The Obelisk Radio Adds: Primitive Man, Sandrider + Kinski, Hiram-Maxim, Obrero and Elbrus

Posted in Radio on February 16th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

the obelisk radio

I know it’s not the usual custom to do Radio adds on Mondays, but what the hell, it’s not exactly like there are rules one way or another, and my desktop has hit eight rows deep of folders with albums in them, so whatever day it might be, it’s time to clear out as much of it as possible. A full 22 records join The Obelisk Radio playlist today. Some of it is very strange, some of it pretty straightforward, but one way or another, I think it all makes the stream better and more diverse, and that’s what it’s all about. For the full list of everything added, check out the Playlist and Updates page.

The Obelisk Radio adds for Feb. 16, 2015:

Primitive Man, Home is Where the Hatred Is

12 Jacket (3mm Spine) [GDOB-30H3-007}

After their destructive 2013 Relapse Records debut, Scorn (review here), Primitive Man‘s reputation for brutality precedes them. The Denver trio’s new EP, Home is Where the Hatred Is, is only likely to further that reputation, its four tracks alternating between grueling, unrepentantly slow-lumbering, ungodly-toned extremity and fits of grinding megaviolence. The release is arranged longest to shortest so that opener “Loathe” (11:03) is sure to weed out the weaker constitutions en route to the ensuing crushers “Downfall” (8:43) and “Bag Man” (7:09). The closer, “A Marriage with Nothingness” (4:17) is a collage of noise and fedback threat topped with a sample of a woman either in ecstasy or agony — in context it’s kind of hard to tell — but the message is plain either way. One might think of that cut as an answer to Primitive Man‘s 2013 P//M Noise Tape, which also explored droning forms between covers of PortisheadBlack Sabbath and Crowbar. Perhaps most foreboding of all is how smoothly Primitive Man shift between the facets of their increasingly diverse sound, since it speaks to a progression in progress in terms of bringing the various elements together. A beast is one thing, but a thinking beast seems all the more ominous. They may be in the process of outgrowing their name, but a savage force remains at the heart of their bludgeoning. Primitive Man on Thee Facebooks, Relapse Records.

Sandrider and Kinski, Sandrider + Kinski Split

sandrider kinski split

With geography in common in their Seattle base of operation, Sandrider and Kinski present their Sandrider + Kinski split on Good to Die Records with three new songs from the former, including a cover of Jane’s Addiction‘s “Mountain Song,” and two from the latter, working in instrumental, textured heavy psychedelic forms that complement Sandrider‘s bombastic approach as heard on their two full-lengths to date, 2013’s Godhead (review here) and 2011’s self-titled debut (review here). Both “Beyond in Touch with My Feminine Side” (8:42) and “The Narcotic Comforts of the Status Quo” (5:17) flesh out open spaces, rich in tone and flowing movement, with the closer more of a riffy, space-rock feel while “Beyond in Touch with My Feminine Side” is more exploratory, fading out at its end is the jam sort of deconstructs below lead guitar. As for Sandrider‘s “Rain” (4:47) and “Glaive” (4:40), for anyone who’s heard the rolling punk heaviness of their albums, it should be enough to say they sound like Sandrider – upbeat and catchy and furious and kinetic — and while I’m not sure anyone ever needed to hear a Jane’s Addiction song ever again (ever.), they take what was probably the band’s best riff and re-suit it to their own purposes, which if you’re going to do it at least is the right way to go about it. Sandrider on Thee Facebooks, Kinski on Thee Facebooks, Good to Die Records.

