Wight to Release Fusion Rock Invasion: Live Over Europe Tomorrow

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

Well, if I hadn’t already put Wight on my favorite covers list for their earlier-2017 single Atlas (review here), for sure they’d earn a spot with the piece by Ingo Kimalkin Lohse that adorns their new live album, Fusion Rock Invasion: Live Over Europe. The LP/DVD offering is out tomorrow, Dec. 15, and available through Bilocation Records, but there won’t be a digital edition at all, so if you want it, you gotta get the vinyl. Blamo. Decisive.

Seems a worthy endeavor, though — certainly owning that art would be no big sacrifice — since the pro-recorded outing captures Wight as they were out in Europe in 2015 heralding the funk-infused progression they’d undertaken with their then-not-yet-released third album, Love is Not Only What You Know (review here), which would surface the next year. The chance to hear Wight, only recently become a four-piece, exploring those textures on stage in front of audiences for what might’ve been the first time? Sounds pretty badass. I’d put that record on.

Info from the band and the label’s preorder page, also linked below:

wight fusion rock invasion

Sadly too late after our tour, but finally finished and a perfect christmas gift: The first Wight Live Album „Fusion Rock Invasion – Live Over Europe“.

YES there will be a live DVD together with the LP.

NO there will be no digital version available for this release! This is going to be a collectors item only. Pre-order your copy here: http://shop.bilocationrecords.com/index.php?a=58461

300 copies on white/blue/green marbled vinyl. High quality vinyl pressed by Pallas Group in Germany. Package includes LIVE DVD (FSK 0)!

In August 2015, Wight set out for another tour to present new material to European audiences. Albeit not released until almost exactly a year later, the album “Love Is Not Only What You Know” had already been recorded at this point, and Steffen Kirchpfening on percussion and keys had established himself as a permanent addition to the former power trio. Nevertheless, Wight were still treading new ground at this point, emancipating themselves from their blues and stoner rock roots while not completely discarding them.

Enriching their psychedelic sound with new found funk, jazz, prog and world music influences, the band aptly named their tour “Fusion Rock Invasion.” Carrying a full recording rig across Germany, the Netherlands, England and Switzerland in a small touring van, tour sound engineer Josko Joketovic and Wight mastermind Rene Hofmann pushed themselves to the limit to professionally record every show. The result now sees the light more than two years later in the form of the “Fusion Rock Invasion – Live Over Europe” LP.

The live album shows the band during a truly transitional period, presenting at the time unreleased tracks from “Love Is Not Only What You Know” in a four piece constellation for the first time. “Fusion Rock Invasion – Live Over Europe” includes five grooving, moving and hard rocking tracks, recorded in an intimate atmosphere in small, hot and sweaty clubs in Cologne, Munich, London, Hamburg and Tilburg.

The LP is available as a limited bundle with a bonus DVD, containing five live videos recorded during the tour as well as around the release of “Love Is Not Only What You Know.”

VINYL TRACKLIST

1. Helicopter Mama
2. The Muse & The Mule
3. Kelele
4. Master Of Nuggets
5. The Love For Life Leads To Reincarnation

DVD TRACKLIST (42 mins total):

1. The Muse & The Mule (8:48)
2. Kelele (8:56)
3. The Love For Life Leads To Reincarnation (11:02)
4. Cosmic Rhythm #2 (3:34)
5. Master Of Nuggets (9:20)

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Wight, “Atlas” official video

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The Obelisk Presents: 12 of 2017’s Best Album Covers

Posted in Features, Visual Evidence on December 11th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

The whole point of this list is that it’s not exhaustive. I feel like I say this every year, but it’s not meant to be the best covers of 2017. How would I even begin to judge that kind of thing? Appreciation for visual art is so subjective that, even in a niche within a niche within a niche like the cover pieces for heavy rock and/or doom and/or psych records, the sphere is simply too vast. I just want to have a good time looking at kickass album covers. That’s really it.

Of course, there’s always plenty of fare ready and waiting. I kept a running list all year of things that really stuck out to me, and there are some familiar names here along with some newcomers. My gripe with the proliferation of cartoon tits continues and grows even more fervent as the political climate in which this stuff happens — because even riffs don’t occur in a vacuum, sorry — becomes increasingly fraught, problematic and outright heinous, but there doesn’t seem to be any slowing that particular patriarchal train in this bizarre subculture. Dudes gotta be objectifying women and such to make up for the disaffection they feel from society at large. Weak. Grow up.

And again — I said this last year too — but I’m a fucking hypocrite because of the 14 artists listed in these 12 covers, there isn’t one woman included. Not one. I looked at my list and hung my fool head in self-disappointment. Fortunately, looking at awesome artwork is the kind of thing from which I derive emotional comfort. It’s been a real rollercoaster putting this one together, I guess.

Alright, enough delay. If you’ve got favorites that you don’t see here — and I’m sure you do because I do as well — please let me know in the comments. Thanks in advance for not being a jerk.

Here goes:

Ordered alphabetically by artist

Alunah, Solennial

alunah-solennial-adrian-baxter

Cover by Adrian Baxter. Thee Facebooks.

Though it was Alunah‘s 2014 album, Awakening the Forest (review here), that found Michael Cowell introducing the framing style and color scheme used on their latest offering as well, Adrian Baxter‘s piece for the Birmingham outfit’s fourth LP and Svart Records label debut, Solennial (review here), is an utter standout. Themes of death and life and nature echo the organic feel always on display throughout Alunah‘s songwriting, and amid the highly detailed line drawing, the flashes of red evoke the richness of blood to comport with the skeletons and the vines twisted about like innards, subtly reminding of the band’s pagan and forest-canopy ethereality.

Brume, Rooster

brume-rooster-sean-beaudry

Cover by Shaun Beaudry. Artist gallery.

Shaun Beaudry does a lot of work in pen and ink and coffee stain, and like many of his pieces, the cover art for Rooster (review here), the Doom Stew/DHU Records debut album from San Francisco three-piece Brume, seems like it’s tailor-made to be a tattoo. More than that, what strikes me about it is the sense of narrative happening with the serpent-bird, the eggs, the coiling around what would seem to be an unfortunate scavenger and the dandelions and leaves surrounding. Each element looks like it’s giving messages, holding meaning, communicating ideas, and with such exquisite detail, the effect on the viewer is all the more immersive.

Cloud Catcher, Trails of Kozmic Dust

cloud-catcher-trails-of-kozmik-dust-adam-burke

Cover by Adam Burke. Artist website.

I imagine that, one way or another, every time I post a list like this it will feature a cover by Adam Burke. In 2017, in addition to the art for Cloud Catcher‘s Trails of Kozmic Dust (review here), the man behind Nightjar Illustration (and who did one of this site’s headers and the cover art for my book) also blasted out mention-worthy pieces topping records by Sólstafir and Spectral Haze, and his epic oil-on-canvas fantasy-art style always manages to stun. Look at the sense of scale in the Cloud Catcher cover, and the way that, as we see this cosmic battle happening, the stars seem to bleed through the two warriors, as though we’re looking at something happening across dimensions. And so we are. Beautiful.

Elder, Reflections of a Floating World

elder-reflections-of-a-floating-world-adrian-dexter

Cover by Adrian Dexter. Artist website.

A continued collaboration between Elder and Adrian Dexter yielded dividends once again with the artwork for Reflections of a Floating World (review here), released by Stickman Records and Armageddon Shop. Perhaps it’s not fair to include just the cover in this list since in my head I’m picturing the full LP’s swath of visuals, but even just in this single piece, Dexter gorgeously mirrors (get it? because “reflections?”) the band’s progressive stylizations with his own, evoking classic, stare-at-it-for-hours, poster-ready artwork and seeming to leave one wondering which end of the reflection is up and which is down in much the same way as the band’s dizzying complexity of songcraft.

The Riven, Blackbird

the-riven-blackbird-maarten-donders

Cover by Maarten Donders. Artist website.

In their video for “Killer on the Loose” (posted here), London-based heavy soul rockers The Riven play before a backdrop with the same Maarten Donders artwork on it as their debut EP, BlackbirdDonders is another repeat offender as far as appearances on this list go, and the many-time Roadburn poster collaborator’s detailed style, classic form and muted colors provide a feeling of warmth that seems almost like a goal The Riven are trying to achieve in their sound. From the moon, to the key, to the face being obliterated in smoke, the blackbird itself, the rune-laden ouroboros, the dead and hollow tree trunk, each element of the Blackbird cover holds a mystery of its own, and yet it all fits together perfectly as well, as though the art was a puzzle only Donders could piece together. I’d make a banner out of it, too.

