Nadja to Release Luminous Rot May 21 on Southern Lord

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 9th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

nadja (photo by Janina Gallert)

My brain did that thing it does when news comes in about new  Cover Confidentiality Agreement For Business Plan from CV Writers. We also provide professional CV writing services and LinkedIn profile writing. Nadja. It went, ‘Oh hey, new  Our Cover Letter For Nursing School Admission services will help you get the desired grade that you are looking for. We have a team of skilled and qualified editors who know their craft well: they come up with a paper, no matter how tough your deadline may be, that is well-written and free of any traces of plagiarism. We provide proper thesis help at all academic levels. In order to guarantee success in terms of grades Nadja, you should check that out.’ And so, I click’d on the ol’ linkeroo, and sure enough, the new  Some companies promise to work for you 24/7. We don`t - we simply do. See the Alexander Kurek Dissertation at GetAcademiceHelp and place your order today with us. Nadja‘s pretty darn good. The album and accompanying video share the title  MY ACCEPTED STANFORD ESSAYS (and other essay college process and my experience at reviewed http://opt-karp.ru/?writing-services-ottawa will be the Luminous Rot, and the theme of making first contact with aliens — perhaps someone in Berlin has been watching The Next Generation? — comes with the probably-not-happenstance fact that this is apparently the first  Assignment Help Experts offer Online Assignment Help and Periodic Table Homework in Australia and US. Paper will be written by US and Australian Experts. Nadja LP to have been mixed by someone other than the duo themselves. Considering the breadth of their discography, that’s significant.

That is why our online site Your Homework Help can help you not only to do the statistics homework but also request- http://www.mairielesrousses.fr/?cause-and-effect-papers. Southern Order your thesis or dissertation from the Thesis Proofreading Service service on the market. And not only that you can now enjoy 20% OFF on first order! Lord will release  click site - Find out all you need to know about custom writing Make a quick custom dissertation with our assistance and make your teachers Luminous Rot on May 21, and you can dive into the moody vibes of the title-track at the bottom of this post. Affordable Writing An Essay Plan. Global English Editing understands that students may have a budget when it comes to professional editing. Therefore, we offer a very affordable online thesis editing service. Read about how we are able to combine high quality editing at great prices on the Our Online Advantage page. As an exclusively online business, our prices are lower than many of our Nadja remain as outside-genre as ever, it would seem, no matter who’s tweaking levels on the recording.

To the PR wire:

nadja luminous rot (art by Anoop Bhat)

Nadja return with a new album, Luminous Rot, incoming on Southern Lord in May

Nadja return with a new album Luminous Rot, incoming on CD and DL formats via Southern Lord on 21st May, with the LP version arriving on 13th August.

Nadja is a duo of multi-instrumentalist Aidan Baker and bassist Leah Buckareff—active since 2005—and making music which can be described as ambient doom, dreamsludge, or metalgaze. Nadja’s signature sound combines the atmospheric textures of shoegaze and ambient/electronic music with the heaviness, density, and volume of metal, noise, and industrial.

For the new album, Luminous Rot, the duo retain their overblown/ambient sound, and explore shorter and more tightly structured songs reflecting their interests not only in metal, but post-punk, cold-wave, shoegaze, and industrial.

Thematically, the album explores ideas of ‘first contact’ and the difficulties of recognising alien intelligence. This was in part inspired by reading such writers as Stanislaw Lem and Cixin Lui — in particular, theories on astro-physics, multi-dimensionality, and spatial geometry in “The Three Body Problem” — as well as Margaret Wertheim’s “A Field Guide To Hyperbolic Space,” about mathematician Daina Taimina’s work with crochet to illustrate hyperbolic space and geometry.

The album was recorded between their home studio, Broken Spine Studios, or Nadja’s live rehearsal studio, both in the district of Lichtenberg, Berlin.

Luminous Rot marks the first album mixed by someone else, who in this case was David Pajo. The band comment, “as big fans of Slint, we thought he might fore-front the more angular, post-punk elements of our music – the mix is quite different from our previous albums. But, as usual, we had James Plotkin (Khanate, OLD, etc) master the album as we trust his ears and aesthetic, as he’s mastered numerous records of ours.”

TRACK LIST:
1. Intro
2. Luminous Rot
3. Cuts On Your Hands
4. Starres
5. Fruiting Bodies
6. Dark Inclusions

Nadja is Leah Buckareff & Aidan Baker.

https://www.facebook.com/LuvNadja/
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Nadja, “Luminous Rot” official video

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Nick DiSalvo Announces Delving Album Hirschbrunnen Due in May

Posted in Whathaveyou on March 3rd, 2021 by JJ Koczan

delving nick disalvo

Man that’s a clumsy headline. Nevertheless, we press on.

One can only imagine how refreshing it might be for someone like Ukrainian Type Of Research Paper that helps people make good cash Nick DiSalvo of Looking for an essay helper? With Grademiners, We do all, so your do my http://www.vignevin.com/2020/12/03/hiv-research-paper/ experience will be nothing less than great! Elder to compose music without any expectation of what shape it might ultimately take. Of course that’s never really, really possible in a world of subjective experience, but these things are relative, and if Buy Essays Com Writing Service. An increasing number of PhD candidates decide to hire custom dissertation writing services. They face time constraints. Its very difficult for them to elaborate on a unique topic if its been exhausted by research in their niche. Do you need custom dissertation writing help, too? Dissertation-Service Delving — also stylized low-caps: Great Sample Research Paper Introduction are here for you! We are ready to offer you professional writers who will do their best to help you with creating a perfect PhD delving — were Our news writing service online will contact the relevant writer to get him/her started with the work. Please note that you can pay our thesis custom writing service using MasterCard, American Express, or Visa. All of these are safe and reliable channels of money transfer. Once we get the payment, the work will start immediately, and you will get the project on time. The Guarantees Elder, there would be significant baggage with that in terms of what the audience expects. I’m not saying I’ve heard the entirety of Homework Help Business Law - Papers and essays at most attractive prices. 100% non-plagiarism guarantee of unique essays & papers. Benefit from our Hirschbrunnen or anything — the album will see release in May through Stickman Records — but the moniker chosen for the project is fairly tongue-in-cheek. DiSalvo doesn’t so much delve into the world of lush and progressive rock that he’s creating across the album’s near-hour-long run as he does dive in headfirst. And if there’s any expectation it’s fair to place on Hirschbrunnen, it would probably be that.

My guess is DiSalvo will be surprised how much of Elder‘s fanbase digs on what he’s doing in channeling some of his pandemic-era restlessness and longstanding proggy/fusion tendencies into a collection of its own, and with just how much Delving feels like a culmination of where his journey has taken him to this point, so too is it a beginning. As I said above, must be refreshing.

And hey, nice to see Richard Behrens (Wedge, Heat, ex-Samsara Blues Experiment, etc.) at Big Snuff involved with the recording.

From the PR wire:

delving hirschbrunnen

Nick DiSalvo (ELDER) To Release DELVING Solo-Album!

Hirschbrunnen out this Spring on Stickman Records!

For many who lived through it, 2020 will forever be the year that time stopped. Especially for those who thrive in packed, sweaty environment – musicians, concertgoers, even humble record label operators – this led to some pretty fundamental changes in the way we spent our time. Enough with the platitudes: delving is a new project by Nick DiSalvo (better known as the frontman of Elder and one half of Gold & Silver) long in the making but finally taking off in this dreaded year where creativity was relegated exclusively to one’s own domain.