Hiram-Maxim, Hiram-Maxim

hiram-maxim hiram-maxim

Ultimately, Hiram-Maxim‘s self-titled Aqualamb debut reads more like an experiment in the deconstruction of sound than an album in the traditional sense, and perhaps I use the word “reads” because it’s a book. As has become Aqualamb‘s modus, the four-track release comes as a 100-page artbook and a download that contains its nonetheless-vinyl-ready darkened forms, whether it’s the brooding “One” (11:47) with backing drones and open guitars or the preceding “Can’t Stop” (11:55) with its rising current of abrasive, almost grating noise that gradually consumes whatever song was there to start with. It is a dark atmosphere, and the opener, “Visceral”  (7:14), is well titled, but the pervading vibe is more exploratory than theatrical; like the listener, the Cleveland four-piece are feeling their way through these deep reaches, and when they come around to the apex of closer “Worship” (6:25), the resolution they seem to find is frantic and desolate in turn. In another universe, one might call it punk rock. Here, it is gleefully and thoroughly fucked. Hiram-Maxim on Thee Facebooks, Aqualamb.

Obrero, The Infinite Corridors of Time

Obrero The Infinite Corridors of Time

The Infinite Corridors of Time, the second long-player from Stockholm old-schoolers Obrero should — contrary to their logo — appeal to fans of Hour of 13 and Argus and others who’ve made preservation of classic metal their mission, skirting the fine line between doomly Sabbath worship and proto-NWOBHM stylized forwardness of purpose. The double-guitar five-piece show some penchant for ’70s heavy rock on cuts like “Oneironaut” (6:20) and “The Axial Age” (5:40) but by and large their purposes are more metallic, meshing AC/DC and Judas Priest impulses into the keyboard-laden “Manchester Morgue” (5:01) or “Phobos and Deimos” (5:42), which stands out for its hook and successful blend alike. At eight tracks/52 minutes, The Infinite Corridors of Time is no minor undertaking — there is no song under five minutes long — but their use of keys allows Obrero to work in various moods, and for those seeking purity in their metal, the Swedish outfit offer glimpses without being wholly derivative of what’s come before. Obrero on Thee Facebooks, To the Death Records.

Elbrus, Far Away and into Space Pt. 2

Elbrus Far Away and into Space Pt. 2

If you feel like you missed out on Far Away and into Space Pt. 1, don’t worry about it. Melbourne, Australia, four-piece Elbrus are actually starting out with Pt. 2, and it’s their debut single, an 11-minute psychedelic push of heavy blues rock, stoner rollout and organ-blessed jamming. I’m not sure it’s safe yet to call what’s happening in Melbourne right now a “heavy blues revival” as acts like Elbrus and Child delve into such sonic territory — if only because with bands like Horsehunter and Hotel Wrecking City Traders out there, the city’s take on heavy isn’t so easily categorized — but one rarely recognizes such things until beaten over the head by them. Either way, “Far Away and into Space Pt. 2″ gracefully looses a molten flow over its 11:06 stretch, vocalist/organist Ollie Bradley-Smith unafraid to cut through the natural-sounding, weighted tones of guitarist Ringo Camilleri and bassist Mafi Watson while Tom Todorovic‘s drums smooth the way between volume and tempo changes and add cymbal-crash swing to both. It’s a smooth-grooved nod, and aside from making me curious to hear the first installment of “Far Away and into Space,” it makes me wonder what Elbrus might next encounter as that journey unfolds. Elbrus on Thee Facebooks, on Bandcamp.

One more time, this is not even a quarter of what’s been added today. There’s also stuff from Black Rainbows, Felipe Arcazas, Headless Kross, Warhorse, Twingiant and others, so please make sure you hit up the Obelisk Radio Playlist and Updates page to see the full list.

Thanks as always for reading and listening.

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Terminal Fuzz Terror Stream “Megalodon” from Vol. 0: In the Shadow of the Mountain

Posted in audiObelisk on February 16th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

terminal-fuzz-terror

Named for its 17-minute closing track, Vol. 0: In the Shadow of the Mountain is the debut full-length from Seattle experimental heavy rockers Terminal Fuzz Terror, set to release limited-style on Robotic Empire March 3. It is an off-the-wall freakout beast that hearkens to multiple eras — ’60s psych meandering, ’70s riffing, ’90s purposeful weirdness, etc. — and in so doing is invariably of the modern moment: what navelgazing might be if you did it into other people’s bellybuttons; a broken mirror showing different angles of an already fractured reality. Plus it grooves!

