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

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

derp

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

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

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

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

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

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

Let’s go:

Top 20 of 2018 — Weighted Results

sleep the sciences

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

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

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

Top 20 of 2018 — Raw Votes

sleep the sciences

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

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

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

The ‘Respect the Hustle’ Award

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

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

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

All the best for 2019.

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The Obelisk Presents: THE TOP 30 ALBUMS OF 2018

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

the-top-30-of-2018

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks in advance for reading. Here we go:

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

30. The Skull, The Endless Road Turns Dark

The Skull The Endless Road Turns Dark

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Sept. 12.

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

29. Foghound, Awaken to Destroy

foghound awaken to destroy

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Nov. 21.

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

28. Orange Goblin, The Wolf Bites Back

orange goblin the wolf bites back

Released by Spinefarm Records. Reviewed June 13.

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

27. Fu Manchu, Clone of the Universe

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

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

26. Witch Mountain, Witch Mountain

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

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

25. Windhand, Eternal Return

windhand eternal return

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed Oct. 3.

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

24. Sun Voyager, Seismic Vibes

Sun Voyager Seismic Vibes

Released by King Pizza Records. Reviewed April 18.

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

23. Forming the Void, Rift

forming the void rift

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed July 27.

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

22. Spaceslug, Eye the Tide

spaceslug eye the tide

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

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

21. Conan, Existential Void Guardian

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

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

20. Pale Divine, Pale Divine

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

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

19. Mos Generator, Shadowlands

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

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

18a. Stoned Jesus, Pilgrims

STONED JESUS PILGRIMS

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Sept. 5.

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

18. Backwoods Payback, Future Slum

backwoods payback future slum

Self-released. Reviewed Aug. 15.

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

17. Corrosion of Conformity, No Cross No Crown

corrosion of conformity no cross no crown

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Jan. 3

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

16. Naxatras, III

naxatras iii

Self-released. Reviewed Feb. 14.

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

15. Clutch, Book of Bad Decisions

clutch book of bad decisions

Released by Weathermaker Music. Reviewed Aug. 27.

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

14. Ancestors, Suspended in Reflections

Ancestors Suspended in Reflections

Released by Pelagic Records. Reviewed Aug. 3.

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

13. High on Fire, Electric Messiah

high on fire electric messiah

Released by eOne Heavy. Reviewed Sept. 28.

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

12. Yawning Man, The Revolt Against Tired Noises

yawning man the revolt against tired noises

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed July 2.

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

11. Greenleaf, Hear the Rivers

greenleaf hear the rivers

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Nov. 26.

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

10. Gozu, Equilibrium

gozu equilibrium

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

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

9. Monster Magnet, Mindfucker

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

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

8. Apostle of Solitude, From Gold to Ash

Apostle of Solitude From Gold to Ash

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

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

7. Holy Grove, Holy Grove II

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

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

6. All Them Witches, ATW

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

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

5. YOB, Our Raw Heart

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

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

4. Brant Bjork, Mankind Woman

brant bjork mankind woman

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Sept. 13.

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

3. Earthless, Black Heaven

earthless black heaven

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed March 15.

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

2. King Buffalo, Longing to Be the Mountain

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

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

1. Sleep, The Sciences

sleep the sciences

Released by Third Man Records. Reviewed May 1.

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

The Next 20

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

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

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

Honorable Mention

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

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

Special Note

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

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

Best Short Release of the Year

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

  • Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard & Slomatics, Totems Split

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

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

Looking Forward

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

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

Okay, That’s It

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

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

So thanks.

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

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

Everybody have a great and safe 2019.

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Six Dumb Questions & Video Premiere: Switchblade Jesus

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Six Dumb Questions on December 19th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

switchblade jesus

I’ve had occasion to see Switchblade Jesus live twice now, and I can attest to the asskickery you’re about to see in the live video below. In particular, the Texans’ performance earlier this year at the Maryland Doom Fest (review here) stood out to me as bringing a new dynamic to their sound and showcasing the progression they’ve undertaken since the release half a decade ago of their self-titled debut (review here), an album that garnered pervasive hyperbole for its Southern metal groove and found them aligned to Bilocation Records and Ripple Music in succession, the latter of which also late last year issued The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter 7 (review here), a split that Switchblade Jesus shared with Fuzz Evil, which was only fitting as the Arizonans hosted the Corpus Christi outfit at the 2016 Borderland Fuzz Fiesta (review here).

It’s been a wild and bumpy few years for Switchblade Jesus, as guitarist/vocalist Eric Calvert attests, with a series of lineup changes leaving Calvert and drummer Jon Elizondo in limbo for a time before finding bassist Chris Black to round out a trio incarnation of the former four-piece. As their set at Doom Fest showed and the video below affirms, the arrival of Black and the turn to a three-piece has presented a likewise shift in the band’s mindset. They struck me as having a particular edge of noise rock, a surprisingly angular take considering what they’d done in the studio at the time. Even their tracks for the 2017 split only captured part of the story. Their second album, when it arrives next year, has the potential to surprise a lot of people, and it sounds like they know it, too. All the better.

The clip is a multi-camera shoot recorded on Nov. 10 in the band’s hometown at a room called The NASA with a screen behind and some cool wall designs. All I know about it is what I see, but Switchblade Jesus seem plenty comfortable on its stage. Here’s the set they played:

– Scorched
– The Red Plains
– Behind the Monolith
– Death Hymns
– Wet Lungs
– Take Off/Return
– Blackened Sun
– Heavy is the Mountain
– Who Was in Your Room Last Night

Of those, exactly none come from the first album, which is telling in itself. “Wet Lungs” and “Heavy is the Mountain” were on The Second Coming of Heavy, but otherwise, take it as a sign of how ready Switchblade Jesus are to move forward with their sound, and enjoy the preview of their second album due to land in 2019. I’m thrilled to be able to host it.

Calvert talked about the changes in the band and more, so please enjoy the following Six Dumb Questions under the video premiere below:

Switchblade Jesus, Live at NASA, Corpus Christi, TX, Nov. 10, 2018

Six Dumb Questions with Switchblade Jesus

Switchblade Jesus is five years removed from the first album and writing. In what ways do you feel the band has developed since the self-titled came out, and if it’s not too early to say, how does the new material represent that development?

It’s been a lot of growth and loss, for a bit we weren’t sure where we were going. I hate that it’s been five years, but for a moment we weren’t sure if we were going to continue, honestly, after Jason left. He was the last of the original lineup. Billy [Guerra] pretty much left three months after the Borderland Fuzz Fiesta and then Jason [Beers] followed at the end of the year, which Jon [Elizondo] and I fully supported. They wanted to focus on their family. We were in the process of writing the upcoming during then but it came to a halt in the studio because we couldn’t get the sound from that engineer that we felt captured us, so that let into some stress with everyone as well. So me and Jon sat in a limbo of sorts trying to figure out how we wanted to move forward, we almost went the Black Cobra route with me playing bass all fuzzed and distorted. We’ve tried out members before and weren’t sure if we wanted to deal with someone that wasn’t either on their game or just didn’t mesh well, ’cause dudes on the road can get to each other, so we had good hiatus (unannounced) and just wrote new stuff back and forth. During that time Jon and I recorded the split for Ripple, that was done at Ancient Sound with Chris Darlington who recorded the first album, three of the songs originally for the sophomore [LP] were used on that pressing.

After that was said and done we decided to keep rolling forward and started trying out bassists, one of the was Chris Black who is our current (and permanent). Chris has a lot of passion for black metal, early hardcore, post-metal and everything hateful, he’s also one of the best bassists in Texas let alone the southern hemisphere, so the addition of him brought something we’ve been wanting in Switchblade, a heavier, faster and more technical side of the spectrum. We reconfigured what we were doing when he joined to fit his playing style a little more as his basically a lead guitarist in a bassist’s body, which helps because I can drop out with a solo or just stop playing for depth and he keeps the train rolling. The first song we wrote with him was “Scorched,” which will start the new album off and the pace of where Switchblade Jesus is now. Also as a side note, when I saw Chris‘s Boba Fett tattoo and we discussed Neurosis I knew he was a perfect fit for us. I have no problem southern metal honestly, while I do like it, everyone and their mother is playing it and it’s hard to stand out, so this new material is more of leaving it all behind and carving your own path and not chasing someone’s coattails but setting them on fire.

You took part in Ripple’s The Second Coming of Heavy split series earlier this year. How much were those songs indicative of where the new album is headed?

That album is more of a bridge that will connect the two, uptempo songs like “Snakes and Lions” were the main focus but we still wanted to incorporate the heavy crushing feel of stuff like “Heavy is the Mountain,” so even though its a brutally fast paced album, the groove has never left. Something we wanted to make sure when we recorded “Wet Lungs” on that split plus another similar on this new one, we’re still that heavy groove laden obnoxiously loud band, just a lot angrier. Another focus on the split was to bring to light my vocals and see how well they sat with the people that like our music. I’m more of a Lemmy/Pike shouter than something soulful that was Pete on our first album, while I do sing at times the shouting felt more comfortable with the new music to convey the angst better, luckily it has gone over well and we’ve had a lot of good response to what I bring vocal-wise to the sound.

Do you know yet when or where the album will be recorded? What are you looking for in a studio sound? Any idea on a timeframe for the release?

We had a few setbacks but it’s in the final stages actually and being to be sent to Zach [Weeks] at GodCity to master it. During that hiatus Jon and I decided to build a studio and that’s where it was recorded, we where able to take our time and really focus on this new songs and get them really dialed in to the pace we liked. We wanted a harder, sharper sound than previous more of a modern feel than a vintage feel. We’re planning for early-mid next year.

