Album Review: Various Artists, Cadaver Monuments

Posted in Reviews on December 6th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Various Artists Cadaver Monuments

Based in Brest, France, and founded in 2010, Totem Cat Records marks its 50th release in admirably punishing style with the four-way split Cadaver Monuments. Given the opportunity to say something about the imprint’s ongoing mission, Cadaver Monuments teems with curated filth. You start with 16. Okay? That’s where you start. Then you’ve got Arkansas’ Deadbird, and then Nightstick show up and as will happen in such instances, shit goes right off the rails. And to mop up the innards, outtards, uppers and downers is chemically-preserved Ohio mainstays Fistula, who sound at this point like they should be on tour with Cannibal Corpse. That’s Totem Cat declaring who they are? It’s not the entirety of the label’s scope, but while also giving a home to bands like Karma to Burn and Bongzilla — and let’s not forget releasing the most recent offering from Sons of Otis; peace upon it — founder Ewenn Padovan has displayed a penchant for the nastier end of nasty, and in that regard, Cadaver Monuments is one hell of a party.

But understand, this isn’t a party like you show up and there’s a bounce-house or somebody’s got the grill going and you’re playing some tunes in the back yard. This is a party like oops someone just overdosed. Consider the trajectory of the included 13 songs and 53 minutes of music. First of all, it’s hilarious to find a context in which 16 seem like the voice of reason, but even as they launch the collection with “Crust Fund” — the chorus of which just might be, “You suck” — and all due bloodboil, Cadaver Monuments pushes deeper from there with Deadbird‘s generally-semi-hinged atmosludge, the will-forever-be-avant-garde-because-they’re-ahead-of-a-time-that’s-never-coming garage crust wrought by Nightstick, and Fistula‘s death-spreading pestilent extremity, still somehow rooted in punk if not to the degree of Nightstick, who share a sense of suburban fuckery, hopelessness and disillusion. The progression feels purposeful and it is consuming. “Crust Fund” is the shortest cut at 2:30 save for “Hallelujah, I’m a Bum” by Nightstick still to come, and is backed by the Black Flag cover “Beat My Head Against the Wall,” which is respectfully delivered, and the Los Angeles mainstays finish “Broken Minds,” an easy pick for a highlight of the split with the kind of violence-inducing chug that 16‘s most recent LP, 2022’s Into Dust (review here), so gloriously proffered.

They are well met by Deadbird, whose sound has always spoken to me of some nighttime threat, probably in the woods, but who doom on “Static Pain” with a lurch that’s more in league with the emotionalism of Warning until the screaming starts, if rawer in the recording. As each band gets about 10-15 minutes, Deadbird complement the original track with a take on Celtic Frost‘s “Dethroned Emperor” that picks up from the drone that ends “Static Pain” with amp noise and that classic riff. I don’t know where or when the band recorded this cover, but it’s a shift in production from “Static Pain” (I think) that keeps clarity even as “Dethroned Emperor” grows madder after its initial verse and continues its thrust toward its coming-apart-but-fuck-it ending. Deadbird don’t do a ton outside their local area, but the band goes back over 20 years — you might recall they’re tight with Rwake, whose frontman CT has taken part and I think does at least some vocals here — and if you can catch them, it would be advisable. The transition from them to Nightstick is the most dramatic aesthetic shift Cadaver Monuments has to make. True to form, swagger and fuckall seal it.

16 (Photo by Chad Kelco)

Deadbird (photo by Adam Peterson)



If you’re unfamiliar with the oeuvre of the South Shore, Massachusetts-based experimental unit, they are truly a psychological experience. They begin with “The Ballad of Richie Gardner” — who the hell is Richie Gardner? I don’t know but he’s probably dead or in jail — and tell a tale of local sexual abuse that might have happened in real life before breaking the track in half and jamming out on the kind of riff that makes you go up to them after the show. Nighstick subsequently slunk into a cover of The Beatles‘ “Yer Blues” that is so much more about death than the blues as to remove the pop from one of the greatest pop songwriters of all-time — it rules, it’s scathing, it’s certainly true to the spirit of the original and the lyrics, and I have to think that somewhere out there a 90-year-old experimentalist artist named Yoko Ono would approve. “Hallelujah, I’m a Bum” is mostly vocals but has some acoustic guitar and seagulls at the end — folk Americana, about homelessness — and the noise and distortion rumbling in “Elizabeth (For Larry Lifeless)” as the titular name is repeated in drawling fashion, while a woman, presumably Elizabeth, says, “You can’t find me, I’m a ghost,” over and over.

Vague and sad in like proportion and blowing out in the last of its sub-three minutes with jazz drums and consuming static wub, “Elizabeth (For Larry Lifeless)” sounds like what you’d find if American popular culture took off its makeup. Like Swans but working class punk instead of arthouse couture. Of course they finish with a take on Wilson Pickett‘s famous “Land of 1,000 Dances,” grunting out the names of dances from the first half of the 1960s with Hellhammer rawness behind. Solo is a total wash. It’s not the kind of fuckery everyone will be able to level with, but the big end and sampled laughs at the end of Nightstick‘s time are a fair enough lead into Fistula, who begin with outright slaughter disguised as “The Toll.” Denser in tone than when I last encountered them, the last of Cadaver Monuments‘ four features roll disgustingly slow and top their harsh-your-mellow megasludge with gnashing, nodule-forming, actually-sounds-like-a-monster monstrous vocals — the whisper to kill yourself before the mosh riff notwithstanding — and from there “The Toll” hits into grindcore, which is both long established in Fistula‘s wheelhouse and, frankly, called for by the proceedings to this point.

I won’t say much for the sentiment behind “Methican American,” but if you’re so hard up that you’re going to Fistula for kindnesses, I recommend a hasty rethink on your entire life. Going fast to slow to fast to slow to fast and injecting low growls under the manic gnashing, the song comes across, well, like it went to Fistula for kindnesses. It and split-capper “Words Decompose” are thick like the concrete in the foundation of a new federal prison, with double-kick furthering the assault as the third of Fistula‘s three inclusion lumbers through its verse. They’ll finish quiet — which is hilarious — but answer the call to violence of 16 earlier with their own urgency. It is not the wildest, most insane I’ve ever heard Fistula sound, and it’s metal-based more than punk, but if they’re methodical in their killing, they’re no less lethal for that.

16 got together in 1991, Nightstick in 1992, Fistula in 1998, and Deadbird in 2002 with a pedigree that goes back farther. For its 50th release, Totem Cat Records embraced the chance to thank its audience, to give the people who’ve followed the label’s growth something special, and to communicate the ethics by which it at least in part operates. These are not short-term bands who tried to make a flash-in-the-pan impact and faded away when the next thing came along on Bandcamp. These are acts who’ve stood up to time and whose respective approaches vary but are uniformly uncompromising. That’s setting a high standard to attain, but the label should be used to that by now too.

VA, Cadaver Monuments (2023)

16 on Facebook

16 on Instagram

16 on Bandcamp

Deadbird on Facebook

Deadbird on YouTube

Deadbird on Bandcamp

Nightstick on Bandcamp

Fistula on Facebook

Fistula on Instagram

Fistula on Bandcamp

Totem Cat Records on Facebook

Totem Cat Records on Instagram

Totem Cat Records store

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-(16)- Sign to Heavy Psych Sounds Booking; Touring Europe in 2024

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 24th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

You might remember that long-running Cali sludgecore aggressors -(16)- played the Heavy Psych Sounds Fest in San Francisco and Los Angeles in 2022. The Italian label, festival organizer and booking company has now sent word that it will handle booking for the band as they look toward a round of 2024 European touring. I’ll be in Europe next summer, reportedly. Maybe I’ll go see them in Budapest if they get there.

Fair enough. What’s here today is barely news compared to, say, announcing that tour, but the basic truth here is I want to listen to 16. That’s absolutely, 100 percent why this post is here complete with 16‘s longform bio (you’ll note it’s in the present tense as it goes through their later albums on Relapse; no, I didn’t write it). And I feel no need to hide the fact that I just want to hear a thing. 30 years on from their first album, 16 are not only still a pissed-off powerhouse, but they’re both heavier and broader in sound. Last year’s Into Dust (review here) is the stuff of misery-obliterating catharsis, and I don’t know about you, but I’d go for a bit of that this morning, afternoon, whatever time it is where you are.

Needing a copy edit aside — look woh’s talking — the band’s bio does well in telling the tumultuous story of this tumultuous sound and the shape it’s taken over the better part of the last 15 years since the band returned with 2009’s Bridges to Burn, which I can’t believe I haven’t had yet as a Friday Full-Length. On the list it goes. Into Dust‘s pummel is doing ever so nicely in the meantime. “The Floor Wins.”

Use your anger to smash your anger. What’s left? Who are you without it?

From the PR wire:

16 heavy psych sounds

*** -16- *** The sludge metal legends are now part of the Heavy Psych Sounds booking roster

We are so stoked to announce that the sludge metal riffers -16- are now part of the Heavy Psych Sounds booking roster !!!

The band will tour Europe in July/August 2024 !!


SoCal sludge stalwarts -(16)- are among the most consistent and most underrated purveyors of the heavy riff. The band was formed in Santa Ana, Ca. by Bobby Ferry (guitar), Cris Jerue (vocals), and Jason Corley (drums) in 1991, and was later joined by bassist Tony Baumeister in 1993. The band’s debut 7″, Doorprize, was recorded at the end of 1991, and was shortly followed by their first full-length album, Curves That Kick (released in 1993 on legendary artist Pushead’s label Bacteria Sour). Working with Pushead enabled the band to have the album released in Japan and gave them the opportunity to tour Japan, which happened in the summer of 1994. Soon after, the band performed select live dates with Slayer, the Melvins, Unsane, and Jawbreaker. -(16)-‘s follow-up record Drop Out was released by Pessimiser/Theologian records in 1996 to critical acclaim, which the band followed with a series of local and semi-local performances.

Jason Corley was ejected from the band at the end of 1994, and was replaced by Andy Hassler. Phil Vera was also added as a second guitarist. The band released Blaze of Incompetence in 1997 (again on Pessimiser/Theologian), and completed a US tour with Grief in 1998. Andy Hassler was fired shortly after the tour. R.D. Davies replaced Andy, but he overdosed on heroin 6 months later and was replaced by Mark Sanger. The band’s next album, Zoloft Smile, was recorded in 1999/2000, but wasn’t released until 2002 via At A Loss Recordings. By the time the album was actually released, Bobby and Tony had both quit the band. The rest of the guys carried on, while Phil Vera remained as the band’s lone guitar player. Phil then took over vocal duties in 2003 after Cris was forced to go to rehab for alcohol and drug dependency. -(16)- toured the US and Japan as a three-piece (Phil, Mark, and Rafa) before calling it quits in 2004.

