Quarterly Review: Hum, Hymn, Atramentus, Zyclops, Kairon; IRSE!, Slow Draw, Might, Brimstone Coven, All Are to Return, Los Acidos

Posted in Reviews on October 7th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

THE-OBELISK-FALL-2020-QUARTERLY-REVIEW

Day three of the Quarterly Review. Always a landmark. Today we hit the halfway point, but don’t pass it yet since I’ve decided to add the sixth day next Monday. So we’ll get to 30 of the total 60 records, and then be past half through tomorrow. Math was never my strong suit. Come to think of it, I wasn’t much for school all around. Work sucked too.

Anyway, if you haven’t found anything to dig yet — and I hope you have; I think the stuff included has been pretty good so far — you can either go back and look again or keep going. Maybe today’s your day. If not, there’s always tomorrow.

Quarterly Review #21-30:

Hum, Inlet

HUM INLET

One has to wonder if, if Our remarkable Assignment Writing Service Australias offer the best conditions and all kinds of dissertation editing services, thesis editing and dissertation proofreading Hum had it to do over again, they might hold back their first album in 23 years, Our professional content writing services in India at one of the top http://jobs.samariterstiftung.de/idx.php?1002, which offers best content writing services across the world. Inlet, for release sometime when the world isn’t being ravaged by a global pandemic. As it stands, the largesse and melodic wash of the Illinois outfit’s all-growed-up heavy post-rock offers 55 minutes of comfort amid the tumult of the days, and while I won’t profess to having been a fan in the ’90s — their last studio LP was 1997’s Custom Vinyl Writing.com Review describes the main features of this popular essay writing service. Feel free to leave your feedback on custom writings. Downward is Heavenward, and they sound like they definitely spent some time listening to Lab Steps To Make A Business Plan. Lab reports are the thorough depictions of any particular project, which is meant to confirm or challenge a specific scientific Pelican since then — the overarching consumption Only the best writing service can promise you top grades for the Go Here. Trust our professional writers to make it all look simple. Inlet sets forth in relatively extended tracks like “Desert Rambler” and “The Summoning” and the manner in which the album sets its own backdrop in a floating drone of effects make it an escapist joy. They hold back until closer “Shapeshifter” to go full post-rock, and while there are times at which it can seem unipolar, to listen to the crunching “Step Into You” and “Cloud City” side-by-side unveils more of the scope underlying from the outset of “Waves” onward.

Hum on Thee Facebooks

Polyvinyl Records webstore

 

Hymn, Breach Us

Hymn Breach Us

Oslo’s Procurement Masters Thesis. They contribute to the least likely to be carried by blacks at all levels of achievement in courses that pertain to the buyessay org. Hymn answer the outright crush and scathe of their 2017 debut, My blog helps students to get the best assignment help services in Australia for university and college coursework. Perish (review here), with a more developed and lethal attack on their four-song/38-minute follow-up, The professional team at http://www.badeloft.com/dissertation-support-services/ specializes in crafting resumes, business proposals, and business plans to keep clients ahead of the curve. Breach Us. Though they’re the kind of band who make people who’ve never heard Buy research proposal,professional term paper writing services. Buy an authentic. review,Sociology Homework Help Online.Custom my essay. Black Cobra wonder how two people can be so heavy — and the record has plenty of that; “Exit Through Fire”‘s sludgeshuggah chugging walks by and waves — it’s the sense of atmosphere that guitarist/bassist/vocalist At CharityNet USA we offer research and sample statement of the problem in research proposal pertaining to grants for nonprofit, federal, and government grants. Ole Rokseth and drummer phd thesis china What To Write A College Essay On diversity literature review in higher education the next research agenda dissertation on financial services Markus Støle bring to the proceedings that make them so engrossing. The opening title-track is also the shortest at 6:25, but as Welcome to Psychological Contract Master Thesis – here you will find the solution to all of your writing needs. Our services are unparalleled. You will receive customized and original assignment of the finest quality every time you place an order! We have lots to offer, so please navigate our site in order to become familiar with all of the college writing services, the quality, and the guarantees we provide. Breach Us moves across “Exit Through Fire,” “Crimson” and especially 14-minute closer “Can I Carry You,” it brings forth the sort of ominous dystopian assault that so many tried and failed to harness in the wake of Professional master thesis how many pages at your disposal: 100% plagiarism free High quality results by the deadline Specialists educated in your Neurosis We provide reliable Onlineessay Rus with no plagiarism & on time delivery, our academic writers in UK produce best quality writing help at Through Silver in Blood. Congratulations on choosing review, designed to bring to your classroom the most powerful essay-evaluation tool available. Holt Online Hymn do that and make it theirs in the process.

Hymn on Thee Facebooks

Fysisk Format on Bandcamp

 

Atramentus, Stygian

Atramentus stygian

Carried across with excruciating grace, Atramentus‘ three-part/44-minute debut album, Stygian, probably belongs in a post-Bell Witch category of extreme, crawling death-doom, but from the script of their logo to the dramatic piano accompanying the lurching riffs, gurgles and choral wails of “Stygian I: From Tumultuous Heavens… (Descended Forth the Ceaseless Darkness)” through the five-minute interlude that is “Stygian II: In Ageless Slumber (As I Dream in the Doleful Embrace of the Howling Black Winds)” and into the 23-minute lurchfest that is “Stygian III: Perennial Voyage (Across the Perpetual Planes of Crying Frost and Steel-Eroding Blizzards)” their ultra-morose procession seems to dig further back for primary inspiration, to acts like Skepticism and even earliest Anathema (at least for that logo), and as guttural and tortured as it is as it devolves toward blackened char in its closer, Stygian‘s stretches of melody provide a contrast that gives some semblance of hope amid all the surrounding despair.

Atramentus on Thee Facebooks

20 Buck Spin webstore

 

Zyclops, Inheritance of Ash

zyclops inheritance of ash

As it clocks in 27 minutes, the inevitable question about Zyclops‘ debut release, Inheritance of Ash, is whether it’s an EP or an LP. For what it’s worth, my bid is for the latter, and to back my case up I’ll cite the flow between each of its four component tracks. The Austin, Texas, post-metallic four-piece save their most virulent chug and deepest tonal weight for the final two cuts, “Wind” and “Ash,” but the stage is well set in “Ghost” and “Rope” as well, and even when one song falls into silence, the next picks up in complementary fashion. Shades of Isis in “Rope,” Swarm of the Lotus in the more intense moments of “Ash,” and an overarching progressive vibe that feels suited to the Pelagic Records oeuvre, one might think of Zyclops as cerebral despite their protestations otherwise, but at the very least, the push and pull at the end of “Wind” and the stretch-out that comes after the churning first half of “Rope” don’t happen by mistake, and a band making these kinds of turns on their first outing isn’t to be ignored. Also, they’re very, very heavy.

Zyclops on Thee Facebooks

Zyclops on Bandcamp

 

Kairon; IRSE!, Polysomn

Kairon IRSE Polysomn

It’s all peace and quiet until “Psionic Static” suddenly starts to speed up, and then like the rush into transwarp, Kairon; IRSE!‘s Polysomn finds its bliss by hooking up a cortical node to your left temple and turning your frontal lobe into so much floundering goo, effectively kitchen-sink kraut-ing you into oblivion while gleefully hopping from genre to cosmic genre like they’re being chased by the ghost of space rock past. They’re the ghost of space rock future. While never static, Polysomn does offer some serenity amid all its head-spinning and lobe-melting, be it the hee-hee-now-it’s-trip-hop wash of “An Bat None” or the cinematic vastness that arises in “AltaĂŻr Descends.” Too intelligent to be random noise or just a freakout, the album is nonetheless experimental, and remains committed to that all the way through the shorter “White Flies” and “Polysomn” at the end of the record. You can take it on if you have your EV suit handy, but if you don’t check the intermix ratio, your face is going to blow up. Fair warning. LLAP.

Kairon; IRSE! on Thee Facebooks

Svart Records webstore

 

Slow Draw, Quiet Joy

slow draw quiet joy

The second 2020 offering from Hurst, Texas’ Slow Draw — the one-man outfit of Mark “Derwooka” Kitchens, also of Stone Machine Electric — the four-song Quiet Joy is obviously consciously named. “Tightropes in Tandem” and closer “Sometimes Experiments Fail” offer a sweet, minimal jazziness, building on the hypnotic backwards psych drone of opener “Unexpected Suspect.” In the two-minute penultimate title-track, Kitchens is barely there, and it is as much an emphasis on the quiet space as that in which the music — a late arriving guitar stands out — might otherwise be taking place. At 18 minutes, it is intended to be a breath taken before reimmersing oneself in the unrelenting chaos that surrounds and swirls, and while it’s short, each piece also has something of its own to offer — even when it’s actively nothing — and Slow Draw brims with purpose across this short release. Sometimes experiments fail, sure. Sometimes they work.

Slow Draw on Thee Facebooks

Slow Draw on Bandcamp

 

Might, Might

might might

It took all of a week for the married duo of Ana Muhi (vocals, bass) and Sven Missullis (guitars, vocals, drums) to announce Might as their new project following the dissolution of the long-ish-running and far-punkier Deamon’s Child. Might‘s self-titled debut arrives with the significant backing of Exile on Mainstream and earns its place on the label with an atmospheric approach to noise rock that, while it inevitably shares some elements with the preceding band, forays outward into the weight of “Possession” and the acoustic-into-crush “Warlight” and the crush-into-ambience “Flight of Fancy” and the ambience-into-ambience “Mrs. Poise” and so on. From the beginning in “Intoduce Yourself” and the rushing “Pollution of Mind,” it’s clear the recorded-in-quarantine 35-minute/nine-song outing is going to go where it wants to, Muhi and Missullis sharing vocals and urging the listener deeper into doesn’t-quite-sound-like-anything-else post-fuzz heavy rock and sludge. A fun game: try to predict where it’s going, and be wrong.

Might on Thee Facebooks

Exile on Mainstream website

 

Brimstone Coven, The Woes of a Mortal Earth

brimstone coven the woes of a mortal earth

Following a stint on Metal Blade and self-releasing 2018’s What Was and What Shall Be, West Virginia’s Brimstone Coven issue their second album as a three-piece through Ripple Music, calling to mind a more classic-minded Apostle of Solitude on the finale “Song of Whippoorwill” and finding a balance all the while between keeping their progressions moving forward and establishing a melancholy atmosphere. Some elements feel drawn from the Maryland school of doom — opener the melody and hook of “The Inferno” remind of defunct purveyors Beelzefuzz — but what comes through clearest in these songs is that guitarist/vocalist Corey Roth, bassist/vocalist Andrew D’Cagna and drummer Dave Trik have found their way forward after paring down from a four-piece following 2016’s Black Magic (review here) and the initial steps the last album took. They sound ready for whatever the growth of their craft might bring and execute songs like “When the World is Gone” and the more swinging “Secrets of the Earth” with the utmost class.

Brimstone Coven on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

 

All Are to Return, All Are to Return

all are to return all are to return

Take the brutal industrial doom of Author and Punisher and smash it together — presumably in some kind of stainless-steel semi-automated contraption — with the skin-peeling atmosphere and grueling tension of Khanate and you may begin to understand where All Are to Return are coming from on their debut self-titled EP. How they make a song like four-minute centerpiece “Bare Life” feel so consuming is beyond me, but I think being so utterly demolishing helps. It’s not just about the plodding electronic beat, either. There’s some of that in opener “Untrusted” and certainly “The Lie of Fellow Men” has a lumber to go with its bass rumble and NIN-sounding-hopeful guitar, but it’s the overwhelming sense of everything being tainted and cruel that comes through in the space the only-19-minutes-long release creates. Even as closer “Bellum Omnium” chips away at the last remaining vestiges of color, it casts a coherent vision of not only aesthetic purpose for the duo, but of the terrible, all-gone-wrong future in which we seem at times to live.

