Young Acid Premiere “Run, Boy, Run” Visualizer; Debut LP Murder at Maple Mountain Coming Soon

Posted in Bootleg Theater on February 8th, 2024 by JJ Koczan

young acid

Boasting familiar faces from the likes of GreenleafDomkraft, BesvärjelsenThe Moth Gatherer and Grand Cadaver, obviously the newcomer five-piece’s lineup will be a draw, and Young Acid meet pedigree-born anticipation with an absolute blast of electric heavy punk on their debut album, Murder at Maple Mountain, which arrives in the coming thaw courtesy of Majestic Mountain Records. Oh, and also all the lyrics are about Astrid Lindgren, who wrote Pippi Longstocking (also The Tomten, which I love but my daughter hates I think because it makes her feel feelings, and a ton of others) and is rightly revered for that. As a believer generally in the power of books written to and for children to help shape minds and frame perspectives on the world, from Lindgren to Mo Willems and the not-racist Dr. Seuss books and Curious Frickin’ George, if I’m honest, most of my favorite books ever are probably picture books from when I was a kid. I even wrote a couple over the years.

So the concept, right on. I’m down. But what’s going to hit you most on first impression with “Run, Boy, Run” more than the theme of the lyrics, which requires a deeper dive generally, is the energy with which guitarists Alex Stjernfeldt and Andreas Baier, bassist Martin Wegeland, drummer Svante Karlsson and vocalist Arvid Hällagård — who all don the first name Mio in honor of Lindgren’s 1954 novel, Mio, My Son, as you can see in the lineup listing in blue text below — hurl forth this lusty, fuzzy, sometimes bluesy, inevitably-heavy-grooving-regardless-of-tempo, we-gotta-make-our-own-good-times blowout vibe. There is no pretense here toward being anything other than what the album is even as closer “2002” dares to cross the four-minute mark and turn all that punker restlessness into voluminous, shimmering, gorgeous expanse. At 34 minutes, they could hardly make it easier to get on board if they came to your house and handed you a copy of the LP.

I might be streaming the full album before the release — definite maybe at this point — but will hope to have more on it either way before it’s out. Until then, “Run, Boy, Run” premieres below, followed by more from the PR wire:

Young Acid, “Run, Boy, Run” visualizer premiere

Introducing Young Acid, the new kickass garagerock powerhouse! Young Acid is a new super group with members from Greenleaf, Grand Cadaver, Besvärjelsen, The Moth Gatherer and Domkraft! With blistering guitar riffs, raw energy, and rebellious lyrics celebrating the legacy of Astrid Lindgren, this fierce fivesome is here to ignite the stage!

What happens when you combine members from Greenleaf, Domkraft, Grand Cadaver, Besvärjelsen and The Moth Gatherer? Well… disappointment happens. Disappointed in the sense that it does not sound the way you think!

Young Acid plays Punk infused Rock with great storytelling influenced by a famous Swedish author. But is it any good? Of course it is! At least if you ask some members of the band.

Young Acid was formed around the motto: Nobody can ruin our day, ‘cause we’re probably going to ruin it ourselves!

The polarising debut album will be out early 2024 via Majestic Mountain Records!

‘Run Boy Run’ is the second singel from the upcoming debut album ‘Murder at Maple Mountain” to be released on Majestic Mountain Records in Spring 2024!

Recorded at Welfare Sound, CrookedTeeth and Midlake Production
Mixed by Per Stålberg & Kalle Lilja at Welfare Sound
Mastered by Johan Reivén (Audiolord)

Young Acid is:
Mio Hällagård – Vocals (Greenleaf)
Mio Stjernfeldt – Guitar (Grand Cadaver, Novarupta)
Mio Wegeland – Bass (Domkraft)
Mio Baier – Guitar (Besvärjelsen, Vordor)
Mio Karlsson – Drums (The Moth Gatherer)

Young Acid, Murder at Maple Mountain (2024)

Young Acid on Facebook

Young Acid on Instagram

Young Acid on Spotify

Majestic Mountain Records on Instagram

Majestic Mountain Records on Facebook

Majestic Mountain Records store

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Notes From Freak Valley 2023 – Day 1

Posted in Features, Reviews on June 9th, 2023 by JJ Koczan

El Perro (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Freak Valley Festival 2023 – Day 1

Thu. – Before the Show – Shade tent

It’s good to be here. I rode in with Besvärjelsen, as my late flight ended up coinciding with their also landing at Frankfurt. It was nice to meet them. Did a bit of stretching in the parking lot of their hotel and a couple of them joined in. Warrior one, two, stretching the back. Maybe next year I’ll convince Jens, who runs Freak Valley, to let me host doom-yoga. Not gonna count on it.