I was fortunate enough to catch Switchblade Jesus at Maryland Doom Fest 2018 earlier this year. What was that experience like for you? How has the response to newer songs been live?

Maryland Doom Fest was one of our highlights this year, not just because what the event is but how welcomed we were there. It was our first time in that area and we’ve never met so music-focused people in our lives, we sold more merch and spoke to more people there than we did when we opened for Behemoth four days earlier. People on the East Coast bleed music and I love it. For me the best was able to bring Chris to that event as we’ve played together with his old band, so it was a new element for him. I had him do the merch while I packed his gear up and he was able to talk and just have a blast of a time. Also it was amazing to have people tell us they drove three-plus hours to an event because they wanted to catch us as it was our only set there. The East Coast made a lasting impression on us. The new songs seemed to have been received well, a few individuals at the Doom Fest said they were hoping to get some of the first album songs that day but really loved the new stuff and nothing negative was said so I take that as a plus. That seems to me the consensus from everyone which we love as it can be hard to grow and make sure you don’t leave your roots and original fans behind.

Texas of course has a massive history of heavy rock and roll across a wide swath of decades and bands. Who are some of your favorites to play with and for those of us not in the Lone Star State, what are the most essential names to know?

In Texas our favorites are always Hellfury, The Well, Destroyer of Light, Funeral Horse, Mothership, Doomstress, plus more than escape me at the moment. You need to get locked on Hellfury for sure, some of my best buds making some of the most angry sounds. We’re actually looking for more growth on that as well, we were booked for a fest earlier this year with Unsane, L7, Zeke and others and that’s where we’d like to focus on as well, not as many retro metal/rock sets but more progressive and modern so if anyone reading this books like that, hit us up.

You have a weekender booked for January. Any other touring plans or closing words you want to mention?

We’re planning to focus on central in 2019 to support the new release and would like to start in Colorado and do a nice tour around that area glancing a little on the East Coast as well, so if any readers would like to put their two cents in where to hit up we’re game. We’re just very fortunate to still have some kind of impact on this scene still and love all the support we’ve received. Thank you to Ripple Music, you for having us on this interview and all of the dudes that dig what we do, y’all are amazing.

Switchblade Jesus & Full Evil, The Second Coming of Heavy: Chapter 7 (2017)

Switchblade Jesus on Thee Facebooks

Switchblade Jesus on Bandcamp

Switchblade Jesus on Instagram

Switchblade Jesus on Twitter

Ripple Music on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

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Six Dumb Questions & Full Album Stream: Mansion

Posted in Six Dumb Questions on December 5th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Mansion (Photo by Ulla Kudjoi)

You’ll see Turku, Finland’s Mansion referred to as ‘cult rock’ a lot. It’s kind of true the way abbreviations stand in for words. The truth of what Mansion do and have done since their 2014 premiere EP, We Shall Live EP (review here), and its soon-after follow-up, Uncreation  (review here), is much more complex. Their awaited debut album, First Death of the Lutheran, is out this week on I Hate Records, and it pushes to new ground in both the conceptual framework and actual songwriting approach on the part of the band. As 12-minute summary/closer “First Death” starts out with psychedelic flourish and effects en route to a sax-inclusive tumult of experimentalist noise, it is as affecting in atmosphere as in impact, and though I’ll have a review of the album in the coming weeks, I was given the opportunity to ask the band some questions, and it wasn’t one I was going to pass up.

For those who didn’t hear Uncreation, 2015’s Altar Sermon (review here), or any of the other short releases they’ve had out along the way, Mansion follow a theme not just of vague, generalized occultmansion first death of the lutheran thematics, but actually take on Kartanoism as their working foundation. The doomsday-obsessed post-WWI breakaway Protestant group followed leader Alma Kartano and her strict interpretations of the Bible and rules for everyday life. That kind of severity shows up in every whip-crack of the snare drum on opener “Wretched Hope” (premiered here) and in the grueling forward march and unremitting low-light claustrophobia of “Lutheran” and “The Eternal,” which follow. With mysterious “1933” ahead of the finale, First Death of the Lutheran is an appropriate endgame for the style of cult heavy as a whole, but at the same time, it works against genre convention in its sound and the overarching harshness of its production. Not raw — it’s clear-sounding — but sharp.

I’ll have a proper review of the album up in the coming weeks, but on the occasion of the release, I’m flat-out honored to host the premiere of its entirety below. It’s one I’ve been waiting a while for, and its reach only exceeds what I imagined they’d come up with for it.

Please enjoy the stream and the following Six Dumb Questions:

Six Dumb Questions with Mansion

It’s been five years since We Shall Live was released and First Death of the Lutheran is the band’s debut album. How do you see Mansion as having grown in that time? Were there specific goals you wanted to accomplish with the LP?

Our musical expression has progressed from a traditional retro approach to a more experimental direction. With time the congregation has grown both spiritually and in number. The album was released as a reminder for the sorrowless that the endgame has begun. For the most of them salvation is out of reach.

Tell me about writing First Death of the Lutheran. Over how long a period were the songs put together? Was it a different frame of mind writing for an album instead of an EP or a single? Beyond their theme, how do the songs fit together for the band? How much of the song placement and the progression of the record was mapped out before you went into the studio?

The first song on the album, “Wretched Hope,” was written right after We Shall Live EP was released, while the last song, First Death was written during the recordings of the debut album. The songs on the album might span over several years but it doesn’t mean that those were the only ones we have written so far. We have songs ready or half-ready for at least three albums. The songs you hear on First Death of the Lutheran are picked from our vault based on how they fit together. We recorded seven songs but decided to cut two as they didn’t fit in with the others.

The Uncreation EP was supposed to be our debut album. Due to some technical issues we had to cut two tracks off the album. Those were re-recorded later and released as the Altar Sermon EP.

The whole album seems to lead to “First Death.” Did you know in writing that song that it would be the finale? What is happening there to summarize the album?

As soon as the song was starting to find its form we knew that it would be the finale. In ”First Death” we simply state that there is a difference between us and you. We will be saved and you will burn in the everlasting fires of hell while we bathe in glory in the Kingdom of Heaven by His side. Pretty much what we want to say with the whole album.

What were the circumstances of the recording? There’s so much a blend of harsh noise and melody throughout, and it seems real attention was paid to the details of tone and effects. How long were you in the studio?

We recorded most of the album at our secret cottage in Huittinen. That only took a week. The mixing, though, was a different story. We had to change the mixing engineer after the first version of the album was done. There were too many details that got buried in the mix and so we had to start all over again to get it right.

How would you explain the central philosophy of Kartanoism? What’s the significance specifically of the year 1933?

We believe that most of the sorrowless wretches roaming the earth haven’t got a clue how mighty God is and how powerful his wrath is. Judgement Day will be a merciless slaughter of man and only the chosen few will be saved for eternal agony in the afterlife. We believe sex is a mortal sin and that there should not be an organisation between man and God.

Blasphemous churches will fall, mark our words. We in Finland are surrounded by Lutherans, whose way of life is hypocritical and untrue. They have lost their connection to the Lord Almighty tempted by greed and their vain egos. They will be surprised when their days are done. 1933 is the year when these losers released a sacrilegious translation of the Holy Bible.

Will Mansion tour in 2019 to support the release? Any other plans or closing words you want to mention?

We have live sermons and festivals booked for 2019. Book us. Today!

Merry Christmas!

Mansion on Thee Facebooks

Mansion on Bandcamp

I Hate Records website

I Hate Records on Bandcamp

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The Top 20 of 2018 Year-End Poll is Now Open!

Posted in Features on November 30th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

Working Title/Artist: Landscape with a Double Spruce in the ForegroundDepartment: Drawings & PrintsCulture/Period/Location: HB/TOA Date Code: Working Date: 1520-22.

This is my favorite post of the year, every year. Welcome to the year-end poll. Cast your votes now for your favorite releases from 2018.

If you don’t have 20 albums to list? Doesn’t matter. Have 40? Awesome. Pick 20 of them. Want to list your own band 20 times? That’s cool too. Glad you dig your own stuff.

You probably know the system by now, but here it is: Raw votes are counted and as always, there’s a weighted tally whereby a 1-4 ranking is worth five points, 5-8 worth four, 9-12 worth three, 13-16 worth two and 17-20 worth one. Results from both are posted New Year’s Day, along with all the lists.

Last year’s participation was awesome, and with so many excellent records out in 2018, I’m dying to see what comes out first. There are picks that seem obvious to me, but it’s always fascinating to see what albums different people are super-passionate about, where people connect and where they differ.

To that end, please note one more time that all the lists are posted when the results go up. We’re talking hundreds of entries. If you’ve missed anything throughout the year, it’s great resource, and I know I’ve used it before not only in constructing my own lists, but just in checking out records I may not have had the chance to hear at the time. I continue to go back to past years and find new stuff.

Posterity aside, however, the point here is to have fun, so please do that first and foremost. I know sometimes lists come in with bands spelled wrong and albums all wonky. It’s fine. Yeah, everything is culled together, but the point here is to stand up for music you’re into, so the rest will work out. Enjoyment is the thing, so enjoy it. No stress.

Thanks as always to Slevin, without whose patience, time and technical expertise this site would simply not exist.