All Are to Return on Bandcamp

Tartarus Records website

 

Los Acidos, Los Acidos

Los Acidos Los Acidos

I saved this one for last today as a favor to myself. Originally released in 2016, Los Acidos‘ self-titled debut receives a well-deserved second look on vinyl courtesy of Necio Records, and with it comes 40 minutes of full immersion in glorious Argentinian psicodelia, spacious and ’60s-style on “Al Otro Lado” and full of freaky swing on “Blusas” ahead of the almost-shoegaze-until-it-explodes-in-sunshine float of “Perfume Fantasma.” “Paseo” and the penultimate “Espejos” careen with greater intensity, but from the folksy feel that arrives to coincide with the cymbal-crashing roll of “Excentricidad” in its second half to the final boogie payoff in “EmpatĂ­a de Cristal,” the 10-song outing is a joy waiting to be experienced. You’re experienced, right? Have you ever been? Either way, the important thing is that the voyage that, indeed, begins with “Viaje” is worth your time in melody, in craft, in its arrangements, in presence and in the soul that comes through from front to back. The four-piece had a single out in late 2019, but anytime they want to get to work on a follow-up LP, I’ll be waiting.

Los Acidos on Thee Facebooks

Necio Records on Bandcamp

 

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Spirit Adrift Stream “Harmony of the Spheres”; Enlightened in Eternity out Oct. 16

Posted in Whathaveyou on August 17th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

spirit adrift

A classic metal vibe pervades the new Spirit Adrift track, and don’t be surprised if the rest of the record follows suit, though as ever, founding guitarist Nathan Garrett isn’t one to necessarily reside in any single genre at a time. There are a few mentions of emotional upheaval surrounding the making of Enlightened in Eternity — out Oct. 16 through 20 Buck Spin in North America and Century Media everywhere else — and Garrett himself notes that his “life fell apart” between the writing and recording of this material. Well, okay. “Harmony of the Spheres” has naught but triumph in store, however, so whether you’ve got a goblet or a tankard or a mug of coffee by your side as you kick around the interwebs this morning, raise it high to toast old gods.

The PR wire has it like this:

spirit adrift enlightened in eternity

SPIRIT ADRIFT ANNOUNCE TRIUMPHANT NEW ALBUM ENLIGHTENED IN ETERNITY

The 8-song LP will be released on October 16th. // Listen to the powerful first single “Harmony of the Spheres” now.

https://spiritadrift.lnk.to/EnlightenedInEternityID

Spirit Adrift are a band who refuse to slow down. On their new album Enlightened In Eternity, guitarist/vocalist Nathan Garrett alongside drummer Marcus Bryant have created yet another monument to the timelessness of heavy metal. While Enlightened In Eternity builds on the sizable foundation established by the band’s previous albums, it also sets itself apart in formidable new ways, widening the scope of what Spirit Adrift can be.

Spirit Adrift have mastered the ability to invoke the power of metal’s past, whether it be the 70’s, 80’s or even the 90’s without ever feeling throwback or “retro.” Spirit Adrift urgently represent the sonic and emotional zeitgeist of 2020, and Enlightened In Eternity carries the same enormous magnitude of the most significant metal records of every era. Bandleader Nathan Garrett has carved out his own place among the greatest of songwriters by crafting uniquely classic and instantly recognizable songs.

Garrett comments, “I wrote the songs on Enlightened In Eternity before my life fell apart, and from the beginning I set out to make this our most uplifting and empowering album. I’m glad I did that, because ironically enough, these songs helped me keep going when things got bad. I’m proud of the work Marcus put in, I’m proud of these songs, and I’m proud of how we navigated the entire experience. This is the most challenging record I’ve ever made, and it’s my favorite record I’ve ever made. I hope it helps others the way it helped me.”

Vocally, Garrett again showcases an obvious evolution of his already extraordinary ability with more soaring soul and snarling venom injected into his classic metal form. The gorgeous guitar leads, melodies, harmonies, and unforgettably heavy riffs benefit from a huge, timeless production quality. Drummer Marcus Bryant has elevated his playing to new levels of intensity and tasteful subtlety. And as always, the tracks remain imprinted on the mind long after the album has finished.

Garrett continues, “Making a Spirit Adrift album is always intense, but Chained to Oblivion and Curse of Conception dealt with issues from my past, and Divided by Darkness dealt with external issues from more of a philosophical perspective, so there was a bit of a protective layer of detachment between the material and myself. On the other hand, when Marcus and I recorded Enlightened In Eternity, we were in the middle of a lot of intense emotional upheaval — hour to hour, minute to minute. Some days it took everything I had to keep working, particularly when it was time to record vocals. From a technical standpoint, things couldn’t have gone smoother. But from an emotional standpoint, it was brutal. The silver lining is that our hearts and souls are embedded into this record with a raw immediacy and urgency that’s unmatched by our previous material.”

Whether it’s their ever-expanding catalog of incredible albums and songs or their searing live performances, the dominance of Spirit Adrift upon the current heavy metal landscape is now undeniable. And while Enlightened In Eternity already marks the band’s fourth album, Spirit Adrift have only just begun.

Enlightened In Eternity will be released on October 16th via 20 Buck Spin in North America (on Century Media in the rest of the world), and is available for preorder directly from 20 Buck Spin and on Bandcamp. Look for more news and music from Spirit Adrift to surface soon.

Enlightened In Eternity Track Listing:
1. Ride into the Light
2. Astral Levitation
3. Cosmic Conquest
4. Screaming from Beyond
5. Harmony of the Spheres
6. Battle High
7. Stronger Than Your Pain
8. Reunited in the Void

Enlightened In Eternity credits:
Engineered and mixed by Ryan Bram
Produced by Ryan Bram, Marcus Bryant, and Nate Garrett
Mastered by Howie Weinberg and Will Borza

https://spiritadrift.bandcamp.com
https://www.facebook.com/SpiritAdrift
http://spiritadrift.bigcartel.com
http://www.20buckspin.com
http://www.facebook.com/20buckspin

Spirit Adrift, “Harmony of the Spheres”

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Atramentus Post Second Stygian Excerpt; Preorders Up

Posted in Whathaveyou on July 20th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Hey, I don’t care that I’m basically posing the same info as last time about the forthcoming Atramentus debut, Stygian — there’s new audio. And if you, like me, feel like plunges to some of the darkest, most annihilated recesses doom has to offer, well, then consider what the excerpt below portends as you make your way through its grueling four minutes. I still haven’t heard the whole record, but fingers crossed I will soon, because the sooner my brain gets pummeled into a flattened mass of pink toothpaste, I think the better off we’ll all be. Splat.

Album preorders are up now through 20 Buck Spin, who are on something of a roll when it comes to different looks of extremity, and through Bandcamp. Pick your poison.

Not from the PR wire:

Atramentus stygian

ATRAMENTUS – ‘Stygian’ Preorders and Second Excerpt

Preorders: https://www.20buckspin.com/collections/atramentus
and https://listen.20buckspin.com/album/stygian

From the frozen northlands Atramentus unveil the icebound agony of the monolithic ‘Stygian’. Birthed on a cold winter night in 2012 and during an autumnal sunset in 2013, the cursed tale remained dormant for years, only recently being put to tape so the nameless knight’s saga could be told.

Granted immortality through the gift of the God’s sword, the nameless knight eventually witnesses the death of the sun and the end of all life on Earth. Surviving the great deluge, he is left to wander amongst the ruins of a now frozen earth under a sunless sky for eternity, alone and unable to die even by the scorching-cold blizzard winds around him, enduring perpetual physical torture while haunted by the memories of his past life and everyone he once knew buried under miles of ice.

Each of the three epic songs contained within differ widely to reflect the changing of autumn to perpetual winter. While adorned in the language of Extreme Funeral Doom and Dark Ambient soundscape, Atramentus owe further debt to Epic Doom Metal in sound and aesthetic and Black Metal’s anguished ferocity. But always the arc of Atramentus remains bound to the tumultuous melancholy and guttural immensity of Extreme Doom.

Stygian Track Listing:
1. Stygian I: From Tumultuous Heavens… (Descended Forth The Ceaseless Darkness)
2. Stygian II: In Ageless Slumber (As I Dream In The Doleful Embrace Of The Howling Black Winds)
3. Stygian III: Perennial Voyage (Across The Perpetual Planes Of Crying Frost & Steel-Eroding Blizzards)

ATRAMENTUS:
Phil Tougas – vocals, guitars
Claude Leduc – guitars
François Bilodeau – keys, dark ambient elements,
Antoine Daigneault – bass
Xavier Berthiaume – drums

https://www.facebook.com/AtramentusDoom
https://www.instagram.com/atramentusqc
http://www.20buckspin.com
http://www.facebook.com/20buckspin
https://www.instagram.com/20buckspinlabel

Atramentus, Stygian Excerpt II

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Atramentus to Release Stygian LP Aug. 21

Posted in Whathaveyou on June 30th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

Atramentus

This shit sounds pretty fucking fierce and I stumbled on the audio sample on Twitter (yeah, Twitter, because somehow I decided my life need more social media and not less) before I even got this press release, so yeah, I’m posting about it. I know jack squat about Atramentus — nothing beyond what I heard in that sample and what’s in the press release below, which by the time this is posted I can only assume I will have read — but it sure seems to me that the more eternally miserable I myself get, the more death-doom seems to make my blood curdle in just the right way. 20 Buck Spin? Well, they put out Samothrace — you know, among a ton of other cool stuff — so they need not prove their know-heavy-when-they-hear-it to the likes of me. I’ll fuckin’ take this and be quite happy to have it, thank you very much.

I’ll be lurching back to my wretched fucking cave if you need me. Don’t call. Don’t text either.

PR wire:

Atramentus stygian

ATRAMENTUS: Quebec Funeral Doom Act To Release Stygian LP Through 20 Buck Spin; Audio Excerpt Posted

Longueuil, QuĂŠbec-based ATRAMENTUS – with members of Chthe’ilist, Funebrarum, Gevurah, and more among its ranks – presents its debut LP, Stygian, now confirmed for August release through 20 Buck Spin.

From the frozen northlands, ATRAMENTUS unveils the icebound agony of the monolithic Stygian. Birthed on a cold winter night in 2012 and during an autumnal sunset in 2013, the cursed tale remained dormant for years, only recently being put to tape so the nameless knight’s saga could be told.

Granted immortality through the gift of the God’s sword, the nameless knight eventually witnesses the death of the sun and the end of all life on Earth. Surviving the great deluge, he is left to wander amongst the ruins of a now frozen earth under a sunless sky for eternity, alone and unable to die even by the scorching-cold blizzard winds around him, enduring perpetual physical torture while haunted by the memories of his past life and everyone he once knew buried under miles of ice.

Each of the three epic songs contained within differ widely to reflect the changing of autumn to perpetual winter. While adorned in the language of extreme funeral doom and dark ambient soundscape, ATRAMENTUS owe further debt to epic doom metal in sound and aesthetic and black metal’s anguished ferocity, but always the arc of ATRAMENTUS remains bound to the tumultuous melancholy and guttural immensity of extreme doom. Stygian is thematically tied, on different timelines, to the themes on Chthe’ilist’s latest EP and forthcoming album.

Stygian was recorded, engineered re-amped, and mixed by Xavier Berthiaume at Studio Tehom in Montreal, mastered by Greg Chandler (Esoteric, Lychgate) at Priory Recording Studios in Birmingham, and is completed with artwork by Mariusz Lewandowski (Atlantean Kodex, Bell Witch, Mizmor) and layout by Chimere Noire.