Wight, Atlas

wight-atlas-rene-hofmann.jpg

Cover by René Hofmann. Band website.

Of the 12 covers featured on this list, René Hofmann‘s piece for Wight‘s 2017 H42 Records single, Atlas (review here), is the only one done by a member of the band itself. And I won’t lie: it’s the rainbow that sealed the deal for me. The fade from purple to yellow and sense of perspective in the rows of flowers at the bottom draw the eye toward the band’s logo, and with the mountains behind, that horizontal (angled diagonally) burst of color leads upward to the vertical color bars that seem to be holding up Planet Earth itself or are otherwise left in its path. That brazen use of color, especially with the darkness of the sky behind, was striking, hopeful and joyous in a year that seemed to need precisely as much of that as it could possibly get.

Unearthly Trance, Stalking the Ghost

unearthly-trance-stalking-the-ghost-orion-landau

Cover by Orion Landau. Artist Tumblr.

One has to wonder if, in his choice of red and purple hues, if Relapse Records in-house artist Orion Landau wasn’t specifically looking to reference Black Sabbath‘s Born Again in the artwork for Unearthly Trance‘s Stalking the Ghost (review here). Could we be looking at the devil-baby from that 1983 record all grown up in 2017? And could that reference itself be a clever manner of noting that it’s a reunion album for the band? That they’re, in essence, born again? Either way, the three hooded figures and the beast they’ve leashed are a haunting enough presence to fit with the LP’s title and the atmospherics of the group itself, while also being emblematic of the precision and detail Landau brings to the diverse range of work he does for Relapse artists across various realms of extremity and metal.

oceanwake-earthen-chris-luckhardt

Cover by Chris Luckhardt. Artist website.

The framing of the photo is a big part of the draw here, of course. The spiral of the abandoned rollercoaster. Oceanwake‘s Earthen (review here) seemed to set the goal of living up to its cover atmospherically and with the Kubrick-style framing of the abandoned rollercoaster that pulls the eye inward, almost like you’re looking down and not straight ahead, journeyman photographer Chris Luckhardt captured a murk that set a high standard indeed. The metaphor is laid on a little thick, to be sure — it isn’t subtle — but neither is the sound of Oceanwake, and the overarching greys and brooding vibe of the photo serve to genuinely affect the listening experience. Photo covers can be especially hard to pull off. This one does especially well to remain obscure even as its lines drag you in. Where does that coaster end up?

Argus, From Fields of Fire

argus-from-fields-of-fire-brad-moore

Cover by Brad Moore. Artist website.

Anyone with any level of appreciation for classic metal should by rights be an admirer of Brad Moore. The standard applies. Dude has a knack for capturing the kind of imagery you might’ve tried to emulate on the front of your high school notebook, but just ended up with an indecipherable mess of lines and half-formed monsters. Argus‘ 2017 album, From Fields of Fire (review here), with its bizarre hellscape, calls to mind doom, the NWOBHM and even some more extreme, death metal records, but the point rings true that what’s happening here is horns-up, balls-out, no-irony, no-fucking-around metal, and the most majestic Argus offering yet deserved no less. The detail of Moore‘s lines, the root influence of fantasy art, and in this case especially, the setting of theme through the use of red made this one especially arresting.

Spidergawd, IV

spidergawd-iv-emile-morel

Cover by Emile Morel. Artist website.

Easy pick. Sorry, but calling out Spidergawd art for being awesome is kind of low-hanging-fruit as far as critical assessment goes, as the fact is that’s been an essential element of what they’ve done all along across their four to-date full-lengths. The latest them, Spidergawd IV (review here), boasts the above piece by Emile Morel and inhabits the same pastel world as their past outings, but marks a turn for not having a human or semi-human figure as a part of the front cover. Instead we see an arachnid monster who may well represent the Norwegian band itself residing in a garden of fungi wonderfully rendered so that the colors almost obscure the danger lurking around. It’s very much to form, but does nothing to diminish its impact.

Process of Guilt, Black Earth

process-of-guilt-black-earth-Hugo-Santos-Pedro-Almeida

Cover by Hugo Santos and Pedro Almeida.

Granted, I said at the outset that this list wasn’t about rankings or picking favorites, and it’s not. I stand by that. However, no other album cover hit me as immediately hard as Process of Guilt‘s Black Earth (review here) with its photographed sculpture by Hugo Santos and Pedro Almeida. I don’t know who did what in terms of the division of labor in its making, but the horrific realism of the result has continued to haunt in the best way possible with its evocation of death, the spirit, the natural world and the contrast between light and dark. It seems so simple on the surface, but at the same time it’s so exacting in its position and its starkness that I can’t help but feel like it’s staring at me every time I see it, or more accurately, staring into me from someplace dark and other.

Rozamov, This Mortal Road

rozamov-this-mortal-road-andrew-weiss-matt-martinez

Cover by Andrew Weiss with layout by Matt Martinez. Artist website.

When I first saw the art for Rozamov‘s awaited Battleground Records debut long-player, This Mortal Road (review here), I was sure it had to be by Samantha Muljat. From the color wash in the sky to the otherworldly blend of photography and manipulation, to the geometric line-making overlaid, it just seemed to fit. Andrew Weiss, however, has done covers for Pelican, Spirit Adrift, and many others, and in concert with Matt Martinez‘s layout, his alien landscape is duly fraught and barren-looking while leaving the viewer to wonder if that’s a lone figure standing in the distance or just an oddly-shaped outcropping between the looming threat of the surrounding cavern walls. The message: there’s only one road ahead, only one way through it all.

A couple honorable mentions that I know I’ll add to as soon as this list goes live and I think of like 10 more records that looked awesome:

Bell Witch, Mirror Reaper
Lo-Pan, In Tensions
Godhunter, Codex Narco
Black Lung/Nap, Split 7″
Primitive Man, Caustic

So who did I miss? What were your favorite album covers of the year? Do you have a preferred style? Leave a comment with your picks and let’s get a conversation going. I know people feel strongly about this stuff, but please keep it civil so we can all have a good time.

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Wight Premiere “Atlas” Video; New Single out Tomorrow

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 16th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

wight-Photo-by-Christian-Heyse

As announced earlier this week, tomorrow is the digital release date of Atlas, the new single from German four-piece Wight. With vinyl forthcoming through H42 Records (presale starts tomorrow for that as well) sometime over the summer, the band begins quickly to move forward from their 2016 third album, Love is Not Only What You Know (review here), while keeping some of the same principals intact. You might recall that Love is Not Only What You Know was the latest in a series of three departures for Wight; each of their full-lengths to-date has marked a significant shift in sound from the one before it.

In the case of Love is Not Only What You Know, it was funk and soul elements incorporated with a classic rock feel building on the heavy psych of 2012’s Through the Woods into Deep Water (review here), which likewise was a marked shift from the straightforward nod-riffing of 2011’s Wight Weedy Wight (review here) debut. Out and out they go. Where they’ll stop, nobody knows.

With Atlas, though, Wight maintain some of the flavor of their third outing while also moving it forward. The single features two versions of the song “Atlas,” one performed by the band and the other an extra-funkified redux called “Atlas (Flashbaxx Remix),” which you know is trouble from the sheer number of ‘x’s the title contains. It lives up to that standard. Even the core “Atlas” is plenty dangerous, though, with the organ and Rhodes lines of Steffen Kirchpfening intertwining with René Hofmann‘s guitar early only to step back and allow his increasingly soulful vocal delivery — coated in far-off echo here that seems to answer him back when heard through headphones — to feature even more than on the last record en route to a quick but telling bridge jam held together atop the rhythm from bassist Peter-Philipp Schierhorn and drummer Thomas Kurek and a last run through the somewhat restrained hook.

It’s a quick listen, under five minutes, but it sees Wight bring further cohesion to the impulses that drove the material their last time out, and when the “Atlas (Flashbaxx Remix)” starts in with its Curtis Mayfield-style groove, yeah, the band lets you know they have a few more tricks up their collective sleeve yet. I’d love to hear these dudes with a full-on funky string section. It could happen. Don’t think it couldn’t.