Opener “Senseless Boogie” would seem to tell the whole tale, but in truth it’s only part of the story, and whether it’s the funtime freakout of “Zealousy” or the psych-punk thrust of centerpiece “Megalodon,” the four-piece of guitarist/vocalists D. Rodriguez and D. Nelson, bassist J. Kleine and drummer A. Crawshaw hone a chaotic swirl that feels like it could at any point fly off the handle entirely. Likewise the repeated echoing incantations of “Cycles,” which seems to call Satan not so much to spread misery and hellishness over terminal fuzz terror vol. 0 in the shadow of the mountainthe earth, but rather to crack a beer and mess around with effects pedals, and of course “In the Shadow of the Mountain,” the monolithic semi-title-track is a focal point — at just a little less than half the 36-minute runtime, there’s no way it wouldn’t be — but rather than get lost in their own grandiosity, Terminal Fuzz Terror turn plod into ritual before warping into one last high-speed wah-drenched jam, paying off what’s come before, sure, but also breathing life into a form of space rock that’s more than Hawkwind idolatry and flange overload.

If you feel like you can dig it, you’re probably right. “Megalodon” is available for streaming on the player below, and by way of a heads up, look out for near-immediate push, obscure garage-echo vocals and weirdo breaks, a biting tonal mania rife with unhinged churn that cleverly masks just how structured the song actually is. Terminal Fuzz Terror are hardly traditional in the verse/chorus sense, but there are themes to latch onto throughout Vol. 0: In the Shadow of the Mountain, and “Megalodon” works quickly to establish its own amid the cosmic reverb captured by Tad Doyle at his Studio Witch Ape and mastered by James Plotkin.

One more time, vinyl is out March 3 in finite quantities. Album info follows the player:

Terminal Fuzz Terror is a Seattle-based band comprised of D. Rodriguez (guitar, vocals), D. Nelson (guitar, vocals), A. Crawshaw (drums) and J. Kleine (bass). Drummer Crawshaw also runs the Seattle based screen printing monolith Broken Press, who printed the jacket for TFT’s hand assembled, limited release. Their vinyl debut, Vol 0: In The Shadow Of The Mountain, was recorded at Witch Ape Studio, engineered and mixed by Tad Doyle (TAD) and mastered by James Plotkin.

Limited to 300 copies and including a high-quality digital download, 50 special deluxe versions of the record will include an embroidered 4″ round patch and come packaged in a tote bag.

Vol 0: In The Shadow Of The Mountain is Terminal Fuzz Terror’s strongest work to date, and is available digitally to pre-order now, with vinyl available via Robotic Empire on March 3rd.

Preorder at Robotic Empire

Preorder on iTunes

Terminal Fuzz Terror on Thee Facebooks

Terminal Fuzz Terror on Bandcamp

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Mos Generator Stream “Beyond the Whip” from In Concert: 2007-2014; New Lineup and Tour Dates Announced

Posted in audiObelisk on February 4th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

mos generator

Though it shares a basic cover design and a partial title with it, Mos Generator‘s upcoming Listenable Records live album, In Concert: 2007-2014 – out March 23 — isn’t to be confused with the 2013 In Concert (review here) on Lay Bare Recordings. That outing was one concert, captured on the Port Orchard, Washington, trio’s European tour with Saint Vitus, whereas the new release, as its title hints, is more of a compilation of material culled from years of gigs around the world, as early as Roadburn in 2008 and as recent as Freak Valley last year. Founding guitarist/vocalist Tony Reed explains it in the quote below.