DiSalvo elaborates:

“I’m an almost obsessive songwriter, working on music every day and amassing a huge collection of song fragments and ideas that often don’t get the attention I’d like because of the time I spend with my main band. ‘Thanks’ to this pandemic, I’ve had plenty of time to pick up some of the songs I’ve written over the past years and finally make an album that I’ve been telling myself forever I’d do.

From my earliest moments as a musician, I have been obsessed with home recordings, begging my parents for a Tascam 4-track cassette recorder for Christmas when I was 12 and making my own albums. delving is a continuation of this creative spirit: experimenting all on my own, forgetting bands, fans and expectations and making whatever music I want to.”

The debut album Hirschbrunnen will be released in May 2021 through Stickman Records. It is a collection of songs that display a wide range of influences from psychedelic rock, early electronic music, 70’s prog as well as jazz and even ambient sounds – yet all with a distinct songwriting style that DiSalvo has come to be known for. The album was recorded, mixed and mastered by Richard Behrens and Emanuele Baratto at Big Snuff Studio.

“Hirschbrunnen – “stag fountain” – is the colloquial name of a large fountain that presides over a large green area near where I live.“ DiSalvo continues. “For me, it’s been strange to see my world, which normally consists of a fair amount of travel and external stimuli, reduced to one city, one district, one block for so long. Frustrating as that is, you might start to find inspiration and surprising beauty in your everyday surroundings that you otherwise would have ignored. Just as all the music I make is influenced by my experiences, Hirschbrunnen is a product of this unique and strange time in which we all have been forced to delve more deeply into our own thoughts.”

https://www.instagram.com/delving_music/
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Tau and the Drones of Praise Stream Full Set Live From Dublin

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 8th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

tau

Filmed in December, the following audience-less livestream from Tau and the Drones of Praise was shot in Dublin and premiered this past weekend. I have no idea if the video is going to remain public or if it will be taken down at some point, but while you can see it, you should.

I’ll readily admit to being a late convert to Tau, not really digging in until I heard 2020’s Seanóirí Naofa EP (discussed here), which was preceded by a 2019 self-titled full-length from Tau and the Drones of Praise that’s no less righteous in its definitively-Irish-in-its-nationlessness, heathen-without-being-masked-white-supremacist psychedelic folk, taking elements from traditions Asian, American and European and fusing them together in this a fashion at once inevitably of the earth and ready to depart from it. Flutes were had, y’all.

The stream took some from the album — “It’s Already Written,” “Craw” — and some from 2016’s Tau Tau Tau — “Mother,” Spanish-language closer “Espiral” — one from 2015’s Wirikuta EP — “Huey Tonantzin” — and three of the four from Seanóirí Naofa — the title-track, the cello-laced “Speak Your Truth” and “Mongolia.” All of this, plus the song of the land, “Éist Le Ceol An Chré,” and the stream makes a surprisingly effective sampling of Tau and the Drones of Praise past and present while filtered through a singular performance.

That performance, by the way, is gorgeous. There’s a bird. That might be Nibbles, I don’t know. The bird introduces the band, and the band unfurls 50 minutes of casual brilliance, filmed like it’s a BBC special from the year 1QX6, varying instruments and personnel here and there along the way, but keeping a steady core with Seán Mulrooney‘s guitar and vocals running throughout.

I know you’re way cooler than I am and way down with all this stuff already, but this is the kind of set that, even if you don’t know all the material, you’re going to put on and be stuck there for the duration. Between the engaging delivery itself and the ethereal spirit that surrounds the songs, there’s little to be done except appreciate, sing, maybe dance. If there’s any justice in this wretched universe, it’ll be a live album by the next Bandcamp Friday.

Have at it and enjoy:

Tau and the Drones of Praise, Live From Dublin

Thanks so much Fuinneamh for presenting our online gig tonight.

The premier airs tonight. The great gig in the sky, the great and freaky unknown. We haven’t a clue what to expect but it’s exciting.

We are playing Fuinneamh festival this September. Everything they do they do with love and energy. Fuinneamh means energy in Irish.

Setlist:
Huey Tonantzin
Mother
It’s Already Written
Mongolia
Speak Your Truth
Craw
Seanóirí Naofa
Éist Le Ceol An Chré
Espiral

Tau and the Drones of Praise:
Seán Mulrooney – guitar/vocals
Ruarí Mac Néill Aodha – guitar
Bob “Wildman” Glynn – percussion/vocals
Iain Faulkner – bass/vocals
Ken “Moon” Mooney – drums/percussion
Gabriele Dikciute – cello

Tau and the Drones of Praise, Seanóirí Naofa (2020)

Tau on Instagram

Tau and the Drones of Praise on Thee Facebooks

Tau and the Drones of Praise on Bandcamp

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Nick DiSalvo to Release LP From Solo-Project Delving

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 29th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Delving — also stylized all-lowercase: delving — is a not the first side-project from Elder‘s Nick DiSalvo, as one might recall Gold & Silver‘s 2014 album, Azurite and Malachite (review here), prefacing many of the progressive turns that would soon be folded into Elder‘s work. As Delving begins to move toward its own debut, with DiSalvo working as yet unaccompanied in the band, one can’t help but look forward to what might manifest as he forgets “bands, fans and expectations,” and perhaps some of the pressures those things might place on the creative process. Sounds like a refreshing idea.

No audio yet, as the album was being mixed as of the start of this year, but it’s apparently already being pressed, as Stickman Records (also Elder‘s label in Europe) tells it:

delving nick disalvo

delving joins Stickman!

We’re happy to announce a brand new project from Elder guitarist/singer Nick DiSalvo, a (at the present) solo endeavor called delving. The debut album, recorded in December of 2020 at Big Snuff Studio in Berlin, is already in production and we’ll be announcing more details soon. From the horse’s mouth:

“I’m an almost obsessive songwriter, working on music every day and amassing a huge collection of song fragments and ideas that often don’t get the attention I’d like because of the time I spend with my main band. “Thanks” to this pandemic, I’ve had plenty of time to pick up some of the songs I’ve written over the past years and finally make an album that I’ve been telling myself forever I’d do.

From my earliest moments as a musician, I have been obsessed with home recordings, begging my parents for a Tascam 4-track cassette recorder for Christmas when I was 12 and making my own albums. delving is a continuation of this creative spirit: experimenting all on my own, forgetting bands, fans and expectations and making whatever music I want to.”

https://www.instagram.com/delving_music/
https://www.stickman-records.com/
https://www.facebook.com/Stickman-Records-1522369868033940

Elder, Omens (2020)

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Kadavar and Lucifer Team for Split 7″ Due in March

Posted in Whathaveyou on January 29th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

Kadavar and Lucifer will cover Fleetwood Mac and Dust, respectively, on a new split single to be released in March. Kadavar are set to take on “The Green Manalishi (With the Two Prong Crown),” while Lucifer will cover “Pull Away/So Many Times.” You might recall in the recent video interview with Kadavar‘s Lupus Lindemann, he mentioned this 7″ was happening, and indeed, it will be out through Kadavar‘s own Robotor Records imprint, as well as Lucifer‘s Riding Reaper Records. Seems a worthy cause for all to get behind.