Wight have a history of performing live in videos. They did it to lead the way into the last album with a clip for “The Love of Life Leads to Reincarnation” (posted here), and they represented Through the Woods into Deep Water by actually going to the woods and playing the title-track (posted here), so to find them digging into “Atlas” leading into the single fits their character well enough, and it’s to their credit that as they keep pushing their sound to these new places, they refuse to not draw that line of vitality in their approach. There’s some surprisingly melancholy imagery included here — for a track so colorful, the clip is awfully black and white — but Wight have very clearly come to dwell on their own wavelength, so I’m not inclined to ask questions.

Please find the video premiere for “Atlas” below, followed by the credits and the band’s upcoming live dates. My thanks to Wight and H42 Records for letting me host it.

Enjoy:

Wight, “Atlas” official video

Recorded live at Orange Box Studio, Darmstadt, January 2017

Produced by René Hofmann, Fat&Holy Records 2017

– Video Credits –
Camera & post-production: Gabriel Sahm, Johanna Amberg
Additonal Camera: Martin Kadel, Jonas Eichhorn, Fabian Weber

– Audio Credits –
Recording: Hüseyin Köroglu, Josko Koketovic
Mixing: Maurice Young
Mastering: René Hofmann

– Wight is –
Rene Hofmann: Vocals, Guitar
Peter-Philipp Schierhorn: Bass
Thomas Kurek: Drums
Steffen Kirchpfening: Organ, Rhodes

Wight live:
Mar 24 Centralstation Darmstadt, Germany w/ Colour Haze & My Sleeping Karma
Apr 01 Sputnikhalle Münster, Germany
May 05 DasBach Vienna, Austria
May 06 Zukunft Chemnitz, Germany
May 24 Schraub-BAR Bückeburg, Germany
May 26 Limes Cologne, Germany
May 26 O:M:A Karlstadt am Main, Germany

Wight on Thee Facebooks

Wight on Twitter

Wight on Bandcamp

H42 Records website

H42 Records on Thee Facebooks

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Wight to Release New Single Atlas on March 17

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 13th, 2017 by JJ Koczan

On March 24, in their hometown of Darmstadt, Germany, four-piece psych-fusion rockers Wight will play one of the shows I’d most like to see in 2017. They’ll be supporting the ongoing, Obelisk-presented European tour of My Sleeping Karma and Colour Haze (dates posted here), and golly, that’s a good bill. Talk about front-to-back. Wight of course round out that stupidly-awesome trio of acts as they continue to support last year’s likewise excellent Love is Not Only What You Know (review here), but before they take the Centralstation stage, they’ll also be posting a new single called “Atlas” that finds them further digging into the funky, soul-laden sound they proffered on that 2016 album. Vinyl is due this summer on H42 Records, but one can definitely understand why they’d want the track out earlier as well. It’s quite an occasion.

Keep an eye out to0, because later this week I’ll be premiering a video for “Atlas.” Should be on Thursday if all goes according to my (not really all that evil) evil plans. The track and its remix both rules, so please, yeah, watch for it.

H42 has the WHY-IS-THIS-NOT-A-POSTER-ON-MY-WALL cover art and release details below:

wight atlas

ATLAS new Single from Wight out March 17, 2017

Wight announces new Single
Digital out on march 17th
Vinyl presale starts march 17th (release in June/July)

New year, new music. Wight give us new tunes in form of ATLAS!

The song is supposed to reflect the grey winter in Germany, as well as the topic of the titan “Atlas” our typically German mentality. Foreign people come and we are afraid of change and get angry with oracles / media, which is why we like to react very reserved. We whine a lot although 80% of our problems are complete luxury problems. We do not know hunger!

In september 2016 “Love Is Not Only What You Know”, the third album by the German band Wight, was released. The band was founded in 2008, in 2011 they released the self-produced debut “Wight Weedy Wight”. 2012 followed the second LP “Through The Woods Into Deep Water”, as well as concerts and festival performances, among others at the Stoned From The Underground and the Desertfest in Berlin.

Limited Edition up to 200 copies out on H42 Records (H42-044)
50 on GLOW IN THE DARK vinyl
50 on CLEAR vinyl
50 on PINK vinyl
100 on BLACK vinyl
+ 20x TESTPRESS Edition with different Artwork (Only from H42 Records)

Tracklist:
A1 Atlas
B1 Atlas (Flashbaxx Remix)

Wight live:
Mar 24 Centralstation Darmstadt, Germany w/ Colour Haze & My Sleeping Karma
Apr 01 Sputnikhalle Münster, Germany
May 05 DasBach Vienna, Austria
May 06 Zukunft Chemnitz, Germany
May 24 Schraub-BAR Bückeburg, Germany
May 26 Limes Cologne, Germany
May 26 O:M:A Karlstadt am Main, Germany

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Wight, Love is Not Only What You Know (2016)

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2016

Posted in Features on December 20th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk top 30

Please note: This post is not culled in any way from the Year-End Poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t yet contributed your favorites of 2016 to that, please do.

I say this every year: These are my picks. If you’re unfamiliar with this site, or you don’t come here that often, or if you do and just normally don’t give a crap — all of which is cool — you should know it’s all run by one person. One human being. Me. My name is JJ, and this is a list of what I think are the best albums that were released in 2016.

Since before 2016 began, I’ve kept a running list of releases. My criteria for what gets included in this list is largely unchanged — it’s a balance between what I feel are important records on the level of what they achieve, what I listened to most, what held some other personal appeal, and what I think did the best job of meeting the goals it set for itself. Pretty vague, right? That’s the idea.

The nature of worldwide heavy has become so broad that to encompass it all under some universal standard is laughable. Judging psychedelia, garage rock, heavy psych, doom, sludge and so on by the same measure makes no sense, and as genres continue to splinter and remake themselves as we’ve seen them doing all year and over the last several years, one must be malleable in one’s own taste. We’ve seen a new generation of heavy rock bands emerge in the last three-plus years. It’s been amazing, and there are a few pivotal second and third records that came out in 2016 to affirm that movement underway. Look for it to continue into 2017 and beyond.

This year more than any other seemed to want to bring the different sides together. A laudable goal. Thick riffing marked with flourish of psychedelia. Spacious doom bred against folk impulses. There’s been experimentation around melds that have led to considerable triumphs, and it just doesn’t seem to me that rigid standards can apply. It’s why I don’t grade reviews and never did.

Sound is evolving now as it always has been and as it will keep doing, but like any year, 2016 had a full share of landmarks to offer as a part of that process. As universal development hopefully remains ongoing, it’s only right that we celebrate the accomplishments helping to push it along its winding and sometimes divergent-seeming paths.

I have no doubt you know what I mean. Let’s get to the list:

30. Talmud Beach, Chief

talmud beach chief

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed Feb. 10.

Seems only fair to start with a record I couldn’t put down. Finnish trio Talmud Beach‘s second album and Svart debut, Chief, hit on just the right blend of laid back, semi-acoustic groove-blues, psychedelia and classic progressive folk rock, but with the exception of its sprawling dreamscape title-track (a welcome arrival at the finale), it also kept the songwriting simple, resulting in a natural, pastoral feel that only highlighted their melodic range in songs like “Mountain Man” and “Snow Snow Snow.” I think it flew under a lot of people’s radar, but I’ve kept going back to it over the course of the year and I see no reason to stop.

29. Comet Control, Center of the Maze

comet control center of the maze

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed June 22.

Space is still the place. I’ve already highlighted closer “Artificial Light” from Comet Control‘s sophomore LP, Center of the Maze as my favorite song of 2016, so I’ll spare you the longwinded treatise on its languid cosmic glories — this time — but consider this a reminder that that song was by no means the limit of what the eight-track release had to offer in terms of breadth. From the opening push of “Dig out Your Head” to the dream-drift of “Sick in Space,” it unfolded tonal presence and a melodic depth that engaged a gorgeous, multifaceted sonic wash as it moved onward toward that landmark conclusion.

28. Droids Attack, Sci-Fi or Die

droids attack sci-fi or die

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 17.