Stopped off at the hotel to take a shower that I knew I needed but didn’t realize how much until the water hit me. Flight was oof. Not much sleep, delayed takeoff, shake-shake-wobble-wobble turbulence, the whole bit. I decided before we were actually over the ocean that if the plane went down I was tired enough that I’d be at least conceptually alright with it. Started watching the third Hobbit movie at one point. Watched them kill the dragon and left it at that. At the hotel, showered, changed clothes, brushed teeth, drank some water, headed back out.

It was supposed to rain today, still might I guess, but there’s an awful lot of blue sky and sunshine for that. I’m under a tent by the side of the stage anyhow, so whatever, but it wasn’t my plan to be in this spot all night. The cigarette smell would get me after a while, but, outdoors, so that’s it for that. The crowd once again is a dope mix. Oldschool heads, newschool heads, kids, a whole mess of volunteers. First band is on soon and the vibe is already on standby waiting for them to start.

And now I’m reading that Pat Robertson died. Well, this is a special occasion. Shall we make a day of it?

Sorry in advance for the typos:


Tuskar 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Heavy start to the proceedings with UK duo Tuskar, who were not at all held back in terms of heft for not having another two or three dudes in the band. Some shades of Black Cobra in the faster parts as there almost inevitably would be, but they weren’t shy about the sludgier aspects of their sound either, and thus they were able to change up when they needed to, sounding all the more explosive coming out of a midtempo groove locked into a High on Fireish thrashy shove. But thick in tone they were and intermittently aggressive, more so than anyone else playing today, despite the proggy/post-metal explorations happening in the material and the Conan-born barking vocals. If you’re not Om, atmosphere can be hard to come by as a duo, but they laid it on with ferocity, and while some were no doubt surprised at what took place after they dug in, the early crowd showed up. The band said from the stage they didn’t have merch because of Brexit, told people to go online. I popped half a Xanax while I was at the hotel. The nod is doing better by my head right now than the intense parts, but put them together as they are and it’s killer all the way. Would be devastating at The Black Heart.


Astroqueen 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

It started to rain a couple songs into their set, slow at first then picking up. It was supposed to, but it was still a bit of a surprise when it actually happened. Surrounding sky was still at least partially blue — and I wouldn’t call it smoke-free, necessarily, but at least it’s not Canadian wildfires like at home — and Astroqueen were classic-heavy-rockin’ hard enough that I’m not sure they ever noticed. I saw them in December, but their reunion is still pretty fresh. There was some issue with the kick drum and then that was sorted and riffs were had. I’m pretty sure they called 2001’s Into Submission “their last album,” which is hilarious. Most of the crowd just stayed in the rain, but I headed for shelter in tone to hear “Soulburner” riffed out like a direct forebear to Truckfighters, with “Superhuman God” following after, and I stayed until the cigarette smoke got abrasive. For what it’s worth, there was an actual toddler in the tent, and he seemed fine. I’m ready to bet on another Astroqueen record though. You heard it here, probably not actually first.


Besvarjelsen (Photo by JJ Koczan)

There are arguments to be made for each of the acts playing today, but for me personally, Besvärjelsen were the one I was most looking forward to seeing. They’re a band with some pretty stark differences in personality — and here I’ll note that Johan Rockner, who generally handles bass, was absent and they had a fill-in — but across the stage from guitarist Staffan Stensland Vinrot to guitarist Andreas Baier with drummer Erik Bäckwall behind, they each seemed to bring something individual to the expression of the whole in a way that was unexpected but welcome. Eclectic, they were. The vocals of Lea Amling Alazam are a definite focal point and uniting factor, and around those, the band drew pieces of different styles under the heavy umbrella — Baier’s history in more extreme metal also makes more sense seeing him on stage — from doom and psych to heavy post-rock and so on, never quite only one thing at one time. They had a pit going out front for a minute or two there — three bands in, the people are ready to throw down, apparently — but went into “Clouds” from last year’s Atlas (review here) and so put the crowd exactly where they wanted them at least twice. Was psyched already to hear to what they did next in the studio. That is only more the case now, and I feel like I have a better sense of who they are as a group as well. Total win. And they were also awesome, and finished with the massive riff of “I skuggan av ditt mörker” from 2018’s Vallmo (review here), so, bonus.


