Author & Punisher Announce 20th Anniversary Touring

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 11th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

Tickets go out tomorrow for the first round of 20th anniversary touring to be undertaken by Author and Punisher, which will bring the San Diego-based industrial doom outfit — Tristan Shone on midi machines/vocals, Doug Sabolick on guitar — to the East Coast starting at the end of next month in the company of Morne and Glassing.

I haven’t caught Author & Punisher live since the release of Krüller (review here) in 2022, and this is something I’d very much like to correct before Shone does another record, which would presumably happen not before the end of this year, but even that means March 3 at Saint Vitus Bar might be my last shot at doing so. I suck at everything, life most of all, but golly I’d like to see that show. Fingers crossed I can, you know, bring myself to leave the house.

Congratulations to Shone though on 20 years of Author and Punisher. I’ve been writing about music for about that long (including pre-Obelisk), and it’s not a minor amount of time to dedicate yourself to something that the vast majority of the world will never be able to understand.

From the PR wire:





AUTHOR & PUNISHER celebrates 20 years of industrial mastery in 2024! A&P kicks off the landmark anniversary year with a North America headline tour throughout late February & March performing songs throughout his entire catalog. Special support provided by Morne & Glassing.

Tickets are on sale Friday, January 12 at 10am EST.

TRISTAN SHONE Comments on 20 Years of AUTHOR & PUNISHER:

“Author & Punisher started as myself playing guitar with a drum machine in 2004 as a move towards being more efficient as one person; I’d had enough of band complexities slowing things down. Throughout the years I opened the flood gates and through my experience at art school I began experimenting with what industrial doom and drone metal really could be. Fast forward 20 years, I feel as though A&P has become part of my psyche… when I walk down the street with headphones listening to tracks I’m developing, my right hand is cycling through beats and I’m visualizing how I can meld the mechanical and the atonal; it has become second nature. In thinking back, I’ve had some great on stage experiences, but equally valuable were the experiences… the weird ones where someone goes out of their way to take you somewhere to eat or see something that is off the charts. I have no doubt that A&P will continue as a creative vessel for many years to come.

To celebrate 20 years, we’re starting things off with a Winter 2024 Northeast USA/CAN tour with Morne and Glassing hitting some spots we missed in the last couple years and pounding some spots that we thought needed a little more. This is our first tour since June 2023, so we hope to see you all out there.”

w/ Morne and Glassing

Feb 23 Cambridge, MA Sonia
Feb 24 Quebec City, QC Cabaret Foufones
Feb 25 Toronto, ON Garrison
Feb 27 Detroit, MI Sanctuary
Feb 28 Chicago, IL Reggies
Feb 29 Indianapolis, IN Black Circle
Mar 01 Columbus, OH Ace of Cups
Mar 02 Bensalem, PA Broken Goblet
Mar 03 Brooklyn, NY Saint Vitus

Stay tuned for AUTHOR & PUNISHER announcements through 2024!

Author & Punisher, Krüller (2022)

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Friday Full-Length: Author & Punisher, Melk en Honing

Posted in Bootleg Theater on December 1st, 2023 by JJ Koczan

The sense of resignation in “Future Man” and the notes of synthy maybe-string sounds in mourning for humanity’s decline are likewise quaint and prescient in hindsight, released as the track was on 2015’s Melk en Honing by San Diego-based industrialist Tristan Shone, otherwise known as Author & Punisher. For in the years that would follow, the species would become increasingly screwed, but, you know, there’s probably no way Shone could’ve known that unless he read the news or a book or whatever. Perish the thought.

Author & Punisher released Melk en Honing through Housecore Records, the imprint owned by Phil Anselmo of Pantera, Down, Superjoint Ritual, etc., who also co-produced. And I don’t know, there might be some uncredited backing vocals in there, maybe in “Disparate” — after the Seals & Croft reference; “Summer breeze makes me feel…” — in the spoken part? Mumbling something on mic in the drawdown of “Callous and Hoof?” Whatever.