Lucifer released their aptly-titled third album, Lucifer III, last year through Century Media, so I don’t know if putting this out through Riding Reaper means they’ve parted ways with that label or what. Lindemann discusses the amicable split with Nuclear Blast Records in that interview, and it makes for a good story about how Robotor came to be in time to release the audio from their two livestreams and last year’s The Isolation Tapes (review here) studio album. If you get the chance. If not, I won’t be offended.

No preorders yet, but let’s assume that’s coming, as well as audio of one or the other if not both tracks:

lucifer kadavar split

Lucifer X Kadavar Split 7″

We’ve got a brand new collaboration to announce: Kadavar and Lucifer are teaming up for a limited split 7“. Both bands dug through their records and chose a classic track to cover. KADAVAR recorded a version of “The Green Manalishi (With The Two Prong Crown) by Fleetwood Mac and on LUCIFER‘s side, you´ll hear “Pull Away / So Many Times” by Dust. Limited to 1500 total with 5 different color options, Robotor Records and Riding Reaper Records will sell 750 records each through their web stores starting March 2021! We´re stoked for this project and will share more info very soon!

check: www.robotorrecords.com and sign up for our newsletter!

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Kadavar, Interview with Lupus Lindemann, Jan. 14, 2021

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Video Interview: Lupus Lindemann of Kadavar

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 18th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

kadavar

I’ll be honest. It felt a little weird on Xmas Day 2020 when, sitting around my wife’s sister’s living room with family, I loaded up the Kadavar live stream on my phone and watched the Berlin trio kick out jams on after presents were opened. But hey, it was that kind of year.

Established as forerunner of German, and really, greater European heavy rock and roll, Kadavar peaceably severed ties with Nuclear Blast in 2020 and announced the formation of their own imprint, Robotor Records. As early adopters of the live-stream format that’s become so common in the COVID-19 era, the band would have Studio Live Session Vol. I on their Bandcamp page before most acts even figured out how to go live on Facebook through their phones, taking the momentum they had from an interrupted tour and translating it to that setting. The Xmas show, some nine months later, was all the more welcome.

In November, the three-piece of guitarist/vocalist Christoph “Lupus” Lindemann, bassist Simon “Dragon” Bouteloup and drummer Christoph “Tiger” Bartelt issued The Isolation Tapes (review here), which singled itself out from their past offerings not just by being their first self-release, but adopting a sound fitting to the moment of its creation during pandemic lockdown. Germany, as Lindemann explains in the interview below, is currently under another round of closure until at least the beginning of March, so one finds the lonely spirit of some of this material striking in their relevance, even as Lindemann talks of writing a dirty rock record to follow-up. Given the restlessness and anxiety of existing in this stretch of time, you get where he’s coming from there too.

And not to harp on it, but that was part of what made the second livestream, the Xmas show, so refreshing as well; the feeling coming through that Kadavar, who under normal circumstances would’ve spent a significant portion of 2020 on tour, were no less anxious to play than their audience was to listen and watch. I don’t know how the rest of the living room felt, but I was definitely on board.

I’d never interviewed Lindemann before, so I’m glad to report he wasn’t a jerk. We talked about The Isolation Tapes, about the first and second streams, leaving Nuclear Blast and starting a label, writing new songs, the Leipzig-based Re-Generation Festival they were putting together that was of course postponed, flat earth and other conspiracy theories (no, he’s not a believer), and much more.

Hope you enjoy.

Kadavar, Interview with Lupus Lindemann, Jan. 14, 2021

Kadavar, The Isolation Tapes (2020)

Kadavar, Studio Live Session Vol. II (2021)

Kadavar on Thee Facebooks

Kadavar on Instagram

Kadavar website

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Robotor Records on Instagram

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Black Magic Tree Premiere “Mandala Lady” Video; Through the Grapevine out Next Week

Posted in Bootleg Theater on January 15th, 2021 by JJ Koczan

black magic tree

Germany’s Black Magic Tree will release their first full-length, Through the Grapevine, on Jan. 22 through Karma Conspiracy Records. Ahead of that momentous occasion — and I’m not being sarcastic, a band releasing their debut is a special moment in their lives, perhaps even more considering they’ve waited over a year to do it — they’re premiering today a video for the song “Mandala Lady” that you can see below. Should you be surprised that it features a lot of mandala-type designs? No you should not. But actually in terms of that it does some cool things with animation and bringing a feeling of motion to the proceedings, though the song itself is by no means lacking movement.

Primarily you’ll find that “Mandala Lady,” which was recorded by Richard Behrens (Heat, ex-Samsara Blues Experiment) at Big Snuff Studio, is catchy as hell, and immediately establishes the Berlin five-piece’s penchant for classic hooks. Classic hooks, but not necessarily vintage sound. Behrens has done plenty of heavy ’70s worship before for bands, and done it well, but though Black Magic Tree‘s roots may lie there (pun TOTALLY intended; bite me), the tones of the two guitars are more modern and though the groove is comfortable and warm, it’s not necessarily trying to adhere to the tenets of heavy boogie.

Perhaps that happens elsewhere on Through the Grapevine, I don’t know — haven’t heard the record but I wouldn’t mind doing so — and if it does, cheers to the band on changing things up. But we don’t have long to wait for the seven-song Through the Grapevine to come out, just a week, and until that happens, the clip for “Mandala Lady” makes for an enticing glimpse at things to come. The heavy rock converted will find it no challenge to dig into what’s going on here, and though the black and white flashes speed up a bit during the solo in the second half, if you’re sensitive to that kind of thing, you should still be alright. It’s not hard strobe or anything.

With that and some comment from the band below, I’ll just say enjoy and get ready to have this song repeating in your head for the rest of the day:

Black Magic Tree, “Mandala Lady” official video premiere

Black Magic Tree on “Mandala Lady”:

“Mandala Lady” is the second single off our debut album “THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE” which is due out on January 22, 2021 through Karma Conspiracy Records. The song is about a mysterious “Mandala Lady”. The lyrics revolve around a graceful, spiritual figure everyone is attracted to. Is she real or maybe just an illusion?

The video for the song was shot in September 2020 in front of a green screen. We wanted to utilize psychedelic animations while incorporating video shots of the band members and a dancer who embodies the “Mandala Lady” metaphor. The video turned out really cool and interesting with lots of swirly and hallucinatory visuals while keeping an old school black/white style. Stylistically, the song combines elements of heavy blues rock, heavy psych and stoner rock.

Vinyl preorder: https://www.karmaconspiracy.it/store/black-magic-tree/33-1-through-the-grapevine.html#/74-version-vinyl

Founded in 2018 in Berlin, Germany, BMT released its first EP, “Of Animals and Men”, soon after in 2019. The band has now taken the next step in its evolution with the recording of a full debut album, “THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE”. The seven slabs of rock were laid down in Big Snuff studio in late 2019 under the guidance of Richard Behrens (FOH mixer for Kadavar) and Nene Baratto, who also mixed and mastered the album. The psychedelic album cover art was designed by renowned Berlin-based artist Martin Meir. “THROUGH THE GRAPEVINE” will be available digital and on vinyl on Karma Conspiracy Records.