They were putting on a show in a way no one else here yet has been, stage costumes, ’70s strut and all, but nothing about France’s Komodor seemed phony or cheeky in an ironic sense – definitely otherwise cheeky – and they had and used three guitarists on stage, at least one of whom played her last year with Djinn? Might’ve been someone else. In any case, they ripped it up and were energetic, catchy, young, well-mustachioed, and able to pivot in terms of their arrangements with two guitarists, their drummer and their bassist also handling vocals. They drew a good crowd though, and held most of it for the duration. I kind of like it that the conventional wisdom is vintage-style rock is “done.” Makes me want to make buttons that say “Boogie Lives” or some such nonsense. I’ll confess that as they played I started to feel the length of the day, which really began when I went to the airport yesterday, never mind landing this morning, but there was fun to be had and I had it watching Komodor. Hey man, I love boogie, and I hear it’s making a comeback!

El Perro

El Perro 1 (Photo by JJ Koczan)

For a dude who spends as much of his day thinking and talking about riffs as I do, I’m not actually a huge guitar guy. I never learned to play, don’t know gear or theory or scales. But I know damn well that I could watch Parker Griggs play guitar for an entire evening and go to bed afterward feeling like night was well spent. This is a new lineup of El Perro, Griggs, Dorian from Blues Pills, Mucho Drums on… wait for it… Drums. Percussionist and bassist also seemingly picked out for the purpose of this tour and maybe more. The band that put out Hair of El Perro last year blew up, so here’s a new one, and the curated sensibility is palpable. It’s Griggs’ band and he’s pretty clearly chosen specifically people he wants to play with. Radio Moscow might also have been that, but the dynamic is different here, as well as the music, emphasis on funk over blues filtered through heavy rhythms bolstered by percussion. Demon Fuzz, anyone? You ever hear that Mandrill record? Doesn’t matter. Chaos is part of it, always with Griggs. Shit might blow up, amps or otherwise, but the guy has a genuine vision of the music he wants to make and he’s a virtuoso on guitar. It had been a long time. It was a pleasure to see him play again, and I’m glad the wah didn’t catch fire.

Total side note: there are two dudes here in robes. Like, bathrobes. Two! Maybe even three! And at least one of them has a backpatch! They’ve got clothes on underneath, otherwise security might have something to say about it, but when was the last time you went anywhere, let alone a show, and found at least two guys Lebowskiing it up? And they’re not even here together, so far as I can tell. This is a pretty special fest.

Urlaub in Polen

Whatever else they may be, Urlaub in Polen is the reason I know that “urlaub” is the German word for vacation. The long-running krautrock duo, who are actually from Germany, they apparently just vacation in Poland, were about as stark a left turn from El Perro as one might make and still be at the same festival, synth and organ and guitar and drums sounding like a much fuller band. Thinking back to how this day started, Tuskar used the duo configuration to emphasize rawness. Urlaub in Polen — the day’s only other two-piece — were on a different trip. Repetitive rhythms, explorations of melody and heavy impact, quirk galore and groove to match. I’ll admit that my prior experience with the band is limited to having checked them out before coming here, but they’re heavier live than anything I managed to stream, and people were still dancing. Not moshing. Actual dance, to a kind of mostly-organic techno rock. It was cool and a reminder that sometimes Freak Valley throws in a shift in vibe and it works of course because it just does. Cool shit. And I swear it’s not a slight against them that I’m falling asleep sitting up. I’m just very, very tired.