Comprised of eight songs running a CD-era-esque 53 minutes, Melk en Honing — ‘milk and honey’ in Dutch — followed two full-lengths through Seventh Rule Recordings in 2012’s Ursus Americanus and 2013’s Women and Children, and both were crucial to the development of the project after 2010’s Drone Machines began the turn from earlier dub outings toward the industrial doom sound Shone would gradually refine. And, with Melk en Honing, whether it’s the frenetic post-intro-drone verse of “Callous and Hoof” or the drawn-out lumbering stretch in the song’s second half, whether it’s the “The Barge” pounding its beat like the rhythm of a boatman’s oars or the gnashing, still somehow hooky affirmation in closer “Void, Null, Alive,” the idea throughout is clearly impact.

Sure enough, the songs hit clearer than, say, “Flesh Ants” from Ursus Americanus and push the vocals forward in a way that Author & Punisher would continue to develop as the production grew more expansive, first across 2018’s Beastland (discussed here) and then through 2022’s Krüller (review here), the latter of which brought a melodic focus that seems extrapolated in part from what’s happening in a song like “Shame” or “Void, Null, Alive” here, where Beastland — the band’s first album through Relapse — brought harsher fare on average.

Melk en Honing has a balance, and because Shone‘s approach is streamlined, the shifts between melody and dissonance, that extra bit of crush that Author & Punisher beats offer that no one else in the modern industrial set — all those bands with numbers in the names and the ones with the punk rock logos — has been able to match, and the impression of breadth all shine through the recording. It’s raw in the sense of trying to bring a notion of organic performance to a sound that is inherently programmed. Doing that, you’re going to lean a lot on vocals, and Author & Punisher does.

But the songs stand up to that as well. Yes, there are the various boops and blips, likely homemade samples and manipulations set to apocalyptically heavy purposes, the churn of time’s gears grinding through our mortality and all sorts of other flowery hyperbole for a sound so wrenchingly cathartic. Given whatever volume can be spared, “The Barge” — only it and “Disparate” top eight minutes; Shone‘s background in doom showing itself in starting with a longer track — is sharp corners andAuthor and Punisher melk en honing hard edges, pummeling with a chant droning behind as it plods its relatively simple but almost universal rhythm, but it’s also catchy. Amid all the screams and slow march, it’s got a hook. So does “Cauterize,” “Shame,” “Future Man,” “Disparate,” “Callous and Hoof,” “Teething” and “Void, Null, Alive,” which if you’re keeping track at home, is all of them.

Those take different forms. In “Disparate,” it’s the ultra-weighted delivery late of the title-lyric. In “Callous and Hoof,” it’s the spoken part after the initial frenzied bounce. In “Teething,” it’s the line “Straight like teeth, like making love.” Sometimes it’s a chorus or sometimes it’s just another part put in, but there’s something to grab the listener throughout, so that as much as Melk en Honing can be the concrete-toned onslaught of machine music that it is, it’s also a collection of composed, thought-out songs — literally, they not only had to be thought of or written, but programmed out ahead of time — with a mindful execution and arrangement. Many of the verse lines are short, straightforward in language if not necessarily always the idea behind it, and feel born out of the music, though the play between “callous” and “chaos” in “Callous and Hoof” is a more purely linguistic nuance, and not at all the only one, so lyrics are not to be considered an afterthought. They’re essential, here and elsewhere in Author & Punisher‘s catalog. And even if “I’m not looking for madness/But it’s found” is a little awkward in the phrasing in “Cauterize,” it’s all a work in progress.

To that, Author & Punisher‘s seemingly ongoing evolution is fascinating in part because it includes new sounds. When a band grows, it’s not like they invent a new guitar. And to my knowledge, Shone isn’t writing software — though he builds his own hardware, which you can read about a lot on the internet — but between the two albums before and the two that have thus-far followed, Melk en Honing introduces concepts and actual sounds that broaden the scope of Author & Punisher, and while that’s gone on since, this was the pinnacle of Shone‘s progression at the time and comes across like someone who’s spent the better part of the decade prior exploring and finding his aesthetic and is ready accordingly to reach out to an audience waiting to find him. He’d already toured hard by 2015, but certainly that ethic hasn’t abated in the years since (2020-2021 notwithstanding).

I don’t know what Author & Punisher — which in addition to Shone now includes Ecstatic Vision‘s Doug Sabolik on human-guitar — have planned for 2024. I don’t even know what kind of sandwich they want from the deli; I’m winging it here. But they had a sale on merch recently and I get the emails about that kind of thing, and well, sometimes just seeing a name is enough to make you want to listen to a thing. As always, I hope you enjoy.