Black Magic Tree on Thee Facebooks

Black Magic Tree on Instagram

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Karma Conspiracy Records website

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The Obelisk Presents: THE BEST OF 2020

Posted in Features on December 31st, 2020 by JJ Koczan

london-news-etching-1854-newcastle-upon-tyne

[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.]

Invariably, the ultimate measure of 2020 will be in lives and livelihoods lost around the world. I have nothing to add to the discourse of the COVID-19 pandemic that others haven’t said in more articulate and precise language. Suffice it to note that 2020 was the year that the very concept of “unprecedented” itself became trite.

One does not have to look far to find positives amid the devastation. Creativity continues to flourish. Art cannot be killed. Even locked away from each other in quarantine, artists will continue to reach out, to collaborate, to fulfill the human need for expression that has driven the species since cave drawings and will no doubt be the ruins we leave behind us when we’re gone.

In underground music, it was simply overwhelming. And though I’ll admit it was hard at times to listen to music and divorce it from the larger context of what was happening in the world — it was there like a background buzz — this year reinforced how necessary music is, not only as an escape or a source of income for those who make/promote it, but as an integral component of life and community. Absences have been keenly felt.

I won’t try to sate you with platitudes, to say “things will get better.” Maybe they will, maybe they won’t. One year turning to the next does not fix broken systems and it does not cure raging plagues. It’s just a number. Arbitrary except as a convenient marker for things like this, births, deaths, and so on. Bookkeeping.

Before I turn you over to the lists: Please be kind in the comments if you choose to leave one. To me. To other people. To yourself. These lists are culled from my listening preference and what I consider of critical importance. But I’m one person. If there’s something you feel has been left out, say so. I ask you only to do so in a spirit of friendship rather than argument. Thank you in advance.

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Okay:

The Top 50 Albums of 2020

#50-31

50. Sun Crow, Quest for Oblivion
49. Atramentus, Stygian
48. Arcadian Child, Protopsycho
47. Fuzz, III
46. Jointhugger, I Am No One
45. Dirt Woman, The Glass Cliff
44. Switchblade Jesus, Death Hymns
43. Foot, The Balance of Nature Shifted
42. Hymn, Breach Us
41. IAH, III
40. Lord Fowl, Glorious Babylon
39. Acid Mess, Sangre de Otros Mundos
38. 1000mods, Youth of Dissent
37. Deathwhite, Grave Image
36. Soldati, Doom Nacional
35. Cortez, Sell the Future
34. Kadavar, The Isolation Tapes
33. Black Rainbows, Cosmic Ritual Supertrip
32. Shadow Witch, Under the Shadow of a Witch
31. Insect Ark, The Vanishing

Notes: To say nothing of the honorable mentions that follow the rest of the list below, immediately we see the problem of so-many-albums-not-enough-space. People talk about a top 50 as ridiculous, like there’s no way you can like that much music. Bullshit. I agonized over how to fit Sun Crow on this list because their Quest for Oblivion felt like it deserved to be here. Ditto that for Arcadian Child. And the achievements of bands like Kadavar, 1000mods and Switchblade Jesus and Insect Ark in breaking the boundaries of their own aesthetics deserve every accolade they can get, and likewise those who progressed in their sound like Cortez, Shadow Witch, Lord Fowl, Hymn, Foot, Black Rainbows, Deathwhite and IAH. Add to that the debuts from Atramentus, Dirt Woman, Jointhugger, Acid Mess and Sergio Ch.’s Soldati, and you’ve got a batch of 20 records — some born of this year’s malaise, some working in spite of it — that vary in sound but are working to push their respective styles to new places one way or the other.

30. High Priestess, Casting the Circle

high priestess casting the circle

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed May 5.

There was no shortage of anticipation for what L.A. cultists High Priestess would do to follow their 2018 self-titled debut (review here), and the three-piece did not disappoint, instead gave a ritual mass that included the 17-minute concept piece “Invocation” alongside infectious and ethereal melodies like “The Hourglass.” And now that the circle’s been cast? Seems like they can do anything.

29. Polymoon, Caterpillars of Creation

Polymoon Caterpillars of Creation

Released by Svart Records. Reviewed Oct. 12.

High-powered cosmic metal from Finland pulling apart heavy psychedelia on an atomic level with an urgency that speaks of youth, progress and an ingrained need for exploration? Sign me up. A lot of bands on this list put out their first album this year. There are few for whom my hopes are as high as they are for Polymoon. If you haven’t yet heard Caterpillars of Creation, do.

28. Sons of Otis, Isolation

Sons of Otis Isolation

Released by Totem Cat Records. Reviewed Sept. 30.

Of the sundry horrors 2020 wrought, a new album from long-running Toronto three-piece Sons of Otis was an unexpected positive, and their ultra-spaced, murky riffs on their first studio album since 2012’s Seismic (review here, also here) launched like a slow-motion escape pod of righteous doom (s)tonality. There will never be another Sons of Otis. Be thankful for everything you get from them.

27. Lamp of the Universe, Dead Shrine

Lamp of the Universe Dead Shrine

Released by Projection Records. Reviewed May 25.

Organ, Mellotron, sitar, acoustic and electric guitars, various percussion elements, and of course the inimitable fragility in Craig Williamson‘s voice itself — the ingredients for Lamp of the Universe‘s Dead Shrine were familiar enough for those familiar with the one-man outfit running more than two decades, but the lush acid folk created remains a standout the world over. Dead Shrine was a much-needed gift of peace and meditation.

26. BleakHeart, Dream Griever

bleakheart dream griever

Released by Sailor Records. Reviewed Nov. 18.

The debut album from Colorado’s BleakHeart collected pieces united by melody and overarching atmosphere, positioned stylistically somewhere around heavygaze or heavy post-rock, but feeling less limited to genre bounds than some others working in a similar sphere. As a first outing, it brought a promise of things to come even as the depths of its mix seemed to swallow the listener entirely, equal parts serving claustrophobia and escapism.

25. Pale Divine, Consequence of Time

Pale Divine Consequence of Time

Released by Cruz Del Sur Music. Reviewed June 3.

There is not enough space here to properly commend Pale Divine founding guitarist/vocalist Greg Diener on how much he opened up the band by bringing in his and drummer Darin McCloskey‘s former Beelzefuzz bandmate Dana Ortt on shared guitar, vocal and songwriting duties. Completed by Ron “Fezz” McGinnis on bass/vocals, Pale Divine are a refreshed and ready powerhouse of American traditional doom.

24. Uncle Woe, Phantomescence

uncle woe phantomescence

Released by Packard Black Productions. Reviewed Oct. 21.

One is going to have to get used to the idea of Uncle Woe residing in the places between, I think. An inward-looking cosmic doom that’s likewise morose and reaching, opaque and translucent, Phantomescence could be almost troubling in its feeling of off-kilter expression. Yet that’s exactly what multi-instrumentalist/vocalist Rain Fice was going for. Thriving on contradiction, exploratory, and individualized. Start from doom, move outward.

23. REZN, Chaotic Divine

rezn chaotic divine

Released by Off the Record Label. Reviewed Oct. 15.