Clutch (Photo by JJ Koczan)

Ripper of a start to the set with “Impetus” into “Subtle Hustle,” “Earth Rocker” — hard to believe that record came out a decade ago — and “Firebirds” back to back to back to back. Then the new stuff, “Sunrise on Slaughter Beach,” “We Strive for Excellence.” Not arguing. They didn’t even let the intro song about money that they always play finish before they hit it, and that’s probably fair enough because it was already pushing past their 11:35 start. “Burning Beard.” Fast. “The Regulator.” Groove. I was standing in back by then and kind of teared up feeling grateful for being here. I am so incredibly fortunate. “Ghoul Wrangler.” No, it’s not my first time around the block with Clutch. But to be here, in this place, with these people. As beat tired as I’ve been all day, this has been an incredible start that I expect will be momentum leading into tomorrow and Saturday. Not everyone gets to do what I do. I’m not trying to take over this post and talk about feelings or some shit — we’re here for riffs, damnit! — but I am lucky to be here right now, tonight. “Boss Metal Zone.” It went on like that, Clutch tearing it up, me feeling feelings; a coda on the evening. Maybe it never stops. Maybe that’s the story. Maybe some part of me lives here. “Nosferatu Madre.” Extra groove. I wonder if they’ll put this set out. “D.C. Sound Attack.” I was in the room when Neil Fallon laid down the vocals on this hook. “The Mob Goes Wild.” Indeed. “Electric Worry,” “Noble Savage,” “The Face,” fucking “Spacegrass.” Best set ever.

Thanks for reading. More tomorrow, and more pics after the jump.

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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.

Gimme Metal website

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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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Freak Valley Festival 2023 Announce Orange Goblin, Melvins, Hypnos 69, King Buffalo, Seedy Jeezus and More to Play

Posted in Whathaveyou on November 3rd, 2022 by JJ Koczan

A whopping 15 names dropped in the first announcement from Freak Valley Festival‘s 2023 edition, which also happens to be its 10th anniversary. I was fortunate enough to be there for it in 2022 and hope very much to follow suit next year, having fallen in love with the place, the people, the time. It’s a special thing happening between those German hillsides. If you’ve been, you already know. If you haven’t, tickets go on sale next week, and they’ll be gone. If that makes your FOMO kick in a little bit, good, go with it.

Orange Goblin doing Time Travelling Blues is a hoot, and it’s been more than a decade since I last saw Melvins, so probably time to punch my card there — I’ve been down on them the last however many years, but have the utmost confidence they’ll deliver live — and of course the thought of seeing King Buffalo on that stage, and the likes of Pontiak and Seedy Jeezus and Besvärjelsen for the first time (also a bunch of the others) is exciting. But the name that’s really got me here is Hypnos 69, the reunited Belgian Elektrohasch veterans whose albums Timeline Traveller, The Intrigue of Perception (discussed here), The Eclectic Measure and Legacy (review here), should be commonly regarded as classics and will hopefully get another look as a result of their starting to play again. I mean that. They were incredible. I hope they do another record, too.

A little bit of a different format to the writeup, which I wrote, than in past years, but I think it gets the point across. This is going to be incredible. If it’s at all possible for you not to miss it, don’t. Like they say: “no fillers, just killers”:

freak valley festival 2023 first announcement names

Time to start daydreaming about June 2023 and the return of Freak Valley Festival! Come join us for our 10th anniversary and the best FVF yet!

Tickets go on sale next week (Nov. 7 local, Nov. 8 online). We expect once again to be completely sold out, and we hope you agree that the lineup we’ve been putting together is worthy of your great faith in us.

Gather ‘round, fellow freaks, it’s time for the first names of Freak Valley 2023!

If you’re gonna go, go big. We start our season by announcing that the lords of weirdo crunch riffing themselves, the MELVINS, will play FVF for the first time ever! They mark their 40th anniversary in 2023 and remain some of heavy rock’s most lovable oddities. We’re thrilled to have them and know it will be something special.

It will have been seven years since we last hosted ORANGE GOBLIN – far too long – and we’re bringing the London doom ‘n’ roll kingpins over to play a special ‘Time Travelling Freak Valley Blues’ show to celebrate 25 years since their classic 1998 album, Time Travelling Blues!