There was not a level on which Madison, Wisconsin’s Droids Attack didn’t make it clear they were going all-out, all-in on Sci-Fi or Die. Even the title speaks to the stakes involved. And sure enough, the trio executed their fourth album with a sense of urgency and professionalism in songcraft, production, artwork (discussed here) and nuance of presentation that managed to make even a song called “Clawhammer Suicide” a classy affair. As guitarist/vocalist Brad Van said on the hidden title-track, “Death to false stoner thrash.” Droids Attack brought that ethic and more to life across the entire record.

27. Beelzefuzz, The Righteous Bloom

beelzefuzz the righteous bloom

Released by Restricted Release and The Church Within. Reviewed Aug. 2.

A winding road brought Beelzefuzz around to following up their 2013 self-titled debut (review here), and as The Righteous Bloom brought guitarist/vocalist Dana Ortt and drummer Darin McCloskey together with bassist Bert Hall and lead guitarist Greg Diener, it found their songwriting more expansive, more progressive and dug further into their own particular oddball sense of grandeur. I’ve said on multiple occasions that no one out there is doing what Beelzefuzz are doing and that continues to be true. Even as a first offering from a new lineup of the band, The Righteous Bloom took bold and exciting forward steps.

26. Foghound, The World Unseen

foghound the world unseen

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed July 6.

Down to business. Immediately. Not a moment to spare. Taking part in what can only be considered a landmark year for Ripple Music, Baltimore’s Foghound issued The World Unseen as an answer to their 2013 debut, Quick, Dirty and High (review here), and upped their game across the board. From the intensity in the hooks of “Message in the Sky” and Rockin’ and Rollin'” to the quiet interlude of “Bridge of Stonebows” and the mid-paced heavy rock nod of “Never Return,” they made a strong case for themselves among their label’s foremost acts and found individualism in the growth of their songwriting. It was a kick in the ass you weren’t going to forget.

25a. Egypt, Endless Flight

egypt endless flight

Released by Doomentia Records. Reviewed Dec. 11, 2015.

Put out by the band digitally in Dec. 2015 and issued on vinyl in 2016, Egypt‘s second LP, Endless Flight may be somewhat debatable in terms of when it actually landed (hence “25a.,” above), but the quality of the six-tracker more than warrants inclusion anyway. Rolling dense, massively-fuzzed groove, its nine-minute opening title-track set the course for the Fargo, North Dakota, three-piece, and they only grew the heavy revelry from there, as heard on the penultimate “Black Words,” which seemed to be chewing on rocks even as it played back and forth in tempo, build and push. The converted never had it so good.

25. 1000mods, Repeated Exposure To…

1000mods repeated exposure to

Released by Ouga Booga and the Mighty Oug Recordings. Reviewed Sept. 20.

There seems to be no stopping the Chiliomodi-based 1000mods, who with their third album have stepped to the forefront of Greece’s populous and vibrant heavy rock underground. Progressed well beyond where even 2014’s impressive Vultures (review here) found them, they seemed to hit a stride with Repeated Exposure To… thanks in part to road time and the ability to bring that energy directly into songs like the eight-minute roller “Loose” and the sizable crashes of “Groundhog Day.” Momentum working in their favor could be heard front-to-back from “Above 179” to “Into the Spell,” moving them toward something ever-more crucial and marking a considerable achievement along that path. 2017 might be a good time for them to test the waters with initial US shows.

24. Black Rainbows, Stellar Prophecy

black rainbows stellar prophecy

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed April 11.

Quick turnaround from Roman heavy psych magnate Gabriele Fiori (guitar/vocals) and company, but though it hit just about 13 months after their fourth full-length, Hawkdope (review here), Black Rainbows, Stellar Prophecy wholly succeeded in making an impact of its own, cuts like the oozing, organ-laced “Woman” and 11-minute jam-out triumph “Golden Widow” showcasing an approach in a continuous state of refinement that seems to get rawer as it goes, shifting like a rogue planetoid toward some maddening cosmic realization. How something can seem both so frenetic and so blissful is still a mystery, and perhaps that’s part of what makes Stellar Prophecy resonate as it does, but either way, Black Rainbows brought together some of the year’s most efficient psychedelic immersion.

23. Borracho, Atacama

borracho atacama

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed Nov. 14.

Borracho don’t seem to release an album until they have something to say. That was to their credit on Atacama, their third LP and label debut for Kozmik Artifactz debut. Also their second collection issued as a trio behind 2013’s Oculus (review here), it distinguished itself from its predecessor in its sense of overarching flow, shifting between the ahead-thrust of “Gold from Sand” into the 10-minute sample-laden jam “Overload” to start out with such ease that the listener had little choice but to follow along. With an expanded scope on “Drifted away from the Sun” and the lightly-strummed memento mori “Flower,” Borracho found new avenues of expression to complement their well established dense, heavy riffing, and took obvious care in crafting their most realized LP yet.

22. The Golden Grass, Coming Back Again

the golden grass coming back again

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed April 26.

Nothing Brooklyn’s The Golden Grass does feels like happenstance, and though their classic-styled boogie is imbued with a vibrant, friendly positive energy, there’s an underlying meticulousness in their arrangements and in their songwriting that came further into focus on Coming Back Again, their sophomore release 2014’s self-titled debut (review here). A more progressive take showed itself in “Reflections” and “Down the Line,” and taken in combination with the bookends “Get it Together” and “See it Through,” the three-piece stood on ground that was even more their own than on the first record, striking a careful balance between the willful exploration of new elements and the outright need for tracks to directly engage their listeners with catchy hooks and upbeat vibes. They did it. Expect continued growth.

21. Curse the Son, Isolator

curse the son isolator

Released by Snake Charmer Coalition and The Company Records. Reviewed March 1.

For something so awash in fuzz, so nodding in its rhythms, so let’s-push-the-vocals-back-under-this-huge-awesome-fucking-riff, Curse the Son‘s Isolator was also remarkably clearheaded in its purposes. With the added vocal harmonies of “Callous Unemotional Traits,” the far-off spaces of “Hull Crush Depth” and the stoner metal despair of “Aislamiento,” the Connecticut three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Ron Vanacore, capital-‘d’ Drummer Michael Petrucci and newcomer bassist Brendan Keefe drew a direct, intentional line to sometimes-grueling (hello, “Sleepwalker Wakes”) weighted tonality and found justification for their largesse in its own being. Like 2012’s Psychache (review here), I expect to be returning to Isolator over a longer term than this single year of release.

20. Neurosis, Fires Within Fires

neurosis fires within fires

Released by Neurot Recordings. Reviewed Sept. 21.

I feel like I need to explain myself here. Make no mistake, NeurosisFires Within Fires is among the year’s most accomplished offerings. There’s just about no way it wouldn’t be. So why not top 10? Top five? It’s a question of timing. With the long-running post-metal progenitors, it’s always a longer digestion period. It was about two years before 2012’s Honor Found in Decay (review here) really sunk in, and I expect Fires Within Fires will work similarly over the greater term. Maybe a little guilt on my part for the disparity between its quality and its placement, but rest assured, Neurosis remain among the most imperative bands walking the earth, and as they took on the full brunt of 30 years of unmitigated progression through Fires Within Fires, they were no less brazen in pushing themselves creatively than they’ve ever been.

19. Conan, Revengeance

conan revengeance

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Jan. 19.

Though the narrative of Conan has remained largely unchanged since their inception — hack, slash, kill, riff — and they still bask in nigh-on-unmatched tonal slaughter, their third full-length brings a few key developments. Perhaps most notable from opener “Throne of Fire” onward is the vocal interplay between guitarist/founder Jon Davis and bassist/longtime-engineer Chris Fielding, who joined after 2014’s Blood Eagle (review here). Adding Fielding‘s deeper growls allowed Davis to subtly move into a cleaner shout, and the emergent dynamic between them made Revengeance a decidedly expanded affair compared to Conan‘s past work. Adding drummer Rich Lewis to the mix was no minor shift either, and as much as Conan had already established their sheer dominance, they also sounded refreshed and set themselves up to keep growing.

18. Baby Woodrose, Freedom

baby woodrose freedom

Released by Bad Afro Records. Reviewed Aug. 18.