Says Tony Reed:

“This release is compiled from five different shows over seven years and is a great representation of what we have sounded like live. It has at least one song from each of our albums and also showcases jams and the evolution of song arrangements from studio to stage. It was a challenge to mix these recording from different shows together to make it seem like one live experience but i think the result captures the energy and chemistry that was happening between the three of us on stage during these years. A few of our finest moments were captured here including songs from Roadburn Festival in 2008 and Freak Valley Festival in 2014. It’s also cool that this will be coming out just in time for our European tour in April of 2015 to get everybody in the spirit for live MOS GENERATOR.”

mos generator in concert.jpgWhat Reed doesn’t mention there is that In Concert: 2007-2014 also serves as the capstone for an ending era of the band. In the wake of 2014’s Electric Mountain Majesty (review here) and with a desire to tour more than they have in years past, Reed has parted ways with drummer Shawn Johnson and bassist Scooter Haslip, bringing on board the rhythm section of bassist Sean Booth and drummer Scotty VanDweller (a touring name if e’er was one). Accordingly, ReedBooth and VanDweller have Mos Generator‘s first full-US tour booked and set to begin this month, and after that, the plan is to head to Europe and make their presence felt there.

It’s entirely possible that at the end of 2015, one might think of Mos Generator as a completely different band than, say, the one that made such a righteous comeback in 2012 with the Nomads (review here) full-length on Ripple Music, but if anything’s certain at this point it’s that this is a year of change for the stalwart heavy rock specialists, and that the new lineup are meeting that change and the challenges it might bring head on. As a fan of the band and of Reed‘s work in general, I’m looking forward to finally getting the chance to see these songs played live.

If you’re in a similar boat, Listenable has offered up “Beyond the Whip” from In Concert: 2007-2014 for your streaming pleasure. As it was the opening track on Electric Mountain Majesty, presumably this comes from last year’s stop at Freak Valley, and it sounds like a damn good time. Please find it on the player below, followed by the live album tracklisting, the announcement from Reed about the new lineup and the tour and the dates for the US run.

Please enjoy:

Mos Generator, In Concert: 2007-2014 Tracklisting :
1. Lumbo Rock
2. Cosmic Ark
3. Lonely One Kenobi
4. Silver Olympus
5. On The Eve
6. Godhand Iommi
7. This Is The Gift Of Nature
8. Beyond The Whip
9. Step Up / Jam
10. Acapulco Gold
11. Breaker
12. Sleeping Your Way To The Middle / Jam
13. Dyin’ Blues
14. Electric Mountain Majesty

We’ve got a few big announcements coming at ya today. First off we have a nice run of U.S. tour dates coming up and we have posted the dates and a few fun posters to help promote the tour. We would like to thank all of the promoters and bands that have helped us book many of these dates and we would also like to thank Elder and Tone Deaf Touring for bringing us along on what will be the first ever east coast tour for Mos Generator. Plans are in the works for more touring in the U.S. and Europe during the first half of 2015. We would like to make it out to see all of you this year.

The second announcement doesn’t come easy for me. After 14 years, 8 albums and hundreds of shows together I have had to part with the original rhythm section of Shawn Johnson and Scooter Haslip. Touring is imperative to the success and public awareness of any band and we couldn’t do the work that it takes to rise above the countless bands out there putting their passion to the test. We made amazing music together, but that is not enough, not for me anyway. I want to show it to the world. Mos Generator will never be the same in the absence of Shawn and Scooter but challenge and growth are also a musician’s nature and with that I announce Sean Booth (Bass) and Scotty VanDweller (Drums). Sean and Scotty have spent years attending Mos Generator shows and admiring the playing of their respective instrumentalists. That respect and understanding will help us perform the older material with much of the energy and power as it had with the original band and soon we will be writing and taking the sound of Mos Generator to new and interesting levels. That is something I am truly looking forward to.