Two very special returns for us in KING BUFFALO and SEEDY JEEZUS. Since KB last played in 2019, they’ve released three incredibly special albums in their pandemic trilogy and become a household name among heads in the know. We haven’t seen Seedy Jeezus since 2015, but we can’t wait to welcome Mr. Frumpy and company back once again! Hugs and riffs both will happen.

Joining us for the first time are Wino-fronted doom legends THE OBSESSED in their new four-piece incarnation, Appalachian psychedelic craftsmen PONTIAK, French heavy rockers KOMODOR, and the reunited Belgian progressive psych trio HYPNOS 69!

Speaking of reunions, Sweden’s ASTROQUEEN come to Netphen as part of theirs, and their countrymen in the classically bluesy KAMCHATKA, and the ever-vibing BESVÄRJELSEN will further blur the boundaries between genres as they make it sound so easy to do, both also first-timers at FVF.

Berlin’s EARTH SHIP, featuring Jan and Sabine Oberg (also Grin and Slowshine, etc.), are also set to make their first appearance!

PSYENCE – if you don’t know them, take four minutes and get introduced, but be ready to buy the record after: – come to us from the UK, as part of a contingent that thus far includes the sludgier TUSKAR and righteous up and coming riffers RITUAL KING. Expect that contingent to grow before June.

We’re doing our best as always to bring you the greatest and biggest Freak Valley Festival to-date. Who are you most excited for here? Who do you want to see on our stage? Let us know in the comments and don’t forget to get your tickets for Freak Valley Festival 2023 while you can!

Freak Valley Festival // No Fillers – Just Killers
June 8-10, 2023

Hypnos 69, “The Great Work” live at Het Depot, Sept. 24, 2022

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Besvärjelsen Premiere “The Cardinal Ride” from Atlas LP & Behind-the-Scenes Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater, Reviews on May 11th, 2022 by JJ Koczan

besvarjelsen atlas

Atlas, the second full-length from Swedish atmospheric heavy rockers Besvärjelsen, is out May 27. It is the Dalarna five-piece’s first outing for Magnetic Eye Records following 2018’s Vallmo (review here) on Suicide Records and DalaPop and the subsequent 2019 Frost EP (discussed here) issued through Blues Funeral Recordings‘ PostWax vinyl subscription before seeing wider public release. Comprised of 10 tracks, Atlas — which is aptly titled if one considers the world-on-shoulders connotation, perhaps also a roadmap of how to survive under all that weight — runs 47 minutes and was written by the band mostly-remotely during pandemic lockdown before being recorded and sent to the esteemed Karl Daniel Lidén (Greenleaf, Katatonia, ex-Demon Cleaner, on and on) for mixing and mastering.

Any and all concern about the album feeling or sounding disjointed as a result of the forced shift in how it was written should be allayed. On both a technological level and in terms of the actual listening experience, Atlas is cohesive, together in a way that makes one inclined to italicize the word, and a logical step forward in sound and style from Vallmo and Frost, fueled by the songwriting of guitarists/backing vocalists Andreas Baier and Staffan Stensland Vinrot, the periodically-haunting echo-laced vocals of Lea Amling Alazam, and the unrepentant, varied grooves of bassist Johan Rockner and drummer Erik Bäckwall.

Those familiar with Besvärjelsen will recall that Rockner and Bäckwall are veterans of Dozer and Greenleaf, and the match of their playing and the mix and finishing touches from Lidén — also veteran of those two bands, in production and on drums — is especially critical to the impact throughout Atlas. As much as pieces like the rousing set-the-tone opener “The Cardinal Ride” (premiering below) and its side B counterpart/prior single “Digerliden,” the subsequent, mellower and airier “Descent” and its corresponding side A precursor “Clouds” lean hard into melody vocally and instrumentally — either keys or guitar effects fleshing out the material at various points along the way — it’s Bäckwall‘s snare that’s the first thing the listener hears on the album.

And between his fleet work on toms and cymbals on the crunched-out chugger “House of Burning Light” and the largesse of Rockner‘s rumble that matches the thud of second track “Acheron,” it’s doesn’t feel out of place to be reminded a bit of mid-period Dozer‘s penchant for shove, though with Besvärjelsen circa 2022, the context in which that element is put to use is obviously different. Fluid in tempo, open-feeling even as “The Cardinal Ride” executes the first of Atlas‘ statistically-significant hooks — bar chart forthcoming (no, not really) — and mindful of bringing together the emotional urgency of the lyrics with the weight of the music over, under, around and through which they’re delivered, depending on the moment.