Some records just feel like gifts, and though many of its lyrical positions were cynical — “Reality,” “21st Century Slave,” “Mind Control Machine,” “Red the Sign Post,” etc. — Freedom marked the 15th anniversary of Danish garage-psych rockers Baby Woodrose with dripping lysergic aplomb, reminding some four years after their last LP, 2012’s Third Eye Surgery (review here), that bandleader Lorenzo Woodrose is unparalleled when it comes to manifesting his take on the psychedelic victories of 13th Floor Elevators and classic-era Hawkwind — firmly at home levitating on the edge of time. Its swirl and underlying foundation of songwriting, its Richie Havens cover title-track, and its sprawling interstellar “Termination” were like a welcome check-in from another dimension, and I only hope it’s not four years before Woodrose sends the next signal. Earth needs this band.

17. Geezer, Geezer

geezer geezer

Released by Ripple Music and STB Records. Reviewed Nov. 10.

I’m not going to discount the shuffle of “Sunday Speed Demon” or sleeze of “Sunday Speed Demon,” but where Geezer‘s self-titled third full-length really showed how far the New York heavy blues-psych trio have come was in its extended midsection jams, “Sun Gods,” “Bi-Polar Vortex” and “Dust,” each of which showed a distinct approach while feeding into an engaging flow between them, offering a blend of trailmarker hooks as they drifted into realms of organic chemistry previously uncharted by the band. The slow-motion swing of “Hangnail Crisis,” raucous push of “Superjam Maximus” and concluding bounce of “Stoney Pony” brought them back down to earth to finish out with a symmetry to the album’s opening, but Geezer kept a collective hand on the controls the whole voyage and when they landed, it was an arrival indeed, and very much what their two previous records were building toward.

16. EYE, Vision and the Ageless Light

eye vision and the ageless light

Released by The Laser’s Edge. Reviewed Nov. 17.

Beautifully experimental with its 27-minute finisher “As Sure as the Sun,” EYE‘s Vision and the Ageless Light seemed throughout its whole 46-minute run to be executing a cohesive vision in its synth-soaked progressive textures. Between the intro “Book of the Dead” and the subsequent “Kill the Slavemaster,” “Searching,” “Dweller of the Twilight Void” and the already-noted closer, each piece had something different to offer that added to the full impact of the whole, and with guitarist Jon Finely and bassist Michael Sliclen joining founding drummer/vocalist Brandon Smith and synth/Mellotron/Moog-ist Lisa Bella Donna (also vocals and acoustic guitar), EYE added to the scope of 2013’s Second Sight (review here) and found a place for themselves where prog complexity didn’t need to come at the expense of memorable songwriting and spaced-out vibes. An absolute joy, front to back.

15. Fatso Jetson, Idle Hands

fatso jetson idle hands

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Oct. 3.

Even Fatso Jetson themselves would probably have to admit that six years — even a six years that saw several splits, singles, etc. — was too long between albums. Fortunately, Idle Hands saw the desert rock forebears in top form as regards their quirk-fueled songwriting, angular approach to punk and inimitable groove. Following 2010’s Archaic Volumes (review here) was no easy task, but with additional depth to the material from the contributions of guitarist Dino von Lalli — son of founding guitarist/vocalist Mario Lalli and nephew of founding bassist Larry Lalli — guest spots from his sister Olive Lalli as well as Sean Wheeler (the latter moves second cut “Portuguese Dream” into high-echelon strangeness) and the ever-propulsive drumming of Tony Tornay, Fatso Jetson were both all over the place and right at the core of where they most ought to be sonically. At 56 minutes, it hardly seemed long enough.

14. Hexvessel, When We are Death

hexvessel when we are death

Released by Century Media. Reviewed Feb. 5.

Each song was like a different persona the band adopted momentarily, whether it was the Bowie-goes-proto-goth-prog of organ-ic opener “Transparent Eyeball” or the grim pastoralia of “Mirror Boy” and the condemnations/proclamations of “Drugged up on the Universe,” but wherever Hexvessel went on their third full-length and Century Media debut, When We are Death, that unifying theme went with them. Death. It was everywhere in the Finland-based genre-benders’ deeply varied approach, though its presence made their material in no way off-putting, and in the case of cuts like “Cosmic Truth” or the later “Mushroom Spirit Doors,” not even dark, and as it drew the tracks together despite working in different sounds and style, it became apparent that When We are Death worked because of a universal quality in songwriting and presentation allowing for such drastic shifts without any risk of losing the audience.

13. Zun, Burial Sunrise

zun burial sunrise

Released by Small Stone Records. Reviewed Feb. 16.

Yawning Man guitarist Gary Arce — a key figure in the development of desert rock and a player of unmatched tone, period — had quite a year, between Zun‘s Burial Sunrise, his main outfit and his collaboration with Fatso Jetson vs. HifiKlub, but it was the dreamscape drift of songs like “Come Through the Water” and “All that You Say I Am” as well as the subtle hooks of “Into the Wasteland” and “All for Nothing” that, for me, made this the highlight. Sure, bringing in vocalists Sera Timms (Ides of Gemini, Black Mare) and John Garcia (ex-Kyuss, Slo Burn, Vista Chino, etc.) and having them swap back and forth between the tracks didn’t hurt either, but the wash of ethereal presence in Arce‘s guitar was an excellent showcase for his patience and improvisational sensibilities, and the spaces Burial Sunrise covered seemed to have an infinite horizon all their own. Will hope for a follow-up, will hope Garcia and Timms return, and will hope for a duet.

12. Elephant Tree, Elephant Tree

elephant tree elephant tree

Released by Magnetic Eye Records. Reviewed Jan. 29.

One had reasonably high expectations for the debut full-length from London’s Elephant Tree after their 2014 EP Theia (review here) so deftly blended spacious, sitar-laced heavy psychedelic rock with more visceral sludge impulses — a difficult mix to pull off — but I think it would’ve been impossible to see the quality of this self-titled outing coming in any substantive way. Gone were the screams, in was a depth of tone and nigh-on-perfect tempo — see “Dawn” and “Aphotic Blues,” as well as the acoustic “Circles” between them — and where some first albums have a kind of tentative, feeling-it-out vibe, guitarist/vocalist Jack Townley (interview here), bassist/vocalist Peter Holland, drummer Sam Hart and sitarist/vocalist/engineer Riley MacIntyre took utter command of the proceedings. They won’t have the element of surprise working for them next time, but as Elephant Tree made perfectly clear in its biggest surprise of all, neither do they need it.

11. Mos Generator, Abyssinia

mos generator abyssinia

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed July 12.

If you were to ask me to summarize in one word the last four-plus years of Mos Generator‘s tenure, since their reactivation with 2012’s Nomads (review here) and the subsequent lineup changes and hard-touring that followed 2014’s Electric Mountain Majesty (review here), I’d say “go.” I might say it three times: Go-go-go. One of three LP-ish offerings out this year, the studio album Abyssinia embodied this ethic as it started with immediate momentum on “Strangest Times” and “You’ve Got a Right” and seemed to push itself into new ground as it went. Guitarist/vocalist/founder Tony Reed brought heavy boogie to bear at a frenetic clip, but Abyssinia offset its early mania with later progressive stylization on “There’s No Return from Nowhere,” “Time and Other Thieves” and harmonized closer “Outlander,” so that in addition to representing their furious creativity, it also brought them to places they’ve never been before in sound.

10. Slomatics, Future Echo Returns

slomatics future echo returns

Released by Black Bow Records. Reviewed June 29.

In some ways, Future Echo Returns was simply picking up where Belfast’s Slomatics left off with 2014’s Estron (review here), as heard on the riff of lead-in track “Estronomicon,” but as the third in a purported trilogy following that record and 2012’s A Hocht, it also brought the tonecrushing three-piece to Skyhammer Studio to work with producer Chris Fielding (Conan) and presented a linear storyline that, while rife with standout moments in cuts like “Electric Breath,” the ambient “Ritual Beginnings” and ultra-catchy “Supernothing,” found a genuine sense of resolution in the finale “Into the Eternal” that spoke to the scope the entire work was meant to represent — not just itself, but an entirety spanning three albums. Not a minor feat, but what also made Future Echo Returns so resonant was how well the material stood on its own, so that even without the narrative context, it was immersive, hypnotic and unbridled in its heft.

9. Wo Fat, Midnight Cometh

wo fat midnight cometh

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed April 21.

