads up on that. Summoner on Thee Facebooks, Magnetic Eye Records.
116. Sunnata, Zorya
Announced just after the New Year for an April arrival, Zorya will serve as the second album from Warsaw-based Sunnata, who delivered their debut in 2014 with Climbing the Colossus. I haven’t heard it yet, but the band effectively blended heavy rock groove with progressive ideals on the first outing, and I see no reason to expect anything but a step forward along the same lines this time around. I’ll take it. Sunnata on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
Sometimes it’s too easy to be greedy. Since getting back together at the start of the decade, Swans have released three albums — 2010’s My Father Will Guide Me up a Rope to the Sky (review here), 2012’s The Seer and 2014’s To be Kind (review here) — as well as older LP reissues, limited-edition live recording, and so on. They’ve toured the world over and have a fourth post-reunion album due out this year, but even so, when Michael Gira said last summer that the next Swans would be the last Swans for the time being — he didn’t even say forever — it was hard not to feel sad. Enjoy yourself, it’s later than you think. Swans on Thee Facebooks, Young God Records.
119. Teacher, TBA
It took Seattle duo Teacher about 49 seconds to get me interested in hearing their forthcoming debut LP. Really less than that, because by the time the vocals kicked in on the recently-posted teaser clip, I was already on board. Whenever it comes out, the album will be released by Devil’s Child Records, which is quickly making a name for itself in the Pacific Northwest with offerings by Mos Generator/Sower and Year of the Cobra. No release date yet, but it sounds like the band are sneaking into a niche of natural, unpretentious swing, and I hope that’s exactly how the record goes. Teacher on Thee Facebooks, Devil’s Child Records.
120. Ulver, ATGCLVLSSCAP
Ulver‘s good-luck-making-a-word-of-this-acronym new album ATGCLVLSSCAP came out last week. Doesn’t mean it wasn’t one of 2016’s most anticipated. Really, anytime this Norwegian post-genre leviathan breathes, it’s an event, and as ATGCLVLSSCAP draws on live-recorded improvisations and explorations, but I’m not sure it’s proper to call it a live record in the is-everybody-having-a-good-time-tonight sense of the phrase. Info is plentiful and descriptive, but vague on the actual nuts and bolts of the makings, and that’s likely not an accident. Mystery is part of the fun. Is everybody having a good time tonight? Ulver on Thee Facebooks, House of Mythology Records.
121. Uzala, TBA
I know, I know. Uzala just put out Live at Roadburn MMXV (review here). Hell, I know that. And that vinyl is reportedly coming soon, but I’ve got the Boise trio on this list because I’m holding out for a studio follow-up to 2013’s Tales of Blood and Fire. I’m not saying it has to happen immediately, or really at all. I’m just saying I’d greatly prefer it if it did. That last album still gets fairly regular plays around here, so it only seems reasonable to call it haunting, and the live record had two new songs on it, so maybe there’s more in progress. Uzala on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
122. VA, Brown Acid: The Second Trip
How could RidingEasy Records not do a second Brown Acid compilation of lost heavy ’70s freakout and heavy singles, how could they not call it Brown Acid: The Second Trip, and how could they not release it on April 20? The whole thing seems so inevitable it’s astounding. Look for forgotten cuts by Sonny Hugg, Buck, Glass Sun, Ash, the awesomely-monikered Iron Knowledge and a whole host of others you can pretend you knew about beforehand. RidingEasy Records website, on Thee Facebooks.
123. Venomous Maximus, TBA
Like several others on this list, Texas’ Venomous Maximus will take part in the Obelisk-presented Heavy Metal Parking Lot 3 at SXSW (info here). They’re no strangers to awesome bills, having toured this past fall alongside High on Fire to support the release of their second album, Firewalker (review here), which was released on Shadow Kingdom. Looking back on my notes, I’m not sure where I heard they had a new release in the offing, but it would be awesome to see them recapture the momentum they had coming out of their first album, 2012’s raging Beg upon the Light (review here), and a quick turnaround certainly wouldn’t hurt that. Venomous Maximus on Thee Facebooks, Shadow Kingdom Records.
124. Vista Chino, TBA
Maybe most of all the entries posted today, this one is wishful thinking. I saw a couple months back that Vista Chino — the John Garcia and Brant Bjork post-Kyuss Lives! incarnation that wound up with Mike Dean of C.O.C. on bass in a lineup rounded out by guitarist Bruno Fevery — were confirmed for Hellfest in France this summer, and couldn’t help but think about the possibility of a follow-up to their 2013 debut, Peace (review here). Doesn’t seem likely with everyone working on their respective projects, but I’m still hoping those guys get back in the studio someday. Cool they’re playing out at all, if nothing else. Vista Chino on Thee Facebooks, Napalm Records.
125. Vodun, Possession
Preorders are up now for the debut album from London ritual-psych purveyors Vodun, and the Possession vinyl will also mark the first physical offering from Riff Rock Records, the new label spearheaded by Groan bassist Leigh Jones. Clearly someone who knows how to make an entry, Jones brought Vodun on board and issued a digital single last year for “Minos Army” (video here), the band tearing through influences in the metallic, heavy, Afrobeat, psychedelic and beyond. I haven’t heard the full-length yet, but it’s out March 25 and I feel safe guaranteeing that nothing else in 2016 will sound quite like it. Vodun on Thee Facebooks, Riff Rock Records.
German trio-turned-foursome Wight make a bold shift with their upcoming third full-length, Love is Not Only What You Know, digging deep into full-on psychedelic funk on tracks like “Kelele,” “The Love for Life Leads to Reincarnation,” and the opener “Helicopter Mama,” which came out last year as a 7″ single (review here) to herald the change in direction from their jammy 2012 LP, Through the Woods into Deep Water (review here). It’s a fine line to walk, but Wight do right by dancing all over it instead. They’ve also got a limited tape, Live in Athens, due March 7, on which a good portion of the new album is played. Wight on Thee Facebooks, Wight on Bandcamp.
128. Witchskull, The Vast Electric Dark
Word came out last month that Canberra three-piece Witchskull had inked a deal with STB Records. The Aussie band check in with a particularly classically metallic take on heavy rock and doom, as evidenced by their 2015 debut full-length, The Vast Electric Dark, which will serve as their debut vinyl on the NJ-based imprint. Haven’t heard a solid release date for it yet, but “early 2016” was the ballpark figure given, so I guess anytime between now and summer would be a possibility. Witchskull on Thee Facebooks, STB Records.