20 Buck Spin will release Stygian on LP, CD, cassette, and digital formats on August 21st. Fans of Unholy, Evoken, Worship, Mournful Congregation, Disembowelment, Skepticism, Thergothon, Esoteric, The Ruins Of Beverast, and Morgion, watch for additional audio samples, preorders, and more to be issued over the weeks ahead.

Stygian Track Listing:
1. Stygian I: From Tumultuous Heavens… (Descended Forth The Ceaseless Darkness)
2. Stygian II: In Ageless Slumber (As I Dream In The Doleful Embrace Of The Howling Black Winds)
3. Stygian III: Perennial Voyage (Across The Perpetual Planes Of Crying Frost & Steel-Eroding Blizzards)

ATRAMENTUS:
Phil Tougas – vocals, guitars
Claude Leduc – guitars
François Bilodeau – keys, dark ambient elements,
Antoine Daigneault – bass
Xavier Berthiaume – drums

https://www.facebook.com/AtramentusDoom
https://www.instagram.com/atramentusqc
http://www.20buckspin.com
http://www.facebook.com/20buckspin
https://www.instagram.com/20buckspinlabel

Atramentus, Stygian excerpt

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Quarterly Review: Khemmis, Mutant Flesh, War Cloud, Void of Sleep, Pretty Lightning, Rosy Finch, Ghost Spawn, Agrabatti, Dead Sacraments, Smokemaster

Posted in Reviews on March 24th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

quarterly review

Alarm went off this morning at 3:45. Got up, flicked on the coffee pot, turned the heat on in the house, hit the bathroom and was back in bed in four minutes with an alarm set for 4:15. Didn’t really get back to sleep, but the half-hour of being still was a kind of pre-waking meditation that I appreciated just the same. Was dozing when the alarm went off the second time, but it’s day two of the Quarterly Review, so no time to doze. No time for anything, as is the nature of these blocks of writeups. They tend to be all-consuming while they’re going on. Could be worse. Let’s roll.

Quarterly Review #11-20:

Khemmis, Doomed Heavy Metal

khemmis doomed heavy metal

Denver four-piece Khemmis have made themselves one of the most distinctive acts in metal, to say nothing of doom. With strong vocal harmonies out front backed by similarly-minded guitars, the band bring a sense of poise to doom that’s rare in the modern sphere, somewhat European in influence, but less outwardly adherent to the genre tenets of melancholy. They refuse to be Paradise Lost, in other words, and are all the more themselves for that. Their Doomed Heavy Metal EP (on 20 Buck Spin and Nuclear Blast) is a stopgap after 2018’s Desolation (review here) full-length, but at 38 minutes and six songs, it’s substantial nonetheless, headlined by the Dio cover “Rainbow in the Dark” — capably done with just a flair of Slough Feg — with a take on Lloyd Chandler‘s “A Conversation with Death” and “Empty Throne,” both rare-enough studio cuts, for backing, as well as three live cuts that cover their three-to-date albums. The growls on “Three Gates” are fun, but I’ll still take the Dio cover as the highlight. For a cobbled-together release, it feels at least like a bit of thoughtful fan-service, and really, a band could do worse than to serve their fans thoughtfully.

Khemmis on Thee Facebooks

20 Buck Spin store

Nuclear Blast Records store

 

Mutant Flesh, Evil Eye

mutant flesh evil eye

There are shades of doom metal’s origins underlying Mutant Flesh‘s first release, the eight-song/33-minute Evil Eye, but the Philly troupe are too gleeful in their weirdness ultimately to be paying full homage to the likes of Witchfinder General, and especially in a faster song like second cut “Meteoric” and the subsequent lead-guitar-flipout-and-vocal-soar title-track, they tap into the defiantly doomed vibe of earliest Saint Vitus. That’s true of the crawling “Euthanasia” as well, which crashes and nods as it approaches the six-minute mark as the longest inclusion here, but even the penultimate “Blight” brings that twisted-BlackFlag-noise-slowed-down spirit that lets you know there’s consciousness behind the chaos, and that while Mutant Flesh might seem to be all-the-way-gone, they’re really just getting started. Maybe their sound will even out over time, maybe it won’t, but for what it’s worth, they do ragged doom well from the opening “Leviathan (Lord of the Labyrinth)” onward, and feel right at home in the unhinged.

Mutant Flesh on Thee Facebooks

Mutant Flesh on Bandcamp

 

War Cloud, Earhammer Sessions

war cloud earhammer sessions

Having just shredded their way across Europe, War Cloud took their set into the Earhammer Studio with Greg Wilkinson at the helm in an attempt to capture the band in top form on their home turf. Did it work? The results on Earhammer Sessions (Ripple Music) don’t wait around for you to decide. They’re too busy kicking ass to take names, and if the resulting 29-minute burst is even half of what they brought to the stage on that tour, those must’ve been some goddamn shows. Songs like “White Lightning” and the snare-counted-in “Speed Demon” and “Striker” feel like they’re being given their due in the max-speed-NWOBHM-but-still-too-classy-to-be-thrash presentation, and honestly, this feels like War Cloud have found their method. If they don’t tour their next album and then hit the studio after and lay it down live, or at least as live as Earhammer Sessions is — one never knows as regards overdubs and isolation booths and all that — they’re doing themselves a disservice. War Cloud play metal. So what? So this.

War Cloud on Thee Facebooks

Ripple Music website

 

Void of Sleep, Metaphora

Void of Sleep Metaphora

Void of Sleep return after half a decade with the prog-doom stylings of their third album, Metaphora (Aural Music), which stretches dramatically through songs like “Iron Mouth” (11:00), preceded by the intro “The Famine Years” and the shorter “Unfair Judgements,” preceded by the intro “Waves of Discomfort,” and still somehow manage not to sound out of place tapping into their inner Soilwork in the growled verses/clean choruses of “Master Abuser.” They get harsh a bit as well on “Tides of the Mourning,” which uses its 10:30 to summarize the bulk of the proceedings and close out the record after “Modern Man,” but that song has more of a scope and feels looser structurally for that. Still, that shift is only one of several throughout Metaphora, which follows the Italian five-piece’s 2015 LP, New World Order (discussed here), and wherever Void of Sleep are headed at any given moment, they head there with a duly controlled presence. Clearly their last five years have not been wasted.

Void of Sleep on Thee Facebooks

Aural Music store

 

Pretty Lightning, Jangle Bowls

pretty lightning jangle bowls

As yet, Germany’s Pretty Lightning remain a well kept secret of fuzz-psych-blues nuance, digging out their own niche-in-a-niche-in-a-niche microgenre with a natural and inadvertent-feeling sense of just writing the songs they want to write. Jangle Bowls, which puts its catchy, semi-garage title-track early in the proceedings, is the duo’s second offering through Fuzz Club Records behind 2017’s The Rhythm of Ooze (review here), and seem to present a mission statement in opener “Swamp Ritual” before bringing a due sense of excursion to “Boogie at the Shrine” — damn that’s a smooth groove — and reviving the movement in “RaRaRa,” which follows. Closer “Shovel Blues” is a highlight for how it drifts into oblivion, but the underlying tightness of craft in “123 Eternity” and “Hum” is an appeal as well, so it’s a tradeoff. But it’s one I’ll be glad to make across multiple repeat visits to Jangle Bowls while wondering how long this particular secret can actually be kept.

Pretty Lightning on Thee Facebooks

Fuzz Club Records store

 

Rosy Finch, Scarlet

rosy finch scarlet

The painted-blood-red cover of Rosy Finch‘s second album, Scarlet (on Lay Bare Recordings), and horror-cinema-esque design isn’t a coincidence in terms of atmosphere, but the Spanish trio bring a more aggressive feel to the nine-track outing overall than they did to their 2016 debut, Witchboro (review here), with additional crunch in the guitar of Mireia Porto (also vocals and bass) and bassist Elena Garcia, and a forward kick drum from LluĂ­s Mas that hammers home the impact of a cruncher like “Ruby” and even seems to ground the more melodic “Alizarina,” which follows, let alone the crushing opener/longest track (immediate points) “Oxblood” or its headspinning closing companion “Dark Cherry,” after which follows the particularly intense hidden cut “Lady Bug,” also not to be missed. Anger suits Rosy Finch, it seems, and the band bring a physicality to the songs on Scarlet that only reinforces the sonic push.

Rosy Finch on Thee Facebooks

Lay Bare Recordings store

 

Ghost Spawn, The Haunting Continuum

Ghost Spawn The Haunting Continuum

Brutal, gurgling doom-of-death pervades The Haunting Continuum from Denver one-man-unit Ghost Spawn, and while the guitar late in “Escaping the Mortal Flesh” seems momentarily to offer some hope of salvation, rest assured, it doesn’t last, and the squibbly central riff returns with its extremity to prove once more that only death is real. Multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Kevin Berstler is the lone culprit behind the project’s first full-length and second release overall (also second this year, so he would seem to work quickly), and across 43 minutes that only grow more grueling as they proceed through the centerpiece title-track and into “The Terrors that Plague Nightly” and the desolate incantations of “Exiled to the Realm of Eternal Rot,” there are some hints of cleaner grunts that have made their way through — a kind of repeated “hup” vocalization — but this too is swallowed in the miasma of cave-echo guitar, drums-from-out-of-the-abyss, and raw-as-peeled-flesh production. Can’t get behind that? Probably you and 99.9 percent of the rest of humanity. For us slugs, though, it’s just about right.

Ghost Spawn on Thee Facebooks

Ghost Spawn on Bandcamp

 

Agrabatti, Beyond the Sun

agrabatti beyond the sun

It’s kosmiche thrust and watery vibes when Agrabatti go Beyond the Sun. What’s there upon arrival? Nothing less than a boogie down with Hawkwind at the helm of a spacey spaced-out space rocking chopper that you shouldn’t even be able to hear the revving engine of in space and yet somehow you can. Also synth, pulsating riffs and psych-as-all-golly-gosh awakenings. Formed in 2009 by Chad Davis — then just out of U.S. Christmas, already at that point known for his work in Hour of 13 and a swath of other projects across multiple genres — and with songs begun to come together at that time only to be shelved ahead of recording this year, Beyond the Sun sat seemingly in some unreachable strata of anomalous subspace, for 11 years before being rediscovered from its time-loop like Kelsey Grammer in that one episode of TNG, and gorgeously spread across the quadrant in its five-cut run, with its cover of the aforementioned Hawkwind‘s “Born to Go” so much at home among its companions it feels like, baby, it’s already gone. Do you need sunglasses in the void? Shit yeah you do.

Agrabatti on Thee Facebooks

Agrabatti on Bandcamp

 

Dead Sacraments, Celestial Throne

Dead Sacraments Celestial Throne

Four sprawling doom epics comprise the 2019 debut album — and apparently debut release — from Illinois four-piece Dead Sacraments, who themselves are comprised from three former members of atmospheric sludgers Angel Eyes, who finished their run in 2011 but released the posthumous Things Have Learnt to Walk That Ought to Crawl (review here). Those are guitarist Brendan Burchell, bassist Nader Cheboub and drummer Ryan Croson, and together with apparently-self-harmonizing vocalist/guitarist Mark Mazurek, they cast a doom built on largesse in tone and scope alike, given an air of classic-metal grandiosity but filtered through a psych-doom modernity that feels aware of what the likes of Pallbearer and Khemmis have done for the genre. Nonetheless, as a first record, Celestial Throne shines its darkness brightly across its no-song-under-nine-minutes-long lumber, and affirms the righteousness of doom with a genuine sense of reach at its disposal.