The band couldn’t fight its love for heavy music, though, and reunited in 2007 with a lineup consisting of Bobby, Cris, Jason, and Tony. -(16)- subsequently inked a record deal with renowned label Relapse Records and released their Relapse debut Bridges to Burn in Jan. 2009. The band parted ways with Jason Corley yet again (notice a pattern?), and recruited Mateo Pinkerton (ex Buzzov-en, Crom) as their new drummer. In early 2012 they released the album Deep Cuts from Dark Clouds via Relapse to widespread critical acclaim. Deep Cuts was followed by an eastern US with labelmates Tombs and still more lineup changes: in 2013 Dion Thurman joined as the band’s new drummer, and Barney Firks entered the ranks on bass. In support of Bridges to Burn and Deep Cuts, -(16)- have toured Europe twice, even appearing at major festivals such as Hellfest in France and Roadburn in The Netherlands. Additionally, the band has performed at US festivals Day of the Shred and Southwest Terror Fest and has shared the stage with a wide range of artists, from Neurosis, Nails, Indian, and Inter Arma to Noothgrush, Graves at Sea, ASG, and dozens of others.

In 2016, -(16)- return with their 7th full-length album Lifespan Of A Moth, the band’s heaviest, darkest, and most complex material to date! Self-produced by the band and recorded with Jeff Forrest (Cattle Decapitation, The Locust) at Doubletime Recording Studio in San Diego, CA, Lifespan Of A Moth saw the band sounding uglier, rawer and more visceral than ever. Down-tuned feedback-driven riffs and bludgeoning rhythms violently clash with vocalist Chris Jerue’s distorted, tortured howls across eight tracks of -(16)-‘s signature blend of hardcore punk, thrash and sludge. Lifespan Of A Moth is the sound of a band that has spent 25 years wallowing in addiction and anguish, and will leave you feeling crushed and confronted by the negativity of existence. Despite constant lineup changes and internal turmoil, -(16)- have persevered.

Fast forward to 2020 and -(16)- return with their new album, Dream Squasher. A testament to the power of loss, every moment of Dream Squasher casts the now San Diego based band into new, deeper depths. “A conscious effort was made to inject positivity into the lyrical themes,” guitarist and lead vocalist Bobby Ferry explains. “The best we could come up with is loving your dog so much, you’d end up killing yourself if the dog dies.”

The tragic, violent intent in this expression won’t be lost on listeners either; at any given moment of Dream Squasher, -(16)-‘s bouldering guitars crash into one another, set atop equally pulverizing bass and drums. Thunderous riffs express equal parts melancholy and fury. For the first time in the band’s 29-year career, Dream Squasher sees Bobby Ferry stepping forward and taking the helm on lead vocals, rounding out the band with both monumental moments of singing and pained screams of pure vitriol. From standout tracks like “Candy in Spanish”, to bruisers like “Agora (Killed by a Mountain Lion)” and the mountainous melodies of “Sadlands”, Dream Squasher proves to be -(16)-‘s return to form – where riffs dominate and anger reigns supreme.

Now in 2022, -(16)- return with their heaviest and most devastating record to date, Into Dust. The new album, a collection of cautionary tales of survival and redemption, is set to an amalgamation of sludge, punk, metal, hardcore, and stoner riffs, that could only be built through 30 years of commitment to their dark sonic craft, which -(16)- continues to improve upon. From the frantic opening of “Misfortune Teller” to the undeniable pounding and swagger of “Scrape the Rocks”, Into Dust lives up to its name, as -(16)- beat the listener into submission through the lowest of ends and the sour, palpable malaise prevalent throughout the album’s dozen tracks.

“There’s a story arc in the lyrics that start with an eviction notice served amid the ruins of Hurricane Irma in the Florida Keys, to running aground metaphorically and drowning in midlife, bearing witness to the modern suffering of hunger and poverty on the Mexico California border,” guitarist and vocalist Bobby Ferry says. The negativity persists on tracks aptly titled “Null and Eternal Void”, and the dizzying, pill-induced “The Floor Wins”. Elsewhere, “Born on a Bar Stool” sends the listener off with a sobering album closer; ending on a foggy and rainy jazz-tinged San Francisco night, with an anti-drinking drinking song, proclaiming “Raise your glass all things pass”.

– 16 – is:
Bobby Ferry: Guitar, Vocals
Alex Shuster: Lead Guitar
Barney Firks: Bass
Dion Thurman: Drums

-(16)-, “Lane Splitter” official video

-(16)-, “Scrape the Rocks” official video

-(16)-, “Misfortune Teller” official video

16, Into Dust (2022)

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The Obelisk Presents: THE BEST OF 2022 — Year in Review

Posted in Features on December 21st, 2022 by JJ Koczan


[PLEASE NOTE: These are not the results of the year-end poll, which is ongoing. If you haven’t contributed your picks yet, please do so here.]

I believe we are in the midst of a generational turnover among artists and bands. Some have reshuffled as a result of either the pandemic or a basic desire to explore new creative reaches, and some are just plain younger, finding their way into a heavy underground that now has the fanbase ecosystem to support their work. The last couple years have not been easy for anyone, but this wouldn’t be the first instance of hard times making for good art.

The music that will define this decade is being made now. Fresh perspectives and new ideas have broadened the definitions of what makes a sound heavy, and while the change can feel and has felt excruciatingly slow, rock and roll has grown more diverse, much to its benefit. The boundaries between microgenres have become ever more porous, resulting in a vibrant shifting of styles and breadth that, even when playing directly to familiar ideals, is evolution at work. As/if you make your way through the lists below, consider the veteran acts and newcomers, young and old, how many debuts and sophomore albums and how many bands on their fifth, sixth, seventh, etc. Not that there’s nothing between, but the divide feels stark.

As war returned to Eastern Europe and the American political system teetered worryingly toward collapse, music was both respite and reportage, escape, therapy and critique marked by a blanket expressive urgency, no matter which side of which argument one was on. The ‘return’ of touring and live shows was a boon for escapists and celebrants, and one found new appreciation for the simple act of gathering. Some of the most beautiful moments I’ve ever seen on a stage happened in 2022.

In this spirit, I ask as I do every year to please, if you comment on this post in either agreement or disagreement, please, please keep it civil. For both my own sensitivities — yes, I take it personally — and those of anyone else reading. I thank you for reading, and if you feel compelled to respond, thank you for that too. I’m a human being. You’re a human being. Let’s just be nice. That’s all.

Okay. Deep breath in… and plunge:

The Top 60 Albums of 2022

Maybe you think a Top 60 is ridiculous. Fair. Too much? Okay. Anything else? No? Then let’s roll.

Precedent for this was set last year, and I found the trouble this time was not only sorting it by number — once you pass a certain point it’s more about including the names than the actual ordering, I’ll admit — but actually keeping it to 60. Believe it or not, these are packed in, and there were more than a handful of others I was heartbroken to have to leave out of the numbered list.

Here goes:

31. Ecstatic Vision, Elusive Mojo
32. Josiah, We Lay on Cold Stone
33. C.Ross, Skull Creator
34. Samavayo, Pāyān
35. Abronia, Map of Dawn
36. CB3, Exploration
37. Brant Bjork, Bougainvillea Suite
38. Valley of the Sun, The Chariot
39. Mos Generator, Time//Wounds
40. Edena Gardens, Edena Gardens
41. Cities of Mars, Cities of Mars
42. Dreadnought, The Endless
43. Clutch, Sunrise on Slaughter Beach
44. Tau and the Drones of Praise, Misneach
45. Nebula, Transmission From Mothership Earth
46. Birth, Born
47. Ufomammut, Fenice
48. Supersonic Blues, It’s Heavy
49. Naxatras, IV
50. Come to Grief, When the World Dies
51. Toad Venom, EAT!
52. Earthless, Night Parade of 100 Demons
53. Hazemaze, Blinded by the Wicked
54. Experiencia Tibetana, Vol. II
55. Les Nadie, Destierro y Siembra
56. MWWB, The Harvest
57. Obiat, Indian Ocean
58. Messa, Close
59. JIRM, The Tunnel, the Well, Holy Bedlam
60. Somali Yacht Club, The Space


Some killer records. And not just things to be appreciated critically, either, but stuff I actually listened to a fair bit. Cities of Mars, Obiat, Tau and the Drones of Praise, Brant Bjork’s always a go-to. Seeing Ecstatic Vision and Josiah next to each other makes me want to book a UK tour for them together. And then you get into the gleeful acid fuckall of Nebula, Naxatras’ full-on-prog-rock pivot, Clutch being Clutch, Supersonic Blues’ right on debut — finally! — and Obiat’s first record in 13 years. Dreadnought and Edena Gardens and JIRM and CB3, Abronia. There isn’t a clunker in the bunch.

Don’t ignore this list, please, and please don’t think that because something’s not in the top 30 with the cover art right there I don’t think you should check it out. If that was the case, I’d cap the list at 30. There’s genuine treasure here to be found, and it’s my sincere hope you’ll take the time to find it.



Released by We Are Busy Bodies. Reviewed Oct. 20.

My only hope is it wasn’t a one-off that Jason Haberman (Yeahsun), Ian Blurton (Ian Blurton’s Future Now, etc.), and Jay Anderson (Lammping) came together to form this classic psychedelic soul project. With guest vocalists, the six songs on this self-titled debut ranged from flowing extended jams to tight acid disco pop, as memorable as they were righteous. Sleeper hit.

29. River Flows Reverse, The Homing Bird’s Trace


Released by Psychedelic Source Records. Reviewed Nov. 14.

By no means the only cause to rejoice to emerge over the last few years from Hungary’s Psychedelic Source Records collective, River Flows Reverse‘s second offering brings a crafted focus on organic, natural-world psychedelia that results in an affecting beauty and warmth all its own. It is the acid folk of another world; varied in instrumentation, exploratory, welcoming and wonderfully serene.

28. Freedom Hawk, Take All You Can

Freedom Hawk take all you can 1

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed July 25.