Thanks for reading.

Decided I’m going to leave the Quarterly Review where it is for the time being. This one was actually pretty easy to put together and to write, and after the last one ended with a what-have-I-done-with-my-life existential crisis, I’m going to let myself be satisfied with the 50 records covered and pick up either next month or in January. Still a ton of stuff from 2023 to cover — I’ll get you yet, Dun Ringill — and still more on the way.

I think I might be streaming the Mars Red Sky album next Thursday. Look for a review either way. Lamp of the Universe too, and there was a four-way split on Totem Cat I want to write about, then not a ton else is imperative before the year-end coverage starts, which will take a few days on the back end. It’s always a while putting lists together and such. I have a file I’ve started. I’ll get there. We do this every year.

And to that end, thanks if you’ve contributed to the year-end poll. Things are taking shape.

That’s it for me. Week was a week, but I didn’t have to go pick up The Pecan at school for beating anybody and she’s got her ADHD meds patch now so I guess we’re proceeding. Not calling “out of woods” at this point in terms of behavior, but a couple smoother weeks on either side of the Thanksgiving holiday have been easier to live through.

I hope you have a great and safe weekend. I’m gonna go hit Costco in a bit with The Patient Mrs., then look forward to an early start for a hopefully mellow-ish weekend. Have fun, watch your head, hydrate. All that important stuff. See you back here on Monday.


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Author & Punisher Post “Maiden Star” Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on October 12th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Author & Punisher (Photo by Chad Kelco)

With the ever-present caveat that I know nothing about anything basically as a general condition of existence, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to think that the video streaming below for “Maiden Star” from Author & Punisher‘s 2022 LP, Krüller (review here), is perhaps an unofficial drawdown to the cycle for the album from whence it comes. And that maybe after embarking on statistically-significant tours in the US and Europe for the better part of the last 18 months, vocalist/synthesist/machinist Tristan Shone and guitarist Doug Sabolick (also of Philly freak rock forerunners Ecstatic Vision) might begin the however-long process of moving toward the next outing. Writing, in other words. And because we’re talking about Author & Punisher, perhaps also building.

I didn’t see Author & Punisher supporting Krüller, and looking at having now apparently missed my chance, I’ll count it as a character flaw on my part. To say the album still resonates almost feels like an insult by proposing the idea that it wouldn’t, but in terms of ‘holding up,’ I had it on spontaneously in the car the other day and its dystopia is no less sprawling than it was emerging from covid winter last February. And I’ve seen a bunch of videos from sundry locales in likewise sundry countries, and with Shone running midi through his homemade drone machines — which I couldn’t decide whether or not to capitalize; are they a proper noun, I wonder? — and Sabolick alongside conveying organic distortion through lumbering riffs and emphasizing the depth of character in the material and the traditions of industrial metal that are in-part a launch point for Author & Punisher generally. Not like they didn’t come to New York. I just missed it. Turns out sucking at life kind of sucks sometimes. Go figure.

Homage is paid to the live experience from the band’s point of view in the James Rexroad-directed — if you were a good band from the Pacific Northwest there would be at least a 79 percent chance he took your awesome promo photos — clip for “Maiden Star.” We see Shone and Sabolick traveling, hurry-up-and-waiting and, of course, playing on stage which is the point of the rest in the first place, burning through a steady supply of ‘these machines kill fascists’ shirts all the while. They’ll be back out at some point, if potentially with a different set.

In addition to the video, the PR wire brings word that Shone‘s Drone Machines manufacturing concern — which definitely gets capitalized — is in NYC doing cool shit, which isn’t necessarily directly relevant to “Maiden Star,” but you can see below what’s detailed in a photo by that absolute non-Machiavellian prince of a human being, Dante Torrieri, speaking of people who do cool shit.


Author & Punisher, “Maiden Star” official video




Industrial mastermind AUTHOR & PUNISHER shares the official “Maiden Star” music video from the 2022 release full-length Krüller! Watch the full video on A&P’s YouTube Channel HERE.

“Maiden Star” video was shot during AUTHOR & PUNISHER’s 2023 June European tour by James Rexroad who joined A&P across the northern EU territories and edited by Augie Arredondo.