Dead Sacraments on Thee Facebooks

Dead Sacraments on Bandcamp

 

Smokemaster, Smokemaster

smokemaster smokemaster

The languid and trippy spirit in opener “Solar Flares” is something of a misdirect on the part of organ-laced, Cologne-based heavy rockers Smokemaster, who go on to boogie down through songs like “Trippin’ Blues” before jamming out classic heavy blues-style on “Ear of the Universe.” I’m not saying they don’t have their psychedelic aspects, but there’s plenty of movement behind what they do as well, and the setup they give with the first two cuts is effective in throwing off the first-time listener’s expectation. A pastoral instrumental “Sunrise in the Canyon” leads off side B after, and comes backed by “Astronaut of Love” (yup, a lovestronaut) and “Astral Traveller,” which find an engaging midpoint between the ground and the great beyond, synth and keys pushing outward in the finale even as the bass and drums keep it tethered to a central groove. It’s a formula that’s worked many times over the last half-century, but it works here too, and Smokemaster‘s Smokemaster makes a right-on introduction to the German newcomers.

Smokemaster on Thee Facebooks

Tonzonen Records store

 

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Khemmis to Release Doomed Heavy Metal EP April 17; Post Live Dio Cover

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 16th, 2020 by JJ Koczan

khemmis

Bold move for any band to take on Dio, but Denver’s Khemmis aren’t really strangers to bold moves, so fair enough. And “Rainbow in the Dark,” no less. One salutes the chutzpah factor alone, never mind the actual outcome of the track. The hard-touring four-piece are allegedly getting ready to hit the road in Europe — as much as there will be a road in Europe to hit, pending government lockdowns owing to COVID-19, tour cancellations and so on — and will play both Monolith on the Mesa and Psycho Las Vegas later this Spring and Summer, and the doomed heavy metallers’ new EP, uh, well, Doomed Heavy Metal, is set to arrive April 17 through Nuclear Blast and 20 Buck Spin.

The EP brings together a studio version of the Dio cover with a couple other odds and ends and a live song from each of their records. Preorders and pre-saves — which I suspect will soon be a common-enough thing that I’ll eventually drop that hyphen: “presaves” — are available, with Nuclear Blast handling the digi end and 20 Buck Spin doing physical manifestation.

Doomed Heavy Metal. Kind of says it all, right?

To the PR wire:

khemmis doomed heavy metal

KHEMMIS Unveil New Mini-Album Entitled, Doomed Heavy Metal + Release New Live Video For Their DIO Cover Of “Rainbow In The Dark”

Pre-Order Your Digital Copy Here: https://geni.us/KhemmisDHM

Denver, Colorado based doomed heavy metal quartet KHEMMIS unveil their new mini-album, Doomed Heavy Metal, which will be released digitally on April 17th via Nuclear Blast.

The band comments: “As lifelong fans of ZZ TOP, ‘Fandango’ has been a consistent source of inspiration for the four of us. The combination of high-octane live cuts and rare studio recordings make the release stand out in the band’s discography. In that tradition, we are thrilled to announce Doomed Heavy Metal. This mini-album is similarly unique, combining sought-after singles and live cuts together on one record. We’ve topped it all off with a newly recorded version of DIO’s immortal ‘Rainbow in the Dark.’ For those who have clamored for the rerelease of the long out of print Empty Throne and Conversation with Death, your calls have been answered. We hope new and old fans alike will pick up the album, pour a tall glass of their favorite beverage, and party with us!”

Doomed Heavy Metal, is a unique collection of songs from the quartet. Side A includes a brand new cover of “Rainbow in the Dark” as well as a pair of rare singles–“A Conversation with Death” from the band’s 7″ split with SPIRIT ADRIFT and “Empty Throne” from the Decibel Magazine Flexi Series. Side B highlights the power and emotional intensity the group wields onstage with a selection of live recordings from 2018’s Two Nights of Doomed Heavy Metal showcasing one song from each of KHEMMIS’ albums.

Below is the Doomed Heavy Metal track list:

1. Rainbow In The Dark (DIO Cover)
2. A Conversation With Death
3. Empty Throne
4. Bloodletting (Live)
5. Three Gates (Live)
6. The Bereaved (Live)

Pre-order your digital copy of Doomed Heavy Metal album here: https://geni.us/KhemmisDHM
Pre-save the album on Spotify, Apple Music and Deezer: https://nblast.de/KhemmisPreSave

The band will also have LP’s / CD’s available for pre-sale at https://www.20buckspin.com/khemmis.

Catch KHEMMIS on THE DESOLATE ROAD TO DESERTFEST TOUR MMXX. confirmed dates are below:
04/23 Kassel (ger) – Goldgrube
04/24 Berlin (ger) – Wild At Heart
04/25 Copenhagen (dk) – Stengade
04/26 Kiel (ger) – Schaubude
04/28 Aalborg (dk) – 1000Fryd
04/29 Hamburg (ger) – Hafenklang
04/30 Dortmund (ger) – Musiktheater
05/01 LĂźttich (b) – La Zone
05/02 London (uk) – Underworld (Desertfest)

Other dates:
5/30 Taos, NM – Monolith on the Mesa
6/20 Denver, CO – TRVE Brewing Anniversary Bacchanal
8/14-8/16 – Las Vegas, NV – Psycho Las Vegas

http://www.facebook.com/khemmisdoom
http://khemmis.bandcamp.com
http://www.facebook.com/nuclearblastusa
http://instagram.com/nuclearblastusa
https://shop.nuclearblast.com/en/shop/index.html
https://www.nuclearblast.de/en/

Khemmis, “Rainbow in the Dark” official live video

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The Obelisk Presents: THE BEST OF 2019

Posted in Features on December 24th, 2019 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk best of 2019

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

Make no mistake, my friends. 2019 was the year it went off the rails.

Every 12-month period brings a lot of records, and they all seem overwhelming, but this was the first year I’ve ever felt quite so helpless when it came time to sit down and actually make my list. Of course, I keep running notes all year long, but even so, ordering everything, bringing it all together? What a mess.

I almost thought of breaking it down into smaller lists in addition to the big one, subgrouped by style. But then, where does doom end and sludge begin? What about psych and heavy rock? Should prog get its own list? And what the hell counts as prog?

In the end, that didn’t seem like it would be doing me any favors, so we’ll stick with the one big list and then others for debut releases and another for EPs, splits, demos and so on. You know, the usual.

Pretty sure I say this every year too, but it bears repeating: if you read any of the below — and thanks if you do — and have a response, be nice. If I’ve forgotten something — and yes, I have; I’m sure of it — that you think needs to be included, and you want to leave a comment that says so, please, by all means. But keep it civil. I know people are passionate about this stuff and so am I, but consider there are probably over 200 offerings covered here by the time you get through all the lists and honorable mentions, and I’m one person. I’m doing my best, and though I try not to, I tend to take being called a dumbass personally. So yeah, chill out and please be constructive in calling me a dumbass. Words matter.

A few hard choices here, most especially for album of the year. I was back and forth with each of the top three in the top spot for a good long while, and it might change again between now and when this post goes up. But it’s been that kind of year. In 2018, there was no question. It was Sleep all the way. The question was what came after that. This year has been different without that kind of duh, punch-in-the-face obvious pick. Relative parity isn’t a bad thing though.

Enough delay. The usual parameters apply. These are a combo of my personal listening habits and what I think are the most important records/achievements of the year, critical importance, etc.

Here we go:

The Top 50 Albums of 2019

#50-31

50. Hazemaze, Hymns of the Damned
49. Lightning Born, Lightning Born
48. Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree, Grandmother
47. PH, Osiris Hayden
46. Thunderbird Divine, Magnasonic
45. Abrahma, In Time for the Last Rays of Light
44. Uffe Lorenzen, Triprapport
43. Swallow the Sun, When a Shadow is Forced into the Light
42. Caustic Casanova, God How I Envy the Deaf
41. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, Tre
40. SÂVER, They Came With Sunlight
39. Ogre, Thrice as Strong
38. Lamp of the Universe, Align in the Fourth Dimension
37. Vokonis, Grasping Time
36. Sacri Monti, Waiting Room for the Magic Hour
35. Across Tundras, The Rugged Ranges of Curbs and Broken Minds
34. Duel, Valley of Shadows
33. Orodruin, Ruins of Eternity
32. Zaum, Divination
31. Inter Arma, Sulphur English

Notes: Honestly, if this had been the top 20 of the year, I’d still call 2019 a win. Aside from the fact that I somehow thought Caustic Casanova would enjoy coming in a number 42, the sheer quality of this stuff should tell you what kind of year 2019 was. Inter Arma’s Sulphur English was a significant achievement in genre melding, and Orodruin’s return after more than a decade since their last LP was a masterclass in doom worship. Debut albums from SÂVER and Thunderbird Divine and Lightning Born showed marked promise of things to come — and there’s more on them below as well — while Zaum’s, Bees Made Honey in the Vein Tree’s and Lamp of the Universe’s meditations, Vokonis’ noise, Abrahma’s emotive progressivisim, Swallow the Sun’s melodic melancholy, Sacri Monti’s boogie, and whatever the hell PH were doing on Osiris Hayden remind just how much the word “heavy” can encompass. The Devil and the Almighty Blues, Duel and Uffe Lorenzen and Hazemaze were musts here, and Ogre are perennial favorites whose work always brings a doomly grin. Don’t sleep on any of it.

30. Sun Blood Stories, Haunt Yourself

sun blood stories haunt yourself

Self-released. Reviewed Sept. 6.

Until they put out a complementary follow-up record of such fare, one might’ve accused Idaho three-piece Sun Blood Stories of becoming less experimentalist/droned-out/noisy on Haunt Yourself, but they seem to have met their quota one way or the other with the Oct. 2019 advent of Static Sessions Vol. 1. Still, it’s melody, heavy post-rock/psychedelic drift and emotive soul that rule the day on the crushing and enriching Haunt Yourself, and no complaints from me on that.

29. Church of the Cosmic Skull, Everybody’s Going to Die

Church of the Cosmic Skull Everybodys Going to Die

Released by Septaphonic Records. Reviewed Dec. 10.

I don’t have to do anything more than read the name of the album to have the chorus of the title-track stuck in my head, and it’s a reminder that although the Nottingham troupe put so much into their progressive style and vocal harmonies and arrangements, and a more conceptual theme in the case of Everybody’s Going to Die — their answer to 2018’s excellent Science Fiction (review here) — their roots are in songcraft, and it’s the foundation of songcraft that lets them soar. Would be higher on the list if it weren’t so new.

28. Devil to Pay, Forever, Never or Whenever

devil to pay forever never or whenever

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Nov. 4.

With their sixth album, Indianapolis’ Devil to Pay collect 10 tracks of unpretentious-almost-to-a-fault of straightforward heavy rock songwriting that continues to be woefully underappreciated. They have become utterly reliable in that regard — you know, to a certain extent, what’s coming — but the vocals of guitarist Steve Janiak (also Apostle of Solitude) and some more metallic turns to the riffing give Forever, Never or Whenever a subtlety that holds up all the more on repeat visits. I don’t know if Devil to Pay will ever get their due, but suffice it to say, they’re due.

27. Howling Giant, The Space Between Worlds

howling giant the space between worlds

Released by Blues Funeral Recordings. Reviewed Oct. 11.

If you’re of a certain age, you remember when the first Playstation came out and everyone looked around at their Nintendos and Segas like, “What the hell am I messing around with Mario Golf for? I could be playing Resident Evil!” That’s kind of what Howling Giant are as compared to “regular” rock bands. They’re the Playstation of heavy: that next progressive step forward carrying an inhuman amount of swagger and personality while still delivering a stepped-up product from their would-be peers. The scariest thing about The Space Between Worlds is it’s their first LP. One looks forward to the next generation.