Long-since proven as songwriters, Virginia Beach’s Freedom Hawk one-upped themselves again with their sixth album. It was an effective summary of what has made the band so crucial and so largely undervalued during their time, bringing together elements from classic metal, classic heavy rock, desert riffing, and even some flourish of psychedelia in a DIY recording that told us we all need rock and roll and went on to demonstrate why.

27. Lamp of the Universe, The Akashic Field

Lamp of the Universe The Akashic Field
Released through Headspin Records & Astral Projection. Reviewed Jan. 10.

I’ll gladly cop to being a sucker for the long-running lysergic solo-project of Hamilton, New Zealand’s Craig Williamson (ex-Arc of Ascent, ex-Datura), and as he makes ready to unveil the more riff-heavy, still-solo band incarnation Dead Shrine in 2023 (info here), this offering from Lamp of the Universe pushed through a transitional spirit as though he was passing a torch… to himself. More than 20 years on, this project still evolves, can still surprise.

26. -(16)-, Into Dust

16 into dust

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed Nov. 21.

A beautiful bludgeoning. Metallic in its aggression, hardcore in its soul and sludged to its monstrously-proportioned gills, the latest from Los Angeles’ 16 felt tighter in its songwriting and meaner even than 2020’s Dream Squasher (review here), but maybe that’s the difference between being punched in the stomach and the solar plexus. This was the one that took the air right out of your lungs, and did so with purpose beyond the simple violence of the act.

25. Eight Bells, Legacy of Ruin

eight bells legacy of ruin

Released by Prophecy Productions. Reviewed April 4.

Recorded (with Billy Anderson) during the general awfulness of 2020, this awaited third long-player from the Portland, Oregon, outfit led by former SubArachnoid Space guitarist/vocalist Melynda Marie Jackson harvested a vision of progressive black metal likewise expansive and dug into the dirt of its making. It was not easy listening by any stretch, but to undertake the challenge it issued listeners was to engage with a churning cosmic extremity that only emphasized the limits and folly of genre.

24. Stöner, Totally…

Stoner Totally
Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed May 9.

The follow-up from guitarist/vocalist Brant Bjork, bassist/vocalist Nick Oliveri and drummer Ryan Güt to 2021’s Stoners Rule (review here) had its challenge in continuing to speak to the rawest-form desert punk of the project’s debut while nonetheless growing the sound and moving forward. Stöner did this by making it a (pizza) party, with cuts like “A Million Beers,” “Driving Miss Lazy” and “Strawberry Creek (Dirty Feet)” bringing further vocal integration from Bjork and Oliveri as they blanketly refused to not have a good time. Easy record to dig, and it was dug.

23. Conan, Evidence of Immortality

conan evidence of immortality

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Aug. 29.

One hates to use a cliché like “now more than ever,” but the return of UK lumberchuckers Conan was especially well-timed, and Evidence of Immortality spoke to the overwhelming strangeness of our times with clever metaphor while maintaining the trio’s punishing heft and extreme noise-doom onslaught. By now, their tonality is rightly the stuff of legend, and they know it and they play into it with particularly rampaging glee, but the six-track outing also showed how central atmosphere has become to their pummel, as heard on the 14-minute instrumental closer “Grief Sequence,” a somehow fitting complement to the all-in plod of leadoff “A Cleaved Head No Longer Plots.”

22. My Sleeping Karma, Atma

my sleeping karma atma
Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed July 28.

It is remarkable how distinctive My Sleeping Karma have become over time. Their ever-instrumental approach is progressive and reliably able to broaden beyond its root arrangements of guitar, bass, drums and synth, but at the same time, their meditative psychedelia is only ever their own. This was their first studio album in seven years, and while its component material played out with an overarching melancholy that seemed to look inward as much as at the state of the world at large, the four-piece likewise presented an answer in the catharsis of their expression. An essential reminder of the healing art can provide, Atma‘s resonance was an immersive comfort in its own right Like a weighted blanket, and accordingly warm.

21. Sun Voyager, Sun Voyager

sun voyager self titled

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Oct. 6.

New York’s Sun Voyager provided their own best descriptor of how their second full-length and first for Ripple functions in the song title “Rip the Sky.” The trio/sometimes-four-piece took cosmic bikerisms and classic punk/grunge shove, superheated them like they were about to fuse atoms, and accordingly scorched their way through a sans-nonsense-yet-full-of-nonsense 32 minutes and seven songs that, while varied enough in tempo, remained defined by their urgency. Last month, bassist/backing vocalist/keyboardist Stefan Mersch and drummer Kyle Beach announced Christian Lopez stepping in on guitar in place of Carlos Francisco, and whatever the future holds, they’re that much stronger for this wind pushing them forward.

20. Ealdor Bealu, Psychic Forms

Ealdor Bealu Psychic Forms

Released by Metal Assault Records. Reviewed March 18.

This band is three-for-three in my mind, and as their third full-length, Psychic Forms fostered the most realized vision of their take on progressive heavy rock to-date while feeling not at all like a culmination. In its range and atmospheric focus, it built on what came before, but in pushing as far as it did, it seemed to open as many doors as it went through. Does that make any sense? Did I mix metaphors enough? Point is, the Boise, Idaho-based four-piece seem to develop new ideas and incorporate new influences every time out, and while their material becomes more complex as a result of that, they have yet to put those adventurous impulses to any use that does not best serve the song in question. Psychic Forms is what I wish the word ‘Americana’ actually meant.

19. Mythosphere, Pathological

Mythosphere Pathological

Released by Cruz Del Sur Music. Reviewed Nov. 15.

On some level/levels, Mythosphere could be seen as a continuation of Beelzefuzz, the former outfit of guitarist/vocalist Dana Ortt and drummer Darin McCloskey (both also of Pale Divine). That simplistic view, however, doesn’t account for the shift in dynamic of bringing in Victor Arduini (ex-Fates Warning, EntierroArduini/Balich) on lead guitar or Ron “Fezz” McGinnis (Pale DivineAdmiral Browning, etc.) on bass. The latter two play a massive role in building on the foundation of Ortt‘s recognizable style, and as they unfurled Pathological, the sense was that they were stronger for the members’ familiarity with each other even as they undertook developing this new dynamic. One of the strongest and most progressive debut albums Maryland doom has ever produced in my view.

18. Charley No Face, Eleven Thousand Volts

Charley No Face Eleven Thousand Volts

Released by Forbidden Place Records. Reviewed March 1.

As the year went on, the sophomore long-player from Oregon’s Charley No Face just wouldn’t let go. Songs like “Mosaic Sky,” “Big Sleep,” “Satan’s Hand” — they just kept calling me back to hear them again. Languid fuzz, dual-vocals both delivered in dreamy breaths, the odd bit of cultish tendencies, all of it feeding into tracks catchy, heavy and miraculously unpretentious; Eleven Thousand Volts wasn’t necessarily reinventing a genre aesthetic or anything so grandiose, but its tracks were impeccably well done and seemed built for repeat listens, from the mellow-heavy strut of opener “Eyes” through the sweeping culmination of “Death Mask” at the end. Charley No Face nailed it. 2020’s The Green Man (discussed here) set the course, but in bringing in keyboardist/vocalist Carina Hartley alongside guitarist/vocalist Nick Wulfrost, bassist Brad Larson and drummer Tim Abel, they leaped beyond even the most unreasonable of expectations.

17. Besvärjelsen, Atlas

besvarjelsen atlas

Released by Magnetic Eye Records. Reviewed May 11.

The combination in Atlas of breadth, spaciousness of sound, of rhythmic crunch, and of melody, put it in a stylistic category of its own. The Swedish fivesome whose moniker well-earned its own pronunciation guide have managed to grow and change each time out, but between the confident and soulful delivery of Lea Amling Alazam, the wide-spread tones of guitarists Andreas Baier and Staffan Stensland Vinrot, and the inherited-from-Dozer rhythm section of bassist Johan Rockner and drummer Erik Bäckwall, this felt like the moment where the band became themselves and seemed to realize the intentions they’d laid out at their beginning. Not bad for a self-produced second record, and not to be lost in the narrative of their ongoing maturation is the fact that for all their expanse, the songs seemed to get correspondingly tighter and more efficient structurally, which made them all the more engaging.

16. Telekinetic Yeti, Primordial

Telekinetic Yeti Primordial

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed July 11.

While the Dubuque, Iowa, duo remained somewhat defined by the split of their initial lineup that left guitarist/vocalist Alex Baumann — joined now by drummer Rockwel Heim — as the lone remaining founder, Telekinetic Yeti pressed ahead with self-aware riff-led stoner metal that demonstrated a special kind of revelry for the form even as Primordial left its own elephantine footprint thereupon. Unrepentant in their crushing fuzz, the band tapped into the lizard-brain-thrill of celebrating aural heft, but did so without neglecting songcraft, taking melodic cues from Floor and others while sounding fresh even as they seemed so utterly covered in dense, caked-on mud. As they move forward, they’re another act from an up-and-coming generation of players whose potential at this point seems only beginning to manifest, and while Primordial hardly put one in mind for evolution thematically, Telekinetic Yeti remain one of tomorrow’s brightest hopes for riffslinging.

15. Geezer, Stoned Blues Machine

Geezer Stoned Blues Machine

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed May 18.

Just about a year ago, I was lucky enough to be invited to the studio (features here and here) with Kingston, New York, trio Geezer while they put down the basic tracks for what would become Stoned Blues Machine. Even at that early point in the record’s making, it was apparent that they’d outdone even what was their definitive statement in 2020’s Groovy (review here). In terms of songwriting, the performances captured from guitarist/vocalist Pat Harrington, bassist Richie Touseull and drummer Steve Markota, and the scope of the record, Geezer took the lessons of their best album yet and made a new best album yet. Rife with hooks in “Atomic Moronic,” the title-track, “A Cold Black Heart,” etc., they dug into songs like “Eleven” and “Saviours” with an honest and sincere music-as-escape mindset and honored their jammier side with the tripped out “The Diamond Rain of Saturn.” I’m a fan of these guys, and Stoned Blues Machine was more than I’d have asked for, even holding them to the high standard I do.

14. Sky Pig, It Thrives in Darkness

Sky Pig It Thrives in Darkness

Released by Forbidden Place Records. Reviewed Dec. 8.