129. Wo Fat, Midnight Cometh
If Wo Fat‘s Midnight Cometh is not near the top of your most wanted list, you are fucking up. Unless you’re going alphabetically with your list, as I am with mine, in which case their position at #129 makes sense. In whatever organizational method, the coming sixth long-player from these Texan fuzz forerunners deserves the utmost consideration. Their first for Ripple Music after two on Small Stone (info here), Midnight Cometh boasts all the riffy jamming and heavy grooves we’ve come to love from the three-piece, but refines the vocal approach markedly, giving the band even more of a sense of command of the material. Sure to be a highlight of the year. Expect it this summer. Wo Fat on Thee Facebooks, Ripple Music.
130. Worm Ouroboros, TBA
Sorry to say I missed out completely on Worm Ouroboros‘ second album, Come the Thaw, when it was released by Profound Lore in 2012. I’d dug their 2010 self-titled debut (review here), but the next one, yeah, just kind of got by me. Never too late, you might say, and I’d have to agree. Maybe I can sneak in a purchase before the band are finished in the studio for their third record, which they were set to begin recording this month. In any case, will do my best to see that the same doesn’t happen with the new LP as happened with the last one. Hence putting them on this list. What, you thought it was for you? Worm Ouroboros on Thee Facebooks, Profound Lore Records.
131. The Wounded Kings, Visions in Bone
Always fascinating, always changing, UK progressive doomers The Wounded Kings have managed to deliver high-quality material seemingly no matter who is in the lineup. For the forthcoming Visions in Bone, founding guitarist Steve Mills reunites with former/founding vocalist George Birch, who hasn’t been in the band since their 2010 second album, The Shadow over Atlantis (review here). Haven’t seen an official release date yet, but they’re touring in March to support the record, so one might reason a Spring arrival. Not saying I’ve heard it, but the record kills. The Wounded Kings on Thee Facebooks, Candlelight Records.
132. Wretch, TBA
By the last update, The Gates of Slumber offshoot Wretch were starting to record their debut album in December. I don’t know whether that was a long-term process or a couple days in and out of the studio, but I’m betting that at some point in 2016 we’ll find out. Having had the opportunity to see the Indianapolis trio last fall at Vultures of Volume II (review here), I’m glad to report that the ultra-downer vibes that pervaded The Gates of Slumber’s final album, 2011’s The Wretch (review here), have found a new home and that frontman Karl Simon seemed as soulfully, Sabbathly miserable as ever. Wretch on Thee Facebooks.
133. Yawning Man, Live at Maximum Fest
The last couple years of these lists have featured Yawning Man, more specifically the perpetually-in-the-making next studio offering, Gravity is Good for You, but as that may or may not get out this year, it seemed fair to include them for the Go Down Records live outing, Live at Maximum Fest anyway. Put up for preorder in Nov., it was recorded back in 2013 and features the founding lineup of guitarist Gary Arce, bassist Mario Lalli and drummer Alfredo Hernandez; an allstar roster of desert rockers if ever there was one. Yawning Man on Thee Facebooks, Go Down Records.
134. Year of the Cobra, TBA
Somehow, I think it probably won’t be out until later in the year, but if you caught onto Seattle duo Year of the Cobra‘s 2015 EP, The Black Sun (review here) when it was released by Devil’s Child or DHU Records, then you’re probably already hip to the fact that the follow-up LP will be released by STB Records and is set to be recorded by a certain legendary West Coast producer of heavy who used to be based in the Bay Area but has since set up shop in Portland, Oregon. Not naming names or anything, but as you already know, it should rule. Year of the Cobra on Thee Facebooks, STB Records.
135. Young Hunter, TBA
I have been dying to hear the next full-length from Portland-by-way-of-Arizona mood rockers Young Hunter since long before I hosted the premiere of the track “Nothing Shakes the Void” (posted here) back in Oct., and I’m going to continue to be dying to hear it until I actually do, so there. Very, very much looking forward to it, hoping the stars align and whatever else needs to happen happens so it can get out in the early part of the year. We’ll see how it pans out, but last I heard they beat their crowdfunding goal to press it, so something should show up from that. Not soon enough, in any case. Young Hunter on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.
136. Zaum, TBA
The mystical, Eastern-influenced doom trafficked longform by Canadian outfit Zaum has offered immersive vibes across the band’s debut LP, 2014’s Oracles (review here), and their 2015 split with Shooting Guns (review here) and that’s enough to make me look forward to their second album without reservations. The New Brunswick duo started out with a firm idea of what they wanted their sound to do, and I’m hoping they continue to follow that vision where it takes them on the next offering. Summer release expected. Zaum on Thee Facebooks, I Hate Records.
137. Zun, Burial Sunrise
First made public three years ago via the track “Come Through the Water” (posted here), which will also appear on the album, Zun began as a collaboration between guitarist Gary Arce of Yawning Man and vocalist Sera Timms of Ides of Gemini, the album Burial Sunrise also brings in John Garcia as a lead vocal contributor, Mario Lalli, Harper Hug and a host of others (detailed here) for an atmosphere of subdued desert rock that’s unmatched in recent memory, in the desert or out of it. I mean that. This one is essential. Out March 25. Zun on Thee Facebooks, Small Stone Records.
What’s that you say, 137 releases isn’t enough? You want more? Okay.
Well, I’m pretty sure I just put up news about a new album from Iron Man vocalist Dee Calhoun due in Spring. That’s one. And fucking King Buffalo. Their record will be out not at all soon enough.
And while you’re hawkishly keeping an eye out for the stuff listed above, why not also watch for word from Bongzilla, whose reunion is now well underway, as well as The Body, who have a new collaborative release with Full of Hell coming out, Ice Dragon, who spent the better part of last year curiously silent, and All Them Witches, who probably won’t have a new LP out but are always putting together singles, jams and so on for those aching for a digital fix?
There is a “slim but real” chance of a new Clamfight record in the fall. I’ve heard murmurings indicating Elder are working on a follow-up to 2015’s glorious Lore, and since Baby Woodrose are playing Freak Valley, is it possible they could blow our minds with a new album as well? Conny Ochs has a new one on Exile on Mainstream, Mount Desert could easily follow-up their 2015 two-songer that made such a splash, and EYE — oh EYE! — I’ve been waiting for their new one since last year, so hopes are high it’s out soon. And I didn’t include them because the album already came out in Europe, but The Shrine make their Century Media debut with Rare Breed this week in North America.
Other names to watch for in no particular order or likelihood: Argus, Serpent Throne, Them Bulls, War Drum, Black Lung, Worshipper, The Exploding Eyes Orchestra, 3rd Eye Experience, Switchblade Jesus, Seedy Jeezus, Horsehunter, Bright Curse, It’s Not Night: It’s Space, Black Moon Circle, Bison Machine, Fogg, Electric Moon, Arc of Ascent, Beastwars, Thera Roya, Svartanatt (late Spring), Red Wizard (on STB), and Ripple Music‘s second chapter of The Second Coming of Heavy split series with Supervoid and Red Desert.