Cheers
TR – Feb. 2015

MOS GENERATOR US Tour Feb/March 2015
mos-generator-tour-poster2/13 Seattle, Wa @ Columbia City Theater
2/14 Port Angeles, Wa @ Coo Coo’s Nest
2/18 Fort Worth, Tx @ The Grotto
2/19 Austin, Tx @ The Lost Well
2/20 El Paso, Tx @ Low Brow Palace
2/21 Tuscon, Az @ The Rock (Borderland Fuzz Fiesta)
2/23 TBA
2/24 TBA
2/25 TBA
2/26 Grants Pass OR @ G Street Bar
2/27 Eugene, Or @ Black Forest
2/28 Portland, Or @ World Famous Kenton Club
3/3 TBA
3/4 TBA
w/Elder*
3/6 Providence, RI @ As220*
3/7 Peterborough, Nh @ The Wreck Room*
3/8 Rochester, Ny @ Bug Jar*
3/9 Pittsburgh, Pa @ Gooski’s*
3/10 Columbus, Oh @ Ace of Cups*
3/11 Indianapolis, In @ 5th Quarter*
3/12 Chicago, Il @ Reggie’s*
3/13 Texarkana, @ Silver Dollar*
3/14 Dallas, Tx @ Double Wide*
3/16 Corpus Christi, Tx @ Boneshakers
3/17 Austin, Tx @ The Lost Well
3/18 Houston, Tx @ White Swan
3/20 Tulsa, Ok @ Downtown Lounge
3/21 TBA
3/23 Anahiem, CA @ The Doll Hut
3/24 San Diego, Ca @ The Merrow
3/25 Sacramento, Ca @ The Press Club
3/26 San Jose, Ca @ The Caravan
3/27 Oakland, Ca @ The Golden Bull (Ripple fest)
3/28 Arcata, Ca @ The Alibi

Mos Generator on Thee Facebooks

Listenable Records

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Friday Full-Length: The Melvins, Lysol

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 30th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

The Melvins, Lysol (1992)

Would you believe I’ve never closed out a week with the Melvins? Granted, I’m not the hugest fan of the band in the world, but you’d think it would’ve happened one way or another at some point anyhow, two or three times over, just through the sheer process of elimination. After all, they’re the frickin’ Melvins. If heavy rock and roll has a given, a constant presence, a relentless influence under which it works, it’s theirs. Consider this post correcting an oversight on my part.

In picking one of their 250-or-thereabouts studio offerings to actually feature, I decided to not go the obvious route, which would’ve been 1993’s Stoner Witch, 1994’s Houdini or 1996’s Stag – the three landmark albums they released on Atlantic Records – but instead dig a little deeper. Not much deeper, admittedly. It’s not like I went for Colossus of Destiny or anything, but 1992’s Lysol, with its Flipper and Alice Cooper covers, its drawling riffing from a group who were just about to set the patterns they’d continue to follow for the next 20 years and counting, and its unmistakably off-the-rails songwriting, makes a good fit without necessarily being so totally obvious as to be a Melvins cliché. Or not as much of one anyway. Whatever. You know what I mean. Maybe I just felt like hearing them do “The Ballad of Dwight Fry” and Joe Preston‘s bass on “Sacrifice,” all the songs lumped together as one CD track, apparently for the hell of it because it was a relatively new format then and that was a thing people did as a reaction to track-by-track listening.

Anyhoo, there are way worse manners in which to dispose of half an hour. Boner Records, which originally released Lysol, oversaw a vinyl reissue that came out Jan. 20 that couples the album with 1991’s Eggnog – they have one for Ozma and Bullhead as well — so I guess this wound up being a topical choice without my even realizing it. Whatever your preferred format, hope you dig it and have a good time listening. That’s the whole idea.

The power stayed on during the blizzard earlier this week, for which I’m thankful. You never really know when you’re in a new place until it either does or doesn’t happen, and I could probably buy 15 houses before I’d think to ask, “So hey, does every wind over five miles an hour knock out the electricity?” We had some good gusts to go with the circa-two-feet of snow that came down — a little more earlier today, and more to come on Monday just in case I missed my shot to put on sad-era Anathema or that brilliant Sólstafir record from last year; I didn’t — and still, the lights persisted. I’ll take that. If you have to be snowed in, having a working charger for the laptop helps.

My big news this week, in case you missed it: I’m going back to Roadburn in April, and this site is six years old. Thanks to you for reading, because that’s the only reason either happened.