26. Saint Vitus, Saint Vitus

saint vitus saint vitus

Released by Season of Mist. Reviewed March 19.

I know for a fact that bassist Pat Bruders and drummer Henry Vasquez had a hand in writing some of the material on Saint Vitus’ second self-titled LP, and yet the album so much bears the indelible mark of guitarist Dave Chandler that it’s hard not to think of it all as his. The album marked their first release with original singer Scott Reagers since 1995’s Die Healing (discussed here) and featured among their trademark low-tuned slog, an actual punk song, which showed the grinning glee that underlies all they do. Four decades on, Saint Vitus sound like they’re having fun. How is that not a win?

25. Ealdor Bealu, Spirit of the Lonely Places

ealdor bealu spirit of the lonely places

Self-released. Reviewed July 10.

Woodsy Rocky Mountain psychedelia abounded on Boise foursome Ealdor Bealu’s second full-length, and their blend of landscape meditations and grounded heavy progressive melodicism made Spirit of the Lonely Places as much about impact as about space, though of course the real joy was the experience of the entirety. Very much a sophomore album, it learned lessons from 2017’s Dark Water at the Foot of the Mountain (review here) that one only hopes the band will continue to push forward in scope as they so gracefully did here.

24. Yatra, Death Ritual

yatra death ritual

Released through Grimoire Records. Discussed Nov. 13, 2018..

Though hard- and to-date quick-working Maryland trio Yatra have already moved on and are looking ahead to releasing their second album, Blood of the Night (review here), their Grimoire-delivered debut, Death Ritual, is impossible to ignore for the impact it had on reminding listeners of the impact that primeval extreme sludge can have. Another couple tours and some bigger label — Relapse, Prosthetic, eOne, Season of Mist, whoever — will decide they’re “ready,” whatever that means, and then sign them and I won’t be cool enough to do track premieres for them anymore, but as far as accolades go, Yatra earn whatever they get and Death Ritual stands among 2019’s most landmark debuts. They’ve already outdone it, but it’s a stunner just the same.

23. Ecstatic Vision, For the Masses

ecstatic vision for the masses

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Sept. 17.

Ecstatic Vision frontman Doug Sabolik has cast himself in the mold of Arthur Brown or Dave Wyndorf or probably seven or eight dudes who were in Hawkwind at some point as a manic-but-stoned space rock preacher with as he and his band behind him plunge headfirst-or-feetfirst-it-doesn’t-matter-because-your-body-is-an-illusion-man into the molten multicolor void. For the Masses. The ‘masses,’ such as they are, should be so lucky, but the double-meaning is the real tell for where the Philly unit are coming from. Their shows are the masses — gatherings of spirit and song to give praise to the willful expansion of mind. If you can’t get behind that, you might as well go get a job or something. This ain’t no lightweight party for squares and dabblers. This is a high-potency happening for werewolves on motorcycles and freaks of all stripes. Get weird stay weird. Ecstatic Vision are one mostly-mellow 15-minute “Spine of God”-style psych-epic away from perfection.

22. Beastwars, IV

beastwars iv

Released by Destroy Records. Reviewed June 27.

But for the circumstances that brought it about — i.e. Beastwars vocalist Matt Hyde’s cancer — the unexpected fourth installment in the Beastwars trilogy was nothing if not welcome. An grand-feeling sense of largesse was nothing new to the New Zealand four-piece, but after breaking up and getting back together to make the album, the grim sincerity with which they presented this exploration of mortality and betrayal by one’s own body was no less palpable than the undulating riffs that threatened, as ever, to consume all in their path. I don’t know their future plans in terms of continuing to write and/or record, but there are reports of touring beyond Aus/NZ for 2020, so one way or another, stay tuned for more from them. Whether or not they do anything else, IV was a triumph in spirit and execution.

21. Eternal Black, Slow Burn Suicide

eternal black slow burn suicide

Self-released. Reviewed June 7.

With the nine songs of Slow Burn Suicide, Brooklyn’s Eternal Black began to unveil the true depth of their project. Their 2017 debut, Bleed the Days (review here), was well received, and rightly so, but operated more in a straight-ahead doom sphere. The second outing, by contrast, delved into a particular vision of the style informed by the crunch of peak-era New York noise and crossover hardcore, and it succeeded not just because it did this, but because it did so around a conjuration of memorable riffs and tracks building on accomplishments carried over from its predecessor. Is this an awaited arrival of next-generation ‘New York doom’? Will theirs be a blueprint others will follow? It’s impossible to know now, and their next album will be telling either way, but the course they’ve set is significant.

20. Candlemass, The Door to Doom

candlemass the door to doom

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Feb. 22.

It may have been the Tony Iommi guest appearance that got Swedish doom legends Candlemass — the world’s earliest and foremost purveyors of doom both classic and epic — their recent Grammy nomination, but it was the long-overdue reunion with original vocalist Johan Längquist that made the album as a whole as powerful as it was. Pairing Längquist’s theatrical and vital approach with founding bassist Leif Edling’s second-to-none doomcraft, The Door to Doom was a catapult not to the bygone days of the band’s landmark debut, 1986’s Epicus Doomicus Metallicus, but an inspired look at not just what might’ve been had Längquist remained with the band longer, but what might still be if he does this time around. Candlemass have been through their share of singers, but as fresh as The Door to Doom sounded, it’s hard not to hope for something more than a one-off with he who got there first. The songs, the spirit, the sheer heart poured into Candlemass’ doom some 35 years past the band’s start only emphasizes how special they have always been.

19. Nebula, Holy Shit

nebula holy shit

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed June 13.

Anyone who might’ve predicted Nebula getting into the studio and making a new album was either in the room when it happened or talking out their ass. And speaking of, was Nebula’s Holy Shit named for the shock one might’ve felt at its existence, or the surprise at how good it actually sounded when you put it on? I don’t know. I probably won’t ever know. It was the best title I saw all year, but more than that, it was a Nebula record, fueled by the classic riffing and unmitigated desert punk soul of founding/guitarist Eddie Glass, whose absence from the heavy underground for the last decade left a void only too many others whiffed on filling. Holy Shit showed just how singular a player Glass was and is, and how much character there is in his style, particularly in solos, but also in rhythmic changes, and so on. I won’t discount the work of bassist Tom Davies and drummer Mike Amster in making Nebula what they are in this incarnation — they’re essential, obviously — but there’s simply no denying that presence at the band’s core.

18. Valley of the Sun, Old Gods

valley of the sun old gods

Released by Fuzzorama Records. Reviewed May 21.

This was a heavy rock record that had everything. Everything. It had songs, style, ups, down, purples, greens, ins, outs, all kinds of whathaveyou. Riffs forever. Valley of the Sun should keep their eyes on Sasquatch, because if they want it, that path is theirs. I know the Cincinnati outfit have had trouble keeping lineups together, but if they can hold onto one, and maybe after their next record start touring more, domestically and abroad — not at all a minor ask, I know — then people will catch on. Old Gods is evidence of the fact that they genuinely have something to offer, and frankly, it’s not at all the first such effective case they’ve made in their career. But they’ve never put anything out that wasn’t a step forward, and yet they’ve never lost sight of the roots of their initial inspiration. And they’ve never sacrificed the song for the riff, which so many do. They’ve only ever gotten better. Let Old Gods be a step toward them getting attention they’ve long since deserved.

17. Kadavar, For the Dead Travel Fast

Kadavar For the Dead Travel Fast

Released by Nuclear Blast. Reviewed Oct. 28.

In style and production, For the Dead Travel Fast is the most vintage-sounding offering Berlin trio Kadavar have made in over a half decade, yet neither is it looking backward wistfully toward 2013’s Abra Kadavar (review here) or giving up the modern clarity of 2017’s Rough Times (review here) or 2015’s Berlin (review here). Instead, it strikes a balance with a more sinister edge Ă  la Uncle Acid in songs like “Children of the Night” and “Demons in My Mind” — both singles — and makes a home for itself between proto-metal and garage doom. Whatever genre tag you want to give it — and that might vary from track to track, mind you — it’s unmistakably Kadavar, with the signature hooks and memorable craftsmanship that have made them one of the decade’s most pivotal heavy bands. The real challenge at this point in their career is not to take for granted that Kadavar will produce material of such quality, because, frankly, that’s all they’ve ever done.

16. Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard, Yn Ol I Annwn

mammoth weed wizard bastard yn ol i annwn

Released by New Heavy Sounds. Reviewed Feb. 7.

Welsh sci-fi cosmic doomers Mammoth Weed Wizard Bastard billed Yn Ol I Annwn as the final installment of a trilogy that includes their two prior LPs, 2015’s Noeth Ac Anoeth (review here) and 2016’s Y Proffwyd Dwyll (review here), and while that may be true thematically, there’s also no question the third is a marked step forward from anything they’ve done before. They’re one foot out of the airlock and into space as their synth-laden longform riffing and melodies take them to places they’ve not yet gone, explorations of sight as much as sound, aural translation of colors humans aren’t gifted to see. Their songs across the 65-minute span unfold with the grace of a gravity spiral, pulling the listener deeper into the proceedings with each new phase that emerges until, what, obliteration? Stellar genesis? I’m not sure. They’ve reportedly got one more record to make and then they’re done. If that’s true, they’ll be missed then they’re gone.

15. Magic Circle, Departed Souls

magic circle departed souls

Released by 20 Buck Spin. Reviewed April 3.

They’ve found their way to die, and it’s upon an altar of classic metal and doom. And honestly, they make a pretty good case for it. Departed Souls is the third full-length from the Boston unit and their most stylistically realized work yet, with vocalist Brendan Radigan giving a standout performance alongside the guitars of Chris Corry and Renato Montenegro, the bass of Justin DeTore and Michael “Q” Quartulli’s drums, as the entire band taps into vibes from mid-’70s Black Sabbath and brings them to bear with an energy that is unlike anything in Magic Circle’s history. 2015’s Journey Blind (review here) brought in NWOBHM flash in the guitar work, sure enough, but Departed Souls doesn’t so much carry the torch of classic metal as it does use it to burn down the whole village and rebuild it in the five-piece’s image. From their doomed beginnings on their 2013 self-titled debut (review here) to now, they’re an act who’ve genuinely earned cult status. If you can find a backpatch, buy it.

14. Spaceslug, Reign of the Orion

Spaceslug Reign of the Orion cover

Released by BSFD Records. Reviewed Nov. 22.

Controversy! Drama! Well, probably not, but at very least some respectful disagreement on my part. You see, Poland’s Spaceslug have stated publicly that their latest release, the late-2019 surprise Reign of the Orion is an EP. Their albums regularly top 50 minutes, and at 36 minutes, I guess relative to that, you can see where they’re coming from. However, with the flow of these five songs and the ease with which they carry the listener from front-to-back through the listening experience, I’m sticking to my guns and calling Reign of the Orion an album. Sorry guys. True, it’s shorter than the other full-lengths, but it’s got everything you could ask an album to have in terms of how tracks like “Spacerunner” and the shouty “Half-Moon Burns” play into each other, and the fluidity of the outing on the whole is inarguable. An LP by any other name? Whatever you or they want to call it, there’s no question in my mind Reign of the Orion is one of 2019’s best records. If they insist on it being an EP, then it’s the best one of the year, but I still say it belongs in another category altogether, so here it is.

13. Green Lung, Woodland Rites

green lung woodland rites

Released by Kozmik Artifactz. Reviewed Jan. 28.