Still not enough? Check back soon. Just in the time I was putting this list together, I got emails about new releases from Nicklas Sørensen of Papir, Mr. Bison, Instant Boner, Duckhunters, Lord Summerisle and Sonic Mass — and others. Point is there’s always more to come.
Posted in Features on August 8th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
In talking to John Garcia about his self-titled solo debut, the one thing that seemed to keep coming across was a central appreciation for the process of creation, the actual making of the album. It couldn’t have been easy to put together. Released by Napalm last month, John Garcia‘s John Garcia(review here) utilizes just one drummer, Tom Brayton, and of course just one singer, but a slew of guitarists and bassists, among them members of Garcia‘s own past outfits, including Slo Burn and Hermano, whose guitarist, Dave Angstrom, was also an essential part of the creative process. The songs come from decades of demos and penned-out pieces stuffed in a cardboard box in Garcia‘s closet, and after talking about a solo project for years, it’s fitting it should come together around material he’s lived with this whole time.
Likely I don’t need to rattle off the list of bands for which Garcia has served as frontman, but I will anyway because it’s fun: Kyuss, Slo Burn, Unida, Hermano, as well as countless guest spots live and recorded. He was one of two Kyuss members whose tenure spanned the entire length of the band, and no less essential to crafting their influence on desert rock than was guitarist Josh Homme or fellow Kyuss songwriter Brant Bjork, with whom Garcia reunited for last year’s Vista Chino full-length outing, Peace(review here), which, like John Garcia, was recorded at Thunder Underground Studios in the California desert with producer Harper Hug. His voice is like an unmistakable signature — a gritty, stomach-tightened soul that bursts from a subdued croon at a syllable’s notice — but on the album, it’s as much about the songwriting itself as what Garcia is doing vocally, and both impress.
And with an assortment of players involved, John Garciaalso manages to sound cohesive and fluid from front to back, opener “My Mind” starting the record with one of its grandest hooks and setting the stage for a progression varied but never derailed, even as the fast-rolling “All These Walls” gives way to acoustic closer “Her Bullets Energy,” which is distinguished by a guest appearance by The Doors guitarist Robby Krieger. For someone who’s long-since cast his legacy in stone with his vocal style and not his songwriting, it’s a particularly bold venture, but Garcia thrives on the new ground, and if his passion in realizing this material is anything to go by, a second solo outing may not be far off. He gives some hints in that regard as well.
For fans of Vista Chino, they’ll find that band on hold while Garcia and Bjork pursue their solo outfits and Mike Dean returns to C.O.C., who are also touring and have an album out. Garcia has put together a live group with whom he’ll tour much of the next year, including guitarist Ehren Groban of War Drum, and bassist Mike Pygmie and drummer Greg Saenz of desert-dwellers You Know Who. In the interview that follows, Garcia talks about transitioning out of Vista Chino and forming this new band, as well as assembling the songs and players for the record, his time in the studio and the prospect of touring a set spanning his illustrious career.
Posted in Reviews on July 7th, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
Over the last two-plus decades, John Garcia‘s voice has set the standard for the sound of the California desert. His work in genre-progenitors Kyuss speaks for itself — loudly, and with much fuzz — and subsequent outfits Unida, Slo Burn, Hermano and more guest appearances than one can count have kept his presence steady in the international underground he played an essential role in forging, and his first solo outing, JohnGarcia, arrives via Napalm Records following a run with the semi-Kyuss reunion outfit Vista Chino, which ultimately brought together Garcia and drummer Brant Bjork with guitarist Bruno Fevery and Corrosion of Conformity bassist Mike Dean to tour the world in support of their 2013 outing, Peace(review here), after a couple years prior on the road as Kyuss Lives!, that project born out of Garcia‘s own Garcia Plays Kyuss, which launched at the 2010 Roadburn festival. In some ways, the album John Garciais an extension of Vista Chino, particularly in terms of Garcia‘s performance and in terms of the production. An 11-track/45-minute full-length, material was culled from years of Garcia‘s own tapes, freshly arranged by the singer with some input by Hermano guitarist Dave Angstrom, and brought to bear by producer Harper Hug at Thunder Underground, the same studio where Peacewas recorded. However, since some of the source material for these songs is older, and because there are a variety of players appearing throughout, from The Doors‘ Robbie Krieger on acoustic-led closer “Her Bullets Energy” to Danko Jones, Angstrom himself, Nick Oliveri and The Dwarves‘ Mark Diamond and Tom Brayton, there’s also no shortage of diversity in the sound.
That being the case, John Garciaran a pretty hefty risk in the making of coming across disjointed, but the consistency in the production and of course the focus element of Garcia‘s voice tie tracks together neatly, the album opening with its biggest chorus in “My Mind,” a track that immediately casts the wide-open spaces in which the rest of the songs will take place. Those familiar with his work will hear shades of various Garcia-fronted bands throughout the album, from the Slo Burn-style rush of later cut “Saddleback” to the Vista Chino-esque bounce of “Rolling Stoned,” a cover of Canadian trio Black Mastiff which undercuts some of its laid-back vibe with the opening lyrical threat, “If you leave me, I will kill you.” Nonetheless, “Rolling Stoned” follows “My Mind” as part of a strong opening salvo that continues through “Flower” and “The Blvd” and “5,000 Miles” to proffer memorable hooks, compressed but warm tones and an engaging presence from Garcia, who departs from the post-lawsuit bitterness that comprised much of the thematic of the Vista Chino offering to tell more of a story, as on “The Blvd” or the following “5,000 Miles,” which resounds as a classic coming-home song set to a particularly effective riff, somewhat more open than the first four cuts, but still largely consistent in pace and quality. Truth be told, though the mood changes somewhat along the way, there really isn’t a point where John Garciafalls into clunker-ism. And neither should there be. This project was years in the making and even more years in the discussing, and with Garcia‘s experience in the studio and on stage, it’s perfectly reasonable to assume that if something wasn’t working toward the benefit of the album, it would be discarded. Over repeat listens, John Garciabegins to give that impression — not of being a confessional, exactly, in the way that some “solo albums” are, but of being carefully constructed selections chosen to represent this singer and his songwriting process.
Posted in Whathaveyou on May 2nd, 2014 by H.P. Taskmaster
The PR wire doesn’t take long in confirming the release dates for former Kyuss, Slo Burn, Hermano, etc., and current Vista Chino and Unida frontman John Garcia‘s forthcoming solo debut. Napalm Records will have the disc out in Europe at the end of July and North America/Australia early in August, and along with that little calendar-worthy nugget, the cover for the album, which is self-titled, has also been revealed, with a touch of ram to go with the desert landscape. Looks pretty good from where I sit.