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WarHorse Talk Reunion at Maryland Doom Fest 2019

Posted in Features on November 2nd, 2018 by JJ Koczan

In case, like me, you’re still reeling from the wallop of an announcement for the lineup of Maryland Doom Fest 2019 next June, I’ll just say there’s a ton of stuff worth highlighting up and down through the lineup. One thing that stuck out to me particularly, however, was the fact that Massachusetts’ WarHorse will reunite for the festival. Of course, the band is known for their 2001 debut/swansong long-player, As Heaven Turns to Ash… (discussed here), which was released on Southern Lord and well ahead of its time, but the history of the band goes back earlier to the mid-’90s and is the root from which acts like Conclave, Second Grave and Faces of Bayon stem, which is not to mention that drummer Mike Hubbard currently bashes away behind the kit for Gozu.

Guitarist Todd Laskowski (also Sin of Angels and others) passed away in May 2018, and founding WarHorse bassist/vocalist Jerry Orne — also a bandmate of Laskowski‘s in Desolate — was inspired to revisit the band in his honor. It’s not a minor decision. Original guitarist Krista Van Guider — who will also play Maryland Doom Fest 2019 with her current outfit, Benthic Realm, which also features Conclave drummer Dan Blomquist, giving a direct Orne/Van Guilder tie — will once more take on that role, and she, Hubbard and Orne are currently planning a set that will span all eras of the band’s nine-year run.

It’s not a major-planned reunion-thing. It’s not a comeback. They’re saying as of now that it’s a one-time happening, and whether or not that proves ultimately to be the case — there’s just about no way they won’t get offers for more — to talk about anything else beyond this one show would be baseless and, frankly, needless speculation.

One show, for now, is enough.

I had to talk to the band. It’s as simple as that. I wanted to find out more about how the reunion happened and what it might lead to, how Maryland Doom Fest wound up as the setting, and how they were feeling about revisiting WarHorse material. After all, these aren’t people who’ve disappeared and are returning out of nowhere. Benthic Realm have a debut EP out (it’s in the next Quarterly Review; stay tuned), Conclave released their debut in 2016 and Gozu are signed to an imprint of Metal Blade and touring with Goatwhore. So, you know, it’s not like they’ll be taking the stage for the first time in over a decade next June, even if it’s the first time in however long they do so together.

All three members of the band were kind enough to offer comment:

warhorse

Jerry Orne:

It’s a slightly long story, I’ll try to keep it short.

We have talked about putting the band back together many times, but for one reason or another, sometimes many reasons it never happened.

When Todd passed away last May, it hit us all really hard. Losing a longtime friend is always extremely tough. And in this case, it had the extra sting that I would never be able to hear or play these songs again.

Later in the summer, I was having a few drinks by a campfire. I started going through some of the old songs on my acoustic and I just had the feeling that I had to do something.

I got in touch with Mike Hubbard and original WarHorse guitarist Krista Van Guilder and floated the idea of doing a one-time tribute-type show. Maryland Doom Fest seemed the obvious choice, but we didn’t know if they are anywhere else would be interested. As luck would have it, a theme of this year’s Festival is the 20th anniversary of the first Stoner hands of Doom Festival, held in Manassas, Virginia, in 1999. WarHorse was on that show.

I guess it’s one of those stars aligning kind of things. Honestly, we have nothing else in the works. This isn’t a reunion or tour or anything like that. We’re getting back together just for this one show. It sounds cliche, but it’s literally about the music. We have no plans to make merchandise or new releases or anything. Just friends getting together to play. Dan Blomquist is involved with coordinating all this. He’s been really helpful.

Given the up and down history of the band, it is bittersweet, but I am thankful to have the opportunity to play these songs again with two of my longtime friends (and original lineup). And to play at an amazing Festival, with all the history of our band and every band is really something. It was always a music that held us together, even when the band was destroying itself.

Todd’s mother gave me his SG. It’s the one he recorded and toured with. We are bringing it with us to the show. So this has grown into an anniversary, reunion, tribute kind of thing.

Mike Hubbard:

I’m pretty excited about the reunion show. It’s been a very long time since I’ve played with Jerry, and even longer since playing with Krista. I’ve always been very proud of what WH did, so when people still show an interest in the band, and the album, so many years later, it’s pretty incredible. We’ve discussed possible reunions in the past, but I wasn’t ever in the right headspace to do it. That was a dark time in my life, and a lot of shit was tied to those memories.

A part of me thought a reunion would amount to living in the past, and I wanted to focus on the present and the future. But when this opportunity came up, and then hearing the positive responses to us potentially playing, it finally felt like it was time to do it. The original Stoner Hands of Doom was our first “big” show, and being invited back as a sort of anniversary thing is pretty cool. It’s a good bookend for that chapter of my life.

Looking forward to revisiting those songs, and that playing style. It’s very different from what I am doing with Gozu, and I am curious to see how the years will affect the songs.

Krista Van Guilder:

Not much to add aside from looking forward to sharing the stage with two friends after such a long time.

We’ve remained friends over the years, but everyone has been off doing their own thing. I think Todd’s sudden death renewed Jerry’s interest in reforming for one show and I think Dan just thought it would be awesome to see us all together again. The entire recent discussion regarding reuniting really happened via text — quite a few actually.

WarHorse, As Heaven Turns to Ash… (2001)

Maryland Doom Fest 2019 event page on Thee Facebooks

Maryland Doom Fest on Thee Facebooks

Maryland Doom Fest website

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Feature: Going Deep on The Wall [Redux]; Band Commentaries, Track Premieres and More

Posted in Features on October 26th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

va magnetic eye pink floyd the wall redux

Two things you should know about this post. First: It’s huge. Apart from the year-end lists that get posted each Jan. 1, it’s the longest post I’ve ever put up. The Q&As alone are 11,000 words. It’s more compendium than interview.

Second: That’s entirely on purpose.

What on earth would possibly earn such a vast landscape of text if not The Wall [Redux]? The third and most ambitious yet of Magnetic Eye Records‘ series of [Redux] compilations captures Pink Floyd at arguably (or, really, inarguably) their most iconic and comes accompanied by The Best of Pink Floyd, another Various Artists take on a swath of tracks from the generation-defining British band’s storied discography.

Like few records before it and even fewer since, The Wall is a landmark for what rock and roll could be, and the enduring emotional and sociopolitical relevance of a work of art that’s the better part of 40 is only part of what makes it so timeless when one considers the actual songwriting itself. Even for rock heads who aren’t Pink Floyd fans, it’s undeniable.

Before we get down to business on this thing, I need to thank Jadd Shickler of Magnetic Eye and Blue Heron (who take on “Stop”) for essentially putting it all together. He chased down the commentaries from the bands and we went back and forth about whether to run the whole thing or edit it down, but in the end, it seemed too crucial to me to not include everybody’s every word. I won’t be so self-aggrandizing as to call this a companion for The Wall [Redux] or The Best of Pink Floyd or anything like that, but it’s a look at the bands talking about how Floyd came into their lives, how they got to do the songs they did, and how they view the album in the context of today. Some take a political angle, some just dig the record. Both are valid, and The Wall stands up to scrutiny on both levels.

I’ve put the bands in alphabetical order, so you’ll get to see comments from: ASG, Blue Heron, Creepers, Los Disidentes del Sucio Motel, Domkraft, Forming the Void, Ghastly Sound, Greenleaf, Howling Giant, Mark Lanegan, Low Flying Hawks, Mars Red Sky, the Melvins, Mos Generator, Open Hand, Pallbearer, Red Mesa, Scott Reeder, Ruby the Hatchet, Sasquatch, Solace, Somnuri, Summoner, Church of the Cosmic Skull, Sergeant Thunderhoof, The Slim Kings, Spaceslug, Sunflo’er, T-Tops, WhiteNails, Worshipper, Yawning Man, Year of the Cobra. That’s nearly everybody involved in the project.

The copy is pretty raw — if you have time to precisely edit 11,000 words, congratulations on your life — but I’ve done a bit of formatting to hopefully make it clear. You’ll find it all beneath the track premieres below for Solace‘s take on “In the Flesh” and Red Mesa‘s version of “Breathe.” The Wall [Redux] and The Best of Pink Floyd are out Nov. 9 on Magnetic Eye Records. Preorders are available here.

Solace, “In the Flesh”

Red Mesa, “Breathe”

Behind The Wall [Redux]:
Inspirations and Motivations

Jason / ASG / Mother

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

I think for us as musicians, Pink Floyd was there in the beginning of learning how to play guitar, drums etc. The relative simplicity of many Floyd tunes went hand in hand with the primitive stages of guitar lessons-if you knew a handful of chords you could play many of their songs. So as a teenager that was a big deal, being able to play one of your favorite band’s songs in the early stages of playing an instrument – it kind of cemented a lifelong bond of influence and fandom with Pink Floyd.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering “Mother?”

In our attempt of covering “Mother” we chose to stay relatively true to the original- we recorded out in the desert of Texas so perhaps a bit of country western influence slipped in with some guitar tremolo and mandolin making their way on to the track. And as a vocalist trying to do both the Waters and Gilmour “voices” it provided a bit of a challenge – but hopefully our version retained the intriguing and beautiful dichotomy their voices created in many classic Floyd tunes.

Does today feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

I think any time or year is a good time to revisit Pink Floyd!

Jadd / Blue Heron / Stop

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

I was late getting turned onto Pink Floyd, I think in my late 20s… I’d always heard the hits on rock radio but never spent any time going deeper. For some reason, I decided to buy an unauthorized biography about Pink Floyd while at a big bookstore in Denver when I was 27 or so. And then, who knows why, I read it from cover to cover while driving cross-country from Erie, Pennsylvania to Albuquerque, NM. I don’t mean I read it at rest stops and hotels or listened to the audio version, I mean I read the physical book perched on my steering wheel while driving 80 miles per hour across the width of the United States – it was that engrossing, and I heard and learned things about constructing songs and being in a band that would affect me forever.