After two landmarks issued by Small Stone in 2014’s The Conjuring (review here) and 2012’s The Black Code (reviews here and here), Texas forerunners of riff Wo Fat gave a concise rundown of their appeal in the six-track Ripple debut and sixth LP overall, Midnight Cometh. Their ongoing development as found them bringing together a two-sided personality of memorable songs and open, fluid jams, and cuts like “There’s Something Sinister in the Wind,” “Of Smoke and Fog,” “Three Minutes to Midnight” and “Nightcomer” emphasized the next stage of this process, while the shuffling “Riffborn” and swaggering blues rock of “La Dilleme de Detenu” gave listeners a chance to touch ground every now and again. Over the last two-plus years, Wo Fat have become a point of influence for other, particularly American, acts — see labelmates Geezer — and Midnight Cometh assured that will be the case going forward too; a status well-earned.

8. King Buffalo, Orion

king buffalo orion

Released by Stickman Records. Reviewed July 29.

Offered up this summer as a limited self-release and picked up by no less than Stickman Records (Motorpsycho, Elder), Orion might be the most molten inclusion on this list. It’s also my pick for 2016 Debut of the Year, and to hear cuts like “She Sleeps on a Vine,” “Kerosene,” the sprawling closer “Drinking from the River Rising,” or even just to take the whole record front-to-back, which was clearly how the band intended it be experienced, there’s just about no competition in that regard that stands up. The Rochester, NY, three-piece showed marked promise on their 2013 demo (review here) and 2015 split with Lé Betre (review here), but the listenability of Orion — which earned every single one of its repeat visits — made it a triumph on a different level entirely, and distinguished King Buffalo as a formidable presence in the sphere of US heavy psychedelia, fostering a sound no less soulful for its outward cosmic reach and to-be-measured-in-lightyears scale of potential.

7. Wight, Love is Not Only What You Know

wight love is not only what you know

Released by Fat and Holy Records, Kozmik Artifactz, Import Export Music and SPV. Reviewed Sept. 7.

German outfit Wight answered significant anticipation on their third album, Love is Not Only What You Know, some four years after 2012’s Through the Woods into Deep Water (review here) and undertook a significant evolution in sound. A transition from a trio to a four-piece and adding a strong current of funk to their heavy psych groove and boogie resulted in cuts like “The Muse and the Mule,” the jammed-out “Kelele” and “The Love for Life Leads to Reincarnation,” which were as danceable as they were nod-ready, and when complemented by shorter classic rockers like “Helicopter Mama” and “I Wanna Know What You Feel” (still plenty funky) and the Eastern-tinged interlude “Three Quarters,” gave Love is Not Only What You Know scope to match its ass-shaking encouragement. It was a spirit unto itself among 2016 releases, but ultimately, the key to understanding the record was right there in the title: It was all about love, and wherever Wight went in a given track, they never lost sight of that.

6. Greenleaf, Rise Above the Meadow

greenleaf rise above the meadow

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Feb. 18.

A decade and a half after 2001’s Revolution Rock (discussed here), Sweden’s Greenleaf most embodied that ethic with Rise Above the Meadow, their sixth long-player and Napalm Records debut. 2014’s Trails and Passes (review here) represented the key step of founding guitarist Tommi Holappa (interview here) bringing vocalist Arvid Johnsson into the lineup, but Rise Above the Meadow built exponentially on what that album achieved, bolstered by work as a touring band and a revitalized songwriting process heard in “Howl,” “A Million Fireflies,” “You’re Gonna be My Ruin,” the stomping “Golden Throne” and “Tyrants Tongue,” among others. I refuse to discount the quality of Trails and Passes, 2012’s Nest of Vipers (review here) or 2007’s landmark Agents of Ahriman (review here), but as Greenleaf shifted toward a style more reminiscent of Holappa‘s later output with Dozer, they also seemed to stake their claim on the forefront of European heavy rock and roll, which was just waiting for them to do so.

5. Brant Bjork, Tao of the Devil

brant bjork tao of the devil

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 15.

Perhaps the most believable lyric of 2016 was the opening line of leadoff cut “The Gree Heen” from Brant Bjork‘s Tao of the Devil: “I got all that I need. I got the gree-heen.” From the prominent pot leaf on the cover to that single clause — which set the tone for that song’s mega-nod as much as everything that followed in the boogie of “Humble Pie” and “Stackt,” the so-laid-back-it’s-almost-unconscious title-track and the longer-form explorations of “Dave’s War” and the wah’ed-out “Evening Jam” — the inimitable Bjork seems to have embraced the role of stoner guru and the Godfather of Desert Rock. Tao of the Devil was his second release through Napalm behind 2014’s Black Power Flower (review here), which introduced the Low Desert Punk Band, and far from hanging its hat on the man’s historical accomplishments from his days in KyussFu ManchuCheVista Chino, etc., the 50-minute eight-tracker came fueled by the soul most typified in Bjork‘s solo catalog, which it’s increasingly easy to argue is his greatest contribution to the desert aesthetic. Definitely in his wheelhouse, but what a wheelhouse.

4. Asteroid, III

asteroid iii

Released by Fuzzorama Records. Reviewed Oct. 21.

What a relief it was to have Asteroid back, and what a relief it was to have III arrive some six years after II (review here) and find the Örebro, Sweden, trio’s certified-organic chemistry undulled by that long stretch. The songs — “Pale Moon,” “Last Days,” “Til Dawn,” “Wolf and Snake,” “Silver and Gold,” “Them Calling,” “Mr. Strange” — there wasn’t a miss in the bunch, and in addition to the reignited craftsmanship, III made clear a progression as players and the intent to move forward from guitarist/vocalist Robin Hirse, bassist/vocalist Johannes Nilsson and drummer Elvis Campbell (since replaced by Jimmi Kolscheen), so that the material didn’t just let listeners know Asteroid was a band again after having unceremoniously faded out for a half-decade, but gave a signal that perhaps they were just getting started. One can only hope that turns out to be the case, but either way, III felt like a reward dolled out to their fanbase after a long absent stretch, and one that, like II and their 2007 self-titled debut (discussed here) before it, will reverberate its echoes for years to come. Hands down 2016’s most welcome return.

3. Gozu, Revival

gozu revival

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed May 19.

Though it would carry the context of its scorching opener “Nature Boy” with it for the duration and, accordingly, hit with a more intense feel than its 2013 predecessor, The Fury of a Patient Man (review here), Gozu‘s fourth album overall and Ripple label debut was a kick in the ass on more than just that one level. It found the Boston foursome with the finally-solidified lineup of vocalist/guitarist Marc Gaffney, guitarist Doug Sherman, bassist Joe Grotto and drummer Mike Hubbard, and while one could argue they still wound up under the banner of a heavy rock band, that became happenstance to the songs themselves. That is, even more than The Fury of a Patient Man or 2010’s Locust Season (review here), Gozu came across as writing not to style, but to their own impulses, as demonstrated in “Big Casino,” the echoing soul of “Tin Chicken” and shuffle-thrust of “Oldie,” and as they moved beyond their initial swath of influence into this individualized sonic persona, they reaped the benefits of the locked-in lineup and a process of craft that never sounded so purposeful. Revival was indeed typified by its vitality, but it was also the sound of a band maturing as a unit, becoming who they were meant to be, and there is almost nothing more exciting than that for a single album to represent. Plus, it had a song called “By Mennen,” and, you know, references.

2. Mars Red Sky, Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul)

mars red sky apex iii praise for the burning soul

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed Feb. 24.

It was unreasonable to expect the third full-length from Bordeaux, France, trio Mars Red Sky to surpass 2014’s Stranded in Arcadia (review here) and the progressive crux that album brought to the warm tones and sweet melodicism of their 2011 self-titled debut (review here), but Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul) reinforced the elements that worked so well on previous outings while pushing inarguably onto what the band seemed to know was “Alien Ground” if the title of their intro was anything to go by. More over, it did so with a natural fluidity and poise that were as striking as they were encompassing in sound. Tying to earlier 2016’s Providence EP (review here) in concept and execution through that intro and the title-track following it, Apex III presented the to-date pinnacle of Mars Red Sky‘s growth in songs like “The Whinery,” “Mindreader,” the tear-inducing “Under the Hood,” the swing-happy “Friendly Fire,” the willful atmospheric crash of closer “Prodigal Sun” — each one a crucial advancing step from the trio of guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras, bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Mathieu “Matgaz” Gazeau — and brilliantly fed them one into the other, so that in addition to the standout impressions of each, there developed a personality to the whole span of the album; a world of Mars Red Sky‘s own creation, where they dwelt for what seemed too short a time before returning to earth and on from here to who knows where next.