A Garcia solo-project is something that’s been sort of hinted and bandied about for probably over a decade. As early as 1998, a John Garcia solo track called “To Believe” appeared on the Welcome to MeteorCity compilation (discussed here) that served as that label’s introduction, and while obviously there’s nothing to say it would be at all representative of what might show up on the album John Garcia some 16 years later, it goes to show how long this idea has been in the works. Last I heard, Garcia was looking to tour the project as well, which opens up interesting prospects for who might show up in his solo band. Not sure on the level of involvement of The Doors‘ Robby Krieger, if he plays guitar on the whole album or just one song, but he hardly seems like a bad cat to have around.
Here’s how it is:
JOHN GARCIA Unveils Release Dates & Album Artwork From His Upcoming Solo Release!
Long seethed in the rumor mill of the stoner rock community, but now it’s official: On August 1st 2014 in USA/CAN & August 8th 2014 in Australia/New Zealand the highly expected solo album John Garcia by JOHN GARCIA (Ex-KYUSS, VISTA CHINO) is set to be released via Napalm Records. A few weeks ago the Desert Rock mastermind unveiled the news about his solo debut and also that the phenomenal musician Robby Krieger (THE DOORS) plays guitar on the album.
Brant Bjork is the godfather of desert rock. As drummer and co-songwriter in Kyuss, he anchored some of the thickest and most influential grooves the world has ever known. Landmark albums like 1992’s Blues for the Red Sun and 1994’s Welcome to Sky Valley are not only genre staples, but have become the measure by which the bulk of the desert-influenced heavy is measured. Ceaselessly creative, Bjork joined Fu Manchu, whose 1994 debut he co-produced, for their The Action is Go, Eatin’ Dust, King of the Road and California Crossing albums between 1997 and 2001, also putting out the cult hit Sounds of Liberationwith the short-lived Ché trio in 2000 and in that same period embarking on a solo career that to-date has resulted in 10 albums, 1999’s debut, Jalamanta, setting the course with what would become a signature blend of funk, soul, punk and heavy rock.
Bjork joined former Kyuss bandmates John Garcia and Nick Oliveri in Kyuss Lives! in late 2010, and after a lawsuit and name change (more on that in this interview), Vista Chino emerged to release one of 2013’s best albums in the form of Peace (review here) on Napalm Records, the touring cycle for which will take the lineup of Bjork, Garcia, guitarist Bruno Fevery and bassist Mike Dean (also of C.O.C.) to Australia’s Big Day Out this month. A funk-influenced instrumental solo album, Jakoozi, was also mixed last summer and is expected for a 2014 release.
The Obelisk Questionnaire: Brant Bjork
How did you come to do what you do?
I was born with a genuine love of music. Growing up, discovering The Ramones and punk rock in general, gave me the courage to try playing music myself. It turned out I had some natural talent as well as a strong conviction to continue doing the thing I love most.
Describe your first musical memory.
When I was a little kid, I had this Fisher Price record player that my mom gave me, along with a stack of 45s. One day I went through the stack and picked one because of the attractive orange and yellow label. It was the Capitol Records label and it was a Beatles 45. It had “Help” on side 1 and “I’m Down” on the B-side. I put it on and John Lennon began to scream “help!” at me through the tiny little speaker. It scared the shit out of me. I didn’t know music could, would or even should sound like that.
Describe your best musical memory to date.
September 18, 1987. It was the first real concert outside of the desert I ever saw. The Ramones, in Los Angeles at the Hollywood Palladium, I was 14 years old. It was also Dee Dee Ramone’s birthday that night and to make things super rad, my first son, Swan, was born on September 18, 2010!
When was a time when a firmly held belief was tested?
I always had a firm belief that The Stooges, the MC5 and The Ramones were the most radical bands of their time and they were releasing the best and most influential records of their time as well. This belief was tested after I bought and listened to the release of Death’s record, For the Whole World to See… a record that was recorded in 1974 but shelved until its release in 2009. This record is so good; I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. It’s almost hard to imagine what might have happened to rock and roll music, or even music in general had this record came out and the band had evolved. Unbelievable.
Where do you feel artistic progression leads?
For me, there is no destination for an artist. I would define artistic progression as a journey of experiencing your life as one of creativity. If you’re a genuine artist I think it simply leads to more art.
How do you define success?
To me, success is the result of looking at your current life situation and not having to wonder how the hell you got there.
What is something you have seen that you wish you hadn’t?
While on tour last month, I battled some boredom by watching the Star Wars sequel, Attack of the Clones. Holy moly. Super bummer. George Lucas should be ashamed of himself. And I thought Return of the Jedi was bad.
Describe something you haven’t created yet that you’d like to create.
Even though I’m a musician and music is a part of my daily life, I find myself spending a lot of my time thinking about stories. About five years ago I started studying and practicing screenplay writing. I write a lot when I’m on tour… so much time on planes and buses, etc. I have a dream of creating and finishing a rad screenplay and having it picked up for a feature movie. I wouldn’t mind directing the movie as well but you know…. one dream at a time.
Something non-musical that you’re looking forward to?
A night without the kids and a nice romantic dinner with my wife at our favorite Italian restaurant in Santa Monica.
Here is the Music Player. You need to installl flash player to show this cool thing!
The end of any year always brings a barrage of best-ofs. Lists, radio shows, award ceremonies, and even podcasts. What no one tells you about any of them is there’s no fucking way they can ever be comprehensive. My Top 20 list? It was damn good and I worked really hard putting it together, but was I toiling under the delusion that it was going to be an accurate and complete representation of everything 2013 had on offer? Hell no. That’s why we have the Readers Poll, the Albums Unheard list (still to come) and all the rest of the wrap-up stuff.
So as you check out this happens-to-be-the-last-of-2013 podcast, please keep in mind that though it does feature a sampling of some of 2013’s most killer songs from some of its most killer albums, it’s not at all intended to be a total roundup of this year. It’s a part of it, and I’m cool with that if you are.
It’s Xmas Eve as I put this together, and it’s looking like this’ll be my only post for today, so I’ll take another opportunity to wish you a happy holiday if you’re celebrating. Please be safe and enjoy time with family, gift-giving, and of course, good music. I don’t know if grandma would really get down to some Phantom Glue, but seems like it’s worth a shot.