I don’t feel like I’m cool enough to offer any substantive comment on what Chicago’s REZN do, but their sax-laced heavy psychedelia comes across warm and is invitingly languid while still delivered with a sense of energy and purpose. It rolls and you want to roll with it, so you do. They were clearly hurt by not being able to tour this year, as were audiences for not seeing them. Call them neo-stoner metal or whatever you want, these songs deserve to be played live.

22. Ruff Majik, The Devil’s Cattle

ruff majik the devils cattle

Released by Mongrel Records. Reviewed Oct. 29.

A revamped lineup for South African desert-ish heavy rockers Ruff Majik brought producer Evert Snyman in as co-conspirator with frontman/principal songwriter Johni Holiday, and found the former trio working as a five-piece with a broader sound underscored by an electric sense of purpose and willingness to push themselves to places they hadn’t gone before. Their third record, it seemed as well to be a new beginning, and they met the challenge head-on.

21. Curse the Son, Excruciation

Curse The Son Excruciation

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed June 8.

The underheralded children of rolling fuzz riffage, Connecticut’s Curse the Son found new depths of emotion to bring to Excruciation — and I do mean “depths.” Dark times for dark times. Fueled by personal hardship, turmoil, motorcycle accidents and a pervasive sense of struggle, the LP was nonetheless a triumph of their songwriting and brought new melodic character to their established largesse of tone. Your loss if you missed it.

20. The Atomic Bitchwax, Scorpio

The Atomic Bitchwax Scorpio

Released by Tee Pee Records. Reviewed Aug. 26.

Business as usual in ferocious heavy/speed rock from The Atomic Bitchwax on Scorpio — and that was only reassuring since the band’s eighth full-length marked the first since the departure of guitarist/vocalist Finn Ryan and his replacing with Garrett Sweeny, a bandmate of founding bassist/vocalist Chris Kosnik and drummer Bob Pantella in Monster Magnet. They barely stopped to cool their heels and yet still managed to be catchy as hell. How do they do it? Jersey Magic.

19. Cinder Well, No Summer

cinder well no summer

Released by Free Dirt Records. Reviewed July 21.

Such pervasive melancholy could only be derived from Irish folk, and so it was on Cinder Well‘s No Summer, which managed to move between singer-songwriter minimalism from Amelia Baker and arrangements of deceptive and purposeful intricacy. Wherever it went, from traditional songs “Wandering Boy” and “The Cuckoo” to originals like “Fallen” and the nine-minute “Our Lady’s,” it was equal parts gorgeous and sad and resonant. It remains so, despite the fleeting season.

18. Pallbearer, Forgotten Days

pallbearer forgotten days

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Dec. 24.

Their fourth album and first since crossing the decade-mark since their inception, Pallbearer‘s Forgotten Days wasn’t just heavy, emotional or big-sounding; it was the most their-own of anything they’ve done. It felt exactly like the record they wanted it to be, and reconfirmed that the generation of listeners being introduced to doom by their music is going to be just fine if they follow the cues laid out for them here.

17. Slift, Ummon

slift ummon

Released by Stolen Body and Vicious Circle Records. Reviewed March 26.

Less a reinvention of space rock than a kick in its ass, Slift‘s Ummon pushed well past the line of manageability at 72 minutes and reveled in that. The French outfit were greeted as liberators when they released the album, and with the way the respect has been maintained in the months since they’ve given themselves a high standard to meet, but there’s only promise to be heard as you get lost in the nebular wash of this sprawling 2LP. They’ll have two more records out before this one’s fully digested.

16. My Dying Bride, The Ghost of Orion

my dying bride the ghost of orion

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Feb. 25.

The first album in half a decade from long-established UK death-doom forebears My Dying Bride found vocalist Aaron Stainthorpe coping with his daughter’s cancer diagnosis and translating that into the morose poetry for which the band is so well known and with which they’ve been so influential. My Dying Bride has never wanted for sincerity, but to call them affecting here would be underselling the quality of their craft and the heart they put into it. Follow-up EP is already out with extra non-album tracks.

15. Causa Sui, Szabodelico

causa sui Szabodelico

Released by El Paraiso Records. Reviewed Nov. 11.

Denmark’s Causa Sui may be on a mission to unite jazz and heavy psychedelia — and blessings on them for that — but the mellow jammy vibes they conjured on Szabodelico only emphasized how much it’s the character of what they do and the chemistry they’ve brought as bandmates that has allowed them to branch thusly in terms of aesthetic. It was the kind of album you wanted to put on again even before it was over, and its sweet instrumentals felt born to a greater timeline than a single year can encompass.

14. All Souls, Songs for the End of the World

All Souls Songs for the End of the World

Self-released. Reviewed Sept. 21.

I’m not a punk rocker, but All Souls make me wish I was. Their emotive and engaged heavy rock looks out as much as in on Songs for the End of the World — their second LP behind a 2018 self-titled debut (review here) — but it’s undeniably punk in its foundation, and what the four-piece of Antonio Aguilar and Meg Castellanos (both ex-Totimoshi), Erik Trammell (Black Elk) and Tony Tornay (Fatso Jetson) have put together builds on that in exciting, inventive and individualized ways, while staying nonetheless true to its roots.

13. Kind, Mental Nudge

kind mental nudge

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Oct. 20.

Five years after their debut album, Rocket Science (review here), Boston four-piece Kind return with Mental Nudge. And despite the different situations in which it finds the band’s members — bassist Tom Corino is now ex-Rozamov, drummer Matt Couto now ex-Elder — the group’s focus remains on carving memorable, mostly structured tracks out of ethereal heavy psychedelia, guitarist Darryl Shepard (Milligram, etc.) and vocalist Craig Riggs (RoadsawSasquatch, etc.) adding space and melody to the crunching, driving grooves.

12. Molassess, Through the Hollow

Molassess Through the Hollow

Released by Season of Mist. Featured Aug. 17.

Founded by vocalist Farida Lemouchi (ex-The Devil’s Blood) and guitarist Oeds Beydals (ex-Death Alley, also ex-The Devil’s Blood) and commissioned as a project for Roadburn Festival 2019 (review here), Molassess are inextricably tied to Lemouchi‘s groundbreaking former outfit and its tragic ending, but the musical branching out into darkened progressive textures on Through the Hollow isn’t to be understated. It was an album that pushed past the past, not overlooking it, but finding new ways of moving forward in life and sound.

11. Tony Reed, Funeral Suit

tony reed funeral suit

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed Sept. 28.

While of course the Mos Generator frontman is no stranger to writing or recording on his own, Funeral Suit was Tony Reed‘s debut as a solo artist and it carried his progressive stamp in melody and arrangement. It was not just a guitarist playing acoustic instead of electric, and it was not a manifestation of self-indulgence. Whether it was reworking a Mos Generator song like “Lonely One Kenobi” or pursuing a new piece like the title-track or “Waterbirth,” Reed found balance between personal and audience, evoking traditional songsmithing even as he reminded listeners of his dual role as a producer.

10. Geezer, Groovy

Geezer Groovy

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed May 18.

Spectacular showing from Kingston kingpins Geezer with Groovy as their first offering for Heavy Psych Sounds. Led by guitarist/vocalist Pat Harrington, the three-piece brought material that flowed with the organic feel of jams despite being structured and catchy songs. In pieces like “Dead Soul Scroll” and “Drowning on Empty,” they melded stonerized groove with what felt like genuine emotional expression, and “Dig” and “Groovy” still managed to be a heavy fuzz-blues party. And they still had room at the end to jam out on “Slide Mountain” and “Black Owl.” It was nothing but a win, rising to the occasion on every level.