1. SubRosa, For this We Fought the Battle of Ages

subrosa for this we fought the battle of ages

Released by Profound Lore. Reviewed Aug. 26.

Most of all, For this We Fought the Battle of Ages was fearless. For their fourth album, Salt Lake City’s SubRosa adapted themes from 1924’s We by Yevgeny Zamyatin, which laid out a futuristic dystopia wherein all identity is subsumed to the state and even love is outlawed when not properly sanctioned. This framework, obscure if influential, gave guitarist/vocalist Rebecca Vernon, violinist/vocalist Sarah Pendleton, violinist/backing vocalist Kim Pack, bassist/vocalist Levi Hanna, drummer/engineer Andy Patterson (formerly of Iota, among others), and a range of other contributors, a space in which to explore gender and LGBT issues across the six included tracks, and from the opening build and crush of the chorus to “Despair is a Siren” through the depiction of privilege in “Wound of the Warden,” the 97-second Italian-language ballad “Il Cappio” (translated: “the noose”) and into the gut-wrenching finale of “Troubled Cells,” their musical accomplishment was no less stunning than lyrics like, “Isn’t it good to be acquainted with darkness?/To caress it gently/To slit its throat,” from “Black Majesty.” Tense in its quiet stretches, harmonized vocally, given orchestral presence through its use of strings, flute, French horn, and so on, For this We Fought the Battle of Ages worked fluidly in what for most acts would be a contradictory modus of careful, meticulous arrangements and raw, emotional realism. No matter how deep it dove — and by the time identity was being erased and the state was taking control of the body on “Killing Rapture,” it was diving pretty deep — SubRosa never lost their sense of poise, so that the defiance in the last movement of “Troubled Cells” in which Heaven itself is rejected with the clearest of justifications, “Paradise is a lie if you’re not by my side,” the band seemed to stand as straight and tall as their multi-tiered righteousness would warrant. But even if one took For this We Fought the Battle of Ages with politics aside, its achievement in marrying post-metallic structures, gothic texture and progressive atmospherics was on a plane of its own making, operating under its own rules and in its own definitive space. Albums like it do not happen every year, and forward motion for genre as a whole is rarely so visible as it was in this special offering, which seems only fair to regard as a landmark for the band and anyone whose ears and hearts it touched.

The Next 20

Like any good Top 30, mine goes to 50. Here is the next batch:

31. Blaak Heat, Shifting Mirrors
32. Truckfighters, V
33. West, Space & Love, Vol. II
34. Seedy Jeezus with Isaiah Mitchell, Tranquonauts
35. Yawning Man, Historical Graffiti
36. Causa Sui, Return to Sky
37. Vokonis, Olde One Ascending
38. Hotel Wrecking City Traders, Phantomonium
39. The Wounded Kings, Visions in Bone
40. It’s Not Night: It’s Space, Our Birth is but a Sleep and a Forgetting
41. Beastwars, The Death of all Things
42. Naxatras, II
43. Holy Grove, Holy Grove
44. Worshipper, Shadow Hymns
45. Wretch, Wretch
46. Colour Haze, Live Vol. I: Europa Tournee 2015
47. Zaum, Eidolon
48. Bellringer, Jettison
49. Young Hunter, Young Hunter
50. Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Y Proffwyd Dwyll

From the kinetic desert artistry of Blaak Heat to Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard’s ethereal synth-laden doom, there are more than a few essentials here. I’ve never before done a year-end list that had so many releases on it, but my motivation in doing so this time around couldn’t have been simpler: They were simply too good and had too much to offer to leave out. It would’ve been an oversight to do so.

Honorable Mentions

Even a Top 50 fails to grasp the full scope of what 2016 brought about musically, so here are even more, alphabetically:

Ancient Warlocks, II
Black Moon Circle, Sea of Clouds
Sergio Ch., Aurora
Lamp of the Universe, Hidden Knowledge
Mondo Drag, The Occultation of Light
Øresund Space Collective, Visions Of…
-(16)-, Lifespan of a Moth
Spidergawd, III
The Well, Pagan Science
Wovenhand, Star Treatment

And if that’s still not enough, here are 60-plus more names who shouldn’t be left out of the discussion, also alphabetically:

Akris, Atala, Atomikylä, Backwoods Payback, Beastmaker, BigPig, Black Cobra, Black Lung, Blood Ceremony, Blues Pills, Bright Curse, Bus, Dee Calhoun, Captain Crimson, Child, La Chinga, Church of Misery, Conclave, Cough, Devil to Pay, Domkraft, Dot Legacy, Electric Citizen, Estoner, Eternal Elysium, Fatso Jetson & Gary Arce vs. Hifiklub, Fox 45, Goatess, Goblin Cock, Graves at Sea, Heavy Temple (they’ll be back on next year’s list), High Fighter, Holy Serpent, Hotel Wrecking City Traders, Inter Arma, Joy, Kaleidobolt, Khemmis, King Dead, Lord, Lord Vicar, Merchant, Mirrors for Psychic Warfare, Helen Money, Monkey3, Moon Coven, Mother Mooch, Necro, New Keepers of the Water Towers, T.G. Olson, Oranssi Pazuzu, Pooty Owldom, Russian Circles, Salem’s Pot, Samavayo, Seremonia, Skuggsjá, Sourvein, Spirit Adrift, Stone Machine Electric, Suma, Surya Kris Peters, Swans, Throttlerod, Virus, Wasted Theory, Wretch, and Zaum.

Thank You

In case none of the above has made it clear, I’ll just say flat out that 2016 has been an amazing year for music, and that every time I feel like maybe underground heavy has hit a wall and there’s nowhere left for it to go, sure enough about three minutes later another record shows up that slaps me in the face with a reminder of just how wrong that notion is.

If you’re still reading — how could you be? — thank you so much for your incredible support throughout 2016 and all the years The Obelisk has been in progress. I already know that 2017 is going to bring some incredible music as well, but that’s another list for another time, so I’ll just say again how much I appreciate your being a part of this ongoing project, how much it means to me to have you here. Thank you, thank you, and thank you.

And please, if there’s anything I forgot, got wrong, misspelled, or if you just think I used the word “breadth” too many times, please let me know about it in the comments.

One more time: Thank you.

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Wight Announce Tour Dates in Germany and Switzerland Supporting Love is Not Only What You Know

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 7th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

wight-photo-by-christian-heyse

German heavy psych rockers Wight released their funk-fortified third album (I kind of wish it was their fourth, just so I could continue the alliteration), Love is Not Only What You Know (review here), in September on Fat and Holy RecordsKozmik Artifactz, etc. Like everything they’ve done to-date, it represented a significant turn in sound from where they’d been previously, taking some of the psychedelic elements of 2012’s sophomore outing, Through the Woods into Deep Water (review here), to upbeat places that many even in the jammiest spheres wouldn’t dare to go. Adding a fourth member in percussionist/vocalist Steffen KirchpfeningWight signaled clearly they were embarking on a new era, and if you heard the record — if you haven’t, stream it below — you know the results were righteous.

Now they’ll take the show on the road in Germany and Switzerland. Joined by Kes from Istanbul, Wight head into 2017 in grand style on a run presented by Sound of Liberation that starts on Dec. 27 and goes until Jan. 7. They seem to have given the tour the name “The Green Baron and the Flying Fist of Bosphorus,” so, you know, that’s something. I have no idea what it means, but it sounds like a good time, and that could very well be the point.

Dates follow as announced by the band via the social medias:

wight-tour

We are happy to announce the upcoming Germany/Switzerland tour between the years with KES from Istanbul as support. You might have never heard of them but now it’s time. We are also working on new songs to present you at one of the following dates:

Wight & Kes, The Green Baron and the Flying Fist of Bosphorous tour:
27.12 MICHELSTADT – Unterholz
28.12 MÜNCHEN – Feierwerk
29.12 WÜRZBURG – Immerhin
30.12 OLTEN – Coq D’or
31.12 DARMSTADT – Goldene Krone
03.01 HAMBURG – Bar227
04.01 KIEL – Schaubude
05.01 DRESDEN – Sabotage
06.01 BERLIN – Zukunft am Ostkreuz
07.01 TBA please get in contact with us for booking!