Yeah, I said as much in the album review, and maybe-not-surprisingly my opinion hasn’t changed in the last two weeks, but if Sky Pig represent the future of sludge metal, that’s cool by me. The Sacramento outfit’s debut full-length takes the urgent crush of 2020’s Hell is Inside You EP and presents its maddening charge with offsetting, sometimes disturbing drone complement, sometimes resolving in steamroller-over-your-brain riffs and sometimes refusing to resolve at all. No matter how many times I put on the record, it’s a challenge. It’s not an easy listen, and where in many cases it wouldn’t be worth the effort, meeting Sky Pig on their level is thrilling and refreshing, which is so weird to think of about an album that so expertly seems to harness an atmosphere of decay. I won’t predict what the years to come will bring, or where Sky Pig will go from It Thrives in Darkness in terms of craft, but their first LP is both a significant accomplishment in individualizing stylistic impulses and overflowing with potential. A beast that hypnotizes, strikes, and hypnotizes again, purely because it can.

13. Sasquatch, Fever Fantasy

sasquatch fever fantasy

Released by Mad Oak Records. Reviewed June 3.

Listening to it, it seems somewhat cruel on the part of Los Angeles trio Sasquatch that, after being mastered in March 2020, Fever Fantasy sat in the proverbial can for more than two years before seeing release this June. Fortunately for all who’d take it on — only to be overwhelmed and consumed by the unruly dense fuzz of guitarist/vocalist Keith Gibbs and bassist Jason “Cas” Casanova en route to being punched upside your fool head by Craig Riggs‘ snare — the nine-song outing lost none of its edge for that time, and songs like “Lilac,” “Voyager” (dig that organ) and “Save the Day, Ruin the Night” hold firm to their on-the-beat intensity, a flawless uptempo heavy rock execution broadened by the flowing roll of the eight-minute “Ivy” and the full-bore-volume finish in “Cyclops” (dig that organ too). They’ve been on a streak for, I don’t know, the better part of two decades, and if the shove of “It Lies Beyond the Bay” doesn’t get you, then maybe the fact that in all their time they’ve never sounded this brazenly heavy will. Wouldn’t’ve minded it sooner, but it was certainly welcome this year. Inimitable energy in Sasquatch.

12. Wo Fat, The Singularity

wo fat the singularity

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed May 4.

What do you say to a seven-track/75-minute Wo Fat album except maybe “yes please?”  Could be the now-veteran Dallas-based three-piece — guitarist/vocalist Kent Stump, bassist Zack Busby, drummer Michael Walter — were making up for lost time, having not had a studio album since 2016’s Midnight Cometh (review here) when they’d previously been on an every-two-years pattern like relative clockwork, but whatever it was, The Singularity was an album by which to be engulfed. The riffs, of course, the riffs, but consider that quick break of bright noodling in 13-minute opener “Orphans of the Singe,” or the delve into next-level heaviness that followed in “The Snows of Banquo IV.” While keeping to their core approach in jazz-informed, jam-prone-but-still-hooky bluesy fuzz rock, Wo Fat seemed to purposefully screw with their own formula, giving “The Unraveling” a tense chug and finding new realms of vastness in 16-minute closer “The Oracle.” Maybe it’ll be two years for their next one, maybe six, maybe never, but Wo Fat answered the call in 2022 as only they could, and one could only be grateful for their return.

11. Forlesen, Black Terrain

Forlesen black terrain

Released by I, Voidhanger Records. Reviewed Dec. 6.

It’s my nature to dig a lot of bands. I’m left in awe by far fewer. The second album from Forlesen, recorded mostly remotely as at least some portion of the band is now based in Oregon, Black Terrain was stunning enough that I couldn’t bring myself to even review it until about two months after it was already out. Beautifully arranged and set to purposes that were at times genuinely terrifying, this four-song answer to 2020’s debut, Hierophant Violent (review here), felt more patient even as it drew thicker lines between its movements and seemed to begin a process of melding styles through which one can only hope Forlesen‘s style will continue to develop. Sad and aggressive, wholly immersive and still challenging to the listener, Black Terrain was just as likely to tear open the cosmic fabric in “Harrowed Earth” as to drone itself into oblivion on its title-track, but it was the enthralling nature of the album as a single work — never mind that triumphant final solo in “Saturnine” — that was the real accomplishment. Most of all, Forlesen stood on their own, as themselves, and set their own path forward into the actually-unknown, with all the gorgeousness and horror that might imply.

10. Church of the Cosmic Skull, There is No Time

church of the cosmic skull there is no time

Released by Septaphonic Records. Reviewed Sept. 22.

The way “Pleading to the Cosmic Mother” seemed to actually plead, and the swap in perspective for “Last Words of a Dying God.” The sinister underpinning in the lyrical promises of “One More Step.” The devotional sensibility and swirl of “Seven Rays of Colour” at the outset and the corresponding regret of “We Lost it Somewhere” at the end. That hook in “Now’s the Time.” The complement across sides in “Valleys and Hills Pt. 1 – Peel Away the Layers” and “Valleys and Hills Pt. 2 – Pure Illumination.” Church of the Cosmic Skull‘s fourth album not only brought founding guitarist/vocalist Bill Fisher‘s whole-album compositional sensibility to new heights, but was truly classic in feel and the ways in which the songs spoke to each other, worked off each other, melodically, rhythmically and in theme. Gorgeously harmonized as ever, the cult-minded UK seven-piece gave up nothing of craft in service to their audio/visual aesthetic, and even just on the level of a-thing-to-put-on, the utter listenability and welcome that There is No Time offered was no less resonant than the calls to sing along to any number of the choruses. There is no one else out there like them, no other band among the hundreds covered here who can do what they do, and yes, I mean that. They are special, transcendent.

9. All Souls, Ghosts Among Us

All Souls Ghosts Among Us

Released by Oscura Records. Reviewed Oct. 19.

Granted, as regards narrative, the story of All Souls‘ third album behind 2020’s Songs for the End of the World (review here) and 2018’s self-titled debut (review here) was always going to be that the Los Angeles-based then-trio of guitarist/vocalist Antonio Aguilar, bassist/vocalist Meg Castellanos (both ex-Totimoshi) and drummer Tony Tornay (also Fatso Jetson) recorded with producer Alain Johannes (ElevenQueens of the Stone Age, etc.). And the songs bore his mark for sure, in backing vocals and lead guitar, complementing and fleshing out the root heavy punk rock-isms of the band, who, well, were down a guitarist anyhow and had room for such contributions. I don’t know what the impetus was behind the collaboration, but even just in the performances captured from the trio, the songs felt like the best versions of themselves, and went beyond third-record realizations in terms of stepping forward from where All Souls were two years ago. They remain woefully undervalued in my mind, and I have the feeling that might be the case even if they were millionaires, but the spirit in Ghosts Among Us, that intangible atmosphere and sonic persona that emerged was both intimate and sprawling, deeply singular and heartfelt while bringing the listener along for the journey across its still-humble 39 minutes. Records like this don’t happen every year. You should hear it.

8. Okkoto, Climb the Antlers and Reach the Stars

Okkoto climb the Antlers and reach the stars

Self-released. Reviewed May 31.

Formerly (?) the drummer of New Paltz, New York, psych purveyors It’s Not Night: It’s Space, self-recording multi-instrumentalist Michael Lutomski is the lone figure behind Okkoto, and Climb the Antlers and Reach the Stars was his second full-length under the banner after 2019’s Fear the Veil Not the Void. Across five individualized but flowing pieces, Lutomski harnessed a meditative ambience that pushed into homemade intimacy and aural distance in kind, the songs serene as they evocatively conjured a three-dimensional world of length, width, depth. With just a couple guest appearances adding to his own performances, Lutomski found balance in exploration, and the resonance of “Wind at the Gated Grove,” the birdsong in “First Drops in the Cup of Dawn” and the ethereal presence in the soft, rolling nod of finale “Where the Meadows Dream Beside the Sea” all fed into an impression that one might call “striking” were it not so gently, carefully handled. Climb the Antlers and Reach the Stars felt like an offering in the truest sense of the word, and brought soulful purpose to its experimentalism, giving comfort to the listener in its willful contradiction of anxiety; not so much ‘for our times’ as beyond time. It established Lutomski as a noteworthy auteur and creator, and engaged with the organic on every level in a way unforced, loving and hypnotic. Everything was exactly as it needed to be.

7. Moura, Axexan, Espreitan

Moura Axexan Espreitan

Released by Spinda Records. Reviewed March 11.

There was so much happening at times throughout the 40 minutes of Axexan, Espreitan that it could be hard to keep up with, but in fusing together heavy psych and classic, progressive heavy rock with their native Galician folk influences, Moura found a sound unlike anything else I heard this year. It was such a palpable sense of sharing; an expression of the internalized value of culture. Even as “Romance de Andrés d’Orois” seemed at its outset to float in the antigravity space created by the prior intro “Alborada do alén,” it did so with humanity and made itself memorable in its arrangement and across-language-barrier total-dialogue, conversing with itself, history, the future and the listener. It could be traditionally heavy, as in the scorcher guitar work in the second half of “Pelerinaxes” or the closing stretch of “Lúa vermella,” but showed in songs like “Encontro cunha moura fiadeira en Dormeá” that Axexan, Espreitan was about more than where a given linear build was going, but about the sights and meetings along the way. On just their second full-length, Moura displayed a rare mastery of their approach and made each piece feel like a celebration of something beyond themselves and their songwriting, whether that was the relatively minimal “Cantar do liño” or the kosmiche thrust of “Baile do dentón.” Could be head-spinning, could be tranquil, but whatever else it was at any given time, it was wonderfully complete and engrossing.

6. Colour Haze, Sacred

Colour haze sacred

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed Sept. 12.

Colour Haze are not only one of the most pivotal and influential European bands of their generation — heavy psychedelic rock would not exist as it does without them, period — but even more importantly, they’re a group who have refused stagnation outright. Sacred was the Munich-based four-piece’s 14th album, and it presented a shift in the dynamic in marking the studio introduction of bassist Mario Oberpucher — taking on the role held for more than two decades by Philip Rasthofer in the rhythm section alongside drummer Manfred Merwald — and found Stefan Koglek‘s guitar playing off Jan Faszbender‘s keys and synth in ever more engaging ways. It wasn’t just about stepping back and giving space to one instrument or the other anymore, but about how they can converse together and bolster the songs, push each other as players and bring the best out of each other to the ultimate strengthening of the record itself. Like so much of what Colour Haze do, this is organic; a natural process happening over time, and to be sure, their next album will likewise be an outgrowth of what they accomplished in Sacred, their songs so undeniably their own even as they explore new reaches and ideas. A bit of lyrical cynicism in “Avatar,” “See the Fools” and the defiant stance of “Goldmine” spoke to the moment of their creation, but Sacred provided its own best argument for love over hate, and perhaps the highest compliment that can be paid is that it’s a record worthy of the band that made it.