Clutch, “D.C. Sound Attack” from Earth Rocker (2013)
Monster Magnet, “Last Patrol,” from Last Patrol (2013)
Church of Misery, “Cranley Gardens (Dennis Andrew Nilsen)” from Thy Kingdom Scum (2013)
Phantom Glue, “Bow in the Dust” from A War of Light Cones (2013)
Pelican, “The Tundra” from Forever Becoming (2013)
Young Hunter, “Trail of Tears” from Embers at the Foot of Dark Mountain (2013)
All Them Witches, “The Death of Coyote Woman” from Lightning at the Door (2013)
Black Thai, “Doors to Nowhere” from Season of Might (2013)
Gozu, “Charles Bronson Pinchot” from The Fury of a Patient Man (2013)
Geezer, “Ancient Song” from Gage EP (2013)
T.G. Olson, “Unsung Everyone” from Hell’s Half Acre (2013)
Fuzz, “One” from Fuzz (2013)
Wooden Shjips, “Servants” from Back to Land (2013)
Fever Dog, “Lady Snowblood/Child of the Netherworlds,” from Lady Snowblood (2013)
Samsara Blues Experiment, “Brahmin’s Lament” from Waiting for the Flood (2013)
Vista Chino, “Planets 1 & 2” from Peace (2013)
Uncle Acid and the Deadbeats, “Valley of the Dolls” from Mind Control (2013)
The Golden Grass, “One More Time” from One More Time b/w Tornado (2013)
Beelzefuzz, “Lonely Creatures” from Beelzefuzz (2013)
Posted in Features on December 16th, 2013 by H.P. Taskmaster
Please note: These are my picks, not the results of the Readers Poll, which is still going on. If you haven’t added your list yet, please do.
It’s always strange to think of something so utterly arbitrary as also being really, really difficult, but I think 2013 posed the biggest challenge yet in terms of getting together a final list of my favorite records. As ever, I had a post-it note on my office wall (when I moved, it moved with me) and I did my best to keep track of everything that resonated throughout the year. I wound up with over 40 picks and had to start putting them in order to whittle the list down.
I wound up with a top 20 that, even though it feels somewhat incomplete, I’ve found that I can at very least live with. That’s what I’ve done for the last week: Just lived with it. Even up to this morning, I was making changes, but in general, I think this gives some scope about what hit me hard in 2013. Of course, these are just my picks, and while things like my own critical appreciation factor in because that affects how I ultimately listen to a record, sometimes it just comes down to what was stuck in my head most often or what I kept putting on over and over.
That’s a simple formula to apply, but still, 2013 didn’t make it easy. Please note as you go through that there are some real gems in the honorable mentions. I thought about expanding the list to 30 this year, but the thought made my skull start to cave in, so I reconsidered.
Anyway, it only comes around once a year, so let’s do this thing. Thanks in advance for reading:
20. All Them Witches, Lightning at the Door
Traditionally, I’ve reserved #20 for a sentimental pick. An album that’s hard to place numerically because of some personal or emotional connection. This year wasn’t short on those, but when it came to it, I knew I couldn’t make this list without Lightning at the Door included, and since it was released just last month as the follow-up to the earlier-2013 Elektrohasch reissue of the Nashville, Tennessee, outfit’s 2012 debut, Our Mother Electricity (review here), I didn’t feel like I’ve had enough time with it to really put it anywhere else. It needed to be here, and so it is, and though I’ve listened to it plenty in the month since its release, I still feel like I’m getting to know Lightning at the Door, and exploring its open-spaced blues rocking grooves. All Them Witches are hands down one of the best bands I heard for the first time this year, and I’m looking forward to following their work as they continue to progress.
For a while after I first heard …Like Clockwork and around the time I reviewed it, I sweated it pretty hard. By mid-June, I had it as one of the year’s best without a doubt in my mind. Then I put it away. I don’t know if I burnt myself out on it or what, but I still haven’t really gone back to it, and while the brilliance of cuts like “Kalopsia” and “Fairweather Friends” and “I Appear Missing” still stands out and puts Josh Homme‘s songwriting as some of the most accomplished I encountered in 2013, that hasn’t been enough to make me take it off the shelf. I doubt Queens of the Stone Age will cry about it as they tour arenas and get nominated for Grammy awards, but there it is. I wouldn’t have expected …Like Clockworkto be so low on the list, certainly not when I was listening to “My God is the Sun” six times in a row just to try and get my head around the chorus.
Gorgeously produced and impeccably textured, The Winter Ward by Stockholm-based I are Droid aren’t generally the kind of thing I’d reach for, but the quality of the craft in songs like “Constrict Contract” and “Feathers and Dust” made it essential. Bits and pieces within harkened back to frontman Peder Bergstrand‘s tenure in Lowrider, but ultimately The Winter Wardemerged with a varied and rich personality all its own, and that became the basis for the appeal. As the weather has gotten colder and it’s gotten dark earlier, I’ve returned to The Winter Wardfor repeat visits, and as much as I’ve got my fingers crossed for another Lowrider album in 2014, I hope I are Droid continue to run parallel, since the progressive take on alternative influences they managed to concoct was carried across with proportionate accessibility. It was as audience friendly and satisfying a listen as it was complex and ripe for active engagement.
There was just nothing to argue about when it came to the self-titled debut from Massachusetts-based doomers Magic Circle, but what worked best about the album was that although the songs were strong on their own and seemed to have lurching hooks to spare, everything throughout fed into an overarching atmosphere that was denser than the straightforwardness of the structures might lead the listener to initially believe. It was a record worth going back to, worth getting lost in the nod of, and as the members are experienced players in a variety of New England acts from The Rival Mob to Doomriders, it should be interesting to find out what demons they may conjure in following-up Magic Circle, if they’ll continue down the path of deceptively subversive “traditionalism” or expand their sound into more progressive reaches. Either way they may choose, the material on their first outing showed an ability to craft an enigmatic, individualized sonic persona that never veered into cultish caricature.
If you’re into doom and you have a soul, I don’t know how you could not be rooting for Iron Man in 2013. Produced by Frank Marchand and the first full-length from the long-running Maryland doomers to feature vocalist Dee Calhoun and drummer Jason “Mot” Waldmann alongside guitarist/founder “Iron” Al Morris III (interview here) and longtime bassist Louis Strachan. The difference in South of the Earthwas palpable even in comparison to 2009’s I Have Returned(review here). With more professional production, excellent performances all around in the lineup, memorable songs like “Hail to the Haze” and “The Worst and Longest Day,” and the considerable endorsement of a release through Rise Above/Metal Blade behind them, the four-piece sounded like the statesmen they are in the Maryland scene and showed themselves every bit worthy of inclusion in the discussion of America’s finest in traditional, Sabbathian doom. May they continue to get their due.