I had wanted to review Black Moon Circle‘s Andromeda LP this afternoon, but after doing the Radio adds, I’m good and burnt out and the record deserves better than to have me search Dict.org for synonyms for the word “lysergic.” Should be able to pick up with that on Monday, and next week also look out for reviews of Killer Boogie and AbbotElder is next after that, but I’m not sure I’ll get there by next Friday. We’ll see how it goes. Also trying to set up a premiere of one sort or another for that Garden of Worm record that was reviewed today, because it hit me hard enough that I think it’s worth featuring again. I’ll keep you posted. A Lords of Beacon House video premiere is set for next Friday, too.

I also spoke to Mario Lalli of Fatso Jetson and Yawning Man yesterday and I’m going to try really, really hard to have that posted by the end of next week as those bands head over to Europe soon to tour and I don’t want to miss my chance. Currently seeking an intern to transcribe interviews if anyone’s in need of some college credit. Yes, I’m serious, and yes, you can work remotely.

The Patient Mrs. promised sushi takeout to celebrate the site’s anniversary, so I’ll be taking her up on that and clearing out my overtaxed sinuses with wasabi. Stoked.

Whatever you might be up to, I hope you have a great and safe weekend. Please check out the forum and radio stream.

The Obelisk Forum

The Obelisk Radio

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Eye of the Stoned Goat 5: Wounded Giant and Curse the Son Added to Lineup

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 28th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

eye-of-the-stoned-goat-5-logo

Two more adds to Eye of the Stoned Goat 5 this afternoon, and they expand the festival’s reach just about as far as it can go and still be in the continental US. The fest, which is set for June 12 and 13 in Amityville, Long Island, has just announced that Seattle’s Wounded Giant will make their first appearance and that Connecticut’s Curse the Son will return for their second time to the Eye of the Stoned Goat‘s migratory stage after taking part in Eye of the Stoned Goat 4 last May in Worcester, Massachusetts (review here).

What the bands have in common — besides riffs — is an allegiance with New Jersey-based STB Records. The label oversaw a long-awaited vinyl issue of Curse the Son‘s spectacularly stoned 2012 outing, Psychache (review here), last year, and a second pressing is already in the works for Wounded Giant‘s newly-released-and-gone split with Goya (review here) through STB, which as ever is giving the heavy due treatment in an assortment of limited pressings and special editions.

Wounded Giant will so far be traveling the farthest to attend Eye of the Stoned Goat 5, the lineup of which also features East Coast acts like Lord FowlWhite DynomiteJohn Wilkes BoothWeed is WeedGozuKingsnake and It’s Not Night: It’s Space, but I wouldn’t be surprised if fest organizer Brendan Burns has a couple tricks up his sleeve still to come for the two-day event. We’ll see what comes, I guess.

Announcements came through thusly:

You people ready for some more heavy hitters..?

Of course you are…

It’s a honor to have with us on this years fest, the blistering monstrous sounds of Seattle Washington’s very own Wounded Giant!!! Also on board for their second ‘Stoned Goat is Connecticut’s own, and STB Records stalwarts Curse the Son!!!

https://www.facebook.com/TheEyeOfTheStonedGoat
https://www.facebook.com/cursetheson
http://cursetheson.bandcamp.com/
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Wounded-Giant/156290301123402
http://woundedgiant.bandcamp.com/

Wounded Giant, Lightning Medicine (2013)

Curse the Son, Psychache (2012)

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Brothers of the Sonic Cloth Preview Debut LP, Out Next Month

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 7th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

The self-titled debut from Brothers of the Sonic Cloth, due out Feb. 17 on Neurot Recordings, is on the shortlist of albums that I’m most dying to hear for the early part of 2015. Six years after their demo and five after a split with Mico de Noche, the Tad Doyle-led three-piece will finally be issuing their first full-length, and if the preview audio that’s made its way out so far is any indicator, it’s going to be an intense experience. Can’t wait to hear how it all turned out.