5. Author & Punisher, Krüller

author and punisher kruller

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed Feb. 1.

This was my album of the year for most of the year, and there’s a big part of me that continues to think of it on those terms. The eighth full-length from San Diego solo industrialist Tristan Shone — who brought Ecstatic Vision‘s Doug Sabolick on tour as guitarist — branched out melodically from 2018’s Beastland (discussed here), which was his first for Relapse, which could be heard likewise in his own not-just-harsh vocals and in the use of melodic programmed synth as well on a song like “Maiden Star.” At the same time, an uptick in production value gave cinematic presence to the storytelling of “Drone Mounting Dread,” “Centurion” and the concluding title-track (among others), and a corresponding increase in engagement with non-synth instrumentation — needing a guitarist was not a coincidence — brought weighted bass to “Centurion” and live drums to “Misery,” further broadening the scope of what was an examination of pandemic-era life in America, the dystopian nature of the US circa 2021 presented as the backdrop upon which the songs took place; see “Incinerator,” the electronic-noise overload of “Blacksmith” and even the masculine voice through which the Portishead cover “Glorybox” was manifest. Shone reaffirmed his place miles ahead of almost the entire sphere of industrial metal, and gave the everything-is-whole-planet-death-and-it’s-our-fault moment the cruel sense of tragedy it deserved, mourning chaos even as it acknowledged a place for love within it.

4. Caustic Casanova, Glass Enclosed Nerve Center

Caustic Casanova Glass Enclosed Nerve Center

Released by Magnetic Eye Records. Reviewed Oct. 5.

In the name of all that is good and right in the universe, have you heard this album? With it, Caustic Casanova — bassist/vocalist Francis Beringer (who wrote the best lyrics I read all year, hands down), drummer/vocalist Stefanie Zænker, and guitarists Andrew Yonki and Jake Kimberley — outdid themselves, the pandemic and the legacy of Theodore Roosevelt in five songs and 45 minutes of unflinchingly perfect quirk. Are they punk, noise, prog, stoner rock, post-hardcore or sludge? Yes. Also no. Also a little bit, maybe? I’ve been through Glass Enclosed Nerve Center — the band’s fifth album and first written as a four-piece — a bother-my-family-with-it amount of times, and I’m still up in the air on where it rests categorically, and perhaps that’s in part because the one thing it did not do was rest. Even in the multiple stages of 22-minute finale “Bull Moose Against the Sky,” which I promise you is the only reason I’m even doing a Song of the Year part of this post below, their moves were considered and unpredictable in kind, and whether it was the weight of “Lodestar,” the sunrise at the outset of “Anubis Rex,” the yes-it’s-been-like-that mania of “A Bailar Con Cuarentena” or the hypnotic-plus-dizzying then massive “Shrouded Coconut” on side A, Caustic Casanova were able to pivot from one part the next while making hooks out of single measures and crafting an outing that went beyond even the sundry weirdo triumphs they’ve had to this point in their tenure. A special record on every level one might want to consider, and quintessentially the band’s own.

3. The Otolith, Folium Limina

The Otolith Folium Limina
Released by Blues Funeral Recordings. Reviewed Oct. 28.

When Salt Lake City, Utah’s SubRosa ended after releasing the best album of 2016 in For This We Fought the Battle of Ages (review here), the heart ached for the expressive artistry and distinct style that was snuffed out when it seemed the band still had so much more to say. The emergence of The Otolith, with former SubRosa members Sarah Pendleton and Kim Cordray (violin and vocals, both), Levi Hanna (now guitar/vocals) and Andy Patterson (drums, percussion, production, mixing, mastering) — four-fifths of the band that was — and their presentation of the debut album Folium Limina, has been the flower growing on top of that grave. Together with bassist/vocalist Matt Brotherton, the atmospheric, almost-gothic-but-too-in-the-real-world, gracefully flowing post-metallic five-piece didn’t so much pick up where the last band left off as use that ending to mark a new beginning of their own exploration. Increased use of sampling (at least one big one in the penultimate “Bone Dust”), keyboard/synth, and deeper arrangements of harsh/clean vocals on songs like “Ekpyrotic” and the finale “Dispirit” diverged in intent and the full album maintained a mournful, critical, intelligent-but-emotive poetic voice that carried across the entirety of its consuming 63 minutes. This made Folium Limina of a kind with its high desert/mountainous, surrounded-by-dangerous-fanatics-and-duly-frightened-and-defiant predecessor, but even better, it declared The Otolith as ready to step out of that significant shadow and flourish as something new.

2. King Buffalo, Regenerator

king buffalo regenerator
Self-released/released by Stickman Records. Reviewed July 21.

The third of three was perhaps a definitive statement of who King Buffalo are as a group. The Rochester, New York, trio of guitarist/vocalist/synthesist Sean McVay, bassist/synthesist Dan Reynolds and drummer Scott Donaldson released two albums in 2021 in The Burden of Restlessness (review here), which was my pick for last year’s album of the year, and the also-in-the-top-five, cave-recorded Acheron (review here), the seven-song Regenerator, as their fifth full-length overall, faced the biggest challenge of any of their studio work to-date in completing their unofficial pandemic-era trilogy of LPs written during covid-19 lockdown in 2020. Regenerator not only rose to the occasion, but deftly served as keystone for the series in tying together the progressive psychedelia of The Burden of Restlessness with the exploratory, speaking-to-the-natural-world communion of Acheron. Whether it was the opener/longest track (immediate points) “Regenerator” itself, the tight push of tension in “Mercury” or the later melodic fleshing out of “Mammoth” and “Avalon,” or the all-embracing conclusion in “Firmament,” Regenerator tied together the two albums before and stepped forward as something new, finding an ideal balance for the band’s increasingly multifaceted approach without sacrificing songcraft in its individual pieces. These last two years have seen King Buffalo ascend among the foremost purveyors of heavy psychedelia, and the genre is stronger for the efforts they’ve made to reshape it in their image. The truly horrifying part is I’m convinced their best work is still ahead of them. Amid trauma and cynicism, King Buffalo made it okay to feel optimistic.

2022 Album of the Year

1. Elder, Innate Passage


Released by Stickman Records & Armageddon Shop. Reviewed Nov. 17.

Sometimes the obvious answer is the answer. In the last decade, the first-Massachusetts-then-mostly-Berlin, first-trio-then-four-piece Elder became a defining presence in progressive heavy psychedelic rock, with 2011’s Dead Roots Stirring (review here), 2012’s Spires Burn/Release EP (review here), 2015’s landmark among landmarks Lore (review here), and 2017’s Reflections of a Floating World (review here) each taking forward steps to create a sound influential even as it seemed to be constantly coming to fruition. This is their best album, no, this is their best album. In this decade, they stand astride their aesthetic as masters. As the follow-up to 2020’s moment-of-transition Omens (review here), the five-track Innate Passage is an arrival; a vision of Elder as mature and still evolving, veterans ahead of their time while most of their generation are upstarts, and on a wavelength of their own despite the increasing pervasiveness of their predominance. The flexibility of their songwriting, and the ability of founding guitarist/vocalist/keyboardist Nick DiSalvo — joined by founding bassist Jack Donovan, guitarist/keyboardist Mike Risberg and drummer Georg Edert — to marry parts together that would in other hands be too disparate to connect have never been so resonant, and in cuts like “Endless Return,” “Catastasis,” and the 14-minute two-parter “Merged in Dreams/Ne Plus Ultra,” Elder harvested their most accomplished melodicism to-date (guest vocal harmonies from Samavayo‘s Behrang Alavi and the production of Linda Dag at Clouds Hill Studio were both notable contributions to this aspect of the work), while simultaneously keeping mindful of the dynamic potential of the songs to be tonally and rhythmically heavy, as in “Coalescence” the otherworldly finisher “The Purpose” and indeed, impact-minded stretches in “Catastasis” and “Merged in Dreams/Ne Plus Ultra.” This emphasis felt daring from a band who had purposefully moved away from lumbering-style riffing a decade earlier, and the seamlessness with which Elder integrated these ideas into their proggy aural macrocosm helped make Innate Passage a standout even in their unflinchingly forward-moving discography, even as the title itself reminded that this too is likely only another step along their path. Off they go again, ascendant.

The Top 60 Albums of 2022: Honorable Mention

Strap yourselves in, kids. We’re not done yet.

The year wouldn’t have been as sonically stellar as it was without:

40 Watt Sun, 10,000 Years, Aawks, Abrams, Alunah, Ararat, Artifacts & Uranium, Basalt Shrine, Behold! The Monolith, Black Capricorn, Black Lung, Black Space Riders, Blue Heron, Boris, Brujas del Sol, Burning Sister, Cachemira, Candlemass, Carcaño, Carson, Cave In, Chat Pile, Church of the Sea, Circle of Sighs, Come to Grief, Crippled Black Phoenix, Crowbar, Michael Rudolph Cummings, Deathwhite, Deer Creek, Desert Wave, Deville, Dirty Streets, DR​Ö​Ö​G, DUNDDW, Dune Sea, Dystopian Future Movies, Early Moods, Electric Mountain, El Perro, E-L-R, End Boss, Evert Snyman & The Aviary, Firebreather, Foot, Fostermother, Freebase Hyperspace, FutureProjektor, Fuzz Sagrado, Garden of Worm, Gaupa, Gnome, Goatriders, Greenbeard, Half Gramme of Soma, Horehound, Humanotone, Ian Blurton’s Future Now, James Romig/Mike Scheidt, Jawless, Kadavermarch, Kaleidobolt, Kanaan, Kandodo4, Kryptograf, LáGoon, Erik Larson, Les Lekin, Lydsyn, Madness, Mammoth Volume, Melt Motif, Mezzoa, MIGHT, Mirror Queen, Mother of Graves, Motorpsycho, Mount Desert, Mount Saturn, My Diligence, Mythic Sunship, Nadja, Ode and Elegy, Oktas, Olson Van Cleef and Williams, Ol’ Time Moonshine, Onségen Ensemble, Orango, Øresund Space Collective, Papir, Paralyzed, People of the Black Circle, Pia Isa, Pike vs. the Automaton, Psychlona, Red Eye, Reverend Mother, Rickshaw Billie’s Burger Patrol, Rocky Mtn Roller, Ruby the Hatchet, Russian Circles, Seremonia, Sergeant Thunderhoof, Sergio Ch., Seven Nines and Tens, Sleepwulf, Slowenya, Soldat Hans, Somnus Throne, Sonja, Sons of Arrakis, Steak, Știu Nu Știu, Sula Bassana, Sum of R, Supplemental Pills, Swamp Lantern, The Swell Fellas, Tekarra, T.G. Olson, Trace Amount, Uncle Woe, Vitskär Süden, Voivod, Eric Wagner, Weddings, Wild Rocket, and Yatra.