Whether it was what the lyrics were talking about or not, the message of “The Message” was clear: Never count out a catchy chorus. Now in operation for a decade, Sasquatch practice an arcane artistry with their songwriting. Void of pretense, heavy on boogie, they are as genuine a modern extension of classic heavy rock as you’re likely to find. The Los Angeles power trio outdid themselves with IV, veering boldly into psychedelia on “Smoke Signal” and honing their craft over various moods and themes on “Sweet Lady,” “Me and You” and “Eye of the Storm.” They remain one of American heavy rock’s key and consistently underestimated components, and the three years since the release of their third album, III(review here), seemed like an eternity once the quality grooves of “Money” and “Drawing Flies” got moving, the former an insistent rush and the latter open, dreamy and atmospheric, but both executed with precision and confidence born of Sasquatch‘s familiarity with the methods and means of kicking ass.
It was hard to know what to expect from Black Pyramid‘s Adversarial, their first release with guitarist/vocalist Darryl Shepard at the fore with bassist Dave Gein and drummer/engineer Clay Neely, but the Massachusetts outfit flourished on tracks like “Swing the Scimitar,” incorporating a heavy jamming sensibility with marauding riffs and grooves carried over from the style of their first two albums. Adversarial took the band to Hellfest in France this past summer, where they shared a stage with Neurosis and Sleep, and whether it was the raging chorus of “Bleed Out” or the clarion guitar line of “Aphelion,” the band showed their war ensemble could not be stopped. Their future is uncertain with Neely having relocated and Gein having an impending move of his own, but if Adversarialis to stand as the final Black Pyramid outing, they will at very least have claimed enough heads in their time to line fence-posts for miles. Still, hopefully they can find some way to continue to make it work.
Even the interlude “Seasick Serenade,” just over a minute and a half long, was haunting. Electric Relicsmarked the first full-length from Nashville’s Across Tundras to be released on their own label and the first since they issued Sage through Neurot in 2011 (review here), and as rolling and exploratory as its vibe was, songs like “Solar Ark,” “Pining for the Gravel Roads” and “Den of Poison Snakes” also represented a solidification of Across Tundras‘ sound, another step in their development that refined their blend of rural landscapes and heavy tones. Issued in April, it’s been an album that throughout the course of the year I’ve returned to time and again, and the more I’ve sat with it and the more comfortable it’s become, the more its songs have come to feel like home, which it’s easy to read as being their intent all along. Guitarist/vocalist Tanner Olson (read his questionnaire answers here), bassist/vocalist Mikey Allred and drummer Casey Perry hit on something special in these tracks, and one gets the sense their influence is just beginning to be felt.
Initially a digital self-release by the Washington, D.C. riff purveyors, Oculus just this month got a tri-color, tri-label and tri-continental vinyl issue, and the fanfare with which it arrived was well earned by the five songs contained on the two sides. Borracho‘s second album behind 2011’s Splitting Sky(review here) also marked a lineup shift in the band that saw them go from a four-piece to a trio, with guitarist Steve Fisher (interview here) stepping to the fore as vocalist in the new incarnation with Tim Martin on bass and Mario Trubiano on drums. The results in songs like “Know the Score” and closer “I’ve Come for it All” were in line stylistically with the straightforward approach they showed on their first offering, but tighter overall in their presentation, and Fisher‘s voice was a natural fit with the band’s stated ethic of “repetitive heavy grooves” — a neat summary, if perhaps underselling their appeal somewhat. Oculusshowed both that the appeal of Splitting Skywas no fluke and that Borracho with four members or three was not a band to be taken lightly.
Like the bulk of Ice Dragon‘s work to date, Born a Heavy Morning was put out first digitally, for free or pay-what-you-want download. A CD version would follow soon enough on Navalorama, with intricate packaging to match the album’s understated achievements, taking the Boston genre-crossers into and through heavy psychedelic atmospheres added to and played off in longer pieces like “The Past Plus the Future is Present” and the gorgeously ethereal “Square Triangle” by thematic slice-of-life set-pieces like “In Which a Man Daydreams about a Girl from His Youth” and “In Which a Man Ends His Workweek with a Great Carouse” that only enriched the listening experience and furthered Ice Dragon‘s experimental appeal. Ever-prolific, Born a Heavy Morningwasn’t the only Ice Dragon outing this year, physical or digital, but it stood in a place of its own within their constantly-expanding catalog and showcased a stylistic fearlessness that can only be an asset in their favor as they continue to chase down whatever the hell it is they’re after in their songs and make genuine originality sound so natural.
It seemed like no matter where I turned in 2013, Devil to Pay‘s Fate is Your Musewas there. Not that it was the highest-profile release of the year or bolstered by some consciousness-invading viral campaign or anything, just that once the songs locked into my head, there was no removing them, and whether it was straightforward rockers like “This Train Won’t Stop,” “Savonarola” and “Tie One On,” the moodier “Black Black Heart” or the charm-soaked “Ten Lizardmen and One Pocketknife” — which might also be the best song title I came across this year — it was a pretty safe bet that something from the Indianapolis four-piece was going to make a showing on the mental jukebox if not in the actual player (it showed up plenty there as well). Devil to Pay‘s first album since 2009, first for Ripple and fourth overall, Fate is Your Musewas a grower listen whose appeal only deepened over the months after its release, the layered vocals of guitarist Steve Janiak (interview here) adaptable to the varying vibes of “Wearin’ You Down” and “Already Dead” and soulful in classic fashion. They’ve been underrated as a live act for some time, and Fate is Your Musetranslated well their light-on-frills, heavy-on-riffs appeal to a studio setting.
9. Beast in the Field, The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below
Such devastation. Even now, every time I put on Beast in the Field‘s The Sacred Above, the Sacred Below, it makes me want to hang my head and wonder at the horror of it all like Marlon Brando hiding out in a cave. If anything at all, there wasn’t much I heard in 2013 that hit harder than the Michigan duo’s fifth long-player, released on CD in March through Saw Her Ghost with vinyl reportedly on the way now. Toward the middle of the year, it got to the point where I wanted to go door to door and say to people, “Uh excuse me, but this is absurdly heavy and you should check it out.” I settled for streaming the album in full and it still feels like a compromise. I tried to interview the band, to no avail — sometimes instrumental acts just don’t want to talk about it — but what guitarist Jordan Pries and drummer Jamie Jahr were able to accomplish tonally, atmospherically and bombastically in expansive and overwhelmingly heavy cuts like the 22-minute “Oncoming Avalanche” or the noise-soaked riffing of “Hollow Horn” put The Sacred Above, the Sacred Belowinto a weight class that it had pretty much to itself this year. It’s a good thing they had no trouble filling that space. I still feel like I haven’t recommended the album enough and that more people need to be made aware of its existence.