9. Big Scenic Nowhere, Vision Beyond Horizon

big scenic nowhere vision beyond horizon

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed Jan. 29.

So Bob Balch from Fu Manchu and Gary Arce from Yawning Man have a band. They get Tony Reed from Mos Generator on board. Mario Lalli from Yawning Man/Fatso Jetson comes and goes. Nick Oliveri comes and goes. Bill Stinson from Yawning Man plays drums. Alain Johannes sits in on vocals. Reed does a bunch of vocals; his kid does a track too. Per Wiberg from Spiritual Beggars, Opeth, Candlemass, etc., lends some keys. What do you call such a thing? Who cares? You call yourself lucky it exists. They called the record Vision Beyond Horizon. Can’t wait to find out what they call the next one.

8. Elder, Omens

elder omens

Released by Armageddon Shop and Stickman Records. Reviewed April 27.

Omens marked a new beginning for Elder as the band pushed deeper into the realm of progressive rock and beyond their weightier beginnings. The arrival of Georg Edert (also Gaffa Ghandi) on drums in place of Matt Couto shifted the band’s dynamic in a number of ways, providing not a swinging anchor for the rhythm section necessarily, but another avenue of prog fluidity. Bassist Jack Donovan brought a steady presence in the low end as guitarist/vocalist Nick DiSalvo and guitarist/keyboardist Mike Risberg embarked on new melodic explorations while staying loyal to the band’s established penchant for sweeping changes. Omens may live up to its name as a sign of things to come, but either way, it was a strong display of the band’s will to pursue new ideas and methods.

7. Forming the Void, Reverie

forming the void reverie

Released by Ripple Music. Reviewed April 15.

First words that come to mind here: “eminently listenable.” With seven tracks and 36 minutes, Reverie may not have taken up much of your afternoon… once. But by the time you gave it its proper respect and listened through three times in a row, the situation was somewhat different. The Lafayette, Louisiana, four-piece gracefully brought together structured songwriting with proggier leanings and were able to bring together rampaging hooks like “Trace the Omen” and “Manifest,” casting a sense of sonic hugeness without forgetting to add either melody or personality along with that. The band — who here welcomed bassist Thorn Letulle alongside guitarist/vocalist James Marshall, guitarist Shadi Omar Al-Khansa and drummer Thomas Colley — have worked quickly and evolved with a sense of urgency. Is Reverie the goal or another step on that path?

6. Grayceon, MOTHERS WEAVERS VULTURES

grayceon mothers weavers vultures

Released by Translation Loss Records. Reviewed Nov. 18.

Vocalist/cellist Jackie Perez Gratz (interview here), guitarist Max Doyle and drummer Zack Farwell comprise Grayceon, and with their fifth record, the band looks around thematically at environmental devastation through the lens of record-breaking California wildfires from their vantage point in the Bay Area. Even as the world shifted priorities (at least most of it did) to yet another global crisis in the COVID-19 pandemic, genre-melting-pot songs like “Diablo Wind,” “The Lucky Ones,” and “This Bed” reminded of the horrors humanity has wrought on its battered home, and still managed to find hope and serenity in “And Shine On” and “Rock Steady,” a closing duo that shifted to a more personal discussion of family and one’s hope for a better future for and by the next generation. 2020 had plenty of horror. At least we got a new Grayceon record out of it.

5. Brant Bjork, Brant Bjork

brant bjork brant bjork

Released by Heavy Psych Sounds. Reviewed April 28.

When Sho’Nuff asked Bruce Leroy “who’s the master?,” dude should’ve said Brant Bjork. It would’ve been a confusing end to Berry Gordy’s The Last Dragon, but ultimately more accurate, as Brant Bjork‘s homegrown kung fu was unfuckwithable as ever on the album that shares his name. After two decades of solo releases in one form or another, Bjork is not just a pivotal figurehead for desert rock, he’s a defining presence, as well as one of its most treasured practitioners. Brant Bjork, the album, brought initial waves of funk in “Jungle in the Sound,” explored weedy worship in “Mary (You’re Such a Lady)” and toyed with religious dogma in offsetting that with “Jesus Was a Bluesman” while still tossing primo hooks in “Duke of Dynamite” and “Shitkickin’ Now” ahead of the more open “Stardust and Diamond Eyes” and the acoustic closer “Been So Long.” With Bjork recording all the instruments himself, a due feeling of intimacy resulted, and yet he still found a way to make it rock. How could it be otherwise?

4. Enslaved, Utgard

enslaved utgard

Released by Nuclear Blast Records. Reviewed Sept. 29.

Why do I feel the immediate need to defend this pick? I’m not sure. Norway’s Enslaved are an institution, not just of black metal, but of bringing an ideology of creative growth to that style that often willfully resists it. They are iconoclastic even unto their own work. Utgard was released as the band stood on the precipice of 30 years together and yet it stood as their most forward-looking offering yet, as co-founders Grutle Kjellson (bass/vocals) and Ivar Bjørnson (guitar/sometimes vocals), as well as longtime lead guitarist Arve “Ice Dale” Isdal backed up the change from 2017’s E (review here) that brought in new keyboardist/vocalist Hakon Vinje with the incorporation of drummer Iver Sandøy, who doubles as a vocalist (and triples as a producer). The “new blood” made all the difference on Utgard, allowing Enslaved to piece together new ranges of melody in their work and offset instrumental shifts into and out of krautrock-derived progressions. Simply the work of a band outdoing itself from a band who does so at nearly every opportunity.

3a. Colour Haze, We Are

colour haze we are

Released by Elektrohasch Schallplatten and Ripple Music. Reviewed Dec. 3, 2019.

Every year I allow myself one addendum pick, and this is it. We Are was on last year’s list because it was digitally released, but the vinyl came out this year and it received its North American release this year as well, so it seemed only right to acknowledge that. So here it is in its proper place.

3. All Them Witches, Nothing as the Ideal

All-Them-Witches-Nothing-as-the-Ideal

Released by New West Records. Reviewed Sept. 3.

This is a band controlling their own narrative. Instead of Nothing as the Ideal being ‘the one they made as a three-piece,’ the Nashville outfit decided to make it ‘the one they recorded at Abbey Road.’ Were they thinking of it on those terms? Yeah, likely not, but it goes to demonstrate all the same just how much of themselves All Them Witches put into what they do musically, since not only are they continuing to refine and define and undefine their approach, but they’re setting the terms on which they do it. Each of their records has been a response to the one prior, but that conversation has never been so direct as to make them predictable. So what are they chasing? Apparently nothing. I’m not entirely sure I buy that as a complete answer, but I am sure I love these songs and the experiments with tape loops and other sounds that fill these spaces. Whatever they do next — or even if nothing — their run has been incredible and exciting and one only hopes their influence continues to spread over the next however many years.

2. Elephant Tree, Habits

elephant tree habits

Released by Deathwish Inc.. Reviewed April 13.