How did you arrive at your approach to your song?

Well, we claimed this song as a way to be part of the record but not feel like we were taking the more sought-after songs away from anyone. No one was fighting over the 42-second piano and vocal instrumental, but that was nice, we were free to kind of ingest it and blast out something uniquely us. Chav basically took on the heavy lifting of turning that sparse piano melody into multiple layers of texture and fuzz, and then we drew it out a little bit so it didn’t feel rushed. There are very few lyrics, so I really just tried to find a different point of view on them… Roger Waters does plaintive well, I was aiming more for resignation and self-disgust as the character recognizes his errors in judgement and skewed perspective… I like to think that came across in what we did.

Does 2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

As soon as Mike told me his plan to make The Wall the next Redux album, I was on board. It was February of 2017, and we were maybe a month into the Trump presidency, hearing about the wall he was going to build on the border and feeling completely alienated in our own country. Even though Floyd’s album was maybe not as political originally in its message, it seems like it took on more of that position over the years as it came to be associated with East Germany and such. So, given how powerless we were feeling after the most recent presidential election, the idea of re-building and re-imagining such a seminal album couldn’t have been a better way to make a statement about totalitarianism, divisiveness, and the kind of ignorance and hatred this administration makes people feel empowered to embrace. We should probably Redux the Sex Pistols next just to drive the point home.

Bill / Church of the Cosmic Skull / The Trial

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

Although Dark Side and the Syd Barrett era are the usual ‘way in’, The Wall was played a lot around the house when I was younger, so it was my introduction to the band. As we’re all aware it’s something of a marmite album, and certainly more Waters than anything else, but it’s undeniably a great concept album, from one of the many incarnations of Pink Floyd.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

I love the old story that Dark Side syncs up with The Wizard of Oz if you press play at the right time. The Trial has some of Gerald Scarfes darkest animation visuals as part of the feature film, so we have synced up the cover version with the original, so you can play both simultaneously and it will fit together. Musically we have changed the verses considerably, and as the original has parts from all the different characters on the album it made sense we gave each one to different singers in the band:

The Prosecutor – Brother Sam
The Teacher – Brother Michael
The Wife – Sister Caroline
The Mother – Sister Joanne
Pink & The Judge – Brother Bill

Does 2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

Politically it makes sense, and the increasing awareness of mental health issues, especially in the music industry, makes it all the more poignant.

Shiv Mehra / Creepers / Us and Them

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

As musicians and music fans Pink Floyd has been one of the most inspiring bands of a lifetime. I connected to them personally from the early days of Syd Barrett to the latter. They’ve pushed sonic boundaries for rock into a realm of psychedelia that opened the doors for so much of our music today.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

Well “Us and Them” was one of our first picks for covering because it sits in a range for us vocally and reflects our own personal taste and sound as a band.

Does 2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

2018 is a perfect time for revisiting The Wall because it has been 39 years and music has transformed in so many ways since, but The Wall paved the path for psychedelic bands like us.

Nicolas / Los Disidentes Del Sucio Motel / Welcome to the Machine

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

My connection with PF is huge! This band has been part of my main influences for years. I have all Floyd albums and a lot of solo albums of each member. Unfortunately, I never had the chance to see the whole band performing together, but I was lucky enough to see David Gilmour and Roger Waters in concert. I saw the last tour of The Wall at the Stade de France in Paris in 2013. This concert was a turning point in my life. Probably the biggest concert I’ve ever seen and will ever see. Recently I saw Waters with my dad, it was also a wonderful moment. Pink Floyd is one of those timeless groups that cross generations. My father loves PF, I love PF and I hope my son will love PF too!

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

Pink Floyd is one of the few bands that connects us all in LDDSM. We all listen to this band on a daily basis, really. For each new album, we work on a cover that we play at the end of our concerts. For the album “Human Collapse”, it was “Welcome to the machine”. This appeared quite obvious by itself, because HC was written under the influence of PF from the start and is composed somewhat like “The Wall”. The way of composing and Gilmour’s guitar playing guided me a lot during the writing of this album. This man is a real god and I have immense respect for him. The sound he has created, his way of placing always the right notes at the right time, the sensitivity he puts in it, is pure genius. When we cover a song, we like to make it our own, as if the song could have been written by ourselves. But above all, we are always looking to keep its original identity. We don’t like to leave its uniqueness behind. People must be able to recognize it in the first seconds and have to say at the end “goddam, it really sounds like an LDDSM song!” That’s the point, make LDDSM stuff with the composition of another and respect the original song.

Does today feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

It is obvious that we are in a sadly perfect context for that. The political scope of the album has never been so justified. What we do with our planet is a shame. Trump is a shame, a monstrosity. But he is unfortunately not the only one. We live in an extremely violent and difficult world and I worry a lot, every day for the future of my children. In the manner of Waters, we might be tempted to build a wall around us to protect ourselves from others, but isolation is never the answer. We must break this wall, open ourselves to the unknown, reach out to others, it’s the only way for humanity to survive. This is the message of this album and it must be heard today more than never before.

Martin W. / Domkraft / Empty Spaces / One of These Days

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

As a band, we probably would not sound the way we do had it not been for Floyd. They have been THE band for our guitar player Martin, who basically has listened to them all his life and they were the sole reason for him picking up the guitar in the first place. The rest of the band are also fans, but we both discovered them at a later stage in life.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

We right away decided that we wanted to do something in the vein of “Domkraft interpreting Floyd” rather than note-perfect cover versions. Why try to match something that is already perfect? Let’s do our own take instead and create alternate versions of classic tracks. Like, we found ourselves stretching short segments of the songs into actual parts of our versions. Small sounds and vibrations from the originals getting more space and importance. When we got to do “Empty Spaces”, we immediately knew that we wanted to go even deeper into the brooding, desolate aspects of the song. We soaked it in reverb to achieve an almost drone-like vibe to emphasize the lonely, bare and exposed feeling of the track.

“One of these Days” is such a seminal track and probably one of our absolute favorites from the Floyd catalog, so that one felt like an obvious and insane choice at the same time. With both the studio and the Pompeii versions just oozing perfection, we just decided to just go for it, not look back, and do our own take – more fuzz-drenched and with the same kind of psych-inspired over-the-top guitar work that is to be found in most Domkraft songs. Plus, we took some liberties and incorporated a segment from another “Meddle” classic – the falling note arpeggio break from “Echoes” – which worked really nicely and gave it some breathing space in the freight train section of the track.

Does 2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

Oh, hell yes. Frighteningly good. These are Orwellian times, possible more in the Animal Farm sense than 1984, though. That particular album has gone from being political (at the time of its release) to being “just” a classic (post-Glasnost) to being super-political again. A super political classic.

Shadi / Forming the Void / Fearless

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

The first time I heard Pink Floyd was when I was 12. I had been studying music for a while and my father decided I was “ready” to hear them. We sat down together, and he played me the entire Wish You Were Here album. That moment changed my life forever. Pink Floyd became the band that I studied obsessively for the next few years. They sparked my lasting passion and serious pursuit of music and influences me deeply to this day.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

We had a short list of favorite Pink Floyd songs we might hypothetically cover one day. When we got this opportunity, it was with two weeks’ notice. From our list, ‘Fearless’ adapted the most naturally to our sound and fit most readily the time constraints we were given so it was an easy choice.

Does today feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

Anytime is a good time to revisit Pink Floyd! They are timeless.

TJ / Ghastly Sound / Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 1

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

Pink Floyd was one of the first and most important bands we were introduced to as children. I remember seeing posters for “The Wall” hanging up in my uncle’s bedrooms and being completely captivated by the artwork. In the 90’s, my father was really into home theater systems. When the Pink Floyd Pulse Live DVD came out, I was 8 years old. Our entire house would shake as we watched this and the cinematic adaptation of The Wall. This stuck with me until my teenage years and I began to discover cannabis. Thankfully, my parents were really open-minded about this specific substance and one summer night in my 13th year, they gifted me and a friend a half a bowl to smoke in the garage. Following our consumption of this gift, my friend and I got into my dad’s car and listened to Comfortably Numb on full blast in the driver and passenger seat. This experience was honestly a crucial moment in my development as a person and a musician.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

Approaching this cover was one of the most challenging experiences I’ve ever had as a musician. I think I threw away 3 or 4 instrumental versions before we landed on what we have now. Approaching a cover from such an iconic album is intimidating enough on its own. We had an extra challenge given that our specific track is more of an interlude; and comprised almost exclusively of David Gilmour playing guitar. Me, not being a guitarist, faced with executing something so clean in tone and performance was nothing short of terrifying. Our two main focuses were keeping true to the pace of the album and trying to maintain the feeling of crescendo as the album moves from Another Brick in the Wall Part 1 to Happiest Days of Our Lives. Ultimately, we decided that starting off true to the original and utilizing the ambient section of the song to take some liberties and transition into the next track was the best possible scenario. Hopefully we’ve succeeded and added something special for the listener to experience.

Does 2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

2018 is a great time to introduce this album to a new generation of listeners. Not only because of the juxtaposition of the current political climate, but because guitar-based music is coming back in a huge way. It’s my hope that people can take these adaptations and use them to expand upon more traditional approaches to songwriting in the stoner or doom genres.