Some of these, in comparison to the year-end poll, are more popular picks than others. As always, part of what I base my list on is my own listening habits, so if my list is different than yours, well, I’m a different person. Mystery solved.

That said, I acknowledge that especially at post-time, this is preliminary and I am — at times overwhelmingly — fallible. While I keep a running list all year of standout records, based on my preferences as well as what I perceive as critical value separate from them within a given subset of styles, and despite the fact that I’ve gone back through the more than 300 releases that have been reviewed (so far) in 2022 to make this list, it’s possible and indeed likely I’ve forgotten somebody, left someone out who deserves to be here.

If that’s the case — and based on just about every other year I’ve done this, it very likely is — I ask again that you please be kind in pointing out whatever that may be and whyever you believe it should be where it isn’t. Maybe your pick for the best release of 2022 isn’t here at all. Instead of calling me a dipshit and an idiot, let’s try to celebrate the fact that in a single heavy underground, there can be such a diverse range of opinions and different artists and styles to appreciate, and how fortunate we are to be alive at a time when so much incredible art is available at the click of a make-believe button. Also indoor plumbing and penicillin, but that’s a different conversation entirely and best left to another day.

Last year, I limited honorable mentions to 60 to correspond with the numbered list. I’ve got over 115 bands listed above, and if in combination with the top 60 itself you find that to be an insurmountable swath of releases, good. That’s the point. We are surrounded by beauty every day. It can be difficult to keep this in mind, but there is little that’s more important than knowing that. I thank you for your attention and hope, as ever, that you find something in all of this that speaks to you.

Debut Album of the Year 2022

The Otolith, Folium Limina

The Otolith Folium Limina

Other notable debuts (somewhat alphabetically):

AAWKS, Heavy on the Cosmic
Arð, Take Up My Bones
Basalt Shrine, From Fiery Tongues
Burning Sister, Mile High Downer Rock
Burn the Sun, Le Roi Soleil
Chat Pile, God’s Country
Church of the Sea, Odalisque
Come to Grief, When the World Dies
Early Moods, Early Moods
Edena Gardens, Edena Gardens
El Perro, Hair Of…
Elk Witch, Beyond the Mountain
End Boss, They Seek My Head
Faetooth, Remnants of the Vessel
Freebase Hyperspace, Planet High
The Gray Goo, 1943
High Noon Kahuna, Killing Spree
Jawless, Warrizer
Kadavermarch, Into Oblivion
Kamru, Kosmic Attunement to the Malevolent Rites of the Universe
Les Nadie, Destierro y Siembra
Limousine Beach, Limousine Beach
London Odense Ensemble, Jaiyede Sessions Vol. 1
Lydsyn, Lydsyn
Magnatar, Crushed
Maunra, Monarch
Mother Bear, Zamonian Occultism
Mount Desert, Fear the Heart
Mount Saturn, O Great Moon
Mythosphere, Pathological
Ode and Elegy, Ode and Elegy
Oktas, The Finite and the Infinite
People of the Black Circle, People of the Black Circle
Pia Isa, Distorted Chants
Reverend Mother, Damned Blessing
Rocky Mtn Roller, Haywire
Room 101, Sightless
Sky Pig, It Thrives in Darkness
Sonja, Loud Arriver
Sons of Arrakis, Volume 1
Supersonic Blues, It’s Heavy
Supplemental Pills, Volume 1
Swamp Lantern, The Lord is With Us
Venus Principle, Stand in Your Light
VoidOath, Ascension Beyond Kokytus
Voidward, Voidward
Yawn, Materialism


I struggled this year with what counted as a debut album. As noted above, four-fifths of The Otolith were in a previous band together. Is this a first record or a continuing collaboration? What about Mythosphere, born out of Beelzefuzz? Come to Grief? Edena Gardens? Lydsyn? Ultimately I decided to err on the side of inclusion, as you can see, and count it all. I will not apologize for that.

The Otolith’s Folium Limina stood alone as the year’s best debut, but other personal favorites here were Sky Pig, Mythosphere, Early Moods (who are among the brightest hopes for traditional doom in my mind), Supersonic Blues, Mount Saturn, End Boss, Les Nadie and UWUW, and Edena Gardens — if you’re looking for recommendations of places to start before diving into the weedian mischief of The Gray Goo. Some of these got more hype than others, and there’s a fairly broad range of styles represented, but even as grim as the material on this list gets, these acts and artists are united by the potential they represent for pushing heavy music forward, covering new ground and exploring new ideas as only fresh perspectives can.

At the beginning, I asked you to note how many second LPs were included in the overall list, and it did feel like a lot to me. With the quality in this list as well, I would not expect that to change in the next few years to come, as generational turnover and post-covid reshuffling continue to shake out.

Short Release of the Year 2022

Domkraft & Slomatics, Ascend/Descend Split LP

Slomatics Domkraft Ascend Descend

Other notable EPs, Splits, Demos, etc.:

Ascia, III
Black Math Horseman, Black Math Horseman
Blasting Rod, Mirror Moon Ascending
Bloodshot Buffalo, Light EP
Captain Caravan & Kaiser, Turned to Stone Ch. 6
The Cimmerian, Thrice Majestic
Elephant Tree, Track by Track
Fatso Jetson & All Souls, Live From Total Annihilation
The Freeks, Miles of Blues
Lammping, Stars We Lost
Lightrain, AER
Naxatras, Live in Athens
Pyre Fyre, Rinky Dink City/Slow Cookin’
Red Mesa, Forest Cathedral
Ruby the Hatchet, Live at Earthquaker
Sâver & Frøkedal, Split
Saturna & Electric Monolith, Turned to Stone Ch. 4: Higher Selves
Slugg, Yonder
Temple Fang, Jerusalem/The Bridge
Torpedo Torpedo, The Kuiper Belt Mantras
Trillion Ton Beryllium Ships, Consensus Trance
Warpstormer, Here Comes Hell


First I’ll say that of all the lists in this super-listy post, this is the least complete. I don’t know if I just sucked at keeping track of EPs this year, but if you’ve got more you’d like to add to the above, I’m all ears.

Slomatics and Domkraft took the top spot early. Yes, I did the liner notes for that release, but between Majestic Mountain’s presentation of the vinyl, the bands covering each other and their own original work, it was too substantial to not be considered as it is. Temple Fang were a late contender, and I’ll note the work of Torpedo Torpedo and Lightrain, who are newer acts of marked potential as well. I look forward to debut albums from both of them, if not in 2023 then hopefully 2024.

Some live stuff from Elephant Tree, Naxatras, Ruby the Hatchet and Fatso Jetson/All Souls. The always-welcome Lammping. Trillion Ton Beryllium Ships continuing their intriguing progression, Slugg with a single-track statement, Ascia marching forth, Red Mesa branching out — there’s a lot here to dig, even if it’s not everything. Note two of Ripple’s ongoing Turned to Stone split series being included, and the Sâver and Frøkedal split, which was among the year’s boldest outings while still relatively brief. That in itself is a thing to be honored.

Song of the Year 2022

Caustic Casanova, “Bull Moose Against the Sky”

Caustic Casanova Glass Enclosed Nerve Center

Tracks from Conan, UWUW, Chat Pile, Temple Fang, CB3, The Otolith, Elder, King Buffalo, Ruby the Hatchet, Melt Motif, Forlesen, My Sleeping Karma, Author & Punisher, Church of the Cosmic Skull, -(16)-, River Flows Reverse, Telekinetic Yeti, Wo Fat, on and on and on, were also considered.

But they were considered after the fact of Caustic Casanova’s “Bull Moose Against the Sky.”

The 22-minute side-B-devouring epic tale — multiple speakers and Greek chorus included — spanned progressive Americana, heavy rock and roll, punk, black metal blastbeats, disco keyboards, and historical narrative with nigh-on-impossible fluidity, mining cohesion from confusion in a singular achievement and at a level of execution that most bands simply never touch. Though its purposes were different, I rate “Bull Moose Against the Sky” of a quality that stands alongside the likes of grand declarations like Ancestors’ “First Light” and YOB’s “Marrow” as the kind of song that happens only a couple times in a decade. As I said above, it is the reason I’m including a song-of-the-year section in this post at all. If you have not heard it, I tell you with all sincerity that you’re missing something special.

Looking Ahead to 2023

With the eternal caveat that release plans change and that production delays in vinyl and label release schedules are fluid, malleable things, here are some of the artists I’m watching for in the New Year to come, presented in some semblance of alphabetically:

Ahab, Ahrbeka, Aktopasa, The Awesome Machine, Azken Auzi, Benthic Realm, Big Scenic Nowhere, Bismut, Black Rainbows, Blackwülf, Carlton Melton, Cavern Deep, Child, Church of Misery, Clouds Taste Satanic, Dead Shrine, Dirge, Dozer, Draken, Endtime & Cosmic Reaper, Enslaved, Ethyl Ether, Fatso Jetson & Dali’s Llama, Fever Ray, Fuzz Sagrado, The Golden Grass, Gozu, Graveyard, Greenleaf, Green Lung, Gypsy Chief Goliath & End of Age, Hail the Void, High Leaf, High Priestess, Hippie Death Cult, Iron Void, Isaak, Jack Harlon and the Dead Crows, Katatonia, Kind, Kollapse, KVLL, Lord Mountain, Love Gang, The Machine, Mansion, Mars Red Sky, Mathew’s Hidden Museum, Merlock, Monarch, The Necromancers, Negative Reaction, No Man’s Valley, Obelyskkh, The Obsessed, Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs Pigs, Polymoon, Raum Kingdom, REZN, Ridge, Rotor, Ruff Majik, Sacri Monti, Saint Karloff, Seum, Shadow Witch, Siena Root, Solemn Lament, Stinking Lizaveta, Stöner, Super Pink Moon, Tidal Wave, Tranquonauts, Trillion Ton Beryllium Ships, Westing, Witch, Witch Ripper, Witchthroat Serpent, Yawning Balch, Yawning Man, Zeup

Thank you

A bit about what’s gone into making this post: In the ‘Notes’ doc by which I organize the bulk of the part of my life that deals with music, I have sections devoted to the various best-of categories you see above. These are always in progress. I began to keep track of 2022 releases in 2021, just as I’ve begun already to consider what’s in store for 2023 (and beyond). It does not stop.