AUTHOR & PUNISHER comments on the video:

“”Every time I watch this video it hits me…it’s a beautiful music scene and it really makes me so thankful that I get to do what I do. Thanks to James Rexroad for coming along and capturing the community, the energy and the power of heavy music in our lives. Shout out to my bandmate Doug Sabolick, John Cota (sound engineer) and Augie Arredondo for editing the damn thing. From the fjords of Norway, the wood fired saunas of Helsinki and Tallinn, to the beer halls of Bochum, with friends new and old, this one goes out to the fans who support underground music. The community is strong. We love you.”

Additionally, AUTHOR & PUNISHER and his intrepid gear company DRONE MACHINES announce a partnership with visionary multi-discipline artist ARCA designing and building machines for her live work Mutant;Destrudo at Park Avenue Armory in NYC now through October 15!

AUTHOR & PUNISHER comments on Arca:

Drone Machines (Photo by Dante Torrieri)“There aren’t many artists out there as innovative and groundbreaking as Arca. Her style of production and visual design is visceral, dark, and bleak; yet always intriguing and exciting. She’s produced amazing solo works as well as music for Bjork, Kanye West, and FKA Twigs to name a few. When she asked me to build her some machines I immediately jumped on it. We’ve worked on this now for the past 8 months with Alejandra and her creative team focusing on building some industrial controllers that would interact with her DJ setup and allow her to make broader, more physical strokes with levers, sliders, and large knobs. There are five machines in total: one Fader, two Throttles, and two Platters that are all rack mounted above her DJ setup with the table suspended from the ceiling by chains. The aesthetic of Drone Machines (the small gear company birthed from Author & Punisher) is raw and industrial, with heavy machine components. Functionally, there is MIDI, USB, DSP Audio output, and CV/Gate; they are completely open source. Many thanks and shout outs to the team at Drone Machines working with me who helped on this project as well as the other devices we are making: Adam Reed-Erickson (mechanical engineer), Jason Begin (sound designer, producer, composer), and Hanri Thayyil (software engineer).”

Author & Punisher, Krüller (2022)

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Author & Punisher Announce June European Tour; US Dates Start This Weekend

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 31st, 2023 by JJ Koczan

Not that I really needed one, but I’ve been hearing the plod of Author & Punisher in my head all week and have been looking for a few free minutes and an excuse to revisit 2022’s brilliant Krüller (review here), and lo, here comes word of a European tour and US dates starting Saturday in Hamden, Connecticut, and that’s more than enough, especially since, as I said at the outset, I didn’t need the excuse to start with.

That fucking record stomped a crater in my consciousness all last year, and I still hear “Maiden Star” just thinking about it, ditto the title-track — “Held up a truck, pulls to the right,” is one of the best lyrics I heard in 2022; does so much literary work; puts you in mind of the character; imagine stealing a someone’s pickup and being pissed the alignment is off; the sensory evocation of being in that vehicle, done in less words than this half-assed explanation of it; genius — and “Incinerator” and even “Drone Carrying Dread” with all its scene-setting ambience, making the world the record just dropped you into.

Anyhow, go to the shows. Yeah, all of ’em. That’s right. US and Europe. You hate your god damn job anyway. Fuck it. Quit and follow Author & Punisher around. Out with Imperial Triumphant, no less. You could spend that time so, so much worse. Like by going to that job. So don’t.

The update came down from Bandcamp, and if you want to take it as a sign of the esteem in which I hold this band, I’ll tell you that today was already an 11-post day before I saw this news and that is more than twice what I generally consider “enough” for a day and I still decided to put this together as post number 12. Madness:

Author and Punisher euro tour

We are excited to reveal that Author & Punisher will be bringing the drone machines back to Europe this June. We’ll be joining up with Imperial Triumphant for a few co-headlining dates, partnering with Statiqbloom for a run, and hitting some fests along the way. Check out the full list of dates below and grab tickets here:

Stateside A&P fans can catch Tristan and Doug supporting HEALTH in April. The tour kicks off THIS SATURDAY in Hamden, CT and culminates on the West Coast with two special headlining shows with Snakes of Russia supporting.

We’re keeping select digital releases as pay-what-you-want on Bandcamp throughout touring season. So grab some tunes to prepare for the shows and keep an eye out for more goodies for the next Bandcamp Friday.

See you on the road fuckers!