In craft and realization, Besvärjelsen are methodical. Whether a given song is faster like “The Cardinal Ride” or slow like the assumed side A finale “Paradise,” an anguished linear build like “Descent” or a soaring wash in its peak like the near-eight-minute album closer “Divided Ends,” the collective hand of the band is controlled, poised and leaves Alazam room to belt out the lyrics with due force and attitude, as on “House of the Burning Light,” where the cadence nods at hip-hop without actually being it and “Obscured by Darkness,” in which doubt and negative self-talk become fodder for one of the record’s most memorable rollouts, heavy, lonely in a way that suits the era, and raw such that even the lush surroundings and insistent nod seem affected by the directness.

besvarjelsen (Photo by Stine Rapp)

The aural weight in “Obscured by Darkness” isn’t to be understated either, as “Acheron” and “House of the Burning Light” — which has a genuine mosh part snuck into its post-chorus; one more reach outside heavy rock genre confines that fits with what they’re doing more generally precisely because they make it do so — act as foreshadow while the side B pairing of “Descent” and the cinematic-feeling keyboard interlude “Celestial” (would’ve worked in Dune) just prior to “Obscured by Darkness” itself ensure that the sheer impact of the penultimate cut will be duly felt, its rhythm a reminder that Besvärjelsen at their heaviest are peer to fellow Swedes like Domkraft or Cities of Mars in the sphere of post-Monolordian lumber.

At least, when they want to be. And here too one finds perhaps the most important crux of Atlas at work. Whether Besvärjelsen are bearing the weight of the world on their shoulders or finding a path simply to get through one road to the next — or both — it is their unwillingness to easily fit that most typifies their individuality as a group. That is to say, there’s always something about the songs that stands them out, and even across the 47 minutes of the album — which isn’t so long as to be unmanageable for an LP, but is by no means short either — they find ways to be expressive and engaging in kind, letting the immersion in the first 90 seconds of “Clouds” be answered by the slow-but-not-languid unfurling of what follows and layering “Digerliden” with backing vocals and a floating guitar lead that’s striking enough to speak to the consciousness on the band’s part of who they are and what they want their material to be.

The fact that they record themselves is evident in their attention to detail — a fleeting example: Alazam‘s line, “You smell like rot inside” ends just as two melodic keyboard notes answer half a minute into “Descent” — but the entirety of Atlas, when taken as a whole, feels complete and able to bring the audience into the sound that is even more definitively their own than it was three or four years ago. More over, they give no impression that their growth is finished or that they’re done experimenting and pushing the limits of aesthetic or their own abilities in writing or playing, so as much mastery as they readily showcase front-to-back throughout, Besvärjelsen‘s creative progression may still just be getting under way as they respond to, build on, and surpass their first full-length with this second one. Perhaps the circumstances in the writing of Atlas weren’t ideal. It’s difficult to hear the result as anything else.

“The Cardinal Ride” and a third installment of the Making-Of video series premiere below, followed by some words from the band, relevant links and a slew of other clips.

Please enjoy:

Besvärjelsen, “The Cardinal Ride” premiere

Besvärjelsen, The Making of Atlas, Pt. 3 premiere

Erik Bäckwall on “The Cardinal Ride”:

“‘The Cardinal Ride’ was the only song on the album that started as a jam and evolved from there. It was faster at first and had the working name “Sendrag, which means “Cramp” due to the effect it had on my right leg. It went through several iterations before Johan finally nailed the arrangement and Lea came up with the vocal melody and lyrics.”