As hyper-crowded as London is with bands at this moment in history, there continue to be acts who sneak through with an individualized and intriguing perspective on doom and heavy rock, and Green Lung are a perfect example, learning from fellow Brits like Alunah and Elephant Tree and incorporating folk and forest goth vibes to their debut album, Woodland Rites. Laced with organ and stuck-in-the-head choruses like “Let the Devil In” and the creeper “Templar Dawn,” the record also pushed into drifting verses on “Into the Wild,” setting up future experimentation with atmospheric variety and genre manipulation. If part of any first album’s appeal is the potential it represents, Green Lung’s offers plenty, but wherever their subsequent course may or may not take them, their accomplishments here shouldn’t be overlooked. Woodland Rites is nothing less than the heavy rock debut album of the year, and though they emerge from a packed field, the work they do to stand themselves out already carries their mark and an apparent will toward progression. They’re on their way.

12. Lo-Pan, Subtle

lo-pan subtle

Released by Aqualamb Records. Reviewed May 9.

My head immediately goes to the hooks of “Ten Days” and “Ascension Day” and “Savage Heart,” but the up-down surges of guitar in “Old News/New Fire” and the midtempo soulfulness in “A Thousand Miles” are no less resonant when it comes to the actual listening experience of the fifth Lo-Pan LP. Subtle, when it came to living up to its name, as much wasn’t as it was. Flourishes of harmony in the vocals of Jeff Martin, the pops in Jesse Bartz’s snare punctuating and propelling in kind, turns in Scott Thompson’s bass work twisting around the guitar of Chris Thompson, a relative newcomer to the fold making his debut with the band and showing no apparent trouble fitting in. I don’t imagine Lo-Pan is an easy band to join, especially at this point. They thrive on personality clash and, through years of touring, have a chemistry they’ve built between them that comes through even on their recordings. Nonetheless, Subtle is their clearest, sharpest-edged work yet, and as tight as their songwriting has become, they still groove and groove mightily. They are a treasure of American heavy rock and roll. Believe it.

11. Roadsaw, Tinnitus the Night

roadsaw tinnitus the night

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed June 12.

While members of Roadsaw have spent the intervening years in projects like Kind, White Dynomite, Sasquatch and Murcielago, the Boston heavy rock kingpins have indeed been missed, and Tinnitus the Night works quickly to show why. It’s been well over 20 years since their first LP — hell, it’s been eight since they put out their 2011 self-titled (review here) — but their craft is at its own level, and Tinnitus the Night comes barreling through with “Shake” and “Along for the Ride” and “Final Phase” before opening up to broader fare on side B with “Find What You Need,” “Under the Devil’s Thumb” and “Midazolam” ahead of the subdued finale “Silence,” and the result is nothing less than a classic heavy rock LP structure as befitting what is itself a classic heavy rock LP. What’s Roadsaw’s future? I don’t know. It took them the better part of a decade to make this one happen, so take from that what you will, but to me, all it says is there’s even more reason to be grateful they got it done and out. To say the songs deserve that is putting it mildly.

10. Worshipper, Light in the Wire

worshipper light in the wire

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed April 24.

I’m not doing a ‘song of the year’ post, but if I was, Worshipper’s “Coming Through” might be it. The opening track from the Boston four-piece’s second album, Light in the Wire, marries classic pop drama in its melody with careening progressive riffing, and sets the tone for a record that is of both future and past, twistingly complex and yet immediately accessible, immersive as an entirety and still comprised of standout moments. These aren’t contradictions in Worshipper’s skillful hands, but the stuff of what’s already becoming their own take on rock. Tied together through melody, skillful rhythmic intricacy and solid structural foundations, “Light in the Wires,” “Visions from Beyond,” “Wither on the Vine” and others throughout post their own triumphs en route to enhancing the album as a whole, while “Nobody Else” and closer “Arise” underscore the emotive basis from which the perspective of the whole LP emanates. There are a lot of “next-gen” heavy rock bands out there weaving prog elements and traditional riffing together to some degree or other. Few, if any, can write a song like Worshipper can. I mean it. This band is something special.

9. Solace, The Brink

solace the brink

Released by Blues Funeral Recordings. Reviewed Nov. 21.

What is there to say about Solace? A band who, nine years after revealing the expectation-slaughtering masterpiece A.D. (review here), return with three-fifths of a swapped-out lineup and simply do it again? This band is explosive. Really. Like, they might explode at any minute. It’s a miracle The Brink ever happened. I’ll be honest, I had my doubts. But Solace are a force like nothing else I’ve ever encountered in music. They take metallic aggression, hardcore’s sense of self-righteousness and heavy rock’s groove, set it all to a doomly swing and they play it in such a way as to leave you utterly dumbfounded by what you just experienced. Here’s a challenge though, for the band personally. From me to them. Do another one. Go ahead. Put out another album. You don’t even have to do it in 2020. Do it 2021. Write the songs and give me a no-holds-barred 45-minute LP of the tightest, meanest shit you’ve ever written. Because massive as the accomplishments are on The Brink, it’s the potential to build from them that resonates most here. So do it, guys. Step up and take advantage of the moment. Call me greedy if you want, I don’t care. Give me another Solace record. I dare you.

8. Brume, Rabbits

brume rabbits

Released by Doom Stew Records & DHU Records. Reviewed Nov. 6.

Simply a case of a band wildly outdoing themselves. Easy story, yeah? In some ways, maybe, but the truth of what Brume achieve on Rabbits. Their second long-player behind 2017’s Rooster (review here), the five-track offering sees the San Francisco three-piece of vocalist/bassist Susie McMullan, guitarist/vocalist Jamie McCathie and drummer Jordan Perkins-Lewis working with producer Billy Anderson to bring theatricality and emotionalism together in a flowing post-heavy context that’s neither derivative nor working at cross purposes. Instead, it is a gorgeous and blooming undertaking across its 43-minute span, working in its own light/dark spectrum and bringing not just the sense of trapped fragility evoked by the cover art, but a corresponding sureness of intent to its ascendant heavy surges. Like Rooster before it, it is loaded with potential, but in “Scurry” and “Lament” and “Despondence” and “Blue Jay and “Autocrat’s Fool,” there’s a patience and command that absolutely does not waver. So yes, a band outdoing themselves. But so much more too.

7. Mars Red Sky, The Task Eternal

mars red sky the task eternal

Released by Listenable Records. Reviewed Sept. 20.

This may forever be known as the Mars Red Sky album they wrote in a cave, but the Bordeaux three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Julien Pras and bassist/vocalist Jimmy Kinast and drummer Matieu “Matgaz” Gazeau nonetheless plunged forward along the progressive course they charted back on 2014’s sophomore outing, Stranded in Arcadia (review here), and continued to manifest in 2016’s Apex III (Praise for the Burning Soul) (review here). Their blend of melody and tonal heft has become a hallmark of their work to this stage in their career, but The Task Eternal continues to add a sense of breadth to the proceedings, giving their sound a full three-dimensional pull that feels tailor-made for headphones and is consuming in its entirety. With experiments in structure like the pairing of “Recast” and “Reacts,” and the rushing sweep of melody in “Hollow King,” Mars Red Sky’s latest is, as ever, their finest. Outdoing themselves would seem to be the task from which the record derives its title. Fine. Just keep going. Please.

6. Kings Destroy, Fantasma Nera

Kings Destroy Fantasma Nera

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed March 15.

Every time I think I understand where Kings Destroy want to go as a band, they pull the rug out. That’s what Fantasma Nera is. After their 2015 self-titled (review here) third LP seemed to declare them once and for all in a space between doom and noise rooted in their respective hardcore pasts, the Brooklynite five-piece hooked up with producer David Bottrill (Tool, etc.) and composed a rock album. A real live rock album! With progressive undertones in the guitar work and the most accomplished melodicism of their career, Kings Destroy put everything they had into making Fantasma Nera and one need look no further than the title-track to hear the result of that monumental effort. It is the realization of a band challenging themselves to go so far out of their comfort zone as to be only recognizable in the most rudimentary of ways, and to say it as plainly as I can, “Dead Before” on its own is enough of an accomplishment — and enough of a full-length, at all of 4:25 — to make this list on its own, whatever surrounds it. Song of the year. I’ll say every time I’m a Kings Destroy fan, but I’ve never been gladder to say it than I am in talking about Fantasma Nera.

5. Colour Haze, We Are

colour haze we are

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed Dec. 3.

If you’re saying to yourself, “Ah come on, Colour Haze are always on the list when they put out records,” I have two answers. One, you’re right, and two, if you have a problem with that, blow it out your ass. The Munich forefathers of the European heavy psychedelic underground — yup — marked their 25th anniversary this year, and did so not just by putting out an album, but by putting out We Are, which introduces a full-fledged fourth member to what’s been a three-piece since 1998. Granted, it’s not the first time guitarist/vocalist Stefan Koglek, bassist Philipp Rasthofer and drummer Manfred Merwald have worked with organist/keyboardist/synthesist Jan Faszbender, but never has the presence of keys been so integral to their work, and never has the dynamic between players shifted in the way it does on tracks like “The Real” and “Life” and “I’m With You,” with keys fleshing out melodies and enriching the bass and guitar. Add to that the Spanish-style guitar on centerpiece “Material Drive” or the operatic flash in the penultimate “Be With Me,” and it’s one more example of one of the best bands on earth refusing to rest on their laurels. Which, as it happens, is why they’re one of the best bands on earth. So hell yes, they’re on all my lists. Fact is my lists are lucky to have them.

4. Blackwater Holylight, Veils of Winter

blackwater holylight veils of winter

Released by RidingEasy Records. Reviewed Sept. 26.

Like nothing else I heard in 2019, Veils of Winter had repeat listenability. It was the album that, most often, when I was choosing something I actually wanted to hear, I went back to time and again. Its dark, moody psychedelic and heavy vibe stands alone among the year’s releases, and is a stylistic milestone that one only hopes other artists will pick up on. Toying with pop melodies on tracks like “Death Realms” and bringing hypnosis and clarity in kind to the subtly traditionalist winding riff of “Moonlit” — would it have been out of place on the first Witchcraft LP? — the Portland, Oregon, five-piece worked on a speedy turnaround and squashed even the significant expectations I had after their self-titled debut (review here) last year. They’ve begun to tour, so I don’t know if another full-length is in the works for 2020, but their craft is enviable in its flow and their songs are shimmering in tone and cohesion alike. Given how bold a step forward Veils of Winter is, I hear nothing in their material to this point to make me think their momentum won’t continue to carry them forward. But, you know, if not, I’d also take about six or seven records just like this one. That’d be fine too. Whatever they want, really.

3. Slomatics, Canyons

Slomatics Canyons

Released by Black Bow Records. Reviewed May 15.

Belfast, Northern Ireland, three-piece Slomatics — guitarists David Marjury and Chris Couzens and drummer/vocalist/synthesist Marty Harvey — finished a narrative trilogy with 2016’s Future Echo Returns (review here), and though the storyline was always vague throughout that and the preceding two offerings, the question of how they would proceed nonetheless hung over Canyons prior to its release. The answer is in the songs themselves. From the sci-fi majesty of lumbering, rolling groove in opener and longest track “Gears of Despair” — oh, they grind — through the mega-stomp of “Telemachus, My Son” and the righteously synth-laden wash that consumes “Mind Fortresses on Theia,” Slomatics bring together concept and execution with a readiness that highlights the fact of their 15th anniversary. They are mature in their approach, yes, but the fact is their approach is so much their own and so given to their particular mode of progression that it almost can’t help but feel fresh. How could something so utterly crushing also feel rejuvenating? As they plod through finale “Organic Caverns II” ending with more waves of synth and tectonic guitar — no bass, remember — they are as restorative as they are punishing, and they stand astride that duality with neither mercy nor pretense. Canyons, whether it’s setting up a new story, building from the old, or doing something completely different, stands on its own.