Tommi Holappa / Greenleaf / Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 3 / Goodbye Cruel World

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

For me it all started with seeing the Live at Pompeii DVD. The musicianship, the sound landscapes, the songwriting, it’s just simply amazing! Since then I have bought all their albums and yes You can easily say the I have been influenced by them. On each Greenleaf album there is at least one or two songs that has a little bit of Pink Floyd influences in them, it could just be a little reverb/delay thing, a riff or just the mood of the song.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

Well we knew that we couldn’t just do ”covers” of the songs because nothing can beat the originals. So, we decided to not try to copy the songs too much and try to make them sound more like Greenleaf, a bit more bluesy and a bit more heavy.

Does 2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

Yes, it does! If you look all the stupidity that is going on in the world today it could drive any sane man crazy…

Tom and Zach / Howling Giant / Matilda Mother

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

They pioneered the idea of the concept album. While each song can stand alone, everything they wrote had a specific purpose within the album. Pink Floyd also showed us that you don’t have to fit within a certain genre, they were all about writing what they wanted, when they wanted.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering “Matilda Mother?”

It’s a weird song, and its focus on fairytales and escapism is something that appeals to us. ‘Piper at the Gates of Dawn’ is often overlooked in the Pink Floyd catalogue and we wanted to represent that era.

Does today feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

The songwriting on The Wall is definitely worth revisiting, especially with the resurgence of classic rock influence on the heavy scene.

Mark Lanegan / Nobody Home

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

As a teenager, I stole a record one day. Walking out of the store carrying it behind an empty record cover I’d brought in with me. When I heard the store clerk shouting behind me to stop, I turned a corner and out of his vision for a second, I threw it like a knife into a bank of deep snow. Not finding it, the guy let me go. Hours later I returned to retrieve my copy of ‘The Wall’ and listened to it nonstop for a long time. One of the great records of all time, I’m pleased I was able to participate in this tribute. Legally, of course.

Low Flying Hawks / The Thin Ice

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

There’s always been a connection, we’ve always been into Pink Floyd, mostly the early years, the Syd Barrett stuff, atom heart mother, more, meddle, etc. probably up until the wall. We feel the true magic obviously after Syd left (cause Syd was the magic) was the mix of Roger and David, but once Roger started to lead we thought it was too rigid to forced and the other way around when David was in the lead it got too honey-dripped, too forced to the exact opposite, so together it was a perfect balance.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

We wanted to do something very simple, stripped to the core, the opposite of the operatic circus approach roger gave the album and obviously the song.

Does 2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

We’re not political at all so we really never mix politics and music etc., we get the connection and the timing, but we feel you can always revisit an album if the bands are good and the songs are interesting.

Mars Red Sky / Comfortably Numb

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

Mat: To be honest, Pink Floyd belongs for me to the generation of my parents, they had some of their records, so it has always been familiar, and it took years to rediscover it by myself. Also, songs like “division bell” was constantly on the air in the early ’90s when I was digging Punk Rock and Grunge… One day I listened to ‘The Piper at the Gates of Dawn”, and I went crazy about what was coming out from the speakers!

Julien: My dad had ‘Dark Side of The Moon’ in his record collection, I liked that a lot. Later I got more into them through a couple of friends when I was twenty and was a bit fascinated by the whole Syd Barrett mystery. I like most of their albums a lot, with a preference for some of the earlier ones (‘A Saucerful of Secrets’ especially)

Jimmy: ‘The Piper at the Gates of Dawn’ and ‘Atom Heart Mother’ are two of my favorite albums ever…

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

Julien: We got the opportunity to pick Comfortably Numb, that was great because it’s one of our favorites. We had fantasized on covering this song for a long time, I had tried it awkwardly with a previous band. Here we put it all together fairly quickly, and we really like the way it came out. Our friend Benjamin Mandeau did a killer job at recording and mixing it.

Does 2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

Mat: Definitely there’s always a good reason to revisit such an album like that!

Dale Crover / The Melvins / In the Flesh?

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

I’ve been into the Floyd since I was in grade school, thanks to older brothers. The first record I had of theirs was “Animals.”

How did you arrive at your approach in covering “In the Flesh?”

We always put our own spin on the song we’re covering. We came up with a genius idea for this one. If I tell you it will spoil the surprise. You’re just going to have to hear it.

Does today feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

Sure, why not now? Roger Waters keeps revisiting it for his mega buck tours. They didn’t really tour that record when it came out. In the US they only played New York and LA. Here’s a fun fact: when we recorded Stoner Witch we used the same Fender Precision bass that Roger used on The Wall. I believe it belonged to Bob Ezrin, producer of the Wall.

Tony Reed / Mos Generator / Goodbye Blue Sky

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

There is no getting away from the influence of Pink Floyd. Their music has always seemed to be there and growing up in the 70s helped make them a part of the soundtrack of my youth. I have to be honest, when I first started playing music in around 1982, I was really burned out on the Pink Floyd “radio” songs and had never taken the time to explore the catalog. It wasn’t until about 15 years later that I heard the Meddle album and I was hooked on “Echoes”. Soon after, I took very little time hunting down the discography and studying it. Now they hold a very high place in my top bands.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

My usual approach at a cover is to try and replicate the song as close as I can, in performance and production. Using that technique, I come away from the project learning something about the recording and playing of the song. It makes me take an approach that I may not have chosen if I had written the song. In the end, I learn something that can possibly be applied to my own producing and writing. Not everybody agrees with this approach but it’s fun for me.

Does 2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

The Wall is a timeless piece of music. It’s a human album, that to me, speaks about a struggle that we all go through as we move through life. It doesn’t manifest itself as intensely in most people as it does in the “Pink” character, but we’ve all been “through some sh**” at one time or another. Some more than others and years of it can change a person into a different soul. It’s seriously heavy thinking for a rock ‘n’ roll album.

Justin / Open Hand / The Show Must Go On

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

What always has drawn us in to Floyd is Gilmour… his guitar playing and his voice … for those of us lucky enough to be exposed to Floyd at a young age (by our dads) you can’t help but be inspired by that band for the rest of our lives … and when you start playing guitar, Gilmour is a must study.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

We based our approach on the live version of “Show Must Go On” … it is a little longer live (extended) … they added another verse etc. … the live version of that song is better than the album version actually … so we went with that. As far as working with past Pink Floyd touring sax player Scott Page… I have known him for decades…met him when I was 13 or 14 … he was always involved in amazing bands (reo speedwagon… Supertramp…etc.) and Floyd … he gave me my first instrument … a saxophone… still have it … when it came time to record this cover … it was an obvious choice to go to the source … and even though there was never sax on the original he jumped at the chance to add some shit to it … recorded in the bathroom of my apartment…

Does today/2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

It’s a great time to revisit… having a whole new generation be turned on to Floyd via modern relevant bands that kick ass. … and Mike does an amazing job collecting those bands for these killer redux records… to be a part of two of these redux series for our favorite artists (Jimi Hendrix and pink Floyd) … so fucking cool man.

Pallbearer / Run Like Hell

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd generally or The Wall specifically?

Pink Floyd has been a major source of inspiration for us, since long before we started Pallbearer. The experimentation, the innovative production, and most importantly the great songwriting has always been a benchmark for us to strive for since we started this band

How/why did you choose “Run Like Hell,” and how did the amped-up take on it come about?

When we were approached about doing this project, we initially inquired about 3 or so tracks to see if they had already been claimed by other artists, RLH being one of them. We were excited to take on RLH because it would give us the opportunity to totally subvert the notion that we would end up doing something obvious. The song is already kind of outside of the realm of our already-Floyd-indebted style. It was different for them, so it gave us a chance to really think outside the box.

Our initial inspiration on how to approach it actually came from watching as many early live performances of it as we could find. We found that all of them were really vicious sounding, and a bit unhinged. They just felt off the rails, so we decided to just go full steam in that direction.

Does today/2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall, and why or why not?

The Wall is very much an album that explores different aspects of isolation. In 2018, our world is essentially more “connected” than ever before via technology, yet it feels like we are also becoming more and more isolated from one another as individuals. Additionally, nationalist tendencies are increasing globally at a terrifying rate. It seems like a perfect time to revisit and re-examine this classic album.

Brad / Red Mesa / Breathe

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

I started listening to Pink Floyd in high school in the mid-nineties. The first two albums I owned were on CD. ‘The Wall’ and ‘Dark Side of the Moon.’ I didn’t start paying music until after high school, so I was just a rabid fan of rock and roll, hungry to listen all the classic stuff. Both albums completely blew my mind. I spent hours in my room after school listening and reading the lyrics. I felt that Pink Floyd was the most intelligent band. Besides being phenomenal musicians, Roger Water’s lyrics spoke to me. He somehow managed to take philosophical concepts and weave them into a rock and roll band. It wasn’t just about women, drugs, and fast cars. Nothing wrong with that as subject matter, but Pink Floyd made you think about and question existence. As my younger brother and I digested The Wall and Dark Side, we discovered the rest of their albums. I fell in love with Meddle and Animals. The song “Echoes” on Meddle is my favorite psychedelic song of all time.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

We covered the song “Breathe” from Dark Side of the Moon. Picking the right song for the band was a challenge. We wanted to play to the strength of the band. Roman, our drummer texted me “How about Breathe?!” as I was looking at the guitar tab and plucking out the chords and rhythm. I thought that was a sign. I sent the band a voice memo of guitar stuff, they liked it, said we should make it heavier. We ran through it in practice and it felt great! We all love Pink Floyd so much. We felt honored to be asked to cover one of their songs. We wanted to do our very best and pay our respects.