‘Atlas’ was recorded at Studio Gröndal and Studio Glashuset, mixed and mastered by Karl Daniel Lidén in Sweden. The artwork was created by Besvärjelsen and Łukasz Jaszak. The album will be available as blue and curacao marble vinyl LP, digisleeve CD and digital on May 27th, 2022 with preorder available now via Magnetic Eye Records:

BESVÄRJELSEN New album “Atlas”
Out May 27th on Magnetic Eye Records – Preorder:

1. The Cardinal Ride
2. Acheron
3. Clouds
4. House of the Burning Light
5. Paradise
6. Digerliden
7. Descent
8. Celestial
9. Obscured by Darkness
10. Divided Ends

Lea Amling Alazam- vocals
Staffan Stensland Vinrot – guitars, vocals
Andreas Baier – guitars, vocals
Erik Bäckwall – drums
Johan Rockner – bass

Besvärjelsen, The Making of Atlas, Pt. 1

Besvärjelsen, The Making of Atlas, Pt. 2

How to say “Besvärjelsen”

Besvärjelsen, “Digerliden” official video

Besvärjelsen on Facebook

Besvärjelsen on Bandcamp

Besvärjelsen website

Magnetic Eye Records on Bandcamp

Magnetic Eye Records website

Magnetic Eye Records on Facebook

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Besvärjelsen Premiere ‘The Making of Atlas, Pt. 2′ Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on April 13th, 2022 by JJ Koczan


We are drawing ever closer to the May 27 release of Swedish atmospheric heavy rockers Besvärjelsen‘s new album, Atlas, on Magnetic Eye Records. And that’s good news both because the record is good and because I’m starting to get tired of sitting on my hands waiting to review it. A couple weeks ago — it was March 16, but who’s counting — the five-piece premiered the first in a series of three behind-the-scenes videos covering the making of Atlas (posted here, also below), as well as a clip teaching those of us who may have been curious how to pronounce the band’s name. Rest assured, if I’m ever fortunate enough to interview anyone from this band, I’ll still probably say it wrong. I try my best, regularly fail.

This is the second clip, as you likely inferred. The band are getting ready to enter the studio and make the record after writing remotely — about which none of them seemed to be particularly thrilled. Everyone kind of agrees sending files through Google Drive is an interesting way to collaborate and allowed them to try new things — you can hear the results in the sonic branchouts on Atlas — but it doesn’t feel like wild conjecture to say that it probably would’ve been the band’s preference if, you know, there wasn’t a global pandemic preventing them from doing shows and rehearsing in-person all the time and so on. Stick around for more hard-hitting insight on the universally obvious as only The Obelisk can bring it.

I said last time I was hosting all three of these clips, and dammit, I am. The good news is that the next one (slated as of now for May 11) will at last be the point at which I dig into the record for review. For now I just seem to keep getting swallowed up in its open spaces, and that’s fine too. I’ll take that.

Not wanting to include the same glut of PR wire info as last time, you’ll just find the lineup down there in blue, basically as a spacer between the new video and the older ones, including that for “Digerliden” from the record. I know that kind of thing doesn’t matter to anyone but me, but it matters to me, so there.

Please enjoy:

Besvärjelsen, The Making of Atlas, Pt. 2 premiere

Lea Amling Alazam- vocals
Staffan Stensland Vinrot – guitars, vocals
Andreas Baier – guitars, vocals
Erik Bäckwall – drums
Johan Rockner – bass

Besvärjelsen, The Making of Atlas, Pt. 1

How to say “Besvärjelsen”

Besvärjelsen, “Digerliden” official video

Besvärjelsen on Facebook

Besvärjelsen on Bandcamp

Besvärjelsen website

Magnetic Eye Records on Bandcamp

Magnetic Eye Records website

Magnetic Eye Records on Facebook

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Besvärjelsen Premiere ‘The Making of Atlas, Pt. 1′ Video

Posted in Bootleg Theater on March 16th, 2022 by JJ Koczan


Swedish atmospheric heavy rockers Besvärjelsen release their new album, Atlas, on May 27 through Magnetic Eye Records. And to answer your next two questions: there are three of these ‘Making Of’ videos, and yes, I’ve signed on to premiere all three of them. If that makes you say to yourself, “Gee, this guy must really be a nerd for this band,” congratulations. That, indeed, is the point I’m trying to make.

There are two clips below. The first is the first part of the ‘Making Of’ series, and the second is a pronunciation guide for the band’s name. And yeah, that’s kind of a goofy idea, a funny concept, but as vocalist Lea Amling Alazam takes you through the phonetics and you see guest appearances from the likes of Howling Giant and labelmates Caustic Casanova, she also gives some background/trivia on the area of Sweden the band come from, and if you stick around there’s even a commemorative plate with the king and queen on it. And no, Besvärjelsen is not pronounced like you probably thing it is. With my North Jersey accent, I’m not sure I’d try to say it back to the band without practicing first for a long time.