-Tristan & Team

April US dates supporting HEALTH:


*A&P headlines with Snakes of Russia, no HEALTH

June European Headlining dates:

​​07 JUNE – Liege, Belgium – La Zone
09 JUNE – Gdansk, Poland – Mystic Festival
10 JUNE – Warsawa, Poland – VooDoo*
12 JUNE – Riga, Latvia – Vagonu Hall*
13 JUNE – Tallin, Estonia – Paavli 7*
16 JUNE – Stockholm, Sweden – Hus7*
17 JUNE – Oslo, Norway – Bla*
18 JUNE – Malmo, Sweden – Plan B
19 JUNE – Copenaghen, Denmark – Basement^
20 JUNE – Hamburg, Germany – Hafenklang^
21 JUNE – Bochum, Germany – Die Trompete^
22 JUNE – Antwerp, Belgium – Kavka^
23 JUNE – Bourlon, France – Rock in Bourlon
24 JUNE – Ferropolis, Germany – Full Force
25 JUNE – Berlin, Germany – Urban Spree*

* with Statiqbloom
^co-headliner with Imperial Triumphant

Author & Punisher, Krüller (2022)

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal Playlist: Episode 100

Posted in Radio on December 23rd, 2022 by JJ Koczan

the obelisk show banner

I wish I could say I planned it out ahead of time that the 100th episode of The Obelisk Show would coincide with both the final one of 2022 and the third of the three roundups of some of the year’s best in heavy, but I’m nowhere near that coordinated. Fortunate happenstance, then, and a killer show either way.

You might note the minor departure from the general format I use in that this one doesn’t end with an extended track. Fact is there was just more I wanted to include than there was room for, so I opted to pack in three or four shorter songs where there might otherwise be one. Nothing here tops 10 minutes long — CB3 is just over eight and that’s the longest — and I can’t remember the last time that happened.

Before I turn you over to the playlist itself, I’d like to extend my sincere thanks to Gimme Metal for allowing me to continue to do this show. Seems obvious to say, considering, you know, this site in general, but sharing music I dig is among my favorite things to do, and I value the opportunity to engage with Gimme’s audience as a part of that. Thank you to Tyler, Brian, Dean and the entire crew for having me and making this thing happen.

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

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

Full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 12.23.22 (VT = voice track)

Church of the Cosmic Skull Now’s the Time There is No Time
All Souls I Dream Ghosts Among Us
Sasquatch Live Snakes Fever Fantasy
Sky Pig Larva It Thrives in Darkness
Abronia Night Hoarders Map of Dawn
Ealdor Bealu Way of the Sudden Storm Psychic Forms
Valley of the Sun Images The Chariot
Nebula Highwired Transmission From Mothership Earth
Supersonic Blues They See Me Comin’ It’s Heavy
Les Nadie Del Pombero Destierro y Siembra
Sun Voyager Rip the Sky Sun Voyager
Besvärjelsen House of the Burning Light Atlas
Dreadnought Midnight Moon The Endless
Author & Punisher Misery Krüller
Messa Dark Horse Close
Somali Yacht Club Silver The Space
Lamp of the Universe Emerald Sands The Akashic Field
Toad Venom Swirling Hands EAT!
CB3 To Space and Away Exploration
Ecstatic Vision The Kenzo Shake Elusive Mojo

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal airs every Friday 5PM Eastern, with replays Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next new episode is Jan. 6 (subject to change). Thanks for listening if you do.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

Okay. Deep breath in… and plunge:

The Top 60 Albums of 2022

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

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

Here goes:

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


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

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



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

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

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


Released by Psychedelic Source Records. Reviewed Nov. 14.

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

28. Freedom Hawk, Take All You Can

Freedom Hawk take all you can 1

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed July 25.

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

27. Lamp of the Universe, The Akashic Field

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

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

26. -(16)-, Into Dust

16 into dust

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed Nov. 21.

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

25. Eight Bells, Legacy of Ruin

eight bells legacy of ruin

Released by Prophecy Productions. Reviewed April 4.

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

24. Stöner, Totally…

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

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

23. Conan, Evidence of Immortality

conan evidence of immortality

Released by Napalm Records. Reviewed Aug. 29.

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

22. My Sleeping Karma, Atma

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

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

21. Sun Voyager, Sun Voyager

sun voyager self titled

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Oct. 6.