In the studio, we played all the rhythm section ‘live’. It has a very organic feel to it. We really liked how it came out. I went back over and doubled the guitar track. For the iconic Dave Gilmour slide part, I played lap steel with a bunch of delay and reverb and heavy overdrive. We had a blast recording this one.

Matthew from Empty House Studio orchestrated us for “On the Run” the trippy instrumental song that comes in directly after “Breathe” ends. I stuck my head inside a grand piano banging away on the strings, while Roman was holding down that super cool drum part. At that point we had already polished off a bottle of Jameson, Matthew says “be careful, that piano is worth more than a house”. And I’m just banging away in there. Matthew was pushing us to get more creative and weirder. Super fun.

Does today/2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

Yes, absolutely. Politically, spiritually, and environmentally things are fucked in the US. It seems that The Wall’s concept and message is timeless. It came out in 1979. It could have been released in 2018 without altering a single word. As much as that album is brilliant, it’s sad we haven’t seemed to have evolved much in the past 40 years. However, revisiting this album will hopefully bring Pink Floyd’s message and music to a younger generation of fans.

Scott Reeder / Is There Anybody Out There?

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

When The Wall was released, it was my entry into Pink Floyd’s universe; and to this day is probably my biggest musical influence… right up there with The Beatles. My solo stuff always draws comparisons to Floyd. The damage is done deep – they were all I listened to for a long time! I feel lucky to have seen them a couple of times. Roger Waters quite a few times, too. Oddly enough, I had dinner with their final long-time bassist, Guy Pratt, and his wife few years ago at a Warwick Bass party. We were showing each other pictures of our properties and horses and had an awesome time. I didn’t realize at the time that his lady was Richard Wright’s daughter, Gala. She was very sweet.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering “Is There Anybody Out There?”

There’s not much to it… You’ve got the title question asked a few times, and then that iconic guitar run that I struggled to do some justice to. Structure-wise, that’s it. My fretting hand had developed trigger finger – my pinky and ring finger were locking closed, and after every take, it got worse, but I patched it up alright. The ambient stuff I constructed to reflect the desolate feeling out here on the ranch – I recorded guns in the distance, and our dog Rocky was scared and whimpering next to me, while his pal Harry was barking in the distance. My Chihuahua Scooter is in the mix towards the end, too – she passed shortly after this was finished – I’m so glad she’s on it! Got my 8-string bass in there for the scrapes run through a Whammy pedal to raise the tension. And it’s my first time using trombone on a track!

Does today/2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

At almost 30 years out… why not? It’s my favorite album of all time – probably the only album that I could sing all the words to! It’s an honor to be a part of this tribute to the greatest album of all time, and it’s absolutely killing me waiting to hear how the whole thing plays out!

Jillian Taylor / Ruby the Hatchet / Vera / Pigs (Three Different Ones)

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

Pink Floyd was one of the bands I was brought up on and a favorite of my father’s. I remember thinking they were really weird and scared me when I was young; especially The Wall movie which seemed to always play in the wee hours when I was sneaking TV. My mother’s side is from England and there are so many crossovers with Floyd lingo and English pride and reprimand (cue “hanging on in quiet desperation is the English way…”). When I was a teenager, and after an ugly divorce between my parents, my father gave me The Wall for my birthday. It was then that I felt like I understood their strangeness and the rebellious and political undertones. I even went through a rough year where I had to listen to The Dark Side of the Moon every single day to relate to all the beauty and pain in it.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your songs?

Everyone dove in to their respective parts. Pigs was a huge labor of love by all parties; especially Sean (keys) who recorded and engineered both tracks for us. It’s a lengthy track that we made even longer (additional apologies to Sean for having to mix down a 12-minute song dozens of times). We didn’t veer off course with Pigs much, it was fun to play it straight and make small twists with the organ, harmonies and vocals in female register. Vera was completely different as it’s a very short interlude (we managed to at least triple the length of it, of course). It came naturally to play around with Vera. I’ve always thought that song was so hauntingly pretty and used to hum an additional part I’d imagine there which we made happen in a bridge.

Does today/2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

I’d say yes, and until we reach some kind of Utopian society which doesn’t seem like it will realistically arrive; then maybe always. There’s a George Orwell quote from 1984 that always reminds me of The Wall: “If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever.”

Cas, Keith and Riggs / Sasquatch / Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

Riggs: PF is one band that has consistently punctuated moments in my life from the age of 8 to whatever I am now. My brothers got tickets to The Wall at Madison Square Garden when I was a wee lad. I was completely bummed that I didn’t get to go, and I have spent the rest of my song-writing life trying to rip them off.

Keith: Floyd has had a big influence in many ways on me personally and our music. I guess it might not come through so much in our songs themselves, but I think about PF when I’m incorporating dynamics and textures into the songwriting. It’s definitely played into having Unger come in and drop more Hammond and B3 on our new record, Maneuvers.

Cas: To be honest, I’m the young buck in the band. Growing up as a metal kid in the late 80s, my first exposure to PF wasn’t a direct connection, but through Voivod’s cover of Astronomy Domine. Obviously, I had heard PF hits on classic rock radio, but hadn’t paid attention until I heard this tune in 8th grade. That take on that song drove me to dive into the PF catalog and I haven’t looked back since. Waters may not be flashy, but he writes some of the most memorable bass lines out there in rock. Huge influence on how I approach the instrument.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

Riggs: Another Brick in The Wall has always been an odd song for PF. I remember kids in school singing the song to be rebellious, but the disco beat always freaked me out. We wanted to change it up in a more soulful way and lose the kid chorus and disco beat. It’s the same approach we would take if we were to cover Money.

Cas: Keith and Riggs played around with several different versions. We thought about both extremes: a) keeping it true to form or b) deconstructing it to the point where it would be completely unrecognizable. We eventually ended up slowing it down and beefing it up but kept the melodies intact. The guys were definitely adamant about pulling out the Bee Gees beat from the original. In the end, we decided pulling the drums completely out of the verses gave the choruses a much larger impact. Then Riggs tried out his best (worst?) Academy Award-winning English accent on the wrap-up. Made me crave some pudding.

Does today feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

Riggs: It’s always a good time to revisit any PF album. Just as Roger Waters is accentuating the current political aspects on his tours, it’s great to see a bunch of talented bands give it their own take.

Keith: I think anytime you can cobble together such a great list of bands like the roster here, why not do it?

Cas: Given the current climate, there’s no better time than the present.

Dan / Sergeant Thunderhoof / The Happiest Days of Our Lives / Time

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

They were a mainstay in my household as a child. Those songs are so solidly imprinted within me that they’ve almost taken on another dimension. Floyd have a sound of their own that is pretty hard to pigeonhole and I guess we try to emulate that philosophy.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

“Happiest Days of our Lives” was a fun song for us to do, I even got to mimic the teacher’s voice at the beginning which was cool. We wanted to add a little bit of our theatricality to it which was quite hard given how short the song is, but we’re happy with what we did. Essentially the song acts as prelude to probably the most notable song on the album so our job was to set that up in the best way possible.

As for “Time,” this was really just a song that we all love. When it came to messing around with it, we found that by trying to make it more ‘hoof’ it simply sounded trite and a bit ‘try-hard.’ In the end after trying out different ideas, we pretty much just played it straight. In a way, this was us not trying to emulate Floyd but instead showing some respect to the song and humbly admitting that we can’t do any better that the original!

Does today/2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

I guess it depends on what it is you think The Wall is. For me the album represented a rejection of indoctrination, whether that be the education system, political structures or financial institutions. What we’ve seen over the last few years is a complete breakdown of social interaction. There is such a divide between what we perceive to be the two sides of the argument. For me, The Wall represents a mental prison, not a physical one. Some people are so quick to assume the worst in everyone and everything, it would be nice to get back to a place where we can all respectfully disagree with each other but still enjoy a beer and a good riff without fighting!

The Slim Kings / Young Lust

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

They are musically up there with the best. One of the bands to be studied in their song writing, production. They set up a mood that is undeniably Pink Floyd. Great teenager headphone music.

How did you arrive at your approach to your song?

So, there is no pressure to compete and make it sound like an original hit that people are used to – but we tried to cop most of the tricky licks so nobody would call us out. We recorded it live to tape quickly. Kacie Marie is a burlesque influenced singer and Instagram star who was hanging in the studio that day. She was the perfect woman to sing those background vocals.

Does 2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

There is never a bad time to listen to the wall. Particularly when you are on this side of it! Joking aside, the country is in a cold civil war right now, so anything ever written about people being divided and conquered is relevant.

Tommy Southard / Solace / In the Flesh

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

They’re an iconic band that influenced me as a young kid long before I even picked up a guitar. It helps when your cool uncle lives with you and has a copy of Ummagumma and it blows your mind in 2nd grade.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering In the Flesh?

Plug in and play like ourselves, hope for the best! I think we put our take on a classic tune from a masterpiece of an album. Tried to do it justice while still sounding like Solace.

Does today feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

Any day of any year is a good time to revisit any of the classic Floyd albums!

Somnuri / Sheep

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

We all have an appreciation for Pink Floyd but if you asked us individually, our favorite albums would probably vary. As a whole, there’s no denying Pink Floyd’s sound and aesthetic as being an influence on us as musicians and artists.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering “Sheep?”

This project was interesting because there weren’t many songs left to choose from and given the timeframe to complete it, ‘Sheep’ was a very ambitious choice. As much as we tried to make it our own, we felt we had to honor the original song as much as possible. Ultimately, recreating the vibe and atmosphere was the most intensive part of the process. We feel proud of the way we conveyed the song and took it above and beyond what we expected.