A second, longer preview for the record has come out via the label, this one with some comment from Doyle on the album’s making and the philosophy behind it. Video follows the PR wire info below:

brothers of the sonic cloth

BROTHERS OF THE SONIC CLOTH: Seattle Doom Weavers Featuring Tad Doyle Reveal Second Video Teaser; Debut Full-Length To See Release Next Month

BROTHERS OF THE SONIC CLOTH is the sound of earthly decomposition and planetary demise; a slow, entrancing dance towards a looming apocalypse… thick, monolithic, deliberate and devouring. Fronted by Seattle’s legendary guitarist/vocalist Tad Doyle — formerly of TAD and Hog Molly — BROTHERS OF THE SONIC CLOTH is a trio of longtime rock soldiers that includes veteran bassist Peggy Doyle and drummer Dave French (The Anunnaki) and their forthcoming full-length debut maintains a long-held tradition of conjuring some of the heaviest music from the darkest depths of the Pacific Northwest.

Slated for release next month via Neurot Recordings, Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth was captured at Robert Lang Studios and Doyle’s own Witch Ape Studio in Seattle, Washington and mixed by Billy Anderson (Sleep, High On Fire, Melvins et al). Thrusting forth five hauntingly heavy tracks, with two bonus hymns included on the CD edition, the offering serves as Doyle’s first recorded release in nearly fifteen years. BROTHERS OF THE SONIC CLOTH’s audio manifestations are welcomingly unfamiliar, splicing thick, jagged riffs through chilling post-punk drumming and hulking compositions that blow soulfully hot and desolately cold, sometimes within the confines of one track. Their longform pieces present the kind of mature ideas and expansive progressions that outpace the listener’s short-term memory leading them off the proverbial map; familiar landmarks like sludge, post-metal, rock all but disappeared over the horizon. Authentic and authoritative, Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth is as much a persistent thudding body punch of sonic destructive force as it is a thoughtful statement of awareness and the inescapable raw condition of life.

In celebration of its imminent unveiling, today Neurot Recordings is pleased to bring listeners a taste of the heavy with a five-minute video teaser that finds Doyle giving an in-depth look at the impetus in creating BROTHERS OF THE SONIC CLOTH, the tracking process and the weighty themes that bind the record.

Brothers Of The Sonic Cloth will be released February 17th, 2015 via Neurot Recordings with further album clips to be released in the weeks to come.

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Brothers-of-the-Sonic-Cloth/63586406187
http://www.taddoyle.com/botsc
http://www.neurotrecordings.com
http://www.facebook.com/neurotrecordings

Brothers of the Sonic Cloth album preview

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Curse of the North Post New Video “Sleep While You Can”

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 5th, 2015 by H.P. Taskmaster

curse of the north

Seattle heavy rock trio Curse of the North are gearing up to released their debut full-length, I, later this month. The self-produced, self-released, Kurt Ballou-mixed long-player will follow 2011’s Revelations EP, which was recorded by Matt Bayles, and to herald its arrival, the three-piece have put together a video for the track “Sleep While You Can” that features an impressive array of Marshall stacks, headbanging, up and downlighting and the band themselves rocking out right in the middle there. Can’t miss ‘em.

I haven’t heard the record yet, but “Sleep While You Can” has some touches of metal and hard rock in with its heavy riffing, giving the song a kind of clean feel, but kicks up some dirt in its midsection, so it’s worth the time to dig in. If it hits you right and you’d like to make it yours, Curse of the North have made “Sleep While You Can” available name-your-price-style on their Bandcamp page, the link to which follows the info that follows the video below. You know how this goes.

It goes like this:

Curse of the North, “Sleep While You Can” official video

“Sleep While You Can” is the first release off Seattle, WA band Curse of the North’s self produced LP “Curse of the North: I” mixed by Kurt Ballou(High on Fire, Skeletonwitch, Black Breath) at God City Studios.

Curse of the North is a no frills heavy band from Seattle, WA featuring members Christiaan Morris (Guitar/Vocals) Nick Cates (Bass, 3 inches of blood) and Burke Thomas (Drums, Duff McKagan’s Loaded). COTN will be releasing their first full length LP “Curse of the North: I” Spring 2015. The band self produced the album and it was mixed by Kurt Ballou (High on Fire, Black Breath, SkeletonWitch). Curse of the North released their first EP “Revelations” in summer 2011 which was produced by Matt Bayles (Mastodon, The Sword, Botch). COTN will be touring in support of “Curse of the North: I” throughout 2015.