Things to watch for in the making of clip? Alazam‘s many hairstyles. A Dozer LP behind guitarist Staffan Stensland Vinrot while he talks about the band getting together, a Rainbow one for drummer Erik Bäckwall, who, like bassist Johan Rockner, has been a member of Dozer (the latter still is), and some killer live footage — including what looks like a dug-out festival in a quarry; what’s that one? — that brings into emphasis the varied kinds of atmospheres one might find Besvärjelsen working with at any given point as they certainly do on Atlas, guitarist Andreas Baier stepping back in terms of production to the esteemed Karl Daniel Lidén (recently nominated for the Swedish equivalent of a Grammy for his work on the latest Greenleaf LP).

I’m gonna stop here, because I find that the more I type while listening to Atlas, the more I want to review it and, well, May’s still a long time away. We’ll get there though, and these clips offer fun and context along the way to digging deeper into the record.

Clips and the band’s latest bio follow.

Please enjoy:

Besvärjelsen, The Making of Atlas, Pt. 1

How to say “Besvärjelsen”

What to do when you like rock and doom born from the desert but your surroundings offer anything but arid lands? BESVÄRJELSEN found an impressive answer in the grim forests of their homeland in Dalarna, Sweden. Having grown up in the far north at the meeting grounds of ancient Norse and Finnish cultures amongst echoes of runes and gods, shamans and spirits, the spellbinding five-piece crafted their name from the Swedish word for “conjuring” while drawing heavy inspiration from local lore, mysticism, and the dark, old musical traditions. Yet BESVÄRJELSEN are anything but another “pagan” outfit longing for a time that never was. With its wistful melodies and towering riff-power their sophomore full-length “Atlas” represents a logical step along the course that BESVÄRJELSEN charted from the start.

The band was co-founded by guitarists and vocalists Andreas Baier and Staffan Stensland Vinrot in 2014 with a clear vision to channel the spirit and traditions of the vast Dalarna forests, a region otherwise famous for its painted wooden horses, into contemporary heavy music. Once vocalist Lea Amling Alazam arrived with a fiery passion for punk and stoner rock that had begun at the local skate park when she was just counting 13 years, Andreas and Staffan happily relegated their shared vocal duties to a supporting role – an easy choice as Lea’s distinctive voice summoned the intimacy and charisma of singers like NINA SIMONE or AMY WINEHOUSE. BESVÄRJELSEN released their debut EP “Villfarelser” in 2015, which was followed quickly by the “Exil” EP in 2016. The Swedes’ debut full-length “Vallmo” hit the streets of Stockholm and elsewhere in 2018. The album merged crushing riffs and storming drums with increasingly sophisticated melodies and thoughtful themes. With the mini-album “Frost”, BESVÄRJELSEN intended to crush stages all over Europe in 2019, before being forced into involuntary live performance hibernation for two years.

Although compelled to write separately, the band used the spare time to compile a wealth of ideas, amassed remotely and shared across the miles and months of relative solitude, which would finally result in the recording of “Atlas” with producer Karl Daniel Lidén in 2021. Re-purposing melancholic harmonies that could have been derived from the playbook of ALICE IN CHAINS, adding gravity that would make Windhand proud, and topping their upgraded sound with exciting yet intimate vocal lines, BESVÄRJELSEN have carved a towering monolith from solid rock and planted it firmly into the magical woods of their homeland to send its heavy lay-lines around the globe that is burdening the shoulders of the titan “Atlas”.

Lea Amling Alazam- vocals
Staffan Stensland Vinrot – guitars, vocals
Andreas Baier – guitars, vocals
Erik Bäckwall – drums
Johan Rockner – bass

Besvärjelsen, “Digerliden” official video

Besvärjelsen on Facebook

Besvärjelsen on Bandcamp

Besvärjelsen website

Magnetic Eye Records on Bandcamp

Magnetic Eye Records website

Magnetic Eye Records on Facebook

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