Does today/2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

Absolutely. With our current political and societal climate, the stories and concepts from the album seem as relevant as ever. One of the things that makes an album iconic is the sense of timelessness, and The Wall certainly has that feel, at least topically.

Bartosz Janik / Spaceslug

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

It’s very personal music for me. A lot of good and bad memories. Floyds were with me in hard times and help me stand on the ground. Love this band and David Gilmour is in fact a big inspiration for my guitar playing.

How did you arrive at your approach to your song?

We managed to make our version of it and reverse the structure. The original has more doodling and ambient sound and this massive guitars on the end. We managed to make it little different and change that to have less ambient and more guitars and factures.

Does today feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

It’s always good! My dream is to be on Dark Side of The Moon Redux in some future! Hope this will happen! Also, that kind of initiative will keep good vibe that Floyds deliver years ago. Great band and this was really an honor to be part of this re-edition!

AJ / Summoner / Hey You

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

I think our connection to Floyd is similar or the same to everyone else who plays this style of music. We’ve all been exposed to Pink Floyd our whole lives. I personally can say that it started with my parents listening to them when I was a kid. Followed by me taking that torch and running with it. Learning their discography as a teenager and striving to emulate them in the music I still write today. Summoner takes a lot from PF musically. When we get into our more ambient/atmospheric writing Floyd is always in the front of our minds. Not only do we draw from them musically, we are also influenced by their production style and studio magic.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering “Hey You?”

If I remember correctly, when we were asked to be a part of this we all agreed unanimously that “Hey You” should be our tune. You always have to be careful when covering a band like Pink Floyd. Everything they did was done right. You can’t expect to make one of their songs “better” you can only take what they have done and expand upon it and make it your own. We kept it tight to the template on our version because it was already so damn good. What we thought we could add was our style and texture to the tune and I think we did that well.

Does today/2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

It’s as good a time as any. As I said previously, it’s always a risky venture to cover such an iconic band/album. Those songs are engrained in everyone’s mind and to switch that up almost seems like a losing battle. But done right it can be pulled off and I think MER has done just that with the bands they have chosen to do this project. We were just so happy to be a part of it. I guess the timing is kind of right since (I think) we are coming up on the 40th anniversary of the release.

Carter / Sunflo’er / Bring the Boys Back Home

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

The riff in seven at the beginning of “Money” is a legendary use of odd meter. There’s so few solid examples of it in mainstream radio and making the realization as a youth leads to asking other questions about rhythm and where it comes from.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering “Bring the Boys Back Home?”

The original recording features a full marching band and choir, which we weren’t going to compete with, so the obvious choice for the cover was playing as minimally as possible. We wrote a chord melody for the guitar, reduced drum hits to only the most necessary, Ethan played saxophone and nailed it. Bohren & Der Club of Gore vibes were sought and achieved.

Does 2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

For all the obvious geopolitical reasons: yes.

Patrick / T-Tops / Nile Song

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

The Wall was my first introduction to Pink Floyd. When I first dug into the album 20+ years ago, the thing that struck me most was the overt loneliness & desolation at the heart of the record. This theme runs throughout much of their music, but obviously this is especially true with The Wall. What separates it from other Floyd records for me, is how it’s just a really solid, well-focused rock album (rock opera?) about brutal isolation & loss. These two themes are universally identifiable.

Though this album was inspired by WWII & the horrendous grief and loss it caused, I identify most with the songs about fractured relationships & the war & desolation that exists inside the narrator’s mind. Lyrically, my favorite songs on The Wall are “One of My Turns” which explores the madness & absurdity someone can exhibit to a loved one. First “love turns gray” then the narrator admits to being bored out of his skull and just going through the motions until he snaps into a manic scatterbrained episode of violence and destruction, scaring the hell out of the other person & then asks, “why are you running away?” Brilliantly followed by the backhanded apologetic begging of “Don’t Leave Me Now” where he reminds his partner about the “flowers I sent” & goes on to plead with them that he needs them (if only to “beat to a pulp” or “put through a shredder”) while simultaneously begging them not to leave.

How did you arrive at your approach to your song?

The Nile Song is possibly the most “straightforward” rock song in Pink Floyd’s catalog which is what drew me to it. The simplistic musical pattern and yelled/half screamed lyrics make it stand out from other Floyd songs and made it an easy choice for a cover. I was surprised no one else snagged this one before we were given the chance to. Of course, I’m aware of The Melvins covering this song in the early ’90s. Not that we (or anyone) could ever sound like the Melvins, but we kind of took a similar approach to covering it in just playing it basically the same as Pink Floyd just with louder more distorted guitars.

Does today/2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

It’s never a bad time to revisit a classic.

Taylor / WhiteNails / Waiting for the Worms

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

Pink Floyd is one of the quintessential musician’s bands. Their level of creativity and pushing boundaries has always been an inspiration to us. David Gilmour is one of our all-time favorite guitarists and there aren’t many musicians who have the taste and flair that he does. As well as one of the greatest guitar tones of all time!!!

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

Covering “Waiting for the Worms” was sort of a trial and error process. We wanted to add our own touch but really didn’t want to stray too far from the original work. We ended up changing the verses musically and tried to stray somewhat true to the vocal melody. We generally beefed up most of the guitar work and allowed Darcy to really sing on the track.

Does today/2018 feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

Releasing an album like the Wall again seems entirely appropriate in the political and social climate we find ourselves in today. Pushing against the powers that be has never run out of fashion and it stands equally as true today.

Worshipper / One of My Turns

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

ALEJANDRO: I don’t recall a time when Pink Floyd wasn’t a part of my awareness. My father was an avid music fan and record collector, so Floyd was often on the record player when I was young. “The Wall” was one of the first gatefold records I held as a kid. The towering butt overlord was mesmerizing. As a musician, my appreciation for the band goes in cycles. There was a time in my 20s when I couldn’t get away from The Wall or Dark Side because they were everywhere. Friends couldn’t wait to gift me a copy of “The Wall” the movie on VHS or DVD which is difficult because, let’s face it, it’s a dark movie. Who has the emotional fortitude to watch this Pink guy slice his eyebrows off? It’s tough. But, at some point a revisit of The Final Cut or Relics b-sides or Echoes or Shine on or Animals sends me back into another Floyd-obsession phase. For some reason I never got around to seeing the Pompeii stuff until recently, when we started writing our current record, so I climbed into that rabbit hole for a bit. The connection, for me, is the fearlessness in songwriting and the immense power four guys can make together and all the inventiveness that goes along with that. I think if you’re going to be in a band you need to see what Floyd was all about. They invented a lot of what you need to make it work. If you don’t you’re just being an asshole to yourself and your bandmates.

JB: It’s funny, my dad is a GIGANTIC Floyd fan and that is probably the #1 reason. He had all the records and a bunch of bootlegs (which he has since passed along to me) and while he would play them around the house while I stared in amazement at the back cover of Ummagumma, he never forced them on me or anything. It wasn’t until I borrowed his van in college and found a tape of a bootleg from ‘72 under the seat that it really sealed the deal for me. We had Live at Pompeii on Laser Disc and everything, but it wasn’t until I discovered what I liked about them on my own terms that it all clicked for me in a personal way. I tend to gravitate toward the early stuff like Obscured by Clouds, MORE, Relics, and Meddle, but I love it all. But, to answer your question more concisely, they have basically been a part of my life for as long as I can remember and a huge part of my relationship with my dad.

I think all of us are into Floyd in different ways, which is cool, as well. Like, Jarvis is a maniac about the Wall, but not much appreciation for the Syd stuff, while I am sort of the opposite. I like all of that ridiculous British 60s acid-damaged tea and crumpets stuff.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering “One of My Turns?”

ALEJANDRO: It was a different type of song for us. We do covers all the time but this one was a challenge since it’s kind of two songs in one. The front half is a bit of a theatrical vignette, so we debated if we should stick to the actual narrative from the record, where we use the dialogue of Pink’s guest in his room while he’s watching “The Dam Busters” on TV. In the end we ditched the groupie and focused on the significance of what a protagonist in “The Wall” in 2018 might be watching which, in our version, is the scene from “All the President’s Men” where Robert Redford gets the “follow the money” speech from Deep Throat. Seems an appropriate commentary right now. On top of that, there was the opportunity to record and build a section based on John’s synth and keys treatment which we did separately from the second, more-straightforward half of the song.

JB: I had to really dissect this one, personally, to get to the bones of it and figure out what was going on. With such a grand production, it was a little tricky to pick apart. Al said that he was working on the strategy for the front half, and I kind of took the lead with the back half, doing a demo at home and trying to figure out how to put our stamp on it and how to approach the vocals without trying to imitate Roger’s utterly unhinged performance. I basically had to reharmonize the vocal melody a little (ok, a lot) to make it work with my range and demeanor. And then the front half was really our first attempt at creating something from scratch in the studio (not working from playing live.) I’m really into synths, so I had fun doing the pads in the intro and making more of a “headphone experience” … Al had a map of the chord structure of the intro, so he kind of yelled out chords and we built it up piece by piece until the vibe was right. I really wasn’t sure I would be able to pull off such an intimate vocal like Roger does, but, I’m happy with how that came out. It should be noted that Chris Johnson did an amazing job recording and producing it. Especially since we had to kind of graft the front half onto the back half, but he made it work!