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

20. Ealdor Bealu, Psychic Forms

Ealdor Bealu Psychic Forms

Released by Metal Assault Records. Reviewed March 18.

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

19. Mythosphere, Pathological

Mythosphere Pathological

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

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

18. Charley No Face, Eleven Thousand Volts

Charley No Face Eleven Thousand Volts

Released by Forbidden Place Records. Reviewed March 1.

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

17. Besvärjelsen, Atlas

besvarjelsen atlas

Released by Magnetic Eye Records. Reviewed May 11.

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

16. Telekinetic Yeti, Primordial

Telekinetic Yeti Primordial

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed July 11.

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

15. Geezer, Stoned Blues Machine

Geezer Stoned Blues Machine

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed May 18.

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

14. Sky Pig, It Thrives in Darkness

Sky Pig It Thrives in Darkness

Released by Forbidden Place Records. Reviewed Dec. 8.

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

13. Sasquatch, Fever Fantasy

sasquatch fever fantasy

Released by Mad Oak Records. Reviewed June 3.

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

12. Wo Fat, The Singularity

wo fat the singularity

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed May 4.

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

11. Forlesen, Black Terrain

Forlesen black terrain

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

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

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

church of the cosmic skull there is no time

Released by Septaphonic Records. Reviewed Sept. 22.

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

9. All Souls, Ghosts Among Us

All Souls Ghosts Among Us

Released by Oscura Records. Reviewed Oct. 19.

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

8. Okkoto, Climb the Antlers and Reach the Stars

Okkoto climb the Antlers and reach the stars

Self-released. Reviewed May 31.

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

7. Moura, Axexan, Espreitan

Moura Axexan Espreitan

Released by Spinda Records. Reviewed March 11.

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

6. Colour Haze, Sacred

Colour haze sacred

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten. Reviewed Sept. 12.

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

5. Author & Punisher, Krüller

author and punisher kruller

Released by Relapse Records. Reviewed Feb. 1.

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

4. Caustic Casanova, Glass Enclosed Nerve Center

Caustic Casanova Glass Enclosed Nerve Center

Released by Magnetic Eye Records. Reviewed Oct. 5.

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

3. The Otolith, Folium Limina

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

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

2. King Buffalo, Regenerator

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

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

2022 Album of the Year

1. Elder, Innate Passage


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

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

The Top 60 Albums of 2022: Honorable Mention

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

Debut Album of the Year 2022

The Otolith, Folium Limina

The Otolith Folium Limina

Other notable debuts (somewhat alphabetically):

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


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

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

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

Short Release of the Year 2022

Domkraft & Slomatics, Ascend/Descend Split LP

Slomatics Domkraft Ascend Descend

Other notable EPs, Splits, Demos, etc.:

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


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

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

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

Song of the Year 2022

Caustic Casanova, “Bull Moose Against the Sky”

Caustic Casanova Glass Enclosed Nerve Center

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

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

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

Looking Ahead to 2023

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

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

Thank you

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

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

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

Thank you.

Thank you.

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

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

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal Playlist: Episode 92

Posted in Radio on September 2nd, 2022 by JJ Koczan

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Two weeks ago I was at Psycho Las Vegas, and so didn’t get to post the playlist for episode 91. For posterity’s sake and because I plainly love looking at lists of band names, it’s below along with the playlist for the episode airing today, which is #92. The march to 100 continues.

The esteemed Dean Rispler (who also plays in Mighty High and a bunch of other bands) is in charge of putting the shows together on a practical level from the lists I send, and to him I extend my deepest appreciation. I’m constantly late. I suck at this in general, and worse, I know it. So yeah. Dean does a bit of hand-holding and I am thankful. He emailed me this week and asked if I was thinking yet about episode 100 and would I be doing anything special?

Well… yes. I have been. And I’d like to make it a blowout or some such, but you know what the truth is? I’m more about the work. When it comes to something like that, the most honest thing I feel like I can do is keep my head down, do another episode and then do one after that two weeks later. I’d rather feel good about a thing in myself and move on. I’m not sure I can get away with that. So maybe I’ll hit up Tommi Dozer and see if he wants to chat sometime in the next few weeks.

Thanks if you listen and thanks for reading.