Because of this, I cannot give you an accurate count of the hours involved in this project, but as it always seems to be, it is the biggest post I’ve written this year — over 8,000 words as of this paragraph, the most time-consuming, and second in importance in my mind only to the results of the year-end poll still to come. On this actual writing, I’ve spent the last week involved in prep work, from early mornings that start at four on my laptop and end when my son (now five) wakes up and immediately demands to watch Sesame Street, to frantically swiping words into my phone in between the sundry tasks of my ensuing day.

I’m not telling you this to brag — in fact I don’t think it’s anything to brag about — but to make the point that without your support, none of this would be worth my time. Year in and year out, I thank you for reading, and the longer I run this site, the more continually astounded I am that anybody beyond myself gives a crap about what goes on here. From the bottom of my heart to the farthest reaches of Hawkwindian space, I am grateful, humbled, and appreciative to my core. Thank you.

Thank you.

Thank you.

And thanks to my wife, The Patient Mrs., through whose support and love all things are possible.

I’m gonna try my damnedest to take tomorrow off, but rest assured, there’s more to come. Here’s to the next round, and thanks again for reading.

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal Playlist: Episode 99

Posted in Radio on December 9th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk show banner

Picking up from last time, and leading into next time, this episode continues the Some of the Best of 2022 coverage for ‘The Obelisk Show,’ and I feel reasonably comfortable assuming that would come through clearly even if I didn’t say it outright.

You’ll note this one starts pretty heavy and aggro with 16. That’s on purpose. My timeslot on Gimme Metal follows artist-guest specials, and I’ve felt at times in the past like it’s a really abrupt shift from most of those — sometimes death metal, grind, and otherwise extreme — and what I do, which is different. I know that’s the point, but I wanted to see if I could make that transition smoother than it otherwise can be. We’ll see how it goes, I guess.

From there, there’s a good amount of branching out, and while this is by no means all of the killer stuff that 2022 has wrought, my hope is that at least some of the sprawl comes through, some of the combination of new and old bands, and so forth. Next episode, which will be #100 and the last one of the year — bit of an event in the life of the show — will continue the thread.

Thanks for listening if you do, thanks for reading if you are.

The Obelisk Show airs 5PM Eastern today on the Gimme app or at:

Full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 12.09.22 (VT = voice track)

-(16)- The Floor Wins Into Dust
Telekinetic Yeti Rogue Planet Primordial
Cities of Mars Towering Graves Cities of Mars
Colour Haze See the Fools Sacred
Moura Lúa vermella Axexan, Espreitan
Ufomammut Pyramind Fenice
MWWB Logic Bomb The Harvest
King Buffalo Avalon Regenerator
Geezer Stoned Blues Machine Stoned Blues Machine
Charley No Face Big Sleep Eleven Thousand Volts
My Sleeping Karma Prema Atma
Kadavermarch The Eschaton Into Oblivion
Ruby the Hatchet Soothsayer Fear is a Cruel Master
UWUW Landlord UWUW
Caustic Casanova A Bailar con Cuarentena Glass Enclosed Nerve Center
Hazemaze Ceremonial Aspersion Blinded by the Wicked
E-L-R Forêt Vexier
Temple Fang Jerusalem Jerusalem/The Bridge

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal airs every Friday 5PM Eastern, with replays Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next new episode is Dec. 23 (subject to change). Thanks for listening if you do.

Gimme Metal website

The Obelisk on Facebook

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Album Review: -(16)-, Into Dust

Posted in Reviews on November 21st, 2022 by JJ Koczan

16 into dust

The standout line, “You can live but you can’t stay here,” from opening track and rightly-chosen lead single “Misfortune Teller” is analogous for what’s at root in the storytelling of 16‘s Into Dust. It is a cleverly worded threat of death, laid out from the point of view of the rentier class to the tenant class (“you can live” means “I will let you live because I have the power and choice to not”), specifically someone being evicted from their home with no place else to go. Into Dust, released in continuing accord with Relapse Records, follows the long-running Los Angeles/San Diego sludge metallers’ 2020 outing, Dream Squasher (review here), and brings them deeper into the realities of this wretched, surreal and not-yet-half-over decade.

While it’s not necessarily a concept album in terms of ‘Main Character goes to place and does a thing’ plotlines, the lyrics and guitar, bass, drums and, in the case of closer “Born on a Barstool,” sax and electric piano, are united by this perspective in a way that feels more focused perhaps than 16‘s social commentary has been in the past. And whether it’s the living-through-it “Dead Eyes” and “Null and Eternal Void,” or “The Floor Wins,” which if it is using vertigo as a metaphor is well justified in so doing and, if not, is the first sludge tune I’ve ever heard to inadvertently tackle the crisis of prescription drug costs, or the debt in “Never Paid Back,” the sexual violence in “Dirt in Your Mouth,” or sheer hopelessness in “Born on a Bar Stool,” there is no shortage of storytelling happening across the album’s 12 tracks and 44 minutes, with vocalist/guitarist Bobby Ferry chugging out trademark post-hardcore/metal largesse as a suitably crushing, downtrodden backdrop.

Lead guitarist Alex Shuster doubles as producer for the second time, with engineering by Jeff Forrest — who has worked with the band at least in a recording capacity if not also mixing since their 1993 debut, Curves That Kick (discussed here) — and the combination of the two results in a dynamic that allows for the punkish rush of side B leadoff “Lane Splitter” and hooks like that of the earlier “Ash in the Hourglass,” which feel particularly bold in the layering of Ferry‘s clean and harsh vocals and yet don’t come across as overblown. The tracks are by and large short, sharp and pummeling, but with the reach-down-into-this-abyss bass work of Barney Firks and the song-first drumming of Dion Thurman — who thuds out behind the knuckledragger riff of “Dead Eyes” and turns around to groove in the hook of “Scrape the Rocks” with perfect (and that’s not a word I use lightly; he nails it) tempo and positioning, not trying to take over the chorus, but an active participant in it bolstering the entirety — as unified as the dynamic may be around anger, there is nonetheless a dynamic being laid out.

It is one that has developed over the course of the years since 16 relaunched with 2009’s Bridges to Burn, but as their ninth long-player, Into Dust marks a pivotal transition for 16 in being the first album they’ve done with Ferry on lead vocals, the band having parted ways with founding frontman Cris Jerue since Dream Squasher was released. That’s not an insignificant change, but Ferry has contributed vocals intermittently throughout the band’s tenure and seems well at home at the head of the charge here, be it the spit-laced initial snarls of “Misfortune Teller” or the barking shouts that top the veer-into-country-rock-strum that makes the penultimate “Dressed Up to Get Messed Up” even sleazier, or the cleaner singing that makes “Never Paid Back” and “Dirt in Your Mouth” complement each other so well.

“Misfortune Teller,” “Dead Eyes” and “Ash in the Hourglass” lay out an initial salvo as laced with brutalist angles as with memorable choruses — the latter also has a highlight solo from Shuster — and are somewhat separated from the rest of the album by the atmospheric interlude “The Deep,” which is only 1:29, but a first in the band’s 31-year history and notable for that as well as the hypnotic effect ahead of the slam-chug of “Scrape the Rocks,” which follows, backing its clean-sung verse with some of Into Dust‘s hardest hitting fare. “Null and Eternal Void” is more uptempo, but still miserable, and “The Floor Wins” is both a high point for the album as a whole and a manifestation of the band Crowbar have been working toward being since Kirk Windstein found out Jamey from Hatebreed was a fan.

16 (Photo by Chad Kelco)

“The Floor Wins” caps side A with hook and hammer, riding its chorus unto final stomps with deceptive poise that makes low times into high art while also setting up the immediate, intense sprint that is “Lane Splitter.” As “Never Paid Back” and “Dirt in Your Mouth” roll out their companioning nod, the former a little slower, the latter a little more disgusted, momentum is on 16‘s side, and “Dressed Up to Get Messed Up” and “Born on a Barstool” also seem to be paired together for their relative branching out from the band’s root style. “Dressed Up to Get Messed Up” brings together lines like, “I wanna call you baby/I wanna make you sing,” with fervent self-loathing, and that flash of twang in its second half is a welcome bit of fuckall stuck late at the record, a surprise shift perhaps intended in part to hint that there’s still more ground to cover, which “Born on a Barstool” does quickly in its spoken word intro, as a brooding Ferry is backed by the aforementioned electric piano (by Peter Kovach) and sax (Gabriel Sundy) before the song itself takes hold in suitably explosive fashion.

The closer is no less pivotal than the opener to understanding who 16 are at this point. More than three decades on from their start, they are willing to experiment — that’s not to say “screw with” — their sound in new ways in a way not every band would be by their ninth album, and with backing vocals by Elisa Gonzales, “Born on a Barstool” serves as a culmination of the hopelessness(es) and miseries conveyed throughout Into Dust, turning the destructiveness of being even emotionally let alone literally beat down by simply trying to get through one’s day, support one’s family, exist under capitalism into — what else? — a depressive drinking song. The sax returns to bookend before the last growl and crash that end the song/record, and the experiment feels like more than a novelty for the sense of place in an urban setting that comes through. This is the American city and an American experience of giving up. If “Scrape the Rocks” was an existential running aground, “Born on a Barstool” is the ship actually sinking.

One would be hard-pressed to find a more realistic ending to Into Dust, or one that summarizes so much about 16 while emphasizing their commitment to expand their own sound and take on sludge metal. They remain defined by shove and bludgeon, but have evolved into a different and farther-reaching band than they were. I don’t know if that’s middle age settling in — some awfully moshy vibes here for that to be the case — or just boredom at play or what, but it works for them, and the cohesion that results in their songwriting makes them a stronger outfit on the whole. It’s not chaos and it’s not meant to be. Into Dust is poignant and caustic, melodic and harsh, but most of all it is a showcase of who 16 are right now and the rare ability shown in their craft to convey defeat without actually sounding beaten.