Does today feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

ALEJANDRO: It does. There’s never a bad time to revisit “The Wall,” but today seems a particularly good time. The Wall as Roger Waters conceived it was metaphorical, right? A dude with dad-issues and a lifetime of intimacy problems? Now the idea of “a wall” is an analogue for the ideologies of greed, division, nationalism, fear that, in America, play out constantly on social media, tv, newspapers, it’s everywhere. Working with MER to add a voice to a commentary about it and celebrate the music and message of Pink Floyd? Sounds right. Sign us up. This is one of the reasons we play in a band. It’s a shitshow out there and it’s time to get dressed and show up to the party. America is pretty happening party, but insane assholes are soiling the punch and passing out bad drugs, and the DJ is a punishing monster right now. I’m glad I got a band that wants to kick down the door, squeeze off a few rounds on the fire extinguisher, and put some Floyd on the stereo ‘cause whatever’s on at the moment has got to stop.

JB: Did you see Roger Waters on that last tour? If anything, this is a PERFECT time to revisit this album. All of his lyrics can be interpreted as being completely current in today’s political climate. Maybe the Animals record more than this one, but wow, he really created some timeless lyrics that make sense in pretty much any era. Until everybody gets along, I think Roger’s lyrics will always resonate. This has also been great for me, personally, because The Wall was never really “my Floyd album” so it gave me a reason to really dig into it again and learn to really appreciate it. Not that I didn’t appreciate it, I just always found it to be a little on the “emotionally draining” side. Now, I don’t see it that way anymore, so thanks for helping me with that!

Gary Arce / Yawning Man / Outside the Wall / Mudmen

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

To be honest we grew up with punk rock and we were very young when we started doing music, not caring much for references. As for Pink Floyd I can see how we share a similar approach to guitar sounds and spatiality, as well as riffs and tempo with some of their songs. It’s that they started with blues and you can hear rock is a part of us. I think some members of Pink Floyd also kind of grew up together as we did. Playing in the desert with our mates, most of them are luckily still around doing their thing, that’s what pushed us.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

Our approach is usually very instinctive. We love jamming and see what we come up with. That’s how we did the covers, too. We‘re not like wracking our brains too much before we start, that’s not how we play. We just start and the music keeps flowing. It was fun and lots of Mexican food kept us going.

Does today feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

The Wall made the history of music. Many have been if you want it or not (consciously or unconsciously) influenced by it. On tour I talk to many fans after concerts or they come up and talk to me. They know a lot about music and love to establish connections between their idols and the younger bands. Psych sounds are having a huge revival in Europe, the US and Canada. We see that when we play live and most of the shows are sold out. So I guess it’s a good moment to revisit The Wall and see what it’s got to tell us now.

Amy Tung / Year of the Cobra / When the Tigers Broke Free / Have a Cigar

As musicians and music fans, what’s your connection to Pink Floyd?

The funny thing about Pink Floyd is that they’re not one of my favorite bands, but they’re certainly one of the most influential bands in my life. If I think about the time in my life where music influenced me the most, like as a preteen or a teenager, they’re certainly one of the top 5. They’re one of those bands that, at some point in your life, you have to dive into, head first, and in doing so, you become a more fulfilled human being. It obviously doesn’t apply to everyone, but to most of the people that I relate to, it does. It is impossible to not have the utmost respect for them and never in my life did I imagine I would be asked to cover any of their music. I never thought I would be able to, but to have the opportunity to do so was outrageously challenging and exciting. I don’t expect anyone to find our take on their music better than what already existed. I just hope people find it interesting and inventive and I hope it opens their minds to something different and new.

How did you arrive at your approach in covering your song?

My approach to covering any song is to find a way to change it. I feel like you can never make a song exactly like the original because it will never sound better than it already does. The only option you have is to change it. My goal is to find a way to keep the essence of the song intact but insert a little bit of me in it. Covering the songs “Have a Cigar” and “When the Tigers Broke Free” as Year of the Cobra was certainly limiting, seeing that we’re only a drum and bass duo, but it was also fun trying to find a way to do justice to the music, while also doing justice to us as a band. In the studio, we added some more instrumentation (I.e. keyboards), but I feel like it’s still something we could play (and maybe… hopefully… will play) live, one day.

Does today feel like a good time to revisit an iconic album like The Wall? Why or why not?

The Wall will always be an album to revisit; today, tomorrow, in the future. It’s timeless. There are no contemporary bands that even come close to writing an album of epic proportions like The Wall and there are too many kids that have grown up listening to the formulaic music that is spewed out on modern radio these days, it’s depressing to think what their lives would be like if they weren’t introduced to albums like The Wall. It is imperative that we keep these albums alive in any way we can, so they are never forgotten. Finding bands to cover them, breathe new life into them, is such an exciting way to keep them alive, to keep us talking about them. I hope in 10 years, more bands are covering this album and keeping it alive for more generations to come.

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Giveaway & Video Premiere: Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters, “Döner Trump”

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Features on October 17th, 2018 by JJ Koczan

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[Enter the contest to win one of two vinyl merch goodie packs from Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters by leaving a comment on this post. Make sure your email address is in the form provided so I can contact you if you win. That’s it.]

There are two facts you should know going into the video below. First, Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters are fucking awesome, though if you don’t know that, you will soon enough. Second, döner is Turkish street meat. Sometimes gross Turkish street meat. It’s sold in London and elsewhere in small shops with rotating slabs of wrong-looking product from which the meat is cut off in slices and served in pita in styrofoam trays. It is not the kind of thing one should or would eat while sober. It is the kind of thing you might regret later regardless of your level of lucidity. It’s like a gyro, but not a gyro the way Chinese dumplings aren’t ravioli. Okay.

But not to stray too far from the first point, Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters — who are right up there with the finest executions of the UK’s silly-long-names-for-really-good-bands program — made their awaited full-length debut over the summer through Riff Rock Records with the charmingly titled Come and Chutney, a collection of eight blazed-out rockers fueled by sludge fuckall, tight grooves like those of “Cojones Feos” or the flatulence-laden “Gutlads” and an underlying current of punk and filthy thrash in cuts like “Krones of the Kiln” and “Döner Trump” that set up the sprawling stoner exploration of the finale “Psychedelic Hallucinogenic Vagrancy.” Opening with nasty intentions quickly on “Doggy Bad of Slurry,” it’s an album willfully crass that nonetheless makes its case via songwriting and the grit of its tones. Comprised of guitarist/vocalist Owen Carty, bassist Will Hart and drummer Mark Buckwell, Chubby Thunderous slush and stomp their way through all manner of much and bodily fluids in order to make their point, but there’s no questioning they do precisely that. Building on the accomplishments of their 2015 debut EP, Earth Hog (review here), and their 2017 split with Ten Foot Wizard (review here), the three-piece arrive at their first long-player with a firm sense of who they are as a band and exactly the kind of sonic mayhem they want to cause.

chubby thunderous bad kush masters come and chutneyOne of the best debuts of 2018? Absolutely. Because while the outward aesthetic may be one of destructive disaffection, the foundation from which Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters execute that is more than solid enough to sustain them. They’re not a sloppy band, as the tense, drum-led rhythm and low-end air-push of “Gawdless” shows,” and though Carty‘s vocals are a harsh, bad-drug sneer throughout, they’re not completely void of melody either, even when they might otherwise be, on the nod-inducing “Glue Ear” or the thrust of the aforementioned “Döner Trump,” which seems to bask in multi-tiered disgust at its subject matter. Further, when they arrive at “Psychedelic Hallucinogenic Vagrancy,” its departure isn’t completely without preface thanks to the subdued launch of “Doggy Bad of Slurry,” though where it heads from there, with the Mellotron and guest appearances from Vodun‘s Chantal Brown, Ten Foot Wizard‘s Gary Harkin and Thom Carter of Riddles, is most definitely in a sphere of its own as regards the rest of the record, pulling back on tempo and passing the 10-minute mark with an open vibe and pervasive swirl of wah. Given the aggression of so much of what surrounds, it’s hard to believe at first, but by the time Brown‘s operatics arrive circa four minutes in, yeah, it’s for real. While we’re talking highlights, the subsequent verse Brown carries is a gem, and the instrumental buildup that follows, with the keys/synth adding to the wash along with the vocals cutting through, is a fitting end both to the track and the record as a whole. I’m not gonna say Chubby Thunderous aren’t fucking around on Come and Chutney. They are, to be sure. That doesn’t change the quality of the results.

For those of us who haven’t had the pleasure of seeing the band on stage, they have a new live video for “Döner Trump” filmed at The Black Heart in Camden Town, which, so far as I know, hasn’t changed its policy about letting even well-supervised babies hang out at the bar downstairs. So it goes. Still a great place to see a show, and from the looks of things, Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters put on a hell of a one. If you find yourself at any point going “eww” as regards their general sound, that’s the idea, but I suspect that if you haven’t encountered them before — and you probably have by now, I know; but just in case — the energy with which they bring “Döner Trump” to bear is no less infectious than the song itself. And these dudes certainly do seem to be infected.

If you want the vinyl — and you do — leave a comment on this post to get it and I’ll hit you up if you win. No, I’m not gonna keep your email address and blah blah blah all that shit. Either way, please enjoy:

Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters, “Döner Trump” official live video premiere

Two copies of this one going out with tees, stickers and whatnot:

chubby thunderous bad kush masters come and chutney vinyl

[Enter the contest to win one of two vinyl merch goodie packs from Chubby Thunderous Bad Kush Masters by leaving a comment on this post. Make sure your email address is in the form provided so I can contact you if you win. That’s it.]

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