When I finally listened to Beelzefuzz‘s self-titled debut, I was really, really glad I had seen the three-piece — its members based in Maryland, Delaware and Pennsylvania — play some of the material live. I don’t know if otherwise I’d have been able to distinguish between the progress elements of effects and looping and the live creation of layers and organ sounds through the guitar of Dana Ortt (interview here) and the simple humdrum of studio layering one finds all the time. I almost think for their next record they should track it live, just the three of them, and heavily advertise that fact to help get the point across that it’s actually just three players — Ortt, bassist Pug Kirby and drummer Darin McCloskey (also of PaleDivine) — creating the richness of sound on “All the Feeling Returns” and the eerie, gleefully weird progressive stomp on “Lonely Creatures.” The album became a morning go-to for me, and I don’t know how many times I’ve been through it at this point, but “Reborn” and “Hypnotize” and “Lotus Jam” continue to echo in my head even when it’s been a few days. That said, it’s rarely been a few days, because while I appreciate what the trio accomplish on their first record on an analytical level, the reason it is where it is on this list is because I can’t stop listening to the damn thing. Another one that more people should hear than have heard.
7. Samsara Blues Experiment, Waiting for the Flood
One of the aspects of Samsara Blues Experiment‘s third offering that I most enjoyed was that it wasn’t the album I expected German four-piece to make. After their 2011 sophomore album, Revelation and Mystery (review here), shifted its focus away from the jam-minded heavy psychedelia of their 2009 debut, Long Distance Trip (review here), my thinking was that they would continue down that path and coalesce into a more straightforward brand of heavy rock. Instead, when the four extended tracks of Waiting for the Floodshowed up with no shortage of swirl or sitar or open-ended expansion in their midst, it was a legitimate surprise. Repeat visits to “Shringara” and “Don’t Belong” show that actually it’s not so much that Samsara Blues Experiment turned around and were hell-bent on jamming out all the time, but that rather for their third, they took elements of what worked on their first two LPs and built lush movements on top of those ideas. As a happy bonus, this having grown more and more into their sound has helped push the band — guitarist/vocalist Christian Peters, guitarist Hans Eiselt, bassist Richard Behrens and drummer Thomas Vedder — into their own niche within the wider European heavy psych scene, and they’ve begun to emerge as one of its most enjoyable and consistent acts.
Kind of inevitable that there would be a lot of comparisons made between Mind Controland the preceding Uncle Acid album, Blood Lust. Certainly the newer outing — their third and first for Rise Above/Metal Blade — is more psychedelic, more tripped out and less obscure feeling than its predecessor. It didn’t have the same kind of crunch to the guitar tone, or the same kind of horror-film atmosphere or psychosexual foreboding, but the thing was, it wasn’t supposed to. The UK outfit continue to prod cult mentality even as their own cult grows, and as I see it, Mind Control made a lot of sense coming off Blood Lustin terms of the band not wanting to repeat the same ideas over again, but grow from them and expand their sound. Of course, with the strut at the end of opener “Mt. Abraxas,” they’ve set a high standard on their albums for leadoff tracks, but where Mind Controlreally made its impression was in the hypnosis of cuts like the Beatlesian “Follow the Leader,” the lysergic “Valley of the Dolls” or the maddening “Devil’s Work.” The deeper you went into side B, the more the band had you in their grasp. It was a different kind of accomplishment than the preceding effort — though “Mind Crawler” kept a lot of that vibe alive — and it showed Uncle Acid had more in their arsenal than VHS ambience and garage doom malevolence while keeping the infectiousness that helped Blood Lustmake such an impression.
Of the ones reviewed, Lumbar‘s The First and Last Days of Unwelcomewas the most recent inclusion on this list. Having worked with Lumbar multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Aaron Edge (interview here) in the past with his band Roareth releasing what would be their only album on The Maple Forum, this was a project to which I felt an immediate connection given the circumstances of its creation: Being written almost in its entirety and recorded in everything but vocals during a bedridden period following Edge‘s diagnosis of multiple sclerosis. The contributions of YOB/Vhöl frontman Mike Scheidt and Tad Doyle of TAD and Brothers of the Sonic Cloth were what got a lot of people’s attention for Lumbar‘s The First and Last Days of Unwelcome, but with the situation are the core of the seven tracks named “Day One” through “Day Seven,” what stood out to me even more than those performances was the utter lack of distance and the level of rawness in the album’s presentation. It puts you there. What you get with Lumbar is the direct translation of a range of emotions from hopeful to hopeless, angry, sad, beaten down and wanting answers, wanting more. There’s no shield from it, and as much in concept as in its execution, there’s no other word for it than “heavy.” The intensity Edge packed into just 24 minutes — and not all of it loud or over the top doomed or anything more than atmospherics — was unmatched by anything else I heard this year.
From just about any angle you want to view it, the situation that turned Kyuss Lives! into Vista Chino was unfortunate. However — and I know I’ve said this before — I really do believe that becoming Vista Chino, that furthering the distance from the Kyuss moniker, brand, legacy, and so on, was for the better of the band creatively. And not because the songs don’t stand up. I doubt it helped their draw much, but for vocalist John Garcia and drummer Brant Bjork (interview here), working as Vista Chino for the creation of Peace, and especially or Bjork working with guitarist Bruno Fevery for the first time in the writing process, it allowed them to step outside of what would’ve been insurmountable expectations for a “fifth Kyuss album” and create something honest, new, and ultimately, more true to the spirit of that now-legendary band. Let’s face it, you hear John Garcia, Brant Bjork and Nick Oliveri are working on a project together, you’re immediately comparing it to Kyuss anyway. At least with Vista Chino, they’ve given themselves the potential for growth beyond a preconceived idea of what Kyuss should sound like. Well what does Vista Chino sound like? It sounds like whatever the hell they want. On Peace, though many of the lyrics dealt with their legal battles over the Kyuss name, the vibe stayed true to a desert rock ethic of laid back heavy, and the round-out jam in “Acidize/The Gambling Moose” left Peacewith the feeling that maybe that’s where they’ve ended up after all. Fingers crossed Mike Dean (of C.O.C. and the latest live incarnation of Vista Chino) winds up playing bass on the record, but other than that, wherever they want to go with it, as a fan, I’m happy to follow along.