There was a high standard set by Elephant Tree‘s 2016 self-titled debut (review here), but their second LP, Habits, surpassed even the loftiest of expectations. With vocals centered around harmonies from guitarist Jack Townley and bassist Peter Holland, the former trio completed by drummer Sam Hart brought in guitarist/keyboardist John Slattery (also sometimes vocals), and the resultant breadth gave the material on Habits spaciousness beyond even what the first album promised. Drifting, rolling, unflinchingly melodic and somehow present even in its own escapism, Habits was not just an early highlight for a rough 2020, but a comforting presence throughout, and the further one dug into tracks like “Sails,” “Exit the Soul,” “Faceless,” “Wasted” and the acoustic “The Fall Chorus,” the more there was to find — let alone “Bird,” which I’ll happily put against anything else one might propose for song of the year. As their former UK label crumbled, Habits emerged unscathed and Elephant Tree‘s future continues to shine with ever more hope for things to come. Being able to say that about anything feels like a relief.

2020 Album of the Year

1. Lowrider, Refractions

Lowrider Refractions

Released by Blues Funeral Recordings. Reviewed Jan. 24.

Twenty years ago, Sweden’s Lowrider put out what would become a heavy rock landmark in their 2000 debut, Ode to Io (reissue review here). A follow-up years in the making even after the band got back together to play Desertfest in London (review here) and Berlin in 2013, Refractions first saw limited release in 2019 as part of Blues Funeral‘s PostWax series (discussed here), but its proper arrival was in early 2020, and there was really no looking back after that. It wasn’t just the novelty of a new Lowrider album that made Refractions such a joy, but the manner in which the band went about its work. There was no pretending that 20 years didn’t happen. There was no attempt to recapture the bottled lightning that was the first record, and Lowrider did not sound like a band “making a comeback” rife with expectations and fan-service. Refractions acknowledged the legacy of Ode to Io, sure enough, but as a step toward adding to it in meaningful and engaging ways. The songs — “Red River,” “Ode to Ganymede,” “Sernanders Krog,” “Ol’ Mule Pepe,” “Sun Devil/M87” and the 11-minute finale “Pipe Rider” — were fashioned without pretense and came across as the organic output of a band with nothing to prove to anyone but themselves. They made it their own. In a wretched year, Lowrider shined.

The Top 50 Albums of 2020: Honorable Mention

Yeah, okay. There are a lot of these, so buckle in. Last year I just threw out a list of bands. This year I’m a little more organized, so here are bands and records alphabetically.

Across Tundras, LOESS ~ LÖSS
Across Tundras, The Last Days of a Silver Rush
Alain Johannes, Hum
Arboretum, Let it All In
Bell Witch & Aerial Ruin, Stygian Bough Vol. 1
Black Helium, The Wholly Other
Boris, No
Brimstone Coven, The Woes of a Mortal Earth
CB3, Aeons
Celestial Season, The Secret Teachings
Crippled Black Phoenix, Ellengæst
Cruthu, Athrú Crutha
Domo, Domonautas Vol. 2
DOOL, Summerland
Dopelord, Sign of the Devil
Dwaal, Gospel of the Vile
Elder Druid, Golgotha
Ellis Munk Ensemble, San Diego Sessions
Emma Ruth Rundle & Thou, May Our Chambers Be Full
EMBR, 1823
Familiars, All in Good Time
Forlesen, Hierophant Violent
Galactic Cross, Galactic Cross
The Heavy Eyes, Love Like Machines
Hum, Inlet
Human Impact, Human Impact
Humulus, The Deep
Jupiterian, Protosapien
Kariti, Covered Mirrors
Khan, Monsoons
Kingnomad, Sagan Om Ryden
King Witch, Body of Light
Kryptograf, Kryptograf
Light Pillars, Light Pillars
Lord Buffalo, Tohu Wa Bohu
Lord Loud, Timid Beast
Lotus Thief, Oresteia
Malsten, The Haunting of Silvåkra Mill
Mindcrawler, Lost Orbiter
Motorpsycho, The All is One
Mountain Tamer, Psychosis Ritual
Mr. Bison, Seaward
Mrs. Piss, Self-Surgery
Mugstar, GRAFT
Murcielago, Casualties
Oranssi Pazuzu, Mestarin Kynsi
Paradise Lost, Obsidian
Parahelio, Surge Evelia Surge
The Pilgrim, …From the Earth to the Sky and Back
Pretty Lightning, Jangle Bowls
Psychlona, Venus Skytrip
Puta Volcano, AMMA
Ritual King, Ritual King
River Cult, Chilling Effect
Rrrags, High Protein
Shores of Null, Beyond the Shores (On Death and Dying)
Sigiriya, Maiden – Mother – Crone
Six Organs of Admittance, Companion Rises
16, Dream Squasher
Slomosa, Slomosa
Somnus Throne, Somnus Throne
Steve Von Till, No Wilderness Deep Enough
Stone Machine Electric, The Inexplicable Vibrations of Frequencies Within the Cosmic Netherworld
Sumac, May You Be Held
Temple of the Fuzz Witch, Red Tide
Temple of Void, The World That Was
The Kings of Frog Island, VI
Tia Carrera, Tried and True
Turtle Skull, Monoliths
Uffe Lorenzen, Magisk Realisme
Ulcerate, Stare Into Death and Be Still
Vessel of Light, Last Ride
Vestal Claret, Vestal Claret
Vinnum Sabbathi, Of Dimensions and Theories
Wight, Spank the World
Wino, Forever Gone
Yatra, All is Lost
Yuri Gagarin, The Outskirts of Reality

By no means is that list exhaustive. And to look at stuff like Psychlona, Oranssi Pazuzu, Wight, Wino, Puta Volcano, Kingnomad, Ellis Munk Ensemble, Paradise Lost, Alain Johannes, Arbouretum, Uffe Lorenzen, Tia Carrera — on and on and on — I can definitely see where arguments are to be made for records that should’ve been in the list proper. I can only go with what feels right to me at the time.

Together with the top 50, this makes over 110 albums in the best of 2020. If you find yourself needing something to hang your hat on, be glad you’re alive to witness this much excellent music coming out.

Debut Album of the Year

Molassess, Through the Hollow

Molassess Through the Hollow

Other notable debuts (alphabetically):

Atramentus, Stygian
Bethmoora, Thresholds
BleakHeart, Dream Griever
Crystal Spiders, Molt
Dirt Woman, The Glass Cliff
Dwaal, Gospel of the Vile
Electric Feat, Electric Feat
Familiars, All in Good Time
Galactic Cross, Galactic Cross
Human Impact, Human Impact
Jointhugger, I Am No One
Light Pillars, Light Pillars
Love Gang, Dead Man’s Game
Malsten, The Haunting of Silvåkra Mill
Might, Might
Mindcrawler, Lost Orbiter
Mrs. Piss, Self-Surgery
Parahelio, Surge Evelia Surge
Polymoon, Caterpillars of Creation
Ritual King, Ritual King
SEA, Impermanence
Slomosa, Slomosa
Soldati, Doom Nacional
Somnus Throne, Somnus Throne
SpellBook, Magick & Mischief
Spirit Mother, Cadets
Temple of the Fuzz Witch, Red Tide
The Crooked Whispers, Satanic Melodies
White Dog, White Dog

Notes: I sparred with myself every step of the way here. The last couple years I’ve tried to give the top-debut spot to not just a new band, but a new presence. Green Lung, King Buffalo, etc. Molassess, with members from The Devil’s Blood, Death Alley and Astrosoniq, isn’t exactly that. So what do I do? Do I go with something newer like Polymoon, Dirt Woman, BleakHeart, SEA, White Dog or The Crooked Whispers, or something with more established players like Molassess, Soldati, or even Light Pillars?