Curse of the North on Thee Facebooks

“Sleep While You Can” Bandcamp download

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The Obelisk Presents: The Top 30 of 2014

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

the-obelisk-top-30-of-2014

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

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

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

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

Okay. Here we go:

30. Orange Goblin, Back from the Abyss

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Released by Candlelight Records. Reviewed on Nov. 17.

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

 

29. Mos Generator, Electric Mountain Majesty

mos-generator-electric-mountain-majesty

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed on March 14.

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

 

28. Pilgrim, II: Void Worship

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Released by Metal Blade Records. Reviewed on April 15.

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

 

27. John Garcia, John Garcia

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Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed on July 7.

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

 

26. Swans, To be Kind

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

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

 

25. Sólstafir, Ótta

solstafir-otta

Released by Season of Mist. Discussed Oct. 11.

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

 

24. Greenleaf, Trails and Passes

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Released by Small Stone Records. Reviewed on April 25.

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

 

23. Earth, Primitive and Deadly

earth-primitive-and-deadly

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

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

 

22. Ogre, The Last Neanderthal

ogre-the-last-neanderthal

Released by Minotauro Records. Reviewed on March 10.

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

 

21. The Wounded Kings, Consolamentum

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Released by Candlelight Records. Reviewed on Jan. 30.

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

 

20. Floor, Oblation

floor-oblation

Released by Season of Mist. Reviewed on April 22.

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

 

19. Druglord, Enter Venus

druglord-enter-venus

Released by STB Records. Reviewed on Feb. 14.

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

 

18. Ararat, Cabalgata Hacia la Luz

ararat-cabalgata-hacia-la-luz

Released by Oui Oui Records. Reviewed on April 4.

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

 

17. Radio Moscow, Magical Dirt

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Released by Alive Naturalsound. Reviewed on May 29.

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

 

16. Apostle of Solitude, Of Woe and Wounds

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

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

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

 

15. Stubb, Cry of the Ocean

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Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed on Nov. 24.

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

 

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

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

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed on Nov. 10.

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

 

13. Dwellers, Pagan Fruit

dwellers-pagan-fruit

Released by Small Stone. Reviewed on May 22.

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

 

12. The Golden Grass, The Golden Grass

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Released by Svart Records. Reviewed on March 25.

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

 

11. The Well, Samsara

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Released by RidingEasy Records. Reviewed on Sept. 22.

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

 

10. Montibus Communitas, The Pilgrim to the Absolute

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

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

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

 

9. Fu Manchu, Gigantoid

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

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

 

8. The Skull, For Those Which are Asleep

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

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

 

7. Blood Farmers, Headless Eyes

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

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

 

6. Lo-Pan, Colossus

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Released by Small Stone. Reviewed on Oct. 7.

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

 

5a. All Them Witches, Lightning at the Door

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Self-released. Reviewed on Sept. 25.

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

 

5. Witch Mountain, Mobile of Angels

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Released by Profound Lore. Reviewed on Aug. 20.

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

 

4. Conan, Blood Eagle

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Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed on Jan. 22.

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

 

3. Wo Fat, The Conjuring

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Released by Small Stone Records. Reviewed on June 18.

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

 

2. Mars Red Sky, Stranded in Arcadia

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Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed on March 11.

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

 

1. YOB, Clearing the Path to Ascend

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Released by Neurot Recordings. Reviewed on Sept. 3.

“It’s time to wake up.”

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

 

 

Honorable Mention

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

A few other honorable mentions:

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

AlunahAwakening the Forest — Every time I make a list, no matter what kind of list it is, there’s a band I wind up kicking myself for forgetting about at the time. This is the case 100 percent with why Alunah aren’t in the Top 30. In fact, I might go in and swap them out with somebody.

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

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

SteakSlab City — An impressive debut following two strong EPs.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thank you.

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

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

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