2. Year of the Cobra, Ash and Dust

year of the cobra ash and dust

Released by Prophecy Productions. Reviewed Oct. 24.

My anticipation for and expectations of Year of the Cobra’s second long-player were high most especially after 2017’s Burn Your Dead EP (review here), which along with the dead, set alight the notion that the Seattle duo of bassist/vocalist Amy Tung Barrysmith and drummer Jon Barrysmith were simply a heavy/doom band. With elements of post-punk, psych wash, minimalist stretches and propulsive gallop, Ash and Dust cast itself out over an aesthetic range that set a new standard not just for Year of the Cobra, but for anyone who’d dare match them at their own game — and that list will grow with time, absolutely. As their first outing through Prophecy Productions, Ash and Dust threw itself into the very melting pot of its own ambition and emerged with songs that didn’t just bring together disparate ideas, but made them flourish and engage and challenge the listener while still proving consistent in tone and underlying groove. For a two-person, two-instrument outfit (not counting voice, though I should), they proved more malleable than many with more than twice the number of hands on deck, and pushed the notion of what heavy rock is and does forward without stopping to look back or ask for permission. They just did it, and maybe Ash and Dust is the aftermath of all that burning.

2019 Album of the Year

1. Monolord, No Comfort

monolord no comfort

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed Sept. 12.

Look back over the course of this list, and you will find no shortage of bands and releases that surpassed the group in question’s past work. With Gothenburg, Sweden’s Monolord, it wasn’t just about No Comfort — their debut on Relapse, fourth full-length overall — being better than 2017’s Rust (review here), because that was pretty jolly gosh darn enjoyable, but about the band reaching a moment of transcendence to which Rust and all their prior work across 2015’s VĂŚnir (review here) and 2014’s Empress Rising has been leading. With the six tracks of No Comfort, guitarist/vocalist Thomas Jäger, bassist Mika Häkki and drummer Esben Willems not only overcome the influences that launched them — taking full ownership of their sound and defending that claim with the sheer quality of their songwriting — and they not only become as identifiable as those influences themselves, but they overcome themselves. No Comfort means no comfort. Monolord take the simplicity that once fueled their riffing, the willful primitivism of their earliest work, and with songs like “Larvae” and “The Bastard Son” and the closing title-track use it as the foundation it was apparently always intended to be. Monolord have toured plenty and certainly their studio output has shown an increasing complexity from one LP to the next, so progression isn’t unexpected, but the manner in which Monolord have executed that progression has been. Even on “The Last Leaf,” which is arguably the most straightforward fare on the album, one hears it as them rather than the manifestation of the acts that inspired them. The same holds for “Skywards” later on, and for the immersion that takes hold as the mournful “Alone Together” plays into “No Comfort” itself. Monolord take their place among the best bands on the planet, and deliver an Album of the Year for 2019 that, like the absolute best, will have an impact lasting much longer than any period of 12 months might convey.

The Top 50 Albums of 2019: Honorable Mention

You didn’t think we’d stop at 50, did you? Come on. You know me better than that. The fact is that the list itself, humongous as it is, is just the start of the tip of an iceberg attached to a glacier that’s somewhere on an entire planet constructed of ice.

Honorable mentions, you say? Yeah, a few. Here they are in no order whatsoever:

Lord Vicar, Goatess, The Lord Weird Slough Feg, Zone Six, Lykantropi, Earth, White Manna, Atala, Tia Carrera, Merlin, WEEED, HĂ­brido, Cities of Mars, Stone Machine Electric, Bretus, Blackwolfgoat, The Black Wizards, Admiral Sir Cloudesley Shovell, Alunah, V, Pale Grey Lore, Leeds Point, Sons of Alpha Centauri, Spidergawd, Bus, Death Hawks, BBF, Vessel of Light, Crypt Trip, The Pilgrim, Uffe Lorenzen, Brant Bjork, Doomstress, Black Lung, Kandodo3, Monkey3, Bask, Horseburner, Zed, Bright Curse, Spillage, Sigils, Papir, Dune Sea, Destroyer of Light, Mastiff, Warp, Centrum, Varego, Lord Dying, Volcano, Saint Karloff, Firebreather, High Reeper, Bible of the Devil, Obsidian Sea, Torche, Motorpsycho, Sunn O))), Deadbird, Russian Circles, El Supremo, Pyramidal, Holy Serpent, Elizabeth Colour Wheel, Demon Head, Red Beard Wall, Onhou, Kamchatka, Iguana, Arrowhead, The Whims of the Great Magnet, Serial Hawk, Scissorfight, Monte Luna, Lingua Ignota, Valborg, Sageness, Ruff Majik, The Giraffes, High Fighter, Comacozer, Burning Gloom, Swan Valley Heights, Mark Deutrom, Cable, AVER, Superlynx, The Munsens, No Man’s Valley, Old Mexico, Skraeckoedlan, Godsleep, Øresund Space Collective Meets Black Moon Circle.

Seems cruel to leave it to you to sort through those, but I’m tempted to do just that. You might notice some bigger names there in bands like Earth, Russian Circles, Torche and Sunn O))). Nothing against those bands, but I think we’re seeing a moment where a different group of artists are taking point in terms of innovating heavy styles across an entire swath of microgenres. Either way it’s not a slight that something is here instead of above. And of course, there are plenty of up and coming groups here as well, with Ruff Majik, Elizabeth Colour Wheel — who I’m sure would be a top 30 if I knew the record better than I do — Pale Grey Lore, Monte Luna, Papir, Destroyer of Light, The Munsens, No Man’s Valley, Skraeckoedlan, and so on, but hell’s bells, there’s already a list of 50 and I’m only one man. How high is the list supposed to go and still be a list?

Bottom line: Music is as endless as space and has as much beauty in it for those willing to hear. Do more digging.

The Top 20 Debut Albums of 2019

green lung woodland rites

1. Green Lung, Woodland Rites
2. Yatra, Death Ritual
3. Howling Giant, The Space Between Worlds
4. Thunderbird Divine, Magnasonic
5. SÂVER, They Came with Sunlight
6. Lightning Born, Lightning Born
7. Elizabeth Colour Wheel, Nocebo
8. The Pilgrim, Walking into the Forest
9. Sigils, You Build the Altar You Lit the Leaves
10. E-L-R, Maenad
11. Hey Zeus, X
12. Bellrope, You Must Relax
13. Asthma Castle, Mount Crushmore
14. Thronehammer, Usurper of Oaken Throne
15. Inner Altar, Vol. III
16. Infinity Forms of Yellow Remember, Infinity Forms of Yellow Remember
17. Hippie Death Cult, 111
18. Faerie Ring, The Clearing
19. Gone Cosmic, Sideways in Time
20. Haze Mage, Chronicles

Honorable Mention: Warp, Pelegrin, Lucy in Blue, Volcano, The Sabbathian, Red Eye Tales, Dune Sea, Dury Dava, Pharlee, Giant Dwarf, Ghost:Hello, Surya, Workshed, Children of the SĂźn, Burning Gloom, Temple of the Fuzz Witch.

Notes: As ever, I consider a band’s debut album something unique and separate from everything else they’ll ever do, and so worthy of highlighting in its own category. It’s a different standard in my mind, one that takes into account what a group might accomplish going forward as well as what they do on the record itself. Plus, putting out an album is hard. Getting two, three, four, five or more people to agree on anything is an accomplishment. Making a cohesive album? Come on. So yes. We see some crossover from the main list above, but I want to draw attention to Howling Giant, Thunderbird Divine and SÂVER particularly here. There’s a swath of genres represented and I feel like a couple of these releases — Sigils, Bellrope, Thronehammer, Inner Altar, Faerie Ring, Infinity Forms of Yellow Remember — didn’t get their due attention. It’s a busy year, I get it. But if you’re skimming through looking for stuff to check out, DON’T IGNORE THIS LIST. Aside from whatever line about the best of tomorrow you want to trot out, there’s important work being done by these acts today. As somebody who’s constantly behind the times, I urge you not to

The Top 20 Short Releases of 2019

geezer spiral fires

1. Geezer, Spiral Fires
2. Ufomammut, XX
3. All Them Witches, 1×1
4. Mount Saturn, Mount Saturn
5. Dopelord, Weedpecker, Major Kong & Spaceslug, 4-Way Split
6. Horehound, Weight
7. Molasses, Mourning Haze
8. Saint Karloff & Devil’s Witches, Split
9. Here Lies Man, No Ground to Walk Upon
10. The Golden Grass, 100 Arrows
11. Mount Atlas, Mistress
12. Midas, Solid Gold Heavy Metal
13. Glory in the Shadows, Glory in the Shadows
14. Hot Breath, Hot Breath
15. Crystal Spiders, Demo
16. Red Wizard, Ogami
17. Thermic Boogie, Fracture
18. Pinto Graham, Dos
19. High Priest, Sanctum
20. Set Fire, Traya
21. Seedium, Awake

Honorable Mention: Love Gang & Smokey Mirror Split, Forebode, Land Mammal, Very Paranoia, Plague of Carcosa, Daal Dazed, Komodor, Mourn the Light & Oxblood Forge Split, High on Fire, Mount Soma.

Notes: This is probably the least complete of the lists, because it’s the hardest category for me to keep up with. EPs, singles, demos, splits and basically anything else that isn’t an album, all lumped together. Still, I stand by the picks here, and I don’t think anyone who takes on any of them will regret doing so, whether it’s All Them Witches’ surprisingly weighted first single as a trio, Mount Saturn’s debut release, or Geezer’s cosmic jams. Felt a little like cheating putting Ufomammut on there, since technically XX wasn’t new material so much as reworked stuff captured live, but if you want to call me out on it, my own listening habits also factor in, and I’ve spent plenty of time with those reimagined tracks. But anyway, I’m sure there’s a ton of stuff that hasn’t been included here, so please feel free to let me know in the comments and I’ll work accordingly.

Postwax

I haven’t felt comfortable with the idea of writing about it editorially, since I’ve been involved in discussions about it since before it came together and since I did the liner notes for each of the six releases (plus one to come), but I wanted to take a moment to acknowledge the incredible work done on the Postwax vinyl subscription series by Blues Funeral Recordings. Label head Jadd Shickler and design specialist Peder Bergstrand (also of Lowrider) put together six offerings that came out in the span of this year and when you hold the LPs in your hand, you can feel the passion that went into making them, from the artists in question to those curating the series in the first place. I hear tell there’s going to be a Postwax Year Two, and I don’t know if I’ll be involved or not, but I’m proud of my miniscule part in the work that went into making these and wanted to bring them to your particular attention. They are something special for those who got to partake:

  • Elder, The Gold and Silver Sessions
  • Daxma, Ruins Upon Ruins
  • Besvärjelsen, Frost
  • Big Scenic Nowhere, Dying on the Mountain
  • Domkraft, Slow Fidelity
  • Lowrider, Refractions

And while we’re talking about projects I was proud to be involved with, I also did liner notes for Acrimony’s The Chronicles of Wode box set from Burning World Records and was honored to do so. Thanks to any and everyone in question for having me involved and dealing with me blowing past deadlines one after the next. It is humbling.

Looking Ahead to 2020

A few names and nothing more about what definitely is and/or might be in the works for next year. Woefully incomplete, so feel free to add to it:

1000mods, Wolves in the Throne Room, Deathwhite, Mondo Drag, Drug Cult, Ocean Chief, Soldati, Sergio Ch., Mitochondrial Sun, Geezer, Mirror Queen, Mondo Generator, The Otolith, Asteroid, Yatra, Vestal Claret, Farer, Ryte, Shadow Witch, Six Organs of Admittance, Naxatras, Wolftooth, Snail, Elder, Pale Divine, Grey Skies Fallen, Ruby the Hatchet, Yuri Gagarin, Sasquatch, Godthrymm, Wo Fat, Red Mesa, CB3, Onsegen Ensemble, Insect Ark, Acid Mammoth, Ritual King, Ulls, Om.