In the end, what made the difference was not just how brilliant the songs on Molassess’ Through the Hollow, but how honestly the band confronted the legacy they were up against. The songs had a familiar haunting presence, but they were also moving ahead to somewhere new. It was that blend of old and new ideas, and the resonant feeling of emotional catharsis — as well as the sheer immersion that took place while listening — that ultimately made the decision. Turns out I just couldn’t escape it.

And why not a list? Because this feels woefully inadequate as it is. I reviewed over 250 records this year one way or another — and that’s a conservative estimate — but a lot gets lost in the shuffle and somehow it just seemed wrong this time around to call something the 13th best first record of the year. I wanted to highlight the special achievement that was the Molassess album, but really, all of these records kicked my ass one way or the other.

Short Release of the Year 2020

King Buffalo, Dead Star

King Buffalo Dead Star

Other notable EPs, Splits, Demos, etc.:

Big Scenic Nowhere, Lavender Blues
Coma Wall, Ursa Minor
Conan/Deadsmoke, Doom Sessions Vol. 1
Fu Manchu, Fu30 Pt. 1
Grandpa Jack, Trash Can Boogie
Howling Giant/Sergeant Thunderhoof, Masamune/Muramasa (split)
Oginalii, Pendulum
Kings Destroy, Floods
Lament Cityscape, The Old Wet
Limousine Beach, Stealin’ Wine +2
Merlock, That Which Speaks
Monte Luna, Mind Control Broadcast
Mos Generator/Di’Aul, Split
Pimmit Hills, Heathens & Prophets
Rito Verdugo, Post-Primatus
Rocky Mtn Roller, Rocky Mtn Roller
Spaceslug, Leftovers
10,000 Years, 10,000 Years
The White Swan, Nocturnal Transmission
Thunderbird Divine, The Hand of Man
Witchcraft, Black Metal

Notes: If you were wondering why King Buffalo’s Dead Star (review here) wasn’t on the big list, this is why. It was pitched to me as an EP and that’s how I’m classifying it. I’m taking the out. Is it an EP? Not really, but neither is it a full-length album, given its experimental nature and focus around its extended two-part title-track. Whatever it was, it was the best that-thing, and this is the category where such things go.

Again, tough choices after King Buffalo. Thunderbird Divine’s EP was wonderfully funk-blasted and woefully short (new album, please). The newly-issued Spaceslug EP branches out their sound in fascinating ways as a result of the lockdown. Witchcraft’s acoustic EP, Coma Wall’s EP and Big Scenic Nowhere’s EP all signaled good things to come, and Howling Giant’s split with Sergeant Thunderhoof was a highlight of the most recent Quarterly Review. There really isn’t a bummer on the list there, from the bitter psych of Oginalii to the industrial metal of Lament Cityscape, the unadulterated riffery of Merlock to the live-captured rawness of Monte Luna.

So again, why no list? Same answer. I want to highlight the progression King Buffalo made in their sound and leave room open elsewhere for things I missed. Please let me know what in the comments. Cordially.

Live Album of the Year 2020

Yawning Man, Live at Giant Rock

yawning man live at giant rock

Other notable live releases:

Ahab, Live Prey
Amenra, Mass VI Live
Arcadian Child, From Far, for the Wild (Live in Linz)
Author and Punisher, Live 2020 B.C.
Cherry Choke, Raising Salzburg Rockhouse
Dead Meadow, Live at Roadburn 2011
Dirty Streets, Rough and Tumble
Electric Moon, Live at Freak Valley Festival 2019
Kadavar, Studio Live Session Vol. 1
King Buffalo, Live at Freak Valley
Monte Luna, Mind Control Broadcast
Orange Goblin, Rough & Ready: Live and Loud
Øresund Space Collective, Sonic Rock Solstice 2019
Pelican, Live at the Grog Shop
SEA, Live at ONCE
Sumac, St Vitus 09/07/2018
Sun Blood Stories, (a)Live and Alone at Visual Arts Collective
Temple Fang, Live at Merleyn
YOB, Pickathon 2019 – Live From the Galaxy Barn

Notes: In this wretched year (mostly) void of live music, marked by canceled tours and festivals, the live album arguably played a more central role than it ever has, whether it was a band trying to keep momentum up following or leading into a studio release, taking advantage of the emergence of the Bandcamp Friday phenomenon or just trying to maintain some connection to their fans and the process of taking a stage. Or even playing in a room together. Or not a room. Anything. What was once a tossoff, maybe an afterthought companion piece became an essential worker of the listening experience.

You might accuse desert rock progenitors Yawning Man of playing to their base with Live at Giant Rock (featured here), and if so, fine. At no point in the last 50 years has that base more needed playing-to. And in the absence of shows, being able to hear (and watch, in the case of the accompanying video) Yawning Man go out to the landscape that spawned them and engage with their music was a beautiful moment of reconciliation. An exhale for the converted that didn’t fill one with empty promises of better tomorrows or tours to come, but served to remind what’s so worth preserving about the spirit of live music in the first place. The fact that anything can happen. A replaced note here, a tuning change there — these things can make not just an evening, but memories that go beyond shows, tours, to touch our lives.

There were a ton of live records this year. Some were benefits for worthy causes between saving venues, Black Lives Matter, voting rights organizations, and so on. And whether these were new performances from captured livestreams (Monte Luna, Kadavar) or older gigs that had been sitting around waiting for release at some point (Sumac, Dead Meadow), this, very much, was that point, and these live offerings kept burning a fire that felt at times very much in danger of being extinguished.

Looking Ahead to 2021

A list of bands. Some confirmed releases, some not. Here goes:

Dread Sovereign, Sasquatch, Year of Taurus, Apostle of Solitude, Weedpecker, Borracho, Love Gang, Jointhugger, Demon Head, Iron Man, Greenleaf, Samsara Blues Experiment, The Mammathus, Evert Snyman, Wo Fat, Conclave, Here Lies Man, Kabbalah, Komatsu, Hour of 13, Wedge, Amenra, La Chinga, Spidergawd, Wolves in the Throne Room, Vokonis, Freedom Hawk, Masters of Reality, ZOM, Eyehategod, Sanhedrin, Green Lung, The Mountain King, Albatross Overdrive, Elder, King Buffalo, Sunnata, Howling Giant, SAVER, Conan, Slomatics, Ruff Majik, Kind, Mos Generator, Yawning Sons, Lantlôs, Brant Bjork, Spiral Grave, Crystal Spiders, Lightning Born, Samavayo, Wovenhand, Merlock, Comet Control, The Age of Truth, Eight Bells, BlackWater Holylight, DVNE, Monte Luna.

Thank You

You’ve read enough, so I will do my best to keep this mercifully short. Thank you so much for reading — whether you still are or not — and thank you for being a part of the ongoing project that is The Obelisk. I cannot tell you how much it means to me to have such incredible support throughout not just this year, but all the years of the site’s existence. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you.

Thank you most of all to The Patient Mrs. for her indulgence in letting me get this done. I’m am amazed forever.

More to come.

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