-(16)-, “Lane Splitter” official video

-(16)-, “Scrape the Rocks” official video

-(16)-, “Misfortune Teller” official video

16, Into Dust (2022)

16 on Facebook

16 on Instagram

16 on Bandcamp

Relapse Records website

Relapse Records on Instagram

Relapse Records on Facebook

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-(16)- Tour Starts This Weekend; New Video Posted

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 10th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

16 (Photo by Chad Kelco)

I’m all about -(16)- being on Relapse, all about them continuing to put out killer records like the upcoming Into Dust, all about them going on tour. And you know someone behind the scenes also gives a shit about the release because not only are the long-running Los Angeles sludge metallers getting out to support the record on the West Coast, which is fair enough — I’m gonna hold onto the hope they come east to play Desertfest New York in 2023, while acknowledging that hope is based, like most, on absolutely nothing — but they’ve now put out three videos before the record is even out. That just doesn’t happen for something that isn’t a priority somewhere along the line. Someone, be it band, label, management, mysterious benefactor, is invested.

Economics, at least on the micro level with implications for the broader system, would seem to be relevant to the album itself as well, and fair enough, but the bottom line is this band doesn’t owe anyone anything, and they deserve whatever push they get. I’m sure there are those who swear by their ’90s-era offerings, but for me, they’ve been doing their best work over the last decade, and Into Dust keeps that momentum alive for sure.

So yeah, blah blah good band. Okay. Videos at the bottom of the post, info from the PR wire:

16 tour

Watch -(16)-’s “Lane Splitter” video at THIS LOCATION:

Into Dust will be available on CD, LP, and digital formats.

Pre-Order ‘Into Dust’ Here:
Digital Downloads/Stream:

In advance of the release of Into Dust, -(16)- will embark on US headlining tour set to kick off this weekend. Support will be provided by Doc Hammer. See all confirmed dates below.

-(16)- w/ Doc Hammer:
11/12/2022 Tower Bar – San Diego, CA
11/13/2022 Knucklehead Hollywood – Los Angeles, CA
11/14/2022 Transplants Brewing – Palmdale, CA
11/15/2022 The Fulton – Fresno, CA
11/16/2022 Ivy Room – Oakland, CA
11/17/2022 Café Colonial – Sacramento, CA
11/18/2022 The High Water Mark – Portland, OR
11/19/2022 The Bar House – Seattle, WA
11/20/2022 Mootsy’s – Spokane, WA
11/22/2022 Shredder – Boise, ID
11/23/2022 Aces High Saloon – Salt Lake City, UT
11/25/2022 The Hive – Flagstaff, AZ
11/26/2022 The Den – Prescott, NV

From the frantic opening of “Misfortune Teller” to the undeniable pounding and swagger of “Scrape The Rocks,” Into Dust lives up to its name, as -(16)- beats the listener into submission through the lowest of ends and the sour, palpable malaise prevalent throughout the album’s dozen tracks.

“There’s a story arc in the lyrics that start with an eviction notice served amid the ruins of Hurricane Irma in the Florida Keys, to running aground metaphorically and drowning in midlife, bearing witness to the modern suffering of hunger and poverty on the Mexico California border,” Ferry says. The negativity persists on tracks aptly titled “Null And Eternal Void,” and the dizzying, pill-induced, “The Floor Wins.” Elsewhere, “Born On A Bar Stool” sends the listener off with a sobering album closer; ending on a foggy and rainy jazz-tinged San Francisco night, with an anti-drinking drinking song, proclaiming, “Raise your glass all things pass.”

Bobby Ferry – guitar, vocals
Alex Shuster – lead guitar
Barney Firks – bass
Dion Thurman – drums

-(16)-, “Lane Splitter” official video

-(16)-, “Scrape the Rocks” official video

-(16)-, “Misfortune Teller” official video

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First Annual SoCal Heavy Jam Set for Oct. 22

Posted in Whathaveyou on October 4th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

Socal Heavy jam 2022 banner

Put together by bassist Kip Page of Formula 400, Mezzoa guitarist/vocalist Ignacio “Nacho” Maldonado, and Desert Suns singer Jason Busiek, the SoCal Heavy Jam is a new festival intended — as you can glean for yourself by looking at either the banner above or the poster below (one likes to cover horizontal and vertical, when possible) — to be an annual event.

Motorbäbe, who, yes, play Motörhead tunes, will headline, and Void Vator and -(16)- (whose new record I’m still anticipating eagerly) are up near the top of the bill as well. All three of the founders’ bands will play, and presumably that won’t be the case every year — they might alternate, for example, or all take 2023 off — but in addition to being well within their rights, having booked the thing, they’re good bands. With Lords of DustAwakeners and Into the Fuzz rounding out, the all-day-and-plenty-of-the-nighter will take place Oct. 22 at Full Circle Saloon in Santee, California, which makes it easy-peasy for those in the San Diego area.

The lineup was announced a while ago and has been bandied hither and yon since, but I suck at keeping up and kind of figured nobody would argue if I posted it now, which is far enough out for you to make travel plans to San Diego/adjacent if you’re up for it and still close enough to that it won’t be forgotten by the time it actually happens. That’s my thinking, anyhow.

Putting together one festival, let alone one with an intention to do it every year, is not a minor undertaking. I wish PageMaldonado and Busiek the best this first time through and will look forward to what comes next for SoCal Heavy Jam as well.

Info, a Spotify playlist of the bands, and social links follow:

Socal Heavy jam 2022 poster

SoCal Heavy Jam at Full Circle Saloon – Saturday, October 22

1st Annual SoCal Heavy Jam at Full Circle Saloon featuring – Motorbäbe, Void Vator, -16-, Mezzoa, Formula 400, Desert Suns, Lords of Dust, AWAKENERS and Into the Fuzz!

Free Food – 3pm – 5pm
Drink Specials

$15 cover
Portion of the proceeds go to NSEFU – Wild Life Conservation. Founder – Coe Lewis

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-(16)- Announce New Album Into Dust Due Nov. 18; Post “Misfortune Teller” Video

Posted in Whathaveyou on September 28th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

16 (Photo by Chad Kelco)

Let’s be honest with each other. Some bands have missed a step since coming back from the pandemic. I’m not saying they’ve lost it entirely or that that particular, indefinable ‘it’ can never be regained, but there’s rockers out there across various subgenres who just aren’t quite what they were in the Before Times.

I’m really glad -(16)- aren’t one of them. Their new video for the track “Misfortune Teller” bears a signature groove and aggressive push, and as one of 12 inclusions on their forthcoming album, Into Dust, it bodes well. And hey, -(16)- have been around for 30 years, so even if they had faltered a bit after 2020’s Dream Squasher (review here), you’d understand, but I’ll tell you, that’s not what I’m hearing here. Nov. 18, then? Alright. Nov. 18. Preorders are up if that’s your thing. I haven’t yet mastered the art, but sometimes Relapse sells t-shirt bundles, so, you know…

From the PR wire:

16 into dust

-(16)- : California Sludge Veterans To Release New Album, Into Dust, November 18th Via Relapse Records; New Song “Misfortune Teller” Now Playing + Fall US Headlining Dates Announced

California sludge veterans -(16)- return with their heaviest and most devastating record to date, Into Dust! The new album, a collection of cautionary tales of survival and redemption, is set to an amalgamation of sludge, punk, metal, hardcore, and stoner riffs that could only be built through thirty years of commitment to their dark sonic craft, which -(16)- continues to improve upon.

Guitarist/vocalist Bobby Ferry comments, “For the past two years, we have been careening down the highway of life, stuck in the idle lane, heading towards oblivion. However, this detour endowed us with ample inspiration to continue screaming headlong into the abyss, grinding out Into Dust in the process.”

Into Dust is out November 18th on CD, LP, and digital formats.

Pre-Order ‘Into Dust’ Here:
Digital Downloads/Stream:

Into Dust Track Listing:
1. Misfortune Teller
2. Dead Eyes
3. Ash In The Hourglass
4. The Deep
5. Scrape The Rocks
6. Null And Eternal Void
7. The Floor Wins
8. Lane Splitter
9. Never Paid Back
10. Dirt In Your Mouth
11. Dressed Up To Get Messed Up
12. Born On A Barstool

In conjunction with the release of Into Dust, -(16)- has announced a US headlining tour this November. Main support will be provided by Doc Hammer. See all confirmed dates below.

-(16)- w/ Doc Hammer:
11/12/2022 Tower Bar – San Diego, CA
11/13/2022 Knucklehead Hollywood – Los Angeles, CA
11/14/2022 Transplants Brewing – Palmdale, CA
11/15/2022 TBA – Fresno, CA
11/16/2022 Ivy Room – Oakland, CA
11/17/2022 Café Colonial – Sacramento, CA
11/18/2022 The High Water Mark – Portland, OR
11/19/2022 The Bar House – Seattle, WA
11/20/2022 Mootsy’s – Spokane, WA
11/22/2022 Shredder – Boise, ID
11/23/2022 Aces High Saloon – Salt Lake City, UT
11/25/2022 Recycled Propaganda – Las Vegas, NV
11/26/2022 The Den – Prescott, NV

From the frantic opening of “Misfortune Teller” to the undeniable pounding and swagger of “Scrape The Rocks,” Into Dust lives up to its name, as -(16)- beats the listener into submission through the lowest of ends and the sour, palpable malaise prevalent throughout the album’s dozen tracks.

“There’s a story arc in the lyrics that start with an eviction notice served amid the ruins of Hurricane Irma in the Florida Keys, to running aground metaphorically and drowning in midlife, bearing witness to the modern suffering of hunger and poverty on the Mexico California border,” Ferry says. The negativity persists on tracks aptly titled “Null And Eternal Void,” and the dizzying, pill-induced, “The Floor Wins.” Elsewhere, “Born On A Bar Stool” sends the listener off with a sobering album closer; ending on a foggy and rainy jazz-tinged San Francisco night, with an anti-drinking drinking song, proclaiming, “Raise your glass all things pass.”

Bobby Ferry – guitar, vocals
Alex Shuster – lead guitar
Barney Firks – bass
Dion Thurman – drums

-(16)-, “Misfortune Teller” official video

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