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

Full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 09.02.22 (VT = voice track)

Elephant Tree Aphotic Blues Elephant Tree
Might Abysses Abyss
Author & Punisher Misery Kruller
Lord Elephant Hunters of the Moon Cosmic Awakening
Swarm of the Lotus Snowbeast The Sirens of Silence
Big Business Heal the Weak The Beast You Are
The Otolith Sing No Coda Folium Limina
Elder Halcyon Omens
Gaerea Mantle Mirage
London Odense Ensemble Sojourner Jaiyede Sesssions Vol. 1
Northless What Must Be Done A Path Beyond Grief
Conan A Cleaved Head No Longer Plots Evidence of Immortality
Forlesen Strega Black Terrain

And #91, which was a pretty damn good show:

Dozer The Flood Beyond Colossal
Orange Goblin Blue Snow Time Travelling Blues
Monster Magnet King of Mars Dopes to Infinity
Red Fang Fonzi Scheme Arrows
Slift Citadel on a Satellite Ummon
Russian Circles Gnosis Gnosis
Faetooth Echolalia Remnants of the Vessel
Caustic Casanova Lodestar Glass Enclosed Nerve Center
Brant Bjork Trip on the Wine Bougainvillea Suite
Josiah Saltwater We Lay on Cold Stone
Blue Tree Monitor Sasquatch Cryptids
Torche Tarpit Carnivore In Return
Telekinetic Yeti Rogue Planet Primordial
Mezzoa Dunes of Mars Dunes of Mars
Thunderbird Divine Boote’s Void The Hand of Man
Omen Stones Burn Alive Omen Stones
1000mods Vidage Super Van Vacation
Truckfighters Con of Man Mania

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal airs every Friday 5PM Eastern, with replays Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next new episode is Sept. 16 (subject to change). Thanks for listening if you do.

Gmme Metal website

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The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal Playlist: Episode 78

Posted in Radio on February 18th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

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This was fun. I asked the other day on the ol’ social medias for requests and wound up getting a whole playlist’s worth. It was a genuine surprise, but hell’s bells, there’s some good stuff here, and as I’m normally so focused on trying to fit as much new music as humanly possible into the two hours, the chance to revisit some oldies but goodies from Saint Vitus, Sleep, Mos Generator, and Throttlerod was great, not to mention the chance to shine light on new stuff from Steak, Weedevil, Kurokuma and Lark’s Tongue, the latter of which, I admit, was my own request.

I included the names in the playlist so I could do oldschool radio-style shout-outs, which was fun in the voice breaks, and I appreciated the chance to hear stuff I wouldn’t have otherwise, like Wallowing or Buñuel, the latter whose new album is out today on Profound Lore and is pretty wild heavy stuff. Maybe I’ll do this kind of thing from time to time. Next show I might just load up on psych tunes and let it ride. Ha.

If you listen, or you see these words, thanks.

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

Full playlist:

The Obelisk Show – 02.18.22

Wallowing Earthless (for Matt McCartney) Planet Loss
Kurokuma Smoking Mirror (for Vesper Munkvold & Shasta Beest) Born of Obsidian
Weedevil Underwater (for Matheus Jacques) The Return
Author & Punisher Incinerator (for Dan Blomquist) Kruller
Obsidian Sea The Long Drowning (for Martin Petrov) Pathos
Saint Vitus The Psychopath (for Steven Melson) Saint Vitus
Lord Vicar The Temple in the Bedrock (for Fabrizio Monni) The Black Powder
Throttlerod Never Was a Farmer (for Raul Stanciu) Turncoat
Snail Fractal Altar (for Steve Janiak) Fractal Altar
Ruff Majik Heart Like an Alligator (for Warren Gibson) The Devil’s Cattle
Buñuel When God Used a Rope (for Jasper Hesselnik) Killers Like Us
Steak Papas Special Custard (for John Gist) Acute Mania
10,000 Years Dark Side of the Earth (for Alex Risberg) II
Lark’s Tongue The Novelty Wears Thin (for me) Eleusis
Sleep Leagues Beneath (for Steven Melson) Leagues Beneath
Mos Generator Outlander (for Jessie Avery) The Firmament

The Obelisk Show on Gimme Metal airs every Friday 5PM Eastern, with replays Sunday at 7PM Eastern. Next new episode is March 4 (subject to change). Thanks for listening if you do.

Gimme Metal website

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