The second outing from Gozu on Small Stone, The Fury of a Patient Man tapped into so much of what made the Boston band’s 2010 Locust Season label debut (review here) work so right on and just did it better. Don’t get me wrong, I still dig on “Meat Charger,” but with tracks like “Snake Plissken,” “Bald Bull,” “Signed, Epstein’s Mom” (note: it was “signed, Epstein’s mother” on Welcome Back Kotter) and the thrashing “Charles Bronson Pinchot,” Gozu put forth a collection of some of 2013’s finest heavy rock and did so with not only their own soulful spin on the tropes of the genre, but a mature and varied approach that was no less comfortable giving High on Fire a run for their money than reveling in the grandiose chorus of “Ghost Wipe,” which was also one of the best hooks of the year, guitarist/vocalist Marc Gaffney (interview here) delivering lines in crisp, confident layers, perfectly mixed by Benny Grotto at Mad Oak Studios and cutting through the fray of his own and Doug Sherman‘s guitars, the bass of Paul Dallaire (who split duties with J. Canava; Joe Grotto has since taken over the position) and Barry Spillberg‘s drumming. What the future might hold for Gozu with the recent shift in lineup that replaced Spillberg with drummer Mike Hubbard (ex-Warhorse) and added third guitarist Jeff Fultz (Mellow Bravo) remains to be seen, but with European touring on the horizon for 2014 and appearances slated for Roadburn and Desertfest, the band seem to be looking only to expand their reach, and with the material from The Fury of a Patient Man as a foundation, they’ve got some major considerations acting in their favor. Another album from which I simply could not escape this year, and from which I didn’t want to.
Billed largely and at least in-part accurately as a return to the group’s psychedelic roots, Last Patrol was Monster Magnet‘s ninth full-length, their first in three years and their second for Napalm. The New Jersey outfit led by guitarist, vocalist, songwriter, founder and, in this case, co-producer Dave Wyndorf (interview here) did indeed delve into the space rock side of their sound more than they have in over a decade, and the effect that doing so had was like a great shaking-off of dust, as though the Bullgod in the John Sumrow cover art just woke up after a long slumber. Perhaps even more than tripping on the Donovan cover “Three Kingfishers” or on the more extended freakouts “Last Patrol” and “End of Time,” what really made Last Patrolsuch a complete experience was the depth of emotion. Wyndorf wasn’t just standing above an overproduced wall of distortion talking about how he’s the best lay in the galaxy or whatever — fun though that kind of stuff is and has been in the past — but songs like “I Live behind the Clouds,” “The Duke (of Supernature),” “Paradise” and “Stay Tuned” offered a humbler take, a spirit of melancholy that rested well alongside the unmitigated stomp of “Hallelujah” or the driving heavy rock of “Mindless Ones.” Even in its most riotous stretches, Last Patrolwas a humbler affair, with a more honest vibe than their last four, maybe five albums. A Monster Magnet release would’ve been noteworthy no matter what it actually sounded like, because that’s the level of impact they’ve had on heavy psych and underground rock over the last two decades-plus. The difference with Last Patrolwas that it was a refreshing change from what had started to sound like a formula going stale, and it was just so damn good to have them be weird again.
Finally, an album that asked the question, “What it was I’m going to do I haven’t done?” I knew at the year’s halfway point that Clutch‘s Earth Rockerwas going to be the one to beat, and that it wasn’t going to be easy for anyone else to top the Maryland kings of groove, who sounded so reinvigorated on songs like “Crucial Velocity,” “Book, Saddle and Go,” “Unto the Breach,” and “Cyborg Bette,” and on funkfied pushers like “D.C. Sound Attack!,” “The Wolfman Kindly Requests…” and “The Face.” They’d hardly been in hibernation since 2009’s Strange Cousins from the West, but four years was the longest they’d ever gone between albums, and it was past time for a new one. To have it arrive as such a boot to the ass just made it that much better, the band shifting away from some of the blues/jam influences that emerged over the course of 2005’s Robot Hive/Exodusand 2007’s From Beale Street to Oblivion — though those certainly showed up as well in the subdued “Gone Cold” and elsewhere — but thanks in no small part to the production of Machine, with whom the band last worked for 2004’s Blast Tyrant, Earth Rockerwas huge where it wanted to be and that gave Clutch‘s faster, more active material all the more urgency, where although the songwriting was quality as always, Strange Cousins from the West languished a bit at a more relaxed pace. The difference made all the difference. Whether it was the hellhounds on your trail (what a pity!) in “D.C. Sound Attack!” or the Jazzmasters erupting from the bottom of the sea to take flight, Clutch‘s 10th album was brimming with live, vibrant, heavy on action and heavy on groove, and on a sheer song-by-song level, a classic in the making from a band who’ve already had a few. At very least, it’s a landmark in their discography, and though vocalist Neil Fallon (interview here), guitarist Tim Sult, bassist Dan Maines and drummer Jean-Paul Gaster always change from record, but it’s the unmistakable stamp they put on all their outings that have earned them such a loyal following, and that stamp is all over Earth Rocker. Front to back, it is a pure Clutch record, and while I’ll happily acknowledge that it’s an obvious pick for album of the year, I don’t see how I possibly could’ve chosen anything else. Like the best of the best, Earth Rockerwill deliver for years to come.
The Next 10 and Honorable Mentions
I said at the outset I had 40 picks. The reality was more than that, but here’s the next 10 anyway:
21. Blaak Heat Shujaa, The Edge of an Era
22. The Freeks, Full On
23. Luder, Adelphophagia
24. The Flying Eyes, Lowlands
25. Black Skies, Circadian Meditations
26. At Devil Dirt, Plan B: Sin Revolucion No Hay Evolucion
27. Kadavar, Abra Kadavar
28. Naam, Vow
29. Mühr, Messiah
30. Uzala, Tales of Blood and Fire
Further honorable mention has to go to Pelican, Endless Boogie, Earthless, Phantom Glue, Goatess, Windhand, Gonga, TonerLow, Jesuand Sandrider.
Two More Special Records
I’d be unforgivably remiss if I didn’t note the release in 2013 of two albums that wound up being incredibly special to me personally: I vs. the Glacierby Clamfight and A Time of Hunting by Kings Destroy. Since it came out on this site’s in-house label, I didn’t consider the Clamfight eligible for list consideration and while I didn’t help put it out, the Kings Destroy I also felt very, very close to — probably as close as I’ve felt to a record I didn’t actually perform on — so it didn’t seem fair on a critical level, but I consider both of these to be records that in a large part helped define my year, as well as being exceptional in and of themselves, and they needed very much to be singled out as such. These are people whom I feel whatever-the-godless-heathen-equivalent-of-blessed-is to know.
Before I end this post, I want to say thank you for reading, this, anything else you may have caught this year, whatever it might be. To say it means a lot to me personally is understating it, but it’s true all the same. I’m not quite done wrapping up the year — I’ll have a list of the best album covers, another for EPs and singles and demos, and of course the albums I didn’t hear — so please stay tuned over the next couple weeks, but it seemed only fair to show my appreciation now as well. Thank you.