Thank You

Thank you for reading, and please, if you have a thought or something you want to share in the comments, please remember to be kind to each other. We are all human beings behind our phones and keyboards, and while we’ll disagree, often in some ways and some cases, a basic level of respect is always appreciated. At least by me.

I am not so deluded as to think anyone might still be reading, but I want it on record how much I appreciate you being a part of this site and a part of my experience in making it. I’ve been ruminating all year since marking the 10th anniversary back in January about how much The Obelisk has become a part of who I am, and it’s utterly essential to my every day. The way I continue to think about it — and myself, as it happens — is a work in progress, and that would not be possible without you. One more time. Thank you. Always. Always thank you. Thank you.

More to come.

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Quarterly Review: Earth, Heilung, Thronehammer, Smear, Deadbird, Grass, Prana Crafter, Vago Sagrado, Gin Lady, Oven

Posted in Reviews on July 1st, 2019 by JJ Koczan

quarterly-review

Deep breath. And… here we go.

Welcome to The Obelisk’s Summer 2019 Quarterly Review. You probably know the drill by now, but just in case, here’s what’s up: starting today and through next Monday, I’ll be reviewing 10 records per day for a total of 60. I’ve done this every three months (or so) for the better part of the last five years, each one with at least 50 releases included. Some are big bands, some are new bands, some are releases are new, some older. It’s a mix of styles and notoriety, and that’s exactly the intent. It’s a ton of stuff, but that’s also the intent, and the corresponding hope is that somewhere in all of it there’s something for everyone.

I’ll check in each day at the top with what usually turns out to be a “hot damn I’m exhausted, but this is worth it”-kind of update, but otherwise, if we’re all on board, let’s just get to it. First batch below, more to come.

Quarterly Review #1-10:

Earth, Full Upon Her Burning Lips

earth

Finding post-Southern Lord refuge with Sargent House in similar fashion to Boris, Earth seem to act in direct response to 2014’s Primitive and Deadly (review here) with the 10-track/62-minute Full Upon Her Burning Lips, stripping their approach down to its two essential components: Dylan Carlson‘s guitar and Adrienne Davies‘ drums. The former adds bass as well, and the latter some off-kit percussion, but that’s about as far as they go in the extended meditation on their core modus — even the straightforward photo on the cover tells the story — psychedelic and brooding and still-spacious as the music is. Gone are folk strings or vocals, and so on, and instead, they foster immersion through not-quite minimalist nod and roll, Carlson‘s guitar soundscaping atop Davies‘ slow, steady pulse. It’s not nearly so novel as the last time out, but timed to the 30th anniversary of the band, it’s a reminder that if you like Earth, this dynamic is ultimately why.

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Heilung, Futha

heilung futha

It might seem like an incongruity that something so based in traditionalism conceptually would also turn into experimentalist Viking jazz, but I defy you to hear “Galgadr,” the 10-minute opener of Heilung‘s third full-length, Futha (on Season of Mist), and call it something else. Cuts like the memorable and melodic “Norupo” and the would-be-techno-but-I-think-they’re-actually-just-beating-on-wood “Svanrand,” which, like “Vapnatak” before it, is rife with the sounds of battle, but it’s in the longer pieces, “Othan,” 14-minute closer “Hamrer Hippyer,” and even the eight-plus-minute “Elivgar” and “Elddansurin” that precede it, that Heilung‘s dramas really unfold. Led by the essential presence of vocalist Maria Franz — who could hardly be more suited to the stated theme of calling to feminine power — Heilung careen through folk and narrative and full cultural immersion across 73 minutes, and craft something willfully forward thinking from the history it embellishes.

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Thronehammer, Usurper of the Oaken Throne

thronehammer usurper of the oaken throne

The reliable taste of Church Within Records strikes again in picking up Thronehammer‘s first full-length, Usurper of the Oaken Throne. The project is a dark and warmaking epic mega-doom working mostly in longform material — it’s six tracks/78 minutes, so yeah — conjured in collaboration by the trio of vocalist Kat Shevil Gillham (Lucifer’s Chalice, etc.), guitarist/keyboardist Stuart Bootsy West (ex-Obelyskkh, ex-The Walruz) and drummer/bassist Tim Schmidt (Seamount), that hits with a massive impact from 17-minute opener “Behind the Wall of Frost” into “Conquered and Erased” (11:24) and “Warhorn” (19:12), making for an opening salvo that’s a full-length unto itself and a beast of doomed grandeur that balances extremity with clearheaded presentation. They simplify the proceedings a bit for “Svarte Skyer” and the eponymous “Thronehammmer,” but are clearly in their element for the 15-minute closing title-track, which rounds out one of the best doom debuts I’ve heard so far this year with due heft and ceremony.

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Smear, A Band Called Shmear

Smear A Band Called Shmear

Smear‘s live-recorded A Band Called Shmear EP is basically the equivalent of that dude getting dragged out of the outdoor concert for being at the bottom of the puffing clouds of smoke going, “Come on man, I’m not hurting anybody!” And by that I mean it’s awesome. The Eugene, Oregon, four-piece get down on some psychedelic reefer madness tapped into weirdo anti-genre tendencies that come to fruition in the verses of “Guns of Brixton” after the drifting freaker “Old Town.” The whole thing runs an extra-manageable 21 minutes, and six of that are dedicated to the fuzzed jam “Zombie” — tinged in its early going with a reggae groove — so Smear make it easy to follow their outward path, whether it’s the surf-with-no-water “Weigh” at the outset or “Quicksand,” which hints at more complex melodic tendencies almost in spite of itself. You like vibe, right? These cats have plenty to go around, and they deliver it with an absolute lack of pretense. Whatever they do next, I hope they also record it live, because it clearly works.

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Deadbird, III: The Forest Within the Tree

deadbird iii the forest within the tree

One hesitates to speculate on the future of a band who’ve just taken 10 years to put out an album, but Deadbird sound vital on their awaited third full-length: III: The Forest Within the Tree (arrived late 2018 through 20 Buck Spin), and with a revamped lineup that includes Rwake vocalist Chris Terry and Rwake/The Obsessed bassist Reid Raley as well as bassist Jeff Morgan, guitarist Jay Minish and founders Phillip (drums) and Chuck (guitar) Schaaf and Alan Short — all of whom contribute vocals — Deadbird emerge from the ether with a stunningly cohesive and varied outing of post-sludge, tinged Southern in its humid tonality but still very much geared toward heft and, certainly more than I recall of their past work, melody. In just 38 minutes they push the listener into this dank world of their creation, and seem to find just as much release in experiments “11:34” and “Ending” as in the crashes of “Brought Low” or “Heyday.” Are they really back? Hell if I know, but these songs are enough to make me hope so.

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Grass, Fresh Grass

grass fresh grass

Brooklyn four-piece Grass released a live recording in 2017, but the late-2018 EP Fresh Grass marks their studio debut, and it comprises five tracks digging into the traditions of heavy rock with edges derived from the likes of Clutch, Orange Goblin, maybe a bit of Kyuss and modern bluesier practitioners as well in cuts like “Black Clouds” — the lone holdover from one release to the next — and the swaggering “Runaway,” which veers into vocal layering in its second half in a way that seems to portend things to come, while the centerpiece “Fire” and closer “Easy Rider” roll out in post=’70s fashion a kind of rawer modern take. Their sound is nascent, but there’s potential in their swing and the hook of opener “My Wall.” Fresh Grass is the band searching for their place within a heavy rock style. I hear nothing on it to make me think they won’t find it, and if they were opening the show, you’d probably want to show up early.

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Prana Crafter, MindStreamBlessing

Prana Crafter MindStreamBlessing

Reissued on vinyl through Cardinal Fuzz with two bonus tracks, Prana Crafter‘s 2017 offering, MindStreamBlessing, originally saw release through Eidolon Records and finds the Washington-based solo artist Will Sol oozing through acid folk and psychedelic traditions, instrumentally constructing a shimmer that seems ready for the platter edition it’s been granted. Songs like “As the Weather Commands” and “Bardo Nectar” are experiments in their waves of meandering guitar, effects and keys, while “Mycellial Morphohum” adapts cosmic ecology to minimal spaciousness and vague spoken word. Some part of me misses vocals in the earthy “FingersFlowThroughOldSkolRiver,” but that might just also be the part of me that’s hearing Lamp of the Universe or Six Organs of Admittance influences. The interwoven layers of “Prajna Pines,” on the other hand, seem fine without; bluesy as the lead guitar line is, there’s no doubting the song’s expressive delivery, though one could easily say the same of the krautrock loops and keys and reverb-drenched solo of “Luminous Clouds.”

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Vago Sagrado, Vol. III

vago sagrado vol iii

Heavy post-rockers Vago Sagrado set a peaceful atmosphere with “K is Kool,” the opening track of their third album, Vol. III, that is hard to resist. They’ll soon enough pump in contrast via the foreboding low end of “La Pieza Oscura,” but the feeling of purposeful drift in the guitar remains resonant, even as the drums and vocals take on a kind of punkish feel. The mix is one that the Chilean three-piece seem to delight in, reveling in tonal adventurousness in the quiet/loud tradeoff of “Fire (In Your Head)” and the New Wave shuffle of “Sundown” before “Centinela” kicks off side B with the kind of groove that Queens of the Stone Age fans have been missing for the last 15 years. Things get far out in “Listen & Obey,” but Vago Sagrado never completely lose their sense of direction, and that only makes the proceedings more engaging as the hypnotic “One More Time with Feeling” leads into the nine-minute closer “Mekong,” wherein the wash teased all along comes to fruition.

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Gin Lady, Tall Sun Crooked Moon

gin lady tall sun crooked moon

I’m more than happy to credit Sweden’s Gin Lady for the gorgeous ’70s country rock harmonies that emanate from their fourth album, Tall Sun Crooked Moon (on Kozmik Artifactz), from the mission-statement opener “Everyone is Love” onward, but I think it’s also worth highlighting that the 10-track outing also features the warmest snare drum sound I’ve heard maybe since the self-titled Kadavar LP. The Swedish four-piece have nailed their sound down to that level of detail, and as they touch on twang boogie in “Always Gold” or find bluesy Abbey Roadian deliverance in the more riff-led chorus of “Gentle Bird,” their aesthetic is palpable but does not trump the straight-ahead appeal of their songwriting. The closing duo of “The Rock We All Push” and the piano-soother “Tell it Like it Is” are the only two tracks to push past five minutes long, but by then the mood is well set and if they wanted to keep going, I have a hard time imagining they’d meet with complaints. Serenity abounds.

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Oven, Couch Lock

oven couch lock

For an EP called Couch Lock — i.e., when you’re too stoned to even stand up — there’s an awful lot of movement on Oven‘s debut release, from the punk thrust of “Get It” to the arrogant sleaze of “Go James” and even the drums in “This Time.” And the nine-minute “Dark Matter” is basically space rock, so yeah, hardly locked to the couch there, but okay. The five-tracker is raw in its production as would seem to suit the Pennsylvania trio, but they still get their point across in terms of attitude, and a closing cover of Nebula‘s “To the Center” seems only to reinforce the notion. One imagines that any basement where they unleash that and the nod that culminates “Dark Matter” just before it would have to be professionally dehumidified afterward to get the dankness out, and an overarching sense of stoner shenanigans only adds to the good times that so much of East Coast-ish psych misses the point on. They’re having fun. You should too.

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