Poster by Maarten Donders and René Hofmann

Wight is:
René Hofmann – Guitar, Vocals, Synthesizer
Peter-Philipp Schierhorn – Bass, Additional Vocals
Thomas Kurek – Drums, Additional Vocals
Steffen Kirchpfening – Percussion, Additional Vocals

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https://wight.bandcamp.com/

Wight, Love is Not Only What You Know (2016)

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Wight, Love is Not Only What You Know: Hot on the One

Posted in Reviews on September 7th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

wight love is not only what you know

Each of Wight‘s albums has represented a significant jump in sound from the one before it. At this point, they have a decent track record going of shifting sonically from release to release. Their first outing, Wight Weedy Wight (review here), lived up to its name in 2011 with fuzzy groove and stonerized riffing. The 2012 follow-up, Through the Woods into Deep Water (review here), found the Darmstadt trio working quickly on a path of progression, greatly expanding their scope and psychedelic undertones with a natural, jammy vibe.

Their awaited third full-length, Love is Not Only What You Know (on Fat and Holy Records, Kozmik Artifactz, Import Export Music and SPV), may have been much slower in arriving, but brings with it no less a sense of departure from its predecessor(s).

First of all, it marks the introduction of percussionist Steffen Kirchpfening to the lineup with guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist/producer René Hofmann, bassist Peter-Philipp Schierhorn and drummer Thomas Kurek, making it Wight‘s first record as a four-piece, but it also brazenly incorporates elements of classic funk and soul in songs like opener “Helicopter Mama,” “The Muse and the Mule,” “Kelele” and the 11-minute closer “The Love for Life Leads to Reincarnation” that are at once the band’s most clearheaded work to-date but also their most outwardly grooving.

No doubt the inclusion of Kirchpfening plays a role in this — percussion certainly gets its say throughout, right from the bouncing start of “Helicopter Mama,” which was also released as a 7″ single (review here) last year — but as each Wight full-length has moved past the one before it, it has also brought choice elements along for that trip. Through the Woods into Deep Water held to the tonal largesse and fluid spirit of Wight Weedy Wight, and similarly, the seven tracks/46 minutes of Love is Not Only What You Know carry forward the second album’s graceful flow, memorable songwriting, and for the most part, its looser feel and swing.

It’s the context in which those elements arrive that has shifted. Conveniently, the liner notes to the CD version list the band’s influences for each track, and they range from James Brown and Stevie Wonder on “Helicopter Mama,” to broken hearts, David Gilmour and Jack Bruce on “The Muse and the Mule,” to traveling, cultures and chaos on the Eastern-inflected interlude “Three Quarters.” Through the longer stretches in “The Muse and the Mule” (10:10) and “Kelele” (9:29) which follows to round out side A, Hofmann seems to play the role of bandleader.

“Helicopter Mama” was more straightforward, and it gets a complement on side B’s “I Wanna Know What You Feel,” but particularly in the more fleshed out pieces — it goes for “The Love for Life Leads to Reincarnation” (11:47) as well — Hofmann shines vocally, on guitar played through a range of effects, and in adding keyboard flourish. That’s not to say the rest of the band doesn’t make pivotal contributions as well. As with Through the Woods into Deep Water, it’s Schierhorn‘s bass keeping the material grounded, and “The Muse and the Mule” would simply fall flat without him.

Ditto that for “Kelele” and really the record as a whole, including the more subdued penultimate cut “Biophilia Intermezzo,” shorter at three minutes than everything but “Three Quarters,” which is two, but still soulful enough to make an impression. After a dreamier departure in the second half of “The Muse and the Mule,” “Kelele” starts with funky thrust and delivers its hook sans pretense, Kurek holding down the march while Kirchpfening fills the spaces between beats with shekere and djembe.

wight-700

Just past four minutes in, the song comes to a halt and they launch into a guitar-led heavy psych jam, Hofmann taking an extended solo as the band pushes further and further out, eventually bringing back to the initial progression and the repetitions of the title that seem to beg for a sing-along without actually begging for it, bookending the track excellently and underscoring the sense of control with which Wight execute their material at this stage.

Their stylistic fusion extends even more on “Three Quarters,” which plays up Mideastern drones and chanting for a quick but hypnotic psychedelic centerpiece effect to transition into side B, which comes back to classic funk-infused rock on “I Wanna Know What You Feel,” reminiscent of Humble Pie or early John Mayall if they decided to incorporate sitar accent.

Both “I Wanna Know What You Feel” and “Biophilia Intermezzo” are shorter than anything on side A, including “Helicopter Mama,” but the groove of one and the key-laced soul explosiveness of the other make them standouts nonetheless and though the sound varies widely throughout side B, basically from one song into the next, by the time “The Love for Life Leads to Reincarnation” comes on to close out with a return to the funkier, jammy feel of “The Muse and the Mule,” it all makes an odd kind of sense within the sphere in which Wight seem to be operating.

With Hofmann doing a more than capable Chris Cornell on vocals, the finale opens patiently with a key-solo jam before unfolding its first verse and moving into its chorus, and the difference turns out to be that when the band launches into the last jam this time, there’s no coming back, unlike, say, “Kelele.”

Keys, claves, temple blocks, drums, bass, guitar — all of it creates a fitting swirl to end the expansive feel of the record as a whole, but it’s important to note that the more pervasive vibe comes from the live feel of the song itself, and that’s also a consistent thread tying Love is Not Only What You Know together even as it continues to introduce new ways of working in its final moments. It is unquestionably Wight‘s most vibrant release, and to listen to it and Wight Weedy Wight next to each other, one would hardly even recognize it’s the same band. Because it’s not.

I said their last time out that I wouldn’t want to predict where they head next, and while they seem to have found a niche for themselves otherwise largely unoccupied in European heavy rock, the same applies here. Wight have shown time and again that their commitment is to following their creative will rather than a predetermined “sound,” and on their third album, that will has produced an accomplished collection of intricate but vital songs that redefine the band’s scope entirely.

What that might mean for the future, who knows? Who cares? It’s a party. Groove out and rock on.

Wight, “The Love for Life Leads to Reincarnation” official video

Wight on Thee Facebooks

Wight on Bandcamp

Wight on Twitter

Wight preorder at Kozmik Artifactz

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Wight Announce Love is Not Only What You Know Release Show

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 17th, 2016 by JJ Koczan

It’s kind of hard to believe that by the time Sept. 24 rolls around it will have been four years since Wight released their second album, Through the Woods into Deep Water (review here), but what it means is that it’s been an even longer wait for their third outing than I consciously realized. Love is Not Only What You Know will be out this fall, marking the Darmstadt heavy psych rockers’ first album as a four-piece and a funk-fortified new direction for the band. Each of their albums has been a substantial leap from the one before it, so who knows how long this particular party will last before they move on to the next one, but you’re going to have to take my word for it when I say this is one to savor, particularly for those who might get down with classic sweaty grooves.

No exact release date for the album that I’ve seen, but in addition to a slot at Burg Herzberg in July and Swamp Fest also in September, they’ve got a release show booked for Love is Not Only What You Know in their hometown, and you’ll find the info for it below, as posted by guitarist/vocalist René Hofmann.

Dig:

wight

Sep. 24 – Wight Record Release Party + Special Guests: Operators

Oetinger Villa
Kranichsteiner St. 81, 64289 Darmstadt, Hessen

Wight will finally release their third long player “Love Is Not Only What You Know”

We’d like to invite you all to celebrate the birth of our new art piece. It took us more time and effort than ever before. There’s a story behind it, the band’s and personal experiences of the last 4 years. There are countless people, who joined and left us in that time, who influenced us in our daily lives and in our artistical output. For my part, I am very grateful for the good and bad times. Love in all its facets hit me – joy, pain, family, friendship, to be stuck on somebody and being disappointed, to know that there is love and hate for yourself too…

Music is just there to stop thinking and start feeling… and enjoy exactly that!

Or to say it in Wayne Shorter’s words: “Music is interior decoration.”

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Wight, “The Love for Life Leads to Reincarnation” live video

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